Letter from Edinburgh

A big thank you to the Fair Isle Primary School pupils. Last week they grilled me on what I do and why. A perfectly reasonable ques­tion. One I often ask myself.

The Fair Isle kids were an excel­lent warm-up for this week’s return of the parliaments in Edinburgh and London. Holyrood had two big set-piece debates. The first, led by a lengthy and, it has to be said, uncharacteristically dull statement from Alex Salmond, was all about what the Scottish government would do between now and next year’s election in May.

The short answer is anything that gets them votes. I can’t be critical of that – it’s what all governments try to do before an election.

The second, and rather more important, debate was on money and on how, and indeed whether, the political parties are going to con­structively work out how to tackle a fall in public expenditure.

I don’t think there was a con­clusion from that debate either, not least because there was no govern­ment motion to debate. But sensible people across all the parties said that we can’t duck the reality of where we are and we should work together to solve it. So here’s hoping.

I’ve not been encouraged on that theme by the way the Scottish gov­ern­ment has handled our ferry links to Aberdeen in recent weeks. It has now ditched its proposed cuts. That’s good news and a “well done” to the conveners of the two islands coun­cils. Their advocacy of the case put together by both island groups has at least been listened to.

But the current Scottish govern­ment has said it will be back next year with, in effect, more of the same. I want to ensure we put our life­line shipping services on a firm footing.

I want an end to the annual exercise in threatened cuts. So I hope that we can all work hard on putting that case together. It seems self-evident to me that if you put transport service under constant revision then confidence in them declines. We need to avoid that.

But government must also avoid an inconsistent and blatantly unfair transport policy. When you have national responsibility as a minister, people will see right through a bung of £6.4 million to one area while cutting another area’s shipping ser­vices. And in Shetland, judging by my feedback, people have and in spades.

So I hope for better in the future from government whoever it is. And yes, I do get deeply frustrated by actions that I think are absolutely contrary to what our islands need and should have. Hey ho, that’s life I suppose.

A final thank you to the Spurs senior team for putting up with me cheering for Whitedale last Saturday, at the Gilbertson Park in the County Shield final, as a result of parental loyalty. My former Spurs coach from many a year past – a man who lives by the “west is best” motto – obser­ved that I should be even-handed. So true but difficult when your son is playing.

Tavish Scott MSP


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