Letter from Edinburgh

How do you see your doctor? It’s been an issue at the Lerwick Health Centre for some time. For reasons that aren’t terribly clear, people registered with a GP in Lerwick, and that includes me, make more appointments than at a similarly sized health centre. So, as everyone who has a Lerwick GP knows, the appointments system has been changed. You phone up the reception, leave a number and a GP phones back and agrees a time to see you.

No system is perfect. It’s parti­cularly problematic if you work, for example as a teacher, and therefore can’t have a mobile phone on all day waiting for a call back. So some refinement to this system is still needed. The health centre is planning to send out information to all registered patients explaining the system. Good – and not a moment to soon. I’ve asked that the practice keep looking at ways to make obtaining an appointment as efficient as pos­sible. For everyone – the recep­tionists, the GPs and the patients.

This week in parliament we were offered the Alex Salmond view of the next five years. He’s right to set that out. He’s in charge of a majority government which can pass any legislation it wants. I hope that his promise to be prepared to listen to reasoned arguments is delivered. Unfortun­ately there’s no sign of that yet on the air discount scheme where his government is increasing transport costs for voluntary and charitable organisations.

But we will certainly now get a referendum on independence. Shetland needs to do some thinking on that. What do we want? What is in the long term interests of the islands? I thought about the change Shetland needs after listening to a Whalsay whitefish skipper this week explaining the draconian rules inhibiting his ability to fish. These rules are all based on the sensible aim of stopping discards, where fish caught are thrown over the side rather than landed into the market because a fishing boat doesn’t have quota. But the prob­lem is that the Edinburgh bureau­crats have imposed a one-size-fits-all set of impossible rules on every boat. There is no flexi­bility or common sense. The Shetland Fishermen’s Association has made reasonable and sensible suggestions to the fisheries minister and his officials for a year now. And been ignored.

So what does our industry need? Having Edinburgh civil servants, working for an SNP minister, imposing bad rules is just as bad as London or Brussels civil servants doing the same. As the SNP demands that London gives them more responsibility, it’s time Shetland thought about what it wants. On fishing, being ruled from Edinburgh seems just as bad as being ruled from London or Brussels.

Tavish Scott MSP


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