Commission could help rural issues

A commission may be set up to consider how to tackle issues that impact on rural communities.

However, the Scottish government will only establish its Rural Connectivity Commission in the event of a yes vote on 18th September.

The government says the body will seek a better deal for far-flung areas, while also ensuring “clarity” for industry and “stability” for investors.

It has pledged to take ownership of the Royal Mail north of the border, maintaining the universal service obligation for mail delivery.

Key among its targets will be:

• Improved digital connectivity, including mobile telecoms and broadband;

• Fairer parcel and delivery charges, with regulation for mail in Scotland coming to the Scottish parliament;

• A better deal on fuel prices and energy bills. The SNP-led administration says it will examine the benefits of introducing a fuel duty regulator mechanism to stabilise prices for businesses and consumers, and how this could be made to work alongside its Scottish Energy Fund;

• Improved transport links throughout the country;

• Achieving the “true potential” of rural renewables, together with a fairer transmission charging regime.

The paper is being published to coincide with a meeting of the Scottish cabinet in Wick.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our rural communities make a very valuable contribution to Scotland’s economy and have huge potential to develop even further.

“Too often people who live outside urban areas poorly served by the market and the UK government when it comes to services vital in the 21st century.

“With independence, we will have the powers to regulate these crucial services and to remove barriers which are holding back rural areas from achieving their full potential.”

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott dismissed the pledge as a “blatant bribe”, however.

He said: “Instead of promises based on independence, why don’t SNP ministers use the powers they have – and have had for seven years – to do things which help island areas.

“I’m afraid everything the SNP announce, and no doubt [Kenny] MacAskill [Justice Secretary] will do the same in the town hall in Lerwick tomorrow night, is a blatant electoral bribe to seek to convince people to vote for independence. People in Shetland are far too canny for that kind of thing.”

Mr Scott highlighted the digital forum run by the Lib Dem politicians in Orkney and Shetland, insisting it had “brought together” the organisations responsible for broadband connections, and the roll-out of both the UK and Scottish government programmes to invest in broadband.

“We want to continue that work as it is valued by many local organisations,” he added.


Add Your Comment
  • Wayne Conroy

    • July 15th, 2014 10:54

    Yet again another “conditional on a yes vote” promise. We seem to be promised a lot after a yes vote and yet we can’t get answers for what will happen after a yes vote as we seem to be constantly reminded that “a vote for yes is not a vote for the SNP.”

    Improved digital connectivity including mobile telecoms and broadband, fairer parcel and delivery charges, a better deal on fuel prices and energy bills, improved transport links throughout the country… Have we not been promised all this before? Should we not be receiving a fair deal on all these things already? Why is it now all conditional on us voting yes? In my opinion this isn’t bribery… It’s threatening behaviour to get what is already due.

    As for the “Achieving the true potential of rural renewables”… Do they really mean they will cover Shetland in windmills against the public will?

    All we seem to hear from the SNP is that Westminster are constantly “scaremongering” and yet all the action the SNP promise that could benefit Shetland seems to all be conditional on voting yes! If there is a no vote does this mean Shetland gets no rights? Does a no vote mean that we don’t get what we should already rightfully have?

    Well I, for one, say NO to being bullied, I say NO to being bribed and I say NO to being forced to do anything to get what is already due.

    • joe johnson

      • July 15th, 2014 14:00

      Well said wanye! I get fed up with the childish name calling from the SNP like “scaremongering, project fear, fear factor, unpatriotic, unscottish” etc if you question their polices on independence. The SNP will promise anything to get you to vote yes. I for one will not be bullied into voting yes.

  • Robert Duncan

    • July 15th, 2014 11:19

    The Scottish Government has just this week announced a further £2.5 million in funding towards the Community Broadband Scheme, so it’s not all just “jam tomorrow”.

    The Scottish Government in its current form has fairly limited scope to tackle things like postal costs.

  • Wayne Conroy

    • July 15th, 2014 19:29

    @Robert Duncan… You say it’s not all just “jam tomorrow” yet that’s exactly the way that it is getting put across to us by the likes of Nicola Sturgeon.

    They say they will “only establish its Rural Connectivity Commission in the event of a yes vote”… A yes or no vote shouldn’t make any difference whatsoever when it comes to at least trying to deal with the issues that Scottish rural communities have. Surely the whole point of having a Scottish Government in the first place is so that issues such as these will be addressed or else what exactly is the point of having it? Why should we have to vote yes to receive a service that we already should be getting?

    It seems to me that the likes of Nicola Sturgeon are well aware of many of the issues that affect rural communities but yet here they are trying to force us to vote yes or else, it seems, they won’t be addressing these issues.

    Well I say they already should be or else what use are they?

    • Robert Duncan

      • July 16th, 2014 10:45

      How do tou propose the Scottish Government, using the devolved powers currently available to them, tackle issues such as postal prices and fuel poverty?

      They were not responsible for the privatisation of Royal Mail, nor can they currently change the terms of universal service. They do not set levels of fuel duty or even have much say in the levels of tax these companies pay.

      Perhaps a better question for you to be asking is, what is your MP currently doing about these issues in Westminster?

      • Wayne Conroy

        • July 16th, 2014 12:35

        You seem to be completely missing the point Robert.

        The fact that they know these are problems and yet state they will they set up a commission to help deal with these matters “ONLY IF WE VOTE YES” is the issue here.

        You ask how I propose the Scottish Government using their devolved powers tackle these issues… Devolved powers or not their help in addressing these issues should not be dependent on us voting yes. They may not be responsible for the sale of the Royal Mail but they do have the power to put pressure on Ofcom for the delivery of a fair and proper service. They may not set the levels of fuel duty but they do have the power to put pressure on Ofgem for the delivery of a fair and proper service.

        It is disgusting that they are trying to hold the people of Scotland over a barrel to receive a service they are already paying for and should already be provided. What is the point of having a local government if they are “ONLY” going to deal with local issues “if we vote yes”?

        Perhaps a better question for you to be asking is why should anyone be forced to vote a certain way to get a service they should already receive.

      • Robert Duncan

        • July 16th, 2014 14:28

        They have no more power to put pressure on UK regulatory bodies than any other lobby group.

        With independence, they could actually force change on these issues, as the elected government of the country.

        Again, I’ll ask, what are our MPs currently in Westminster doing about these issues? they are the ones paid (rather more handsomely) to represent us on non-devolved issues.

      • Wayne Conroy

        • July 17th, 2014 14:25

        Ask again all you want Robert… Do you vote SNP by any chance? I am going to guess yes by the way you are trying to deflect the issue by asking what Westminster are doing when the only issue I have raised is the fact that our local government should be trying to deal with local issues without trying to force us to vote a certain way.

        If our local government are not going to at least try to address local issues then they are of no use to us.

        If you are going to continue to argue your point on what Westminster should be doing about us which has nothing to do with the subject then I have little more to say to you!

      • Robert Duncan

        • July 17th, 2014 15:53

        I have never voted SNP, nor do I currently intend to vote Yes, I just challenge to what I see as weak arguments from either side.

        I am happy to end our conversation here also as you clearly have little interest in discussing the points actually raised.

  • Ali Inkster

    • July 16th, 2014 11:34

    Royal mail postal charges are the same no matter where you are in the country so nothing to fix there. Fuel poverty stop insisting we pay over the odds for wind power, I’ll just get my electric from the power station as the generators are running anyway, keep your intermittent unreliable wind out the mix and hey presto cheaper heating.

    • Robert Duncan

      • July 16th, 2014 14:30

      Royal Mail postal charges are the same, for now. Under the terms of privatisation universal service was only guaranteed until 2021.

    • Robert Duncan

      • July 16th, 2014 14:33

      I would also add that various studies have shown that renewable energy has a smaller effect on energy prices than the rising cost of fossil fuels.

      • John Tulloch

        • July 16th, 2014 22:46

        If, being very generous, we assume for convenience that renewable energy supplies about twenty percent of electricity demand, nuclear about the same and fossil fuels the rest i.e. about sixty percent, then a ten percent rise in the cost of fossil fuel energy would result in a six percent increase in overall price, whereas, a ten percent rise in the price of renewable energy would result in a two percent increase in overall price.

        That is a simple matter of scale and isn’t a reason to call for more renewable energy installations. Why not?

        Because (keeping it simple) electricity from onshore wind costs around twice the price of electricity from coal and gas and from offshore wind, about three times the price so, in the vanishingly unlikely event a country could supply 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy, it would cost between two and three times as much, not counting transmission costs (e.g. £1 billion submarine cable on top of £1.2 billion “Moray-Caithness” submarine cable), depending on whether onshore or offshore wind is deployed.

        If the special “Island Strike Price” of £135/MWh for onshore wind, that being nearly three times the price of fossil fuel generation, is taken, it obviously raises the onshore/offshore average price towards the exorbitant offshore price.

      • Ali Inkster

        • July 16th, 2014 23:29

        But it still has an effect on prices without reducing carbon emissions so why spend so much on it?

      • Robert Duncan

        • July 17th, 2014 15:58

        “without reducing carbon emissions”? That may require some evidence. I agree that there are significant environmental concerns with wind energy, not least their dependence on rare earth mining, but that seems a bold claim.

        I think the UK needs a good mixture of all available energy sources and I think that green energy (again, a good mix within that) should be part of it.

        It’s fine to say fossil fuels are cheaper but they won’t be forever. I’d rather we introduced alternative sources incrementally than end up with Viking Energy scale developments actually being required just to keep the lights on.

      • John Tulloch

        • July 18th, 2014 10:10

        Robert, I accept the renewables lobby dispute this, however;

        Evidence from Professor Gordon Hughes, Edinburgh University and GWPF Academic Council:

      • Robert Duncan

        • July 18th, 2014 11:42

        This may have been written by a Professor, but it is not an academic paper and has not been through independent scrutiny. On the contrary, it is written for and published by a lobbying body with a clear agenda.

        I do not purport to be an expert on this, but i note some questionable comments from only a cursory reading. Take point 4. All modern power grids have some level of spinning reserve. This is not unique to wind energy or other “green” sources. Minor fluctuations in the grid are to be expected, with or without wind energy. How else would we deal with half the country boiling their kettle during the Coronation street ad break? Wind is not as inconsistent as many of its detractors paint it to be either; there are extremely elegant forecasting systems in place that can accurately predict output days in advance.

        The fact remains that we require an energy supply chain that protects us not just from the limitations of alternative sources, but the clear dangers of an over reliance on fossil fuels of sky rocketing expense.

      • Robert Duncan

        • July 18th, 2014 11:54

        Here is a rebuttal from somebody better informed than me!

      • John Tulloch

        • July 18th, 2014 17:03

        Not peer reviewed, indeed. Was the Carbon Brief stuff peer-reviewed and who picks and reviews the peer reviewers?

        Was the SIC’s supporting evidence for their rural schools closure plans peer-reviewed?

        The verdict has to be “Could do better!”

        I think you’ll find Hughes’ effort was much tighter than that.

      • Robert Duncan

        • July 19th, 2014 1:14

        It was not, however it made sense to link a piece responding directly to your own.

      • Robert Duncan

        • July 19th, 2014 1:19

        That posted sooner than I intended.

        I would argue that, yes, school closure proposals are peer reviewed. The proposals put forward by officials go through the lengthy consultation process well known to Shetlanders, allowing comment by all members of the public and by Education Scotland for external review. on the latter point, I’m not aware of any Shetland school closure where Education Scotland raised doubts on the proposal. However, even upon a Council decision, the entire process is then further scrutinised by the Scottish Government.

        Certainly a far more prescriptive process than for Prof Hughes to publish his blog, accompanied by the clear errors (or intentional misinterpretation) identified above.

  • Sandy McMillan

    • July 18th, 2014 0:56

    Robert it is not the SNP you are voting for, It is for independance from Westminster and the rest of the UK

  • Robert Duncan

    • July 18th, 2014 8:55

    I’m well aware of that and think my post was perfectly clear in making that distinction.

  • John Tulloch

    • July 18th, 2014 16:55

    As I said, Robert, this is open to dispute and I’d say both sides of the argument aren’t above spinning”.

    Certainly, it can’t right that gas power stations use the same gas irrespective of load and equally, a considerable amount of spinning reserve will be required, increasing with greater amounts of wind; spinning reserve which, even on no load, uses a fair amount of fuel just to keep it turning and maintain steam pressure.

    I would recommend listening to ex- grid control engineers such as Derek Birkett, author of “When will the lights go out”, as opposed to lobbyists from either side, although, instinctively, I give greater credibility to the GWPF than to the Carbon Brief.

    Good stuff but I have to get back to the rural schools!


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