VIDEO – Sturgeon: We want to empower island communities

Nicola Sturgeon defended the SNP’s Holyrood record during her visit to the isles following criticism from campaign group Wir Shetland.

The First Minister was helping launch the election bid by Danus Skene, who is now fully on the campaign trail after recovering from his bout of ill health.

Nicola Sturgeon gets ready to sample one of Lerwick Brewery's ales during her visit on Monday, alongside worker Jon Pulley. Photo: Peter Johnson
Nicola Sturgeon gets ready to sample one of Lerwick Brewery’s ales during her visit on Monday, alongside worker Jon Pulley. Photo: Peter Johnson

Wir Shetland said it was boycotting Ms Sturgeon’s visit after highlighting concerns about ferry subsidy cuts and a “stealth underfunding” of SIC services.

The group says that a 2008 arrangement with Cosla for the allocation of government funding led to “systematic underfunding” in remote communities.

It claims Shetland’s education system has been underfunded by around £10 million per annum since that year, forcing the SIC to cut services or dip into its reserves to cover the shortfall.

Ms Sturgeon, who was speaking during a tour of the Lerwick Brewery, said the she had a listening ear, although funding arrangements for councils were made in conjunction with Cosla.

She also defended agricultural minister Richard Lochhead over his involvement in the CAP payment debacle, which has seen some farmers and crofters wait for months for payments following the introduction of a troublesome £178 million computer software system.

“We allocate funding based on an agreed formula with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. We’re always open to listening to representations about how that can be improved, and if that’s a case made to me today by people across Shetland – and I’ll be in Orkney tomorrow – then that’s something that we’ll listen to. But we don’t unilaterally decide how funding is allocated. We do that in partnership with Cosla.”

Wir Shetland has also argued against a £5 million cash cut in SIC annual funding while Holyrood received a cash increase from Westminster.

But Ms Sturgeon insisted Holyrood’s budget has been cut “in real terms” every year since the current UK government had been in office.

“We’ve tried to treat local authorities fairly. I don’t pretend that this is not a difficult time for local authorities, as it is for other public sector organisations. But we’ve tried to treat local authorities fairly. We’ve also taken steps to transfer funding from the National Health Service into social care because we recognise that in island communities as well as other communities across Scotland that that is important.

“So we’ll continue trying to deal with the budgetary situation we face as fairly as we can for local authorities generally and island communities in particular.”

Ms Sturgeon, who was accompanied on her visit by transport minister Derek Mackay, also defended the SNP’s record on ferry fares, and highlighted a freeze in ferry fares. Wir Shetland had argued Shetland and Orkney ferry subsidies had been cut by 14 per cent, while Clyde and Hebridean subsidies had risen by 41 per cent in the same period.

“We want to make sure we do give the Northern Isles the benefit of our investment in ferries,” said Ms Sturgeon.

“There has been a lengthy debate about RET and because of the distances involved, particularly with Shetland, RET could increase some ferry fares which is not what anyone wants to see. We’re investing as a government much more in ferries than has ever been the case. I’ve got the transport minister here with me. This week we’ve just announced freezing of ferry fares, and we’ll continue to discuss with both Shetland and Orkney councils how we can build on that and make sure that we are improving transport links to and from the islands, because that’s crucial in terms of what we are talking about more generally in supporting the island economies.”

Her visit came just days after agriculture minister Richard Lochhead visited the isles to offer reassurances to farmers and crofters over the delayed CAP payments.

So, does the First Minister still have confidence in Mr Lochhead?

“Yes I do. Absolutely. We’re working hard to get CAP payments to farmers. We are continuing to see payments go out through the core scheme every day, literally. But we’ve also put in place the Scottish government loan scheme so any farmer who didn’t have the initial payment by the end of March will get a payment through that. I myself met with the NFU a couple of weeks before parliament dissolved for the election. While I understand their concerns, they were very positive about the steps that the Scottish government we’re taking. We continue to do everything we can do to get the payments to farmers.”


Add Your Comment
  • Andrew Holt

    • April 5th, 2016 19:39

    Might I offer an alternative headline, Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, First Minister insists SNP can organise P… Up in Brewery.

    • Robin Stevenson

      • April 5th, 2016 20:25

      Well you could Andrew, but it wouldn’t make much sense? Considering the SNP have been in power for the last 9 years, having been handed by the Scottish electorate a ‘Majority’ gov. Not to mention the likelihood [according to polls] of ‘Another’ majority government?

      In other words, most people think you’re wrong.

      • Ian Tinkler

        • April 6th, 2016 12:10

        “In other words, most people think you’re wrong” Really, Robin Stevenson. The popular vote was 44% SNP. 66% voted for other parties. If you disregard the split vote, I clear majority was not remotely behind the SNP. A very similar result was clear in the Referendum, 55% against the SNP/Nationalist divisive campaign. We may well have a similar result this time round, that however, will have more to do with the poor state of the opposition than a love of the SNP. Cordyn’s hard Socialist clowns are unelectable, and the Unionist opposition is split, however, I, as well as Nicola Sturgeon can see no mandate for an Indy2. Well not for a generation as promised. Whoop whoop

      • Robin Stevenson

        • April 6th, 2016 15:38

        Once again Ian, you [and others] seem to need constant reminding that “You cannot include people that DIDN’T vote?”….Of those that ‘DID’ vote, I think you’ll find my figures are correct. Perhaps if you think the BBC are wrong too, you could drop them a wee line?

        By your own admission: “We may well have a similar result this time round”, more or less reinforces my argument,..Thank you. 🙂

    • Bill Adams

      • April 6th, 2016 10:50

      Wir Shetland couldn’t organise a P…Up in a Brewery because their members would boycott the event !

      • iantinkler

        • April 11th, 2016 7:19

        Bill Adams, your SNP ally, Robin Stevenson, has come out from under his stone with this gem. He published this malevolence in a Shetland News blog. Is he talking for Shetland Branch SNP as well as all just mainland SNP? . “Robin Stevenson, SNP spokesperson, as featured on Shetland Media (The Times, Shetland News). To Quote this man, “Ah! yes, Billy Connolly, the great internationalist, who’d sell his granny for an ounce of the limelight, much like the 55% happy to bring your own country down and sell your own people out, in order to be accepted into the elitist club? The day I take lessons in patriotism from a turncoat comedian” he further adds “people like Lulu, Sheena Easton, Billy Connolly, every Tory and a good number of Labour, Lib/Dem politicians etc.” and of course he includes every Scot who did not vote Yes in the referendum. For anyone who does not know the meaning of “Turncoat” : synonyms: TRAITOR, RENEGADE, DEFECTOR, DESERTER, BETRAYER; Is it not horrible to have such views expressed by a SNP spokesperson on Shetland media?.

      • Robin Stevenson

        • April 11th, 2016 13:24

        Poor you Ian, frothing at the mouth thinking you’ve uncovered some kind of new revelation?” 🙂

        As far as I remember it was YOU who decided to use Billy Connolly as an example of his narrow and limited view on Scottish politics? I was merely pointing out that ANY Scot worth their salt would surely not chose to disown their ‘ain folk’ for the sake of advancing their own career? I was always rather bewildered how Lulu and Sheena Easton managed to change their accents depending on who they were talking to?”’ So you’re right I most certainly won’t be taking lessons in patriotism from Mr Connolly.

        Your definition of ‘turncoat’ is much the same as your definition of ‘nationalism’. When in doubt [or when you just don’t have a clue] choose the biggest and baddest one you can think of?

        Turncoat: ‘A person who shifts allegiance from one loyalty or ideal to another’.

      • John Tulloch

        • April 11th, 2016 14:27

        So, Robin, using your own definition:

        “Turncoat: ‘A person who shifts allegiance from one loyalty or ideal to another’”

        Presumably, this would apply to a politician who flits from party to party, on a regular basis?

        Like Danus Skene has done, for example?

      • Robin Stevenson

        • April 11th, 2016 15:33

        No John, quite different, you can hardly call Danus a ‘turncoat’ for moving from one political party to another, when THAT party chooses to abandon their entire principles from the very reason you supported them in the first place?

        Danus didn’t ‘abandon’ them, they ‘abandoned’ him. 🙂

      • Ian Tinkler

        • April 11th, 2016 17:18

        So Dannus Skenne was abandoned, Robin Stevenson. Poor Dannus, abandoned by The Scottish Labour Party, abandoned by The Labour Party, Abandoned by The Liberal Party and also abandoned by Shetland Arts. O no, he resigned just as chairperson just as the going got tough at “Shetland Arts” to pursue his political dreams. Pity about the employees he left behind, leaderless just in time to face redundancy and debt. He claimed at the time something about conflict of political interest or some such garbage. Poor Dannus, I wonder who will abandon him next?

      • iantinkler

        • April 13th, 2016 6:56

        Spare a thought for poor, poor Dannus Skene. The Orkney Four, after a nasty and vindictive campaign through the Law Courts, lost their case against Ali C. In doing so enriched the Lawyers by about £300,000. The unfortunate four had to find £200,000. In legal fees. Crowdfunding raised that for them at the expense of sympathetic Nationalists, mostly SNP members if you follow the “Yes Shetland” “Orkney Vole” et al web sites. Now Dannus tried to raise funds for his SNP campaign using Crowdfunding. O dear, dear me. After 35 days the modest target of £7000. was not even approached! A mere £2000 raised by 60 odd backers! Strange is it not, a vindictive and negative campaign raise £200,000. It looks rather to me if Dannus has been rather abondoned by a large number of SNP supporters also.

  • iantinkler

    • April 11th, 2016 14:12

    Really Robin Stevenson, So 55% of Scotland’s People who voted “NO”, every Tory and a good number of Labour, Lib/Dem politicians etc, alongside, poor Lulu and Sheena, (your words), have all shifted allegiance from one loyalty or ideal to another’. You really defy all credibility, that is perhaps the most silly comment I have heard to date!!!. Keep on swinging from that rope I gave you, to hang yourself with. Just be carefull though, it is the credibility of the SNP you are destroying, along with your own. Just keep up the good work.

  • iantinkler

    • April 11th, 2016 14:34

    Really Robin Stevenson, So 55% of Scotland’s People, those who voted “NO”, “every Tory and a good number of Labour, Lib/Dem politicians etc,” (your words), alongside, poor Billy, Lulu and Sheena, , have all shifted allegiance from one loyalty or ideal to another’. You really defy all credibility, Robin, that is perhaps the most silly comment I have heard to date!!!. Keep on swinging from that rope I gave you, to hang yourself with. Just be carefull though, it is the credibility of the SNP you are destroying, along with your own. Just keep up the good work. Incidentally it is very hard to froth at the mouth and laugh at the same time 🙂


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