Shetland is renowned for our community spirit: outstanding volunteers, the success of local development companies and just the way that folk here look out for each other. Our local council and community councils could do more to harness this energy, but they need the powers and funding to do so. The SNP is committed to giving local communities more control and we’re already seeing the benefits from the creation of Crown Estate Scotland and the Islands Act. I want to see more of this and we shouldn’t let politics distract us from recognising common ground about what’s best for Shetland.
Shetland has done well out of oil and gas. As we decarbonise our economy, we should learn from our experience to ensure that future energy projects provide appropriate benefit to our community. We also need to take a long-term view on transport investments that will make our communities more resilient. If elected I will use every opportunity to secure funding to build fixed links, as they have done in Faroe.
No one in Shetland left behind
The number of Shetlanders claiming Universal Credit has more than doubled over the course of the pandemic, the local food bank is dealing with record demand and too many islanders are still in fuel poverty. Everyone in Shetland should have a warm home that’s affordable to heat. In one of the richest countries on earth, the existence of food banks is a disgrace – and due to the cruel cuts of successive Tory governments.
The pandemic has also taken a toll on the mental health of islanders and I know that many have waited too long to access support. This year’s Scottish Government budget increased investment in mental health services to £1.1 billion, but as well as making sure treatment is available, we need to consider how we build an economy that prioritises human wellbeing and happiness.
Local control of local waters
The seafood sector is the single most important part of the Shetland economy and has been betrayed by Boris Johnson. The fundamental problem with UK and EU fisheries policy has always been the lack of local management and control. That’s why the SNP has consistently opposed the CFP for nearly 50 years. In places like Iceland and Norway, local fishermen, and scientists work together to manage local waters more sustainably. The Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation already leads the way on this: we should explore a similar model for other fisheries. As Shetland’s MSP, it would be my duty to prioritise our most important economic sector.
A hopeful future for all
The next generation of Shetlanders deserve to live on a planet with a stable climate – and in a healthy modern democracy. We’ve seen what the likes of Boris Johnson are willing to do to our democratic institutions and in Scotland we’ve been repeatedly told that our future is not our own to decide. So this election is not just about politics: it’s about democracy. Like Shetland’s famous Lib Dem MP Jo Grimond, I believe that Scotland’s parliament should have all the normal powers of government, except for those that we choose to delegate to the UK or Europe. I don’t think it’s too radical to suggest – like Jo did – that these decisions should be ours to take. Our community has so much potential. I want to work with everyone in these islands to make Shetland more resilient and ensure everyone here can thrive.