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News / Election 2011: Coastguard, power, fuel, transport and tax

POSTAL voters in the Scottish Parliament election are being reminded that their votes must be in by 10pm on Thursday.

For other voters, polling stations will be open throughout Shetland from 7am until 10pm on Thursday. Details of local polling stations are on poll cards sent out to all eligible voters, but can also be explained by calling 01595 744554.

On Thursday people will be able to vote for their favourite Shetland candidate, a regional candidate and their preferred voting system in the referendum on voting reform. Information about the voting systems on offer are available at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.

As the campaign draws to a climax, SNP candidate Jean Urquhart has questioned revelations in The Shetland Times last week that the Lerwick coastguard station has won a reprieve from the UK government.

Mrs Urquhart said western isles MP Angus MacNeill had spoken to shipping minister Mike Penning, who said the situation had not changed.

“It’s not clever to raise false hopes about such a serious issue when a telephone call would have clarified any question over the timescale for decisions being made,” she said.

Independent candidate Billy Fox has criticised the payment of £900,000 to energy companies including Scottish & Southern to shut wind turbines down on 5 and 6 April so they did not overload the grid.

“What is needed, as we strive to put future energy solutions in place, is more joined up thinking and less irresponsible grandstanding rhetoric from our politicians. We are heading towards an environmental and economic disaster, not to mention energy security, if we do not get this right,” Mr Fox said.

Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott said the high cost of fuel was his highest priority, saying the new Scottish government had to throw its weight behind the islands’ 5p derogation on fuel duty and push for it to be extended.

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He also wants the Office of Fair Trading to investigate once again “the huge differential in fuel costs between Shetland and Aberdeen” and to introduce a 24 hour card payment systems at rural fuel stations to cut operating costs.

On the need to reduce dependence on fuel, he said: “Better local bus and taxi services aimed at helping people get to work can all help, but for many across Shetland there is no real alternative to the car.

“New electric and low carbon cars can also help, with Unst already taking a lead in the development of hydrogen powered alternatives. The public sector in Shetland can lead in purchasing low carbon vehicles.”

The former Scottish transport minister added that he would fight for business travel to be restored to the Air Discount Scheme that he was responsible for introducing when he was in government and would battle any attempts to downgrade the lifeline ferry service.

“The cost of our ferry links is always an issue, as it is to all islands communities. That is why it was unacceptable that the SNP government gave special treatment to the western isles, cutting the fares on their ferries, rather than sharing the available funding to cut the fares on all ferry routes.

“The SNP and Labour plans to maintain the lower fares to the western isles, but to do nothing for us, are not acceptable. Liberal Democrats offer a fair share of the funds for all island communities.”

Labour candidate Jamie Kerr took time to repeat criticism of the UK coalition government’s “North Sea tax grab”, citing Centrica’s threat not to reopen a major gas field off England’s west coast as a result.

He called on the government to reverse the tax immediately. “Jobs and investment in the North Sea is being put at risk by the Lib Dem/Tory coalition government’s reckless tax plans. The effect on Shetland of companies like Centrica pulling out would be devastating with massive job losses.”


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