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Letters / Wir Shetland claims were true

Brian Smith’s words of wisdom on Tavish Scott’s rout of the SNP in the Scottish election are, for the most part, right and fairly obvious (Why Tavish won; SN, 15/05/16), however he is unable to conceal his irritation with Wir Shetland’s success, having tried to denigrate it with every related comment he has made since its launch last October.

I am still a member of Wir Shetland but have stepped down from the committee and no longer speak for them. They must speak for themselves.

However, as the author of the points in question, it behoves me to comment on his statement:

“The Wir Shetland intervention in favour of Tavish Scott had no effect – except in one area. They kept plugging away about the alleged SNP conspiracy against Shetland Islands Council and with regard to ferry fares. Foolishly, the SNP didn’t bother to rebut these claims, as they could easily have done. As a result, both narratives became received wisdom.”

In fact, the reason why the SNP did not refute either claim is because both are accurate.

There is no doubt that Shetland education is underfunded versus actual need due to misallocation of funding by COSLA who were entrusted to do this by the SNP in 2008. This also applies to other rural councils, especially, Orkney and Western Isles.

John Swinney became aware of the situation and to his credit, challenged COSLA to uprate the “needs” factor of their funding “formula”. However, when they stated an unwillingness to co-operate, he caved in and agreed to allow them to continue as they had been doing.

None of this is in doubt, I have a copy of Mr Swinney’s communication with COSLA.

In Shetland’s case, the underfunding is of the order of £10 million per annum, ongoing since 2008 i.e £80 million.

On ferry fares, Tavish Scott campaigned on the 55 per cent reduction in west coast fares while Shetland and Orkney fares continued to rise.

Wir Shetland, almost exclusively, pointed to the disparity in ferry subsidy which has arisen over the last three years, namely, a 14 percent cut for Shetland and Orkney while west coast ferry users enjoyed a 41 percent increase.

Our figures came from the Scottish government itself in a parliamentary answer to a question, S4W-27940, by David Stewart, MSP (Labour, H&I):

“To ask the Scottish Government what proportion of the planned expenditure in Scottish Ferry Services: Ferries Plan (2013-2022) will be on (a) Northern Isles and (b) Clyde and Hebrides routes and what the total expenditure has been to date.”

The written answer was issued on Sunday 29 November by Transport Minister, Derek Mackay. Full details are and associated subsidy table are available at http://forargyll.com/?p=103120

So it’s clear, the SNP did not attempt to refute either claim because they knew both to be true and concentrated instead on throwing anything else, including vitriol, at Wir Shetland.

In so doing, they gave Tavish a clear run for his own impressive, energetic campaign.

John Tulloch
Lyndon
Arrochar

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