Sniping from the sidelines

Let’s face it, most people don’t hold politicians in the highest regard. For too long far too many politicians have said one thing and done another. Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson has demonstrated that hypocrisy to the highest degree during this week’s budget vote in Parliament.

Your readers will know well that Orkney and Shetland councils have been engaging constructively with the Scottish Government over the issue of internal ferries. (SIC to receive extra £5m for island ferries; SN, 31/01/2018)

I have to give credit to both James Stockan and Cecil Smith – they made their arguments for additional funding persistently but also engaged in a positive manner, looking to work with Government not against them. As a result the Scottish Government will provide £10.5m on top of Orkney and Shetland’s block grant settlement to help fund internal ferries. That is a move that has been hugely welcomed by the councils involved.

From the sidelines, we had Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson coming late to the party and instead of engaging constructively he attempted to play party politics. He wrote to me demanding money for internal ferry services, he also demanded it during a parliamentary debate.

Incredibly, when it came to the crunch Jamie bottled it, he chose to vote against the budget putting his party before the constituents he represents, pure and simple.

He could have followed the lead of the two Lib Dem constituency MSPs who went against the majority of their party and voted for the budget, because it represents a good deal for Orkney and Shetland.

Instead, he has put his own interests first, not daring to go against his political party despite our budget containing the only demand he has made of me as Transport Minister.
He may hope that his constituents have short memories, I’m afraid for Halcro-Johnson people don’t forgive hypocrisy very easily.

As for the Lib Dems, while the two Northern Isles members rightly backed the budget, many island communities will be astonished that the majority of Lib Dem MSPs, including the party leader, voted against extra funding for island ferries. Those are not the actions of a party which has the islands’ interests at heart.

The Scottish Government has listened to the people of Orkney and Shetland. As well as honouring our commitment to introduce RET to the Northern Isles, we have now agreed to provide funding towards internal ferries too.

Add to this, the historic Islands Bill that we have introduced to Parliament, there can be little doubt that the Scottish Government is taking real action to benefit our Island communities, the length and breadth of Scotland.

The job is not done, I’ll continue to visit the islands, engage with communities and get on with the work of delivering for our islands. I’ll leave it to others to snipe from the sidelines.

Humza Yousaf
Transport Minister
Scottish Government
Edinburgh

Note from the editor: We have asked Jamie Halcro-Johnston to respond to the transport minister’s comments. We will publish his response as soon as we receive it.

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