WITH 16 and 17 year olds in Shetland able to vote in next week’s Scottish Parliament by-election, issues affecting young people are an important part of the campaign.
Shetland News was pleased to be asked to host questions from the two local Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Jonathan Dorrat and Leighton Anderson, for the ten candidates.
Dorrat and Anderson wanted to know more about issues including mental health, housing and the climate. Read the candidates’ answers below.
TRANSPORT: We believe access to travel is vital to support young people to make a positive transition into further/higher education and apprenticeships. Do you believe that the national entitlement discounted/free travel for young people should be extended to age 25 as opposed to the current 16-18 years?
Johan Adamson (Scottish Labour): Definitely. Scottish Labour policy is to extend free bus travel to under 25s. Let’s see if we can extend this to include ferry foot passengers. When I was a student, I got a grant so I was lucky, but the most important bit was that we could claim travel expenses, and from Shetland we could not have done without that. I actually feel that travel for all of us islanders should be cheaper. It’s a bit strange you don’t pay for toddlers then pay from age 5-16, then again start paying when you are a student. Not sure if 25 is the right cut off, maybe the answer is that you should get free travel if you are in full time education or on an apprenticeship, no matter what age you are. Not everyone has parents willing and able to help and with a living wage. Young people will be able to have independence from parents as we had.
Brydon Goodlad (Scottish Conservatives): The Scottish Government has agreed to look at this and I will be interested in seeing the costings for such a proposal. What I do find more important though, is that there is a broad range of apprenticeships available in the first place. The government needs to expand modern apprenticeship starts faster and work with employers to make sure they are available in remote areas too. Similarly, I welcome the recent introduction of foundation apprenticeships, but they should be available in more schools. Furthermore, reliable transport links that allow young people to get to work and training are also key. There is no point in introducing discounts when too many remote areas aren’t on bus routes in the first place.
Stuart Martin (UKIP): On the issue of transport, to support young people in higher education and apprenticeships I believe the age should be increased to 25 for discounted travel to help and assist our future generation of young people.
Debra Nicolson (Scottish Greens): Yes, I would be in favour of fare-free travel for young people. I recognise that young people often lack a disposable income, especially when in full-time education, and so I completely agree that they should be free to use public transport without worrying about the cost. This should include both buses and ferries. In the long run, the Scottish Greens aim to bring ferries, buses and (on the mainland) trains into public ownership so that everyone in Scotland can benefit from fare-free access to public transport. This would end the growing problem of ‘transport poverty’ and encourage people to use more environmentally friendly modes of travel than cars and planes. But in the meantime, I agree that free travel for young people is a policy we can and should implement right now.
Ian Scott (independent): Of course free travel should be extended to the age of 25, I don’t think you will find anyone in disagreement with that. However, there is a far bigger issue at work here though, when we consider that Luxemburg has recently declared all public transport free for everyone. In a decent, civilised society, transport should be a universal given, such as schooling and health care. Sadly as our society falls short of such a description, we just look to Luxemburg with envy.
Michael Stout (independent): I agree that the upper age limit should extended; I understand that for many the most difficult time can be after 18. However, I’m also aware that with limited resources, it’s important that the money being spent on the scheme effectively goes to those who need it most. Shetland has a particularly challenging set of transport issues/costs/implications for young people, and I would be keen to make sure that the best local solutions are funded and applied.
Peter Tait (independent): There is the problem of competing budgets. If you put extra money into one part of the education budget you inevitably take money away from another part of the budget. I don’t feel that I can comment as these decisions are probably made with great care by those with more experience and access to the facts then I have.
Ryan Thomson (independent): We need to make travel and in particular public transport as accessible and affordable as possible for all. Not only will this help from financial and education perspective, but also more people using public transport means less cars on the road and therefore better for the environment. Free public transport should be made available for people to be able to get to their place of study, and I would support not only an increase to the age of 25, but for people who are studying at any age.
Tom Wills (SNP): I would back any scheme that encouraged more people to use public transport – cutting the number of cars on the road and keeping more money in the pocket of young people. Of course this would have to be financially viable and I understand the SNP Scottish Government is currently looking into the feasibility of extending free bus travel to modern apprentices and all people under the age of 25. I’ll keep a close eye on this report.
Beatrice Wishart (Liberal Democrats): With more young people staying on for higher education and training for longer it’s important that those completing their studies and starting out their careers are supported. The minimum wage for an apprentice is £3.90 an hour so bus fares can really eat into pay. I would certainly work with Shetland Islands Council and others to explore schemes to support those 25 and under to complete their qualifications in the isles and on the mainland. Having information available in one easy to reach place for discounts on buses, ferries and flights would be useful.
VOTES AT 16: The voting age in local government and Scottish elections is 16. Would you support the lowering of the voting age to 16 for all UK elections and referendum?
Goodlad: We have seen the level of engagement of young people in the 2014 referendum and that has persuaded many MSPs of the case to extend the franchise. I will not have a vote on changing the voting age for UK elections and referendums as that is a reserved matter for MPs, but I am happy to discuss our Scottish experience with colleagues sitting in the House of Commons.
Martin: I support lowering the voting age to 16 for all UK elections and referendums as our young people have a right to play a part in shaping their future.
Nicolson: Yes, absolutely – young people must have a say in their own futures. I also believe 16 should be the minimum age for candidates in all elections. Having supported and applauded the efforts of young people in Shetland recently to highlight the climate emergency, I have no doubt that they can make as important a contribution as older folk – often even more important, in fact.
Scott: As with free travel for under 25s, I don’t think you will get much disagreement with the voting age being reduced to 16 in all elections. My own experience was when I was 16, the voting age had been set at 21. So things can change in a positive way. So let’s not give up hope, even with this lot in charge at Westminster.
Stout: Yes – I suspect that it’s practically one of the ways that will help those in power to actually listen and act on the messages coming from young people in general. It’s hard to argue that many of the problems which the older generation are leaving for the next are not connected to that lack of listening.
Tait: I have no objections to young people having the vote in elections and referendums.
Thomson: I certainly would – all elections and referendums in the UK should be in line with each other. Sixteen and 17 year olds should be encouraged and empowered to influence decisions with a democratic vote that ultimately will define their future.
Wills: I’m fully behind the Votes at 16 campaign. To me it is obvious that the right to vote should be extended to all 16 and 17 year olds across the UK. The SNP has already lowered the voting age to 16 for all Scottish elections and referendums. Even those who opposed the extension of the franchise before the 2014 independence referendum now recognise the level of interest and political engagement amongst those aged 16-18.
Wishart: The Liberal Democrats led the campaign on votes at 16 in Scotland. This should be extended to all UK elections and referendums. We want to go even further though and lower the candidacy age so 16 year olds could stand for election. This would be an important step in engaging more young people in politics.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES: In Scotland, lots of young people are waiting too long to access child and adolescent mental health services [CAMHS]. CAMHS is not always the right service for many. How do you think that young people could be better supported with their mental health?
Adamson: So much pressure on young people today, yes, I think so. If CAMHS is fully funded and gets early intervention right, then it should be the right service. Delays in getting treatment makes everything worse and prompt access to services is vital to the treatment. We need to ask young people what it is they need. More events like those on the Year of Young People? More independence, like having a living wage and not having to rely on parents?
Goodlad: Mental health has become one of the most prominent policy areas in the Scottish Parliament and rightly so. CAMHS waiting times are simply not good enough and we need to do more to build capacity in the system, but also to ensure mental health support is available beyond just the NHS. So yes, a big part of it is down to investment – and the new PM has recently announced even more funding for the NHS that will come to Scotland. We have long argued for mental health support to be available in GP surgeries and A&E departments as well, something which the government is now pursuing. More counselling in schools is also a part of the answer and this is something we have been pushing for. Lastly, it is important that we work with companies to build capacity across the private sector that would make mental health support a part of every workplace.
Martin: Young people with mental health issues need to be supported more with CAMHS services and other professionals. More finance is needed and more professionals needed to cut down the waiting time on these vital services. Other alternatives are and should be tailored to the individual needs of the person concerned. Psychiatrists, special practitioners, psychologists, counsellors.
Nicolson: I have seen the impact inadequate mental health provision can have in my own family and have campaigned on this issue for a number of years, so it’s something I feel very strongly about. For young people, good mental health is essential to a good education and overall development. Early intervention is vital to make sure any mental health problems are treated as soon as possible and that young people remain healthy in adulthood, while reducing the burden on adult mental health provision. Unfortunately, I know many of our young people struggle with mental health and finding the support they need. If elected as your MSP I would push for access to counsellors within schools to help identify and treat early mental health issues as they arise, in addition to pressuring the government to provide more funding for mental health services.
Scott: Our own council proposed a £200,000 cut in our own mental health provision, so the problem resides nearer to home than you might think. The problem with mental health provision and improvement lies in the same place as most other things. A cynical lack of government funding due to a cynical lack of care or interest in the subject. You see, they don’t use the National Health Service.
Stout: I’ve been involved personally and professionally with mental health issues for many years – and glad to see that that the subject is at least much less of a taboo than it used to be. Talking about it, understanding the bigger picture, and in particular the importance of early intervention/support are all keys to improvement. Funding for services remains at the heart of it – not just how much, but where it’s being spent. The purse-holders and policy makers need to be better informed by the the people who are affected, both positively and negatively, by the decisions they make.
Tait: I am not familiar with CAMHS and I don’t feel that I can venture a relevant comment.
Thomson: Mental health services across the country are struggling. NHS Shetland was one of only four NHS boards which met the 90 per cent target of being seen within 18 weeks of referral. The national average is only 73.6 per cent. Real credit must go to our local NHS staff for achieving this target. Here in Shetland, Karen MacKelvie of RSPB Shetland came up with the idea of ‘prescribing nature’ as an option for many, and the feedback has been very positive, one way Shetland can help lead the way on such matters. We need to develop a culture where young people can access the right level of support that they require. Be it at home, through the NHS or through our schools or voluntary sectors. We need to develop a culture whereby stigma and discrimination of any mental health issue be eradicated for good. We have come a long way, but we have a piece to go.
Wills: Improving access to mental health services is a key priority of the Scottish Government – and the SNP has made great progress with the number of child psychology posts doubling, funding rising by 40 per cent since 2006 and the UK’s first dedicated mental health minister now appointed. It is also good news that in recent year the stigma of mental health has reduced, meaning that more people than ever are asking for help. But the bottom line is that long waiting times for CAMHS support are unacceptable. At the end of last year the Scottish Government invested £4 million that helped employ 80 new CAMHS staff to help reduce pressure on services. I was also pleased to see the SNP announce the introduction of 350 counsellors to schools across Scotland, who will help ensure that every secondary school in the country will have a counselling service. I think this investment will make a real difference in helping young people receive support they need and I will continue to push for more action on mental health.
Wishart: Mental health continues to be an important campaign focus for the Liberal Democrats. NHS, youth services and school staff all work incredibly hard to deliver and promote mental health services but demand is growing. I am concerned about the delays young people may face when transferring to adult services which are already stretched. For young people to wait six months or a year must seem like an age and even longer waits in the adult services will be a worry for those transferring over to those services. There was a delay of 15 months in the Scottish Government publishing its mental health strategy which meant that millions of pounds of investment was kept waiting. Recruitment is a big problem to tackle to reduce waiting times. The Scottish Government needs to make sure the support package for new staff moving into our communities is good enough so they stay. Early intervention is key though. We need to fix things to help more young people earlier. We want to get extra mental health staff into every GP practice, A&E department and police force.
CLIMATE CHANGE: In June, the Scottish Youth Parliament chose environmental protection as their next national campaign. When we consulted young people in Shetland, this was their top priority alongside 10,000 other consultees across Scotland. How do you believe Shetland can play an active role in helping to tackle climate change and securing a future for our planet?
Adamson: I think Shetland has always tried to be at the forefront of caring about the environment. We have had the waste to heat plant for a long time and although we are now worried about air quality, the idea was great. We also have several wind turbines and most new houses have air source or ground source heat pumps rather than relying on fossil fuels for all heat and power. I personally find it very difficult to choose ‘green’ products and feel we need a ratings system, maybe like traffic lights so we can rate projects, goods and services in terms of how green – maybe estimating the CO2 produced – so that we can make good choices on all sorts of things. I don’t know why we have not got this already, and people continue to fight as to whether biomass is worse than solar panels, etc. etc. There is really lots we can do – continue to do the Voar Redd Up etc and extend it to ensure we clean up the sea and encourage our fishing boats in that endeavour too. We could also do with campaigning to ditch the plastic in our supermarkets and bring back a store where you can fill up your own containers. We could also shop locally to make use of natural available resources and stop food miles. We also need to retro fit better heating systems into older houses and help people to improve their insulation which will also help tackle fuel poverty. I would like to see the replacement of the power station in Lerwick with all sorts of green and low carbon alternatives, offering us cheaper power for residents and trying to eliminate fuel poverty.
Goodlad: Climate change is undoubtedly the key challenge of our generation. Shetland, like every other part of the country, needs to play its part. Decarbonising our heating, improvements in energy efficiency and investment in clean transport links are all part of the solution. Over the longer term, there are some sectors that will need to adapt more than others and this will only happen through significant investment in innovation – farming being a good example.
Martin: To continue to work with the great progress our youth have already committed to and to seek more funding for this vital service also to make more people aware and have awareness days throughout the community.
Nicolson: I have nothing but admiration for the work young people in Shetland and around the world have done to highlight the climate crisis and other environmental issues, and they have my full support. As Britain’s hub for North Sea oil and gas developments, Shetland has an enormous role to play in securing our planet’s future. We know we are in a climate emergency and that the only way to prevent the crisis getting even worse is to reduce carbon emissions. The Scottish Greens would therefore end further exploration for oil and gas fields and work towards a green transition. Fortunately, Shetland has enormous potential in wind and tidal energy, which I would like to see be at the heart of this green transition.
Scott: Climate change is probably one of the biggest problems facing our planet, but sadly a 16-year-old Swedish girl isn’t going to make any difference. By making the fight against climate change apolitical, we transfer our responsibility from the multi-national conglomerates, to wee Jimmy and Mary taking a flight to Majorca for their annual holidays. We can all still do our bit (I’m sure we do) but by personalising this enormous threat to our planet, we, of necessity, take our eye off the ball, and let Trump and China off the hook.
Stout: Many of us oldies have already been kicked awake by young people. So continuing to change culture and attitude is part of it. Arguably Shetland (with the connected implications for a sustainable future for our islands) could and should be taking much more of a lead. Production of ‘green hydrogen’ for example, with its significance both as a global commodity and a solution for our carbon intensive transport systems? I certainly don’t believe covering Shetland in an industrial-scale wind farm is the answer, and simply generating more electricity masks the real problem rather than solving it. Our relationship with our environment cannot be overemphasised – and I welcome young people reminding us of that.
Tait: Climate change is not a local issue nor even a national issue, it is an international issue. We live in a global village where what we do affects everybody else and what everybody else does affects us. It is countries like China and America and others that are doing the real damage to our climate at the moment. I believe that this global village is centralised on the UK. This gives us tremendous leverage and influence in climate change and other issues. We have to be able to influence other people. As a rule, people endeavour to maintain good relations with the centre of the hierarchal structure to which they belong. Our global village if recognised, as such, is no different. We have a constitutional anomaly which damages and reduces our credibility in the international arena and this is the problem I am trying to address. I believe, therefore, that voting for me is important for tackling climate change and securing the future of our planet.
Thomson: I was delighted to see the Scottish Youth Parliament choose environmental protection as the latest campaign, and wasn’t surprised to see it listed so high on the priority list. This is a real concerning issue for the youth of today, quite rightly so, and it’s heartening to see such enthusiasm from our youth to combat climate change. I was a part of the political team who welcomed the climate change protesters to the Town Hall on the 21st June at the end of their march, and we had a very enlightening Q&A session in the main hall. The SIC assured the young people that day that we would be here to listen to their concerns. This has already been acted upon, with a regular position being created at each education and families committee meeting, with a specific agenda item being created to allow young people to raise issues around climate change.
Wills: My background is in renewables – currently I work for one of the world’s leading tidal energy companies, Nova Innovation. It is no exaggeration to say that Shetland can be a world leader in the fight against climate change: we have incredible wind, tidal and wave resources. This is a really important issue to me and it is a key message of my campaign. We have so much renewable potential, and with the security of the EU, we can create a green jobs boom in Shetland that benefits all of us. But getting to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions is about more than just building more renewable energy capacity. I would also like to see us growing more food locally: much of what we buy in the supermarket could be grown in polytunnels here. Waste from our seafood and agriculture industries could also be converted into energy through biomass schemes. The fact that the Scottish Government is to bring back the deposit return scheme is to be welcomed: I studied in Sweden and Norway and most supermarkets there have return machines, providing cash in exchange for used bottles and tins. We must build a more circular economy across the board, by designing products so that they can be easily reused and recycled.
Wishart: Like others, I was impressed with the action taken earlier this year by young climate strikers in Shetland. The clarity of the strikers’ message, the passion with which they delivered it and their determination to be heard has been remarkable, and it is up to members in parliament to respond positively to that call for urgent and ambitious action. Regardless of who, or where you are, if there is enough determination it is possible to make a difference to the climate emergency. The school strikers made it clear that action, and not words, are what matters, and that is what the Liberal Democrats are committed to doing. Liberal Democrats have consistently forced the pace in countering these threats, from establishing the first ever renewable electricity targets to setting up the Green Investment Bank. We are also actively trying to make the Climate Change Bill, currently going through the Scottish Parliament, stronger by forcing the government to include actual policy actions as opposed to simply creating more targets. My colleague, Alistair Carmichael, has been ahead of the curve in demanding that we stop filling our seas with plastic, and he has put forward a bill calling for targets for the reduction of plastic pollution with a strategy to match them. We need to end the use of all non-essential single-use plastics, and have called for a coffee cup levy to encourage people to use re-usable cups, and to cover the cost of waste generated by disposable cups. Everyone has a role to play in addressing the climate emergency, and in many ways Shetland will be particularly well positioned to do this. As we embark on a just transition to a carbon neutral economy, Shetland has much of the expertise and the natural environment to benefit from the transition to renewables. I would make sure that Shetlanders’ voices are properly heard as we embark on this change.
HOUSING: In our islands there is still a considerable waiting list for social housing. What could you do as MSP to ensure young people have access to affordable housing and therefore help young people to stay in their own communities?
Adamson: I think more of a threat to young people leaving and not returning is a lack of good quality jobs. A lot of jobs are being centralised and I would like us to stem the tide and see if we can promote more industry here to keep people here. Then yes, they will need somewhere to live and the local authority and Hjaltland need to build more houses. I think Hjaltland has been extremely successful in this and long may they continue. As an MSP I would fight for the money for Shetland to address any housing shortage and encourage local services and contractors to be used in the building of these.
Goodlad: You are absolutely right to say that availability of housing is a crucial issue, especially for rural communities. There is a need to continue significant public investment in the affordable housing programme, but there are other, more innovative steps that could be introduced too. For example, increasing the support for self-builders, capturing more of the land value uplift that arises from planning approvals or significantly more support for bringing empty properties back into use.
Martin: On housing we need more affordable social housing for our young people to remain on the Shetland to maintain their work and life skills and to be with family.
Nicolson: The council must be able to build enough houses to support demand. A radical overhaul of local government finance is needed to give councils far more control and flexibility over their finances, allowing them to more easily fund major housing developments. I want to see council tax replaced by a land value tax, a fairer tax more closely related to ability to pay, thereby easing the burden on young people buying or renting their first homes. The Scottish Greens also successfully campaigned for councils to have the power to implement rent controls in areas with rapidly increasing rent. Ultimately, housing policy has to be driven by local needs; we need to find out where young people want or need to live and base our policy on that. We should avoid the tendency to centralise everything in Lerwick and make sure housing and transport is available for communities in the country as well.
Scott: In my council election manifesto I stressed the urgent need for primarily social housing and by that I mean council housing. My thinking was that we should create a direct labour organisation, which would build much needed houses – we would create apprenticeship schemes for builders, painters, plasterers etc. New care homes will also be desperately needed in the future. So we would have our own workforce harnessed for essential building work, after all we have our own roads section. The housing crisis was created by the greed of the banks and finance companies and 2008 happened.
Stout: As with much of the job, I would see the role of an MSP as a facilitator – understanding the issues, working with the local authority and housing association and making sure that adequate resources are coming to Shetland, and are being spent in the most effective way.
Tait: I would support social housing especially in country areas.
Thomson: We need to make sure we have an adequate level of housing being built if we are to attract young people to stay here in Shetland, and move here to work. We do have proposed new large scale housing developments at Staney Hill and the Knab, however we also need to work on adequate housing outside of Lerwick too. The SIC will receive £10.74m of funding from the Scottish Government to build affordable housing over the next two years, and I would work with the SIC, Hjaltland Housing and local developers to make sure that happens within an appropriate timescale.
Wills: The SNP announced earlier this year that a new £150 million pilot scheme will be set up to help young first time buyers with a deposit for a new home: this is fantastic news. If buyers can find just five per cent of a deposit for a new home the SNP Government will do the rest – supplying loans of up to £25,000. In Shetland, 1,300 new homes have been built since 2007 including nearly 380 properties available for social rent. But we need more affordable housing on the islands – that’s clear. That’s why the Scottish Government has provided Shetland Islands Council £11 million over the next two years to develop more affordable housing and we continue to support the Hjaltland Housing Association.
Wishart: Social housing for rent is in short supply. In Shetland the biggest year for new builds was 2006/07 when 90 were built. That was the last year of the Lib Dem-Labour government and when Tavish Scott was a minister. The developments for new housing in Lerwick and Scalloway over the next few years are welcome. Where young people want to stay outside those areas then we have to demonstrate that need in order for the case to be made for more housing in rural areas and not just in Shetland’s Central Belt. Nationally, we support the current target to build 50,000 affordable homes by 2021 and want the Scottish Government to use innovative ways to fund them like using public sector pension funds to invest.
EMPLOYMENT: Young people want to stay in Shetland. However, there needs to be the right mix of employment opportunities including full-time/part-time/graduate placements and apprenticeships. What do you think needs to be done to ensure Shetland’s economy works for future generations?
Adamson: There has been a gradual erosion of some quality jobs. The government, for example, encourage the use of national contracts. This ensures that the cheapest pencil is sourced and then it has to be shipped here. As a consequence we have lost stationery shops – not such a big deal perhaps – but when this is repeated, and the same principle used in say the construction industry, it becomes more and more difficult to actually operate a local business as the contract may be awarded ‘south’ and there is less going on in the local economy. We need to allow the SIC and NHS to buy locally and award them points for doing so. This may be more expensive than getting something from south but it may save us money elsewhere e.g. nationally, in not having overcrowded cities or in having enough population here to make services economically viable. Then this re-creation of the local economy will ensure there is employment, apprenticeships and graduate placements for all. If we improve our transport and lower our heating costs and provide the right jobs, maybe relocated from the central belt, we can attract people to stay here and not be forced to move away.
Goodlad: The only way we can sustain vibrant communities across rural Scotland is if we encourage thriving local economies. Bringing employers and schools closer together can be a part of that, as well as ensuring that the needs of local businesses are reflected in broader skills policies. Of course, on a national level, it is important that the regulatory and tax burden on employers remains both fair and competitive, with support given for them to grow and expand.
Martin: We need to create more employment and opportunities for our young people in Shetland, we need more funding to keep the graduates here and create more apprenticeships for our young people. I believe after Brexit the fishing and agriculture industries will flourish as they will not be shackled by EU laws creating much more work in these industries.
Nicolson: Need to encourage young people to study in high need or demand jobs in Shetland, like mental health, renewables, teaching, engineering by giving them extra support. Offer more courses locally based on what young people need. Build a long term strategy looking at future needs to help guide students into careers that could lead them back to Shetland.
Scott: For any future generation, the key lies in investment, not only in its people but in its infrastructure. As long as our council grips to its austerity budget – 15 million pounds to be cut in the next four years – I’m afraid I really despair, not just for our young folk but for us all.
Stout: I suspect that there’s no simple answer to this one – I think the starting point is to let go of the traditional view of economy/employment that’s developed over the time of oil and relative affluence (along with extremes of inequality). Young people will be attracted to stay in (or return to) Shetland if living here gives them the opportunity to live in a fulfilling way. And that’s about a lot more than just having well-paid jobs. I believe the recent interest in, and acknowledgment of, the importance of wellbeing to economic growth gives us the best way to improve the prospects for future generations.
Tait: Shetland has low unemployment and we have to hope that this will continue. If the economy remains vibrant then there should not be a problem getting graduate placements and apprenticeships. If the Viking energy project goes ahead there should be large amounts of renewable energy available locally and it might be possible to get cheap energy for small scale manufacturing processes and start-ups.
Thomson: Employment opportunities and the right level of apprenticeships is essential to allowing young people to bide here in Shetland. we’re lucky in many ways that local industries here in Shetland understand the benefits of employing young people, not only for the young people themselves, but for the businesses themselves. I would encourage and continue with a collaborative approach to working with all businesses to make sure we continue to offer graduate placements and employment opportunities for young folk to be able to work and study at the same time.
Wills: There’s now more opportunities for young people to work and study in Shetland than ever before. In 2007 there was just 72 only modern apprenticeship starts in Shetland. But last year there was 204 – that’s a massive increase in people staying here to learn their trade. There’s also more young people in employment too. Fifteen years ago there was 1,700 under 24s working in Shetland – in 2017 there was 2,200. I think we’re making steady progress but we can’t rest on our laurels – as your MSP I’d continue to build a fairer, more prosperous Shetland where people want to live, work and raise a family. Better transport (including fixed links), broadband and local services can also help more young people live rurally.
Wishart: There are huge opportunities in Shetland – renewables and decommissioning for example. We have a decommissioning industry waiting to take off, but the Scottish and UK governments aren’t doing anywhere near enough to keep the work in Scotland and the opportunities and jobs are drifting elsewhere. The need for people to retrain and reskill, and do so over their whole lives has never been more important. This is why we need massive investment in education so we can build a high-wage, high-skill economy. Education in a small community can be just as rich as anywhere on the mainland, but we often have to fight for the right to opportunities, as investment is focused on the central belt. Colleges are central to rural education, and are a vital platform for apprenticeships and vocational qualifications. Liberal Democrats have opposed the SNP’s cuts to colleges (there are 140,000 fewer places compared to when they came to power) because colleges are a vital gateway to learning and work. Most of the places lost were part-time, but studying full-time just isn’t an option for many people. For people who want to study on the mainland, or elsewhere, the links to get home to visit family are crucial. Few people understand how much more challenging it is to move away when the journey home is as long and as expensive as the one to Shetland. We have consistently pushed for better, and fairer transport links to Shetland. This includes getting students who study on the mainland their ADS discount, and campaigning for the RET discount on the ferries that we deserve. Making a trip home affordable means that education on the mainland is sustainable. Both students and employers in Shetland rely heavily on the internet to connect with the rest of the world, and a basic level of broadband is crucial to make that happen. At the moment, it looks like the Scottish Government’s promise of ensuring that superfast broadband reaches everywhere in Scotland will not be met, and that is going to continue to have a massive impact on many Shetland business owners and employees. I intend to pick up where Tavish left off on this, and ensure that there is no wiggle room for the government to squirm out of their promise to Shetlanders. Shetland deserves to be connected just as much as anywhere on the central belt, and the failures to make sure this happens so far cannot be allowed to continue.
YOUTH WORK: We have had first hand experience of the benefit of youth work in Shetland and we believe this to be a vital service for young people across Scotland. We must value youth work to ensure every young person has access to services in their communities. If elected as MSP what would you do to ensure youth work budgets are protected?
Adamson: We must provide adequate funding to ensure youth work continues as it is known it provides huge benefits for every £1 spent on it. The youth clubs in Shetland are not as they were because of austerity cuts and a lot of good staff left youth work which was regrettable. We must take action against Tory austerity and ensure the SIC and other councils have adequate money to run youth services. I as an MSP would fight with my Labour colleagues to invest in local communities once more and try to reinstate the youth clubs which have been lost, such as Islesburgh which had to reduce its hours.
Goodlad: The Scottish Government has over the last few years cut local budgets over and above the proportional reductions in their central budget. This is simply wrong and it is local services like youth work that bear the brunt of that. I will do what I can do hold the government to account during its next budget process.
Nicolson: The Greens have secured extra funding for local councils and I would work together with my colleagues at Holyrood to make sure funding for youth work was ring fenced.
Scott: Following on really from my previous comments, we saw the Tory/Liberal coalition cut spending on youth opportunity programmes, it cut child benefit and amongst other things restricted youth housing benefit. So really then you will have a pretty good idea of where I am coming from. I am asking young people, their mums and dads, grannies and granddads, to lift their horizons. There is more to our political spectrum than Question Time, the Scotsman’s Leader Page and the ITV News. We don’t need to have 200,000 children living in poverty.
Stout: Taking your positive experience and the evidence that investing in youth work pays off would give me the best tool to argue the case for not only protecting budgets but further investment. Especially at a time when those budgets are under attack.
Tait: If it were within my sphere of influence, I would do what I could to protect existing youth work budgets.
Thomson: Having an adequate level of youth work in Shetland is imperative to allowing young people to bide here in Shetland after they leave school. If I were elected, being an independent MSP would work to my advantage as I would be able to work cross party, across parliament to make sure we obtain a collaborative approach to securing protection to youth work budgets.
Wills: I benefited massively from various youth initiatives when I was younger, including a trip to Norway on the Swan and many great nights playing pool or five-a-side football in Lerwick. Youth projects are generally funded by the local council and as your MSP I would work hard to ensure that Shetland received a fair funding settlement to deliver for vital projects. I also think that the community benefit funds from future renewables projects should be used to support community youth projects.
Wishart: Youth work is critical because it can reach out to people who are not engaged successfully in formal education, giving them confidence and skills to achieve. Young people across Scotland also benefit from a variety of schemes and awards recognising their voluntary work. It’s vital that these charities continue to receive funding to keep up their good work and support young people who may, for one reason or another, get left behind. The Scottish Government’s council cuts have hit youth work in every corner of the country. Councils are getting less and less money and a greater proportion of it is being ring-fenced for SNP-approved purposes. In Shetland we are fortunate to have a great youth work team who achieve a lot with little funding, but there is a limit as to how far “doing more with less” can be taken. The Liberal Democrats have consistently called the SNP out for the shoddy deal they have given councils year after year and their centralising of councils’ powers to do what is right for their community. Our MSPs prioritised council funding in the budget negotiations with the finance secretary but he turned down the opportunity to a deal, instead putting independence first.