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Election / Election campaign round-up 18 March

WITH the election to the next Scottish Parliament less than two months away, Shetland News will regularly publish campaign statements issued by all the candidates.

SNP candidate Tom Wills is supporting Shetland Islands Council’s call to suspend plans to centralise air traffic control services at Inverness to allow time for a damning islands impact assessment into the controversial project to be properly considered.

On Wednesday, councillors unanimously supported a motion seeking an urgent meeting with airport operator HIAL and Scottish Government ministers to discuss the increasingly thorny issue.

The impact assessment, commissioned by government-owned HIAL after signing off the project, found that the relocation of air traffic control services from Sumburgh Airport to Inverness would have “very significant” negative impacts on Shetland.

Seventeen well paid full-time equivalent jobs would be lost from the southend of the isles.

The SNP’s local constituency candidate said in a tweet on Thursday that the issue was a test case for the Islands Act, which he described a “proud achievement” for the SNP.

Wills said: “I support this: impact assessment clearly shows HIAL plans not in #Shetland’s interest as things stand.”

LIBERAL Democrat candidate Beatrice Wishart has reiterated the need for the MRI scanner in Shetland after figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that one in four transfers from Lerwick to Aberdeen is for a scan.

She called on the Scottish Government to “seriously engage” with the local MRI scanner appeal project after health secretary Jeane Freeman declined to put forward some funding in support of the service.

Wishart said: “Any patient having to take a trip to Aberdeen when it could be done locally is a trip that could be avoided and the stresses that come with it.

“I appreciate that getting a MRI machine is not as simple as turning a switch on but it is the duty of government to overcome these obstacles rather than avoid them.

“I will be writing to the Health Secretary with these figures and asking that she meets with the local health board and fundraisers who have got us this far.”

THE LOCAL branch of the Scottish Greens is supporting fixed links between the islands and would like a renewable energy element incorporated into them.

Fixed links have been shown to be vital in ensuring the viability of off-lying and more remote island communities, such as Trondra and Burra in Shetland and in Faroe, Green list candidate for the Highlands and Islands Debra Nicolson said.

Fixed links, she added, would give people in the outer isles equal access to services, and employment and further education opportunities.

“This would be a perfect opportunity for a fixed link with a community owned tidal energy infrastructure incorporated in its design for both Yell and Bluemull Sound,” Nicolson said.

 AS PEOPLE are now paying a higher price for goods bought from the EU, Shetlanders’ interests are best served by establishing Scotland’s own relationship with Europe, according to SNP candidate Tom Wills.

Research from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has found that items are being loaded with an extra 12 per cent customs charge when imported from the EU to the UK.

“These custom costs are passed on to consumers, meaning European goods cost more here and our local produce is less competitive in European markets,” he said.

“It has become increasingly clear that Shetland’s interests are best served by Scotland re-joining the international community and establishing our own relationship with Europe.

SCHOOLS in Shetland have received an additional £214,000 in funding to recruit extra staff and provide support for local families, thanks to the Scottish Greens, the party’s lead candidate for Highlands and Islands region Ariane Burgess has said.

The funding was delivered by the Scottish Government following a parliament’s vote in November in favour of a package of school safety measures proposed by the Scottish Greens.

The other major proposal in the Scottish Greens’ safety package – regular Covid testing for school staff and senior pupils – was rolled out from lat February, as more pupils began returning to classrooms.

Burgess said: “Home-schooling has been incredibly tough for pupils, families and teachers and it’s right that the re-opening of schools is a priority, but it must be done safely and with the right support in place.

“As more pupils return, staff workloads will only increase, given that it is schools and teachers themselves who have to deliver the test and trace programme on their campuses. This money will go a long way but we know that more is required to get through this uniquely challenging term.”

Campaigning for the Shetland constituency seat has been underway for some time. Liberal Democrat MSP Beatrice Wishart is again being challenged by the SNP’s Tom Wills. Labour has now nominated Glasgow man Martin Kerr to join the race, while seasoned campaigner Brian Nugent is throwing his hat in the ring for the newly founded pro-independence party Restore Scotland. The local Conservatives have still to name a local candidate.

The Greens have said they will focus on the Highlands and Islands list, as has Reform UK Scotland, the Scottish branch of Nigel Farage’s new party. UKIP have put forward Robert Stephenson for the Highlands and Islands list vote.

Shetland News will commence more thorough reporting of the election campaign once the Scottish Parliament goes into recess on 25 March.