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Council / New islands minister in demand

COUNCIL leadership will be seeking early talks with Scotland’s new rural affairs and islands secretary following her appointment yesterday (Wednesday).

Angus North and Mearns MSP Mairi Gougeon took on the role as part of first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s cabinet reshuffle.

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts congratulated the SNP politician on her new job – and added that leadership is keen to open dialogue straight away.

“It is good to see an island role in the cabinet,” the councillor said.

Mairi Gougeon in Lerwick. Photo: Shetland News

“We will of course seek to have early conversations with the new cabinet secretary to discuss Shetland’s needs.

“I look forward to working with the new cabinet to maximise the opportunities that exist in Shetland.”

Gougeon is already in demand, with Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart also inviting her to come to the isles as “soon as possible”.

“As you will be aware, the Shetland’s maritime economy has an estimated value of around £363 million, sustaining jobs directly and indirectly,” she said in a letter to the MSP.

“It is also an industry with sectors that have faced real difficulty in recent months and years.

“I know from my engagement with those in the fishing sector that there are various frustrations that need to be addressed, not least of which is frustration around Marine Scotland’s approach to monitoring and boarding vessels.

“With your new appointment, I would ask that you take the opportunity to visit Shetland as soon as possible to hear the concerns and issues directly from those mostly closely involved in Shetland’s fishing industry.”

Gougeon has also received a warm welcome from farmers’ union NFU Scotland, Scottish Crofting Federation and Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO).

SSPO chief executive Tavish Scott, Shetland’s former MSP, said: “I will be asking for an early meeting with Ms Gougeon so we can start work on the SNP’s welcome manifesto commitment to regulatory reform and the myriad of other pressing issues affecting our members.”