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Politics / Difficult period for SNP but ‘sense of opportunity’ ahead, regional MSP says

Highlands & Islands MSP Emma Roddick in Scalloway on Friday. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

SHETLAND’s only SNP representative at the Scottish Parliament says it has been “a difficult few weeks” for the party – but suggests there is a “real sense of opportunity” for the future.

Highlands and Islands MSP Emma Roddick was speaking during a visit to Shetland last week for a series of constituency surgeries.

It has been a fairly troubled time for the SNP in recent months, from Nicola Sturgeon stepping down as first minster to disagreements between candidates in process to find her successor.

Meanwhile the party’s chief executive Peter Murrell resigned during the leadership campaign over misleading figures given to the media over membership numbers, before recently being arrested by police and released without charge in connection with an investigation into SNP finances.

Roddick – who was recently appointed minister for equalities, migration and refugees – said: “I’m not going to pretend it’s not been a difficult few weeks – it has been”.

“There have been points where I have felt really rubbish and it’s not been enjoyable,” she admitted.

“But that’s probably the case for any party that’s going through change in leadership and direction.

“Particularly during the contest there were people who inherently disagreed with each other on very basic issues, and that’s not easy to then just keep showing up to work and getting on with folk as usual. But there is also now a real sense of opportunity.”

She also sought to deny suggestion that the independence movement is dead following Sturgeon’s resignation, given her figurehead status for the SNP.

New first minister Humza Yousaf said Scotland needs independence “now more than ever before” and has created a ministerial post on the issue.

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Meanwhile Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross recently said: “Scotland needs a government focused on the real priorities of people” – not on independence.

But Roddick said independence is “bigger than any one person, and that’s a mistake that a lot of parties make”.

“They make it about a person [but] people come and go. The arguments for independence are still the same.”

The MSP said independence would mean powers could be devolved further, which is something she supports.

Local councillors voted in 2020 to explore options for achieving financial and political self-direction, and the MSP said she is “well behind Shetland getting more power”.

She feels there should be “two tiers of local government, and that would allow for more power to much smaller communities underneath things that look like what we’ve got now”.

Meanwhile Roddick said it was a “massive honour” – and an unexpected one – to be appointed equalities, migration and refugees minister.

With equality on the mind the government’s gender recognition reform bill, which would make it simpler for people to change their legal gender, will be of particular interest.

It was passed in the Scottish Parliament but the UK Government used a ‘section 35’ order for the first time to prevent the bill from proceeding to royal assent, claiming it would have an adverse effect on the operation of the Equality Act 2010.

Roddick said she had “really heartfelt” representation from people in the islands about the bill, “and I tried to reflect that in my contributions in the debate”.

“As far as I’m concerned, we passed that bill, so I think fighting the Section 35 order – that’s going to sit much more high up than me, and it’s less about the equalities portfolio, because we won that argument.

“It’s now about getting it into law. I think we’re already seeing the wider impacts of that order being used for the first time; we’re seeing it affect agricultural policy, drugs and health policy.

“I don’t think we can understate the massive affect this is having on Scotland’s ability to pass laws for this country, because the can of worms has been opened now.”

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