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Politics / MSP reflects on first months of new ministerial role: ‘It’s been a lot to take in’

Emma Roddick at the town hall on Monday. Photo: Shetland News

HIGHLANDS and Islands MSP Emma Roddick is visiting Shetland after what has been a “busy” few months in her role as minister for equalities, migration and refugees.

“I won’t lie, it’s been busy,” the SNP member told Shetland News earlier today (Monday). “It’s been a lot to take in.

“You don’t really realise until you’re doing it that you’re basically got the same job but you’ve [also] got a whole other job.”

She emphasised that being a minister is not a “promotion”, but effectively taking on another separate role.

Roddick has kept busy over the summer recess, with this being her second visit to the isles in as many months.

She attended Shetland Pride at the start of July, which she described as “brilliant”.

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“Even though it was raining, there was such a great turnout still,” she said.

“It was actually a far better showing than even Inverness and some other cities that I’ve been to.”

Roddick added that rural Pride events, like Shetland’s, are often more meaningful than those in larger cities:

“For it to be so normal now to drape yourself in a rainbow and be proud of who you are, that you have Prides that are well attended, happening in Lerwick, happening in Oban… it means a lot more.”

Last month she also visited some local charities, including Mind Your Head and the foodbank.

She described Shetland as a “community that looks after those who need it”.

“The third sector here, I always find work so well together,” Roddick said.

“It’s not like dog-eat-dog and they’re all going for the same funding, they all recognise they’ve got a role to play.

“Having that kind of community where there are safety nets, there are places for people to fall back on if they need it, makes Shetland a good place to live.”

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Turning to transport, Roddick managed to snag a cabin on the NorthLink for her journey to Shetland on Sunday night – but she was not so lucky back in July.

“I was [in a] pod last time…I’m not doing that again without bringing my own pillow,” Scotland’s youngest MSP said.

She said she had read the coverage of fellow MSP Beatrice Wishart’s survey on NorthLink bookings – and that the results were “basically what you’d expect”.

“I’ve written to Serco about the lack of shared cabins,” Roddick said. “I think a lot of people kind of expected… that they’d come back once the [Covid] restrictions weren’t there.

“I was in the cabin last night and looking at the bed and thinking ‘would I be allowed to just go out and find someone who looks uncomfortable?’ Because I don’t mind sharing.”

After last night’s “smooth” crossing, Roddick has already held constituent surgeries in Scalloway and Lerwick.

She also met with Shetland Islands Council leader Emma Macdonald.

Roddick said the two are in good contact and that Macdonald is “proactive” about her links with national government.

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“I’ve been really impressed with how Shetland’s been really visible in Edinburgh,” Roddick said.

“My colleagues, who are not Highlands and Islands based, understand the issues here now – they’re being contacted by Emma [Macdonald], by folk at the council.

“I think the relationship between the local government and national government strengthening is exactly what’s causing [more politicians to visit Shetland].”

Tomorrow Roddick will visit Yell and Unst.

“I’m going to the spaceport finally,” she said. “It’s so incredible, and I’ve spoken to the folk at the college about the opportunities that it brings there… I’m so excited by it.”

On Wednesday, she will meet with one of Shetland MYSPs, Michaela Christie.

“I’ll just be talking to her in the same sort of way that I was speaking with Emma [Macdonald],” Roddick said. “What are the issues that people are coming to [her] with, what’s the youth issues?”

She says she is keen to connect with more young people and encourage more involvement in politics:

“Most of the time, my case work comes from older people, comfortable people, and you want to hear from everyone, kind of know what’s going on everywhere.

“I want to be available to the MSYPs and to all young people – I don’t want them to think they have to have a title to speak to us.”

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