Eight SNP MSPs from the Highlands and Islands have signed a strongly-worded letter to BBC Scotland protesting at “destructive” job cuts which the Corporation is planning throughout the region.

Michael Russell (Argyll and Bute), Fergus Ewing (Inverness and Nairn), Rob Gibson (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross), Alasdair Allan (Western Isles), Dave Thomson (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch), and Highlands and Islands regional MSPs Jean Urquhart, John Finnie and Mike MacKenzie have all told the BBC that they believe its actions threaten to “greatly diminish the essential service” which the BBC provides throughout the Highlands and islands.

Alasdair Allan MSP commented:

“It’s not just BBC staff themselves who is unhappy about the proposed cuts – everyone who cares about local broadcasting should be concerned that the BBC bosses propose to diminish its number of staff available throughout a huge swathe of Scotland.

“We are also unconvinced that it represents progress for Gaelic broadcasting to cut English language journalists and then ask Gaelic journalists to pick up the slack in addition to their own Gaelic work.

“We are now all seeking a meeting with the chair of the BBC Trust, to ask why, at a time when BBC Scotland should be showing ambition, and developing itself as a real national broadcaster, it is cutting back on such basic services.”


Funding announced today, worth over £100,000 to the Highlands and Islands, to help young people find work has been welcomed by Jean Urquhart MSP.

The Shirlie Project, based in Inverness but with offices throughout the Highlands and Islands, has been granted £106,952 by the Scottish Government to help continue its work in supporting individuals into work.

The money from the Scottish Government’s Third Sector and Social Enterprise Challenge Fund – spread across 24 organisations nationally – will mean over 2000 young people are given the chance to improve their employability.

Mrs Urquhart, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, said:

“This is excellent news for both Inverness and the Highlands & Islands as a whole.

“The Shirlie Project, like so many other organisations across the Highlands and Islands, does sterling work in helping people find employment in their chosen field.

“In the current economic climate, it’s vital that we continue to support organisations like the Shirlie Project wherever we can, so I’m delighted to see this work being supported by the Scottish Government.”


Jean Urquhart MSP has welcomed today (Wednesday’s) announcement from the Scottish Government of £80 million to fund the building of new school campuses across Scotland, including projects in the Highlands and Islands.

As part of the third and final phase of the Schools For The Future Programme, Anderson High School in Lerwick, Elgin High School and Inverness Royal Academy will all receive funding for much-needed improvements, allowing them to begin construction in the next 12-18 months.

In total, 12 schools have been given funding to allow them to begin construction in the next 12-18 months, changes that will benefit 26,000 pupils nationwide.

Jean, a list MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, said:

“It’s great to see schools in sore need of new facilities being given the funding they need to begin construction as soon as they can.

“I know from correspondence I have received from pupils and parents of these schools just how necessary these changes are.

“Elgin High School pupils actually sent me a DVD chronicling the challenges posed by their current building, showing just how much this investment in new schools was needed.

“This investment in the future of our children will pay off in the short term, the medium term and the long term for both the pupils and the wider community.”

Motion: National Geographic Recognition of Fair Isle

National Geographic Recognition of Fair Isle
That the Parliament notes the inclusion of Fair Isle, the most southerly island in the Shetland Islands archipelago, in the National Geographic’s Top Ten Islands in its publication, The 10 Best of Everything; understands that Fair Isle is described as a “wild and wonderful place” home to “hundreds of thousands of birds”; considers the inhabitants of Fair Isle, who it considers work hard to maintain the island’s community and to welcome visitors, also to be worthy of recognition; further considers Fair Isle to be of vital natural and scientific importance, particularly with regards to ornithology, and welcomes the international recognition for what it considers one of Scotland’s most geographically isolated and beautiful islands.


Jean Urquhart MSP has hosted an evening reception at the Scottish Parliament in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Newbattle Abbey College.The event was held at Holyrood on Tuesday 25th September and was attended by over one hundred people including education representatives from across Scotland.

The reception was held as part of Newbattle Abbey College’s year of celebrations surrounding its 75th Anniversary as Scotland’s only adult education residential college.

Jean Urquhart MSP, a former Newbattle Abbey College student herself who sponsored the event, said: “What a privilege to sponsor the 75th Anniversary of Newbattle Abbey College in the Scottish Parliament.

“I was a student in 2000/01, and like most of my fellow students I was at a cross-road in my life and wondering what to do next. Sero Sed Serio (late but in earnest) the college motto, seemed to fit with all of the students – a second chance at learning and a second chance at life. 

“There will always be a place for the different educational experience that NewbattleAbbeyCollege can offer and may it go on changing lives for years to come.

“I hope that this 75th Anniversary will help to remind everyone that this is a college that serves all of Scotland.”

Speech: Great Polish Map of Scotland

I would like to congratulate my colleague Christine Grahame on bringing this debate to the floor- timely, I believe, as it was announced on Monday that the Great Polish Map has been awarded listed status. It is undoubtedly worthy of protection, and I am delighted that future generations will be able to admire the attention to detail of this unique structure. The use of gravity-driven water to recreate our rivers and lochs is truly magnificent,

I am sure that those speaking this evening will all concur with the historic importance of the map, not only as a feat of architecture and a reminder of the sacrifices made by Polish soldiers during World War II, but also as a symbol of the long-standing links between Poland and Scotland forged in that era that have remained strong ever since.

It is this connection that has continued to this very day that I wish to concentrate on. While all of Scotland has benefited from its special relationship with Poland- I think particularly of the Polish food shops that can be found in any city across Scotland, and the dedication of our supermarkets to providing Polish produce- the Highlands and Islands in particular has attracted a large number of Poles.  

As late as 2004, the Highlands and Islands were threatened with yet further depopulation. However, this has dramatically changed, with Inverness still one of the Europe’s fastest growing cities, a growth that is concurrent with economic regeneration and attributable in part to its active, dynamic Polish community, forming roughly 10% of the population of the city. Across the Highlands and Islands, approximately 69% of all immigrants come from Poland, showing the strong ties that exist between our two nations. The mutual benefit of these ties is evident; they contribute hugely to civic life in Inverness and the surrounding region, and I was privileged to have the chance to recognise this by inviting along Zosia Fraser. Chair of the Polish Association, as my “local hero” for the opening of Parliament last summer. Among other activities, Zosia has organised translation services, accommodation and put in place other measures to help new arrivals to the early to settle and to truly become part of the local community.

Zosia is typical of the Polish community in Scotland in contributing so much to our society. I’m sure all of us in this chamber recognise the value to future generations of growing up in towns, cities and villages where many cultures are known and celebrated, where an awareness of our place in the world and that of others helps to inculcate a sense of internationalism and global citizenry- a sense, I am sure, will be all the more beneficial when Scotland regains its place among the community of nations.

In closing, Presiding Officer, I would like to once again welcome the continuing restoration of the Map, and support this motion.


Motion: Highlands and Islands August Big Lottery Funding

Highlands and Islands August Big Lottery Funding
That the Parliament welcomes the five awards totalling £43,589 made to projects in the Highlands and Islands by the Big Lottery Fund in August 2012; notes that four of the five awards have gone to projects promoting healthy living through sporting activity under the 2014 Communities banner; understands that the money awarded to projects such as Scalloway Youth Centre Trust and Duirinish Youth Club will be spent on obtaining new sporting equipment; further understands that the other award, to Youth Highland, will be used to train 40 new youth leaders to run youth clubs across the Highlands; acknowledges that every award has gone to a project involving young people; considers this investment in Scotland’s children’s future and wellbeing to be worthy of commendation, and congratulates the projects on their success.

Motion: Shetland Knitwear

Shetland Knitwear
That the Parliament welcomes the £220,000 investment by Laurence Odie Knitwear Ltd (LOKL) in new machinery and an expansion of its workforce; notes that £76,650 of this has been provided by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and £10,950 by Shetland Islands Council; understands that this is as a result of increasing demand for LOKL’s produce from across the world; acknowledges what it sees as the worldwide popularity and commercial viability of Shetland knitwear, which is worth approximately £3 million to the area’s economy every year; considers this to be a welcome boost to Shetland in times of economic difficulty and a demonstration of the islands’ diverse workforce, and believes that any steps taken to preserve and promote culture and heritage are to be lauded.