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.”


Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has today welcomed the Scottish Government’s cabinet reshuffle, congratulating her colleagues that have assumed Ministerial posts.

The reshuffle was conducted following the retiring of Bruce Crawford, Brian Adam and Stewart Stevenson from Ministerial office, with a new Ministerial post of External Affairs and International Development also established.

In particular, Jean congratulated Paul Wheelhouse MSP, who has replaced Stewart Stevenson as Minister for the Environment and Climate Change after Mr Stevenson stepped down. The minister’s brief contains many issues of relevance to the Highlands and Islands.

Commenting, Jean said:

“As Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Paul will have a role in helping to direct policy on crofting, aquaculture and biodiversity, as well as liaising with Scottish Natural Heritage, SEPA and the Forestry Commission.

“Through my involvement with the Parliamentary Cross-Party Group on Crofting, I am aware of the challenges and opportunities facing crofters.

“I look forward to working with Paul, and my other colleagues who have assumed Ministerial posts, over the course of the coming months and years.”


Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart has welcomed the announcement of the Scottish Government’s legislative programme for the next year, describing it as a “statement of our ambition for Scotland”.

A package of 15 Bills was unveiled – led by the flagship Referendum Bill – including legislation to establish a national framework for sustainable public procurement.

Jean said:

“I am very happy to see the Government continuing to take steps to create fairer, more equal and more prosperous communities.

“In the autumn of 2014, the people of Scotland will take the most important constitutional choice in 300 years and the Referendum Bill will lay the important groundwork for this.

“We need full control and the normal responsibilities of any independent nation to fully realise Scotland’s potential.

“But with the powers we do have, we are continuing to improve Scotland, with the announced Procurement Reform Bill of particular interest to myself.

“As ever, I am honoured to have the privilege of representing the Highlands and Islands as the Scottish Parliament continues to legislate effectively and in the interests of Scotland.”

Press Release: Jean Urquhart Welcomes Consultation on Children & Young People Bill

Plans to formally recognise the parenting responsibilities and rights of kinship carers and work towards making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up have today been unveiled.

Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell today launched the consultation on the Children and Young People Bill designed to support children and families.

The new Bill will also compel councils to use Scotland’s national Adoption Register and increase provision of free, flexible and family friendly childcare for three and four year olds and looked after two year olds from 475 hours to 600 hours per year – the best free nursery care package in the UK.

Jean Urquhart, member of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee, has welcomed the bill, stating:

“Common sense dictates that the most important time in any individual’s development is their early years.

“By continuing to invest in our children and young people, the SNP is working as hard as it can to ensure that Scotland’s families and youth are put at the heart of our society.

“Our commitment to helping working families during tough economic times is also shown by proposals to put in place flexible childcare opportunities, increased nursery provision and improved financial support for kinship carers.

“I would urge everybody who this Bill aims to help- whether that be carers, parents or those working with children and young people- to take part in the consultation and ensure that the most comprehensive and constructive package of measures can be built.”

The consultation can be found HERE.

Letter: Police and Fire Reform Bill (June 28th)

On Wednesday 27th June, I was proud to vote for the establishment of this new service that returns powers to local communities and helps to preserve our record high numbers of police officers, placing resources where they are most needed.

In contrast to the Scottish Government’s commitment to public services, the Conservative-Liberal Coalition Government is set to slash 16,000 officers down south, an act that the Police Federation has described as being ‘on the precipice of destroying’ the police service in England and Wales.

Contrary to the claims of other parties, this new service does not move power away from communities. Instead, it places them in a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with their local commander, strengthening the ties between the service and the community it serves.

The fact that Shetland Islands Council, for example, must now have its approval sought on the delivery of services on Shetland is surely an improvement on the current arrangements.

I call upon people of all parties and none to help realise the potential of this new service by working with local communities to increase co-operation across all levels of government.



Jean Urquhart MSP

Press Release: Jean Urquhart Welcomes Continued Investment in UHI (June 27th)

Jean Urquhart MSP has described the announcement by Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney of £100 million of nationwide capital investment, which includes significant funding for the Highlands and Islands, as a demonstration of the Scottish Government’s economic competency.

Ms Urquhart, one of three region-wide SNP MSPs and a former member of the board of the University of the Highlands and Islands, particularly welcomed the confirmation of a £6 million investment in its Inverness campus.

Commenting, Ms Urquhart said:

“As a Member of the Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee and a supporter of the establishment of the University of the Highlands and Islands, I was certainly pleased at the £6 million boost to the Inverness campus, as well as the £1.5 million infrastructure funding for West Highland College in Fort William.

“This funding has demonstrated the commitment of the Scottish Government to institutions both old and new, and at a time of economic difficulty is very welcome.

“Despite Westminster’s cuts continuing to harm communities across the Highlands and Islands, the Cabinet Secretary’s sound management of Scotland’s budget has created the conditions for additional investment where it is most needed.

 “This programme of investment further shows that Scotland will only function at its best when it has all the economic levers for investment under its own control.”

Press Release: Jean Urquhart Welcomes Super-Fast Broadband (June 27th)

Jean Urquhart MSP welcomed the announcement by Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment Alex Neil of a £120 million investment aimed at improving broadband connectivity across the Highlands and Islands.

Coming from a £250 million Scotland-wide fund for improving broadband, the investment will enable Highlands and Islands Enterprise, in conjunction with BT, to roll out a programme of modernisation across the region. The investment will form part of Scotland’s Digital Future Infrastructure Action Plan, which aims to deliver world-class digital connectivity by 2020.

Commenting on this welcome injection of cash, Ms Urquhart said:

“The Internet has revolutionised our world, bringing communities closer together and enabling those in rural or remote locations to access the same information and services as those in urban surroundings.

“Education provision, health care services and businesses across the region will all benefit from this announcement, as will families with loved ones across the globe.

“Access to superfast broadband should not be restricted by geography, and I am delighted that, by directing this cash towards the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Government is continuing to recognise the specific needs of local communities for Internet services that are as fast and reliable as they are in other parts of the country.”

Press Release: Jean Urquhart Welcomes National Celebration of Reading (June 20th)

Jean Urquhart MSP today welcomed the announcement by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop of the first ever Book Week Scotland, a national celebration of reading taking place from November 26th -December 2nd this year.

An avid reader, Jean Urquhart commented:

“I am delighted to see that the Scottish Government has initiated a week celebrating our literary heritage. Harnessing our talent, both past and present, to promote reading as a positive activity, is a welcome step that will help us to continue to benefit socially, economically and culturally from Scotland’s rich seam of talent.

“I am equally pleased to learn that there will be a range of free events and projects held throughout Book Week. It is important that as many people as possible across Scotland are able to participate in these events to grow or rediscover their love of literature.

 “I would also urge everybody to submit an entry for the ‘My Favourite Places’ anthology being published as part of Book Week Scotland. Whether it be from childhood memories or from a regular holiday destination, there are corners of Scotland that will always be special to us. I hope to see a wide range of areas, including many in my own region of the Highlands and Islands, included in the final anthology.

“I hope that my parliamentary motion celebrating this announcement will draw support from across the Chamber, and that we can join together in celebrating and making a success of this inaugural event.”

Press Release: Jean Urquhart Urges Responses to Community Empowerment Consultation (June 8th)

Ideas to empower Scotland’s communities – including extending the right to buy land – have been launched in a consultation for a new bill.

Giving urban communities increased powers that would allow them to buy their own land and buildings is one idea detailed for the proposed Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

SNP MSP Jean Urquhart is encouraging as many people as possible to help shape the bill by responding to the Scottish Government’s consultation.

The MSP for the Highlands and Islands said:

“I am very excited by the opportunity afforded to local communities to influence these important proposals.

“Helping local communities to fully harness the enthusiasm, passion and dedication of their inhabitants will be a vital step in helping both urban and rural areas of Scotland to prosper.

“The consultation will be asking for views on extending the right to buy currently enjoyed by rural communities in Scotland to larger towns and cities, allowing them the right to ask to take on unused public sector assets and how communities can be more involved in making decisions on local budgets.

“These proposals will undoubtedly be a boost for the social enterprise sector. Social enterprises operating on a ‘more-than-profit’ basis play a central role across the Highlands and Islands, helping to regenerate towns and villages and bringing both economic and social benefits.

“Local communities know better than anybody else the challenges and opportunities they face.

“The purchase of Machrihanish airbase by locals in Argyll is just one example of what these proposals could help to make happen across Scotland.

“I would enthusiastically urge as many people as possible from across the country to respond to this consultation and to shape its outcome.”