Motion: Big Lottery Fund June Awards to Highlands and Islands

Big Lottery Fund June Awards to Highlands and IslandsThat the Parliament welcomes the continuing support given by the Big Lottery Fund to community projects across Scotland; notes in particular that, in June 2012, over £2 million of funding was granted to projects big and small in the Highlands and Islands; recognises the substantial sums awarded to three schemes under the second stage of the Investing in Communities programme in the Highlands and Islands, namely Isle of Luing Community Trust, Golspie Recycling and Environmental Action Network and the SHIRLIE project; understands that these projects aim to develop the Atlantic Islands Centre in Cullipool, create 19 new sustainable jobs and help adults with additional support needs to find jobs respectively; lauds the combination of numerous small grants and larger grants to 49 other projects across the Highlands and Islands in both island communities and small towns and villages; considers these grants to be vital to the existence of such projects in difficult economic circumstances, and looks forward to more projects across the country benefiting from schemes such as the Big Lottery Fund.

Press Release: Local MSP Welcomes Continued Support for Highlands and Islands Projects

Jean Urquhart MSP has welcomed the latest statistics from the Big Lottery Fund which have shown 52 grants totalling over £2 million being awarded to projects across the Highlands and Islands.

The £2 million granted includes 3 large grants given to the Isle of Luing Community Trust, Golspie Recycling and Environmental Action Network and the SHIRLIE project totalling just over £1.6 million.

Commenting, Jean Urquhart said:

“It is particularly heartening when, at the start of every month, I see sums of varying sizes being awarded to worthwhile projects across the region.

“Although the three largest awards are undoubtedly welcome boosts, it must not be forgotten that ostensibly small sums can make a huge difference too.

“For example, the £2,000 grant awarded to Foula Primary School in Shetland will enable primary school children from the more remote areas of the Islands to participate in a mini-Olympics, helping to bring together communities in a way that may otherwise have been impossible.

“I would once again encourage community groups and projects across the region to apply for sources of funding like the Big Lottery Fund.”

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: Highlands and Islands MSP Welcomes Birth of Puffin Chick (June 19th)

Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart today hailed the birth of a puffin chick live on camera at RPSB Sumburgh Head Reserve for highlighting the diversity of Shetland’s wildlife.

The new chick hatched at 15:36pm on Tuesday 12th June, five and a half hours after a hole appeared in the egg. During this time, the imminent birth of the puffin chick was picked up on Twitter, resulting in 5,000 people worldwide tuning into “Puffincam”,  part of the ‘Date With Nature’ project ran between RSPB Scotland and Promote Shetland, to watch.

Commenting on the publicity given to the birth, Jean Urquhart said:

“The interactive approach taken by RSPB Scotland and Promote Shetland to promoting Shetland’s wildlife across the world is very welcome. By broadcasting the birth of the puffin chick online and utilising social media, a global audience was able to appreciate the variety of wildlife that thrives on the Shetland Islands.

“Hopefully, projects such as Puffincam and Cliffcam, which provides views of the other seabird colonies present on the Shetland Islands such as fulmars and guillemots, will encourage even more visitors to one of Scotland’s most unique visitor destinations.”

Press Release: Jean Urquhart MSP Raises Fate of Shetland Box During Ministerial Statement (June 18th)

The retention of the Shetland Box, a vital conservation area whose future was not confirmed by the European Commission in their policy papers, was raised in the Scottish Parliament by Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Jean Urquhart during a Ministerial Statement on reforming the Common Fisheries Policy on June 14th.

After Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, had updated the Chamber on the current situation, Jean Urquhart MSP asked whether the Cabinet Secretary knew whether or not the Shetland Box is to be retained.

In replying, the Cabinet Secretary confirmed that there was no decision made as of yet, but that he had “asked the European Commission why the Shetland Box was missing from the draft regulations that it published” and was awaiting an answer.

After the statement, Jean Urquhart commented:

“I was pleased to hear that the retention of the Shetland Box has been raised at the highest level by the Scottish Government. The hard work of the Cabinet Secretary and the Scottish Government on securing the best deal we can for our fishing industry within our constitutional parameters is very welcome. Approximately a decade ago, the European Commission attempted to remove similar protections that Ireland possesses in their waters, but persistent lobbying by the Irish Government prevented that from occurring.

“The removal of the Shetland Box would put enormous pressure on the species currently caught there on license, and would be another example of how we are adversely affected by the lack of a seat at the top table. As the Cabinet Secretary said yesterday, our influence over the future of fishing policy can only be increased by having our own seat as an independent member state.”

Oral Question on the Shetland Box (June 14th)

Jean Urquhart:

During last week’s debate on reform of the common fisheries policy, I raised the issue of the Shetland box, the retention of which has not been explicitly confirmed by the European Commission in its reform package. Does the minister know whether the Shetland box is to be retained? If it is not, will the minister support its retention?


Richard Lochhead:

There has been no decision yet on the future of the Shetland box and that was not one of the key issues discussed at the negotiations. As members can imagine, that was due to the fact that this week‟s negotiations were on the general approach to the reform process. Many of the individual measures within the regulations will be negotiated in the future. We have, however, asked the European Commission why the Shetland box was missing from the draft regulations that it published, and we await an answer from the Commission.

Speech: Common Fisheries Policy Reform (June 7th)

I suspect that I am going to put the opposite case from that put by Margaret McDougall. As a member for a region with a real dependency on the fishing industry, I am pleased to support the motion. With fish accounting for 59 per cent of all food exported from Scotland and £500 million-worth of fish landed by Scottish vessels in 2011, the value of the industry to Scotland‟s economy cannot be overstated.

The common fisheries policy has failed to work for Scotland and for Scotland’s fishing industry. The reforms, as currently proposed, will continue that unfortunate trend to the detriment of many of the communities in my region.

One of the most important principles of the European Union is that of subsidiarity: namely, that decisions should be taken at the most appropriate and most local level possible. However, that has never been the case with fisheries. The blanket approach of the European Commission to fisheries suffocates the ability of regions and nations to adapt to their own particular circumstances and needs, and endangers the very conservation that the common fisheries policy is intended to promote.

The difficulties posed by the imposition of centrally decided targets and quotas have only been exacerbated by the lack of a distinct Scottish voice at the decision table, and that has resulted in our interests being traded away by successive UK Governments. The inability of the Scottish Government, on behalf of Scotland as an independent nation, to directly influence the policy within the Council of Ministers puts us at a unique disadvantage. It is an absolute scandal that, while we remain gagged, ministers from landlocked nations such as Slovakia and Hungary are able to directly influence policies that have a negligible impact on their economies, but a potentially devastating impact on ours.

The proposal to introduce a compulsory quota trading system, nebulously called “transferable fishing concessions”, is just one of the many proposals that should give us cause for concern. The opportunity for wealthy companies to use their financial means to purchase fishing rights from hard-pressed fishermen is one that we should all be wary of, particularly as it appears that no safeguards have been put in place to prevent that practice from devastating the principle of relative stability, which has, so far, held firm.

Although there is a commitment to retain the 6 and 12-mile limits for coastal fisheries, the lack of any explicit reference in the proposals to retain, for example, the Shetland box—a protected coastal fisheries area of great importance to the Shetland Islands and Scotland as a whole—is of grave concern. I urge the Scottish Government to clarify the future of the Shetland box and, if the Shetland box is threatened, to do its best to protect those waters from being opened up, as the Irish did some years ago when their waters were under threat.

It must be remembered that, in rural areas in particular, each industry or sector helps to support many others. A set of reforms that hurts Scottish fishing also hurts our processing industries, our food and drink sector and our tourism sector—all major employers in the Highlands and Islands and nationwide.

Regardless of our constitutional views, it is in the interests of us all to push for our voice to be heard at the negotiating table, and not just with Westminster’s permission. The decision to send an unelected member of the House of Lords rather than a Scottish representative to an informal fisheries council meeting in April 2010 is just one example of party politics stepping on the toes of national interests. Surely all of us would decry that decision.

For the first time, thanks to the treaty of Lisbon, the European Parliament will have a say in reforming the common fisheries policy. As a Parliament, we must work in conjunction with Scotland‟s six MEPs to ensure that a strong cross-party and national voice is heard. Surely we can all unite on that for the fishing industry in Scotland, with its obvious history and heritage.

I once more affirm my support for the motion and urge all MSPs to back the Government’s efforts to promote our interests in Westminster and Europe.

Motion: BBC’s Crime Drama, Shetland

BBC’s Crime Drama, Shetland
That the Parliament welcomes the decision of BBC One to commission a two-part crime drama, Shetland, based on the murder mystery novels of Ann Cleeves; understands that the drama has been adapted for the small screen by David Kane, who has also worked on other Scottish crime story adaptations, namely Taggart and Rebus; considers the production to be an excellent opportunity to showcase Shetland’s natural landscape; further considers the dramatisation to be a potential boost to the local economy; urges the production team to use as many local people and businesses as possible in the process of filming; believes that the commission will highlight Scotland and Shetland’s strong cultural heritage, and looks forward to watching the drama later in 2012.

Supported by: Mary Scanlon, Joe FitzPatrick, Rob Gibson, John Finnie, Adam Ingram, Annabelle Ewing, John Mason, Joan McAlpine, Humza Yousaf, Drew Smith, Kevin Stewart, Anne McTaggart, David Torrance, Mike MacKenzie, Margaret Burgess, Jamie McGrigor, Bill Kidd, Dennis Robertson, Jamie Hepburn, Dave Thompson, Colin Beattie, Gil Paterson, Sandra White, Rhoda Grant, David Stewart, Willie Coffey, Angus MacDonald, Stewart Maxwell

Motion: Rise in Use of Regional Airports

Rise in Use of Regional Airports
That the Parliament welcomes the increase in passenger numbers for the month of May at airports operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL); believes that this increased usage secures the viability of what are considered these essential and often life-line services; further welcomes the increase in business for HIAL, which employs 600 people across its 11 airports and handled over one million passengers last year; understands that the Islay whisky festival, construction workers and oil and gas workers were main contributors to this rise; notes that Sumburgh in Shetland’s ties with Bergen have also boosted passenger numbers; believes that a sustained increase in domestic travel will have a concurrent impact on tourism and hospitality throughout the Highlands and Islands, and believes that the continuing strength of the Highlands and Islands in attracting tourists and supporting key economic sectors is of benefit to Scotland as a whole.

Supported by: Dennis Robertson, Anne McTaggart, Mary Scanlon, John Finnie, Rob Gibson, Humza Yousaf, Richard Lyle, Bill Walker, Graeme Dey, Kevin Stewart, Mike MacKenzie, David Stewart, David Torrance, Jamie McGrigor, Bill Kidd, Joan McAlpine, Sandra White, Mark McDonald, Annabelle Ewing, Margaret Burgess, Gordon MacDonald, Adam Ingram, Colin Beattie, Jamie Hepburn, Gil Paterson, Chic Brodie, Rhoda Grant, Stewart Maxwell

Motion: Hansel of Film 2012, From Shetland to Southampton and Back

Hansel of Film 2012, Shetland to Southampton and Back
That the Parliament acknowledges the opening of the Hansel of Film 2012, a UK-wide relay stretching from Shetland to Southampton of screenings of short films as part of the London 2012 Festival, in Shetland on 10 June; understands that the films will be relayed between participating venues by runners who must use any method of transport available to get the films to the next scheduled venue on time; commends Shetland Arts on its initiative in putting together a successful bid to secure funding for what it considers this innovative project;  welcomes the extensive and positive publicity for the Shetland arts community on the Hansel of Film’s official website, which, it considers, accurately describes the vibrant cultural life of the islands, and considers the diversity of festivals held in Shetland, covering all walks of cultural life and strands of music to be a leading example for Scotland.

Supported by: Bill Kidd, Humza Yousaf, Rob Gibson, Annabelle Ewing, Sandra White, Jamie McGrigor, John Finnie, Mike MacKenzie, Joan McAlpine, Anne McTaggart, Stuart McMillan, Richard Lyle, Chic Brodie, Tavish Scott, Margaret Burgess, Colin Beattie, Gordon MacDonald, Aileen McLeod, Angus MacDonald, Dennis Robertson, David Torrance, Graeme Dey, Kevin Stewart, John Wilson, Roderick Campbell, James Dornan, Sarah Boyack, Adam Ingram, Gil Paterson, Jamie Hepburn, David Stewart, Rhoda Grant, Stewart Maxwell, Maureen Watt