Scott voices frustration at lack of progress for Jarlshof visitor facilities

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has today pressed the Government for answers on long sought after visitor improvements to the Jarlshof site and called for the process to be sped up.

During General Questions, Tavish asked the Government to explain what progress it has made towards developing coach park facilities at the site. For years parking and toilet facilities at the nearby Sumburgh Hotel have had to be used by those accessing the site. This has only been possible through an agreement with the hotel owners and the situation is increasingly untenable as visitor numbers increase.

Minister Ben Macpherson replied that all parties recognise the importance of the issue, and that talks are ongoing but legal issues mean details cannot be provided. However, a business case for the project had been rejected by the Cabinet Secretary last December.

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Scott responds to Sumburgh Super Puma crash Fatal Accident Inquiry

The Crown Office has announced today that a Fatal Accident Inquiry is to be held into the helicopter crash which killed four people near Sumburgh, in Shetland, in 2013.

The accident occurred as the Super Puma helicopter was carrying passengers from North Sea oil and gas platforms to mainland Shetland.  

This confirmation arrives almost six years after the disaster, and after repeated calls for an Inquiry to be held.

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Northern Isles MSPs demand transparency in RET process

Today, MSPs for the Northern Isles Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott have called for increased transparency about the steps being taken to introduce RET for Northern Isles ferry routes, after recent correspondence with the European Commission revealed that no specific complaint investigations are currently in process.  

Following correspondence between Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, and the Commissioner for Competition, Margarethe Vestager, it has emerged that while the Commission received a complaint regarding the state aid implications of RET, it is not currently being investigated, as a result of the Scottish Government’s decision to delay implementation of the scheme.

While the Commission are working with the Scottish Government to address issues that could arise through the introduction of RET, this means that the Scottish Government are not currently required to wait for the outcome of this complaint.

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Scott responds to Ministerial Statement on Aquaculture

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has today sought assurances from Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing on fish farming regulations following a ministerial statement in Holyrood.

Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, announced sea lice monitoring and transparent reporting will become a statutory obligation with stricter limits in future. This comes as SEPA outlined a new regulatory framework designed to strengthen environmental protection and sustainable growth of the sector.

Mr Scott asked the Cabinet Secretary to ensure Scotland learns from Norway’s example and trials a similar system to filter out medicines used on farmed fish and to reject plans to introduce a feed limit to regulate farms.

The Cabinet Secretary confirmed there are discussions with Scottish regulators surrounding a similar Scottish trial mirroring the Norwegian system on medicine filters and that SEPA are having discussions on whether to move to a feed limit or retain a biomass limit on farms.

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Scott reiterates call for action on HIAL pay dispute

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has today questioned the Government on its public sector pay policy and called for intervention to end air traffic control strikes across the Highlands and Islands.

Mr Scott asked Public Finance Minister, Kate Forbes, what the implications are for public sector pay of the agreement reached with teachers in March. Mr Scott highlighted that Government Ministers intervened in that dispute, and called on the Government to do the same in the dispute between HIAL and the Prospect Union.

When responding, the Minister confirmed that the pay policy acts as a benchmark and that employers do have flexibility on pay in order to keep in mind local circumstances.

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Lib Dems call for FOI law expansion

In the year that the Scottish Parliament celebrates 20 years of devolution Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has urged the Scottish Government to update one of the Parliament’s most notable legislative successes, Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation, after informing a committee of questionable FOI practices.

The Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee is currently scrutinising the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

The Liberal Democrat submission to the Committee:

  • shows the Scottish Government coordinating the responses of local authorities to freedom of information requests;
  • challenges the interpretation and use of the public interest test, highlighting a request for information relating to outstanding work on the Queensferry Crossing, which after being months late was rejected because it could be damaging to the contractors, only for Parliament to eventually acquire the information to no apparent detriment;
  • highlights critical meetings, including on the future of the Chief Constable and Teach First, which were attended by senior SNP ministers but not minuted;
  • raises concerns about the role of special advisers and the undue influence they exert over the freedom of information process within the Scottish Government.

The submission also calls for the expansion of FOI law to include private companies delivering public contracts, some worth as much as £7 billion.

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Scott challenges First Minister on closure of Sandwick nursery

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has today challenged the First Minister to recognise the importance of private nurseries in providing childcare outside school hours. Many parents depend on Sandwick Central Nursery and others across Shetland so they can work.  

Mr Scott raised the Central Private Nursery which is being forced to shut its doors next month after failing to recruit new staff. Across Scotland, the ELC workforce is being drawn to higher paid jobs in council nurseries which are expanding to offer an increased 1,140 hours childcare a year from August 2020 for 3 and 4-year olds and eligible 2-year olds. Private nurseries play an important role in that expansion, often offering care between 8am and 6pm, not provided by council nurseries.

Mr Scott asked the First Minister what the Government can do to ensure wraparound care is provided for children of working parents so private nurseries can stay open. Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that her government would look into the situation.

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Scott champions Shetland’s young musicians in Holyrood debate and calls for greater public investment

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott praised the success and talent of Shetland’s young musicians in a Holyrood debate today and called for more money to be found to invest in school music tuition.

Parliament’s Education Committee held the debate on the future of instrumental music tuition in schools following its report which recognised the value of music in schools and raised concerns about the impact of music tuition fees. The report concluded that, in principle, tuition should be free in every local authority. Fees currently vary across local authorities with some providing tuition free of charge and others charging up to £524.

Tavish recognised the winners of the Shetland Young Fiddler of the Year competition held last weekend, and past winners whose talent has been celebrated across Scotland and the world, as evidence of the importance of instrument tuition in schools. Mr Scott made clear that the fiddle, pipes, signing and harp are the basis of Scotland’s musical heritage and that this heritage should be nurtured.

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Water charge hikes threaten future of Shetland’s community halls

The latest water bills that massively hike charges to Shetland’s community halls is a direct threat to their future says Shetland MSP Tavish Scott. He is pressing Scottish Ministers to change the way in which Hall Committees, run by volunteers, are clobbered by government policy.

Following changes to the exemption criteria for water charges and the way bills are calculated, public halls in Shetland with an alcohol license are now liable for large water bills. They therefore face serious financial pressure.

Tavish has now written to the Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, illustrating the damaging effects of these changes. He wants the Government to take urgent action to prevent halls having to close their doors. Tavish has already raised this in Parliament and, working with Voluntary Action Shetland, is demanding an islands impact assessment of the policy.

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Scott asks for renewed urgency for answers into fatal Shetland helicopter crash

Today in Parliament, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott called on the Scottish Government to impress upon the Crown Office the need to begin a Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Super Puma helicopter crash off Shetland in 2013.

Six years on from the disaster, in which four crew members lost their lives, the Fatal Accident Inquiry is yet to start.

Speaking after the exchange, Tavish said:

“Six years of delay is simply not acceptable. Families and friends don’t yet have answers to the basic questions of what happened and why. Nor do they know whether or not prosecutions will happen.

“An increase in resources to deal with Fatal Accident Inquiries is welcome, but that doesn’t provide the families with the answers they deserve. It also means lessons can’t be learned.

“For their sake, the Crown Office should get on with it.”

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