Island Economies (Cross-Government Support)

Portfolio Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament am ar 8 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Neil Bibby Neil Bibby Llafur

To ask the Scottish Government what cross-Government action it is taking to support Scotland’s islands and their economies. (S6O-03395)

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

Scotland’s first national islands plan was published in 2019 to co-ordinate cross-Government actions aimed at improving outcomes for island communities. To date, delivery of the plan has been supported by more than £12 million for critical infrastructure. That is additional to our investments in regional growth deals and our carbon neutral islands project, which further benefit the islands. The islands cost crisis emergency fund, which has already distributed £2.4 million to help island households and businesses, will be worth £5 million in 2024-25. We will publish a second national islands plan next year in collaboration with island communities and local authorities.

Photo of Neil Bibby Neil Bibby Llafur

During the past month, the Ardrossan to Brodick ferry route saw 57 cancellations in three days when no ferries sailed at all. The current condition of Ardrossan harbour has led CalMac to claim that it can no longer berth overnight because of the risk of damage to vessels, which means that it can no longer operate the first sailing of the day. That is having a significant impact on the local economy, deliveries and workers. CalMac and Peel Ports are pointing fingers at each other while the multimillion-pound upgrade that was approved six years ago has been paused. Will the Scottish Government use its influence to get all parties around the table to ensure that people travelling between Ardrossan and Brodick have a reliable ferry service?

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

I fully take on board the member’s point. I know that the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands is keen to ensure that we get people around the table to find a solution so that this brilliant island community, which has so much resource going for it, gets a solution to get the ferries back on course.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I am pleased to say that there is an Ardrossan harbour task force meeting next week.

Arran’s business community faces additional challenges this summer because of reduced ferry capacity and heightened disruption from the closure by Peel Ports of Ardrossan’s Irish berth. However, despite the negative media caricatures of the island, Arran remains open for business. How can the Scottish Government and CalMac promote that message? What practical assistance is being offered to minimise the impact of disruption on the viability and sustainability of Arran’s businesses?

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

I take on board the point that Kenneth Simpson regularly makes for his constituents.

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

Kenneth Gibson. The Scottish Government is consistently looking to ensure that people understand that all our island communities are open and that they are brilliant destinations.

Photo of Jamie Halcro Johnston Jamie Halcro Johnston Ceidwadwyr

On 13 March, I asked the minister in this chamber whether a derogation to the North Sea cod avoidance plan in order to allow fishing for squid inside 12 nautical miles—which is extremely important for the Shetland fishing industry and its local economy—would be considered. The minister said that the matter was one for the cabinet secretary, and that he would ask her to respond to me directly. Nearly two months later, I have still not received a reply from the cabinet secretary. Is such a derogation being considered? Has the idea been rejected, or has it been accepted?

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

I will chase that up with the cabinet secretary and get back to the member.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

What engagement has the Scottish Government had with the United Kingdom Government about developing short subsea tunnels between some of Shetland’s islands? May I request that, if the minister is unable to answer, he provides a response in writing?

Photo of Jim Fairlie Jim Fairlie Scottish National Party

I will definitely provide a response in writing, but I can tell Beatrice Wishart that I have met the Shetland Islands community to talk about the issue, which she has raised previously with me. I will be happy to give her a response in writing.