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Scottish Island Communities

Volume 710: debated on Wednesday 16 March 2022

The UK Government have committed £50 million to the islands growth deal, which has resulted in islands communities benefiting from the highest per capita deal in Scotland. As I just mentioned, the levelling-up White Paper announced the development of an islands forum, and I have recently had discussions with local partners on how to progress that important work.

The new islands forum announced in the levelling-up White Paper is a welcome step. It will connect island communities from Scotland to the south-west with key decision makers. What progress is being made on the proposal?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. On Monday, I had a useful conversation with the leader and chief executive of Orkney Islands Council. We are inviting local partners to discuss with us how best the forum can operate and deliver what we want to achieve in the islands.

The best support that any Government can give to an island community is access to a reliable and frequent ferry service. On that, the SNP has failed miserably and has managed to achieve the impossible double of sinking hundreds of thousands of pounds into ferries that will never float while the real service has had increased breakdowns and become worse and worse. Does my hon. Friend agree that the SNP has let down island communities across Scotland?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. It is of great concern to island communities that they cannot rely on ferry services, as has been the case for several years. I welcome the proposals in Transport Scotland’s strategic plan for the renewal and replacement of the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services and the northern isles ferry services, but its record thus far does not fill me with confidence that they will be delivered.

Farmers and crofters in all Scotland’s islands communities are facing the perfect storm of massive increases in the cost of fuel and fertilisers and increased competition on price from imports. Does the Minister agree that this would be a good time to revisit the work of the Groceries Code Adjudicator to ensure that farmers and crofters can get a fair price for their produce? Would he meet me and a delegation from the National Farmers Union of Scotland to discuss that?

I am delighted to say that I have made two very pleasurable visits to the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and I have heard these concerns first hand. Of course I would be delighted to meet him and a delegation from NFU Scotland to take forward their concerns.