Maree Todd: Reflecting on the Island Games

Maree Todd MSP

Maree Todd

It has been great to follow the sporting spectacle that is the Island Games.

The two track golds for Anna Tait were an obvious highlight. As someone who once kept up a level of fitness to play women’s rugby I was in awe of an athlete able to claim record-breaking golds at 1500m and 5000m.

Just before the Games, we had a debate in the Scottish Parliament, led by Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, on funding for athletes from his home islands.

I was pleased to speak during the debate, and highlighted the exceptional standard of competition in the Island Games as testament to the fact that small communities can achieve great things. From friends in the Western Isles who have participated for many years, I have some idea of the level of training and the logistical effort that are required to compete. I agree that our island communities face distinct challenges, but they consistently rise above those challenges to punch above their weight.

Thanks to the Island Games, island athletes no longer have to head to the mainland to compete at international level. Instead, they have the chance to represent their own community and to raise the profile of their island.

The International Island Games Association has always encouraged its member islands not only to take part in the games, but to consider becoming a host island. I am delighted that Orkney is bidding to host the games in 2023. The legacy of such a decision is often the creation of a stronger local sporting community than ever before and Shetland, who hosted the 2005 Games, is an example of that.

I was also able to address the cost of travel for our athletes, which was mentioned in the motion. NorthLink Ferries gives sponsorship deals to many Northern Isles sporting groups, helping cut the cost of travel to the Scottish mainland. While the motion was about travel for Shetland athletes, constituents from the Western Isles and Orkney stress that the cost of travel is expensive for them, too.

The Western Isles have already benefited from the road equivalent tariff, and the SNP made a clear commitment in its 2016 manifesto to reduce ferry fares on Orkney and Shetland services as well. I know that work on that is well under way.

Of course ferry fares to the Northern Isles were frozen for the second year, but we need to ensure we deliver on that manifesto promise. I can assure my constituents that I am first in line to hold the Government to account on that.

Away from sporting contests, it was good to hear Nicola Sturgeon set out clearly the route to another independence referendum.

I firmly believe that the ability to choose a different direction must be available to the people of Scotland and the SNP has won two elections with this commitment in its manifesto.

At the end of the Brexit process, when the terms of Brexit will be clearer, the people of Scotland should have a choice about our future direction as a country.

This is a regular column from local MSP Maree Todd, SNP

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