This week I was reminded what amazing part of the world we live in and what a privilege it is to represent the Highlands and Islands.
I had a very early start on Friday to catch the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness. Despite the heavy snowfall, I was pleased to find the A9 well cleared as I travelled up the East coast – even the legendary Berriedale Braes. It’s been a cold winter and plenty folk have had their travels disrupted recently so I was particularly grateful.
Scrabster was looking stunningly beautiful as the sun rose and a snow shower as we passed the Old Man of Hoy made for a very atmospheric pic which I tweeted. The fact there was 4G – on land and at sea – really impressed me. I travel far and wide, and I’m delighted to see evidence of improvement almost every week. A fantastic sign of the Scottish Government working hard to roll out connectivity to all our communities in Scotland.
My first stop was at the Heriot Watt campus at Stromness where I met with scientists to chat about all things marine. Just that morning, I heard on the radio that scientists at Herriot Watt campus have found levels of microplastic pollution on beaches around Scapa Flow in Orkney are similar to those in industrialised areas like the Forth and Clyde.
Marine plastics are a hot topic right now, thanks the roaring success of Blue Planet, so it’s great to hear of high quality research on the issue being done in the Highlands and Islands.
Heriot Watt is increasing its focus on the marine environment as part of its Year of the Sea initiative and I look forward to returning again to hear more about the great work they are doing.
I also visited Orkney Rape Crisis centre where I was delighted to hear about the new prevention and advocacy work being carried out.
The centre is now involved with teaching youngsters at school about gender and consent, among other important topics.
It was also good to hear about their toiletries amnesty appeal. If you have more toiletries than you can’t use after Christmas, you know where to send them!
Orkney Rape Crisis are also looking for local women to join their board, so if you know of anyone who would be a good fit, please contact the centre.
The topic of fair ferry funding was raised several times on my visit. There have been constructive discussions between the Island councils and the Scottish Government on this. Should funding be included in the Scottish Government budget this year, I can only hope my Highland and Island MSP colleagues will support it.
A final word on the weather – I gather such heavy snow is unusual in Orkney. I was told that it was six years since the gritters on the Islands had been used. All I can say is that I was very grateful for my all weather tyres. They were well and truly tested but they performed well!
This is a fortnightly column by local MSP Maree Todd,SNP
Orkney Rape Crisis is looking for self identified women to apply to volunteer on our local board. If you are passionate about our service values and specifically have skills related to fundraising and financial management we would be delighted to discuss what is involved. Tel 872298