It was a dreich morning for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Orkney on Thursday 23rd of July.
Visiting the islands on the invitation of Orkney Islands Council, Boris Johnson and Alister Jack, The Secretary of State for Scotland in the UK Government, were warmly welcomed by the leader of OIC, James Stockan.
The meeting coincided with the announcement of a funding support package, The Islands Deal, of £100million split 50/50 between the UK and Scottish Governments. The funding from the Scottish Government is spread over 10 years with the UK Government’s half spread over 15 years. It is also shared between the 3 Islands Authorities in Scotland. It is not known yet how this will be distributed but will be targeted towards tourism, infrastructure, innovation, energy transition and skills.
Councillor James Stockan commenting on the visit by Boris Johnson said:
“I am delighted that the Prime Minister and the Scottish Secretary Alister Jack accepted our invitation to travel north and spend time with us today.
“The Islands Growth Deal for Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles promises to be of transformational importance for us.
“The UK Government, in awarding its share of the funding, has recognised the potential our islands have to contribute significantly to the future prosperity of the country as a whole, as well as our own communities.
“Today’s visit is unprecedented in that it provided us with the chance to meet with the Prime Minister and highlight at first hand the economic opportunities we offer.”
Orkney voted strongly to remain in the EU and had benefited considerably from EU funding for farming, fishing, a range of projects and links with academic institutions. This includes the Robert Rendall building which hosted the visit by Boris Johnson in Stromness. That funding stream will now cease as the UK has left the EU.
There were many in Orkney who were not warmly welcoming and the morning saw the route of Boris Johnson’s planned visits lined with protesters.
It was quite unprecedented for people in Orkney to come out as they did with hardly any notice as the PMs visit had been kept so quiet that many in the islands didn’t know it had taken place till it was all over and they saw it on the teatime news.
The protesters covered a range of issues: Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion, Independence for Scotland, Saving the NHS and the ‘honesty’ of Boris Johnson.
A spokesperson for Orkney Oot Wae Racism which has been campaigning over the last few weeks for Black Lives Matter said:
“Black Lives Matters is not just about the racism in the USA, it is about making people aware of racism in the UK and in Orkney.
“Johnson, as the country’s leader must take steps to dismantle the structural racism in the British state. We don’t need more studies, we need action. The police have to be held accountable for their harassment of Black young people, we need to teach our real history in school and action needs to be taken to stop the disproportionate number of Covid-19 deaths in the BAME population. “
Boris Johnson and his entourage were kept well away from the Orkney public as his car whizzed by the protesters to a few selected visits: the Orkney Creamery, The Robert Rendall Building, renewables and fisheries.
The protesters kept to Covid19 restrictions wearing masks and only standing in groupings of families/ friends. One police van motored along with the car cavalcade. Many of the banners made by the campaigners were amusing.
The Orkney News livestreamed some of the morning which you can view on our Facebook page. Kenny Armet also put together a compilation of film footage and images from the day.
Orkney was even trending on Twitter.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame