Local Political Reaction to the Islands Growth Deal

The Islands Growth Deal was signed off earlier on this week and The Orkney News has gathered in comment from a wide range of local politicians on their reactions.

Leader of Orkney Islands Council, James Stockan, who signed off the Deal on behalf of Orkney said it was a ‘significant opportunity’.

He said:

” The investment through this enhanced deal opens up a range of opportunities for growth that otherwise would not have been possible, of vital importance given these ongoing challenging times.

“The Deal today will help us harness our potential moving forward, not just as a single island authority, but also unlocking even further gains to be had by working collaboratively with fellow island communities and further afield.”

The Islands Growth Deal sees the UK and Scottish Government invest a combined total of up to £100million to the 3 Islands Authorities over a stretch of 10 Years.

You can read the details of it here: Islands Growth Deal Signed

OIC Councillor Steve Sankey, representing the Scottish Greens was delighted with the Deal and its investment in Green projects.

He said:

“I’m delighted that the 3 island group consortium has won £100 million for innovative developments across the west and north of Scotland and including Orkney.

“The commitment to an Islands Centre for Net Zero Carbon with the creation of 300 jobs is a significant contribution towards the culture change and green renewal that we urgently need to combat the climate emergency.

“It’s important, however, that the Scapa Flow Deep Water Pier project focusses entirely on facilitating and servicing renewables such as offshore wind turbines, and doesn’t make the mistake of propping up fossil fuels through the use of LNG in its proposed multi-fuel distribution hub.

“Green hydrogen and ammonia are the way forward with emission-free marine fuels, and it’s to be hoped that other elements of the project at the research campus in Stromness and green hydrogen focus in the Outer Isles and Shetland will help to facilitate this. I’ll look forward to seeing the detail of the outline business cases, and I wish the project every success.”  

For the SNP, their candidate in Orkney for the Scottish Parliamentary elections on May 6th 2021, Robert Leslie, expressed the importance of the Deal in ‘retaining and attracting young people to the islands, as well as boosting innovation and skills’.

Robert Leslie said:

“Having heard about the plans for an Orkney Community Vertical Farm during the recent Sustainable Orkney Conference, I look forward to seeing this project come to fruition.

“Food security is one issue that the pandemic has highlighted and the conference sessions revealed an appetite – if you’ll excuse the pun – for investigating how to increase the range of food grown locally.

“This could potentially use some of the surplus energy we generate and can’t always use due to the lack of an additional cable through which we could export our clean, green electricity – an issue over which the UK Government retains control.”

Robert Leslie also went on to criticise the UK Government and to question Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s commitment to renewable investment.

Robert Leslie said:

“If his flying visit last July is to be remembered for anything more than a photocall with crabs on a pier, Mr Johnson’s increasingly right-wing government needs to back up his claim that he would help Orkney in its aim of supplying what he described as ‘25% of the UK’s energy needs’ by ensuring we have the infrastructure to go with it.

“Mr Johnson said at the time ‘we’re looking at ways to support the council here, to support local leaders in their ambitions’. I would say this Islands Deal falls short on that.

“Instead we see Mr Johnson’s Tories pushing through plans to increase the number of nuclear warheads housed on the Clyde. That kind of investment, which dwarves their Island Deal pledge, won’t help anyone in Orkney create or retain jobs.

“In a week that has seen the SNP lead the Scottish Parliament vote to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law, while the Tories at Westminster moved to increase Britain’s stockpile of nuclear weapons held on Scottish soil, we have a tale of two governments.

 “The coming election comes down to the issue of what kind of country Scotland wants to be – one that puts bairns before bombs, protects the rights of our citizens and gives every child the best start in life, or one that spends billions of pounds prioritising weapons of mass destruction on our shores. I know who’s hands I want our future to be in, and it isn’t Boris Johnson’s.”

Labour are also delighted with the Islands Growth Deal. Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant said:

“I am delighted that this agreement will bring much-needed jobs to our island communities and commits both governments to work collaboratively with partners because this is something they have both been failing on.

“This is hugely welcome particularly as it comes hot on the heels of the Scottish Government proposing to take valuable and well-paid air traffic control jobs out of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, a move most would agree flies right in the face of supporting sustainable communities.”

The Islands Growth Deal commits to an investment of up to £50 million each from the Scottish and UK Governments and it expects £235 million from project partners.

Over the 10 year period across the 3 Islands Authorities it aims to create up to 1,300 jobs.

Full business cases must now be produced for the projects.

You can read and download the Islands Growth Deal here:

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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