In an election that has been pretty much uninspiring The Pebble Trust held one of the best Hustings I have watched so far.
Every event, of course, is being conducted using an online platform of some sort or other and Zoom was the choice of The Pebble Trust Hustings where candidates on the Highlands and Islands Regional List were expertly questioned by Lesley Riddoch.
Prior to the event questions had been sent in but people could also easily add ones in on the Chat function.
The Hustings ‘Industry Economy and Society in Balance with Environment‘ consisted of a panel of the following candidates: Andy Wightman (Independent), Ariane Burgess (Scottish Greens), Emma Roddick (SNP), John Erskine (Labour), Molly Nolan (LibDem), Jamie Halcro Johnston (Conservative) and late arrival Kirk Torrance (ALBA).
Magnus Davidson (UHI) kickstarted the discussions with a request for the candidates to explain what their top 3 priorities are for the region. He posed the following themes to reindustrialise the Highlands and Islands:
- Take back control of our land
- Renew our landscape
- Repeople our landscape
There was a lot of consensus around some ideas about more local control, differences on how to achieve that, but quite a bit of cross over in what each candidate was saying.
Not surprisingly candidates from the political parties were intent on quoting from their manifestos but Lesley Riddoch kept up the questioning to try and drill down through the soundbites to get at what action was actually being proposed.
Andy Wightman with his depth of knowledge on land reform was very much the expert in the virtual room and he suggested that MSPs representing the Highlands and Islands should form a caucus to work for their communities.
Whilst this would be a big step forward for the region it is hard to see MSPs who represent political parties being brave enough to go against their party whip if that was necessary.
Brian Nugent, lead candidate for Restore Scotland, on the H & I Regional List was not on the panel but was invited to speak by Lesley Riddoch.
Land reform, who owns the land, housing, forestry,local democracy the impact of tourism: these were just a few of the discussion points and as the event progressed it was refreshing to hear some of the candidates depart from the party mantra and share more of their own viewpoints. Good luck with that if you get elected.
Not all the candidates on this call will get elected but some will. If the only thing they take forward is the idea of forming a H&I caucus to work together for the Region then that would be one positive outcome.
Without land reform, local control over our land and seas, major decisions affecting the Highlands and Islands will still be very much left to the politicians in Edinburgh and London.
The Pebble Trust is a Scottish charity. It:
has a vision of a more sustainable, equal and low-carbon society, where constraints on fossil fuels lead to a more localised economy with stronger, more resilient, communitiesThe Pebble Trust
Reporter: Fiona Grahame