Do you think the views of islanders are being adequately represented on public bodies in Scotland?
Is the Islands Act doing what it was intended to do including Islands Proofing policies?
The Uist Community Economic Task Force have put a petition before MSPs –
Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce community representation on boards of public organisations delivering lifeline services to island communities, in keeping with the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018. Petition – PE 1862
The petition was heard by the Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament on 1st of September.
The Uist islanders have felt the need to bring this petition before the committee because of the fiasco of Highland and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) deeply unpopular Remote Towers Project. HIAL is wholly owned by Scottish Government Ministers who have repeatedly failed to engage with air traffic controllers or the public on the issue. The new Transport Minister Graeme Dey didn’t even meet with the workers, who will lose their jobs if they refuse to move to Inverness where the untried technology will be located, when he visited Orkney and the Western Isles recently. Scottish Transport Minister Avoiding Meeting With Air Traffic Controllers
HIAL’s own commissioned Islands Assessment concluded that there were many extremely significant problems with the project. Despite all of this and industrial action – the HIAL project has not been halted.
No member of the HIAL Board lives in the island communities they are removing air traffic controllers from. That’s what has prompted this petition. What is also ironic is that the very committee this is coming before also has no MSPs on it that represents any of those places either.
That last fact became apparent when David Torrance, an SNP MSP on the committee who represents Kirkcaldy, felt that the Islands Act offered the protection islanders need when decisions are made by Boards made up of people who have no understanding of their communities. David Torrance needs to acquaint himself with what HIAL’s Remote Towers Project will do to island communities and how serious concerns have been raised about even the safety of going ahead with this project. “Given the infancy of the technology, we find it difficult to assure these communities that that service can be provided in the event of bad weather, infrastructural damage or cyber-attack.’’- HIAL’S Remote Towers
In response to the petition the Scottish Government has said that appointments to the HIAL Board are done fairly and that islanders are free to apply – of course, they would need to have the skills, knowledge and experience. Which is true but kind of misses the point that HIAL is a Board serving the Highlands and Islands with no representation from the Islands and that the Transport Minister refuses to get involved with.
“In their written submission, the petitioners argue that the public boards which have been put in place to deliver lifeline services to island communities do not value or recognise how those with island knowledge could enhance their decision making.
“The petitioners state that this lack of local knowledge means that decisions are made without fully considering the practical impact of those living on the islands.
“They believe that by introducing community representation on those boards, communities and place would be put at the heart of good government in a meaningful way.” PE1862
You’ve got to wonder why the Scottish Government and MSPs in general have a problem with islanders actually having a say in how lifeline services are delivered and developed?
The Scottish Greens who are now in a coalition, which is not a coalition, with the SNP and who have two Ministerial posts in the Scottish Government have stated that they will continue to question HIAL’s plans. Scottish Greens Say They Will Continue To Challenge HIAL’s Remote Towers Regardless of The SNP/Green Deal We will see how that unfolds. It would be a complete betrayal of island communities if they do not.
Put communities and place at the heart of good government in a meaningful wayPE1862
– That’s all that the islanders want.
So what did the Committee decide to do ? To write to The Scottish Government for additional information which they considered was missing from their submission.
The Orkney News will continue to follow this story.
You can watch the proceedings here: Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee
Click on this link for additional information: PE 1862