Housing and homelessness are among the issues constantly at the top of my agenda, and for that reason I am heartened by the Scottish Government’s commitment to preventing homelessness.
Homelessness, which may not be visible in Orkney but which is still a pressing issue, shouldn’t simply be a fact of life in twenty-first century Scotland.
It was the topic on which I focused during the Scottish Government’s debate last Thursday on Supporting a Fairer and More Equal Society.
Homelessness is a symptom of many things and is inextricably linked with poverty. I don’t think people realise how often poverty is predetermined.
Nobody blames a child for living in a poor household, but, when that child grows up, folk start to blame the person who didn’t get the same educational opportunities as them, doesn’t have savings, and couldn’t afford to learn to drive, for the situation they inherited.
The measures to tackle homelessness as detailed in the Programme for Government were developed with input from those with lived experience of homelessness and, according to the homelessness charity Crisis, hold the potential to make Scotland a ‘world-leader in homelessness prevention’.
I look forward to scrutinising the detailed proposals to tackle homelessness as a member of the Social Justice and Social Security Committee, chaired by Orkney-born SNP MSP Neil Gray.
During the same debate it was clear from one Tory intervention that they lack irony, hypocrisy and a sense of shame, attempting to criticise the Scottish Government for being ‘too slow’ implementing benefits like the Scottish Child Payment. This, after all, is a benefit that exists to mitigate the harm caused by a UK social security system which started out inadequate and then suffered years of cuts.
It’s a real shame that so much of government budgets in Scotland are spent trying to stop UK austerity hitting our worst-off the hardest, and it’s a real shame the Scottish Government is having to wait another few years before every power is devolved for decisions to be made for this country in this country.
Given the clear concerns I have heard in Orkney and across the Highlands and Islands, I am delighted to see Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd and the Prospect union engaging in talks surrounding a possible alternative solution to modernisation of the air traffic control system. It’s vital that we work together to keep people in their jobs and combat depopulation in our region.
The plan to move air traffic control to Inverness is something I have been raising concerns over for some time. I first wrote to Transport Minister Graeme Dey three months ago, and was happy to add my name to a recent cross-party letter to the Scottish Government on the subject.
Clearly it is very challenging for Orkney and the other communities affected, who value the air traffic provision being delivered locally, giving a sense of security. It also means much-needed skilled jobs for the islands.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on the talks between HIAL and Prospect.
This is a regular column by Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands MSPs were offered space in The Orkney News to share their own views.