I held a surgery in Shetland on Saturday afternoon. There would normally be nothing much more to say on that, but coming the day after an MP was killed during a constituency surgery it was something I gave some thought to.
I want to be as available as possible to my constituents. I consider surgeries an important part of that.
After the murder of David Amess, while being accessible to his constituents, many of my colleagues are considering whether holding surgeries is safe to do. Police are advising us to consider remote surgeries or phone surgeries.
A death is a death and it doesn’t matter to loved ones what your job was – my heart goes out to those who loved David Amess. But when someone is killed doing their job, that can change the way its carried out by others.
I’ve seen people call this an attack on democracy as well as on a man – I feel that. Two MPs have been killed in the last five years. But if surgeries die out, that’s a real loss to accountability and democracy. It will affect those in digital poverty or who lack the skills to engage online the most. That’s really sad.
As an MP who carried out surgeries for decades, I can’t help but feel David Amess would be devastated by the idea that people are now considering – out of fear and also maybe necessity – putting an end to them. We will all have to work towards an answer.
I had sailed to Lerwick from Kirkwall last Tuesday night, having spent the day in Orkney hearing about housing, equality, marine plans, renewables and affordable warmth.
During a walk round a new Orkney Housing Association Ltd development I learned about their “fabric first” approach to energy efficiency, which will be even more crucial as energy prices rise.
Then it was over to Orkney Rape & Sexual Assault Service to talk about past, current, and future projects, including their peedie birds from last year, which helped raise awareness that survivors are all around. It was lovely to spend some time in their Equality Hub and see intersectional feminism in action – supporting those who need it through real and terrible trauma.
At Scapa I spoke with Orkney Harbour Authority about their Masterplan for Scapa Flow. There’s so much going on and even more planned for a just transition to green energy, and a new hydrogen future for Flotta oil terminal.
I also caught up with Robert Leslie at THAW Orkney to discuss what this winter will hold for those facing increasing energy costs. The team at THAW Orkney do amazing work, but it’s clear that action from the Scottish Government must continue, and more also needs to be done at a UK level to combat these issues. That includes a new electricity interconnector for the islands. There is cross-party acknowledgment at Holyrood of its importance and the Scottish Government has a role to play in ensuring it happens.
This is a regular column by Emma Roddick, SNP, MSP. All Highlands and Islands Regional MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.