Last week was an absolute whirlwind with little or no time for politics to catch its breath. From the announcement of Humza Yousaf’s election as SNP leader, his appointment as First Minister and a new look Scottish Government meant the week before recess was far busier than usual.
As part of these changes, I now have a government role alongside being MSP for the Highlands and Islands. I was honoured to be formally appointed as Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees last Thursday. It means a lot that Humza has put his trust in me, and I will fulfil the role, which is of great personal meaning to me, to the best of my abilities.
I am delighted with my brief, and I know it’s important to the islands. I see geography as an equalities issue and will continue to fight for islands as part of that. I know from my caseload how many constituents in Orkney care about refugees, and I want to make sure the welcome that those seeking safety in Scotland is nothing short of what I see Orcadians offer every day.
It was great to be back in Orkney on Tuesday, where I know that the topic of ferries is never far from the local agenda. I was delighted with the news of the charter of the Pentland Ferries vessel MV Alfred to support the CalMac fleet. This is a clear demonstration of the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to our island communities and to improving the lifeline ferry services which they rely on. I know that folk in Orkney will watch with interest how the catamaran operates on the west coast as discussions about internal ferry replacements continue.
I discussed my new role with folk in Orkney during my trip, as I had several meetings with local organisations during the day before heading to Shetland on the NorthLink ferry at night.
Looking ahead more broadly, this new SNP Government will pursue the same progressive policy agenda that’s won the SNP election after election. The immediate priority will be to protect every Scot ¬- as far as possible – from the harms inflicted by the cost-of-living crisis.
That is why Humza’s first act as First Minister has been to triple the Fuel Insecurity Fund from £10 million last year to £30 million for 2023-24.
From speaking to organisations such as local affordable warmth charity THAW Orkney, I know that the Scottish Government’s Home Heating Support Fund has been crucial in helping keep the heating on for so many Orkney families, and so I am very pleased that this £30 million will be made available next year to help households that are self-rationing and at risk of self-disconnecting their energy use.
We shouldn’t have to be using sticking plaster solutions to help folk keep their heating or to cook their meals. While we are working hard to mitigate Westminster austerity, let’s end it once and for all by becoming independent. Scotland’s energy would then be working for Scotland’s people, not shareholders.
This is a regular column by SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.