I’m writing this on the back of the annual wave of musical euphoria that is the Eurovision Song Contest.
The UK was hosting this year’s event on behalf of last year’s winners Ukraine, due to the ongoing conflict with Russia.
My new role as Minister for Equalities, Migration and Refugees meant that I had a special interest, given that Scotland is currently home to over 23,000 refugees from Ukraine, including several whom I know have found homes in Orkney.
It was shocking to learn after the contest was finished, that Russia had attacked Ternopil, home city of the act performing Ukraine’s Eurovision entry – a grim reminder that war is a reality in Europe right now.
This reminder comes at a time when the UK Tory government is trying to hamper the efforts of Scottish politicians going abroad to meet delegations in other countries. It is extremely concerning and works against the ethos of the Scottish Government to be internationalist in outlook. We won’t progress in the world if we are bound by our own borders.
While our international standing is very positive, Scots would be able to contribute much more to the world as a normal, independent country – and we would have the bonus then of having the opportunity to sing our own song on the European stage every year.
Elsewhere, I was delighted to see innovative projects in Orkney among those receiving Scottish Government funding through the Hydrogen Innovation Scheme.
There is such a wealth of opportunity in the islands, and it is fantastic to see this being invested in.
These Orkney projects will play a key role in developing how we produce, use and store hydrogen and in achieving a just energy transition for Scotland.
However, while we progress along the route to net zero and decarbonisation of our economy, it is always important to ensure that no one is left behind.
For that reason, I was particularly interested in the recent report from Changeworks on fuel poverty in rural Scotland.
Entitled A Perfect Storm, the report details research that was carried out across rural Scotland, including the Highlands and Islands, with voices from Orkney heard talking about the difficulties of even finding the real impacts of fuel poverty, due to an apprehension among islanders about asking for help.
I look forward to engaging more with the recommendations of this report and what the Scottish Government can do to support people, while recognising that many of the issues around energy pricing are wholly the responsibility of the UK Government.
It is clear that much still needs to be done at all levels to ensure folk don’t face another winter of rationing energy and choosing between heating and eating.
This is a regular column by Emma Roddick SNP. All Highlands and Islands Regional MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.