Home   News   Article

DAVID SUTHERLAND: New First Minister should listen to the calls of hard-pressed Highland families and firms

By David Sutherland

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Moderator Nicky Marr and leadership hopefuls Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes. Picture: James Mackenzie
Moderator Nicky Marr and leadership hopefuls Ash Regan, Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes. Picture: James Mackenzie

Our new First Minister will have a bulging in-tray and needs to be laser-focused on delivering increased services for the Highlands, and Scotland as a whole.

Independence dominated debates between the SNP leadership race contestants – but hopefully the coverage has been a reality check and that the winner recognises that the ‘day job’ is primarily about benefiting the country and repairing our crumbling public services.

Leading businessman and charitable donor Sir Tom Hunter says that outsiders are now looking at Scotland as “not investable” following a series of policy proposals that make the country “look stupid”.

He gives thumbs down to the Scottish Government’s negative attitude to the oil and gas industry, the proposed bottle deposit return scheme and the proposed alcohol promotion ban.

I’m in full accord with Sir Tom when he says: “I don’t have an adjective strong enough to describe the bottle return scheme.” Small businesses in the hospitality sector in and around Inverness are furious at more admin pressure being imposed on them when times are tough enough already.

Let’s kick these plans in to the long grass – imagine banning whisky promotion when it is our prime export!

The fury over the A9 dualling betrayal has succeeded in at least securing apologies from the candidates and promises to get something done. The trouble is that even if they do get rolling it out, the route won’t be dualled this side of 2030 – and maybe 2040!

But it’s not just the A9 – Inverness’s other arterial lifeline, the A96, is also well overdue. “Fix Nairn bypass” should be on page one of the First Minister’s to do list.

A major need in Inverness and Nairn is affordable housing. Employers need skilled people, who won’t move north without somewhere to live.

Kate Forbes said in a debate that affordable housing “is under immense pressure in Scotland”. The key reason for that is that the Scottish Government slashed some £300 million from its own plan to boost affordable housing. Think again, please.

We need more investment in education and skills – so that our young people are equipped for the jobs of the future. Scotland has slipped so far down the qualifications league table that the Scottish Government has withdrawn from the table!

And helping Highland Council to green-light a much-needed new Culloden Academy wouldn’t go wrong.

Indeed, isn’t it time a central belt-based government appointed a minister for the Highlands and Islands who could be in the area two days a week, listening to concerns and priorities? Now the council have vacated the Town House, there’s space for his/her office!

Kate Forbes said that voting for Humza Yousaf was “an acceptance of mediocrity” and, certainly, the performance of some departments has been sadly wanting. The NHS in Scotland is fighting for its life and I greatly appreciate the strains and stresses being caused to doctors, nurses, and all staff at Raigmore Hospital.

The new incumbent must bring down the horrendous waiting times for surgery of many kinds which are causing such distress in our area.

Stop this constant tinkering with schemes the public haven’t called for and listen to the calls of hard-pressed families and businesses.

That’s what really should be on your agenda, First Minister!

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More