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EMMA RODDICK: Highland Heroes reminds me of the great work being done in the region

By Scott Maclennan

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We’re in that final week of parliament before Recess – two weeks in April where we can stay in our constituencies and regions. It is all anybody says in response to “how’s it going?” or “how are you today?” – “Recess!”

It’s not that we don’t like Parliament, but it has been heavy-going since January. I am really looking forward to being just as busy, and travelling even more than I do going back and forth to Edinburgh, but doing it in the Highlands and Islands, meeting people and talking about how the things being decided in Holyrood actually impact on our lives.

I had a good opportunity to be reminded of the incredible work going on across the region when I attended the Highland Heroes Awards to support Michael O’Neill, who won Volunteer of the Year.

Back in Parliament the next week, I reflected on the work of the many individuals and organisations nominated for awards. I heard stories of exceptional carers, unimaginably busy support services, and schools going above and beyond.

In the Chamber, I talked about a tiny number of such people and groups when discussing the third sector’s contribution to the economy. Third sector discussions in the parliament almost always focus on public funding being paid out to it – which is important – but may leave people with the incorrect impression that the third sector is simply something that takes, rather than contributes, money.

Eden Court was an example I used to demonstrate that this isn’t the case. It’s hard to imagine the riverside being as full of activity and host to small businesses and community groups alike, without the theatre’s contribution. Growing up in Ross-shire, I went to Eden Court every year with my primary school to enjoy the panto – something I still enjoy attending annually now. Beyond all that visible activity, Eden Court is worth an estimated £11.8 million to the Highland economy, with £7 being generated for every £1 of public funding it receives.

Similar stories exist for third sector organisations that provide mental health support, preventing crises and hospital admissions; befriender networks and social groups that tackle social isolation and loneliness; and first responders, like that which Michael is part of in Easter Ross.

Much like how those with less income spend their money rather than hoarding it, the third sector spends its money and contributes so much. It is value for money and we all must value and appreciate it.

Over April Recess, I will be speaking with more third sector organisations and meeting with people to speak about all kinds of issues, including the impact of bills that we will be considering in the April-July long haul of parliamentary decision-making – which I will be getting through by listening to Taylor Swift’s new album and, hopefully, enjoying some Scottish football success.

Alongside meetings and visits, I have eighteen surgeries coming up next month and encourage anyone who could do with help with an issue or information on policy to get in touch.

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