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Conservative MSPs slam SNP programme for government as continuing the 'long-term underinvestment' in the Highlands

By Scott Maclennan

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MSP Edward Mountain at the site where the new HMP Highland is to be built.
MSP Edward Mountain at the site where the new HMP Highland is to be built.

Highland Conservative MSPs have been quick to criticise the SNP’s programme for government saying it offers little new but continues a long trend of underinvestment in the region.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out her plans for the upcoming parliamentary sessions including moves to guarantee youth employment or places in further education amid a raft of measures including draft proposals for Indyref2.

But those measures, with just a handful of references to the Highlands, continue the long-term underinvestment in the infrastructure of the north, according to MSP Edward Mountain.

Despite mentions of a replacement prison for HMP Inverness in the programme for government there was no firm funding commitment or start date for construction.

Ms Sturgeon also announced a target for the NHS Near Me technology, first pioneered by NHS Highland as a way to hold medical appointments online, to become the default option for patient consultations. That is despite the failure to deliver on an SNP manifesto promise to deliver superfast broadband to the Highlands by 2021.

Mr Mountain said: “Too often this SNP government makes headline announcements but then fails to deliver them. This is yet another programme for government which promises a new prison for the Highlands without committing the funding to build it.

“The First Minister is also making promises on widening the use of NHS Near Me despite many Highlanders being unable to use this service because they lack reliable internet. That’s down to the failure of this SNP Government which broke their promise to deliver superfast broadband to all Highlanders by 2021.

“Whether its infrastructure for justice, health or broadband, our region has suffered the impact of the SNP Government’s long-term underinvestment. Highlanders deserve better.”

His Highland colleague MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said the programme lacked new ideas and any real vision to rebuild the economy.

"This SNP programme for government is devoid of new ideas and littered with recycled and rehashed initiatives that have gone nowhere,” he said.

"It will be vital in the coming months to begin the hard work of rebuilding our economy after the effects of Covid-19. Instead of providing a real vision for renewal, this tired SNP government has shown that it is out of ideas.

"Bundling together some old proposals that it has failed to deliver while ignoring the needs of businesses and workers here in the Highlands and Islands will fool no-one."

Read more about the upcoming programme for government

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