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Inverness’s new MP: Vision for the Highlands + key issues


By Andrew Dixon

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Angus MacDonald. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Angus MacDonald. Picture: Callum Mackay.

Angus MacDonald has been elected as the Lib Dem MP for Inverness, Skye and West Ross-shire. But what is his vision for the Highlands and what are the key issues as he sees them?

Here the 61-year-old Highland councillor for Fort William and Ardnamurchan tells everyone more.

Changing of the guard: Tributes flood in for incoming and outgoing Inverness MPs Angus MacDonald and Drew Hendry

Who is Angus MacDonald? Profile of Inverness’s new MP in his own words

His vision

“I want the Highlands to be a well off area, where children get an excellent education and wish to stay and work, benefitting from amazing internet speeds and the ability to work remotely,” he states on the Highland Liberal Democrats website.

“Massive local renewable revenues would transform our economy, and communities would decide on what projects they wish to spend the locally generated funding. Our quality of life would be much talked about, with clean spaces, active and healthy people, and longevity of life in excellent accommodation.

“I believe this is achieveable, but requires Scottish and Westminster governments that properly invest in the Highlands and its infrastructure.

“We need powers and budgets to be managed and spent as close to the people as possible. Locals know the issues best. We need locals who understand locals. The Highland Council covers a vast area, with constituents in Wester Ross, Skye, Lochaber and Inverness all having very different needs. Disseminate power to the people.”

Key issues

“When I talk to people within the Highland constituency and within my council meetings, I hear the same issues coming up regularly - those of a wider national nature - cost of living, economy, housing - but also those that relate directly to the SNP's historic lack of interest, effort or investment in the Highlands, and the detrimental effects their continual push to centralise services is having.

“These range from the terrible state of the Highland roads, to the closure of care homes and dentist surgeries, the stopping of buses during school holiday periods, the ongoing ferries scandal, their tone-deaf approach to fishing communities and rural living in general, and a lack of leadership on renewable energy windfalls.”

Roads

“Scotland has seen £20 billion of infrastructure spend over the last 15 years. Within transport there's been a new Forth Road Bridge, the Edinburgh Trams, the M8, M73 and M74, the Dundee Waterfront and Aberdeen bypass, but only two sections of the A9 dualled. The Highlands desperately needs better transport infrastructure.

“The A9 dualling was promised - a promise broken! The SNP has utterly failed in its 2007 pledge.

“The A82 from Tarbert to Ardlui alongside Loch Lomond is the main access route to the West Highlands and Islands. It has been due to be re-constructed by the Scottish Government for two decades. This is a dangerous and frightening way for tourists to enter the Highlands, and unfit for buses or trucks.

“The rubbish you can see along Bear Scotland roads is terrible for locals and tourism alike. Many of our major roads are strewn with it - apparently Transport Scotland spends £40 million a year on collecting rubbish. Not in the Highlands it seems.

“Highland Council roads are shocking - they are the number one complaint to me as a councillor. The Scottish Government have cut council budgets year after year, yet the Green Party’s demands for ‘active travel’ gets massive funding.”

Renewable Energy

“The Highlands has strong and consistent wind and plenty of water - we are amongst the best places in the world to generate renewable energy. A Scottish Government minister even described us as ‘The Saudi Arabia of renewables’. Great, doesn’t that sound promising! However, the turbines are made in Denmark, Germany or the States. The wind farms are often owned by international utilities or infrastructure funds... and the truth is, we suffer the construction of the projects and impact of the industrialisation of our landscape, yet very little of the profits remain in Scotland.

“There's a definite place for renewable energy in the Highlands, but it must be regulated and crucially, it has to benefit the surrounding communities.”

Prosperity for the Highlands

“Fundamentally, we need the Highlands to prosper. Only then will depopulation reduce and local people live healthier and happier lives.

“Due to the internet (for those lucky enough to have fibreoptic speeds), many are now in a position to compete remotely for business with those in the cities. We need our children to study subjects that will help them stay in the Highlands and thrive. I have an eight-year-old cousin in Washington DC who’s chosen key subject is computer coding - her 11-year-old brother has chosen engineering - both subjects that are barely touched on in the UK until college/university level.

“We are also desperately short of plumbers, electricians, joiners and other trades, so a greater emphasis on these subjects and opportunities such as apprenticeships is needed.

“My vision is for the Highlands to be a well-off area, where children get an excellent education and wish to stay and work, benefitting from fantastic internet speeds and the ability to work remotely. Massive local renewable revenues would transform our economy, and communities would decide on what projects they wish to spend the locally generated funding.

“Our quality of life would be much talked about, with clean spaces, active and healthy people, and longevity of life in excellent accommodation, with Scottish and Westminster governments that finally invest in Highland infrastructure.”


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