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On Monday morning, as well as doing casework, I took part in an opinion survey with research company, Populus in return for which I was able to make a donation to Woman’s Aid Orkney. I undertake similar surveys from time to time so get in touch if you want to suggest a charity, voluntary group or project that might benefit from a small donation. Later, I joined North Isles Councillors for a meeting at Scapa to discuss ticketing on our internal ferries.
I then paid a visit, for the second time in as many weeks, to Stromness Academy to speak with members of the West Mainland Youth Achievement Group. It was amazing to hear about the amount and range of voluntary work, fundraising and other activities undertaken by this group of young people, whose skills and self-confidence grow as a consequence. Monday was rounded off with a Q&A at the Papdale Halls of Residence, much changed since I was a resident, it has to be said. A lively discussion about the issues young people from the isles face was followed by Beat the (MSP) Goalie for Children in Need. It wasn’t pretty – or elegant, as you can see!
Tuesday morning sadly was a write off when my flight down was delayed by over 4 hours. I therefore missed the Education committee, which was this week cross-examining Education Secretary, Angela Constance on Scottish Government plans for reforming higher education governance. To watch the proceedings click here. Meanwhile, on another bad week for reliability on our lifeline air services, many constituents have been in touch to highlight their experiences and adding their names to my petition. Please feel free to do likewise.
I did, however, arrive in time for my topical question. I called on Ministers to use the £10million Saltire Prize money to provide further, urgent support for the marine renewables industry,following a difficult 12 months. The Minister, Fergus Ewing accepted the prize cannot be won under current conditions so it is time to accelerate investment of this money to ensure the long term future of marine renewables in Scotland. To read the exchanges, click here or you can read my comments here. As it happens, I then had a conference call with Mr Ewing to discuss what action the Government is taking to support Aquamarine Power.
Tuesday evening concluded with a well-attended Universities Scotland reception on the theme of entrepreneurialism. It was inspiring to see the work that all 19 of Scotland’s higher education institutions are doing in this area, and to speak to students about their plans to start up their own businesses and spin-out innovative companies.
On Wednesday, after a meeting of the Corporate Body, I spoke in a debate on Scotland’s 10 year cooperation agreement with Malawi. It was a chance to reflect on the successes, including many here in Orkney, and look ahead to where this partnership should go in the next decade. You can read my blog here and you can also watch my contribution to the debate here, or read from the official report here. It was then straight into another debate, this time on Energy Storage. I called for greater priority to be given to storage solutions, in order to provide flexibility and security as we move to decarbonise our energy system. I cited examples of local projects in Orkney such the collaboration between SSE and Mitsubishi at Kirkwall Power Station and theSurf and Turf initiative on Eday. You can read more here, or watch the debate here. Scottish Renewables’ report on energy storage is worth a read.
Thursday morning I spent time catching up on casework before First Minister’s Questions. Members across the Chamber first of all expressed relief at welcome news that Pauline Cafferkey, a Scottish nurse who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, is now fully recovered. Attention was then turned to a report that was published by her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) into Police Scotland’s call handling procedures in the aftermath of the tragic M9 incident in July. The report was a damning assessment of failings and makes for uncomfortable reading for the Scottish Government. You can read the report here.
Following news on Wednesday of another Loganair flight forced into an emergency landing at Aberdeen, I called on the First Minister to make direct contact with Loganair. I reminded her of the lifeline nature of these services and the need for public confidence to be restored in terms of reliability and safety. In response, Ms Sturgeon confirmed she would indeed contact the company. You can read more here. FMQs can be watched here and read here.
In the afternoon, I was back in the Chamber briefly to take part in Corporate Body Question Time before heading to the airport for a flight to London for a series of meetings on Friday. Unfortunately, my attempt to set up a meeting with CAA to discuss further the current situation with Loganair flights fell through. However, I have arranged a conference call with senior officials for the coming week.
Tomorrow I will be out door knocking in Kirkwall and the East Mainland
Next week is looking, again, fairly packed. After the Education Committee on Tuesday I will return home to help with presentations at the Orkney Youth Awards in Kirkwall. I will then be again be back down to the Parliament on Wednesday to take part in a Post Study Work Visa Workshop, the Cross Party Group on Children before hosting the annual Ports Association reception. Thursday I am meeting with Colleges Scotland and on Friday I travel to Aberdeen for a meeting with the Chief Executive of NHS Grampian and representatives from Friends of the Neuro Ward. I also hope to meet senior management at Aberdeen Airport to discuss improvements to better assist isles patients returning from hospital appointments. Next Saturday, Orkney Liberal Democrats are hosting a soup & sandwiches and coffee & cake at the Kirkwall Town Hall from midday til 2pm. All welcome. For the full run down, please check my diary.