McArthur: “No Equality without Fair Deal for Islanders”

6 Sep 2023

Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur today told Scottish Ministers that their agenda of equality was being undermined by the divide between different parts of the country, and demanded a “commitment to painstaking delivery” to meet islanders’ needs.

Speaking during a debate on the First Minister’s Programme for Government, “Equality, Opportunity, Community”, Mr McArthur highlighted the “mismatch” between the promises made to islanders by successive SNP governments and the daily realities on the ground. Among the issues raised by Mr McArthur were:

  • Severe funding cuts to Orkney Islands Council, which has lower funding per head of population than other island authorities and which has been forced to make the biggest per-capita budget cuts in Scotland.
  • The continued lack of a settlement on Orkney’s internal ferries fleet, which the council estimates could cost up to £800m to modernise.
  • The Scottish Government’s failure to deliver cheaper fares on Pentland Firth routes through its RET scheme.
  • The missed target of 2021 for 100% rollout of superfast broadband, reinforcing Scotland’s digital divide.

Commenting after the debate, Mr McArthur said:

“Humza Yousaf wants his Programme for Government to deliver more equality and better opportunity across Scotland. But there can be no equality of opportunity without a fair deal for islanders.

“The underfunding of Orkney Islands Council in relation to other island authorities means deeper cuts to services which are vital to many of the most vulnerable in our community.

“A continued failure to agree a way forward on the replacement of ferries operating on Orkney’s internal routes, puts these lifeline services at risk and the communities that rely upon them.

“And ongoing delays to the delivery of superfast broadband to every household has left Orkney with the poorest coverage and slowest speeds in the country. In turn, this affects access to services, education and business opportunities and undermines any aspiration the First Minister might have to equality.

“Successive Scottish Governments have made endless promises to our island communities. What islanders need is not more promises but a commitment from ministers to put in the hard work to deliver equality of opportunity.”