Published in Holyrood Magazine, 1 June 2009:
Highland revival out of luck - runs your headline in the Rural Economy supplement 18 May. William Peakin chose a jaundiced former UK Minister and former Chair of HIE for his informants. Why not discuss the views of politicians who serve the region today?
Too much of the HIE spin under Dr Hunter was pitched to keep Jack McConnell's administration interested as they had a very short attention span for other than good news. Today the thrust of SNP policy is focused on Highland strengths and helping the least favoured. Take renewables and the Pentland Firth in particular, the FM has repeated that it is the Saudi Arabia of tidal power and mobilised many means to support this. We all know that older industries are buying in as the engineering firms that serve Dounreay decommissioning are showing. The question is does HIE give it a high priority. Also why were they years behind the renewable development curve?
I have just lodged a parliamentary motion in favour of a Year of Islands culture for 2011 to follow Homecoming and linked this with the call to champion for a European Year of Islands through the European Parliament and European Small Islands Network. Had these been looked at, a new vibrant view of the Highlands and Islands would come into focus. Of course the SNP has set in place the Road Equivalent Tariff pilot for the Western Isles. Did the previous administrations care about the haemorrhage of people and skills from the islands?
The SNP All-Scotland policy has a clear intent, all areas of the country deserve equivalent service provision suitable to their needs. That after two years at the helm is taking effect.
Rob Gibson SNP MSP Highlands and Islands
S3M-04209 Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish National Party): Festival of Island Cultures — That the Parliament welcomes growing support for a festival of island cultures for 2011; notes that Argyll and Bute, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles, North Ayrshire and Highland councils in partnership are promoting the importance of their islands to the nation’s economy, sustainable growth, environment and cultural diversity; believes that such a festival is a natural development of Homecoming Scotland 2009 and will attract more visitors and investment and improve transport links; praises the work of the Scottish Islands Federation as a champion of our islands and commends the extension of its influence through the European Small Islands Network, and urges all elected representatives in the 27 EU member states to agree to inaugurate a European year of islands at the earliest opportunity.
Supported by: Bob Doris, Kenneth Gibson, Stuart McMillan, Bill Kidd, Aileen Campbell, Shirley-Anne Somerville, Michael Matheson, Robin Harper, Dr Alasdair Allan, Jamie Hepburn, Sandra White, Gil Paterson, Dave Thompson