Friday, 12 June 2009

'Liberation' hope for Nigg

I'M glad that the LibDem-led Highland Council regime has finally launched the last stage consultation on liberating Nigg from its long half life.

The SNP has argued at council and parliamentary levels for this from the start because Nigg is a key part of the fabrication base including the building of offshore windmill jackets. The proposals for around 200 such wind towers to function around the Beatrice oil platform will take several years to achieve. That's abundantly clear as the Economy Energy and Tourism Committee, of which I am vice convener, reaches its conclusions on our year-long energy enquiry. Scotland's clean energy options must be grasped firmly here or we could literally miss the boat.


IF the Euro elections show any one thing clearly it is a historic SNP victory in Scotland. Building on the 2007 result for the Scots Parliament our votes across the nation reached a new high watermark. Here in the Highland Council area the SNP vote rose by 8.6 per cent on the 2004 Euro result. In comparison the Lib Dems were up 6.1 per cent, Labour down 6.3 per cent and the Tories down 2.5 per cent.

The SNP are the only party to make a significant advance at the expense of Labour, with a ten-point surge since the last European election — the biggest vote increase in the history of the European elections in Scotland and one of the largest increases in any Scottish election. With the swing from Labour — at nearly eight per cent to the SNP — it was the biggest anywhere in the UK and double the swing from Labour to the Tories UK-wide.

Sadly, last Thursday's turnout was far too low to compare results with the 2007 Scottish poll which returned the SNP minority government in Edinburgh. But in Highlands and Islands the SNP still has a clear lead over other parties which shows that our all-Scotland approach of matching policies to meet local needs in tight financial times is appreciated by a growing support for the party of Scottish Government.

This also reflects well on the power of work put in by our MEPs Ian Hudghton and Alyn Smith who were re-elected. In truth we were close to gaining the third Euro seat out of six which could only strengthen further the voice of the Highlands and Islands.

Alyn's work on the Agriculture Committee in Brussels has been widely praised.

Ian has held the line on repatriating parts of the Common Fisheries Policy to Scottish control and both have championed the new industries in marine renewables which will come good for jobs in our area.


ALONG with my colleagues on the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee we have ploughed through hundreds of amendments at Stage Two on the historic progress of the Climate Change Bill. Over the past three weeks we have built on the Government's framework and strengthened the Bill.


HELP from the group Stop Climate Chaos Scotland has allowed me to put stricter scrutiny in the bill to monitor the effects on our unique wildlife and blanket peat bogs and native forests of the north. Also along with Scottish Renewables I have been seeking ways to achieve an ambitious renewable heat programme to take us from the present one per cent of demand to 11 per cent by 2020. That's a steep curve but it mirrors the opportunities presented to create new green jobs and to decarbonise home and commercial heating.


IN debating our Scottish waste strategy in Parliament this week we do not need to go down the road of incinerators in every area. Highland Council officers, please note.

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