Friday, 10 December 2010

Energy, traditional music and the Scotland Bill

Amidst the snowdrifts and black ice the beating heart of Scotland was on display last weekend. I was privileged to attend the Green Energy Awards and the Scottish Trad Music Awards - two vibrant strands of Scottish life in rude health.

There were eighty-eight tables at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre last Thursday night, although some two hundred guests called off due to weather. This display of a young and thrusting industry has huge import for us. Many have a Highland interest. Among the award winners of the Best New Business was SeaEnergy Renewables which not only pioneered the Beatrice demonstrator turbines in the Moray Firth but also have made strategic partnerships in Taiwan. Their local partners will deliver the Moray Firth offshore wind farm in the next ten years.

In passing I must applaud the first issue of Energy North a supplement published by Scottish Provincial Press. If proof were needed on and offshore renewables will provide skilled jobs at all levels in our Highland future.

For me the annual celebration of Scotland’s rich musical traditions is a must see event. This year Perth was the host and for the third year BBC Alba screened the edited highlights. The riches of local talent were on display and won awards. Our own Julie Fowlis won album of the year for Uam. Matheu Watson from the Heights of Strathpeffer won up and coming artist of the year and Eilidh MacKenzie, Gaelic singer of the year. I could list so many from the north who won. But let’s celebrate the key role of the Feisean movement as acknowledged by many of these winners. Our own Feis Rois has been pivotal over the decades in delivery a carrying stream of talent to the wider Scottish river of sound.

Announcements by the Minister for Culture, Fiona Hyslop MSP have underlined the support of the SNP Government for parity of esteem of our traditional music alongside other art forms. She found cash for the Youth Music Initiative to continue till 2012. This employs many tutors of traditional music based here. Also the new website of 130 traditional Scots and Gaelic songs for use by teachers and student in the Curriculum for Excellence has been unveiled. And Fiona announced in Perth a sum of £250,000 for Creative Scotland to develop its support for traditional music in its overall scheme of development.

These are testament to a Government that values the traditions of Scotland that are both a source of pride and identity and create many jobs in far flung parts of the land, not least in Ross-shire.


This week in Holyrood we have debated the new Scotland Bill proposed by the LibDem and Tory London Government. The dominant issue is cuts ordered by London government that most Scots think are too far, too fast, yet we have no immediate way to change our lot. But there is another way. We can have home rule instead of LibDem/Tory rule.

A stronger Scottish Parliament won’t magic away the cuts but it can make them more manageable. With more powers we could help our economy grow and protect the things that matter.

With full independence we can go further still, creating jobs and prosperity here in Scotland. The SNP trusts the Scottish people to decide the right path for our nation. That’s why we want a referendum on independence. Instead we are offered a referendum next May on a voting system that isn’t more democratic.

Our families and our future together with independence can make Scotland much better. Now that would be something to sing about, even in the snow!

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