Benefits of devolved powers must go beyond central belt, says local MP
NORTH MP Jamie Stone has called on the Holyrood administration to ensure that the benefits of Scotland's devolved powers are spread far beyond the central belt.
He was speaking 20 years after being elected to the first Scottish Parliament in May 1999. David Mundell, now Secretary of State for Scotland, was elected to Holyrood at the same time.
In the House of Commons, Mr Stone – now the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – asked Mr Mundell what he was doing to ensure devolution settlements benefited the Highlands as much as the rest of Scotland.
“I have the honour of being one of those three people who was first elected to be a member of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 who now serves in this House, and I’m very proud of that," Mr Stone said. "In those years I spent a lot of time arguing the interests of my constituency, which very often felt neglected.
“Today my constituents still feel left behind by a Scottish Government only interested in the central belt. Does the Secretary of State agree with me that it’s crucial that the interests of all parts of Scotland be brought forward and acted on under devolution?”
I spent a lot of time in the Scottish Parliament arguing the interests of my constituency, which very often felt neglected.
Mr Mundell replied: “I’m very aware of his efforts to promote the Highlands. It’s a great disappointment to me that given the range of powers that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, this Scottish Government is one of the most centralist governments in history and seeks to draw power into the centre rather than devolve it within Scotland.”
Mr Stone said later: “It is 20 years since I was first elected to the Scottish Parliament. I have been privileged to serve the people of the Highlands at every level of government and I have always argued the interests of my constituents, including the time when my own party was in government.
“The Scottish Government must not just use its devolved powers to benefit the central belt, and I will continue to fight to ensure that the benefits of devolution settlements reach beyond the central belt and make it to the far north.”