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Holyrood Notebook by Maree Todd
I’d like to kick off my first column of the new parliamentary term and my first as a constituency MSP by sending a big heartfelt thank you to the people of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross for placing their trust in me.
I will work tirelessly over the next five years to support my constituents and ensure our north Highland communities are well represented and, most importantly, heard.
A top priority of mine in the immediate term is to develop close working relationships with stakeholders and elected representatives across this vast constituency to ensure that together, we act in the best interests of the rural communities we represent.
I’m delighted to have met with many key partners from across the constituency already, from HIAL and NHS Highland to the Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership and North Highland College. I’m also looking forward to meeting with Jamie Stone MP and local councillors in the coming weeks.
I’m eager to take forward the issues raised throughout the election campaign too. The deteriorating road network in Caithness, for instance, was raised on many occasions by frustrated locals.
I’m grateful to Cllr Margaret Davidson for meeting with me last week to discuss this matter further. I have been assured that residents will start to notice a difference in the weeks ahead as the roads team get to work on repairing several roads in the area.
However, I am conscious that these repairs will not reach all the problem areas, nor will they fully address the wider problem. Going forward, we need to ensure that our solution is sustainable to avoid repeating past mistakes. I will continue to work constructively with fellow elected representatives to help identify a way forward.
The grave impact of Brexit on our core Highland sectors like agriculture and food and drink were prominent issues throughout the campaign. I met with residents across the constituency whose businesses had experienced huge financial losses under new trade arrangements and arbitrary and ill-thought-out decisions made by the UK government.
Brexit has been nothing short of one unmitigated disaster after another – and it is our businesses and key industries in the Highlands that are paying the price, with people's jobs and livelihoods on the line. I will continue to press representatives in the UK government to listen to our Highland communities and key sectors, many of which have been disproportionately impacted by Brexit.
Of course, Covid-19 has too had a significant impact on livelihoods in the Highlands but I have a renewed sense of hope after hearing the Scottish Government’s plans for a recovery tailored to Scotland’s needs.
Tackling the Covid crisis is the immediate priority but, in our recovery, we will address the climate crisis, we will create a National Care Service to match the post-war National Health Service and we will widen opportunities for young people. I am particularly excited by the Scottish Government’s commitment to invest in creating good, new green jobs.
After meeting with local partners in the renewable sector in recent weeks, I’m confident that through close industry and government collaboration, we can deliver on this commitment and secure sustainable, high-quality jobs in these new, innovative sectors.
The Scottish Government’s plans for a Covid recovery are unashamedly ambitious. The programme is rooted in today’s reality, but it also shows the way to a brighter tomorrow. When the time is right, I believe that independence is part of that brighter tomorrow. Scotland’s future must be in Scotland’s hands.
The question of a referendum is a matter of when – not if.
Stay strong folks.