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RHODA GRANT: Good news for future of far north transport links

By Rhoda Grant

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Wick airport
Wick airport

I firstly want to wish everyone who celebrates, a Happy Easter!

I cheered in delight last week when I read that the flights between Wick and Aberdeen had a very successful second year, thanks to the Public Service Obligation (PSO).

The service has seen an overall year on year growth of 25 per cent. With over 1000 people using the service.

Many will know that I, and other elected representatives, fought hard earlier in the year to secure future funding for the service. We ran a cross-party campaign that was highly successful and resulted in the Scottish Government giving in to pressure to provide funding for 2024/25.

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Focus is now on Highland Council and others to promote the service and continue this growth. I wish them every success.

Caithness has suffered poor transport links and these flights help overcome some of that disadvantage. The road to Inverness and beyond is long and winding and the train is even longer. I feel is it vital and necessary to secure as many transport links to Caithness as possible and future proof these services to tackle depopulation.

Last week, in the Scottish Parliament Chamber, I continued the fight for NHS capital projects to continue in the Highlands and Islands – including the Caithness Health and Social Care redesign.

The Highlands and Islands are in a unique place with regards to NHS capital projects. The NHS estate in general terms is older and, apart from a few exceptions, we have an estate that is not fit for purpose. It has been neglected by the Scottish Government and communities have been campaigning for many years for improvement before unwelcome pause.

That is why I am committed to fighting for every project in the Highlands and Islands region. Caithness is desperately requiring this redesign and pausing it for two years will not only be detrimental to Caithness communities but it will most likely raise the cost of the overall project! Therefore, in the long run, the pause will mean that the project costs more.

Lastly I wish to congratulate John O’Groats Development Trust and John O’Groats Book Festival for launching a short story competition in memory of Bill Mowat.

The Bill Mowat Memorial short story competition is open to all ages and entries should be between 2000 and 3000 words. Entrants must also follow a lighthouse-based theme.

As a well known journalist, I’m sure Bill would have loved this commemoration and I particularly enjoy the lighthouse theme as I know he was passionate about shipping and history.

He was a hugely interesting character and he was incredibly proud of his Caithness roots. I look forward to reading the winning entries and wish everyone the best of luck.

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