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Todd says north has 'massive opportunities' in renewable energies


By Gordon Calder

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THE north is "perfectly placed to take advantage of the massive opportunities" in renewable energy, according to Maree Todd, the newly-elected MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

She says the area has a huge role to play in tidal energy and offshore wind farms and could lead the way in green technologies such as hydrogen developments and nuclear fusion.

In an interview with the John O' Groat Journal, Ms Todd said the Pentland Firth has 25 per cent of the tidal power in the whole of Europe and has major offshore wind projects such as Beatrice and Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd.

The SNP MSP also highlighted the role Dounreay could play in developing nuclear fusion which she believes could be an option for the future of the plant. She says it could produce green energy without the nuclear waste associated with nuclear fission. The site has the skills and the diversity to tackle the project while the wider Highland area has the potential to be at the forefront of hydrogen technology.

Ms Todd, who is 48, would like to see the north having a role in manufacturing the equipment needed for these projects and identified post-Covid recovery, health, roads, tourism, infrastructure, keeping young people in the north and empowerment as other key issues.

"This is a great place to to live and work and raise a family but we have an ageing demographic and have to find ways of hanging on to our young people and provide opportunities for them," she said.

Ms Todd, who says she is a people person, sees her role as a facilitator. "I am not big on ego. It is not me that will make the difference but the people. I will help them tackle the barriers they face and which prevent progress. I don't have a magic wand to wave but aim to understand the issues here and represent the area to the best of my ability. I will work with Jamie Stone – Lib Dem MP for Caithness, Sutherland and easter Ross – and others for the benefit of this constituency."

She has "hit the ground running" since her election earlier this month and, so far, has had meetings with a number of bodies including, NHS Highland, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd.

On health she said: "I will work with NHS Highland to to ensure all health care needs are met in a safe and sustainable way and that people here get high-quality care as close to home as possible but I am not promising we would go back to a model that failed in the past."

Ms Todd described the state of north roads as "unacceptable". "They are a disgrace and I am determined to work to improve them," she said.

Although the MSP pointed out that Highland Council has a statutory responsibility for many of the roads in its area, she acknowledged there have been Covid-related problems this year as well as a bad winter.

Regards tourism, she is keen for visitors to see "this special part of the world" but hopes lessons can be learned from the problems experienced last year and says people coming here should treat the area with respect although she says the infrastructure needs to be improved to cope with the increasing numbers.

Ms Todd is keen to get out and about now restrictions are being lifted. "It did not feel like a normal campaign this time because of Covid and I am and my team are keen to make up for that and be more mobile and get to know people."

She had a difficult last week during the election when her husband, John, suffered a heart attack. He was treated quickly and is making a recovery but it was "a shocking and overwhelming" experience, said Ms Todd who described the treatment John received as "superb."

She is setting up a office in the constituency as soon as she can although plans are still to be finalised. Ms Todd was a minister for Children and Young People in the last Scottish Government but when she spoke to the Groat did not know if she would be asked to serve in the new administration.

She was a regional MSP for the Highlands and Islands before contesting the Caithness, Sutherland and Ross seat so is familiar with the Scottish Parliament and feels well equipped to deal with the "unique set of challenges this vast and rural constituency faces".

Ms Todd, who took her affirmation at Holyrood in Gaelic, beat her closest challenger, Molly Nolan of the Liberal Democrats, by 2591 votes in election, getting15,889 votes while Ms Nolan received 13,298.

She is "delighted " to have won the seat but stressed: "I have been elected to represent everyone in this constituency, regardless of whether they voted for me, and I promise I will do this to the best of my ability."

Being elected as the area's MSP is "the privilege of my life", she said.

The seat was previously held since 2016 by Gail Ross (also SNP) who stood down for family reasons.

Before coming into politics, Ms Todd worked in the NHS for 20 years and was a mental health pharmacist in Inverness. She grew up in Ullapool and lives in Strathpeffer with husband John. The couple have three of a family – Rowan (21), Rachel (19) and Gregor (16).


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