I am obliged, Presiding Officer. There are four reasons why the motion should be moved without notice—as is customary—and I apologise for any lack of courtesy and for any inconvenience that members have suffered in giving up other commitments to come here today.
First, I make no apology for arguing that the future lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in the Highlands and Islands will be at stake if the areas that were removed from the initial map—as submitted to the European Commission—are not reinstated. This comes at a time when more than 2,500 people are about to be made redundant at BARMAC. In proportionate terms, that is the biggest redundancy in the United Kingdom—the matter is vital to the Highlands and Islands.
Secondly, I was delighted yesterday to be able to secure all-party support for the motion. I was pleased to receive support from Mary Scanlon of the Conservatives, John Farquhar Munro of the Liberal Democrats and Maureen Macmillan of the Labour party. I believe that that cross-party approach—which I also pursued with the Westminster MP, David Stewart, in a joint press statement last week—is not only expected of all elected representatives in the Highlands, but is the approach that we were elected to pursue when that is appropriate. We were elected to pursue a common approach—albeit with robust arguments—but, none the less, in pursuit of a shared aim.
Thirdly, it has not been possible to introduce the matter before today. The announcement of the exclusion of Inverness, Nairn, Moray, and Badenoch and Strathspey from the assisted areas map as proposed to the European Commission,
Fourthly, this is an emergency in the sense that the consultation period, although it was announced during the recess, will conclude next Tuesday, on 2 May. Today, therefore, is the only opportunity for members of our Parliament to influence the consultation process. If the Parliament means anything, it means that members from all parties, who have expressed support for the motion, should have an opportunity to debate the subject, which is detailed and complicated, but which is, however, absolutely crucial to the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people throughout the Highlands and Islands.
That motion S1M-778 be taken at this meeting of the Parliament.