The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that the voices of communities and businesses around Scotland are heard and included in the development of Scottish Government policy. That is enabled through ambitious community empowerment legislation, targeted community-led initiatives, consultations on specific policy proposals and through Scotland’s rural parliament.
Ministers engage with the public in all parts of Scotland in the course of their ministerial duties. For example, travelling Cabinets are an important example of the First Minister’s commitment to the Government being open and accessible. Those events, 17 of which have been held in the Highlands and Islands since 2008, have enabled ministers to engage directly with members of the public, who can meet and question ministers in a public forum about the local, national and international issues that matter to them.
The cabinet secretary will have noticed the First Minister’s three visits to Shetland during the recent by-election campaign. That is as many trips as there have been official visits to Shetland by Scottish National Party First Ministers during their whole 12 years in government. That is why many local people in Shetland and other communities in my region feel that this Scottish Government is interested in them only when there are votes to be won. Will the cabinet secretary tell me whether communities in my region can hope to see a little more of Government ministers, including the First Minister, outside of campaign periods, and whether, when they visit, they will commit to properly consult on, listen to and act on the many local concerns of those communities?
I did not catch all that Jamie Halcro Johnston said, but I make the point that this Government acts on behalf of every community in all parts of the country and takes that very seriously. I also point out that one of my first acts in this post was to visit and engage thoroughly with Shetland Islands Council.
I should also point out that my in-laws are from Shetland and my husband is a Shetlander, so Jamie Halcro Johnston has picked the wrong person to tell that they are not engaging with the matter of visits to Shetland. [