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National Islands Plan

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I recognise John Finnie’s and his colleagues long-standing opposition to investment in major roads. We may have to disagree on that. I also point out to Mr Finnie the importance of the A9 to seafood producers and others for getting their goods to market. It is a very important arterial route for getting island products from the mainland to the continent. The steaming time for ferries from the northern isles to Aberdeen is a barrier to certain products reaching the market on time, although for others it is fine.

We need to ensure that there is a range of options.

If a producer is sitting in the Orkney islands—as I am sure that Mr Finnie does on a regular basis, for surgeries and so forth—getting goods from there to the mainland across the Scrabster to Stromness route and then down along the A9 is one of the preferred ways of getting goods to market. I ask the member to recognise the importance of trunk roads such as the A9 for that purpose.

We are engaging with both local authorities to identify solutions for the northern isles internal ferry services. We have been in helpful and constructive discussions with them about the costs that they face in maintaining good quality services on the islands, but it is too early to say where that will end.