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I thank the minister for advance sight of the statement. The islands ministerial role might be a coveted role, given the beauty and variety of Scotland’s islands, but equally it is challenging, such is the nature of island life, island economies, connectivity and the other issues that our islands face.
It is fitting that we discuss the islands plan today, on a day when so many of our islanders are cut off from the mainland. The situation in Arran should be unacceptable to us all in the chamber, but it typifies the many challenges that our islands are presented with and how well the Government responds to them.
I have some wider questions on the plan, given that one island council leader has already described it as aspirational but lacking in substance. First, nowhere in the plan, or indeed in today’s statement, has mention been made of whether additional financial resources will be allocated to either central Government directorates or local authorities to assist with meeting the 13 strategic objectives.
Secondly, does the plan address the fact—or, indeed, propose a solution to the reality—that we will need at least a dozen new replacement vessels to service our ferry networks in the coming years? Thirdly, and importantly, will the plan propose tangible and realistic solutions to the problem of population decline on our islands, including the creation of jobs that are designed to attract and retain people?