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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 the importance of ferries, which were one of the islanders’ top priorities in relation to connectivity and transport. We are not dodging the issue in the slightest. Jamie Greene might be interested in strategic objective 3, which sets out a number of measures to improve transport services. On page 27, the plan mentions the need to invest in ferries, to take forward the vessel replacement deployment plan and to seek the pipeline of new vessels that Jamie Greene mentioned.

On resourcing, we are required to develop the implementation plan. As I said in my statement, that work is under way. We are building the team to respond to that work, and we are identifying the resource that will need to go with the actions. We want to discuss with our island authority partners and other stakeholders the actions that can be taken, the timeframe for them—whether it will be short, medium or long term—who is responsible for the actions, who needs to collaborate to deliver them and what resources will be required to deliver them. I definitely recognise that point.

Jamie Greene said that one island authority leader has described the plan as aspirational but lacking in substance. We have engaged thoroughly with the island authorities and their partners—we had 25 meetings—in preparation for the proposed plan that we published last week. Over the next 40 days, we will engage substantively with local authority partners again to take forward their recommendations for modification of the plan. We recognise that it is a proposed plan, not the final plan, and we want to work with partners on the final plan. I reassure Jamie Greene that there has been considerable engagement. The islands team is making tremendous efforts to engage with local authorities. That process will continue, and we hope to address any concerns that local authorities have.