Orkney Labour

Richard Leonard MSP, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, visits Orkney about

Richard hearing from Orkney Labour Party’s Vice Chair, Coilla Drake, about the Party’s Fairer Fares for Orkney Ferries campaign

On 25th. May the sun shone to welcome Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour Leader to Orkney.

His mission, to speak with local organizations and people, to understand the local issues and help inform Labour Party policy.

EMEC

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Richard was particularly interested to hear about was the incredible high levels of fuel poverty in Orkney, but also how Orkney was contributing to renewable energy.

He visited the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Stromness and the Billia Croo test site to find out how tidal energy can make a real contribution to our energy needs, reduce carbon emissions and help bring jobs to Orkney and Scotland.

Neil Kermode, Managing Director, provided much information and insight into renewable energy in Orkney.

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Orkney is at overcapacity for the grid connection and needs this upgraded urgently.

Neil explained how EMEC were working with the Council and local communities to use the electricity from wind that could not be used to turn it into hydrogen which is being used as a fuel for lorries and could be used to power the ferries.

Neil stressed that patient investment and steady development is needed for sustainable growth.

Labour supports renewable energy to address climate change and create good jobs.

Public Meeting


Richard was warmly received at the well-attended meeting at the Albert Hotel.

He was introduced by Rhoda Grant MSP, and spoke on a range of issues in three key areas: anti-austerity, pro-public ownership, and redistribution of wealth and power.

Municipal ownership of energy, for example, to reinvest in public services rather than make profit for shareholders, he linked this to tackling fuel poverty, a big issue in Orkney.

He brought in Labour's policy for a real living wage, and also spoke about a real living pension.

In Scotland the richest 1% of the population own as much wealth as the poorest 50%, a level of inequality which we should be reassessing the tax system to address.

Our economy needs diversity, democracy and economic and industrial planning to bring growth.

On cuts he said the Government had sustained budget cuts of 1.6%, yet Councils had been cut by 7% or more, intensifying austerity at local level.

However, cuts to balance budgets should not fall on the most vulnerable in society who have the least voice.

He said that Labour should consider standing candidates for election to the council.

OIC

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Richard was pleased to meet with Convenor James Stockan for a wide ranging discussion.

Some of the issues discussed were transport provision and cost.

The still delayed implementation of road equivalent tariff, and the urgent need to replace the now ancient Orkney Ferries vessels which are expensive to refit, have reduced freight capacity and have considerable accessibility issues.

Scottish Labour is committed to using public procurement to support Scottish jobs and the Scottish economy, and Richard is very supportive of sourcing Orkney's badly needed new ferry vessels from within Scotland.

Cuts to OIC 's funding were also discussed, Labour is committed to proper Local Authority funding so that valuable services to vulnerable children, adults and the elderly are correctly funded and able to add value, support and enjoyment to lives.

Voluntary Action Orkney

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During a meeting with Gail Anderson, CEO, the main issues were availability of funding and the impact of the funding cycle.

At present yearly funding cycles mean considerable time and effort each year spent on sourcing and reporting on funding.

The uncertainty affects both the voluntary organizations themselves, but also often service users, causing stress and anxiety.

A longer funding cycle would allow more time and effort for the mission of voluntary sector organizations rather than managing bureaucracy.

As significant funding comes from various Scottish Government organizations this is an issue which could be addressed.

Third sector organizations are an extra support to our people, not a replacement for public services. Labour is committed to bringing public services back into public provision.

Gail also explained that poverty in Orkney was a real problem, partly because of fuel poverty but also because of the higher cost of living and average wages being lower.

Gail explained that the VAO will be producing a report on poverty and families and Richard asked to be sent a copy when it is produced so he can learn more about the needs of islands communities.

Growth Commission

The Growth Commission Report was released on May 25th.

Richard responded to this during his visit saying:

“The plans would leave an independent Scotland as a rule taker not a rule maker.

"The SNP is proposing a decade of unprecedented austerity and no control over the value of their wages, rent and mortgages.

"Labour offers the opposite.

"An end to austerity and an economy that works for the people, rather than people simply working for the economy.

"The economic and social transformation Scotland urgently needs...will come from radical Labour Governments tackling poverty and inequality, extending public ownership and redistributing power; especially economic power from the few to the many. "

Before Richard left Orkney, he said that he would not leave it too long before visiting again and that he had enjoyed his time in the county, especially the warm welcome he had received.

Coilla Drake, Orkney CLP Vice-chair

4 June 2018



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