Sarwar: Politics is too Central Belt focused

Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar backed calls for a full public inquiry into the management and governance of CalMac, describing it as a “failed model”.

Thursday, 12th August 2021, 8:54 am
Anas Sarwar at the Hebridean Seaweed factory at Arnish, with plant manager Ali Gillies

Mr Sarwar visited Stornoway this week when, citing the example of both ferries and the centralisation of air traffic controllers, he said the Scottish Government – and, indeed, the Scottish Parliament in general – were “far too focused on the Central Belt” to the “detriment” of communities like in the Highlands and Islands.

During the visit he called in at the Hebridean Seaweed Company at Arnish and also met with leaders of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, who briefed him over the continuing issue of the centralisation of air traffic controllers.

"The ferries issues is diabolical and the communities have been let down,” he said. “It is clear there is no coherent strategy and we need a full-scale public inquiry. The model of CalMac, CMAL and the Scottish Government is a completely broken and failed one.

"Alongside that you have the Government talking about ‘island proofing’ and attracting people to the islands when what they’re doing is the complete opposite. You only need to look at the centralisation of air traffic controllers as a perfect example – ripping good jobs out of the community and trying to take skills out of the island, which is unacceptable.”

Mr Sarwar said there has been too much emphasis on the populated areas of the Central Belt and called for a re-assessment of priorities to provide a more equitable share of opportunity – something which, he said, has been sorely lacking up till now.

"We’re going to hear a lot of talk about recovery from the pandemic,” said Mr Sarwar. “But we have a chance, actually, with the recovery to re-shape our economy in a different way and it's only really truly going to be an equal recovery if it is for urban, rural and coastal communities in the same way and I want us to do that in a much more robust way.”

In a frank assessment of his own party’s recent failings and a determination to put it right , he said: “We recognise the Labour Party just has not been on the pitch and hasn’t really been engaging in a proper and full manner with the people.

"Our local representatives have been but we have to back that up as a party and make it part of our DNA – not just talk a good game about being a party for all of Scotland but actually demonstrating it. Likewise our parliament has to be a parliament for all of Scotland – not parts of Scotland – and our government has be a government for all of Scotland and not parts of Scotland.

"The government’s failure to properly engage, to properly communicate, to show real leadership, to back that up with investment, I think is a real shame and one that we have to confront.”

He said that his tour to visit various parts of the country “has demonstrated just how out of touch our government and our parliament has become in addressing the issues that affect our rural and coastal communities”.

"We have such a Central Belt focused Government and parliament that is having a detrimental effect on communities across the country.”