The Stornoway Gazette is asking the candidates for the Western Isles constituency to give us their views on a range of topics.
We want to find out what the five candidates’ positions are on the subjects which are of huge importance to the region.
Today’s topic for discussion by candidates is the pressing issue of the economy and also transportation.
It is virtually impossible for any discussion of the Western Isles economy to take place without referring to transportation issues and for that issue we have included it under this heading despite transport issues being devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
The approach taken by the different parties in addressing the economic problems facing the UK are markedly different but will have major implications for life in Scotland and indeed the Western Isles.
Mark Brown - Scottish Conservatives
The Western Isles has benefited from the economic recovery driven by the UK Government in the last five years.
There are now around 500 more people in work, and there has been a 32% reduction in the number of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
These are real people benefitting from the security that having a job brings.
The Conservative-led Government has also delivered an income tax cut for 2.32 million Scots which means hard-working people can keep more of what they earn.
This is part of the plan to ensure that work always pays.
Good infrastructure across the islands and reliable transport links with the mainland is of particular importance because of our unique location and landscape.
These are essential if we are to attract people to live and work here, to attract visitors to these beautiful islands, and to make sure the local economy continues to grow.
This thriving local economy is essential because it creates opportunities for young people here, which, in turn, makes the economy sustainable for the future.
We need to stick with the plan which is proven to work.
The Conservatives have the track record and the ideas to make that happen.
John Cormack - Scottish Christian Party
‘Scroungers,’ ‘greedy,’ ‘reckless’ - all words we use to describe financial behaviour. Terms too which we can be attached to various governments.
The Scottish Christian Party’s approach can be summed up by a few words - ‘sensible and fair.’ We have comprehensive economic policies but here I would highlight the need for tax reform.
Most people appreciate that they have to pay for public services but some taxes are just plain stealing. Inheritance tax is,for instance, double taxation and is, therefore, a levy our party would abolish. More generally though, voters, myself included, are fed up with politicians promising monetary integrity as a political strategy. The Scottish Christian Party’s values don’t change to fit the political climate.
When it comes to transport, on an island like this, it’s inextricably linked with the economy.
Accessible and affordable transport links are essential for well-being and prosperity, and not just financially.
Air travel too is also a pressing issue for small businesses which are exempt from the Air Discount Scheme(ADS). I’ve spoken to owners who say the expense of flying is damaging their economic prospects. This can’t be fair or sensible. Were I to be elected, tackling these issues would be a priority.
Ruaraidh Ferguson - Scottish Liberal Democrats
The economy is key to anything that any government wants to do but it’s the way in which money is raised and spent that has such an effect on the lives of its citizens.
Mr Miliband has made a personal pledge that the deficit will fall every year, how can he truthfully do this when Labour continually states that the 2007 crash was outwith its control.
Every time a Labour Government is in power the economy is left in a far worse state when it leaves than when it started.
Conservative governments historically raise money on the backs of the most vulnerable in society; it’s very difficult to forget the absolute devastation, heartbreak and despair that was caused by such cost cutting policies as “Care in the Community”.
Difficult decisions have to be taken and, of course, this will have an adverse effect on some but, during the last five years, the Liberal Democrats have mitigated the worst of Tory policies whilst bringing forward fairer policies of their own, such as increasing the tax threshold, something that will benefit every tax payer in the Western Isles.
Transport is vital to the Island but is, in the main, the responsibility of the Scottish Government and, as such, any elected MP has no direct influence.
Indeed should we question a Westminster MP attempting to change Holyrood policy?
Angus Macneil - SNP
The economic decisions made at Westminster have a huge impact on our daily lives.
In the last five years, the UK has wrongly taken the path of austerity. For many governments, saving in times of hardship feels right in their guts, but we shouldn’t think with our guts, as government cuts stop people from earning and money circulating in the economy.
The effect is that since 2010, the UK economy, because of austerity, is now 5% smaller than it should be.
If it was 5% larger, tax revenue would be around £32billion more and would wipe away a third of the current deficit. The SNP has pledged to get out of the downward spiral of austerity by investing.
In recent years the SNP has invested in Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) which has transformed the costs of ferry travel.
Now we see a further roll-out of RET but we also have to increase the ferry capacity, a problem I would rather have than the problem our opponents preferred in the past, empty and expensive ferries.
The introduction of RET to the Sounds of Harris and Barra will be very welcome.
When Labour was last in power in Scotland, it ended the Lochboisdale to Mallaig ferry route and threatened to take away one of our island air links; this it did in good economic times. Clearly,the SNP has been good for transportation and has also maintained and funded the Air Discount Scheme.
Alasdair Morrison - Scottish Labour Party
I have put job creation and the economic well being of our islands centre stage.
Without a thriving and growing economy, our islands are in danger of becoming a wasteland - devoid of young families and working people.
Last week island based engineering companies told us they may have to pay off valued and loyal employees.
Tales of woe are depressing, but I fervently believe that our islands succeed when working people succeed. It’s clear that the islands want change and a better future. And to that end, we must establish a new, properly resourced Economic Development Agency that will respond to our needs and reverse the decline.
We must end the economic chaos our erratic ferry services cause the tourism, haulage and other industries, and we must make air travel affordable again.
A Labour Government will reward hard work, freeze energy bills, ban zero-hours contracts and back small businesses.
I will, if elected, focus on delivering the inter-connector which will allow our islands to realise our renewable energy potential.
Send an MP to Westminster who can fight with vigour and focus on our economy with unrelenting determination; an MP who believes in our islands.
The time for politics is over - let the work of rebuilding our economy begin.