Harris and South Lochs By-Election: Candidate Grant Fulton

Voters in the Na Hearadh agus Ceann a Deas Nan Loch (Harris and South Lochs) ward go the polls on Thursday, October 8, to elect a new councillor.

By Peter Urpeth, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 2nd October 2020, 10:36 am
Grant Fulton
Grant Fulton

There are three candiates – Grant Fulton, Annie Macdonald and Kris O’Donnell – and we’ve given each of them the chance to tell the electorate what they stand for and why they should be elected.

GRANT FULTON

Grant Fulton is based in Leverburgh and is currently working as a development officer for Harris Development Ltd. He was raised at Drinishader in the Bays area of Harris, and attended school locally until he went on the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.

In terms of the key issues affecting the ward, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on local businesses is a primary concern for Grant’s campaign.

“Our ward has been affected hugely, tourism is a massive thing and the area is very reliant on it,” he said. “Business continuance is worrying particularly as we come to the end of the furlough scheme come October, and I think we are going to see quite a lot of redundancies.

“I think also all the community groups and private businesses need to be assisted to access available funding and to be aware of what is available to them.”

Beyond the impacts of Covid-19, one issue returns again and again to Grant Fulton’s campaign – housing.

“Young locals are priced out of the market completely,” he says. “It’s impossible, and it’s destroying the community.

“The Comhairle and HHP’s waiting list doesn’t reflect demand because a lot of people don’t place themselves on the list. They know that there is not a chance of them getting a house, so that a massive issue.

“I think we have to push really, really hard on that and either make the Scottish Government increase the ceiling cost (of funds available per house for building an affordable home) for our area or we have a look at other options and not just to purchase but also rental accommodation.”

In terms of addressing the impacts of an ageing population, for Grant that means securing more opportunities for year-round employment, and again all roads lead back to the issue of housing.

“We are very reliant on tourism, which gives seven to eight months of employment, and so we really have to look at year-round employment and encouraging businesses to set up in the area and working with HIE and the Comhairle to make this an attractive place to set-up.

“Yes we’ve got the scenery, but you can’t eat the scenery. You could create jobs here but where are people going to live?

“It really is the primary issue, and there are people that come here for interviews and are offered positions and they can’t take them up because they can’t get a house here or they would have to be living in Stornoway, so it really comes back to housing.

“There’s a real entrepreneurial spirit in the ward, you can look at the distillery and Essence of Harris. They are employing a huge amount of people and providing year-round employment.

“There are a lot of young people working in those companies but that’s taken away from the hotel trade and the restaurant trade where a lot of these people would traditionally of worked, and that has lead you to having to bring staff in from elsewhere.

“So there are jobs here, there are vacancies and there is a lot of work up here but it goes back to housing and the infrastructure which is at breaking point, given the number of tourists.”

Beside housing, the issue of the roll-out of high speed broadband is another key theme for Grant’s campaign and, he says: “If I get elected I’ll really be pushing for broadband.”

In terms of the possible closure of Pairc School, Grant adds: “I wouldn’t be for it all. I don’t believe it is going to be cost effective, and I don’t believe that we should put a cost on kids’ education, I’m not for it at all.”

And in terms of the proposed executive school headship, he adds: “Certainly down in Harris…there’s very, very strong public opposition to the plan. Working with the Harris Forum, we surveyed all the parents and 90 per cent voted against the plan, and the community groups and community councils, all those represented on the Forum, also expressed their opposition. 

“They [the Comhairle] seem to have already made the decision…how can the Comhairle be holding meaningful consultations if they have already made the decision? They seem to be continuing with the plan despite all the opposition.

“Similarly in the Community Consultations, the Comhairle has been very strong on decentralisation of the council’s functions and on basing staff in local areas and..spoke about community empowerment, so this goes all against what [they were] suggesting.

“It’s not a good plan and is something that has to be fought against.”

Grant concludes: “I’d hope to be able to lobby on behalf of the ward on issues such as housing…I’m from the island so I feel I’ve got a good understanding of the people and the issues, and I bring an energy and a drive to hopefully give the community a voice up in the council.”

To read about the other candidates, go to Annie Macdonald and Kris O’Donnell