Labour are on the comeback trail in Scottish politics and the blow of last year’s Westminster campaign is well and truly behind them.
With a new leader in place they are determined to set out their stall for the way forward as listening and responding to voters.
And the Scottish Labour candidate for the Na h-Eileanan an Iar seat at Holyrood, Rhoda Grant, says this is also at the forefront of her campaign.
She said: “Our campaign has focused on listening to islanders, hearing their concerns, and delivering a positive message for change.
“I have been all across the islands hearing stories and the message is clear; the Western Isles are fed up of being ignored. The centralising agenda of the government is hitting our communities hard.
“The recent shambles in relation to the CAP payments has highlighted that the government is out of touch with our communities and their unique needs. I am heartened by the number of people who have stated that they would be happy to pay more in order to protect services for the vulnerable, showing the real strength and compassion of our islands.”
The Labour candidate says the SNP Government’s austerity agenda has gone too far and stresses that the squeeze on councils due to the council tax freeze is not supported by voters.
She said: “Across the islands I have been hearing about the deteriorating levels of care which we offer our elderly. We are also faced with significant challenges to looking after our young people.
“Local authorities do not want to cut the services to the vulnerable but they have been squeezed by the SNP government.”
As for the recent controversy concerning delayed CAP payments to crofters, she added: “Our crofting industry is moving to crisis. Increased bureaucracy is turning people away; not helped by the current late CAP payments which have left people unable to pay bills.
“We need to support crofters, they play a valuable role in managing our land and providing essential employment opportunities in our fragile communities.”
The other major issue concerning voters is transport and Ms Grant highlights the dissatisfaction of Islanders who have been talking to her in recent weeks: “In our islands we have seen major upheaval with our transport services; major island industries including tourism and haulage made the clear case that a two ferry solution was needed for the Stornoway run, did they listen? Of course not.
“We have a plane service which is out of reach to the majority of islanders, unfit for purpose and having a negative effect on the economy of the islands. Uist and Barra have real access issues with the cuts to their transport services. Without appropriate transport links how can the economy flourish?”
She added that she would be the ‘strong voice’ that the Islands need, adding: “It is clear that the government hasn’t been listening to what the people here want. The message on Cal Mac is clear – do not privatise. The message on local government is clear – provide adequate funding so our council can provide the services we need. The message on the economy is clear – invest in skills, infrastructure and business to ensure we can provide opportunities for all.”
Pictured, candidate Rhoda Grant was offered support in her campaign from Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale who visited the Islands last week.