The Western Isles Labour Party have chosen an experienced politician, in the shape of List MSP Rhoda Grant, to fight May’s Holyrood election.
A statement by the party this week said: “Ms Grant was selected after two well attended constituency meetings, the first in Uist followed by Stornoway.
“Members were given the opportunity to discuss the challenges facing the islands with Ms Grant, who was clear that in the current climate a strong Labour voice for our islands is essential.”
And with eight years as a List MSP for the Highlands and Islands this seasoned politician is keen to get the campain started.
When asked by the Gazette what she felt were the most important issues facing the Western Isles, she said: “From my discussions with constituents and my mail bag a lot of the issues concern service delivery and access to services.
“Health and social care are big issues and I have been involved in trying to find solutions with the Scottish Government to bed blocking and the provision of care at home.
“Transport, flights and ferries will always be important, and I will continue to campaign for better links.”
Talking about the SNP’s track record in the region Ms Grant said her feedback was that they do not represent the Islands in Government, and in fact are the SNP’s men in the Islands, rather than the Island’s men in Government.
She expanded: “Many people contacting me are saying they have been let down and need someone to fight their corner – I will do that.”
Over the last few years highlighting her constituents’ concerns and lobbying for solutions has encompassed everything from: An MS Nurse for the Islands; Recognition of Stornoway Black Pudding; Campaigning for the Lochboisdale to Mallaig Ferry; Harris Out of Hours cover and Increased capacity at Bethesda, to name but a few.
“The economy of the Islands is also really important, we need jobs to create wealth, to this end I have campaigned for relocation of civil service jobs and also for the interconnector so that the islands can benefit from renewable energy development,” Ms Grant continued, adding: “Fuel Poverty is another issue that is a problem and many government schemes are not appropriate to areas which are off the gas grid, we need to have a systematic shift to make sure all homes are well insulated and have access to affordable warmth.”
And this Labour stalwart will be hoping to generate warmth towards the key points of the party’s election campaign, especially given the tough times it has endured.
She said: “We have had a tough few years and we need to make sure that people know that we have alternatives for them.
“In Scotland we have had austerity plus, with tax cuts delivered through the Council Tax Freeze paid for by service users, who tend to be the poorest in our society.
“The way this has been implemented has delivered bigger savings for the rich, and the poor have had to suffer. I seek power for the Labour Party, not as an end in itself, but as a vehicle to create a fairer society.
“Our new leader, Kezia Dugdale MSP, has announced some very clear policies with regard to raising taxes for the richest in our society and using that money for educating the poorest and children in the care system.
“Cuts in Air Passenger Duty will not be implemented in order to protect tax credits for families.”
In conclusion Ms Grant said it was a privilege to have been selected by the local Labour Party as the prospective parliamentary candidate.
She said: “As a Highlands and Islands MSP, I have a proven track record of speaking up on the issues which really matter to the islands.
“The Islands have unique challenges and it is imperative that these are taken into account by government. I look forward to continuing my work to achieve a better future for the Western Isles.”