Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has been elected Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s proposed new Cross-Party Group on Islands.
Mr Halcro Johnston, who is from Orkney, has been the driving force behind the new group, and was elected uncontested at yesterday’s inaugural meeting, with Argyll and Bute MSP Jenni Minto elected Vice-Convener.
The new group includes MSPs from across the Scottish Parliament, and will now go before Holyrood’s Procedures Committee for confirmation.
Mr Halcro Johnston hopes the next meeting will then be held early in the New Year, and has committed to ensure that all meetings will be hybrid, allowing for groups from Scotland’s islands to attend remotely.
The Scottish Conservative MSP said: “I’m delighted to chair the first meeting of this new group and to be elected Convener. I have felt, for some time, that addressing the many distinctive issues that really matter to islanders requires the focused attention of MSPs in an all-party forum.
“I’m determined that the group provides a proper forum for engagement with islanders and island stakeholders, and also for those bodies and organisations responsible for delivering services to our island communities. We will be developing a work programme over the next few meetings, but I will be pushing for a particular focus on the state of Scotland’s ferry network, a subject of enormous concern to many island residents.
“Other colleagues are looking to cover the ongoing issue of depopulation, and other key issues such as the delivery of health and social care services to remote island communities. And we will not be limiting our attention to just the larger island groups such as Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, and we will ensure that we engage fully with Scotland’s smaller island communities as well.
“Islanders often feel that decisions that are impactful on their lives are made by people who seem remote and far removed from them. I want fellow islanders to feel a little more engaged with Parliament. Working with local and regional MSPs, we want to ensure that the voice and concerns of our island communities is heard louder and clearer at Holyrood.”
The group remains a proposed Cross-Party Group pending full approval by the Scottish Parliament bodies.