Article for Am Paipear
15 January 2009
As I write the mystery of Simon MacMillan's disappearance persists.
I join with all of those praying for an answer and my thoughts over the recent weeks have been with Simon's family.
Knowing those involved serves to heighten an awareness of the anguish I can only imagine must have been haunting their every waking hour.
I suspect though that much comfort and strength has been brought by the remarkable show of community solidarity.
Witnessing the efforts of all those giving so freely of their time to rally round and help demonstrates what remarkable strength the local community has.
In another context entirely, it has been warming too to see images of Barack Obama and his family over recent days - those family shots of a young American President and his family are reminiscent of the young President Kennedy.
I wish him every possible success in bringing a new approach and perspective to world politics.
I pray too all those around him ensure that his contribution will be for the full term that was denied Jack Kennedy.
Closer to home, the Scottish Government is beginning to experience the realities of government and consequences of their own decisions.
They often seek to blame the difficult decisions on others - usually Westminster or Europe.
The second Forth Bridge - note a second bridge, not a replacement one - is now to be the cause of why schools and hospitals we need are not to be built.
They will try and blame Westminster, when in fact the blame rests firmly at home in the corridors of the SNP administration.
They told us that the Scottish Futures Trust would produce the cash to build the bridge, and the schools and the hospitals and anything else you can think of.
It was clear before the election to those of us who had been in government that Futures Trust simply wouldn't work, it is now clear it doesn't work.
It hasn't produced a single penny to build anything.
Thankfully before we left office we approved all the spending on the new schools for the Islands.
The Islands can look forward to some capital spending, but no thanks to the Scottish Futures Trust.
Another area where the Scottish Government need to face up to their own decisions is not to fund the proposal for a new ferry service to Mallaig from Lochboisdale.
Here was a sound proposal, the government made clear to me some months ago they had the money for a ferry service commanding huge community support.
Now, after almost 18 months of dither and delay, a decision not to proceed.
I am in no doubt they have spent the cash they had on other things, so denying the Uists the best option for a new ferry.
But this issue will not go away and I for one will not be giving up the fight for a better ferry deal for the area.
The same goes for the decision to end the bull hire scheme for crofters.
This is a disastrous decision.
I know from over 400 contacts from crofters just how disastrous this could be to the interests of crofters in the islands and more widely.
That is why my colleagues and I will continue to fight the decision.
I know that when crofters in the Uists had the chance to speak to the Minister about the issue, they didn't miss that opportunity!
The government have been hinting that they would like to blame the EU for not letting them continue the bull hire scheme.
Well, I can find no reason the bull hire scheme cannot continue under EU rules.
The decision to end the scheme is one for the Scottish Government alone, and it is a bad decision.
My colleagues and I will be standing up for the interests of crofters in the Highlands and Islands.
I still hope the Scottish Government will see sense and reverse their decision.
On another issue of real local concern my Labour colleague Rhoda Grant MSP has tabled a series of questions about the problem of the geese.
I will keep you informed about the outcome.
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