MP fo­cuses on is­land growth

Argyllshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

A HIGH-LEVEL sum­mit or­gan­ised by MP Bren­dan O’Hara on Wed­nes­day April 4 dis­cussed a long-term plan for sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth for Is­lay and Jura.

Among those at­tend­ing the sum­mit at the Gaelic Cen­tre in Bow­more were three Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters – Humza Yousaf, Fiona Hys­lop and Michael Rus­sell.

Also in at­ten­dance were the chief ex­ec­u­tives of Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil and High­land and Is­lands En­ter­prise.

The views of the whisky in­dus­try were ar­tic­u­lated by The Scotch Whisky As­so­ci­a­tion and Di­a­geo, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of nu­mer­ous dis­til­leries on Is­lay and Jura.

Also present to give the view of the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion were Is­lay and Jura com­mu­nity coun­cils, the lo­cal Ferry Users’ Group and the is­lands’ Tourism and Mar­ket­ing Group.

They were joined by se­nior man­age­ment from CalMac, Trans­port Scot­land, Visit- Scot­land and Mun­dell’s Hauliers.

Open­ing the sum­mit, Mr O’Hara ex­plained his rea­son for bring­ing to­gether so many rep­re­sen­ta­tives of na­tional gov­ern­ment, lo­cal gov­ern­ment, the com­mu­nity, public bod­ies and in­dus­try to­gether on Is­lay.

He said: ‘As MP for Ar­gyll and Bute and chair­man of the all­party group on Scotch whisky at West­min­ster, ev­ery­one I speak to talks about their plans to in­crease spirit pro­duc­tion on these is­lands and the rise in tourist num­bers that will in­evitably fol­low.

‘Yet at the same time, I know the peo­ple of Is­lay and Jura are at the end of their tether over crum­bling roads and the huge chal­lenges posed by a ferry ser­vice that is very of­ten un­re­li­able and oc­ca­sion­ally burst­ing at the seams. I just couldn’t see how in­creased spirit pro­duc­tion, cou­pled to the in­evitable rise in vis­i­tor num­bers, would be pos­si­ble given the al­ready huge de­mands be­ing put on the roads and the fer­ries. Ev­ery­one was hap­pily plough­ing their own fur­rows, with­out any strate­gic over­view or a long-term plan for sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth.

‘That couldn’t go on and I felt it es­sen­tial all the stake­hold­ers, from com­mu­nity to na­tional gov­ern­ment, got to­gether to ar­rive at a shared vi­sion for the fu­ture well­be­ing of Is­lay and Jura.’

Fol­low­ing the sum­mit, Mr O’Hara trav­elled to Craig­house on Jura to host a public meet­ing with Scot­tish Trans­port and Is­lands Min­is­ter Humza Yousaf.

He then re­turned to Bow­more to meet sev­eral lo­cal groups in­clud­ing TSI, the Seniors’ Fo­rum, lo­cal coun­cil­lors, the Na­tional Farm­ers’ Union of Scot­land, South Is­lay De­vel­op­ment, the is­lands’ Health and So­cial Care Part­ner­ship and the small busi­ness fo­rum.

MP Bren­dan O’Hara with Scot­tish min­is­ter Humza Yousaf MSP.

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