MP focuses on island growth
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.