A very warm welcome to John Finnie MSP who will join other Parliamentary representatives for Moray in providing a monthly update on their activities at the Scottish and UK Parliaments…..
INSIDEMORAY HAS GIVEN ME the opportunity to write this monthly letter as a way of keeping you up to date with what’s happening at Holyrood, but I’d like to start this first one with a word of thanks for re-electing me to take part in what is shaping up to be a fascinating Parliamentary session.
I am deeply grateful to be elected for my second term as an MSP, my first term as a Green – and I’m delighted that this means Moray once again has a Green representative after a nine-year gap.
With six MSPs in total across Scotland, the Greens have leapfrogged the Liberal Democrats to become the fourth party at Holyrood. This puts us in a strong position to push for action on priorities for Moray, like those I’ve written about below – protecting our Firth, committing to clean energy, ambitious land reform, and investing in the rural economy.
It is a huge honour to represent the people of Moray and the wider Highlands and Islands region, one which I will never take lightly. I am looking forward to five more years of hard work for a socially and environmentally just, peaceful, welcoming Scotland.
If there’s anything I can help you with, or there are any issues you’d like to raise, I’d love to hear from you – all my contact details are on my website at http://johnfinnie.scot or on 01463 710194.
Save Our Dolphins – and orcas
Ocean-watchers have been enchanted over the last fortnight as the Northern Isles pod of orcas made their annual trip into the Moray Firth, this year with a new addition – a three-month-old calf born during their winter stay in Icelandic waters.
The sightings gave new urgency to the campaign to stop plans to license risky ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth. Oil is currently moved onto and off of ships in the relative shelter of Nigg harbour, but the Cromarty Firth Port Authority has applied for permission to pump oil between vessels in the open sea.
I launched the Save Our Dolphins campaign [https://johnfinnie.scot/tag/save-our-dolphins/] against the plan in January, because the increased risk of oil spills that ship-to-ship transfers brings would put the priceless environment of the Moray Firth at risk. As well as the orcas, our iconic bottlenose and other precious species, thousands of livelihoods in industries like fishing and tourism could be threatened.
The Scottish Government has so far declined to take a position on the ship-to-ship plan, but we now have a new Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, and I have urged her to join the opposition to the scheme before the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency make their final decision.
You can still join the 3,700 people who have signed my petition [http://bit.ly/SaveOurDolphins] against the scheme, and follow the campaign at my website.
Investing in the rural economy vs fracking the central belt
The Parliament is having a series of debates, proposed by the Scottish Government, to discuss each area of their plans for this term. Two of these in the last two weeks have been particularly important to the campaign for high quality, sustainable jobs in Moray.
First came a debate on the economy, in which I spoke for the Greens in my new role as the party’s spokesperson on transport and rural and island communities, including the rural economy (I am also the Green spokesperson on justice).
I used the time to make the case that we have to be much more proactive to minimise the economic impact of the decline of oil and gas, and to seize the opportunities presented by our natural advantages in clean energy. You can read my speech here [https://johnfinnie.scot/2016/06/03/we-will-not-pursue-growth-for-growths-sake-scotlands-economy-debate].
While Conservatives predictably argued for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, I made the case that the rural economy needs investment, not austerity. By investing in industries like housebuilding, renewables, and offshore decommissioning, we could create good, secure jobs for oil and gas workers and an extra 200,000 jobs [https://johnfinnie.scot/2015/08/26/green-jobs-plan-promises-renaissance-for-highlands-and-islands/] on top of that.
This potential for a boom in the new economy of rural Scotland can only be unlocked with investment in our infrastructure. Moray needs high-speed broadband, excellent public transport, training and further education opportunities and affordable, flexible childcare.
All of this is more than possible if we as a nation make a decision to create the future economy we want, rather than just going along with whatever multinational corporations want. And that’s why the second debate, on the environment, was so important.
The debate was wide-ranging (Green MSP Andy Wightman’s comments on land reform [http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10455&i=96292&c=1924773#ScotParlOR] are particularly vital), but the stand-out result was that MSPs voted 32-29 in favour of an outright ban on fracking.
This is an important stance not just because fracking is an environmentally devastating activity that would put the health of some of our most vulnerable communities at risk and shatter our climate targets, but also because in order to deliver those clean energy and other jobs for communities like Moray, we need to close the door on dead ends like fracking and commit to making that change.
Last week’s vote for a ban isn’t binding on the government, and SNP MSPs abstained on the vote. But it’s an encouraging signal that the new Scottish Parliament may be ready to start building a new Scottish economy.