SNP's Kate Forbes criticises Scottish Government for ignoring needs of the Highlands

The former finance secretary says ministers ignore the specific needs of the Highlands when designing policies

Kate Forbes has criticised the Scottish Government for ignoring the needs of the Highlands and islands.

The former finance secretary says Highlanders are often ignored when ministers design policies such as education and highly-protected marine areas.

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The Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP also praised fellow Highlands MSP Fergus Ewing, who last week was suspended from the SNP.

Kate Forbes MSP. Image: Lisa Ferguson/National World.Kate Forbes MSP. Image: Lisa Ferguson/National World.
Kate Forbes MSP. Image: Lisa Ferguson/National World.

Speaking to The Herald, she said: “If you asked any Highlander, they’d view this place as an entity before they see Scotland as an entity. For centuries, people here have been denied democratic representation because they live in an area where land ownership and political power were one and the same.

“Policies are never black and white and I’m talking specifically about highly-protected marine areas (HPMAs).”

HPMAs would have seen fishing banned in up to 10 per cent of Scotland’s waters in a bid to protect marine biodiversity.

But Ms Forbes says fishermen “care more about sustainable fishing” than any politician or civil servant as it is a way of life.

Ms Forbes, who unsuccessfully ran against Humza Yousaf to be first minister, said the impact of HPMAs would spill over into education, as schools would shut down if fishermen moved away from their communities.

She said: “Education in other parts of Scotland may be more of an intellectual question – in the Highlands it’s about their future, it’s about community, it’s about families.”

When it comes to education, Ms Forbes also criticised the Government’s approach to closing the attainment gap, saying “making it easier for everyone” is putting working-class children at a “further disadvantage”.

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Last week Ms Forbes stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Mr Ewing as he was suspended from the SNP after consistently criticising the Government, including speaking out against policies like HPMAs, the dualling of the A9 and the deposit return scheme. Mr Ewing had also sided against the Government in a vote of no confidence in Green minister Lorna Slater in a move Mr Yousaf later described as “very, very serious”.

Ms Forbes, along with fellow SNP MSPs Christine Grahame and Annabelle Ewing – who is Mr Ewing’s sister – later stood alongside the former minister as he addressed the media after he was suspended for a week.

She described Mr Ewing as a “living legend” in the Highlands as he put his constituents first.

She said: “My concern was that he didn’t stand alone going in or leaving that room.

“Our parliamentary group is a family and you must have each other’s backs and when you face difficult circumstances, you need your troops around you.”

The SNP refused to comment on the appeal against Mr Ewing’s suspension. But it is understood a three-person panel – made up of Westminster MPs or members of the party’s national executive committee – will be appointed by the SNP’s ruling body and the process will normally be resolved within three weeks of the appeal letter being received.



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