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RHODA GRANT: Rural communities must see the gains of large-scale energy projects

By Scott Maclennan

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Wind turbines and SSEN transmission tower.
Wind turbines and SSEN transmission tower.

Last month, I attended the Scottish Labour Party Conference where I was pleased to speak about the change that we as a country need and how the Labour Party will deliver that change to bring about a fairer, greener Scotland.

In my speech, closing the debate, I made a point of highlighting that rural communities must see the gains of large-scale energy projects. Local benefit from these developments has not improved and communities are losing out.

For an area that generates more wind and hydro power than any other region of the UK, the Highlands and Islands pay the highest electricity standing charges in the country – on average 50 per cent more than in London.

More value and investment must be retained to the areas as well as promoting more community-owned projects to target this inequality.

MSP Rhoda Grant (inset) with off shore wind turbine and a fishing boat.
MSP Rhoda Grant (inset) with off shore wind turbine and a fishing boat.

Looking at some legislation that will also impact many communities throughout the Highlands and Islands, I and colleagues at the Scottish Parliament are scrutinising the Agriculture Bill. It will provide the framework for support to farmers, crofters, and rural communities.

The Scottish Government have promised no sudden drop in funds when replacing CAP payments. However, the same government have raided funding for farmers, failing to return this promised money in full for repeated budgets.

The Bill proposals, as they stand, do not give Parliament enough power of scrutiny to hold the government to account on the support scheme that comes forward and does little to provide long-term certainty for the farming community.

The scale and ambition of the government’s proposals are wide-ranging, and I will push them to ensure no community or group are left behind.

I recently met with members of the farming community and small-scale producers who raised concerns that businesses under three hectares are currently ineligible for support.

This Bill is a real opportunity to ensure we support rural communities and farmers of all size to produce quality food and produce.

Related to this, having enough food and access to quality food is a fundamental human right, yet in Scotland, we do not have this written in law. In 2024, no one should go hungry, no one should struggle to feed their families, no one should suffer malnutrition. This is why I am pushing for change.

I was delighted to get support for my proposed Bill this month, which will enshrine our human right to food for everyone in this country. Scotland is a rich, developed country. I would urge those who believe malnutrition and hunger is unacceptable in this day and age to write to their MSPs expressing support for my Right to Food Bill.

Finally, the network operator EE, Vodafone and others have begun withdrawing 3G services across the Highlands and Islands. This means older mobile phones that are not 4G or 5G compatible will not be able to access the internet on their device unless connected to Wi-Fi.

I would advise anyone who is vulnerable or needs additional support to contact their network customer care team, who can provide help to those affected to ensure they do not lose coverage or connectivity.

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