Trail Tales || Four Seasons, One Day

 

 

 

It’s hard to plan ahead when you’re not sure if it will snow.

Or shine.

Or rain.

Or hail.

Even harder when its all of the above in the space of an hour.

 

Take Thursday, for example. The sun shone like a Mediterranean morning as we knocked on doors in Maryburgh. Although it was mid-week, we had some good conversations with people on the doorstep.

Knocking on doors appeals to some people more than others. Perhaps more than ever there are various other groups and organisations which knock on doors. And so, residents are tired and wary of strangers on the doorstep.

Yet, on the flip side this is where we really learn what issues are bothering people. I don’t think politicians should expect the electorate to engage or to approach them. Instead, we need to get out there and talk to people.

 And of course, I’m building up a bank of embarrassing stories too.

Like that house in Fortrose on Friday, where I introduced myself at 9am with,

‘Good afternoon, I’m Kate Forbes….’

Or, the house further down the street, which was decidedly anti-SNP. The dog didn’t share his master’s politics and bounded up to say hello. In so doing, he knocked several hundred leaflets out of my hand and all over the gentleman’s front door step. Funny how a second can feel as long as a minute when one is scrambling to pick up leaflets under close scrutiny.

 

In the afternoon, the wintry sun shone on Muir of Ord. I particularly enjoy meeting those who will be voting for the first time, 16 and 17 year olds. I met a 6th Year girl at one home, who happily chatted about her ambitions after school.

Ambition and imagination will move the Highlands forward.

We have so many talented and creative people. How do we enable them to realise their dreams at home? 

I think it is about creating opportunities and freeing up resources like land and funding.

How?

Well, we need to create opportunities so that young people can enter a career and a profession. This can be a college or university course, an apprenticeship or even just an entry-level position.

A shortage of land means that house prices are too high for younger Highlands to buy or rent a home and stay here. And so they leave.

Can you believe it?

A shortage of land in the Highlands! Surely land is one commodity we’re most certainly not short of! That – and water.

Land prices can more than double the cost of homes. 

Providing the right kind of funding can give imaginative Highlanders the kick-start they need to turn ideas into reality. Not subsidising poor business plans or sustaining a business that is economically unviable. No, this is about a helping hand over the rocks to the white beach and the blue sea beyond where businesses can walk unaided.

This very week, I’ve launched a campaign to tackle the significantly higher gender gap in the Highlands. You can read my open letter to businesses here and the short piece in the National here.

Our businesses make such a valuable contribution to the economic and cultural life of communities.

And great progress has been made in recent years to increase women’s employment in Scotland. The employment gap between the number of men and women in rural areas is 8.2 per cent, compared to an average gap of 6.2 per cent across Scotland. In the Highland Council area it’s even higher, at 13.3 per cent.

The only way we’ll tackle this is by working together as a community to create opportunities, particularly for young women, to work and advance their career in rural communities. This means doing everything we can to break down the barriers that so often prevent women from working in certain professions or from taking up leadership positions.

I’ll never advocate employing somebody solely on the basis of gender, rather than talent.

But I do know that making small changes, like flexible working or working from home can make all the difference to somebody’s career.

On Friday afternoon, we hand-delivered hand-written letters to every home in Cromarty regarding the Cromarty Firth Port Authority’s proposal for ship-to-ship oil transfer.

 

The vast majority of local residents are strongly opposed to the proposal, and so am I.

This isn’t about the concept of ship-to-ship transfers.

I understand that they take place regularly elsewhere and there are very few spills. But this proposal is just not robust enough to mitigate concerns.

There are still many outstanding questions on how the Port Authority intends to address these concerns. Until all such questions are answered, and the Port Authority can demonstrate that the marine environment is not under threat, I cannot support this proposal.

We finished off Saturday afternoon by chatting to Ross County fans as they made their way to the Global Energy Stadium in Dingwall. Nintey minutes later, County saw off visiting Hamilton 2-1 in the Scottish Premiere League.

 

 

 

 

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