May 5th local elections: What do Eilean a’ Cheò election candidates think about climate change?

Nine candidates are standing for election to the Eilean a’ Cheò ward (Skye & Raasay) on 5th May. Skye Climate Action offered them an opportunity to give their views on the climate crisis and actions on Skye & Raasay, through the following invitation:

Dear Eilean a’ Cheò election candidate,

Skye and Raasay Future, adopted in August 2021, is a framework for investment in Skye. Its first outcome is stated as “Climate Action and Resilience: A net zero emission place where actions have been taken to decarbonise all key sectors including buildings and transport, whilst communities and businesses have been prepared and are ready for the impacts of our changing climate.”

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, adopted by 195 countries, has unequivocally stated that the time for action is now. Carbon emissions need to be halved by 2030 to achieve the ‘safe level’ of 1.5C global warming.  

Many climate-positive actions are starting across Skye and Raasay, by communities, businesses, third sector and regional/national government, but there is a lot more work to do if Skye and Raasay are to contribute effectively to Scotland’s target of net zero by 2045.

Supporters of the Skye Climate Action network and associated groups are interested to know what Eilean a’ Cheò candidates think about climate change.

We would therefore like to invite you to share your perspectives on the climate crisis, and tell us 
• what you see as the top priority for climate action on Skye and Raasay

• what actions you would undertake to tackle climate change, if you are elected.

We will publish your response in our newsletter, website and Facebook page on 1st May 2022.

We thank the candidates who accepted our invitation. Read on to see the range of perspectives and proposed actions they have shared with the Skye Climate Action network. We look forward to working with the elected councillors on the issues they have highlighted.

Candidates’ responses

John Finlayson (Independent)
What you see as the top priority for climate action on Skye and Raasay:
I believe we need to focus on Education both in terms of working in schools and also working with communities to support people to realise we all have a responsibility to combat the effects of climate change. We must proactively encourage people to take action and adopt strategies no matter how small to mitigate against the effects of climate change. I believe that information sharing and setting up effective ways of communicating and encouraging even small changes in how people live their lives, can help us to save the future of the planet.

What actions you would undertake to tackle climate change, if you are elected: 
I believe that the outcomes that the Skye Climate network are pursuing in terms of sharing information and encouraging  action to reduce our carbon footprint, are the key areas we should be focussing on and at council level, we need to ensure that Environmental Impact Assessments are built into all infrastructure projects we develop. We all have a duty to build a sustainable future for our young people and future generations.

Donald MacDonald (Independent)
I believe that a key priority for Skye and Raasay is to reduce our carbon footprint.

We do not live in an area that is industrialised, but we are extremely reliant on our use of cars. And we see a huge influx of year-round tourists, many with large campervans.

Given the opportunity, I would strive for improvements in the regularity and quality of our public transport system. Surely smaller and more fuel-efficient buses should be used, preferably driven by electric. I would push hard for this and for the Council to provide more charge points, and not just in the main centres of population.

Beyond that, the Council must look at the efficiency and size of its own fleet and move towards more environmentally friendly options.

Finally, more meetings should be undertaken using digital, rather than staff and councillors regularly descending on Inverness, burning carbon, and creating costs.

Hector MacLeod (Alba Party)
My top priority if elected as a Councillor would be to set up a meeting of all Skye and Raasay Councillors, the Climate Change working group, Skye Climate action group to discuss and set out a Bold plan of action that can be achieved within set time-frames.

I believe Councillors can come up with ideas on the courses of action but they should be listening and involving groups like yours that will have carried out research and already have suggested plans of action ready to implement.

Some actions I would personally like to see the roll out of the Glass bottle return scheme by Scottish Government.

I also have a policy on using non-recyclable plastics to repair and maintain our roads, where products are made from 100% waste plastics that would otherwise go to landfill or incineration. I see this as something that can be achieved by Highland Council.

Drew Millar (SNP)
I do believe that we are at a crisis point as regards climate change and although Skye & Raasay are only a small area within Scotland we all have to do our bit. Can I say that the following comments are mine and mine alone.

If fortunate to be elected and become a member of hopefully a strong SNP group I will be striving for their support to change things. With 500 houses to be built in Portree over the next few years planners and developers must move completely to a green type of energy and also use the best quality materials available to insulate the properties to a high standard minimising heating costs.

I would like to see investment in a local waste to energy plant. I realise it would take major financial input from the Scottish Govt but in the long term it must be a much greener option than at present. At the moment the local authority collects all the Area rubbish from as far east as Clunie hotel and transports it to Portree and then it is loaded into another lorry and taken for around 300 miles to be disposed of. If we are serious about our environment this practice surely has to change and cost should be very much a secondary consideration.

For a rural Area recycling is probably as good as it can be however surely there must be another option rather than taking all the recycled waste all the way to Portree and then back to the mainland. A small investment in a depot on the mainland would at least save transport costs and also create a few jobs in Lochalsh.

Better use of Council transport by switching to more hybrid and where possible to all electric must be an ambition as well as exerting pressure on public transport to do the same.

I have for many years supported the building of another supermarket and again if elected I will be speaking to the company who have planning permission for a store but up until now have been unable to attract a tenant. It is for some a worrying situation that more and more vans are delivering every day home groceries hundreds of miles at considerable damage to the roads as well as the environment. A local based competitor to the Coop would be a bonus for everyone.

If elected I would be delighted to have a conversation with you.

Calum Munro (Independent)
Skye and Raasay must contribute effectively to Scotland’s Net Zero target. Another perspective on this is as a ‘consumption crisis’. The continuing rapacious extraction and consumption of materials is unsustainable. The effect on our climate is already evident in loss of ecosystems, continuing GHG emissions and the exploitation and unethical approach to the natural environment and indigenous and under-represented people which continues. As we continue to seek economic growth our energy demands will continue to rise, further exacerbating the climate & biodiversity crisis. A priority for Skye and Raasay for me would be developing a genuine circular economy and reducing waste and energy consumption.

Highland’s regional green hydrogen network must be developed so that Skye and Raasay can begin to decarbonise its road, marine and rail (from Kyle and Mallaig) transport. Wind power, onshore, has a huge part to play but it has to be in the right places. Off-shore wind has a part to play too. Tide and wave power require accelerated development and further micro-hydro schemes can be developed in Skye and Raasay.

Prioritising energy efficiency, retro-fitting and insulating of properties is a key target. Incentives and effective subsidy schemes need to be in place. Our EV charging network must be comprehensive and public transport used more effectively. Tourism is a relatively energy and material intensive industry and much can be done to reduce this impact by recycling food waste, by assisting communities and businesses to scale up local food growing and by encouraging ‘slow tourism’. There are many challenges but Skye and Raasay have many opportunities to play its part.

Peter O’Donnghaile (Labour Party) 
Feumaidh sinn a dheiliigeach le cúise an áile aig gach inbhe riaghaltais ionadail agus maiseanna agus Feumaidh lucht pouliteags a bhí dícheallach an dá chuid an steornadh ughdarasan ionadail agus naiseanta rí cleachaidhean nach cron agus brosnachadh gach gníomhacha agus saoránach rí beatha nach déan truaill.

Action is required locally and nationally as well as internationally. Green procurement must be an imperative in and on the public sector, not least because public sector is a big customer of local and national businesses and has the ability to lead by example. As an active crofter I myself am leading by example in adding woodland and woodland grazing to my mix of activity on my croft. At best this will improve micro climate very locally.

On a regional scale green hydrogen offers a positive energy industry development model and HC should invest in this and other renewables as an equity stakeholder.

I support the Preston model of local authority investment in local economies, but in Rossshire, Skye and Lochaber distribution needs to be at statutory parish level because even our wards are geographically too large to be local.

I also believe Highland needs to pressurise Scottish government to electrify our Highland railways and make them a core element of our national land and sea transport network. Ton mile energy cost of rail transport is approx 80 per cent lower than road.

Fay Thomson (Independent)
I entirely agree that the time for action on climate change is now.  On Skye and Raasay we should consider the impact on the environment in everything we do.

I believe there is a need to look at how we build houses and communities in respect of climate change. We need to consider how people will live work and travel, not just whether the houses we build are energy efficient. Smart Clachan is a very good example of a means of building houses that allows people to live in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. I’m sure there are many other suitable examples that we should consider for our housing developments. Better housing solutions would be a top priority for me.

We need to press forward with active travel projects.  We’re considerably behind other locations in Scotland in developing cycle routes with the many benefits they provide in terms of health; well being; recreation and transport solutions. We need to ensure that we get the resources we need to get active travel routes established on Skye and Raasay.

More needs to be done to reduce and recycle waste. I firmly believe there should be legislation to reduce the amount of packaging produced by manufacturers. We need to look at new innovative ways of recycling the waste we produce and we should increase the amount of locally produced goods that we consume.

Climate change initiatives on Skye and Raasay should receive more support in terms of funding and human resources. Many projects designed to take action on the climate change crisis are also beneficial to our islands economically; culturally and socially. We need to be ambitious in what can be achieved and ensure we get the support to realise our ambitions.



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