§ 40. Mrs. Ewing
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will set up a committee to investigate ways of alleviating the hardship caused by heavy freight charges to the Highlands and Islands.
Dr. Dickson Mahon
I would refer the hon. Lady to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) on 21st April.—[Vol. 800, c. 81–2]
§ Mrs. Ewing
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Norwegian Government's policy has doubled Norway's northern population from 200,000 to 400,000 over the period during which the Westminster policy of successive British Governments has managed to halve the population of the Scottish Highlands and Islands? Does not he think that the Highland people should be congratulated on clinging to their way of life against the clearances of yesterday and the centralisation of today? Is it not time that the Government and others stopped punishing Highlanders by promises which do not help them? Is it not also time to deal with freight charges which raise the already-too-high prices in Scotland?
§ Dr. Mabon
It is time the hon. Lady read yesterday's HANSARD, which states clearly that discussions are going on between the Scottish Transport Group, the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the Scottish Office. The S.T.G. only acquired its holding in MacBraynes in July last year. The suggestions of the board are much more constructive than the hon. Lady's. These tripartite discussions are the way in which we can get the pattern of services and charges which is essential to the well-being of the northern and western islands of Scotland—which is, indeed, more important to them than anything else.