Ross, Skye and Lochaber: Meet your MP

SNP MP Ian Blackford secured a majority of 5,919, winning 15,480 votes in yesterday’s general election.

In Fort William, the seat’s biggest town, the seemingly inevitable closure of the Alcan aluminium smelter was averted last November when metals giant Liberty House bought the 1920s-build facility from Rio Tinto for £330million.

One worker described the news that the 170 jobs had been secured as “too good to be true”, but it did not stop there.

The site’s new owners quickly announced plans to build a new automotive parts factory at the site, which would create 300 further direct jobs and 300 supply chain jobs, and produce a quarter of all UK car wheels.

The entire package is potentially worth £1billion and 1,000 jobs and, combined with renewable energy developments in the north, prompted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to predict this month that the Highlands could soon become the “beating heart” of Scottish manufacturing.

Fort William is not the only part of the constituency to welcome major investment since the last election, with Marine Harvest building an £83million fish food processing plant at Kyleakin on Skye, and the nearby Kishorn fabrication yard receiving its first contracts in 23 years.

Many issues remain to be resolved, however, with recent local controversies including a row over downgrading Portree hospital, the slow progress on re-opening Skye airport, the need to upgrade the A82 Inverness to Fort William road, and the “appalling” disrepair at Fortrose Academy on the Black Isle.

Skye-based Mr Blackford was also forced to try to broker a compromise deal amid a dispute over plans to centralise decision-making at Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

 

 

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