Image of Drew Hendry MP

Strengthening Our Communities Through Young People

The past weeks of Parliamentary recess have been filled with doors knocked and streets pounded as I’ve taken my “surgeries” out to our communities. There are always a variety of issues raised and casework collected – the implementation of the new 20mph signs, in particular, was a source of a fair bit of chat.

Development and housing issues are common, and these are items that I must work with the council and MSPs to gain solutions for. Many a pothole is filled, or a streetlight fixed as a result, but it is also rewarding to be greeted by thanks for a more serious, life changing intervention that my team and I have been able to make.

Amongst these things, themes appear over other issues. I’ve spoken to lots of people affected by the cost of living, people looking at their mortgages and wondering how to cope with the increases, fretting about the coming winter’s fuel bills and looking for ways to cut the rising costs of their shopping.

I’ve also been speaking to businesses across the constituency. There is a theme here too. Where to find staff? Brexit has meant that our communities are being starved of new, working aged people coming in, whilst our population continues to age. People getting older is a good thing, it points to better health outcomes, but we need the balance to sustain us and younger people to staff the businesses and support – including care. We need to do more to attract young people to our communities and retain those we have.

At a women’s meeting I held recently, to hear and discuss their views, this came through time and time again, especially in the context of young women. It was one of the driving factors of the now highly successful “Science Skills Academy”, which I initiated when leader of the council but remains a challenge.

We can boost our aims by celebrating our young people. The Highlands is often reflected in outstanding achievement in sport, TV, film, and business but those with less high profile, but no less important success should also be sought out for praise. I was delighted therefore, last Friday to present the awards to the Highland Third Sector Interface (HTSI) Youth Awards for Volunteering. They were stars and we have so many more, unsung. Let’s celebrate them whilst we work to reverse the harms of Brexit and encourage more to stay here in the Highlands.