DURING the Easter recess, I’ve travelled the length and breadth of my constituency. From Knoydart in the west to Cromarty in the east, I’ve conducted surgeries, meetings and visits.

There have been highs – like the announcement that RET [road equivalent tariff] is to be extended to Knoydart again and that the steam train to Mallaig is coming back.

There have also been lows – like the frustrations over the ferries and the lack of housing in Skye.

Generally, I find that people talk to me when things are going wrong – and don’t bother me when it’s all going well.

I’ve yet to meet somebody who booked a surgery slot to tell me that the roads are pothole-free! Happy constituents stay far away from their local MSP. There is certainly no shortage of difficulties that constituents raise with me, in the hope of finding a solution.

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This time, however, much of my discussion centred on how community groups themselves were resolving problems and finding solutions. There has been a growing perception over the last few years that if anything is to be done or achieved, it’s up to them.

That is partly due to constraints on the public purse, and partly because of community empowerment legislation that has enabled small groups to achieve their aspirations themselves.

As the land fund matched legal powers to buy land or buildings, and communities saw an opportunity to become more resilient, their ambitions have grown exponentially. Necessity may be the mother of all invention, but it has also fathered self-confident communities.

Only a few years ago it was probably unthinkable for local communities to build a primary school – but Strontian did it. It would have sounded bizarre for a community to build a medical centre – but Fort Augustus (and Staffin) proved the naysayers wrong.

Building a local renewable energy system, as the sole energy provider for every home and business would be unthinkable for most communities – but not in Knoydart (below) which will potentially provide the cheapest energy in Scotland.

The National: Knoydart - Robin McKelvie.

And now Glenelg has been granted funding to build affordable homes.

These are all projects or buildings that would typically have been for the Government to deliver. Communities aren’t waiting, they’re working together to fix local problems. Local volunteers, who should be anointed as heroes, dedicate hours of work to serving their local community – unpaid and often unofficial.

They do the work of several teams of paid public servants. It’s no wonder that volunteer fatigue sets in quickly. That is particularly the case when things go wrong. In Kyle, I popped into the local swimming pool, which has been closed for several months due to a fire.

It’s community owned and so the onus is on the small community group to find the funding and the solution to retain sports facilities locally. Otherwise, it’s a minimum one-and-a-half hour drive to the nearest swimming pool, which is a long trek with kids.

But as the dedication and determination of local communities surpass anything that has gone before, they are rightly impatient and intolerant of any active efforts by well-paid public officials to disrupt, delay or undermine their efforts to build resilience.

I think that is why so many recent government policies – local and national – have gone down like a lead balloon in local communities. And it’s why the most recent decision to semi-ban log burners in new builds seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Think about it. Against the backdrop of depopulation and all the added challenges of rurality including higher costs, longer waits and less choice, communities need as much support as possible. Highly Protected Marine Areas captured this for me last year.

Whilst thousands of island residents care immensely about marine conservation, they felt like government was about to dictate to them about how to enjoy their home (no swimming in the sea) or how to earn a wage (no fishing).

Many of them were exerting every effort to preserve the local school, maintain enough families and earn enough to support their family. It felt like there was no understanding of the difficulties that already existed just to keep the community and basic services going – without government adding further hurdles just to keep the lights on – or the boat mortgage paid.

Most of the resilience in these communities has not come from outside the area – through business or the state, private or public sector. Instead, it is self-created.

Think about energy.

No government has ever bothered to install mains gas in many communities. Connecting new builds to electricity often costs tens of thousands of pounds, with lengthy delays.

In these same communities, we’ve seen increasing numbers of prolonged power cuts in the last few years.

In some cases, these have lasted days. I know of several householders, often older residents, who have unblocked chimneys and installed wood burners precisely because of the lack of resilience in the energy system.

I don’t live on an island, but I can still remember the worry last year during a power cut with a newborn baby in a freezing home because of a 24-hour power cut. Thank goodness we had a stove in one part of the house.

People don’t complain, they just find solutions. When it comes to a power cut, spiralling energy costs or any other risk to energy security, there is only one solution: put a fire on. And so they really don’t like it when government appears to want to eliminate one of the very few options they have for resilience.

As somebody said to me in response to news of the ban on wood-burning stoves in new builds – what happens when the heat pump breaks down, you order a part and it gets stuck on the mainland because the ferry is off?

Everybody else can stick a stove on – but you can’t because you applied for your building warrant after April 1.

Of course, we still aren’t precisely sure whether the ban is really a ban because the wording for what constitutes an emergency is woolly. A power cut affects every home equally badly, irrespective of when the house was built. The well-insulated modern home may last a bit longer, but with several days of power cuts these days, even they might need to stick a fire on. You’ll be able to spot the new builds in a power cut easily – they’ll all be huddled around a big bonfire in the garden trying to stay warm.

The Scottish Government has done so much for rural communities, but in politics you’re only remembered for the last thing you did.

There is no level playing field – rural areas, especially in our island, coastal and more remote areas, face much greater hurdles.

Government should be trying to lower those hurdles, not add more.