IF there is a positive spin to be found on the Greens’ contribution to the Scottish Government over the past couple of years, it’s that they have helped keep the Scottish islands firmly in the news cycle.

It would have been better if that had been done by ensuring that rural and island issues and challenges were given adequate consideration in the development of policy and consultations, but hey.

However, in the absence of that, the lack of consideration has created a fury which hasn’t been seen for many years, plenty of Island and Highland focused headlines and ever-increasing chatter about the possibility of a stronger autonomous Highlands and Islands breakaway or political campaign that puts our region front and centre – for a change.

The National: Scottish Green party co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie at Holyrood

Last week, after the Greens lost the plot over their ousting from Government, First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “I didn’t mean, and didn’t intend, to make them as angry as they clearly are”.

“I didn’t mean, and didn’t intend, to make them as angry as they clearly are” perfectly sums up what has happened in our rural and island communities recently. Insiders tell me that the Greens have been baffled by the frustration expressed by Island and Highlanders.

The same insiders confide that the issue was partially due to advisers who failed to show any interest in rural issues – based as they were in urban centres – despite the best efforts of party members who saw the disconnect.

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I sat opposite a Green MSP in a meeting where the fallout from the ill-fated Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) was discussed months after the fact. They expressed dismay that Tiree got so angry when the policy proposals weren’t aimed at communities like ours.

I don’t know whether I believe that or not, but if it is the case, they managed a communication failure of truly epic proportions. Either way, it was mind-bogglingly naïve.

The HPMA saga didn’t travel alone. One failure of understanding might be forgivable, two is careless, more and it begins to look wilful.

As a progressive, left-leaning islander, I have been left utterly baffled as to why the Greens didn’t put more effort into courting the Highlands and Islands. We sit on huge natural resources and have been under-represented since the dawn of time. We are custodians of tradition and land. We know the seas and the seasons. The depth of knowledge in our fishing fleet is incredible.

Sitting with crofters last week as we discussed the changing climate and its impact on crofting methods, landscape and the sustainability of the practice was eye-opening. The session was part of work that the Rural Development Trust is doing to see how we can proactively help our crofters, fishermen and community adapt to climate changes.

Those who have been crofting since and before the 1970s have witnessed many changes and cycles. They can see patterns and anomalies. They have memories of when outflows took a different course or knowledge of how sand has moved. They can pinpoint events that may have affected things like bird numbers.

That historical knowledge in a small group is enormous. Multiply that across the Highlands and Islands and you could have a bank of knowledge that would be priceless.

Imagine if the Greens had taken the chance they had as a party with a voice in government to champion the Highlands and Islands. To listen and learn. To ask what needed to be done and help us do it. They could have fought on behalf of those who are responsible for managing a huge amount of land with, arguably, very little support.

Instead, they failed to listen and incited fury. Up here, government support has been in freefall for quite a while – not unlike the government itself right now.

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What next? Where are the champions of the Highlands and Islands going to come from? Not from the South, anyway.

It’s increasingly looking like the new Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill will favour large farms over crofts. We’ll get less support but have to do more for it. We’ll be counting butterflies and biodiversity per square metre when we could be doing the things we need to mitigate future climate changes – like ditching and erosion control.

We want the bees and the butterflies. But we also want some common sense. In the islands, we await the new National Islands Plan with bated breath. The last one was well-intentioned and – to be fair to it – it got a body blow from both Brexit and Covid. But the feedback – published last week following a review – was sobering.

Across an online survey and 16 focus groups, “No progress” was the highest percentage response in every category. “Minimal progress” fared fairly well. “Satisfactory” and “Progress exceeding expectations” were almost entirely in single-digit percentages. I salute the one individual who felt that progress on transport was exceeding expectations and I wish I shared their positive outlook.

The National: Shona Robison Image: PA

Announcing that a new Islands Plan would be developed, Deputy First Minister Shona Robinson was realistic about the feedback. She said: “While the first National Islands Plan was found to be comprehensive and ambitious, respondents told us that more needs to be done.

“We know that island communities face issues such as higher living costs than those in other areas, and the new plan will ensure we continue to do our best to support them to address those challenges whilst drawing on their considerable expertise and strengths.”

This is exactly what is needed, but words are cheap, and we have heard them all before – and more. We can only hope that with a shake-up in Holyrood, the penny will drop in that if you want to reach net zero and adapt to climate change, you need your rural communities onside.

No one expects that penny to drop any time soon; urban voices will always drown out the rest by virtue of population density. The Greens, perversely, helped our cause.

Without those same Greens giving the Highlands and Islands a cause to coalesce around and a vehicle to have their voices heard, it may well be time to revisit the idea of better representation.

What that representation looks like remains to be seen. But, whether it’s a new party, or – as has worked well in the past – a strong cohort of Independents, it stands a better chance of returning candidates in the next election than in the recent past.

With the Bute House Agreement, we’ve seen firsthand how a fairly small party can play a key role in driving direction. With the no-confidence vote in the FM looming, it appears that in this instance, the balance of power may be held by a single individual.

The Highlands and Islands have no confidence in the status quo. With slim majorities in the Scottish Parliament and an ever-split electorate, a Highland and Island political movement is a potential route to better rural representation. The question is, who will grab the opportunity and lead the charge?

Someone needs to take the bull by the horns – because to assume that the departure of the Greens means that we have seen the back of policy which actively or accidentally harms the Highlands and Islands is mind-bogglingly naïve.