Campaign to get more RAF veterans back on the radar

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, pledged to support the RAF Benevolent Fund, the Royal Air Force’s leading welfare charity, in their drive to reach even more RAF veterans in need.

It is estimated that as many as 100,000 people are in urgent need of what could be life-changing support, but they are often unaware that such help is available or that they might be eligible for it. Recognising there is a limited time to help these veterans, the campaign’s main aim is to reach them before it is too late.

Research carried out by the charity estimates that 35% of us (one in three) know of someone who has served in the RAF and therefore the Join the Search. Change a Life. campaign calls on us all to reach out to those men and women who served as regulars or reservists or did their National Service in the RAF. Many are too proud to ask for help when they need it most or simply do not know that the RAF Benevolent Fund is here to support them.

Mr Stewart, who was a member of Westminster’s Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme for two sessions, said: “The RAF Benevolent Fund has launched a major new campaign in its centenary year urging the country to help repay the debt we all owe to the RAF veterans and their families who urgently need help. In particular, we need to reach out to the National Service and Second World War veterans, before it’s too late. They put on the uniform of our country when we needed them to, the least we can do is be there for them when they themselves need our help.

The RAF Benevolent Fund offers a wide range of support, from financial grants for one-off and day-to-day costs, respite breaks and emotional support. Last year it spent £21M supporting 53,000 members of the RAF Family across the globe.

In Scotland they spent over £1M (£1.13M) supporting 290 people directly with support ranging from housing to Care Home top up fees, mobility and adaptations in the home so individuals can live more independently. They also supported thousands more with grants provided to other organisations such as Scottish Veterans Residences, National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, and RAF Widows Association.

The campaign was launched at the end of June and to date more than 5,700 people have been in touch with the Fund seeking information, 4,300 of which have been welfare specific. More than half of those have come from family members or friends of an RAF service person or spouse, 41% has come from the individual themselves and requests for help have come from as far as Canada and South Africa

Bullying and Harassment within the NHS.

Earlier this week I spoke at the Bullying and Harassment within the NHS debate. You can hear my speech above.

I also asked the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport about the investigation post Sturrock review into Argyll and Bute. You can hear my question and the Cabinet Secretary’s response below.

Saturday is the last day of the 340/341 bus service in Elgin but the battle rages on to reinstate it

Regulars aboard the bus.

As two bus drivers are left facing redundancy this weekend, Regional Labour MSP David Stewart says he will continue campaigning to try to see the stricken route reinstated.

Deveron Coaches owner Albert Milne said his workers would have to find other jobs because he could not afford to keep his bus on the road, despite a frantic community effort to save the popular service.

Mr Milne is pulling his 28-seat bus off the circular 340/341 Elgin route tomorrow (Saturday 7th September) after a funding pot managed by Moray Council and supplied by a housing developer ran dry.

The cash-strapped council said it can no longer afford to fund external bus services.

The bus, which runs a circular route around the north and south of Elgin, links Bishopmill to the hospital and doctors.

Mr Stewart, who joined passengers on the bus last month to listen to their concerns, said: “My experience on the bus was this is much more than your ordinary everyday bus service. This is a community centre on wheels. Trying to find a way to get this route reinstated is a very important campaign and one I’m going to continue to fight. I’ve had positive discussions with Stagecoach chief executive David Liston and with the council’s chief executive Roddy Burns. I’ve also written to Robertson Homes as well as raising the issue with Transport Secretary Michael Matheson. It’s very sad to see the bus go off the route today but hopefully this is only temporary. I will continue to do everything I can to try to get funding support for a bus to operate on this route.”

Lead bus campaigner Sara Marsh said the bus had become “a little community” and was “one of the most positive things that have happened in Elgin in the last few years”.

Mr Milne said it was with a heavy heart that he was taking his bus off the route.

The folk will be devastated next week,” he said.

“We’ve put a note on the windows thanking the clientele for their support over the years. The drivers are going to be made redundant. The council is going on about climate change and yet they’re taking people off the buses and making them go in their cars. It’s a bit back to front.”

A petition was set up to try to put pressure on the Scottish Government and Moray Council to step in with last-minute funding support to the tune of around £115,0 to keep the bus on the road for another year.

Mr Stewart passed the petition holding nearly 500 names to Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson and has held talks with Roddy Burns, the council’s chief executive.

Mrs Marsh said she sent a copy of her petition to Moray Council.

 

Public Petitions Committee – 5th September 2019

I recently spoke at the Public Petitions Committee regarding the public petition 1695 on access to justice. You can watch below where I give some backround information on this petition.
If you would like to learn more on this petition, you can click on the link below.
http://external.parliament.scot/GettingIn…/Petitions/PE01695

MSP says NHS Highland needs to prioritise systems for helping previous bullying victims

David pictured at the Eden Court whistle-blowing event

MSP David Stewart is urging NHS Highland to find a speedy solution for a system of compensating and supporting staff who have been bullied and harassed after questioning its senior officials in parliament today.

Mr Stewart, at Holyrood’s health and sport committee, raised the issue of psychological support and compensation for those who have previously suffered, many of whom have privately shared their stories with the MSP and at that special meeting in Eden Court, Inverness, last year.

The committee’s questioning is one of a series, bringing health authorities across Scotland before MSPs. NHS Highland is in the hot seat following the much publicised Sturrock report into bullying and harassment.

Highlands and Islands MSP Mr Stewart, who is also Scottish Labour’s shadow minister for public health, told the senior management team, which included the authority’s Chief Executive, Iain Stewart, and Chairman Boyd Robertson:

“My mailbag has been really full with cases of those who have approached me saying their careers have been ruined and they have lost out financially.

“Is there any scheme of compensation that the board is looking to try and help these staff who have really seen their careers blighted in many ways and are unable to work?

“Obviously, for confidentiality reasons, I cannot quote these cases today on their request, but I have had numerous cases directly about this and I am obviously highly concerned about the effect it has had on their career and the bulk of them stay in the health board area.

Mr Robertson said he and the Chief Executive were aware of these cases, and had met a number of them, and one of the areas being looked at was compensation.

However, Mr Robertson added: “We are not yet at the stage where we can give a definitive answer as to how we are going to deal with that.”

Following the committee meeting the MSP said: “While I welcome the fact that the health authority is turning its attention to this very important issue, time is dragging on and I think there needs be a definitive answer sooner rather than later.

“I will be taking a close look at how this develops for the people who have contacted me and feel very aggrieved about how they were treated..

“I have always argued that there seemed to be an underlying toxic culture of bullying previously at NHS Highland and believe that the new Chief Executive and Chairman are trying to turn this around.”

The MSP also questioned NHS Highland about the resignation of the authority’s previous whistle-blowing champion after a few months in the post.

NHS Highland Chief Executive said he didn’t believe it was due to  the previous toxic culture in the board and a new whistle blowing champion, Jean Boardman, had since filled the post.

“I have been given no information of why she resigned from the post I’m afraid,” said the Chief Executive.

The MSP also asked about attracting staff to come and work in NHS Highland – he raised the background of the expense of locums and the difficulty of the retention of staff.

The Chief Executive said it was now strengthening its HR processes and had new senior officials in post and he wanted NHS Highland to be the “absolute place of choice” for people to come and work.

 

 

David Stewart MSP pledges to continue fight to save the 340/341 Elgin bus service

David Stewart has continued working this week to save a closure-threatened bus route in Moray.

Mr Stewart MSP (pictured) has written to Scotland’s Transport Secretary Michael Matheson to press his government for urgent support for the 28-seat Deveron Coaches 340 service in Elgin.

Mr Stewart, who last week joined passengers on the 340 route to listen to their views, has written to Michael Matheson, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, asking for urgent funding support. Mr Stewart has also passed on a 426-named petition to the Cabinet Secretary on behalf of the campaigner and has met with HITRANS officials earlier this week. Meetings are scheduled with Stagecoach bosses and a meeting request has been sent to Moray Council’s chief executive Roddy Burns.

Mr Stewart said he is committed to help lead the fight for better bus services.

He added: “Bus services have really taken a hit in recent times and it’s high time we saw some government investment coming down the line to protect these vital services. It’s time to be asking some tough questions of the government on improving public transport which vitally, in turn, will help to improve air quality. The government must look at ring-fencing some support for buses.”

Retired Buckie High School librarian Sara Marsh from Bishopmill, who has been using the bus for the last four years since it won the tender to operate on the route, has sent copies of her petition to Moray Council’s Chief Executive, and local councillors arguing that it is “worthy of cross-party support”.

Mrs Marsh said: “I thank David Stewart MSP for supporting the 340/341 bus service.  I am sure he saw for himself that this is not just any old bus service, this is a community service and a very important one for the health and well-being of many people who use it. A 94-year-old passenger told me if it wasn’t for the bus he would not be able to go out every day. It takes him an hour just to walk to the nearest shop for his paper. As a society we are supposed to be tackling issues of isolation and social exclusion and this bus service does both. It should be supported on environmental grounds too. Fewer cars on Elgin’s roads is surely a good thing. I would hope that all the elected representatives of Moray would be getting behind David Stewart by helping to save the service.”

The bus route is due to be axed next month when a funding pot managed by Moray Council – which has been supplied by a housing developer – is due to run dry.

David Stewart MSP steps board Elgin’s axe-threatened 340 Duffus Heights bus service to listen to the concerns of older passengers

There are far more ordinary venues for a surgery than a community bus but it was all aboard the 340 Duffus Heights service in Elgin for a journey with a difference.

There was standing room only on the 28-seat Deveron Coaches bus as residents gathered together to try and maintain their link to the town centre, doctor’s surgeries, supermarkets and hospital.

They told Mr Stewart the bus also doubles as a meeting place for friends.

Mr Stewart is campaigning to save the stricken service, which is due to be pulled off the route due to a funding blackhole.

Some of the stories from the 340 bus service

Posted by David Stewart on Saturday, 24 August 2019

He said: “Buses matter – immensely and I will be doing everything I can to save this service.”

"Mum would loose her independence"

Posted by David Stewart on Saturday, 24 August 2019

"I would be lost"

Posted by David Stewart on Saturday, 24 August 2019

"I was very upset"

Posted by David Stewart on Saturday, 24 August 2019

Petition holds hundreds of names…

Posted by David Stewart on Saturday, 24 August 2019

Have your say on electricity prices

Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, are encouraging people in the region to respond to a UK government consultation into the electricity charges levied on customers in the North of Scotland.

People in the Highlands and Islands have, for many years, been unfairly subjected to a 2p surcharge on electricity prices.

Mrs Grant and Mr Stewart have written to the government in Westminster on a number of occasions over the years and have asked them to look into national pricing for electricity network charges, to no avail.

The government must review the Hydro Benefit Replacement Scheme and the Common Tariff Obligation every 3 years and consult with customers and stakeholders. As such, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is now consulting on this. One way to reduce the 2p surcharge would be to substantially increase the level of the Hydro Benefit Replacement Scheme.

Views are also invited on a proposed mechanism to deliver a revised funding arrangement for the Shetland cross-subsidy from April 2020 onwards, which, government advises will have the effect of reducing electricity distribution costs for all consumers in the North of Scotland.

These consultations form part of the review process, and the government is presently inviting views from any interested parties on whether the schemes meet their policy objectives and are operationally effective.

Rhoda Grant said “It is unfair that people in the North continue to be penalised in this way. It has gone on for too long and I would encourage as many people as possible to make their views known by responding to the consultation before the deadline of 6 September.”

David Stewart said “People in the Highlands and Islands already face some of the worst weather conditions, have poor insulation and high levels of fuel poverty. The best way to reduce fuel poverty in the region is to remove this 2p surcharge.”

The consultation closes on 6 September.

Details of the consultation can be found via the following link :- https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/hydro-benefit-replacement-scheme-and-common-tariff-obligation