“Diabetes Champ” MSP welcomes £2million funding package for outdoor education centres

A REGIONAL MSP who co-chairs the Scottish Parliament’s Diabetes Cross Party Group has welcomed a £2million funding package to help outdoor education centres survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Highlands & Islands Labour MSP David Stewart, who has represented Scotland twice as a Scottish diabetes champion, has been supporting the Scottish Adventure Activity Forum’s #SaveYourOutdoorCentres campaign as well as making funding representation to the Scottish Government and local authorities on behalf of several outdoor education centres.

Mr Stewart said: “It’s crucially important that young people have an active lifestyle because we have got a horrendous rate of Type 2 diabetes. Scotland has a healthcare epidemic and it particularly it affects children in disadvantaged areas. We have the sick man in Europe title and outdoor education plays a great role in fighting against this.

“I applaud everyone who joined the campaign, the enormity of this work kept enough pressure on the Scottish Government until it eventually buckled and agreed to give out the cash. It’s extremely welcome but a long-term strategy is still urgently needed and this £2 million is £1 million short of the £3 million the sector said it needed so I am fully behind an ongoing effort to get more support going forward.”

David Thorpe, leader of the Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre at Lochgoilhead, Argyll, which Mr Stewart has been supporting, said: We welcome the Scottish Government’s funding, but we will still press for the £1 million shortfall. That will make a huge difference for a lot of centres.”

Work starts on second A82 crossing in Inverness

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, said it was good to see work starting on the pedestrian crossing on the A82 between Montague Row and Ardross Street in Inverness.

Transport Scotland has notified him that work is due to start on its installation on Monday next week.

“I took up constituents’ concerns about road safety on this stretch of the road in March 2017,” he said.

“Transport Scotland said at first that a crossing there “could not be justified”. However, I joined local campaigners in not giving up and the agency then went on to find out the community’s views and changed its mind and I must congratulate Transport Scotland for that.

“It was good to see the first crossing completed at Smith Avenue recently and I look forward to the second being installed.

“I am sure these will improve safety for children crossing for school, for the elderly and the disabled.”

*photo taken recently at the Smith Avenue crossing.

 

Raigmore Interchange – new scheme with traffic lights proposed

 

Transport Scotland has told Labour MSP David Stewart that traffic lights could be installed at all four entry points to Raigmore Interchange roundabout under a planned new scheme.

The agency has said the move would provide “an equitable split in green time between vehicles and pedestrians and cyclists”.

It added that what the system would provide, at all times, in the traffic light cycle was a green man phase for pedestrians to cross each traffic flow safely in turn.

A temporary speed limit should also be in place on the roundabout and its approach roads in October.

The action comes after road safety campaigner, Mr Stewart, was contacted by constituents concerned about safety at a pedestrian crossing on the south bound slip road where a woman was involved in an incident with a car and later died in hospital.

The transport agency and Highland Council have been working on safety improvements and after the temporary speed reduction, hope to bring in a permanent one with consultation on a Traffic Regulation Order planned for the end of October.

““This is all good news,” said Mr Stewart, who represents the Highlands and Islands.

“One of the issues with the south bound slip road was that it could not have even temporary traffic lights to improve safety as it would result in extremely long traffic queues backing up beyond the retail park and have long waiting times for pedestrians.

“This new scheme being drawn up appears to solve the problem. As a driver I know traffic lights can cause irritation at times, but we must remember there was a tragic death at this spot.

“It was not only devastating for family and friends but brought home the dangers of that section of the road and the need for improvements.

“I’ve also seen a growing trend since Coronavirus of more cyclists on our roads and this project hopefully will provide a safer environment for them.”

Police Scotland previously told the MSP that the installation of two additional warning signs for the crossing was “an insufficient short-term solution” and “more permanent short-term engineering measures should be considered to minimise the potential for future collisions”.

Transport Scotland explained temporary mitigation work, pedestrian warning signs on the A85 approach and on the roundabout, landscape sightline work and an investigation into road marking changes, were completed by March.

It says the new scheme being drawn up is similar to one being used at Inveralmond Roundabout in Perth.

“The project to provide safe crossings for pedestrians and cyclists travelling through this junction is also progressing well,” said Transport Scotland.

“Traffic modelling carried out to investigate various scenarios, which inform future design options, is nearing completion.”

It added: “ At this stage we are only nearing a concept of how safe crossing could be achieved and the next stage once the Council, Sustrans and Transport Scotland have all agreed on this, is the detailed design of the actual layout of wide pedestrian/cycle routes through the junction.”

Mr Stewart first called for a safety review of the southbound A9 slip road, which links to the A96, after the incident involving the Inverness grandmother.

There are no pedestrian crossing lights at the spot, but there are some on the other slip road which is only a few yards away.

 

Highlands and Islands MSP highlights inaccessible treatment for heart valve disease

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, told MSPs that treatment options were all too often inaccessible for many of those affected by heart valve disease.

Mr Stewart was leading a member’s debate to mark Heart Valve Disease Awareness Week in the Scottish Parliament today (Wed Sept 23) to raise awareness of symptoms drawing attention to better diagnosis and treatment options.

He said:  “There were only 1,117 valve surgeries for people over 65 performed in Scotland in the 2018-19, treating less than 1% of heart valve disease patients.

“One such treatment, transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), avoids the need for high-risk and compromising open heart surgery but is only available in selected Scottish hospitals:  Golden Jubilee National Hospital, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where access is capped to less than 400 procedures per year.

“In my own region of the Highlands and Islands, constituents may have to travel over 200 miles to get treatment, and this only exemplifies the inequities in access that mark heart valve disease treatment in Scotland nationally. Perhaps, a case of geographic inequality.”

Mr Stewart gave thanks to patient charity, Heart Valve Voice, for their efforts in the debate and for their combined work with Global Heart Hub and other charities in raising awareness across the UK.

Mr Stewart, who is also Scottish Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, explained that the issues in diagnosis and treatment have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and that thousands of routine heart check-ups have been missed and scores of people with life-threatening conditions may still be undiagnosed.

Heart valve disease is a debilitating condition that causes functional cardiovascular decline and leads to premature deaths, if left untreated.  It is caused by wear, disease or damage to one or more of the valves affecting the flow of blood through the heart.  For some people, heart valve disease can progress very slowly and with unspecific symptoms, however if left untreated it can be serious.  Symptoms of heart valve disease include tiredness under exertion, breathlessness, and dizziness.

He said: “Heart valve disease is more prevalent in older people, with approximately 130,000 Scots over the age of 65 living with moderate or severe heart valve disease.  Despite this, diagnosis is poor and treatment options are limited.

“Heart valve disease can be detected through a simple stethoscope check.  However, nearly 80% of people age 60 and over report rarely or never being checked with a stethoscope by their GP.  The result of which is a reduction in early diagnosis and proactive interventions that can be both life-saving and more cost-effective to the NHS.”

MSP David Stewart raises demise of Wick air routes in aviation debate at Scottish Parliament today

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart brought up the position of Wick air routes today in a debate led by Scottish Labour which called for ministers to secure a sustainable post-Covid future for a sector that has been thrown into crisis by the pandemic.

Mr Stewart asked Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson: “Does the Cabinet Secretary support my campaign and that of the Chamber of Commerce from Caithness to ensure that we have a Public Service Obligation from Wick to Edinburgh and Wick to Aberdeen? Currently there are no flights from this airport at all and it needs a PSO and needs the Government support to get this up and running.”

Mr Matheson gave a short reply which reiterated that the Scottish Government was still evaluating Caithness Chamber of Commerce’s business case and highlighting that MSP Gail Ross had also been pressing for action.

The Transport Secretary added: “I can assure you we will give that fair consideration”.

Afterwards Mr Stewart commented: “The Government has had plenty time to consider what action it is going to take to aid Caithness and Sutherland and restore its connectivity with Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world.

“The situation at Wick John O Groats airport was fragile before Coronavirus hit and the Government should have been looking ahead long before the beginning of this year to how it could ring-fence and protect the area’s flights for the future.

“Instead of fair consideration, it should now be a fast consideration taking into account the future development of Caithness and the fact that it is suffering from the centralisation of services.”

  • Mr Stewart has been supporting the campaign for a Public Service Obligation (PSO) to protect the Wick Edinburgh and Wick Aberdeen routes following Caithness being left without scheduled air services.

In a July PQ, lodged by Mr Stewart, Mr Matheson replied that a PSO “would likely take around nine to 12 months for services to start due to the regulatory and procurement processes required”. Mr Stewart called for rapid movement on the air routes to keep the Far North’s connectivity and to aid development for the future.

Mr Stewart wrote to Mr Matheson, and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, after Loganair announced the axing of its Edinburgh-Wick service on Friday, March 27.

The MSP had previously asked the Scottish Government for swift action following the collapse of Flybe when the Wick-Aberdeen route was taken over by Eastern Airways which previously ran it under a franchise for Flybe. Mr Stewart argued that the Wick-Aberdeen service was fragile due to falling passenger numbers. Eastern Airways has now withdrawn this route.

Mr Matheson previously said it was considering carefully the business case submitted by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.

MSP: Financial Conduct Authority’s test case good for businesses

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has applauded today’s High Court judgement backing the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) business interruption insurance test case.

Mr Stewart has continued to raise the problem of the insurance sector failing to pay out for business interruption insurance due to Coronavirus and thus “wriggling out of their obligations” to businesses in his region and throughout Scotland.

The FCA brought the case “in order to resolve the lack of clarity and certainty that existed for many policyholders making business interruption claims and the wider market”.

The court found in favour of the arguments advanced for policyholders by the FCA on the majority of the key issues.

Mr Stewart said: “Early on in this pandemic I began to realise just how devastating it was for companies who had their claims for business interruption insurance turned down.

“Companies were at risk of going under sooner and that put the whole local economy at risk.

“This judgement is a win for all those small and medium businesses who had no chance of taking on the big boys of the insurance world. I do hope that insurance companies will now reconsider some of the claims they rejected, and I would advise businesses to get back to their insurers in the light of this judgement.”

Mr Stewart added that he hoped there would not be an appeal by the insurance sector but if there was that it was dealt with swiftly and without lengthy delays.

The FCA said that most small and medium sized businesses policies were focused on property damage and only had basic cover for Business Interruption as a consequence of property damage. But some policies also covered Business Insurance from other causes, in particular infectious or notifiable diseases (‘disease clauses’) and non-damage denial of access and public authority closures or restrictions (‘denial of access clauses’). In some cases, insurers had accepted liability under these policies. In other cases, insurers had disputed liability while policyholders considered that it existed, leading to widespread concern about the lack of clarity and certainty.

The FCA’s aim in bringing the test case was to urgently clarify key issues of contractual uncertainty for as many policyholders and insurers as possible. The FCA did this by selecting a representative sample of policy wordings issued by eight insurers. The FCA’s role was to put forward policyholders’ arguments to their best advantage in the public interest. 370,000 policyholders were identified as holding policies that may be affected by the outcome of the test case.

In April Mr Stewart found widespread frustration and concern from Highlands and Islands firms over delays in accessing loans and a refusal to pay out on business interruption insurance.

The MSP wrote to business groups across his area asking if banks were making it harder to get business interruption loans and if insurers were refusing to pay out for claims on business interruption insurance policies.

Among those to respond to the MSP’s request, were Chambers of Commerce in Caithness, Moray, Lochaber and Mid-Argyll.

In May Mr Stewart raised the issue at First Minister’s questions asking the Scottish Government Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, to have direct discussion with the insurance sector about companies who were “wriggling out of their obligations” to Scottish businesses.

more info at:
https://www.fca.org.uk/firms/business-interruption-insurance#latest-updates

Health and Sport Committee: David Stewart MSP asks questions about delayed discharge

The transfer of care from hospital to home care sector was one of the items on the agenda for debate at this week’s Health and Sport Committee.

The Committee meets at 10am each Tuesday in a virtual meeting broadcast on www.scottishparliament.tv

As part of its Pre Budget-Scrutiny this week, the Committee took evidence from Judith Proctor, Chief Officer, Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, Vicky Irons, Chief Officer, Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership and Eddie Fraser, Chief Officer, East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership.

MSP David Stewart MSP asked some questions around delayed discharges, which occurs when a patient, clinically ready for discharge, cannot leave hospital because the other necessary care, support or accommodation for them is not readily accessible or funding is not available, for example to purchase a care home place.

Here is a clip of Stewart’s questions:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MSP David Stewart calls for Healing Process remuneration committee to be more independent

Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart has asked NHS Highland and the Scottish Government to rethink how the Healing Process remuneration committee has been set up in the light of concerns from those who have been bullied.

Mr Stewart, who is also Scottish Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, has been contacted by members of the T-Party group, formed before the Coronavirus hit, to help victims of NHS Highland bullying and harassment get together for support over a cup of tea and a chat.

The group, which has members throughout the Highlands, has continued to keep in touch with each other and with Mr Stewart virtually and by email.

The Healing Process allows current and former staff of the health authority to talk to an independent panel about their experiences of being bullied or harassed. This follows whistleblowers, union representatives and Mr Stewart calling for action on a culture of bullying at NHS Highland, a review carried out by QC John Sturrock and intervention by the Scottish Government.

T-Party members say the NHS Highland Remuneration Committee which will discuss compensation for some of those involved in the Healing Process, is not independent enough and could have members, or those sitting in on the meetings, who have been involved in individual cases of staff or former staff.

“I can see exactly where members of this group are coming from,” said Mr Stewart.

“An analogy might be an Employment Tribunal where someone on the panel has prior knowledge of a case. With the best will in the world that person cannot be impartial no matter their best intentions.

“I have seen how affected many of the members of this group have been by bullying and harassment and how it has taken courage for them to step forward and relive their experiences. They are not being awkward – there are real concerns from those who have been damaged by their experiences.

“Looking at the sensitives here, I feel it would be best for NHS Highland and the Scottish Government to have a rethink, especially as John Sturrock highlighted in his report that

‘the preservation of independence and perceived impartiality is crucial in any mediation provision’.”

Mr Stewart has written to Paul Hawkins, the Interim NHS Highland Chief Executive, and to Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, asking for them to look into the issue. Mr Stewart is also aware that the new Chief Executive, Pam Dudek, will soon be taking over and may wish to get involved in the T-Party’s concerns.

One other issue being raised by the MSP is that people would like to have the choice of nominating their own lawyer to receive information from independent review panel, to preserve their identities from other staff working for NHS Highland.

 

Health and Sport Committee: David Stewart pulls Justice Secretary up on quarantine policy

Portugal is set to be removed from the UK travel corridors list, as Covid-19 cases in the country exceed 20 per 100,000. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it will be announced in “an organised way” Friday (tomorrow) lunchtime. We can only hope the Scottish Government’s handling of it will be “organised”.

The Health and Sport Committee held the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Humza Yousaf to account on the importance of proper arrangements for quarantining travellers arriving into Scotland.
Here’s a clip of the clash:

 

The Elsie Normington Foundation in its bid to secure Scottish Government funding

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, who has been supporting The Elsie Normington Foundation in its bid to secure Scottish Government funding for the building of The Haven centre in Inverness has today pressed Scottish Ministers again to part fund the project.

 

In July The Elsie Normington Foundation received the fantastic news that they had secured a £1.1m grant from the Big Lottery Community Fund as well as planning permission being granted for the building of the centre.

 

The Big Lottery grant took the organisers to half way to securing the total amount needed, £4m, and the Labour MSP contacted the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Minister for Children and Young people in a bid to secure a commitment from the Scottish Government to provide some, or all, of the remaining funding needed.

 

David Stewart said “While I did receive a response from the Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd, who appears largely supportive of the project, it was not favourable in terms of awarding funding.

 

“The Minister advised that it remains the statutory responsibility of local authorities to assess and understand need in their area and to develop services which meet local requirements. She advised that the Scottish Government would not usually provide funding for a local project like the Haven Centre but in exceptional circumstances, they would consider evidence which did present a strong case for national funding for local projects.”

 

Mr Stewart continued “I know the Highland community believe there is a very strong case for supporting this project due to the transformation it will provide to the lives of children and young adults with complex needs throughout the Highlands, let alone the construction jobs it will provide for one year and the social care jobs that will be created thereafter and I am therefore trying again to see if either Fergus Ewing or Kate Forbes will fund this from their budgets.”