FMQ’s – 16.05.19

Today at FMQ’s, I highlighted the mental health care needs of those with diabetes during mental health awareness week.
You can see my question and the First Minister’s response.

MSP contacts TSB chief executive after closure and reduced hours released

 

MSP David Stewart has called for the UK Government to take action to stem the flow of bank closures and the pattern of reduced banking hours following the announcement that the TSB is to close a Moray branch and cut hours at other branches across the Highlands.

Mr Stewart, who represents the Highlands and Islands, which includes Moray, has been told that TSB is to close its Keith branch because “it is no longer financially viable due to lower footfall”.

The bank is also reducing the opening hours of eight branches in the region – Dunoon, Forres, Nairn, Wick, Tain, Thurso, Grantown-on-Spey and Dingwall. Customers will be receiving letters this week.

TSB says all eight have “reduced customer usage over time and low usage overall”.

“This is another body blow for rural areas which have already suffered from other banks closing and reducing their hours,” said Mr Stewart.

“I’ve written to TSB’s Chief Executive, Debbie Crosbie, to ask if Keith can be saved and to try to get some reassures that the other eight branches will not see closure in the future.

“While I understand that banking patterns have changed, branches provide a much-needed service and not everyone can use internet banking, especially where internet coverage is patchy, and where customers are wary of on-line systems.

“Businesses and tourists also need a High Street presence. TSB has said in order that branches are viable in the longer-term it needs to see customers choosing to bank at them, highlighting a use-it or lose-it message, especially for the Highlands.

The UK Government has responsibility for banking and Mr Stewart believes more could be done to help maintain banks on our High Streets.

The next Labour government will set up almost 300 publicly owned Post Banks in Scotland to ensure every community has face-to-face banking. By utilising the extensive network of Post Office branches, Labour’s Post Bank would have by far the largest branch network of all UK banks,” he said.

Mr Stewart added that a network of Post Bank branches would help stem the tide of post office closures, uniting important banking, business and community services under one roof and creating skilled jobs within one of the country’s most trusted brands.

 

Research by Which? has revealed that Scotland has lost more than a third of its bank and building society branches in just eight years, with 610 branches closing down between 2010 and 2018, and more than 200 ATMs in the past year alone.

SNOW – keep safe driving this winter

Highlands & Islands (including Moray) MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart, re-launched his social media campaign in relation to driving this winter called SNOW.

S – Scrape ice and snow from all vehicle windows before driving off
N- Never drink and drive or take drugs and drive
O- Obey all road signs and road traffic laws and regulations
W- When in doubt about driving – Don’t

David Stewart speaking today said:
“My message is simple really.
“At this time of year, only drive if you have to, always make sure you clear snow and ice from your vehicle windows. You can be given a fixed penalty if you don’t, or even charged with careless driving. Never even consider driving if you have taken drink or drugs, obey road signs and traffic laws and if you are at all unsure about driving, don’t.”
“All I am trying to do is put a simple ‘mnemonic’ out there for people to remember or relate to.
“I thought that a four letter seasonal word related to this time of year would jog the memory of drivers, hence SNOW.

MSP: NHS should be banned from buying fax machines

NHS boards in Scotland should be banned from buying fax machines and a date should be made for them to be phased out entirely, says a Highlands and Islands MSP.
David Stewart, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, previously asked health boards in Scotland how many had fax machines and was shocked to discover that more than 1,200 were still in use across the country.
The Department of Health in England has now banned the buying of machines and said their use should be phased out by 2020.
This followed a Royal College of Surgeons investigation which found nearly 9,000 fax machines were in use across NHS England.
Mr Stewart has now lodged a Parliamentary Question asking the Scottish Government if it will follow suit.
“The NHS is way behind other organisations and private companies which scrapped fax machines more than a decade ago,” explained Mr Stewart.
“It’s about time our health authorities were in step with technological advances and used secure emails instead.
“There is an argument that some fax machines should be kept in case of IT system failures, for contingencies, and that seems sensible but I cannot believe that such a large number are needed from day to day.
“The Scottish Government should be on top of this and invest in more modern communication systems. In the end it must save money and time.”
Under Freedom of Information, Mr Stewart asked NHS boards:
1) How many working fax machines each had in a) 2018 (b) 2017 and (c) 2016
2) What were the reasons for using fax machines instead of new, digitised technology?

He discovered NHS Grampian had 400 machines and that “communicating prescription requirements with the Pharmacy Department” was their main use. NHS Highland confirmed fax machines were still used but it did not know exact numbers, although added they were in the process of being phased out.

NHS Shetland had 15 fax machines and stated: “Fax is retained as a backup communication method and is only used by prior arrangement where the recipient is expecting the fax”.
While NHS Orkney had 28 to “maintain essential communications”. “Many of our locations have poor bandwidth links which are frequently unavailable and can take several days to repair,” it said.

NHS Western Isles had 18 and told the MSP: “Fax machines retained by depts/practices due to concerns over comms outages /old ways of working /supplier requirements. We are not replacing any fax machines and are actively discouraging any use.”