Topical Questions – 05/03/19

Today at Topical Questions, I asked a supplementary question on sickness levels in the Ambulance Service and how they have remained static year on year. See the supplementary question and answer above.

Mud on the Road

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and long time road safety campaigner David Stewart urges drivers of heavy plant and agricultural vehicles to clean up after using the area’s roads.


David Stewart said “ A constituent highlighted an issue to me regarding excess mud being left on the roads in the region. This is an ongoing and perhaps annual problem which is potentially very hazardous.

“Whilst I appreciate that farmers and contractors need to move their machines from field to field and site to site at this time of year, there is a lot of mud on some fields and on some sites and I am simply asking that any mess left on the road by vehicles is cleared away as soon as possible in the interests of road safety of other users.


This may seem a minor issue, but let me be clear, the consequences can be dire for drivers and motorcyclists, who can be caught unaware by mud on the road and potentially lose control of their vehicle.

David Stewart continued “Putting out warning signs is good practice, but does not entitle anyone to leave mud on the road for hours or even days. I raise this matter to prevent drivers of heavy plant and agricultural vehicles from being liable should there be an incident or collision caused as a result.


Ian Wilson Regional Manager, NFU Scotland said “With ploughing, sowing and other spring operations ongoing across Scotland, NFUS has issued a timely reminder to farmers on the need, where possible, to keep roads free from mud and muck for the safety of other road users.


During normal cultivating operations mud or muck may inevitably end up on the road.   The vast majority of farmers are already aware of their legal requirement to try to avoid this where possible, and where unavoidable, proper signage and cleaning up as soon as is practically possible is necessary.

Section 95 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984

A person who, being in charge of a vehicle on a road, allows such quantity of mud, clay, farmyard manure, or other material (of whatever nature) from the vehicle, or from anything carried on the vehicle, to drop onto or be deposited on the road so as to create, or be likely to create, a danger or substantial inconvenience to road users and who fails to remove the material as soon as reasonably practicable commits an offence.









Labour of Love for David Stewart as he celebrates Apprenticeship Week

It was a real Labour of love for MSP David Stewart today visiting ICT during Scottish Apprenticeship Week and meeting a great team of lads who are under the apprenticeship scheme at the football club.

Mr Stewart, along with his father, brothers and son, is a long-time supporter of ICT and everyone was certainly in good spirits today after their 2-1 win over Dundee United last night securing a Scottish Cup semi-final place.

“It is so good for the future of the club too that we have such talented youngsters coming through – just look at the success of Ryan Christie,” said Mr Stewart.

“Thanks to Barry Wilson,  ICT head of professional development, for showing me around and to one of the organisers of the visit, Helena Bryce, skills investment adviser for Skills Development Scotland in Inverness – the body which supports and promotes the apprenticeship scheme.

“This year’s theme is Skills for the Future and I wish all apprentices all the very best for the future. I’ll be watching their progress from the stands.”

Scotlands Employer of the Year


Motion Text: That the Parliament congratulates AJ Engineering in Forres on being named Scotland’s Employer of the Year 2019 at a ceremony in Edinburgh hosted by the Federation of Small Businesses; understands that the company is 20 years old, employs 70 staff and has 12 apprentices; notes that the company is also regarded as one of the region’s foremost steel fabrication, steel erection and cladding specialists; further notes that it is also recognised as a supporter of continuous learning and apprenticeships; acknowledges that the company impressed the judges with its continued investment in its employees and programme for developing and retaining staff, and wishes all concerned continued success going forward.



NHS WI wins an Award

Motion Text:

That the Parliament congratulates the NHS Western Isles eHealth, Tec and IT team on winning the Innovative Remote and Rural Service category at the National Scottish Digital Health and Care Awards, which were presented in Edinburgh on 20 February 2019; notes this was just one of four categories in which the board was shortlisted; understands that the team was recognised for focusing on the transformation of the hand surgery assessment pathway; believes that this has seen a reduction in patients travelling to the mainland; acknowledges the commitment of the team to be a world leader in the application of telehealth and in endeavouring to serve the community, and wishes all concerned continued success with providing this innovative service, which it believes has seen a reduction in costs and an improvement in patient care.

Highland MSP agrees the principle of a ‘soft’ opt-out system for organ donation

Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, David Stewart, yesterday backed the general principles of a new Bill which would introduce a ‘soft opt-out’ system for organ donation.

At present, people must opt in to the system to donate their organs for transplants after they die. Under the proposals published at the Scottish Parliament, it will be assumed people were in favour of donation unless they have stated otherwise.

A total of 107 MSPs backed the move, Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles voted against and SNP MSPs Christine Grahame and Colin Beattie abstained.

Mr Stewart, who represents the Highlands and Islands, described the legislation as ‘crucial’ asking: “How do we raise the level of organ donations in Scotland to match the needs of those desperately awaiting transplantation?”

He explained that 426 patients died in the UK whilst on the transplant list or within one year of removal from the list in 2018.

Scotland has the highest percentage of people on the Organ Donation Register in the UK, but the lowest actual organ donation in terms of rates per million. Family authorisation is also low in Scotland.

“The key issue is the gap between those who wish to donate organs and the number who actually go on to join the Organ Donation Register – 80% support donation, but only 52% have signed up to the donation register,” he told MSPs during the debate.

In simplistic terms, the purpose of the Bill is to bridge this divide – to encourage those who support organ donation but haven’t registered on the Organ Donation Register, to have their wishes respected.

Mr Stewart said: “We know from background research by British Heart Foundation that people living in countries with soft opt out were 17-29% more willing to donate their organs.

“In general terms, soft opt out means that unless the deceased has expressed a wish in life not to be an organ donor, consent will be assumed. Of the top 10 countries in terms of donors per million, nine have an opt out system.

“This brings us to Spain who lead the world league table for organ donations. We took evidence at the Health and Sport Committee on this point.

“Why are they so successful? Three main reasons:
• Comprehensive networks of transplant co-ordinators,
• Donor detection programme,
• Greater provision of intensive care beds.”

Mr Stewart added that Scotland must increase the number of intensive care beds to allow for the increased number of organ donation care.

He also highlighted areas where the Bill can be strengthened and agreed with Andrew Tickell of Glasgow Caledonian University when he said:
“the failure to put the rights of family members and duties of doctors on a statutory footing appears even more problematic.”

During the debate he told MSPs about his friend Gary, who is in his mid-fifties and lives in Fife.

“Nearly two years ago, he was given the gift of life by a crucially needed heart transplant. Prior to that, he was on the transplant list for 12 months and had a pacemaker. But he was slowly deteriorating – without the transplant he would have died.

“Gary cannot praise enough the dedicated support of the nursing staff at the Golden Jubilee. He said to me, ‘it was a matter of life or death’”

Mr Stewart said: “This is a vitally important piece of legislation which will improve Scotland’s position in international league of organ donation and will literally be a matter of life and death for many Scots, like my friend Gary – desperately in need of a life-saving organ donation.”

Graduated Licence

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and Road Safety campaigner, David Stewart who has been actively engaged in pursuing the introduction of a form of graduated licence for nine years now, has written to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Jesse Norman, at the Department of Transport, asking for an update on the proposed roll out of a pilot scheme in Northern Ireland.

David Stewart said ” Last Spring I wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon ,Chris Grayling, on this issue and I was advised by the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Sate, Jesse Norman, that the Department were working closely with Politicians in Northern Ireland on the roll out a pilot form of graduated licence. This proposal was to happen during 2019 and 2020.

” I am keen to learn how this proposal is progressing, as I have a fear that with no Government sitting in Northern Ireland, this will be an issue that will get kicked into and lost in the long grass.

David continued ” for over nine years I have been pursuing this issue through both Governments and I feel so strongly that if introduced it would without doubt save lives, that I am not going to let the matter drop.

“I have presented enough evidence from experts and qualified people over the years that frankly it should be a no brainer. I look forward to learning how plans for this pilot are progressing.

Jobs boost at Arnish

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP, David Stewart has welcomed the news that the mothballed fabrication yard at Arnish has been brought back into use to help in the building of the 100 turbine Moray East windfarm scheme in the Moray Firth. It is understood that the work will create up to 60 jobs

Speaking today, David Stewart said ” at a time when we seem to be hearing about the loss of jobs within our more isolated and scattered communities, it is good to hear some positive news. We have the former oil rig construction yard at Kishorn on the West coast now engaged in the manufacturing of renewable energy components, decommissioning and support to the North Sea oil and gas sector. Now we have Arnish near Stornoway involved in the construction of windfarm structures creating more jobs which of course helps the local economy and community. I am hoping we have turned the corner with regards the down turn in the work that these facilities were able to secure and hopefully this era will herald a new beginning for these former oil construction yards as they bid for more and more renewable and energy related contracts.

Raigmore Interchange – risks to pedestrians and cyclists crossing South Slip Road

Speaking to the Press about the risks pedestrian and cyclists take crossing the South Slip Road at this location,Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and Road Safety Campaigner David Stewart said:
“ First of all my thoughts are with the woman knocked down and her family,I hope she makes a full recovery. Although I have no knowledge of the surrounding circumstances of this collision it raises the question of pedestrian safety on this particular part of the carriageway.

“ If a pedestrian wishes to cross the North bound slip road approaching this roundabout there is a pedestrian crossing, but if the pedestrians are walking towards, or from, Eastfield Way, Stoneyfield Business Park or indeed other parts of the Retail Park and wish to cross the South bound slip Road from this roundabout there is no pedestrian crossing.

“ In light of this latest incident I hope that The Transport Scotland working with the Police and local Authority will now look at this issue. To that end I will write to Transport Scotland asking them to seriously consider this proposal.