Highland politicians join forces with White Ribbon Scotland and local bookies to tackle violence against women

 A campaign to tackle violence against women is being launched in local betting shops with the support of MSP David Stewart and other local politicians.

Betting shop staff from bookmakers William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Scotbet will take part in the week long campaign in support of White Ribbon Scotland, a charity which campaigns to end gender based violence. Staff will ask men who enter their shops to sign the White Ribbon Scotland pledge ‘never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women in all its forms.’

Two previous campaigns, held in Glasgow and Hamilton, secured more than 1,300 pledges. The latest campaign will involve all 12 betting shops in Inverness. William Hill staff in Dingwall will also participate.

The week long campaign will run from Monday 4 February until Monday 11 February.

Ahead of the launch, betting shop staff attended a White Ribbon Scotland awareness workshop in Inverness.

David Stewart MSP said: “I support this campaign coming to the north and encourage men to take part. Generally, I have noted a changing attitude by some men and boys challenging the male culture that leads to harassment, abuse and violence but more needs to be done. It’s also good that betting shop staff are being involved in an awareness workshop and can then go on to explain to customers what White Ribbon is trying to achieve.”

The campaign is being coordinated by ABB Scotland, the trade association for high street bookmakers.

ABB Scotland spokesman Donald Morrison said they were committed to continuing  their partnership with White Ribbon Scotland with many campaigns across Scotland in 2019.

“This campaign is not about stigmatising men, the vast majority of whom would never contemplate violence about women. It is about encouraging men to take a stand against domestic abuse. The success of our previous betting shop campaigns shows that more and more men are prepared to take such a stand. In both campaigns, customers sent a very clear message that it is entirely unacceptable to commit, condone or ignore violence against women. We look forward to working with betting shop staff in Inverness and Dingwall to spread this important message.”

For more information about White Ribbon Scotland visit www.whiteribbonscotland.org.uk


Scottish Government “blinkered” over refusal to ban NHS fax machine

The Scottish Government’s refusal to ban health authorities from using fax machines is “blinkered” and is keeping services in the dark ages, according to an MSP.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, David Stewart, was reacting to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman’s reply to a Parliamentary Question he lodged.

Mr Stewart, who represents the Highlands and Islands, asked whether the Government planned to ban the use of fax machines by the NHS and, if so, whether usage would be phased out by March 2020.

Ms Freeman’s reply was short and sweet – it had no plans.

“Health authorities are being left with technology which belongs in a museum,” said Mr Stewart.

“This reply is very short sighted and blinkered, leaving Ms Freeman unable to see clearly what’s needed for the future of the health service,” said Mr Stewart.

“It’s a sign of the Government letting things slip over the last 10 years. Services are creaking at the seams and up-to-date technology could help save time and money.

Mr Stewart believes that NHS boards in Scotland should be banned from buying fax machines and a date should be made for them to be phased out entirely.

He 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.



8 January 2019

Index Heading: Health and Social Care

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to ban the use of fax machines by the NHS and, if so, whether usage will be phased out by March 2020.


Jeane Freeman: The Scottish Government has no plans to ban the use of fax machines in NHSScotland.

Pets in cars

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart highlights a rule and law that constituents may not be aware off whilst driving with their pet in a car.


David said ” We all love our pets who after all are our companions and in many cases the pet wants to go where ever the person in charge of it goes. However, did you know that rule 57 of the Highway code states: “When in a vehicle, make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves if you have to stop quickly.” A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.


” I am aware that some organisations are advising that this is the law and a driver contravening it could get nine points on their licence and a fine of up to £2500. This is not in fact correct. The rule 57 of the Highway code is advisory and yes you could get charged with careless driving if the Police deemed your ability to drive safely was impaired and you were deemed to be driving without due care and attention due to your pets activity whilst unrestrained in the car. The charge in these circumstances would be one of Careless Driving. This would not of course apply if the pet was sitting or lying down well behaved. Notwithstanding this actual fact, pet owners who value their companions should always consider utilising a seat restraint harness or putting their pet behind the dog guard in the rear of the vehicle for the safety and well being of all concerned.


David concluded ” I am not being alarmist, that is why I am pointing out that you do not get prosecuted under contraventions of the Highway code but under the Road Traffic Act 1988. The Highway code does relate to the Road Traffic Act where sections of the Highway code stipulate ‘you must’ or ‘must not’ – However, road safety is always high on my agenda and the safety of all occupants of vehicles and other road users is paramount. So if at all possible always place your pet in a seat restraint or behind a dog guard, especially if it is boisterous  and moving about freely. This is the safest option.






Warm Homes Benefit

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP, David Stewart, stands up for elderly in warms homes energy benefit scheme.


David said ” It came to my attention from an elderly constituent who is nearly 80 and lives in the far North, that because she is not on any benefits ie pension benefit or other core benefit, she does not qualify for the warm homes winter energy reduction scheme which is a one off reduction from the energy provider of £140 and reduced from the suppliers electricity bill between September and March. I really think this is an issue that we need to look into. This constituent is on a low income but just misses out on the criteria to qualify for this benefit. What we have to remember is that in this case the constituent like many others lives in the far North which is subject to pretty severe weather and because she is just over the threshold to qualify for benefit, she loses out. We need to look after our old, frail and elderly. Although this part of the Social Security legislation may not have been devolved to the Scottish Government, I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and the Older People, Shirley- Anne Somerville, asking her to look at this issue and if the Government do not have the powers yet to deal with this particular matter, to lobby her opposite number in Westminster to see if they can make this benefit available to all those persons 75 and over.


” This cap will affect many older people living in parts of the Highlands & Islands that are subjected to some of our worst winter weather and we have to make sure that we provide for their care and well being and we can do this by ensuring that those of a certain age group automatically qualify for such benefits.





NHS Waiting Times



Over 4337 people waited too long at H&I   A&E departments in 2018, new figures released today reveal.


Data published by ISD Scotland reveals that 3600  people waited more than 4 hours at NHS Highland Accident and Emergency Departments last year, with 194 waiting over 8 hours. 257 waited more than 4 hours in NHS Orkney. 278 in NHS Shetland and 102 in NHS Western Isles.


Scottish Labour said the figures evidenced the stress our health service is under, with overworked staff facing crowded A&E departments because of mismanagement elsewhere in the health service – such as staffing vacancies in social care and primary care.


David Stewart, Highlands and Islands Regional MSP and Shadow Minister for Health said:


“Patients and staff deserve better than this.


“I have been concerned about the pressures on the  NHS for some time and these figures expose the scale of the challenge NHS staff face in delivering patient care and how badly they have been let down by years of SNP mismanagement of our NHS.


“A&E is the front door of the hospital, and the pulse check of our NHS as a whole. Increasing numbers of people waiting too long at A&E reveals unacceptable pressure in other parts of our health service such as in social care and primary care.


“We already know that staff do not feel they are getting enough support and that the level of unfilled health posts is unsustainable.


“Ministers set the health service targets for staff to hit and then do not deliver the support and resources needed. It simply isn’t good enough.”




Waiting over 4 hours Waiting over 8 hours Waiting over 12 hours
Health Board Total % change from 2017 Total % change from 2017 Total % change from 2017
NHS Ayrshire & Arran 7718 9.9% 1938 48.4% 513 51.3%
NHS Borders 2424 31.5% 197 58.9% 57 67.6%
NHS Dumfries & Galloway 3736 6.8% 370 132.7% 28 133.3%
NHS Fife 3881 -9.9% 230 -36.1% 25 -49.0%
NHS Forth Valley 12701 88.3% 1627 162.8% 453 277.5%
NHS Grampian 7428 29.1% 287 47.2% 20 100.0%
NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde 42834 11.7% 3394 23.0% 303 20.2%
NHS Highland 3600 12.8% 194 29.3% 12 -33.3%
NHS Lanarkshire 18908 8.7% 1916 -11.0% 434 -18.4%
NHS Lothian 36799 144.7% 4332 99.3% 1060 136.1%
NHS Orkney 257 14.2% 3 -50.0% 0
NHS Shetland 278 16.3% 8 166.7% 0 -100.0%
NHS Tayside 2372 12.4% 39 -4.9% 3 200.0%
NHS Western Isles 102 96.2% 1 0
Scotland 143038 35.3% 14509 44.8% 2908 60.0%




Source: Labour analysis of data available from ISD here: https://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Emergency-Care/Publications/data-tables2017.asp?id=2329#2329


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.”

MSP disappointed patients who’ve been bullied ruled out of Sturrock review

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has ruled out allowing patients, who claim they have been bullied, to submit their concerns to the QC led review into allegations of NHS Highland bullying and harassment.

This is contrary to reply in the Scottish Parliament chamber during a members’ business debate last month when Ms Freeman said: “The review will explore the underlying issues and will include conversations with any affected individuals, including current and former staff, their representatives, board members, management and patients, if patients wish to come forward.”

Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, David Stewart, who also represents the Highlands and Islands, said he was extremely disappointed by the response from the Health Secretary in a Parliamentary Question he lodged.

Ms Freeman said in her reply that patients could make contact with stories of staff bullying staff and their written representations will help inform the John Sturrock review.

“I certainly picked up during the previous debate that patients who have been bullied or harassed would be able to feed in directly to the Sturrock review,” explained Mr Stewart.

“But it turns out that they will only be able to take part if they have witnessed staff being bullied and not if they have been bullied themselves.

“Patients who have contacted me will be bitterly disappointed about this as they were very keen to let their voices be heard.”



18 December 2018

Index Heading: Health and Social Care

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government how the review into alleged bullying and harassment at NHS Highland will take account of the views of patients.


Jeane Freeman: As part of its scope the review aims to understand what, if any cultural issues have led to any bullying, or harassment, and a culture where such allegations apparently cannot be raised and responded to locally. John Sturrock QC will be holding a series of private meetings with a large number of individuals who have contacted him to raise concerns, which may include any patients who have come forward who have witnessed or experienced bullying among NHS staff.

Given the volume of interest and the requirement to provide a report in the early part of the new year, the review will now work with those who have come forward at this stage, listening to and distilling their concerns. If patients make contact with stories of staff bullying staff, their written representations will help inform the review. An initial report will be submitted by the end of February 2019, and any next steps will then be decided upon.


Don’t spoil Christmas for yourself or anyone else by drinking and driving or by drug driving’

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and Road Safety campaigner, David Stewart warns drivers ‘don’t spoil Christmas for yourself or anyone else by drinking and driving or by drug driving’


The consequences are stark: If you get caught you will get a minimum 12-month driving ban, a criminal record for a lengthy period or a substantial fine, and that’s before you start considering the significant social and employment consequences of your actions. Above all you are risking your own life and the lives of innocent road users and pedestrians.


Let’s face it :


  • When you are standing at the scene of a road traffic collision you caused and in which someone is seriously injured or killed – It is too late!
  • When you are sitting in the rear of a Police vehicle – It is too late!
  • When you are sitting in a Police cell – It is too late
  • When you appear in Court – It is too late
  • And when you have lost your job – It is too late


Why risk it for the sake of a drink or drug?


I often get asked now what is the safe amount of alcohol you can drink and drive within the limit. The answer is one word ‘None’

In Scotland the legal drink drive limit is lower than any other part of the UK. Whilst driving in Scotland the drink drive limit for alcohol has been reduced from 80mg to 50mg in every 100ml of blood.

David Stewart said “ Drink and drug driving are not socially acceptable in today’s society. Clearly there are a hard core of drink and drug drivers that need to be educated as no form of campaigns or media coverage have addressed this issue. I have recently muted the proposal to make all convicted drink or drug drivers attend a mandatory Drink/Drive Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS) which would enhance the work already being done in this field.

“The course combines presentations, group exercises, group discussions and videos used in conjunction with a course workbook with various exercises to complete and is all geared to educate the convicted driver as to the error of their ways.

“Let’s face it, if the convicted driver is not referred to such a scheme, where are they to be educated as to the danger they pose to other road users and what is to stop them continuing to drink/drug drive once their ban has been completed.”

The DDRS is an informal educational training workshop that provides participants with knowledge to reduce the likelihood they will be re-convicted of drink/drug driving again.

David Stewart said the incentive for the drink/drug driver is that if they complete the course they can not only get up to 25% off their driving ban, but also become more responsible and safer drivers in the process. Let’s face it we have to try something