Rhoda Grant MSP is ramping up her efforts to enshrine in law a statutory Right to Food, as new figures expose the extent of food poverty in Scotland.
New analysis of the Scottish Health Survey has shown that almost 364,000 adults in Scotland were worried about running out of food, while over 90,000 people had to go without food in the previous year.
Rhoda Grant has called these figures a “national scandal”, as she launched a consultation on her Right to Food Bill.
This Bill was originally proposed last term by former Scottish Labour MSP Elaine Smith and has now been picked up by Rhoda Grant, but last month the SNP and the Greens voted to delay the Bill moving forward by requiring another consultation.
Commenting, Scottish Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said:
“It is a national scandal that food poverty remains rife in a country as rich as Scotland.
“I hope this launches a meaningful conversation on how to tackle the scourge of food poverty, but the truth is it shouldn’t take yet another consultation to convince us to act.
“It is shameful that the SNP and the Greens are forcing us to waste valuable time consulting again while children up and down the country are going hungry.
“I hope we can drop the partisan politics and unite around this Bill to enshrine in law the fundamental principle that no-one in Scotland should be going without food.”
You can see the consultation document below
Right to Food Consultation Document
You can give your thoughts by taking part in the below survey
Right to Food Consultation – Give your thoughts
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is spreading the word that grant funding has been announced to assist with supporting those experiencing chronic pain this winter.
As a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions, Mrs Grant has been asked to help spread the word that the funding is being made available for third-sector organisations, local authorities, Health and Social Care Partnerships and NHS Health Boards to “increase their capacity to provide appropriate care for people with chronic pain when they need it.”
Proposals for regional and national projects where collaborative working across sectors could increase the reach and impact of any planned activities are particularly being welcomed. Grants of £50,000 per organisation are available although applications above this amount should also be discussed with the Government’s Clinical Priorities Division.
The deadline for applications is tight, with applications to be submitted by 3 December and decisions communicated by 10 December. The project duration is December 2021 – March 2022.
Rhoda Grant said “Sufficient funding for chronic pain services in the north has been desperately needed so this is welcome news.
“The pandemic exacerbated the problem of delivery of chronic pain services in the Highlands so I would encourage groups and organisations, large and small, to apply for this funding today.”
Queries and applications should be sent to: Clinical_Priorities@gov.scot
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, appeared at the Scottish Parliament’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee this morning supporting a petition from Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT).
Maria Aitken, on behalf of CHAT, had lodged the petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to allow an appeal process for Community Participation Requests under the Community Empowerment Act 2015.
The Act was intended to encourage and support community involvement and participation in public services. Part 3 of the Act introduces the right for ‘participation requests’ which aim to ensure engagement and dialogue between community participation bodies.
However, NHS Highland turned down CHAT’s request to participate in decisions being taken by the health authority saying the organisation wasn’t constituted as a Community Controlled Body.
Mrs Grant said she had regular meeting with CHAT and in July this year they raised this issue about of community participation.
“They had contacted NHS Highland and NHS Highland had refused to recognise them as a constituted Community Controlled Body. I believe that the group is controlled by the community and do need to be recognised as such,” said Mrs Grant.
“CHAT have a constitution and that includes provision that they are community led. They hold regular AGMs and have regular meeting with the community that they represent.
“I then took this up with NHS Highland on the group’s behalf, but they have not changed their position on this.
“There is also no appeals process, so no chance for CHAT to debate its case with someone from out with the organisation.
“Members of the public regularly contact CHAT asking for their assistance and advising them of issues that they have faced.
“This often puts them at odds with NHS Highland, if I am being honest, but I believe they are fulfilling an important role in the community.”
Mrs Grant went on to explain that CHAT had given her some examples of where there had been no consultation. For instance, the introduction of a midwife-led maternity unit which has resulted in a 200-mile round trip to Raigmore Hospital for at risk women who are pregnant.
“I agree that people in Caithness are victims of a centralisation of healthcare services and rural areas are being left out of the decision-making process,” said Mrs Grant.
“An appeals process would let the group question the ruling of any public body and I would support its introduction sooner rather than later.”
She added that NHS Highland dismissing the request out of hand was wrong as well.
The committee heard that the Scottish Government had asked the Scottish Community Development Centre to explore what an appeals process might look like and the centre will report its findings later this year.
Petitions committee convener, MSP Jackson Carlaw, said the petition would be kept open and members agreed that the committee should contact the Scottish Community Development Centre to see what progress was being made on an appeals process and when it would be concluded.
Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee | Scottish Parliament TV
The Scottish Government’s Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings has admitted that there is a shortage of registered Green Deal installers in the region to carry out energy efficiency improvements in people’s homes.
Patrick Harvie, who is also the Scottish Greens co-leader, was replying to Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, who took up a complaint from a constituent about the issue.
Home Energy Scotland highlights energy efficiency Improvements with loans and cashback for work on heating and home insulation.
However, Gavin Anderson, from Ullapool, contacted Mrs Grant to say the system wasn’t working.
He said: “We were hoping to apply for this but were shocked to find that for key areas of support there is not one registered installer in the Highlands and having contacted installers outside the Highlands we find that they are not willing to work in the Highlands.
“We live in the coldest area of Scotland and are effectively being excluded from this support scheme because of a huge gap in the supply chain.
“We asked Home Energy Scotland, who supports the grant scheme, and they admitted that it is unlikely that there will be installers registered within the near future.
“This means that households in the Highlands are excluded from £15,000 loan support (with up to £5000 cash back) for insulating our homes while households in all other parts of Scotland can access this support.”
Mr Anderson used the search engine, Green Deal Participant Register – Green Deal ORB (beis.gov.uk) and found there were hardly any installers in the Highlands, including Inverness, in most areas where support could be applied for including cavity wall installation, draught proofing, external wall installation, roof insulation and room in-roof insulation.
Home Energy Scotland told Mrs Grant that finding a certified installer in the Highlands and Islands could be “very difficult”.
Although householders can appeal to the Scottish Government to use a non-Green Deal installer, granting an exemption cannot be guaranteed.
“Householders in the region are more in need of green home energy improvements due to the colder weather and, in some villages and towns, the age of their homes,” said Mrs Grant.
“So, I get exasperated about these Government schemes that encourage people to apply for help, because much of the time the Highlands and Islands is forgotten about.
“It’s just another example of Ministers almost writing off the region and it is so, so frustrating. Waiting until 2022 for more information on how we can skill up our own workforce is just so annoying for those wanting to upgrade.
“Saving the environment is hitting the headlines with COP26 but again there’s more obstacles in the way of those who are trying to be greener.
“The SNP/Green coalition agreement will now only fund heat pumps, no longer funding oil. These pumps need good insulation so a double whammy.”
Mr Harvie said: “I can confirm that we are aware of the shortage of registered Green Deal installers covering the more rural and isolated areas of Scotland. Skills and consumer protection is at the heart of our schemes and we are continuing to work with sector skill bodies, trade bodies and other key stakeholders to enable companies to develop the skill requirements needed for energy efficiency.
“Further information on this work will be released in 2022. In situations where applicants for the Home Energy Scotland Loans are having difficulties locating a registered installer, we continue to monitor this situation.”
He went on to say that non-registered installers could be taken on by householders, in exceptional circumstances through an appeal process, but it would be on a case-by-case basis.
“As long as the non-registered installer is providing value for money, a very important point for the customer, and an adequate warranty/guarantee on the work to be done, the request may be approved,” he added.
Home Energy Scotland, managed by the Energy Saving Trust and funded by the Scottish Government, said that it was “working closely with the Scottish Government to help support the capacity and availability of approved installers in remoter areas of the country.”
It added that Green Deal certification was likely to be replaced in the future as the necessary certification for public funding schemes, however the timing and details of this are yet to be confirmed. In the meantime, its Sustainable Energy Supply Chain programme was engaging with installers in the Highlands and Islands to address the challenges they face, particularly around certification and training. It was working to support the development of a strong local supply chain in the region to deliver both energy efficiency improvements to the fabric of buildings and low and zero emissions heating systems such as heat pumps.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has challenged mobile phone companies and the Scottish Government to look seriously at the lack of connectivity in the region after investigating one constituent’s frustrating case.
Sally Semple, of Drumbuidhe, Morvern, contacted Mrs Grant saying there was “evidence of gaps and deterioration in service” which still existed in the Highlands despite the Scottish 4G Infill programme.
Mrs Grant said: “Sally’s case highlights that there needs to be some more joined up thinking about how people live in rural areas and how to service their needs. I see the frustration that many constituents suffer highlighted in this one case.”
Ms Semple explained she lived in a remote cottage six miles from the nearest public road and from the nearest neighbour, with no electrical connection or landline telephone service.
She explained her cottage was on Loch na Droma Buidhe and there was no consistent mobile reception in the loch. For over 20 years, her family had used a Vodafone telephone number which was accessed via a fixed cellular terminal attached to an antenna (pointed towards the Glengorm transmitter above Tobermory).
Ms Semple, who is a Senior Technical Advisor in the Directorate of Energy & Climate Change, said: “Given my location, the combination of an antenna and a fixed cellular terminal has been an invaluable resource for the folk working and travelling through this remote area. The door to my office where the phone is located has always been open for folk to use in an emergency.”
However, she told the MSP that from April this year the phone system stopped working and the company eventually told her it was unable to provide a service to her location, but she never received an explanation of what had changed, nor had managed to cancel her service or receive compensation.
Mrs Grant, who has campaigned for more than a decade on the need for better digital connectivity, investigated. Ms Semple did then get to cancel her service and received compensation and then signed up for Wi-fi calling with a different operator.
Vodafone told Mrs Grant that it had not shut down any sites in the area but was stopping its Sure Signal devices to replace with WiFi calling using an internet connection, but the MSP noted that Ms Semple had never used Sure Signal and the company did not explain the lack of service to the location.
Ms Semple told the MSP: “However the remote nature of my home means that my internet connection is provided via satellite which comes with its own issues regarding time delays and the financial fragility of suppliers.
“I also do not have an electrical grid connection (I have a diesel generator) so power cuts are common. Being able to make phone calls using the mobile phone network (albeit with an amplified signal) was a key factor that allowed my family to use our home and to provide communication and help to those who pass by. I remain nervous that communication over the internet will be able to replace the signal from Glengorm in all circumstances.”
She also added that her phone would no longer be available to people passing by and she had been working from her Edinburgh office due to connection difficulties.
Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, also provided an update on the Government’s 4G Infill programme which provides new mobile masts to rural communities.
Ms Semple added: “I spent a good portion of the summer waving a phone with a specially purchased EE sim card at the newly constructed Glenborradale mast on the opposite shore of Loch Sunart but with no luck. I will keep trying. I also note that there is a proposed mast in the vicinity of Kilchoan which may well provide future reception.”
Mrs Grant said: “Sally’s case highlighted that some fixes weren’t suitable for her location – the Scottish Government’s offer of a superfast broadband voucher was not needed as she is connected to the best available supplier in her location and she does have satellite broadband.
“Sally is also on her third supplier in the last five years as each has gone bust and a physical internet connection is out of the question as in 2008 the SSE quotation for providing electricity was about £400,000!
“And there are issues for her such as a time delay on calls, variable data speeds leading to lengthy times to access files and on-line meetings some of which have been abandoned.
“It’s fine for public bodies and companies to encourage people to work from home, especially as a result of the pandemic, but we do need the services to help them.
I was delighted to support Small Business Saturday UK when they called at the Parliament last week to kick off their zero emissions Tour of the UK.
This is part of the countdown to Small Business Saturday on 4 December, to celebrate and support small businesses across the country.
This year, more than ever, our small businesses need our support. They contribute so much to the economy of the country and, crucially, provide much needed local jobs and services.
Let’s all show them we care and get behind the campaign to show our support.
With increasing burdens mounting on NHS staff, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, today asked the Health Secretary what assistance the Scottish Government was providing to NHS boards that were currently experiencing pressures ahead of winter.
Humza Yousaf, rehashed his announcement of 5th October which reiterated that the NHS will ‘remain on an emergency footing until at least 31 March next year.’
Speaking in Parliament, Mrs Grant highlighted that “There are many concerns around the Covid vaccine roll out, boosters and take up of flu vaccinations at a time when health boards are grappling with additional staff shortages and increasing resignations.
“In my own region GPs in Alness and Invergordon have notified NHS Highland that they will be handing back their contract from early next year.
“What is the Scottish Government doing to support GPs and Health Boards who are facing unprecedented pressure, even before winter pressures set in?”
The Cabinet Secretary said he couldn’t divorce the impact of the pandemic from other pressures placed on the NHS and assured that the additional winter funding announced on the 5th October would include a significant amount of investment including primary care.
After the meeting Mrs Grant said: “Despite the Health Secretary’s assurances on liaising with the BMA and an expected ‘increase in GP face-to-face appointments’ there is a growing concern regarding the future resignations of GPs within the Highlands and Islands.
“This follows on from yesterday’s announcement from NHS Highland that they will take over the running of Alness and Invergordon medical practice from April 2022.
“Mr Yousaf avoided answering the local question which gives me the impression he’s not interested in the problems of delivering health care in our mostly rural Highlands and Islands.”
Rhoda Grant recently received letters from constituents worried about local services. This is her reply. Rhoda is also a member of Unison.
Scottish Labour have enthusiastically supported Unison’s calls for a fair pay deal for public service workers both within local authorities and in the Scottish Parliament, and support the Plug the Gap campaign which calls for proper long term financial support for our local authorities and the people who work for them.
Local councils and the people who work in them have spent the pandemic doing a heroic job; keeping our vital services going and our most vulnerable people safe through hugely difficult circumstances. The way in which public services workers threw themselves into protecting and helping us has been humbling.
Councils kept our bins being collected, our older people safe and fed, many of our houses over our heads, kids learning at home, and our most vulnerable people cared for. They did this in the context of staff shortages, long hours, and a funding system that they could not rely upon.
The SNP Government has presided over more than a decade of chronic underfunding for our local councils. It refuses to pass on the funding they have received for this, and it has led to £937m of cuts to non-core funding. This has a direct effect on councils’ ability to continue providing essential services, and to protect public sector jobs.
When the pandemic hit, the SNP were slow to confirm the extra funding provided by the UK government, and late to confirm when and how much extra funding Councils received. This made long term planning impossible, and led to many authorities using reserve funds to finance vital services.
Scottish Labour agree that local government should have long term funding plans through a fiscal framework with the Scottish Government and that the resources must be there so that all staff who deliver essential public services should be paid at least the Scottish Living Wage.
Scottish local authorities also face a continued squeeze on capital resources from the government. At its peak, 27% of Scottish government funding went to local councils. Now, that figure has reduced to 12%. This is set to worsen, because there are no increases planned for the next 5 years, which represents a real terms cut to income.
Less capital funding means less investment in key infrastructure such as schools, housing or community renewal. The Scottish Government must leave councils in a financial position to build back better for our communities.
In the Parliament Scottish Labour MSPs regularly argue for an end to local government cuts and have repeatedly pressed Ministers for increased local government funding and workers’ pay during Budget negotiations. In our local communities Labour councillors and activists are campaigning for improved treatment of local authority staff and to save local services like libraries from SNP closures.
Social care workers risk exposure to Covid every day to care for people who depend on them for support. They have done a heroic job in the face of hugely difficult circumstances. They are the people who put themselves in danger to look after our family and friends when they need them the most, yet they have had to fight for equal treatment and protection throughout the pandemic. Scottish Labour believe it is time the social care workforce was properly valued and that the Government should deliver £15 an hour for our local social care COVID heroes.
“Thank you so much for getting in touch about Scotland’s uplands. They are a unique and precious part of Scotland’s landscape and we must do everything we can to support them in a way that works for people, wildlife and the climate. As you say, the protection of raptors must be central to this. Scottish Labour is committed to more effective monitoring of raptor conservation and stronger penalties for those who persecute our raptors.
Scottish Labour has also called for more land to be in the hands of local communities to help create a fairer, sustainable Scotland. We support legislation to ensure that no one individual can acquire large swathes of Scotland’s land and prevent land ownership via offshore tax-havens. We have called for increased funding for the Scottish Land Fund and interventions when land is not used in ways that serve the public interest. Public sector agencies should also be enabled to participate in land markets with the aim of transferring the land into local vehicles of sustainable local ownership, as a basis for local wealth building and income retention.
I share the importance you place on the return of natural woodlands and bogs in prime condition. Scottish Labour supports planting at least 15,000 hectares of trees a year and increasing peatland restoration to 20,000 hectares each year, alongside measures to end commercial peat extraction. At least 50% of all woodland expansion should be with native species and at least 10% delivered through natural regeneration.
These actions would support sustainable employment in rural areas. We have called for the establishment of a Scottish Conservation Corps, modelled on the Civilian Conservation Corps of the New Deal, to employ and train a new workforce dedicated to restoring Scotland’s natural environment. This could employ up to 10,000 people.
With the right vision and commitment we can ensure Scotland’s uplands work for people as well as wildlife and the climate, and I will continue to be a strong voice in parliament for change.
Due to the number of emails MSP Rhoda Grant is receiving on certain issues, her response to some campaigns will be publicly available on this website. This is Rhoda’s reply to constituents asking about Assisted Dying:
Thank you for your email regarding assisted dying in Scotland.
Lib-Dem MSP Liam McArthur has now lodged his Assisted Dying Member’s Bill with his consultation running until December.
Past parliamentary votes on assisted dying have been free votes and any future votes would likely be the same, giving MSPs the freedom to choose how they vote without following a Party line.
I sat on a previous Health Committee considering similar legislation and had the opportunity to scrutinise all the arguments.
I voted against previous Bills and, while I will listen to the arguments again, I have not heard anything that has changed my mind. It became clear to me that what was required was a right to palliative care, something sadly missing in Scotland today. I have also continued to work on ensuring that everyone has a right to die at home with appropriate palliative care.
At the start of the pandemic it became very clear to me that very different values were placed on lives. Disabled people and older people were being actively persuaded to sign “Do Not Resuscitate” forms and there was a general understanding that they would not be admitted to hospital for life saving care if they contracted Covid-19.
Therefore, as a society I do not believe we have the underlying values that would protect the most vulnerable if such legislation were enacted.