Labour candidate to continue to fight for chronic pain improvements

Labour’s Inverness and Nairn candidate and lead candidate for the Highlands and Islands Region, Rhoda Grant, has promised to carry on the work undertaken by her retiring colleague, David Stewart, to improve services for chronic pain sufferers in the Highlands if she is re-elected this week.

David Stewart has been pressing the Scottish Government to invest more in the service in the North and to tackle the shortage of chronic pain consultants nationally.

Mr Stewart said, “Having been contacted by constituents, I asked many questions relating to the funding of the service in the North and the shortage of consultants in general.

“Living with chronic pain affects every aspect of a sufferer’s life and many have to give up work as a result.”

Inverness resident, Colin Sutherland, who has suffered chronic pain for around 10 years and has himself been pushing for more staff for the service said “I am really pleased Rhoda will take up the case if she’s re-elected and I wish her every success in getting something done.”

The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2020/21 committed to developing and improving the current Scottish model for chronic pain.

“Before the outbreak of Covid last March, waiting times for the service in the North were excessive and that will only have been exacerbated further by the outbreak.” continued Mr Stewart.

Rhoda Grant said “In December last year, NHS Scotland’s update on national developments on chronic pain highlighted key challenges around workforce planning and education, but crucially the lack of consistent and sustainable funding for the service was also cited as one of the biggest challenges.

“We need to do more to highlight the issue and to get sufficient amounts of staff and funding in place to tackle the problem. I will continue to press for this if re-elected.” concluded Mrs Grant.

Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar comes to Inverness

I was delighted to welcome Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar to Inverness this morning to launch the Highlands and Islands manifesto. This covid recovery plan for our region identifies and tackles local issues. The weather behaved too which was an added bonus.
Use your second vote to vote for Anas Sarwar’s Labour and to fight for the issues that matter to the Highlands and Islands.

Scottish Labour’s Climate Recovery Plan

Later this year, Glasgow will host the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) summit. This will be a massive moment for Scotland where the eyes of the world will be on us. We want Glasgow to be synonymous with world leading action on climate change. But the first step we must take is to ensure that we are doing as much as we can, here at home, to make our contribution.

Without significant action, Scotland will not meet its climate target of reducing all greenhouse gas emissions to 100% by 2045, or its interim target of achieving a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.  There are more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere than at any point in human history and air pollution is killing 2,500 Scots every year.[1] Further to this, one in nine species is at risk of extinction. [2]

We must tackle the climate and nature emergencies while reducing the inequalities that Covid-19 has exposed and made worse. The transition to net zero is an opportunity to create thousands of jobs and address the current economic crisis caused by Covid-19. These measures, implemented immediately, would not just contribute to tackling the global climate emergency, they would kickstart Scotland’s economy, improve health, tackle unemployment and deal with the rising cost of living.

  1. Improve energy efficiency across Scotland

Scotland’s buildings are a huge driver of its climate emissions, contributing 23% of Scottish emissions. Nearly 75% of these come from residential buildings.[3] Only around half of all homes are energy efficiency rating C or higher and a quarter of Scottish households are in fuel poverty. Investing in energy efficiency measures will reduce living costs, create jobs and make a significant contribution to reducing our carbon emissions.

Scottish Labour has a plan to upgrade all homes to at least an energy efficiency rating of C or higher by 2030 and, where possible, zero carbon by 2045.

We would establish a national housing agency to work closely with local authorities and coordinate the roll out of measures including insulation, double glazing, boiler replacement,  forms of renewable heat, and heat networks

Our targets will require a significant step change in current activity: at least 80,000 homes would need to be renovated annually until 2030, more than double the current rate. Long term, it is estimated that at least 90% of homes will need to be fitted with a form of renewable heat such as heat pumps or heat networks.

Under our model, low and middle income households would be awarded grant funding while other households would be offered interest free loans to pay for the upgrades, up to the value of £18,000. Fuel poor and rural homes would be targeted first.

  1. Invest in Scotland’s natural environment

In order to draw more carbon from the atmosphere we need to invest in nature restoration. Scotland already plants a significant amount of trees, but this must increase from the existing 11,000 hectares a year to at least 15,000 hectares a year as recommended by the Committee on Climate change.[4]

Scottish Labour would plant at least 15,000 trees a year and increase peatland restoration to 20,000 hectares each year, alongside measures to end commercial peat extraction.

A Scottish Conservation Corps would be established, 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, forming an important part of Scottish Labour’s Jobs for Recovery guarantee and ensuring that roles are available across the country including in rural areas.

  1. Create real change in Scotland’s businesses through procurement and business support

The Scottish public sector purchases around £11 billion of goods and services each year.[5] We need to move away from a narrow focus on price and towards a broader view of the role the public sector can plan in making Scotland’s businesses greener.

Through our Better Business Scotland certification we will ensure that every business that wants to work with the public sector has a clear carbon reduction plan or a commitment to achieving net zero.

Scottish Labour would adopt a local first approach to procurement, reducing carbon emissions by ensuring goods and services are procured locally.

Where local suppliers don’t exist, the Scottish National Investment Bank would be used to invest to help existing companies diversify or support the creation of new local supply chains.

  1. Lead a Just Transition to net zero

Scottish Labour’s Just Transition would mean no person or community is left disadvantaged as we move to a low carbon economy.

Scottish Labour would deliver a statutory Just Transition Commission to focus on how the transition to net zero would benefit those who are unemployed, underemployed or who are at risk of unemployment as a result of the current economic crisis and the transition.

Scotland needs a bold industrial strategy to lay out how domestic manufacturing capacity must evolve to ensure that the growth in domestic renewable energy production leads to new jobs in Scotland.  Alongside this, we would establish the Scottish Energy Development Agency to coordinate the growth in renewable energy production including in skills and training. It would work closely with the Scottish National Investment Bank to invest in the development of the domestic supply chain.

Scottish Labour would only sign new contracts for offshore wind farms when a plan for supply chain manufacturing was in place and conditions on job creation in Scotland were met.

  1. Create greener communities

Covid-19 has brought into stark relief not only the value of green space but also the inequality of access to green space. Addressing this cannot wait. Progress to decarbonise our transport sector has also been too slow and emissions from road vehicles have continued to rise. Accelerating the decarbonisation of existing transport networks, and investing in the roll out of low carbon alternatives must be a priority.

Scottish Labour would adopt a new approach to development that puts public health and the environment first: Our national housing agency would be centrally responsible for the acquisition of finance, land and housing, and dealing with derelict and vacant land, and act as a prime mover in the delivery of housing. It would ensure the development of well designed communities with green space.

Scottish Labour would reinstate the ability of public authorities to acquire land at near use value. As a result the public sector would capture the uplift in the value of land that results when planning permission is granted, unlocking significant funds for infrastructure and development.

Existing communities can’t be neglected: We would invest in councils to create urban and rural safe active travel routes, green spaces and food growing places.

Scottish Labour will invest in interest-free government loans to help more low and middle income households to buy electric cars, establish more care sharing schemes, and accelerate the roll-out of electric charging points with an initial focus on underserved areas.

We will increase active travel spending to 10% of the overall transport budget, giving priority to encouraging and enabling people to get out of their cars and onto bikes and walking.

We will introduce free bus travel for under 25s and invest in the manufacture and widespread introduction of accessible green buses.




[4] zerothe-uks-contribution-to-stopping-global-warming/


Earlier today Scottish Labour’s Inverness and Nairn candidate and lead Highlands and Islands list candidate, Rhoda Grant, joined  her colleague and Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch Scottish Labour candidate, John Erskine, and other residents and trade unionists at the Highlands and Islands Workers’ Memorial in #Inverness to commemorate International Workers’ Memorial Day.
They gathered to honour every worker who has died from Covid-19 and other work related illnesses and injuries.
Remember the dead, fight for the living. #IWMD21

Shetland College merger badly handled says Scottish Labour’s Rhoda Grant

Scottish Labour’s Highlands and Islands lead list candidate, Rhoda Grant, remains very concerned at the way the Shetland College merger has been handled without Parliamentary checks and balances over its proposed privatisation.

Mrs Grant has supported EIS-FELA members and those in the community who want the merged college to be incorporated and to remain in public hands.

She has discovered that the merger is to go ahead on August 1 this year without any Parliamentary scrutiny of the move to establish the new college as an un-incorporated entity which would be a private company.

This is because the decision taken by the Transition Board under the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992, affects the process required for the merger.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) says the vesting date for the new college remains 1 August, but because the college will not be incorporated under the 1992 Act no primary or secondary legislative process is required, nor any endorsement of structure or legal standing.

“It certainly sounds like a done deal now with no scrutiny of the college’s governance arrangements and of how privatisation will affect the staff and future monitoring of the public finances which are invested in the college despite it being a private limited company,” said Mrs Grant.

“The only scrutiny will come in several months’ time under assignation to UHI as the regional funding body and so, as the EIS and I are not against the actual merger or its assignation to UHI in principal, then there will be no opposition to the order.  However, the process to remove it from Local Authority control to the control of a publicly unaccountable board is not publicly scrutinised.

“The new merged college will be funded predominantly from public funds and therefore needs to be subject to democratic public accountability and the scrutiny of Audit Scotland, in line with public sector finance requirements.

“I think there should be further scrutiny for a project which has caused such a major rift in Shetland and I will push for that if re-elected.”

 The College is currently part of Shetland Islands Council. It is being merged with Train Shetland (also part of SIC) and the North Atlantic Fisheries College Marine Centre UHI (NAFC), which is an unincorporated college governed by a Board of Trustees. The EIS is not opposed to this merger.

 The EIS is opposed to the recommended business plan, approved by SIC, that the new Further Education college (Shetland College UHI) is to be unincorporated and is registered as a private company limited by guarantee.  Although the NAFC is already a private entity, this would be the first time in Scottish history when a Further Education college has been transferred from public ownership and control into a private company.

The EIS has said: “A privatised college is not accountable in law to the democratically elected Scottish Parliament. Unincorporated colleges can change their governance structures simply by amending their Articles of Association following a decision by the Board of Management. This does not provide the security of regulatory provision which would appear to have been envisaged by Scottish Ministers at the time of reclassification.”

Adult mental health in Caithness: we need to listen to community groups

Scottish Labour’s Highlands and Islands regional list lead candidate, Rhoda Grant, still has concerns for adult mental health services in Caithness.

Mrs Grant tried to schedule a meeting with local organisations and NHS Highland after talking to its Chief Executive, Pam Dudek, but it had to be postponed in the end as the only available date was in the election period

“Although it is very welcome that a package of funding has gone to Highland Council to support mental health and wellbeing services, this is only for children and young people aged from five to 24, or 26 if they have been in care,” she explained.

“Those people aged over 26 are not included in the funding, although I get the impression that the public are not aware of that and believe the package is for everyone struggling with mental illness.

“I know there are still gaps in the service and I pledge to follow up on this, and reschedule the meeting, if elected in May.”

Mrs Grant received appeals from local people last year who were worried about the number of suicides in the area and she had discussions with NHS Highland about putting together a meeting with groups involved in mental health initiatives.

“There is still a conversation to be had and action to be taken on the difficulties faced in Caithness and its distance from central services in Inverness.

“I realise that the Scottish Government will always say that there is a challenge in recruiting staff for areas such as Caithness, but what exactly is it doing to fund more training places, to encourage staff to the Far North, and to think creatively to fill the gaps?

“The Near Me video project is good, but people still need to see professionals face-to-face and close to home and we shouldn’t give up on that.”

Previously Mrs Grant discovered that people with complex mental health problems who need psychology services can sometimes wait nearly two years for appointments.

For psychology services, which are based in Inverness, a person must have an identifiable moderate to severe mental disorder that cannot solely be managed by primary care.

Residents contact Scottish Labour’s Rhoda Grant about pothole ‘disgrace’

Residents in Montague Row, Inverness, have contacted Scottish Labour’s Inverness and Nairn candidate, Rhoda Grant, about the state of their road which is being used as a rat run by motorists.

Vera Gawith was first to call Rhoda after months of putting up with the potholed road and neighbours Margaret Renfrew and Ron Hughes joined in.

Ron explained within days of the potholes being filled by Highland Council, they are being eroded with larger vehicles using the road as a short-cut trying to avoid the traffic lights at Tomnahurich Street.

“I would say from about 6.30 in the morning you can hear the racket as they come down their 4x4s with trailers and they just bump down into the holes,” said Ron.

“The council are just patching the job as there is more work planned in the area before tarmac can be put down, and, I understand that, but after a few days the potholes are back.

“Stones are being thrown up too and it’s not safe to park the car here anymore.

“Certainly, I feel the central belt get everything when it comes to funding and we are forgotten about up here!”

Rhoda has already lambasted the SNP Government for a long-term campaign of starving Highland Council of cash, leaving a huge hole in the budget for road repairs and maintenance.

Although millions are being ploughed into road repairs by the local authority, it equates to just £1,000 a kilometre.

“What I’m hearing from residents across the constituency is that the state of the roads is a real issue,” said Rhoda, who is also Scottish Labour’s Highlands and Islands lead candidate on the regional list.

“The council is trying to fire fight, especially after the pandemic, but it has limited resources and a huge backlog.

“I am very concerned about the state of the roads, with many photos being posted of crumbling edges and huge potholes and it’s not just in Inverness.

“The SNP Government comes back with the usual ‘we’ve given councils plenty of money, so they are responsible’ and it does the usual of washing their hands of it. It’s really a disgrace.”

She will be contacting Highland Council again and also the Scottish Government to highlight the problem.

Vera Gawith explained that it wasn’t only motorists using the stretch as a rat run, but also the speed of the vehicles coming down the road too.

“It’s a wonder there hasn’t been an accident with people avoiding the potholes and avoiding drivers going too fast,” she added.

Meanwhile, neighbour Margaret Renfrew said that she has already had to buy a new tyre due to damage caused by another pothole in another Inverness street.

“I just cannot afford to buy new tyres. I’ve also lifted a big bit of concrete being thrown out of one of the potholes and put it to one side because I thought it was unsafe to leave it in the road. It’s a disgrace. It’s been going on for too long.”

Photo left to right, Rhoda, Margaret, Vera and Ron in Montague Row

Still work to be done to protect pregnant women in Caithness, says Scottish Labour candidate

Scottish Labour’s Highlands and Islands lead candidate, Rhoda Grant, has pledged to continue campaigning for better support and services for pregnant women in Caithness.

Mrs Grant acknowledges that there has been some progress by the Scottish Government to investigate steps to help women, but there is much still to be done to ensure there are minimal risks for them.

“There has been some progress with a new initiative called Best Start, including the development of an in-utero transfer risk assessment tool which will assist clinicians in their decision to transfer pregnant women who are threatened with pre-term labour, as part of the Maternity Transport Group,” she said.

“This will support midwives in remote and rural areas in making decision about transferring women, but I have been told further work is needed in refining it

“I have campaigned on this for the past five years and will campaign further until a full risk assessment has been carried out that gives women and the community at large more confidence in transfers to Raigmore.

“A total of 90% of Caithness women currently give birth in Raigmore hospital, over 100 miles away, and really that needs to be addressed.

“There has never been a risk assessment on emergency transfers or indeed on the journeys south that pregnant women face, sometimes in appalling weather conditions.

“It would be even better if obstetric and paediatric support could be put in place at Caithness General to stop most pregnant women travelling to Raigmore hospital to give birth.

It’s been a long haul, but I continue to listen to women and the community on this and I am passionate about keeping up the pressure until there is a result.”

Response to the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Strategic Framework: Business Support Funding

Commenting on the publication of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Strategic Framework: Business Support Funding Statistics (Tranche 5) which showed that;

  • As many as 21,000 businesses faced rejection when applying for support, yet only 79% of the amount set aside for the period of 2nd November 2020 to 22nd March 2021 was spent from the Strategic Framework Business Fund (SFBF);
  • Over 1/4 of applications to Local Authority Discretionary Funds were rejected, referred or deferred, and only £38m of £120m available to these funds had been allocated as of 26th of March;
  • 30% (21,054) of SFBF applications were rejected, and 1% (1,420) were either referred or deferred. The remaining 2% were still awaiting processing;
  • The Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund closed on 25 March 2021, yet only 64% of eligible drivers have been granted funding support and only 57% of the budget has been spent;

Daniel Johnson, Scottish Labour Finance Spokesperson, said:

“Lock down has brought many businesses to the point of collapse so these statistics showing large underspends and thousands of businesses rejected for support grants will leave many local business feeling abandoned and worried about their future.

“There are now critical questions about why funding has been slow to be provided, how it has been administered and how could there both be such large underspends and rejection rates. The fact that even the discretionary fund – which was supposed to be for those businesses that had fallen through the cracks – has been underspent is alarming.

“This is money that should be in the hands of businesses not sitting in Scottish government bank accounts. SNP ministers must urgently confirm that support schemes will extended and set out how this money will be disbursed. My worry is that the consequence of this inaction will be high streets strewn with ’To Let’ signs.

“Scottish businesses need a government focussed on recovering our shattered economy. Only Scottish Labour is committed to National Recovery Plan and rejecting the distraction of the politics of division.”

Rhoda Grant, Inverness and Nairn candidate and lead candidate for the Highlands and Islands Region, said:

“I met with the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, just before the Parliament went into recess for the election. She told me then that there was a huge underspend of discretionary funding and I appealed to her to help owners out before their businesses go to the wall.

“I have had strong, normally self-sufficient, business owners in tears telling me the application process is confusing and they feel distraught having to almost plead for funding to save their livelihoods. Through no fault of their own, these owners’ fears for their futures are growing day on day.

“That only one third of the £120m discretionary funding has been allocated, while owners despair, is deeply distressing. The government has to inject a sense of urgency into this and get this money out to the businesses in need now before their worst fears become a reality.”

Scottish Labour candidates pledge support for Portree Hospital

Scottish Labour’s Highlands and Islands lead list candidate, Rhoda Grant, and Scottish Labour’s Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch candidate, John Erskine, will fight for Portree Hospital to remain open if community fears of closure are realised.

Mrs Grant previously backed campaigners who wanted to keep the hospital.

“In 2019 I said there were a number of highs for me including Raasay finding a solution to having round the clock nursing cover – an issue raised since 2016 – but also the Save Portree Hospital campaign, which I supported, winning 24/7 urgent care and the retention of beds.

“I said then that the situation still had to be monitored and that’s been proved right if closure plans are back on the table as feared.

“To me this smacks of the continued centralisation by the Scottish Government and highlights that more money needs to be injected into rural health care.

“One of the reasons for keeping Portree open was also to allow speedier access to emergency care on the island and with Skye still popular for tourism too it’s essential that this is taken into consideration.”

Scottish Labour’s Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch candidate, John Erskine, is to join Mrs Grant in contacting NHS Highland’s Chief Executive, Pam Dudek, to find out more information on exactly what is planned for Portree.

“The community put up a real fight and won last time, so it’s hard to believe that this is under consideration again,” said Mr Erskine, who is also a Scottish Labour Highlands and Islands list candidate

“I’m hoping that Covid isn’t being used as an excuse to wield the axe for Portree beds which should remain open and I’m happy to support the community on this.

“As part of Scottish Labour’s National Covid Recovery Plan we have a plan for an NHS recovery that will restore our health services in the Highlands and Islands.”