Grant seeks your first preference vote to continue the fight for the Highlands and Islands

It has been a huge privilege for me to serve the communities of the Highlands and Islands in the Scottish Parliament.

I seek your first preference vote to continue that work.

What motivates me is the creation of an equal society. When I put myself forward for election it was because I could see the inequalities in our region which lay hidden from decision-makers, not readily-recognised by the national indicators.

I have sought to make those in high authority aware of the challenges we face and I will continue to do this.

In these past few months, in addition to my ongoing campaigning for medical treatments including ground-breaking ultrasound equipment for essential tremor patients, I have been speaking out against the suspension of flights between Shetland and Inverness, taking up constituents’ fears on care home Covid-19 protocols, raising concerns over possible job losses at Inverness College and the threatened closure of its nursery, and standing up for disabled people by leading calls for Skye’s revamped Uig pier and its currently under construction Broadford Hospital to be fully-accessible.

I have been vocal in my concern for vulnerable children, leading successful calls for a return to cooked school dinners, after months of post-lockdown packed lunches.

My calls on government and councils for additional warm clothing grants were followed by funding announcements for families most in need. I have also been helping to give our young people a voice, supporting their cry for mental health support and education in their schools.

Our Islands communities are totally dependent on ferries and I have campaigned to have services improved.

I have also helped to improve safety for residents in Aviemore by pressurising the agencies for street lights to go up along for a dimly-lit but well-used shortcut.

And I have underlined the jobs impact of the hospitality and oil and gas industry crisis, shone a spotlight on the shrinking council workforce in Highland and Moray, exposed the deplorable truth around our dentistry post-Covid where only those with the money to pay privately could be seen, secured road safety improvements and funding for our print studios, called for train services to be reinstated, Covid figures to be transparent, and for our local newspapers to be given the emergency funding they need to protect jobs so they can continue stimulating debate in our communities.

I want to carry on fighting for an equal society, to continue highlighting the unfairness which this government, driven not by national or local interest, tries so hard to hide in its carefully-crafted soundbites.

I want to keep working to regain Labour’s lost efforts to hand every child the same chance at a healthy, happy life.

I want to keep campaigning for the change we so badly need to reverse depopulation and save our communities before it is too late.

I am rooted in our region. Stornoway-born, raised in Wester Ross, and I have lived all my adult life in Inverness.

I know what it means to live in a remote community.

When I was very young our family and others in the surrounding communities faced evacuation due to remoteness and the lack of public services.

When I left school there were no jobs or homes so I moved to Inverness and made my home there.

So many years later that is still the reality for our young people. I will continue to fight to allow them to decide whether to stay or leave. They should be able to access homes and jobs in their own community if that is what they want.

The government’s continuous denial of essential services means many our communities are dying due to depopulation. This is something we must reverse.

When Scottish Labour was in government, we sought to disperse civil service jobs in order that the whole country benefited from secure, reasonably paid jobs. That put money into local economies and kept families in our more remote and island communities.

Inverness, the biggest city in our region, also benefited from that policy.

With increasing centralisation and austerity our communities have suffered from job losses and centralisation.

I want to see our communities thrive; I want to see young people having real choices.

I want to see a more equal society.

While we live in the best part of Scotland, we also suffer many of the problems of depravation that scar so many lowland urban communities.

In Inverness it is stark. All babies are born in the same hospital, snuggled in the same maternity ward, yet before they have even been ever so gently strapped into their car seat, the dye is already cast.

Each wee bundle of joy can face as much as a decade of difference in its life expectancy, depending on into which neighbourhood mam and dad’s car will turn.

Happenstance. That is their fate.

Covid-19 has deepened these divisions. With those who have the least losing the most.

That is not right.

Every child must have the same life chances to live, to work, to meet their full potential.

My frustration is that in all these areas we have gone backwards since Labour left Government, the improvements we made have been lost.

We all have a job to do to reverse this decline, to build a fairer society.

I ask for your support to carry on that work.


Tain bypass lower speed limit comes into force in January

Transport Scotland has told Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant that work for the new 50 mph speed limit on the A9 Tain Bypass is nearing completion, with the remaining works to fit signage lanterns due to be finished by Christmas.
These lanterns are required to illuminate the signs in accordance with traffic sign regulations.
It is also progressing the legal aspects of this change and can confirm that the new speed limit will come into force on 15th January 2021. On this date, BEAR Scotland will remove the coverings on the new signs and replace any existing signs that would conflict with the new 50 mph limit.
In regards to the study into potential longer term improvements at Tain, the agency is continuing to work with our consultants, Jacobs, to understand the underlying cause of the accidents that have occurred at the Knockbreck and Morangie Road Junctions.
“I am very pleased that this is moving forward and await more detail from Transport Scotland on the longer-term proposals for these junctions,” said Mrs Grant.
She was initially contacted two years ago by constituents who told her that ‘nearly every week’ an incident happened around the Asda and Lidl junctions. At the time it was highlighted that 11 accidents had taken place around the Tain junctions, labelling it the worst A9 hotspot.
Transport Scotland’s study into longer term safety measures includes the community’s call to have roundabouts at the junctions.

ScotRail defends decision to cut services despite concerns for social distancing amid a potential Christmas travel spike

MSP Rhoda Grant met with ScotRail bosses to question their decision to go ahead with their plan to axe some services despite the risk of a Christmas travel spike.

SCOTRAIL has defended its decision to cut a number of services after concerns were raised over social distancing during a potential Christmas travel spike.

In a meeting with Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant the rail operator insisted careful analysis of travel behaviour and demand predicted a quiet Christmas for the trains.

Mrs Grant said she remained concerned ScotRail was limiting the opportunities for people to travel by train at a time when students were returning home and people were moving to and from their families for Christmas.

She said: “I told ScotRail it would be unacceptable if an unexpected Christmas travel spike forced passengers to put their health, and the health of others, at risk when travelling on their trains. They tried to assure me that all their predictions indicated the trains would not be busy and there would be plenty of space for people to socially distance. But there’s no immediate magic wand that can be waived if a train service is unexpectedly busy. Carriages won’t necessarily be on standby. I hope their analysis turns out to be correct and I’ll be watching how this unfolds.”

Mrs Grant called for talks with ScotRail after bosses last month confirmed cuts to Highland railway services.

The train company has made what it stressed are “temporary” changes to some services in light of plunging passenger numbers following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mrs Grant added: “Any reduction in services are deeply disappointing. Although ScotRail have said these are temporary measures, given that they are being done to cuts costs in the firm and we are unlikely to see a significant rise in passenger numbers anytime soon, I fear that these services will not be reinstated.”


Uig’s new revamped pier must be accessible to everyone: MSP Rhoda Grant

MORE needs to be done to ensure that a new harbour development planned for Uig on Skye is accessible to disabled people, MSP Rhoda Grant told a Parliamentary committee this week.

Mrs Grant called on the Public Petitions Committee to urge Highland Council to carry out an Equality Impact Assessment on planned infrastructure improvements needed to accommodate a dual fuel CalMac Ferry in 2022.

The Highlands & Islands Labour MSP has been supporting the community’s call for a floating pontoon and ramp access to tour boats and water activities. An online petition has gathered more than 800 names.

However, steps are currently being planned.

Mrs Grant told Tuesday’s committee: “I have been repeatedly asking the council to do an equality impact assessment on this scheme. In this day and age, we should be looking at making all new developments accessible to disabled people.”

She added: “Given the level of investment that is going to be there, it seems very strange that money cannot be made available to allow disabled people to have access to the water. We all know the amount of money that has been wasted by the Scottish Government in developing these new ferries.”

The committee was meeting to discuss a petition which had an overriding objection to the harbour steps plan.

The petition called on the Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to ensure that local authorities and service providers provide access for those with disabilities at public facilities such as piers and harbours.

Committee convener Johann Lamont said the council had, at the committee’s request, outlined in a comprehensively-written brief, its legal obligations with regards to Uig Pier.

The council had insisted its design consultation included members of the local access panels served by the Uig ferry, and it said that consultation was “extensive”.

It also said it had a duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people but highlighted some exemptions for smaller passenger vessels, and excursion or sightseeing tours which it said could well apply.

And it stressed that the community’s much-desired floating pontoon would be less durable, take up far more berthing space, and be more expensive to install and maintain.

It said the safe and more feasible option was replacement steps.

Mrs Lamont told committee members the Equality and Human Rights Commission had raised no specific objection to the council’s response.

Members agreed therefore to close the petition on grounds Highland Council had appeared to follow all due processes for the Uig port redevelopment regarding access for those with disabilities and would consult the public again on the plans.

However, Mrs Grant pressed for more.

She said: “I know the committee is keen to close this petition but I would ask them to go back and ask the council for an Equalities Impact Assessment because I think it is really important that we allow disabled people access going forward.”

Mrs Lamont agreed, adding: “It can’t be beyond the wit of humanity to work out how to make this scheme accessible to disabled people.”

The Committee agreed to write to Highland Council.




Professor Nandi speaks to Highland campaigner’s petition in Parliament

MSPs have heard a “compelling case” from a leading consultant neurosurgeon as to why Scotland should introduce a ground-breaking technology.

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee heard yesterday from Professor Dipankar Nandi, about the benefits and cost effectiveness of magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound technology for the treatment of patients with Essential Tremor.

The committee agreed in September to hear evidence from the professor, based at Imperial College in London, to support a Highlands and Islands campaigner’s petition to introduce the technology to Scotland.

Mary Ramsay, Chair of the Scottish Tremor Society, is asking the Scottish Government to back the provision of the equipment.

Professor Nandi, who answered questions from MSPs via a video link, told the committee he estimated 10,000 people would have a significant tremor in Scotland and would benefit from the treatment. He explained the technology and science was nothing new and the treatment was an alternative to Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) which involved invasive surgery and inserting a probes inside the head.

“The safety profile is probably its biggest advantage compared to where we are otherwise. It also opens the doors for treatment of some patients who unfortunately we have no answer for, people in 70s and 80s, people with serious medical conditions, who one would not contemplate for Deep Brian Stimulation, they have been left pretty much to fend for themselves. That is the kind of patient I am talking about,” he told MSPs.

Professor Nandi said NHS England had authorised the treatment for 150 patients a year at his unit and all that Scotland would need to do was to buy the machine, which he admitted was expensive, as it had two very eminent neuro centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow. “One machine could suffice for the whole Scottish population,” he added.

He also said that after the upfront cost of buying the machine, once you reach 20 patients it would recoup the cost of that machine through savings on more invasive treatments, adding that the waiting list south of the border was now at 300 plus patients.

Mrs Ramsay, from Dalneigh, Inverness, watched the virtual session from home on parliamentary television and welcomed the cross-party support.

She said afterwards: “I am delighted that the committee recognised the success of this treatment and that Professor Nandi could share his vast experience of the medical evidence.

“However, I am so disappointed that this is having to go back to the Scottish Government and Health Secretary who appear to remain unconvinced of what it could mean for patients here. It is frustrating!

“The professor pointed out the technology could be used for other conditions such as Parkinson’s and brain tumours, and that research should be investigated. It could save a fortune.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant, who is a long-time supporter of Mrs Ramsay’s campaign to get the treatment north of the border, also spoke at the committee and said Professor Nandi’s submission was fascinating.

“Given this is going to be available on the NHS in England, and the evidence they have is the same as the evidence we have, could we write to the Scottish Government and ask that this decision, not to make it available on the NHS in Scotland, is reviewed in the light of that,” she said.

“The evidence we heard this morning is absolutely overwhelming that we need this technology in Scotland.”

She added: “I think we need to push to ensure there is a level playing field in Scotland as there is in England.”

Convener of the committee, MSP Johann Lamont, thanked Professor Nandi for this time and said he had made a “such compelling case” which could inform any decisions that were going to be made by the Scottish Government and NHS here.

MSPs unanimously agreed to get back to the Scottish Government and the Health Secretary to respond to the evidence that the committee had heard and to look at other ways the technology could be used for research into other conditions such as Parkinson’s.

It is also going to raise what is happening to a fundraising campaign for a machine in Scotland.

Link to the committee:

  • Deep Brain Stimulation is where electrodes are placed in the brain to help alleviate the condition which causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking affecting almost any part of the body.
  • New information is that while NHS Scotland has previously rejected funding based on its interpretation of the evidence and NICE guidance, NHS England has now agreed to fund the Magnetic Resonance-guided Focused Ultrasound technology based on the same evidence and countries worldwide already use it
  • The Specialised Commissioning Oversight Group provided its guidance to NHS England to fund MRgFUS from April next year.
  • The guidance states that the treatment will be available to patients who have moderate to severe Essential Tremor, and where current medication has failed to adequately suppress the tremor or causes adverse effects.
  • Fundraising for the equipment is being run by the University of Dundee. The technology uses MRI imaging to guide high powered, focused ultrasound to a very small point. At that point, molecules are vibrated extremely quickly, which creates intense local heat which destroys the tissue. The technology allows clinicians to target a very specific focal point – with very little heating produced in front of and behind that point, so only the targeted tissue is affected.

MSP Rhoda Grant supports CHAT petition at Scottish Parliament

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, spoke at the Scottish Parliament today in support of a petition submitted by Caithness health campaign group CHAT.

Maria Aitken’s petition appeared before the Public Petitions Committee and called on “the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to ask all relevant health boards to review their maternity model to ensure that it meets the needs of remote and rural communities”.

The committee heard that the decision to change the status of Caithness maternity unit from an obstetric unit to a midwife unit in 2016 was made on the basis of safety.  Mothers and/or babies who are assessed as needing obstetric or neonatal care are transferred to Raigmore Hospital.

Mrs Grant said it was a really important petition and urged the committee to take it seriously.  She explained how she had been involved over several years in trying to find a solution to pregnant women from Caithness travelling more than 100 miles to Raigmore Hospital to give birth.

She explained that in Feb 2019 she raised at First Minister’s Questions the ‘horrendous circumstances’ of a mother whose twins were born 50 miles apart after a dash to Raigmore Hospital and the stress that also caused the staff involved.

The committee unanimously agreed to get back to the Scottish Government to ask what progress had been made on several initiatives which were looking at solutions for rural areas.

Initiatives include a Best Start North Steering Group, established under the direction of NHS Highland and NHS Grampian Chief Executives, to oversee and steer a review of maternity and neonatal services across NHS Shetland, NHS Orkney, NHS Highland and NHS Grampian and which seeks to understand the resources, constraints, challenges and opportunities in the current systems.

After the meeting Mrs Grant commented: “I have been asking so many questions about this over the years and, yet, have not seen any solutions forthcoming, including the need for a full risk assessment for transfer journeys to Raigmore.

“Of course, I realise that Covid-19 has seen some initiatives stalled but the Scottish Government really need to get on with this.

“I’ve been told that the air ambulance helicopter is ‘a highly unsuitable environment for the delivery of a baby’ and that means for any woman in labour and needing emergency help going by road ambulance is really the only option and air transfer is almost a non-starter.

“Emergency aircrafts should be large enough to carry medical equipment and be able take at least one qualified medic on board, particularly to cater for women in labour.”

She also said the ScotSTAR service, run by the Scottish Ambulance Service and used to fly in medical experts in emergencies to locations, does not have obstetric/midwifery staff and she has asked if that expertise can be added to its remit.

“Well done to Rhoda and her team for doing a great job” says thrilled constituent after MSP wins campaign for street lights along poorly-lit road that was danger for pedestrians

A NORTH MSP is “delighted” Dalfaber Road in Aviemore will be lit up next week with long-awaited street lights.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant has been told by SSE the switch-on along the route, which runs parallel to the railway line and connects Osprey Grange, Dalnabay and Silverglades to the town centre, will take place on Monday. (December 14).

Mrs Grant campaigned for the work to be done after she received an email from Aviemore constituent Mike Kochalski.

He sought her help, saying lack of street lighting along the route made the pathway extremely dangerous for residents, particularly in the winter months.

Mrs Grant said: “The residents using this pathway can finally put away their torches.

“Highland Council told me it would not normally consider lighting unadopted roads like this one because it doesn’t have a budget. Thankfully, Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANs) regarded this as an active travel route, and rightly so, and they were able to put up the funding for Highland Council to do it.”

Mr Kochalski said: “The route to the village centre along Dalfaber Road has always been dark and inhospitable during the winter months with residents having to carry torches to ensure their safety. In February, I decided to do something about it. I contacted Rhoda Grant our MSP and brought the matter to her attention.

“Her reaction was swift and I am pleased to say she worked tirelessly on the problem despite the restrictions of COVID this year.

And so, on Monday, the lights will be switched on. Well done to Rhoda and her team for doing a great job.”

Pensioners urged to check their annual winter fuel payment

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is urging pensioners to check their eligibility for an annual winter fuel benefit after concerns were raised about possible delays in payments this year.

Mrs Grant was contacted by a woman in Inverness worried that some of her friends had reported problems with the annual tax-free Winter Fuel Payment from the UK Government, to help with heating costs, with some saying the money had not arrived yet.

“It’s difficult to know what’s happened here, without having specific cases to raise, but I would urge those who are concerned to contact the UK Government’s helpline,” said Mrs Grant.

“Charity Age UK says that there is slightly longer payment schedule this year and the time between a notification letter being sent and payment being made has increased.

“The advice is if you haven’t received it by January 13, call the Winter Fuel Helpline but I know there are pensioners out there who may be anxious about meeting their bills in the meantime and I feel if there are problems they should try to get advice now.”

Mrs Grant also noted that the MoneySavingExpert website, founded by financial journalist Martin Lewis, has already urged the tens of thousands of people who are eligible for the payment to check their details after 60,000 plus letters on the scheme were sent out with the incorrect information which could affect how much some people are paid.

If you were born on or before 5 October 1954 you could get between £100 and £300 to help you pay your heating bills through the Winter Fuel Payment.

You usually get a this automatically if you are eligible and you get the State Pension or another social security benefit, but there are restrictions for those on other benefits.

If you’re eligible but do not get paid automatically, you need to make a claim.

Scottish Labour announces Rhoda Grant as parliamentary candidate for Inverness and Nairn

Rhoda Grant has been selected as Scottish Labour’s candidate for the Inverness and Nairn constituency to stand in the Scottish Parliamentary election in 2021.

Rhoda, who lives in Inverness, was born in Stornoway and brought up on the south shores of Loch Torridon in Wester Ross.

She is well-known for her local campaigning as a Highlands and Islands MSP and understands the challenges facing communities.

Rhoda has worked in both the public and private sectors in the Highlands. Employed for a number of years with the public sector trade union Unison and Highland Council, she has also been an MSP between 1999 and 2003, then again from 2007.

She has held many Shadow Cabinet roles including Rural and Connectivity Cabinet Secretary, Shadow Women and Equalities Spokesperson, Shadow Health Minister, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Shadow Minister for Economy, Business Manager and Whip.  She is currently the Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

Speaking after her selection by constituency party members, she said:

“Inverness is my home. It’s where I’m based when I’m not in parliament or, in normal times, travelling around the Highlands and Islands and I am proud to be Labour’s candidate for the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary election.

“People in Inverness and Nairn need a local representative that will put them first. Between now and May 2021, I will be working hard to set out Scottish Labour’s bold vision for a post-Covid society – including our plans for a National Care Service and a quality Jobs Guarantee Scheme.

“There must be no going back to the old, failed normal after the pandemic. The Tories and the SNP left Scotland unprepared for the public health crisis, unprepared for the education crisis and unprepared for the economic crisis. It’s time for a new vision for Inverness and Nairn and for Scotland, and only Scottish Labour and Richard Leonard are offering this opportunity.”

Rhoda’s Labour Highlands and Islands MSP colleague, David Stewart, said: “I’ve worked closely with Rhoda for many years and know that she works hard for the area. She is an excellent candidate to take on the opposition and I look forward to helping her campaign in the constituency.”

Scottish Labour’s Inverness and Nairn CLP Chair, Linda Stewart added:

“We are delighted to have Rhoda as our candidate for Inverness and Nairn. She has proved herself as a hard-working and dedicated MSP, who understands the needs of our constituency well and we look forward to campaigning with her – in whatever way we’re able – next year.”

MSP Rhoda Grant has welcomed Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s “Covid-19” clothing grant for struggling families to buy extra school clothing layers for colder classrooms this winter

MSP Rhoda Grant has welcomed Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s “Covid-19” clothing grant for struggling families to buy extra school clothing layers for colder classrooms this winter. 

The Labour Highlands & Islands MSP wrote to the region’s six local authorities asking what specific sources of funding were available for families who are struggling financially to fork out for thermals and extra winter clothing layers.

Government guidance says classroom windows should be open more often to keep the room ventilated with fresh air as an anti-Covid measure.

 With replies in from all councils bar Highland, which is still processing, Mrs Grant said she particularly welcomed the “proactive” funding approach from the local authority in the Western Isles.

She said: “All local authorities have welfare funds for families to apply to but Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is reaching out to its families, taking a more proactive approach. They are writing to all their families who were in receipt of a £100 clothing grant this year and they’re inviting them to apply for a further £100 grant specifically for the purchase of additional winter clothing for the children.

To me, that sounds like a really good way of ensuring children from the most disadvantaged families have warmer layers going to school to sit in classrooms that will probably be a bit colder than normal for this time of the year. I’m going to write to the other local authorities to ask if this is a model they could follow.”

She added: “It was clear from the responses I received from the other councils that a mountain of work is going on in schools to sensibly navigate this classroom windowopen policy to ensure pupils are comfortable but at the same time at less risk of the Covid-19 infection.

This is a really challenging time for our school leaders and staff and I applaud each and every one of them.”