The fight continues for improving treatment for Essential Tremor

The Scottish Parliament’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee today once again considered the Essential Tremor treatment in Scotland petition.  The petition was lodged by Inverness resident Mary Ramsay calling for the provision of magnetic resonance-guides focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) technology to be made available through the NHS in Scotland.

Mrs Ramsay, the Chair of the Scottish Tremor Society, has been fighting for the improvement of care to the 100,000 people in Scotland who are living with Essential Tremor.  However, few patients are able to access the transformative deep brain ultrasound treatment which could be available in Scotland after a University of Dundee fundraising campaign.   The treatment uses sound waves to help destroy tissue that can prompt unwanted movements experienced by those with the condition.

The treatment is currently available under the NHS in England, in London, and in various countries around the world.  Yet, in Scotland it is currently not considered part of ‘standard care’ for Essential Tremor.  People living with Essential Tremor face having to travel to London for assessment and treatment.  The waiting lists south of the border are so long that NHS England have been looking to create another centre to cope with demand.

Patients are currently waiting for the National Special Services Committee (NSSC) and health bodies to evaluate MRgFUS treatment to allow it to be granted ‘standard care’ status in Scotland allowing them to access the equipment available in Dundee. The Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee confirmed that they are still waiting for critical information from the NSSC.  It has transpired that the NSSC are expected to resume applications later this month.  The Scottish government have yet to commit to funding any MRgFUS treatment.  The Committee have agreed to once again write to the NSSC to ask for details regarding timescales and the decision-making process should an application be successful.

Commenting on the hearing today Rhoda Grant MSP said “The lack of progress in the response from the Scottish Government is disappointing.  We hope to hear some more positive movement from the National Special Services Committee this summer.

“People living with Essential Tremor have been waiting a long time for improved access to treatment and care.  They face long waiting lists and often long journeys to London for treatment that should and could be available here in Scotland. We have the equipment and knowledge here in Scotland.

“It is vital to keep this petition open whilst we wait to hear what outcome is made by the National Special Services Committee.  It is frustrating that patients are continuing to be let down by the Scottish Government’s inability to make critical decisions to improve patient care and treatment.”


Statement from Labour MSP Rhoda Grant following Health Secretary’s statement to Scottish Parliament today on Dr Gray’s Hospital, Elgin

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said the Scottish Government’s announcement threw money at the situation but didn’t solve the underlying problem of the shortage of nurses, midwives and doctors as highlighted by NHS workers at Raigmore Hospital and by the unions.

In the Scottish Parliament today, Mrs Grant, said:

“While I welcome the promise to reinstate consultant led maternity services in Dr Gray’s and the much-needed investment at Dr Gray’s and Raigmore, I cannot welcome this so called short term option.

“The Cabinet Sectary tells us he is listening to what those involved are telling him, but he is obviously not hearing what they say.

“Clinicians from NHS Highland wrote to him in February saying with regard to NHS Highland: ‘The Board did acknowledge on this occasion that the staffing and built environmental requirements for Model 4 cannot be met in the timescale proposed by the Report …i.e. within two years.’

“This is of profound significance as it confirms that Model 4 not an option for the short term.

“In addition, (they say) their lead paediatrician gave his opinion that the neonatal facility is at capacity and that any increase in the birth rate at Raigmore before major upgrading to staffing and facilities will put babies at risk.

“They went on to make the point clearly that neither was this a feasible option, because they were unable to currently fill staffing vacancies and existing staff were facing burn out.

“Many of these points were also made to him by the Chief Executive and community campaigners in Moray at meetings that I also attended.

“He must reconsider because what he is proposing is simply not safe. Can he outline what he is going to do in the short term to keep mums safe?”

Mrs Grant also paid tribute to all those who came forward to give their views to the independent review, including Keep Mum campaign group and others from the community.

After the meeting Mrs Grant added:

“Across Scotland nearly 10% of all nursing and midwifery posts are vacant, a record high of 6,674, including nearly 4,500 Registered Nurse vacancies. More locally, in NHS Highland, 341 nursing and midwifery posts are vacant, which is nine per cent of posts.

RCN Scotland’s survey showed that a worrying six in 10 of its members were thinking about or actively considering leaving their jobs, suggesting these figures are only going to get worse without urgent action.

“I can’t see how Mr Yousaf is going to square that circle and although there is a time frame for the interim solution there is none for the reintroducing the consultant-led system at Dr Gray’s.

“While it is good news that Mr Yousaf has pledged to meet Caithness health campaigners, they will be looking at this wondering if the Health Secretary is considering their ambition to bring obstetric and paediatric services back to Wick. They need to know what the Scottish Government’s policy is for their area.”

Unite fights Scottish Government over ‘illegal’ pay imposition at Marine Scotland

Unite the union has confirmed it is set to challenge the Scottish Government in an escalating dispute over the imposition of a potentially `illegal’ pay award.

Around 80 Unite members are involved in a month-long industrial action ballot at Scotland’s fisheries protection fleet, which opens today and closes on 25 April.  

Marine Scotland is responsible for ensuring that fishermen comply with the law when catching fish.  By preventing overfishing or the wrong size of fish catch, the workforce helps to ensure that fish stocks in Scotland’s seas are sustainable.

Unite’s members undertake active seafaring roles including engineers, cooks, petty officers, merchant officers, mate and deck hands.

The dispute centres on the imposition by the Scottish Government of a two per cent pay award for 2021 which Unite warns could constitute an ‘illegal inducement’. An illegal inducement – when an employer imposes a pay award against the wishes of workforce – breaches collective bargaining arrangements. By doing this, the Scottish government could be potentially in breach of the law.

The Scottish Government confirmed the imposition of the pay award in January 2022, in effect a substantial real terms pay cut given that the more realistic measure of living costs (RPI) has now hit 8.2 per cent.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “Unite’s members at Marine Scotland are furious over their treatment by the Scottish Government. The two per cent pay imposition comes at a time when inflation runs at more than four times that rate and keeps climbing.

“It is a disgrace that the Scottish Government broke off negotiations before they reached their conclusion to impose this real terms pay cut. The Scottish Government has to get real and return with a more realistic offer.

 “Unite will defend our members’ jobs, terms and conditions at all times and they have the full support of the union in this fight.”

Sandy Smart, Unite industrial officer, added: “Unite has attempted to re-engage the Scottish Government in negotiations with no success.

“Our members perform vital and life-saving roles but they’re getting a substantial real terms pay cut and being told to like it or lump it. This is an appalling way to treat key workers who over a number of years have fallen behind other public sector workers’ pay, which is why we are taking this to an industrial action ballot.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: “To impose a deal on this group of workers is like something out of Thatcher’s playbook  – quite incredible really.

 “These seafarers should not have to fight again to receive what they deserve in pay and conditions. I fully support their stance and appeal to the Scottish Government to get around the table with the union.”

Audit Scotland R100 update

Commenting on Audit Scotland’s Update on the Scottish Government’s R100 programme, Scottish Labour Rural spokesperson, Colin Smyth, said:

 “This report is another slap down to the SNP’s beleaguered R100 programme.

“After years of delays and excuses, the programme is still struggling to deliver what was promised.

“The last two years have shown that reliable connectivity is a necessity, not a luxury – but for Scotland’s forgotten rural communities it’s been a case of super slow, not superfast broadband roll-out.

“As everything from work to services to education moves online, more than ever the Scottish Government needs to up its game and stop leaving people behind.

“Any more delays to this crucial programme would be yet another shameful betrayal of rural Scotland. The SNP-Green government must pull out every stop to get these high-speed connections in place for everyone as quickly as possible.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said:

“I have lost count of the number of times our rural communities have been let down here.

“Arguably, the best course of action for the government rollout would have been to start with the rural areas first but our centralising SNP government chose to leave them to the end. Now, years later, many rural areas still struggle to get anywhere near acceptable speeds.

“Scottish Labour in the Highlands and Islands has been pressing the Scottish Government on this since the SNP took power in 2007. 15 years later, many of our areas are still waiting, and will have to wait some more. It’s simply not good enough.”

SNP racks up £1.7bn roads repair backlog

Scottish Labour have accused the SNP of letting Scotland’s roads crumble as new figures reveal the repair backlog is approaching £2 billion.

Information obtained by FOI revealed that it would take almost £1.7 billion to get Scotland’s local roads up to scratch – and that is excluding six major council areas who didn’t provide the relevant information.

This comes as the SNP-Green government pass their budget inflicting a fresh round of cuts on local budgets, likely driving our roads into an even more dire state of disrepair.

Commenting, Scottish Labour Transport spokesperson Neil Bibby said:

“These astonishing figures lay bare the dire state of disrepair Scotland’s roads are in after years of neglect under the SNP.

“They have cut funding to the bone, leaving roads to crumble and taxpayers to pick up the bill.

“Our pothole-ridden roads are a daily reminder of how badly the SNP have let down communities all around us.

“Now the Greens and the SNP have teamed up to hit Councils with another year of brutal cuts things are only set to get worse.

“The SNP must stop burying their heads in the sand about this and show some leadership dealing with the mess they created.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said:

“These figures are utterly astounding.

“The combined total for the Highlands and Islands is almost half a billion pounds (£417,611,000).

“Rural areas in general have been worst affected with Highland roads alone requiring almost £200million of repairs (£194,827,000).

“Communities have been crying out for help but their voices have gone unheard by the Scottish Government. They now need to stop blaming others and properly support local authorities to get these repairs done before someone gets hurt travelling on roads that are not fit for purpose.”


Local Authority Road Repair Backlog
Falkirk £42,337,000
West Lothian £31,067,000
Shetland Island £33,400,000
North Ayrshire £34,807,000
Midlothian £19,500,000
Scottish Borders £97,280,000
Inverclyde £15,300,000
Highland £194,827,000
West Dunbartonshire No Information
Dundee £22,286,000
Western Isles £36,000,000
East Ayrshire £55,262,000
South Lanarkshire Council £90,420,000
Aberdeenshire £99,228,000
Glasgow £96,000,000
Angus £55,454,000
North Lanarkshire £62,000,000
City of Edinburgh £77,346,000
Stirling No Information
East Lothian No Information
Dumfries & Galloway £217,320,000
Moray £40,706,000
Fife £77,600,000
Perth & Kinross £88,750,000
East Renfrewshire £25,302,000
Orkney £427,000
Renfrewshire No Information
East Dunbartonshire No Information
South Ayrshire £46,441,000
Argyle & Bute £112,251,000
Clackmannanshire £11,947,000
Aberdeen City No Information
Total £1,683,258,000

Source: FOI

Action needed on Chronic Pain waiting times

Rhoda pictured with chronic pain sufferer, Colin Sutherland.

The Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party and Health Spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, has today demanded action from the Health Secretary as statistics reveal hundreds of people are waiting over 12 weeks to be seen at a chronic pain clinic.

Statistics published today show that, during the quarter ending 31 December 2021, 4,838 patients were referred to a chronic pain clinic, down from an average of 5,200 referrals each quarter pre-pandemic.

Of the 2,020 patients seen at a chronic pain clinic during the quarter ending 31st December 2021, some 476 patients waited between 13 to 24 weeks, with 123 waiting up to 51 weeks and, shockingly, 24 patients waiting over a year.

At 31 December 2021, 2,977 patients were waiting for their first appointment at a chronic pain clinic. This compares to 2,867 patients at 30 September 2021, an increase of 3.8%.

Commenting, Scottish Labour health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, said:

“It is simply shocking that hundreds of people are waiting months to be seen at chronic pain clinics, with some Scots waiting over a year.

“These lengthy delays are leaving hundreds of Scots living in pain and without the medical help that they need.

“We know that longer waits lead to worse outcomes for patients and take a toll on their work life, family life and mental health.

“We cannot turn our backs on those living in pain.

“Humza Yousaf must listen to patients and frontline staff and act to get chronic pain services on track.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said:

 “My former colleague, David Stewart, did much to bring this issue to the attention of the Scottish Government over recent years. Since David retired last year, I have now taken up the baton.

“Chronic pain services in Scotland have been underfunded for too long. In December 2020, 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. Couple this with a shortage of consultants nationally and you have the perfect storm.

“Living with chronic pain can be intolerable but more than this, I know some people are forced to pay thousands of pounds for private treatment as they cannot bear the thought of waiting for weeks, and months, to be seen on the NHS.

“The Scottish Government has to start listening to constituents who need the service and come forward with more funding to improve these lengthy waiting times.”

MSP is frustrated at Best Start Plan delay

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP is frustrated that the Best Start Plan has been delayed by the Scottish Government and says that this “will push maternity services into further crisis in Highland and Moray”.


The MSP submitted a PQ into the Scottish Parliament asking when in 2022 the The Best Start: five-year plan for maternity and neonatal care, will be published. This plan outlines how to improve maternity and neonatal services in Scotland over a five year period. The last plan was published in January 2017.


The PQ was answered yesterday by the Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport, Maree Todd, where she reveals to the MSP that she agreed to a two year extension last year as NHS Boards prioritised the response to Covid-19.


It is now expected that NHS Boards will implement all of the recommendations of the 2017 plan by mid-2024. She further goes on to say that: “the Scottish Government is working with Public Health Scotland on the overall evaluation of the Best Start approach.”


Rhoda Grant MSP said: “This is incredibly frustrating, and I refuse to believe that Covid-19 is wholly responsible for this delay.


“Maternity services in Highland and Moray are in dire need of attention and kicking this plan into the long grass will push services into further crisis in both Highland and Moray.


Rhoda Grant continues: “I have been pressing the Cabinet Secretary for Health to come to Moray and Caithness to get the full picture of the maternity crisis locally and this is something I will continue to press for.”


Good news that flights are coming back to Wick airport


Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said that it was good news indeed that flights from Wick to Aberdeen were being relaunched in April under a PSO.

She paid tribute to the hard work of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, Highland Council, all involved in Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership and agencies such as Transport Scotland and HIE, in bringing back the vital economic link and keeping the airport alive.

“A PSO to protect air services was something myself and my former Labour MSP colleague, David Stewart, were calling for, long before air services collapsed at Wick, because they were in a fragile state prior to Covid.

“Hopefully this will allow air connections to grow, helping the local economy and tourism and allowing access to new international routes, although it is disappointing that the Edinburgh link has not been mentioned as being able to be reinstated.

“It is also disappointing that the Tory Government refused to inject funding into the PSO despite my suggestion that it would be a good use of Levelling Up money!”

Welcome progress on Aviemore burn but still delay with lighting

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has welcomed some progress being made regarding safety concerns around the railway underpass in the centre of Aviemore but says she intends to keep the pressure on the council to see the job through to completion.

Mrs Grant has been pursuing the issue for many months now after constituents contacted her advising of their fears about the poor lighting in the area and the perilously high level of water in the burn itself during periods of heavy rain.

Rhoda Grant said “Constituents are concerned at the condition of the area and having visited the area myself, I share their concerns.

Constituents asked if it was possible to have the existing lighting repaired while we wait for the new lighting system to be installed and they wanted the burn area itself cleared of mud and leaves.

“The council has told me that the existing lighting is beyond any temporary repair. The old lights are recessed into the footway in the underpass and both the units themselves and the cabling feeding them is faulty/damaged. The new lighting which is being proposed will be mounted on the roof of the tunnel so shouldn’t suffer from the same issues once installed.” she said.

The MSP has been told however that some works have been carried out on the burn itself to drop the water level through the underpass. She said “This should go some way to helping the problem with high water levels adding risk in the area.

She continued “I’m pleased some progress has been made here but I will be keeping on at the council to get the new lighting installed as soon as the equipment is available.”

Picture courtesy of Strathspey and Badenoch Herald.

MSP is reassured by home insurance and new fire alarm law


Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is encouraged that it is unlikely that home insurance will become invalidated if customers fail to comply with new fire alarm laws but asks: “how long will this be the case?”


The MSP was concerned that home insurance would be invalidated if homeowners fail to comply with the new fire alarm laws which are now in place in Scotland. However, she has since received reassurance from the Association of British Insurers (API) that this is unlikely. In their email to the MSP, they say: “Our members are aware of the new regulations coming into force and are unlikely to invalidate a home insurance claim for existing customers who haven’t yet complied with the new law in Scotland. Anyone who is unclear on their policy terms and conditions should speak to their insurer.”


They later go on to say that that major insurers such as, Aviva, AXA, Admiral Group and LV= have  confirmed that they will not invalidate claims where their customers have not yet been able to install the new interlinked fire and smoke alarms.


Following this response, the MSP has further enquired whether there will be a time that these new fire alarm laws will invalidate home insurance. In addition, she has enquired on whether the current position will extend to new customers who are changing provider.


Rhoda Grant MSP said: “I’m glad that this is the current position of most home insurance companies and I wish to spread this reassuring message from API.


“I will continue to investigate to ensure that this policy is iron tight and  that no one will fall through the cracks. I will also continue the fight to see that help is extended to further help more low-income households install these fire alarms as its vitally important that we are all as safe as we can be within our homes.”