Highland Wildlife Park’s 50th Anniversary

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is delighted to attend the 50th anniversary of Highland Wildlife Park today and says that their research and conservation work is “a credit to the Highland region”.


The MSP is today touring the park and reflecting on its many successes over the past 50 years. Including, very recently, the birth of another 10 Scottish Wildcats to the park as part of a wildcat captive breeding programme which has been set to save the species.


Rhoda Grant MSP has had a close relationship with the park as she is a Species Champion for the Scottish Wildcat. This means she advocates for the species in the Scottish Parliament and she lends political support to the protection of Scotland’s threatened wildlife.


Today she received an update on the new proposed developments, the pine hoverfly breeding programme, saw the european grey wolves, european forest reindeer and saw wildcats Blair, Katrine and Staffa and received an update on  the wildcat conservation programme.


Speaking after visiting the park today Rhoda Grant MSP said: “I’m delighted to be here today to celebrate this incredible achievement by the Highland Wildlife Park. The park is truly is a credit to the region.

“The park has come a long way since its opening. Many older visitors will remember Felicity the Puma and the younger visitors will currently be keen to spot Brodie the Polar Bear as well as the new wildcats. The park is cherished by many of us for the fun it provides – for all ages. But not only that, it contributes to conservation the local economy, education and tourism which is great to see.


“I congratulate the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the staff who work within the park, past and present, for reaching this fantastic milestone.”



Madness to press ahead with Uig closure, says Rhoda Grant

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has called for “an urgent rethink” on plans to close Uig pier on Skye for at least six months from October with devastating effects for the economies of Harris and Uist.

Mrs Grant hopes to raise the issue at Holyrood on Thursday when she already has a question tabled about capacity on the Uig-Tarbert-Lochmaddy routes.

She said: “It is madness to press ahead with the closure of Uig for at least six months when it is absolutely clear that no acceptable arrangements are in place to protect the islands’ economy and the basic need for people to travel between islands.

“I have asked the Scottish Government to reconsider the case for a temporary linkspan which I am assured is perfectly feasible but has so far been ruled out on grounds of cost. That has to be re-visited in the light of what their alternative is clearly going to cost the Western Isles economy”.

Mrs Grant urged constituents to sign the petition initiated by Harris councillor, Grant Fulton, which calls for either acceptable measures to be put in place or for the work at Uig to be postponed until a solution is in place.

MSP welcomes potential movement on delivery of certain goods to Orkney

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has said she is pleased to see some potential movement on the ongoing matter surrounding the delivery of certain goods to Orkney.

The MSP was approached by a constituent who advised that Royal Mail refused to deliver what it considers “dangerous” products to Orkney. The “dangerous” items include spray paint, varnish and lithium batteries for use in laptops, tablets and hand held tools, amongst other items. The constituent had approached Royal Mail about the matter to no avail.

When she was contacted however, Mrs Grant thought the request was very timely as Royal Mail’s new Chief Executive had just been appointed and was charged with conducting a £1.8bn overhaul of Royal Mail by shifting its focus from letters to parcels so she set about raising the matter with the Chief Executive, Simon Thompson.

She said “The problem appeared to be that Royal Mail did not deliver “dangerous” items to Orkney because they fly goods in which means stricter laws. My constituent suggested to Royal Mail that they could either bring such items to Orkney by van themselves or by subcontracting the deliveries to other delivery firms.”

Having gone back and forth to Royal Mail over recent months, Mrs Grant has now received what she describes as a positive response from them which advises that as a business, they are always looking for opportunities to increase the range of goods that they carry and they will review options to carry these items. They also said that they are looking at the possibility of amending their services to the Scottish Islands.

Mrs Grant said “With online shopping and email fast replacing traditional mail deliveries, it seemed logical to me that Royal Mail were looking to overhaul the role of the organisation by shifting its focus from letters to parcels.

“The letter I received from them advises that as a business, they are always looking for opportunities to increase the range of goods that they carry and they will review options to carry these items.” She continued “They also said that they are looking at the possibility of amending their services to the Scottish Islands.

“This is potentially very good news for Orkney, and possibly other Scottish Islands, as it is well documented how many firms either refuse to deliver to the Highlands and Islands or charge exorbitant fees for doing so. Any progress on this will be welcomed and I have contacted Royal Mail again asking for an update on the position.” concluded Mrs Grant.

MSP delighted to be recognised as a Carer Positive Engaged employer

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has said she is ‘delighted’ to have been recognised as a Carer Positive Engaged employer.

Carers Scotland, who administer the scheme, believe being recognised as a Carer Positive employer helps with issues related to workforce management and employee engagement, as well as wider social responsibility aims.

They state that the benefits to employers of having ‘carer friendly’ policies and working practices can include reduced levels of stress, reduced sickness absence, lower recruitment and training costs, increased staff morale and productivity levels.

Commenting on receiving the award, Mrs Grant said “I have always sought to be a supportive employer and I try to be flexible with my team as I know that adopting a flexible approach to working hours and practices, ultimately leads to having a happy and valued workforce.

“I believe adopting this approach also brings huge benefits to me as my team repay me with effort over and above what is expected of them.”

In awarding Carer Positive Engaged status, Sue McLintock from Carers Scotland said “I am delighted to confirm that Rhoda Grant MSP meets the criteria to be recognised as a Carer Positive Engaged employer.

“It is clear that the office operates a supportive and empathetic working culture, and this is certainly highlighted in the carer testimonials. It really shows the difference in reality that a supportive and flexible working environment makes.”

Mrs Grant continued “It is important to take account of employees caring responsibilities, and to try to accommodate this whenever possible.

“The pandemic forced a lot of organisations to look at their workplace practices and to adapt accordingly to blend work with employees’ personal caring requirements and, as such, the standard ‘9 to 5’ routine is becoming a thing of the past as employers and employees seek more flexibility in the working week.”

Topical Questions today: 31st May 2022

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant today quizzed the Scottish Government on how they are going to tackle off-market sales of Scottish land to “Green Lairds”.


Today, at Topical Questions in the Scottish Parliament chamber, the MSP asked the Minister for Environment and Land Reform, Màiri McAllan on what steps the Scottish Government are taking to protect communities from off-market land sales by so called “Green Lairds”.


This is after reports that over 11,000 acres of Cambusmore Estate in Dornoch is for sale after it sold off-market earlier this year.


The MSP highlighted that these types of off-market sales are increasing and they stop communities from purchasing local land. These “Green Lairds” also buy land and evict farmers to profit from carbon credits which adversely affects food production and food resilience in Scotland.


She then went on to ask that the Scottish Government end public subsidies to landowners who do not live on the land and pay their taxes in the UK.


The Minister answered Mrs Grant’s questions by highlighting the MSPs long standing interest in the issue and advising that in the Parliament’s last term, Scottish Government implemented the 2016 Land Reform Act and they set up the Scottish Land Commission. In this term the Scottish Government plan to introduce a Land Reform Bill which they will consult in the summer where questions will be asked on the uses of public money and the recipients thereof.


Speaking after Topical Questions Rhoda Grant MSP said: “While the Scottish Government drag their feet in tackling this issue, the amount of land held by a small group of billionaires continues to increase. This is an urgent issue that needs urgent action.


“Community ownership is, in my opinion, the best pattern of ownership for rural Scotland. Land is an economic asset, and when locally owned it has the potential to benefit both the local community and fight the climate emergency.”


Rhoda Grant MSP held a debate on this issue in September 2021 and has been calling for greater land reform and regulation by the Scottish Government for many years.


The term “Green Laird” refers to private purchasers and businesses buying land due to the climate emergency and to offset their carbon emissions elsewhere.  They are then able to claim Government grants and access beneficial tax arrangements, which in turn inflates land values. This disadvantages local communities as they are priced out of purchasing local land.

SNP must listen to carers

Scottish Labour’s Health Team will today (Wednesday 18) meet with unpaid carers and their representative organisations to discuss their first-hand experience of the cost of living crisis ahead of the party’s debate on the issue.

The debate, taking place this afternoon, will seek to highlight the challenges being faced by both paid and unpaid carers as pressures escalate from the cost of living crisis, and will force parties to take a position on Scottish Labour’s comprehensive plans to support carers.

Regarding paid care, Scottish Labour will argue that poor pay and working practices in social care were exposed by the pandemic and have left a “recruitment crisis”.

The party are also pressing the SNP to match the increased mileage allowance for NHS staff in social care, calling it “shameful” that carers have been left with a lower rate.

The debate will also focus on the situation of unpaid carers who Scottish Labour argue need a strategy from the Scottish Government which should include the restoration and expansion of respite services, with entitlements to short breaks and wellbeing services.

Commenting, Scottish Labour’s spokesperson for Public Health and Social Care Paul O’Kane said:

“It wouldn’t have felt right for us to go into this very important debate about the health and wellbeing of carers without talking to them face to face and hearing their stories.

“We want to listen to unpaid carers, take in what they are going through so that when we do begin the debate we don’t just have an understanding of statistics and figures – frightening as they are – but of real people living in the care world and how they are being hit by this escalating cost of living crisis.

“The pandemic showed us how important paid and unpaid care was, but also how badly undervalued and underfunded it has been.

“Now this cost of living crisis is adding pressures to carers’ lives, showing how little the Scottish Government has done to address the issues exposed by the pandemic. It is nothing short of shameful that the SNP have left carers out of pocket by refusing to uprate their mileage reimbursement.

“The SNP government need to sit down with carers and listen to what they are telling us – because it is transparently clear that their response to this crisis is falling badly short.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said:

“Throughout the pandemic we have seen unpaid carers become more isolated due to a lack of support and breaks from their caring role. This support must be put in place quickly to ensure that they are able to continue to care.

“We also need more professional care workers and to encourage people into this rewarding career we must value them. We need to ensure that they are well paid and that they receive the same terms and conditions as their health-based colleagues.

“In the Highlands and Islands home care workers are often expected to travel many miles between clients’ homes, this must be recognised and reimbursed in line with other workers in similar professions.”


Scottish Labour has accused the SNP/Green government of “betrayal”, as the parties teamed up with the Tories to quash Rhoda Grant’s attempt to put the right to food in law. 


Today, during Stage 2 of the Good Food Nation Bill, the Scottish Labour MSP attempted to amend the Bill to move forward plans to enshrine the human right to food in Scots law – something both the SNP and the Greens claim to support. 

The amendment would have given the new Act a responsibility to “give effect to the human right to food through good food nation plans”. However, it was voted down by the Greens, SNP and Tory members of the Committee.

Commenting, Scottish Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said:


“This is a complete betrayal of the thousands of people in Scotland struggling to put food on the table.

“The SNP and the Greens both claim to support protecting the right to food in law, but today they refused.

“This dither and delay is all the more shameful while the worst cost of living crisis in decades piles pressure on families across the country.

“Once again this SNP/Green government has failed to step up to the mark and use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to make a difference in people’s lives.

“I will continue to fight to enshrine this basic human right in law, so we can tackle the scandal of food poverty once and for all.”


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.”