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.”

Scottish Labour’s Inverness and Nairn candidate vows to continue David Stewart’s campaign on Raigmore Interchange

Scottish Labour’s Inverness and Nairn candidate, Rhoda Grant, is vowing to continue the excellent work of colleague, David Stewart, to see a long-term improvement for Raigmore Interchange, if she is elected.

Mrs Grant, who is also Scottish Labour’s lead candidate on the Highlands and Islands list, said Mr Stewart, who retires as an MSP at May’s election, had previously supported people concerned about safety at a pedestrian crossing on the south-bound slip road where a woman was involved in an incident with a car and later died in hospital.

A new 30mph speed limit has now been introduced at the roundabout and on roads leading up to it and long-term plans are being considered.

“However, a resident has complained that on the A96 from the Tesco store entrance to the A9 slip road, he counted 27 signs which any motorist would find hard to take in, especially in such a short stretch,” said Mrs Grant.

“I believe that there is to be a survey into the number of signs which is good news, but I would like to see long-term improvement plans for the area published, or at least to know when they will be published, as by all accounts this would be safer for pedestrians and cyclists using the route.

“I have also received a report that some motorists are not sticking to the new speed limit and I will be taking this up with the police.

“While it’s good that some short-term measures have been taken by Transport Scotland at Raigmore Interchange, we need to keep up the pressure to see long-term plans come to fruition.”

Previously, the agency said that traffic lights could be installed at all four entry points to the roundabout under a planned new scheme, which would provide “an equitable split in green time between vehicles and pedestrians and cyclists”.

It added that what the system would provide, at all times, in the traffic light cycle was a green man phase for pedestrians to cross each traffic flow safely in turn.

Candidate calls for decentralisation of BBC Scotland jobs to the Highlands and Islands

Rhoda Grant, Scottish Labour’s lead candidate for the Highlands and Islands region for Holyrood at the elections on May 6th has called on BBC Scotland to decentralise jobs to the region following the corporation’s decision earlier this month to move some of its key departments and staff outside London to make the corporation more reflective of the UK as a whole.

The BBC described the plan as a “top-to-bottom change” and its biggest transformation in decades.

As a result of the changes, entire departments and news divisions will be moved to Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Glasgow and Salford.

Recently, smaller BBC outposts including at the Inverness base in the Highland capital have seen job losses or relocations to the central belt.

Ms Grant has written to BBC Scotland Director, Steve Carson, to ask for as many roles as possible from the relocation to be moved out of Glasgow and into the Highlands and Islands.

Commenting, Rhoda Grant said:

“The decentralisation of jobs by the BBC in London is a very welcome move, however, moving jobs out of London to Glasgow fails to support smaller sites such as the BBC office in Inverness.

“It’s clear to me that BBC Scotland and the organisation as a whole should also now seek to move jobs out of Glasgow and not only secure the future of BBC sites in the Highlands and Islands, but to actually bring jobs closer to our local communities and away from the central belt.

“We have the opportunity to bring more jobs and employment to the region as we recover from Covid-19 and decentralising jobs and creating opportunities in the Highlands and Islands must be at the heart of our national recovery plan.”

Roads repair cash spread too thinly at £1,000 a kilometre

Two regional list candidates in May’s Scottish Parliament elections have 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 Highland Council, it equates to just £1,000 a kilometre, according to figures discovered by Labour’s Highlands and Islands regional list candidates Rhoda Grant.

Mrs Grant, who is also standing for Labour in Inverness and Nairn, has been lobbied by residents from across the Highlands very concerned about the state of the roads, with many posting photos of crumbling edges and huge potholes, especially on well-used stretches such as the NC500.

In a recent report by the local authority it was said that the current capital budget of £7.2million for 2021/22 sounded “a substantial investment” but the number of roads meant it equated to “just over £1,000 per km to cover maintenance and renewal of all the assets”.

The council admitted that the pandemic postponed or cancelled some planned maintenance work.

Mrs Grant commented: “Put in context that £1,000 sounds a paltry amount and the blame lies squarely at the door of the SNP Government which has starved our councils of money for too long.

“I wonder how many potholes you could find in an average one kilometre stretch of any road in the Highlands just now and I doubt £1,000 could mend it when you add the cost of materials, workers, equipment and travel.”

John Erskine, also standing for Labour in Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “The council’s area committee will soon be meeting to divvy up a good proportion of the cash locally – what a job they will have!

“We know the SNP Government have turbo charged austerity in Scotland affecting council services across our region. The SNP needs to be brought to account for shameful budget cuts.”


Grant welcomes North Kessock to Tore Study

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has welcomed the report from consultants WSP, who were appointed by the Scottish Government to conduct a safety review on the A9 North Kessock to Tore route, which includes the notorious B9161 Munlochy Junction.

Mrs Grant, who has been campaigning on behalf of constituents for improvements at the Munlochy Junction is pleased that a Case for Change has been established and that this will now lead to the Preliminary Appraisal stage which will include wider stakeholder and public engagement.

Rhoda Grant said “The report highlights issues at the Munlochy Junction in terms of vehicles merging from the B9161 on the southbound A9, vehicles turning right from the A9 onto the B9161 and safety risks due to traffic queuing on the main carriageway while they wait to turn right on to the Munlochy road.

“It highlights four Transport Planning Objectives (TPOs) one of which is ‘To achieve an improvement in vehicular road safety and a reduction in conflicts at the Munlochy Junction (A9/B9161) in the short (3 years), medium (3-10 years) and longer term (beyond 10 years).’ Of the 40 options identified, 28 options fulfil this objective.

Mrs Grant continued “These options range in the short term from introducing speed reduction measures, improving visibility and driver awareness to influencing route choice and restricting turning movements at the junction.

“Medium term options include improving the slip road and extending the right turn lane on the A9. Converting Munlochy junction into a roundabout and creating a grade separated junction are amongst the options in the longer term.

She concluded “There is a lot of work still to be done to consult wider on the various available options but I welcome these options and will be pushing for short term measures to be introduced quickly in the meantime while the longer term options are explored further.

“I am pleased that TPOs have also been identified in terms of improving active travel access between North Kessock and Tore, with improvements to other junctions and road safety at Tore roundabout also being highlighted.

“As the gateway to the North and West of Scotland, we need to make vast improvements on this stretch of road and this report is the first stage in doing that.”

The report can be accessed via the following link:-

Grant asks Cabinet Secretary: When will the Lochaber community get its promised slice of smelter site?

Today in Parliament, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, was asked to reassure Parliament about the smelter owner’s operations in Scotland, particularly in Lochaber, following the collapse of the Greensill Capital UK finance firm.

Mr Ewing told the chamber jobs at the smelter were secure and the order book was healthy.

Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant raised follow-up questions around community land ownership.

She said: “I am pleased to receive the reassurance with regard to GFG Alliance’s operations in Scotland and especially in Lochaber.

“When it purchased the Alcan Estate and Smelter in Lochaber a commitment was made to the Scottish Government and the community that they would transfer some of the vast estate to community ownership, this would have created more jobs and boosted the local economy.

“I understand from East Lochaber and Laggan Community Trust that this has not happened. 

“I wrote to the Cabinet Secretary about this, and in his response, he appeared to wash his hands off this matter. 

“Therefore, can I prevail push upon him to ensure that GFG Alliance make good this commitment?”

The Cabinet Secretary accepted there was work to do in this area, saying community involvement was something he would very much like to see taken forward. He said he has had discussions with the owner, Sanjeev Gupta, and that they had spoken to Community Councils and had been looking at one project in particular – to which there was no further mention.

Speaking afterwards, Mrs Grant said: “I was pleased to hear some work is being done on this but we definitely need to keep the pressure up on them to get things moving. If anything is coming down the line, it’s a long time coming.”


MSP Rhoda Grant visits mobile speed camera unit at Tain

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, recently visited the mobile speed camera unit, stationed on the Tain bypass.

Mrs Grant, who backed the community’s campaign for more safety measures around Tain’s Aldi and Lidl junctions, was shown how the unit helps to reduce speed on the bypass where the limit is now 50mph.

The North Safety Camera Unit issued an invitation to Mrs Grant given her work with constituents who were keen to see improvements at the accident spot.

“As with all drivers, I know that a glimpse of the camera unit does keep my speed in check and is a handy reminder of any changes to limits on the road,” she said.

“Thanks to the member of staff who showed me around, socially distanced of course, as it was good to see its inner workings.

“The site I visited was an already established location for the North Safety Camera Unit and it will continue to monitor traffic, with the reduced limit, with the aim of making the area safer for all road users.

“I do hope that a lower speed will lead to fewer accidents on this stretch, especially with travel restrictions easing after April.”

Mrs Grant was initially contacted two years ago by constituents who told her that ‘nearly every week’ an incident happens’ 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 is looking into other safety measures including the community’s call to have roundabouts at the junctions.