Rhoda Grant calls for an overhaul of the appointments process

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has described the appointment of the chairman of CMAL to the same role at the CalMac parent company, David MacBrayne Ltd, as “ludicrous” and called for the overhaul of Scotland’s public appointments system.

Mrs Grant tabled Parliamentary questions about the process which led to the appointment of Erik Østergaard, who has been chairman of the infrastructure quango Caledonian Marine Assets Limited, to take over the MacBrayne chair from January 3rd.

It emerged that the three person panel which recommended the Danish businessman’s appointment included the civil servant who heads the Scottish Government department with responsibility for both CMAL and CalMac and also a “regular” on the Scottish Government quango circuit, Andrew Thin, who has held a series of public appointments through the same process.

Mrs Grant said: “The same people are involved in these appointments all the time, either being appointed themselves or as members of selection panels.

“It is ludicrous to pretend this is an independent process. There is no transparency, and it works against the interests of communities affected. It is beyond credibility that someone so deeply involved in the Ferguson debacle should now be put in charge of CalMac who are the victims of it, along with the communities they serve”.

In addition to the senior civil servant, Frances Pacitti, and Mr Thin, the third panel member was Bill Smith who has been the Scottsh Government’s “Public Appointments Adviser” since 2008.

There were six candidates for the post and three were interviewed, first by the panel and then by Transport Minister Graeme Dey, who also appointed three new MacBrayne board members – none of them with island connections.

Mrs Grant said that in spite of being on the CMAL board for 14 years and chairman for seven, Mr Østergaard is virtually unknown in island communities. “However, they know all about CMAL’s failings.” she added.

“CMAL’s failure to provide the vessels which are now five years late and still far from finished at the Ferguson yard has led to immense disruption and economic loss for island communities.

“How on earth can one of the key players in that debacle now be put at the head of the ferry company to which the ferries have not been delivered? How can there be any public confidence in that appointment?”.

She said the Østergaard appointment is “an extreme example of a system that keeps producing the same people in different roles – so long as they keep their mouths shut and do not challenge the SNP ministers who repeatedly appoint them.”

 

Useful telephone numbers this Christmas Period

My constituency and parliamentary offices will be closed until 10th January 2022.  We will aim to respond to you when we return.

If you have a pressing or urgent concern during this Christmas period, please read through the below list and contact the relevant organisation.

NHS Highland – serving both Highland and Argyll and Bute

Telephone number: 01463 704000

Highland Council

Argyll and Bute Council  

Moray Council 

NHS Grampian – serving Moray area

NHS Shetland 

Shetland Islands Council 

NHS Orkney 

Orkney Islands Council 

NHS Western Isles 

Western Isles Council 

Police 
Emergency Telephone – 999

Non emergency – 101

NHS 24 

Telephone – 111

 

Mental Health Support 

NHS Western Isles Mental Health and Learning Disability Services

Mental Health Support Services in Moray 

Samaritans 

Telephone  – 116 123

Clear Your Head 

Mikey’s Line 

Text: 07786207755

Breathing Space 

Telephone: 0800838587

 

 

 

 

Part 1 Options Appraisal published on A9 North Kessock to Tore route

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has welcomed the publication of the Part 1 Options Appraisal on the A9 North Kessock to Tore safety study.

The report looked at options developed during the Case for Change stage, taking account of objectives developed with stakeholders as well as technical criteria in line with Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG).

Extending the slip road south of the Munlochy junction was the most popular of the medium term options with an overwhelming 86% of respondents supporting this while a long term option of installing a grade-separated junction at the present Munlochy junction, was favoured by 66% of respondents.

Four options are discounted from the process as these have been committed for delivery by Transport Scotland. One of these committed options is to provide street lighting at Munlochy Junction.

Rhoda Grant said “It is clear Improvement is much needed and the report has highlighted many possible options for this. These options will now been looked at by Transport Scotland who will then consider the next steps.

“I’m glad the communities’ voices are being heard and we need to press ahead with the next stage of the process without delay.

Mrs Grant continued “While the appraisal appears to have ruled out the option of reducing the speed limit along the stretch of road from North Kessock to Tore I am pleased to see that there is overwhelming support for extending the slip road south and support for a grade- separated junction at the Munlochy turnoff.

The MSP concluded “Installing the street lighting at the Munlochy junction was also popular and work has now started on this. I know communities the length of the Black Isle and beyond will be relieved to see the work begin.”

“We need to keep the pressure on the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland to move forward with additional improvements without delay.”

The possible options identified for progression in the appraisal include: amend road signage for visitors and tourists, activated warning signs, prohibit U-turns at intermediate junctions and Munlochy junction, prohibit all right turns at Munlochy junction, prohibit right turn from B9161 at Munlochy junction to A9 Northbound, relocate bus stops on the A9 at Tore roundabout, improve pedestrian routes – integration with bus stops, particularly at Tore roundabout, improve pedestrian routes (footpaths) around Tore, improve pedestrian routes – controlled crossing at Tore roundabout, enhanced signage for cyclists, improve southbound on-slip at Munlochy junction, install traffic signals at Tore Roundabout, extend the right turn lane from the A9 to the B9161, convert Munlochy junction into a roundabout, grade separation at Munlochy junction.

Four options have been committed for delivery including: installation of street-lighting at the A9/B9161 Munlochy junction (already started), investigate improvements to road markings at Tore Roundabout, investigate improvements to active travel facilities at Tore Roundabout, review of the speed limit in the approaches to Tore roundabout including the A835 to the Tore PS junction.

 

Moray Maternity Review

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant spoke in the Scottish Parliament today on the independent review of Moray maternity services.

Mrs Grant said: “I too welcome the review but feel for families who rightly are frustrated by delays and therefore it would be good to have a clear indication of the time frame for the restoration of full maternity services at Dr Gray’s and, in the meantime, what support will be available for families who have to travel to Aberdeen or Inverness for maternity services, by way of accommodation and of child minding for their families?”

Scottish Government Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, who gave a statement on the issue to MSPs, responded that Mrs Grant’s was a fair request and promised to find out about accommodation and travel costs in conversation with the NHS boards. He had earlier told Parliament that “key milestones” were needed for the development of plans going forward.

After the session, Mrs Grant, said that women in Moray had waited a long time for the review and she was concerned about how Raigmore Hospital would cope with an increased number of births from Moray in the light of continued NHS staff shortages.

Her Labour MSP colleague, Carol Mochan, revealed that there were 365 whole time nurse and midwifery vacancies at NHS Highland and at NHS Grampian 465 vacant posts, while there was a lack of paediatricians.

Mrs Grant said: “While I recognise this is a step forward, I am concerned that, despite promises from the Health Secretary, this will be a long time in the planning with the major stumbling block lack of staff and lack of investment.

“People in Caithness will also be looking to how this progresses as pregnant ‘at risk’ women there are having to endure a 200 mile round trip to give birth in Raigmore. They also will want to see more staff and investment in their area.”

Mrs Grant paid tribute to all those who came forward to give their views to the independent review, including NHS staff, the Keep Mum campaign group and mothers and their families.

Appraisal report due and question asked on A9 North Kessock to Tore study

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is welcoming the imminent publication of the Part 1 appraisal report on the A9 North Kessock to Tore safety study.

Mrs Grant, who has tabled a Parliamentary Question asking if consideration will be given to lowering the speed limit to 50mph on this stretch of the road, said “Communities who use the road every day are desperate to see improvements introduced before any further accidents happen.

“I share the frustration at the amount of time that has passed since I first raised this with the Scottish Government two years ago so I welcome that the Part 1 appraisal report will be made public this week.

Mrs Grant concluded “We need to move forward with the interim work of installing the street lighting at the Munlochy junction as soon as possible and the concerns of local communities regarding the speed limit on this stretch of road must be considered by government in the meantime.”

Details of Mrs Grant’s Parliamentary Question below:-

Asked by: Grant, Rhoda, Highlands and Islands, Date lodged: 30 November 2021

To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to improve safety on the A9 between Inverness and Tore, and whether it will consider lowering the speed limit on the road to 50mph.

Current Status: Awaiting answer

Right to Food Bill Consultation

 

 

Rhoda Grant MSP is ramping up her efforts to enshrine in law a statutory Right to Food, as new figures expose the extent of food poverty in Scotland.

New analysis of the Scottish Health Survey has shown that almost 364,000 adults in Scotland were worried about running out of food, while over 90,000 people had to go without food in the previous year.

Rhoda Grant has called these figures a “national scandal”, as she launched a consultation on her Right to Food Bill.

This Bill was originally proposed last term by former Scottish Labour MSP Elaine Smith and has now been picked up by Rhoda Grant, but last month the SNP and the Greens voted to delay the Bill moving forward by requiring another consultation.

Commenting, Scottish Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said:

“It is a national scandal that food poverty remains rife in a country as rich as Scotland.

“I hope this launches a meaningful conversation on how to tackle the scourge of food poverty, but the truth is it shouldn’t take yet another consultation to convince us to act.

“It is shameful that the SNP and the Greens are forcing us to waste valuable time consulting again while children up and down the country are going hungry.

“I hope we can drop the partisan politics and unite around this Bill to enshrine in law the fundamental principle that no-one in Scotland should be going without food.”

You can see the consultation document below

Right to Food Consultation Document

You can give your thoughts by taking part in the below survey

Right to Food Consultation – Give your thoughts

Grant funding available for chronic pain this winter

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is spreading the word that grant funding has been announced to assist with supporting those experiencing chronic pain this winter.

As a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions, Mrs Grant has been asked to help spread the word that the funding is being made available for third-sector organisations, local authorities, Health and Social Care Partnerships and NHS Health Boards to “increase their capacity to provide appropriate care for people with chronic pain when they need it.”

Proposals for regional and national projects where collaborative working across sectors could increase the reach and impact of any planned activities are particularly being welcomed. Grants of £50,000 per organisation are available although applications above this amount should also be discussed with the Government’s Clinical Priorities Division.

The deadline for applications is tight, with applications to be submitted by 3 December and decisions communicated by 10 December. The project duration is December 2021 – March 2022.

Rhoda Grant said “Sufficient funding for chronic pain services in the north has been desperately needed so this is welcome news.

“The pandemic exacerbated the problem of delivery of chronic pain services in the Highlands so I would encourage groups and organisations, large and small, to apply for this funding today.”

Queries and applications should be sent to: Clinical_Priorities@gov.scot

Rhoda Grant MSP supports CHAT petition on Community Participation


Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, appeared at the Scottish Parliament’s Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee this morning supporting a petition from Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT).
Maria Aitken, on behalf of CHAT, had lodged the petition calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to allow an appeal process for Community Participation Requests under the Community Empowerment Act 2015.
The Act was intended to encourage and support community involvement and participation in public services. Part 3 of the Act introduces the right for ‘participation requests’ which aim to ensure engagement and dialogue between community participation bodies.
However, NHS Highland turned down CHAT’s request to participate in decisions being taken by the health authority saying the organisation wasn’t constituted as a Community Controlled Body.
Mrs Grant said she had regular meeting with CHAT and in July this year they raised this issue about of community participation.
“They had contacted NHS Highland and NHS Highland had refused to recognise them as a constituted Community Controlled Body. I believe that the group is controlled by the community and do need to be recognised as such,” said Mrs Grant.
“CHAT have a constitution and that includes provision that they are community led. They hold regular AGMs and have regular meeting with the community that they represent.
“I then took this up with NHS Highland on the group’s behalf, but they have not changed their position on this.
“There is also no appeals process, so no chance for CHAT to debate its case with someone from out with the organisation.
“Members of the public regularly contact CHAT asking for their assistance and advising them of issues that they have faced.
“This often puts them at odds with NHS Highland, if I am being honest, but I believe they are fulfilling an important role in the community.”
Mrs Grant went on to explain that CHAT had given her some examples of where there had been no consultation. For instance, the introduction of a midwife-led maternity unit which has resulted in a 200-mile round trip to Raigmore Hospital for at risk women who are pregnant.
“I agree that people in Caithness are victims of a centralisation of healthcare services and rural areas are being left out of the decision-making process,” said Mrs Grant.
“An appeals process would let the group question the ruling of any public body and I would support its introduction sooner rather than later.”
She added that NHS Highland dismissing the request out of hand was wrong as well.
The committee heard that the Scottish Government had asked the Scottish Community Development Centre to explore what an appeals process might look like and the centre will report its findings later this year.
Petitions committee convener, MSP Jackson Carlaw, said the petition would be kept open and members agreed that the committee should contact the Scottish Community Development Centre to see what progress was being made on an appeals process and when it would be concluded.
More information
Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee | Scottish Parliament TV
1518 (parliament.scot)

MSP calls out lack of Green Deal installers in the Highlands and Islands

The Scottish Government’s Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings has admitted that there is a shortage of registered Green Deal installers in the region to carry out energy efficiency improvements in people’s homes.
Patrick Harvie, who is also the Scottish Greens co-leader, was replying to Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, who took up a complaint from a constituent about the issue.
Home Energy Scotland highlights energy efficiency Improvements with loans and cashback for work on heating and home insulation.
However, Gavin Anderson, from Ullapool, contacted Mrs Grant to say the system wasn’t working.
He said: “We were hoping to apply for this but were shocked to find that for key areas of support there is not one registered installer in the Highlands and having contacted installers outside the Highlands we find that they are not willing to work in the Highlands.
“We live in the coldest area of Scotland and are effectively being excluded from this support scheme because of a huge gap in the supply chain.
“We asked Home Energy Scotland, who supports the grant scheme, and they admitted that it is unlikely that there will be installers registered within the near future.
“This means that households in the Highlands are excluded from £15,000 loan support (with up to £5000 cash back) for insulating our homes while households in all other parts of Scotland can access this support.”
Mr Anderson used the search engine, Green Deal Participant Register – Green Deal ORB (beis.gov.uk) and found there were hardly any installers in the Highlands, including Inverness, in most areas where support could be applied for including cavity wall installation, draught proofing, external wall installation, roof insulation and room in-roof insulation.
Home Energy Scotland told Mrs Grant that finding a certified installer in the Highlands and Islands could be “very difficult”.
Although householders can appeal to the Scottish Government to use a non-Green Deal installer, granting an exemption cannot be guaranteed.
“Householders in the region are more in need of green home energy improvements due to the colder weather and, in some villages and towns, the age of their homes,” said Mrs Grant.
“So, I get exasperated about these Government schemes that encourage people to apply for help, because much of the time the Highlands and Islands is forgotten about.
“It’s just another example of Ministers almost writing off the region and it is so, so frustrating. Waiting until 2022 for more information on how we can skill up our own workforce is just so annoying for those wanting to upgrade.
“Saving the environment is hitting the headlines with COP26 but again there’s more obstacles in the way of those who are trying to be greener.
“The SNP/Green coalition agreement will now only fund heat pumps, no longer funding oil. These pumps need good insulation so a double whammy.”
Mr Harvie said: “I can confirm that we are aware of the shortage of registered Green Deal installers covering the more rural and isolated areas of Scotland. Skills and consumer protection is at the heart of our schemes and we are continuing to work with sector skill bodies, trade bodies and other key stakeholders to enable companies to develop the skill requirements needed for energy efficiency.
“Further information on this work will be released in 2022. In situations where applicants for the Home Energy Scotland Loans are having difficulties locating a registered installer, we continue to monitor this situation.”
He went on to say that non-registered installers could be taken on by householders, in exceptional circumstances through an appeal process, but it would be on a case-by-case basis.
“As long as the non-registered installer is providing value for money, a very important point for the customer, and an adequate warranty/guarantee on the work to be done, the request may be approved,” he added.
Home Energy Scotland, managed by the Energy Saving Trust and funded by the Scottish Government, said that it was “working closely with the Scottish Government to help support the capacity and availability of approved installers in remoter areas of the country.”
It added that Green Deal certification was likely to be replaced in the future as the necessary certification for public funding schemes, however the timing and details of this are yet to be confirmed. In the meantime, its Sustainable Energy Supply Chain programme was engaging with installers in the Highlands and Islands to address the challenges they face, particularly around certification and training. It was working to support the development of a strong local supply chain in the region to deliver both energy efficiency improvements to the fabric of buildings and low and zero emissions heating systems such as heat pumps.