Nationalist councillors need to contact their SNP Governments about cuts

A Labour MSP has accused a Highland SNP councillor of ‘hypocrisy’ over launching a petition to save a community based garden project, which is under threat due to Scottish Government cuts.
Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant is tackling Cllr Maxine Smith over her double standards by failing to acknowledge that Government cuts are to blame for the threat to the Garden Project at the Isobel Rhind Centre in Invergordon.
Mrs Grant points out that the SNP run Scottish Government has year on year cut money to local authorities and to health authorities putting both in a dire financial position resulting in cuts to services.
“I support this campaign fully however if the SNP Government funded NHS Highland and Highland Council properly, this unsettling situation could have been avoided,” said Mrs Grant.
“The fact that Maxine Smith has launched this campaign when her own SNP Government is forcing NHS Highland to make these damaging cuts – affecting projects such as this – is complete hypocrisy.
“I suggest the councillor gets on the hot-line to her contacts in the Scottish Government to complain. Scottish Labour put forward an alternative Scottish Budget that would have funded this project and other services that are now facing cuts, but it was voted down by the SNP and Tories.
“This is a thriving project which is of great benefit to adults with special needs, allowing them to experience horticultural work.
“I sincerely hope it wins its battle to receive funding next year.
“However, for it to become sustainable for another 10 years, the SNP Government will need to fund NHS Highland appropriately.”
The community-based garden project is under threat because NHS Highland proposes to withdraw its £51,000 funding budget from March next year.
The board has told HighLife Highland, which runs the scheme, that it cannot afford to keep the service but is having talks to explore alternative models.


Fireworks Educational Leaflet

Delighted to take delivery of my fireworks educational leaflet today. Thanks to Mark from Red Revolution,Inverness for the graphics. A big thank you to the SSPCA for their support, local Vets, businesses and organisations (you know who you are) for agreeing to hand them out.
In short I want everyone to enjoy this season, preferably at an organised bonfire and fireworks event, but if you want to let off fireworks outside your home, please just stop and think first about the fact that the bangs may frighten some vulnerable people, pets and wild animals.
Most importantly – BE SAFE

I have been told no extra funding for Skye and Lochalsh out of hours health services

The new Scottish Government Health Secretary is admitting that there will be no new investment in Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross health services when it comes to out-of-hours recommendations in the recent Sir Lewis Ritchie report.
Jeane Freeman has told me that “in the main” any investment will need to come from the budgets of NHS Highland, the Scottish Ambulance Service or NHS 24.
This has taken me aback by the frank admission, querying how improvements can be made without any extra money. I wrote to Ms Freeman asking about more resources, especially in the light of money made available for the Caithness health services redesign.
I am sure this will be a revelation for most patients on Skye who are expecting more from the Scottish Government,
I’ll be contacting constituents and the chief executives of the health authority, ambulance service and NHS 24 with copies of the letter and would like to know their reaction to this.
The message from the Government is really – we’ll make the right noises, we’ll consult the community and sign up to an independent report but don’t expect a penny more from us!
If the health authority is to get no extra money, then the Government need to answer how on earth they can maintain Portree and at the same time build a new hospital in Broadford?
The Health Secretary told me:
“This is not comparable as the Caithness budget relates to the reprovision of services across Caithness which includes the building of care hubs and the refurbishment of Caithness General Hospital and that expenditure is more comparable with the expenditure estimated for the new hospital build at Broadford.
“In the main the recommendations contained in Sir Lewis’s report are focussed on utilising existing services in a different way and these do not require significant investment.
“Where there will be investment, whether by NHS Highland, The Scottish Ambulance Service or NHS 24 in supporting the delivery of the recommendations in Sir Lewis’s report, I expect those boards to identify and account for that from within their existing allocations. Some of that expenditure may not be known as it will depend, in parts, on the discussions with the people in Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross as they coproduce solutions with the board.”


I’m in Pink for ‘Wear It Pink’ on Friday 19th October

I’m in the pink….to encourage people to take part in ‘Wear it Pink’, on Friday 19th October.

I joined fellow parliamentarians in Holyrood to encourage people across the Highlands and Islands to get involved and take part to raise money for Breast Cancer Now’s research.

‘Wear it Pink” takes place during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and has raised over £31million towards Breast Cancer Now’s important work.

The day is one of the biggest fundraising events in the UK. Back for its 17th year, the fundraiser calls on supporters to ditch their everyday colours and add a splash of pink to their outfit, to raise money for breast cancer research.
Sadly, most of us know someone affected by this devastating disease – every year around 4,700 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Scotland and almost 1,000 people will die of it.

I am incredibly proud to be backing wear it pink this year and I would like to urge local people across my constituency to join me on Friday 19 October and show their support for Breast Cancer Now.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “We are really grateful for the enthusiasm and support shown by MSPs. Everyone looked fabulous in their pink accessories and showed just how easy it is to add a touch of pink to your everyday outfit.”

To take part in wear it pink this October, please visit: for further details, fundraising ideas and how to register for your free fundraising pack.


I seek answers to current and long term plans for Stromeferry Bypass.

I am fully aware of the current works being carried out at the Stromeferry bypass and equally aware that there can be delays of up to three hours. This fact is causing a lot of frustration locally and to many, the option of a 140 mile round trip is a non starter for what is normally a 30 minute 23 mile journey.

As a result I contacted a senior official within Highland Council and was told that on Thursday 27 September, there will be a community meeting in Lochcarron Village Hall to discuss the issues and frustration with the current works. There will be a drop in session between 2pm and 5.30pm and a presentation between 6pm and 7pm. Thereafter there will be a general question time, so I would encourage as many people as possible to attend. Unfortunately I will be in the Scottish Parliament and cannot attend in person.

With regards to the long term plans, I was afraid over the months and years that I have been involved that they may have got kicked into the long grass. This appears to have been the case. It appears that Highland Council are looking at three corridors of interest. The North route, (behind the village) the South route (Glen Udalain) and the online route – basically moving the rail line out into the sea area and moving the road to where the rail line currently is situated. The latest STAG (Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance) has been submitted to the Scottish Government seeking support from the Government with regards funding. This appraisal is now on the desk of the current Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson MSP.

I understand that during Highland Council’s consideration of the capital five year spending plan in the spring of this year, that no finance was set aside for a new route. However there continues to be a £1m allocated for current works.

This saga has gone on too long. In my view this route should be a trunk road as it is the gateway to the islands via Skye and South West Ross.The Stomeferry Bypass was opened in 1970 and at that time was hailed as a great achievement. However, it was built along the Moine Thrust, a geological area of shattered and fragile rock. Over the period since the road was opened there has been many landslides and near misses. It is an absolute miracle that no one has been killed over the last 48 years.

This issue has dragged on and dragged on, school children travel the route everyday, people use the route to go to work daily and it is well used by tourist and sightseers alike. It is not acceptable that the local Government and the Scottish Government have not come up with a safe alternative by now and instead choose to bicker about whose responsibility it is.

I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson MSP, today and asked him to move this issue up his ‘to do list’ and bring to an end the uncertainty caused to motorists and parents of school children who use this route every day wondering if they will be struck by landslide or falling rocks.