To read my speech click here
Highlands & Islands Regional MSP Rhoda Grant, who last week contacted the Chief Executive of HIE, Charlotte Wright, with regard to the sudden announcement of the closure of the Talk Talk facility in Stornoway with the loss of 59 jobs, has received reassurance from HIE that they are doing all they can to mitigate the job losses’
“ It transpires that this sudden announcement came out of the blue to not only the workforce at Talk Talk in Stornoway, but also to HIE and other partners” said Rhoda Grant.
“HIE representatives contacted the company and held talks, as did I, but the sad fact is that this closure decision was taken centrally and there is not any likelihood of the company changing their minds.
“HIE have held a Partnership Action For Continuing Employment (PACE) meeting and are doing all they can to secure future employment for the staff concerned.
“I have tabled Parliamentary Questions on this issue and asked what support the Government can and are offering.
“I have also written again to HIE to ask them if they could help this skilled workforce pull together what in effect would be a company of their own, show casing their skills to other organisations in the hope that they could secure contracts themselves.
Rhoda Grant concluded “ It’s important that we try as best we can to keep these jobs on the island for a myriad of reasons not just to help the local economy and the employment status of locals, but for the longer term good and economic development of our island community.
To read my speech click here
Having just heard yesterday about Talk Talk closing their facility in Stornoway it seems to me that there needs to be discussions around this decision which apparently looks like it has come out of the blue and will have an adverse impact on the island, the economy and more importantly the 59 individuals that are employed by the company.
59 job losses in an island town is massive and will impact on the whole community.
My heart goes out to all these dedicated employees. The company say they are centralising and moving the jobs to Salford in Manchester with little dialogue with the workforce, trade unions or wider community.
It is my understanding that this company was financially supported by HIE, and if so, we need to know if HIE can clawback that investment.
I am writing today to HIE asking what support they gave and whether there us an opportunity to claw this back if this decision is not reversed.
I have also spoken to the company and advised them of the impact this decision will have on the local population and the wider economy. They are adamant that they will not reverse this decision but are offering their staff relocation to Salford. However, I am keen to find out if similar work can be procured for the staff involved and whether HIE have looked into that.
I will also table Parliamentary Questions asking the Scottish Government what action they are taking to support the 59 people who have lost their jobs. I have also asked when they knew of this decision and whether they had any discussions with the company in order to try and retain these jobs
59 jobs in an island community would be comparable to hundreds in an urban area and action needs to be taken to help those involved.
Two Highland GPs have joined MSP Rhoda Grant for a meeting in Holyrood with Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.
Mrs Grant, Dingwall GP Miles Mack and Inverness GP Phil Wilson, also a Professor of Primary Care and Rural Health at the University of Aberdeen, outlined their concerns for rural and remote practices under the new GP Contract.
Mrs Grant asked Ms Freeman for the face-to-face meeting and was grateful for the opportunity to outline key issues which other GPs across the Highlands and Islands had also raised with her and with her Labour colleague David Stewart.
The GPs used Caithness facts and figures to outline the problems, stressing that five of the 11 permanent GPs in the area were almost certain to retire because of age in the next five years.
In Caithness, since 2004, almost half of all permanent GPs posts have been vacated with partial replacement with short term locum provision. Three practices have ceased to be independent contractors and have been taken over by NHS Highland.
There were also general concerns about the capacity for under-graduate teaching and the effect on retention and recruitment of GPs in remote areas.
GPs have told the MSPs that the new Contract fails to recognise the unique workload in rural areas where surgeries deal with a far greater range of medical problems – including emergencies that would be dealt with in hospitals in urban areas.
“The main concern is that what’s on the table with the new Contract is an urban model and this just doesn’t suit remote and rural areas,” explained Mrs Grant, who represents the Highlands and Islands.
“GPs are worried it will cause poor continuity of care for patients and that procedures, currently performed at surgeries, are being centralised – for instance for blood tests or vaccinations. This will inevitably inconvenience patients and worsen health outcomes by raising barriers to care.
“The contract states that other health care professionals will be employed to deal with these extra tasks but with rural GP posts remaining unfilled, and shortages of nurses in many areas, how can we expect to find these extra people in our out of the way places?
“There must be flexibility for GPs to retain the old system of care. The new contract’s funding formula has been based, under this new system, on the number of appointments and does not take account of issues in rural areas such as patient and doctor travel.
“GPs in our region cannot wait for another three years to see some movement on this and I’m hopeful that the Health Secretary will find a suitable way forward.”
Prof Wilson added: “We were able to discuss some of the key issues about general practice in rural areas, particularly the loss of permanent GP posts.
“This is a central issue because losing local GPs and replacing them with a range of other practitioners is both expensive for the NHS and deeply unsatisfying for patients.
“Loss of continuity of GP care is also damaging to patients’ health: there is now good evidence that this leads to worsening mortality statistics and it may underlie some of the worrying premature death rate trends recently seen in several rural areas of Scotland.”
At the meeting Ms Freeman said she had “genuinely taken the issues seriously” and discussion would continue with colleagues. Mrs Grant was promised an update in two months.
Labour has pressed the Scottish government to bring forward a statutory right to food.
Labour Highlands & Islands Regional MSP Rhoda Grant pressed the government to outline when a proposed Good Food Nation bill would finally be brought forward.
The MSP is also writing to foodbank organisations across Scotland to ensure they take steps to make their users’ voices heard.
Rhoda Grant said:
“We live in a developed nation in the 21st century and it is a national scandal that foodbank use is increasing year upon year upon year. Scottish Labour believe that there should be a statutory right to food, which brings together all of the current policies, gives them a guiding force, and has the power to measure the government’s success in feeding its people. In developing legislation, we believe that people who are most affected by food insecurity should have the opportunity to contribute to how the government can make things better.
“However, we accept that this is challenging, as those most affected by food insecurity tend to be the most marginalised and vulnerable people in society, who are unlikely to have their voice heard.
“I am writing to foodbank organisations in Scotland to find out whether they have any plans to make service users aware of the consultation, and how they are supporting them in submitting their views to the outcome of the consultation.
“While I understand that engaging with the government’s legislative process is not going to be the first thing on people’s minds when visiting foodbanks, I think that it is important that we listen to people who are most affected by the issues discussed, and take account of their views”
Notes to editors
Labour’s secured a Parliamentary victory on 13 September 2018 on creating a right to food.
Text of Labour amendment:
“Calls for a Good Food Nation Bill that has tackling food poverty and the Right to Food at its heart, ensuring a joined-up approach across Government, local authorities, trade unions and public bodies to realise our Good Food Nation ambition.”
I’m holding a Public Advice Surgery in Stornoway on the 25th January 2019 between 3pm-4pm. If you have any concerns you would like to raise with me, please come along.
Life Sciences Sector
Debate in the Scottish Parliament
9 January 2019
The debate has highlighted the potential of the life sciences sector, in which Scotland is a world leader.
As Richard Leonard said, this morning we visited the Roslin institute, which is a world leader in agriculture, aquaculture and animal health.
Not only is it a world leader in those areas, it spends time inspiring young people and encouraging businesses to grow in its area of expertise.
Iain Gray spoke about the contribution that the life sciences sector makes to the Scottish economy, as a £5.2 billion sector that employs 40,000 people.
With the right strategy, we could grow that by Scottish companies bringing research and development to market.
We need to do more to encourage that and create the conditions for it to happen—it will not happen by accident and we need a strategy to do it.
To grow the sector, we need to start by inspiring a new generation of scientists and removing the barriers that hold them back. Ruth Maguire talked about having different routes into the sector from colleges and schools.
We need to encourage more girls to study STEM subjects, too.
I first visited the Roslin institute some years ago when it was awarded the Athena SWAN award that recognised its commitment to women’s career development, which again came across strongly during this morning’s visit.
Today, we also saw the institute’s commitment to young people, as it has well-equipped labs for visits from schools—not only Scottish schools, but schools from across Europe and the rest of the world—whetting the interest of young people in STEM subjects.
Dean Lockhart and Iain Gray mentioned an issue for encouraging young people into STEM subjects, which is the lack of STEM subject teachers. Young people cannot be enthused if we do not have the teachers in place to achieve that.
As mentioned in the debate, we need science teachers, lab technicians and computer science teachers if we are to encourage young people to get involved in STEM.
Richard Leonard said that Scottish Labour would set up strategic sectoral forums covering strategically important sectors, which would of course include life sciences.
The forums would bring together employers, the Government, the public sector, trade unions and other stakeholders.
They could work together to improve productivity in the sector and ensure that we invest, are competitive and deliver the right skills for the industry.
The forums would feed into an industrial strategy that recognised the worth of life sciences to the Scottish economy and brought developments to market, keeping the benefit in Scotland.
Iain Gray talked about collaboration and how it is not working properly in Scotland.
That would also be a job for the strategic sectoral forums, or for the life sciences Scotland group, which surely has a role in bringing together what is good in Scotland and making sure that people work together.
Our amendment talks about trade union involvement.
The people who staff life sciences industries and businesses need to be involved in driving the sector forward, because they have the knowledge to do that.
Richard Leonard made the point that some businesses do not have a good record of trade union recognition.
We need to change that and make sure that public funding for research and development and for contracts addresses the issue, driving up standards and trade union involvement by using the tools that are at our disposal.
Shona Robison spoke about NHS Tayside’s work with the University of Dundee, and I will mention a part of that.
A constituent of mine has been campaigning for magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound, which those organisations are working together to try to bring to Scotland.
I have been in contact with the Scottish Government and I hope that the minister will look at the matter again, because it has seemed unable to help.
That technology would be a huge step forward for Scotland; the only place where it is available is London, and it is important that we bring it to Scotland.
We have to work with other parts of the UK, as Dean Lockhart said. It is clear that UK-wide funding and collaboration are very important in the sector, but we also have to make sure that we do not fall behind.
We need to continue to work together to be a world leader in life sciences.
This morning, the Roslin institute spoke about a lot of its funding coming from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, which is a UK-wide organisation that the institute works closely with, as it does with other institutes throughout the UK.
The Roslin institute sees that partnership as incredibly important to its future.
Iain Gray spoke about research and investment and how we should look for the cures for such things as MS and MND, and I sincerely hope that we will continue to aspire to do that.
Life sciences are an important part of our economy and we need to develop the sector and capitalise on research and development to ensure that Scottish companies are at the forefront of bringing that innovation to market.
If the Scottish Government were to develop an industrial strategy, surely life sciences would be at the very heart of it, allowing those opportunities and that growth to happen in our country and in our industry.
Highlands & Islands Regional MSP Rhoda Grant who has previously worked with Epilepsy Scotland highlighting support for those suffering from epilepsy through their joint ICEberg campaign (In Case of Emergency be empowered ring guardian – wrist band campaign), has highlighted that the team from Epilepsy Scotland are returning to Inverness to provide further support for anyone so affected at their stall.
Rhoda Grant said “ A note for the diaries of anyone affected by epilepsy in the area seeking support or information is: Wednesday 30 January 2019 on the Upper floor of the Eastgate Centre, Inverness between 11am and 3pm.
Rhoda continued “ This is a serious neurological condition affecting 55,000 people in Scotland and any advice and assistance would be warmly received by those needing same. I hope that as many people as possible seeking assistance visit this stall on the above date. Epilepsy Scotland can also be contacted on Freephone 0808 800 2200.
MSP Rhoda Grant has asked the Scottish Government when the much-awaited £9million Berriedale Braes road improvement scheme will start after years of pushing Transport Secretaries to get moving on the project.
She has lodged a Parliamentary Question asking the Government for a start date and the available funding, saying there had been a “deathly silence” on what has happened to the scheme.
Former Transport Secretary, Derek Mackay, made it plain in a previous reply in 2016 that the Scottish Government “must await suitable funding becoming available to progress it further”.
In 2017 the then Transport Secretary, Humza Yousaf, published Made Orders for the project “as a clear commitment to deliver the scheme”.
Then in February 2018 Transport Scotland said “construction or planned improvements to the challenging hairpin bend” were expected to start this year. Four companies were invited to bid for the project.
However, in August this year the roads agency said it could not give a firm timescale for construction but suggested it could be after Easter or maybe May 2019.
“There seems to have been lots of ‘steps forward’ according to the Government but no evidence of steps on the ground,” said Mrs Grant, who represents Labour in the Highlands and Islands.
“I’m reminded of this every time I travel the A9 to Wick and Thurso.
“If this has stalled then the Government should be telling us and if not the public should be given a definite date instead of this shilly-shallying which has taken place over many years.
“Yet another winter goes by with drivers tackling this treacherous road. I’m keeping my fingers crossed there are no major accidents.”
Question S5W-20631: Rhoda Grant, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/12/2018
To ask the Scottish Government when the funding for the Berriedale Braes road improvement scheme will become available, and by what date construction will start.
Current Status: Expected Answer date 14/01/2019