Grant supports calls for a freeze on water charges

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has supported a motion tabled in the Scottish Parliament which calls on the Scottish Government to reverse its reported decision to increase water bills by 4.2%.

The motion, submitted by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, asks for the decision to be reversed and, instead, asks that the Scottish Government freezes water prices at the 2021 level in order to help people in the grip of the cost of living crisis.

Mrs Grant, who last year called for a £100 water rebate to help struggling families, says this latest increase is unnecessary and will pile on the pressure families are already dealing with due to the energy price cap increase announced last week.

Rhoda Grant said “It is completely unnecessary to increase water charges in this way. Scottish Water has reserves of over £400 million of taxpayers money in its coffers so to introduce this rise, which is 2% higher than the Consumer Price Index rate of inflation, beggars belief. It is another devastating blow to Scotland’s already stretched household budgets.

“This is a tumultuous time for everyone with the rises in the energy price cap, the interest rate, National Insurance and now this water rise, on the back of the financial impact of the pandemic suffered by many.

Mrs Grant concluded “This is an appalling decision from a Scottish Government who, day on day, continue to display blatant disregard for the circumstances households up and down the country are facing. This decision shows the SNP Government is not only out of touch, but out of control. They need to reverse this decision, and reverse it now.”

The text of Jackie Baillie’s motion is below.

Motion Number: S6M-03101
Lodged By: Jackie Baillie
Date Lodged: 07/02/2022

Title: Freeze Scottish Water Charges

Motion Text:

That the Parliament believes that the new Scottish Water charges, which will begin in April 2022, will add pressure to the household finances of thousands of people across the country; understands that the increases, which it considers to be inflation-busting, were signed off by the Scottish Government and that charges for water have been set at the Consumer Price Index rate of inflation, plus 2%; further understands that Scottish Water has reserves of over £400 million, which, it considers, is taxpayers’ money, and calls on the Scottish Government to reverse its reported decision to increase water bills by 4.2% and, instead, to freeze water prices at the 2021 level in order to help people across the country who, it believes, are set to be far worse off because of the reported cost of living crisis.

MSP is eager to see Cabinet Secretary come to Moray and Highland

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant is eager to see the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Humza Yousaf, come to Moray and to Highland to meet with clinicians at Dr Grays Hospital and Raigmore Hospital to hear their views on Moray Maternity Services.


The MSP wrote to the Cabinet Secretary asking when he will deliver on his promise to come to Moray and Highland to meet with clinicians, to hear their views on the recent review into Moray Maternity Services. This comes after 18 senior clinicians from Raigmore Hospital released an open letter criticising the review. In this letter they say that they were never consulted on whether Raigmore Hospital could deal with extra births from Moray.


In his response to the MSP, The Cabinet Secretary for Health says: “I intend to travel to Moray to meet with NHS Grampian and NHS Highland as well as local clinical teams from Dr Grays and Raigmore and local people as soon as is practicably possible” and that “his office are currently identifying a date as a matter of priority.”


Rhoda Grant MSP says: “I think it is imperative that the Cabinet Secretary delivers on his promise to come to Moray and Highland to meet with clinicians and locals because right now there is little local trust in this review, as shown by the clinicians concerns.


“I think everyone who lives locally understands the fear and concern caused to pregnant woman on having to travel these great distances to give birth and also the pressures on Raigmore Hospital should this go ahead. I hope the Cabinet Secretary will visit sooner rather than later to hear to those concerns.”


The Cabinet Secretary for Health was supposed to travel to Dr Grays Hospital in Elgin before Christmas to meet with stakeholders however, this was changed to a virtual meeting as covid restrictions were tightened because of the Omicron variant.

MSP is appealing to the people throughout the region

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, is appealing to people throughout the region to support her Right to Food Bill proposal before the consultation closes next week (16 February).


In the wake of Ofgem’s eyewatering increase in the energy price cap last week, which will see already struggling households having to wrestle between paying for heating or paying for food, Mrs Grant says the Right to Food has never been more needed.


Rhoda Grant said “If the SNP and the Greens hadn’t played party politics and kicked my Bill back we could have already been working on ensuring the Right to Food is enshrined in Scots law.


“Instead, we are having to reconsult at a time when the country is already grappling with a cost of living crisis.”


On Thursday Ofgem announced that from April the energy price cap would rise 54% to £1,971 – that is an extra £693 that households will have to find just to keep their homes warm and the lights on. Forthcoming increases to the interest rate and rises in National Insurance payments will exacerbate the situation further.


Mrs Grant continued “It is heartbreaking. I have had foodbank helpers in tears saying we can’t wait another year for the Right to Food to kick in. People need help right now. Foodbank volunteers need assurance that the invaluable support they provide in their communities will end one day, when wages and benefits are adequate enough for proud families to be able to stop using the foodbanks.


“New statistics show rising homelessness across Scotland. Foodbank use is soaring. Illnesses of the past like rickets and malnutrition have reappeared. In a rich nation like Scotland, in the 21st century, this is appalling. It’s Dickensian.


“People are struggling right now – it’s time the First Minister stops commentating on the cost of living crisis and starts doing something about it. She could start by allowing her MSPs to support my proposal.”

MSP submits her opposition to changes to Scotrail Ticket Offices.


Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant yesterday submitted her opposition to the Scotrail consultation on the proposed changes to Scotrail ticket office opening hours calling it a “cash saving exercise.”


The MSP has submitted her opposition because she has concerns about traveller safety and the future of jobs in the sector in the Highlands. Specifically, she raises concerns on connectivity, staff wellbeing, women’s safety and disadvantaging the disabled and elderly.


Scotrail have previously indicated to Mrs Grant that they would not make anyone redundant and that they wish to distribute more staff on the platform. However, the MSP wants guarantees that they will replace staff, at the same station with the same number of hours, should a staff member choose to leave.


In her submission she says: “In my constituency there are nine stations affected by these proposals of varying amounts. This results in an overall significant reduction in hours that these ticket offices are open.


“I would like to see guarantees that where staff leave, they will be replaced at that Station with staff working the same amount of hours. I fear that this is in reality, a cash saving exercise.


“In Wick, for example, the proposed changes would result in the office being closed on Saturdays. That singularly is a loss of 7 hours and 4 minutes in one day.


“Should a staff member be on a platform they would be exposed to the extreme weather and potentially to anti-social behaviour with very little support.”


Additionally, the MSP has suggested, should these plans go ahead,  that the Kyle of Lochalsh  station have “booking assistance” like Scotrail have proposed for Aviemore and Kingussie train stations. It is understood that “booking assistance” is when staff are available longer than advertised to help travellers should the station be busier than predicted.


Mrs Grant has suggested this idea as Scotrail have rightfully used 2019 data to create these proposals as 2020 and 2021 data are not representative of footfall or travelling habits (due to the pandemic). Since that time, Kyle of Lochalsh train station has gained further popularity with visitors and tourists.


Lastly, she has enquired about the future of waiting rooms as some Highland and Moray stations have waiting rooms attached to their ticket office.


Rhoda Grant said: “I believe that Scotrail are pulling the wool over our eyes with these proposals and that it is in fact a cash saving exercise which will lead to further job losses and further closures.


“I appreciate that buying habits have changed and that Scotrail have to modernise with these changes but in a time where we are seeing tickets prices go through the roof paired with the lowest traveller satisfaction, I don’t trust Scotrail to follow through with their promises.


“That is why I’m wanting guarantees that should a staff member leave their post, that they are replaced at the same station and with the same amount of hours.”


Scotrail were in public consultation to change the opening hours of 120 stations and to close three stations across Scotland. The stations with proposed changes in the Highlands and Islands constituency are: Aviemore, Dingwall, Elgin, Forres, Keith, Kingussie, Kyle of Lochalsh, Nairn and Wick.


Advancing the Right to Food in Scotland – we have an unmissable opportunity to strengthen the #righttofood in our law.

Join us at 6pm – 7.15pm on Tuesday 8th of February for a virtual event hosted by me in partnership with the Scottish Food Coalition.

Speakers will discuss how we can ensure that food policy is founded in human rights, with social and environmental justice at its heart.

We will explore the Right to Food consultation (open until 16 February), and the Good Food Nation Bill as key opportunities to strengthen human rights in food policy.

Register here:

Unite hit out at Scottish Government over Marine Scotland pay imposition

Unite the union has today (Friday 28 January) hit out at the Scottish Government in a dispute over the imposition of the 2021 pay award at Marine Scotland claiming that it could be potentially ‘illegal’.

Unite who represent around 50 workers based at Scotland’s fisheries protection fleet has reacted furiously to the 2% pay imposition by the Scottish Government stating that it could constitute an ‘illegal inducement’. The trade union has also confirmed that it is now considering balloting its members for industrial action over the dispute.

The Scottish Government confirmed the imposition of the pay award this week which represents a substantial real terms pay cut with CPI standing at 5.4% and RPI hitting 7.5%.

In August 2017, members of Unite voted to take strike action in a dispute over Marine Scotland staff being paid less than those in comparable jobs in other publicly-owned organisations.

Unite industrial officer, Sandy Smart said: “We are very disappointed that pay talks for last year with Marine Scotland dragged on into the winter and then the Scottish Government came back to us stating that all they were prepared to put forward was the 2% pay policy, which we rejected.” 

“The Scottish Government confirmed this week that they would impose the pay award and they were not prepared to continue negotiations to their conclusion. We believe that this could constitute an illegal inducement on the basis that the Scottish Government have terminated negotiations with Unite and imposed a real terms pay cut. All options are now on the table including an industrial action ballot as this disgraceful behaviour will not go unchallenged.” 

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, said it was a real kick in the teeth for Marine Scotland seafarers to be facing a similar pay fiasco as happened in 2017.

“What’s incredible this time around is that the Scottish Government is simply imposing a pay deal on them after dragging its feet over negotiations.

“There should be equity when it comes to public sector pay and workers in fisheries protection have fallen far behind those who work for CalMac which is also publicly owned. The government should get around the table to avert strike action or legal action and show these workers some respect.”

Rhoda Grant issues statement after medics’ concerns

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has called on Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to provide an urgent response following an open letter criticising the recent Moray Maternity Services Review.

Mrs Grant said, “For 18 senior clinicians at Raigmore maternity unit to say they were never consulted on plans to send Moray women to Raigmore is a shocking indictment of the review process.  The Health Secretary must immediately explain how he and his predecessor allowed this to happen, and how it impacts on the report’s recommendations.

“The open letter confirms what most of us already know – that Raigmore does not have capacity to take on large numbers of women from a neighbouring health board.  The only viable solution is to reinstate consultant maternity services at Dr Gray’s.

“I will continue to work alongside Keep MUM to give women in Moray the maternity services they so urgently need.”



NHS Highland has plans to re-open hospital minor injuries unit, MSP told

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, has been told that the health authority is planning to move the minor injuries unit at Lawson Memorial Hospital in Golspie to another area.

NHS Highland’s Chief Executive, Pam Dudek, confirmed the unit had been closed since March 2020 during the first lockdown.

She told Mrs Grant that the unit was situated within the in-patient ward, sharing an entrance and staffing, with no waiting area and a small room which would not allow social distancing.

But she added: “This has been reviewed and there is a plan in place to move the unit to another area where it will have its own entrance and dedicated staff will be allocated. The contingency plan that was put in place in March 2020 remains in place.”

Mrs Grant welcomed the news that the unit would be getting its own space but added: “I am keen to see this progressing as we are coming out of Covid restrictions and it would be good to see work starting on consulting the community and getting the plans in action.

“Also, I would like to see more detail on the plans as to where the new unit will be, where the staff will come from and a timeline for the development. I would hate to see facilities like this unit being eroded in rural areas.”

The MSP wrote to NHS Highland following a constituent’s inquiry and complaints that the public were unaware of the closure.

Ms Dudek said patients requiring to be seen in the MIU were routed to their own GP and seen in their local practice.

She said: “Anyone from out of area requiring a consultation is seen in the GP practice which is covering the Lawson in-patient ward at the time. The Flow navigation centre (111 calls) is aware of this plan and route people as appropriate. At present we are unable to give any timescales around reopening as this is determined by when building work can be completed.”

Mrs Grant is also concerned about the future of the closed Strathy ward at Migdale Hospital, in Bonar Bridge, and is keen to see what NHS Highland is planning when Covid restrictions are lifted. She is also concerned about the future of the Royal Northern Infirmary in Inverness.

MSPs agree to keep up pressure for Essential Tremor treatment 

A Scottish Parliament committee has decided to keep pressure on the Scottish Government to allow patients with Essential Tremor to be treated as ‘standard care’ under the NHS.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, spoke at the Citizen Participation and Petitions Committee this morning (Jan 19) in support of Inverness constituent Mary Ramsay’s long-standing petition.

Mrs Ramsay, from Dalneigh, Chair of the Scottish Tremor Society, is asking the Scottish Government to back to provision of magnetic resonance-guides focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) technology.

The deep brain ultrasound treatment can transform the quality of life for people with uncontrollable tremors and is available in Scotland after a University of Dundee fundraising campaign, although the number of patients is limited. The treatment uses sound waves to help destroy tissue that can prompt unwanted movements experienced by those with the condition.

Although in Scotland the treatment is termed ‘experimental’ it is now available under the NHS in England, in London, and in various countries around the world. To achieve the campaigners’ goal of the treatment being used as ‘standard care’ for Essential Tremor it has yet to be evaluated by health bodies including the National Special Services Committee (NSSC)

Mrs Grant told the petitions committee that since the last petitions committee she had had several meetings with Mrs Ramsay and other stakeholders and had written to Ralph Roberts the Chair of the NSSC.

She discovered the National Services Division (NSD) is due to meet with the clinical team in Dundee towards the end of January to discuss how a formal application for designation and the relevant paperwork can be prepared for consideration by both the National Patient, Public & Professional Reference Group (NPPRG) as well as the NSSC.

However, it is likely that it will be May or June when those bodies can look at the application with their work previously paused due to the pandemic.

Mrs Grant continued: “There is no guarantee that they will reach a conclusion at that time. So, it feels to me that there is still no real recognition of the issues that people with Essential Tremor face having to travel to London for assessment and back there if they are assessed as being suitable for procedure, and also no acknowledgement of the waiting times people face and the impact on their lives.

“There are real fears that the decision will be further delayed beyond spring or summer and I think this committee know how long this has been before this committee and the previous committee.

“I share Mary Ramsay’s frustration that we appear to be moving at a snail’s pace to bring this much needed treatment to patients in Scotland.  With patients having to consider joining a waiting list in London when the treatment is available here.

“Indeed, NHS England is looking to create another centre to deal with demand.

“It makes no sense that we have the equipment and knowledge here in Scotland, but we are not using it and patients are forced to travel far from home to access it.  It is not good for them and not good for the public purse.”

She explained that 80 patients have been referred for assessment in Dundee last year, around 25% of those patients have been considered appropriate for treatment.

The committee agreed with Mrs Grant’s suggestion that it should keep the petition open and keep up the pressure for the treatment to be available for people closer to home and to contact both the NPPRG and the NSSC to see if they could give priority to considering this treatment.

Mrs Grant said that both Mrs Ramsay and the first patient to get the Dundee treatment, Ian Sharp, were happy to give evidence to the committee on their own experience and show first-hand the difference the treatment can make.

SNP MSP and Deputy Convener, David Torrance, also supported the petition and asked the committee to write to the Scottish Government highlighting the success of the treatment, asking if funding could be made available for more patients and how the government will raise awareness among health professionals for the treatment.

After the meeting Mrs Ramsay said: “It is frustrating all this toing and froing. I wish these specialist health groups could put themselves in the position of a person with Essential Tremor.

“It is the distance and expense of going to London, then initial assessment which is a wait of two to three years, and then further wait for actual treatment. Can they honestly say they are quite happy to put up with that? I don’t think so.”

Link to the petition

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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.”