FMQ – 5/12/19

I asked the First Minister on Thursday furing FMQs to support my campaign to have a PET scanner within the Highlands and Islands. You can see my question and the First Minister’s response above.

Motion tabled in Parliament congratulating OUTREACH4CLAN campaign

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating The Orcadian on its OUTREACH4CLAN campaign which more than doubled its £10,000 target amount.

The campaign was kick-started when The Orcadian won a £500 cash prize for being awarded Newspaper of the Year 2018 at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards in February.  The paper decided very quickly to donate this to CLAN Cancer Support in Kirkwall to help them fund a planned expansion of its cancer support services in Orkney.  The campaign more than doubled its target amount and a staggering £22,786 was raised.

David Stewart said “I had heard about The Orcadian’s campaign and was delighted to be able to call into CLAN when I was in Orkney recently.  I met some of the paid staff and some of the 60-plus volunteers who support the charity week in, week out, to help anyone who is affected by cancer, either their own or someone else’s.

“The dedication of the staff and volunteers is clear and the individuals, businesses and organisations who supported the cause are to be congratulated.  It was a real community effort.

Mr Stewart continued “I know the final total of £22,786 will be put to good use in enabling training for additional support volunteers, providing more therapies and classes/group work, and developing CLAN’s outreach programme across mainland Orkney and to the islands.”


The text of David’s motion is below.

Motion Number: S5M-20154
Lodged By: David Stewart
Date Lodged: 04/12/2019

Title: Target for OUTREACH4CLAN Campaign More than Doubled

Motion Text:

That the Parliament congratulates The Orcadian newspaper on joining forces with CLAN Cancer Support in Kirkwall to raise funds for a planned expansion of its cancer support services in Orkney; commends the newspaper for donating the £500 cash prize that it received on being awarded Newspaper of the Year 2018 at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards to the support service; congratulates the three paid members of staff and the 60-plus volunteers who have worked tirelessly for over 11 years supporting people affected by their own or someone else’s cancer; appreciates that the geographical challenges and a lack of resources makes reaching all areas of the Orkney Islands difficult for the service; notes that the OUTREACH4CLAN campaign, which was launched in August 2019, has more than doubled the £10,000 that it set out to raise to enable training for additional support volunteers, provide more therapies and classes/group work, and to develop CLAN’s outreach programme across mainland Orkney and to the islands; congratulates The Orcadian and the people of Orkney on achieving 228% of its target amount for the campaign, which closed on 2 December, after raising £22,786, and wishes staff and volunteers all the best in using the money raised to increase support for local people affected by cancer in any way.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, is cautiously welcoming developments in relation to the possible restoration of Viewhill House in Inverness.

Surveyor, architect and engineer reports have now been completed and presented to the community interest company, Impact Hub Inverness; one of the drivers behind the possible restoration.

David Stewart said “It’s good to hear about the progress being made and while some very exciting thought and discussion has gone in to the proposal to date, there are practical issues that still have to be addressed with ownership of the building one of the key issues.”

While the current owner of the building has been in discussion with Impact Hub and is broadly supportive of the proposal to renovate and restore the 19th century building, built by Joseph Mitchell around 1835, formal agreement and a clear title will have to be sought.

Mr Stewart continued “There is optimism and caution in equal measure here.  The building has fallen into further disrepair since last reports were done in 2010 with some internal wall collapses and some elements of the structure being in ‘challenging condition’.  Assessments have been carried out to see how the building can be stabilised and how the important structure can be retained.

“The ‘dream’ would be to largely retain the frontage of the building and the side which faces on to Old Edinburgh Road.  Parts of the building at the rear which suffered the worst fire damage may need to be demolished.

“Impact Hub has lots of ideas on how best to utilise the ground floor with possibilities so far including a café, a workshop, a tech hub, a music club and a home for other social enterprises all being in the boiling pot.” said Mr Stewart.

“What is clear is that Impact Hub still very much wants to hear ideas from near neighbours as to what they would like to see incorporated in the plans and they want to know the building will be of value to the community and will be well used by the community if developed.”

“All of this comes at a cost and next steps are to develop a Business Plan and possibly appoint a Project Manager to co-ordinate the proposal and investigate all possible funding sources including the possibility of community shares being made available.

Mr Stewart concluded “Caution is being taken and step-by-step progress is being made.  A best case scenario of a five year timescale is being muted until this proposal could become reality but so far, so good.”

NHS Highland bullying victims will have to seek legal help

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart heard yesterday that victims of the NHS Highland bullying and harassment scandal will have to seek compensation through the legal system.
At the health board meeting in Inverness, HR director Fiona Hogg delivered a report on the progress of the Culture Fit for the Future programme.
But according to an NHS Highland release, it has been decided that the healing process “will not extend to matters of financial loss or compensation”.
Mr Stewart, who is also Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, said: “This is a huge blow for the many people who have contacted me with very distressing details about how they were treated by the health authority
“There are former employees who’ve lost or left their jobs and, in some cases, had their careers ruined and most, if not all, will be unable to go to an industrial tribunal due to a time-bar on cases, and will be unable to afford a civil case.
“In September, at the parliament’s health and sport committee, Interim Chair Professor Boyd Robertson told me that compensation was being considered, but he could not give a definitive answer about how it would be tackled. That gave people some hope which has now been taken away.
“Given its current financial troubles, I wonder whether the health authority asked the Scottish Government for extra money for compensation and were turned down. It would explain why the health authority was taking its time to make an announcement.
“I’ve lodged a Parliamentary Question asking the Scottish Government if NHS Highland asked it for more funding for compensation. 
I will also be requesting more detail about the health authority’s ‘healing’ process and the system people will have to use to raise their individual cases.”

David Stewart MSP joins leading charity’s ‘no bad ends’ campaign

Local Member of the Scottish Parliament, David Stewart, joined Aberlour Child Care Trust in the Scottish Parliament recently, giving their support to the charity’s ‘No Bad Ends’ campaign.

The campaign was launched following research that shows young people from the most deprived communities in the Highlands and Islands are up to three time more likely to die before they reach their 25th birthday.
Aberlour is appealing to members of the public to start a monthly donation to the charity to help to reach more children and young people.
In addition, Aberlour is calling for the Scottish Government, public authorities and the business community to match the public’s generosity and commit to tackling the root causes of poverty in Scotland together. Specifically, Aberlour is calling for:
1. A commitment from the Scottish Government to a transitional fund that will support local authorities to deliver early intervention family support services, as well as continue to provide specialist support for children and families most affected by poverty and inequality.
2. A commitment from the Scottish Government and public authorities to develop a child wellbeing approach to budget setting and economic planning that ensures public spending prioritises child wellbeing.
3. A commitment from the business sector to provide quality, secure, flexible and family friendly employment, ensuring jobs and income levels that enable families to thrive, not just survive.

David Stewart said:
“I share Aberlour’s commitment to making sure that a bad start doesn’t define the rest of someone’s life in 21st century Scotland. Aberlour is to be congratulated on this bold and confronting campaign, which is calling for a big debate and real action to tackle poverty and change the outcomes for young people in our most deprived communities. This is a call elected representatives must respond to.
“Meeting Aberlour in the Scottish Parliament gave me a chance to learn more about their work, this campaign and what we can do together here in the Highlands and Islands to change the outcomes for young people facing a challenging start to life. “
SallyAnn Kelly, CEO, Aberlour Child Care Trust commented: “Aberlour knows the real and proven difference that our services make to the lives of children and young people in Scotland’s most deprived communities. It’s time for a conversation about how we end the unacceptable consequences of poverty in this country. We need a political response that meets the needs of vulnerable young people. “

The research was carried out by Dr Morag Treanor, Professor of Child and Family Inequalities at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University. It is the first to focus on the impact deprivation can have on deaths in young people and was based on Scottish mortality records from 2011 to 2017 supplied by National Records of Scotland. The research focused on deaths due to ‘external causes’[1]. By categorising these deaths using the SIMD (the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) Dr Treanor was able to compare the least and most deprived quintiles with clear and shocking results.

Dr Morag Treanor said: “What we wanted to do was understand the impact deprivation has on life expectancy, specifically in young people. I was surprised just how difficult it was to find the data I needed to complete this research, and I’ve discovered that a study like this, focusing on deaths in young people under the age of 25 across Scotland, simply hasn’t been undertaken before. The results of the research really couldn’t paint a clearer message and underlines the massive inequality between rich and poor in this country.”

To donate, please visit:

Veteran road safety campaigning MSP David Stewart thanks bereaved parents for their support for his road safety campaign

Diane and Graham Matheson have been working closely with Highlands & Islands Labour MSP David Stewart for a graduated driving licence scheme to cut the road death toll among young drivers.

A BEREAVED Inverness couple have been praised in the Scottish Parliament for their relentless backing of a road safety campaign after their teenage son was killed in a car crash almost a decade ago.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart lodged a motion to mark Road Safety Week praising Diane and Graham Matheson for their “inspirational support” for his long-running ongoing battle to persuade the UK Government to bring in a graduated driving licence.

The scheme, which puts a set of restrictions on new drivers who have recently passed their test, has proven to cut the road death toll in other countries.

The Matheson from Inverness have been strong campaigners for the initiative.

Their eldest son Callum was killed on Island Bank Road in Inverness on March 28, 2010, after the car he was travelling in hit a wall.

It was being driven by his friend, 17-year-old Ahlee Jackson, who was also killed.

Mr Stewart said: “The Mathesons came to me soon after Callum died asking me to do something, anything, to stop the carnage on Highland and Moray roads. I launched a campaign for a graduated licence scheme after studying its life-saving impact in other countries where it was in operation. This scheme saves lives by restricting new drivers’ exposure to the conditions in which they are statistically most likely to crash, which is at night or while driving with their friends in the car. There are of course common-sense exemptions that have to be put in place. Young people couldn’t possibly be banned from driving to work after dark, for example. But the important thing is that this reduces the road crash death toll and makes our roads safer for our young ones.

He added: “I lodged the motion this week because I wanted to thank Diane and Graham for their inspirational support for this campaign, which will go on.”

Mrs Matheson said: “Graham and I both feel a graduated license is the way forward.

“Banning driving at night is going to be a difficult one because it gets dark so early in the winter here, so it would definitely need to have some leeway built-in for young drivers but if this kind of scheme can work in countries like Finland it is definitely worth trying here. We will always support David with this.”

She added: “Another Xmas beckons without our darling son. An empty space at the dinner table. If we can prevent another family enduring this agony because a graduated driving license had been introduced, then this could be Callum’s legacy.”

Callum Matheson died in a crash in Inverness almost a decade ago.

David’s road safety speech in Parliament:  


MSP pushing for more Government support for chronic pain patients

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, continues to push for improved waiting times at NHS Highland’s chronic pain clinic after a reply from Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman.

The MSP, who is also Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, was told recently that there were very long waiting times for first appointments in the Highlands and that in some cases there can be more than a year’s wait for follow up appointments.

After the issue was raised by constituents, he contacted NHS Highland, who acknowledged the shortage of consultants nationally, the increased demand for the service and the lengthy waiting times patients have to wait to be seen.  The Chief Executive of NHS Highland also added that they are undertaking a strategic review of the service.

However, when Mr Stewart then contacted Jeane Freeman, the Scottish Government failed to answer how it was going to address the shortage of consultants, which would help reduce waiting times, while highlighting figures which the MSP believes ‘fudges’ the issue.

“Chronic pain affects every aspect of a patient’s life and often results in them being unable to work until they receive treatment,” said Mr Stewart.

“It’s therefore vital that local clinics can cope with demand within an acceptable time frame and waiting for more than a year is a terrible stress on patients and on their loved ones and families.”

He said the reply he received from the Health Secretary left him with more questions than answers.

“It says nothing about how they are going to address the shortage of consultants,” said Mr Stewart.

“Of the £850m the Government announced over a year ago for waiting times only £102m has been released for 2019/20 and only £7m of this amount is coming to NHS Highland to support all services, not just chronic pain.

Mr Stewart wants to know when the rest of the money will be released to health boards.

“£7m is a drop in the ocean compared to the £15.6m bill NHS Highland faced last year for private locum staff.

“NHS Highland advise there is an increase in demand for chronic pain services. The Scottish Government urgently needs to properly fund health boards so we get sustainable solutions that reduce waiting times for these services.” he added.

Mr Stewart raised the matter again with the Chief Executive of NHS Highland when he met him last week (Friday 8 November) and the Chief Executive confirmed that NHS Highland is looking at reconfiguration of the service in a bid to help bring down waiting times.

David Stewart said “A constituent, who has MS, has told me that she has been continually pushing the issue of chronic pain for approximately 10 years and access to the chronic pain service has never met the needs of the patients however she says that once you are seen, the service is excellent.

The constituent said “All I can say is that the current situation regarding access to the service is completely unacceptable.  The idea of a year in severe pain is horrific.  MS doesn’t go away, it is life long, and for many patients it causes horrendous pain. I am also a carer for my 2 disabled daughters and chronic pain does nothing to help stress levels!  We need access to the service now, not in a year!”

Mr Stewart has also tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions to ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to help lower waiting times for NHS Highland’s chronic pain clinic.

Questions raised with Health Secretary over process for bullying and harassment cases

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart questioned Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, today about the process for NHS Highland to deal with bullying and harassment cases raised as a result of the Sturrock review.

Mr Stewart has been pressing the health authority to ensure there is one point of contact for those constituents who have written to him with complaints of how they were previously treated at their work.

At General Questions he welcomed the Scottish Government’s new, separate and independent review into alleged bullying and harassment in the NHS in Argyll and Bute. He had previous raised this issue in Holyrood.

But he also added that it was “crucial” that there was one point of contact for those who have come forward as a result of Sturrock claiming they have been bullied or harassed at NHS Highland.

“The health authority told me this week that the process for looking at cases should be approved at its November board meeting and that should be fully publicised for people to get in touch through the correct channel,” said Mr Stewart after raising his question in Holyrood.

“I should hear from the Chief Executive at the end of November or early December what that process is, so I can share it with constituents.

“It is very important that there is independent scrutiny of the scheme to ensure fairness to those who are already traumatised by what they experienced.

“Many people feel their voices are still not being heard after such a long time and I totally understand people’s frustration and anxiety over this.”

Ms Freeman said that she had met with NHS Highland on Monday and was told that it will be conducting an independent 12-week review into Argyll and Bute in January.

She also agreed with Mr Stewart about having the one point of contact for those coming forward as a result of Sturrock and added that there would be two points of contact, taking into account Argyll and Bute, although she added it was in many ways different from the cases already under review at NHS Highland.

Ms Freeman said it was important that all staff knew who the single point of contact was and said that shortly there would be non-executive whistle blowing champions on health boards appointed by her who would also be directly accountable to her.

MSP welcomes road safety monitoring at Telford Street roundabout

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, is pleased to have been informed that BEAR Scotland is monitoring road safety at the pedestrian crossing close to the Aldi store at the Telford Street roundabout in Inverness.

Mr Stewart, who is a veteran road safety campaigner, raised the matter with Transport Scotland last year after constituents contacted him about their fears for pedestrian safety at the crossing.  The nearby residents were concerned that the traffic lights are sited so close to the exit of the roundabout that drivers are often so focussed on clearing the roundabout that they inadvertently go through the lights when they are on red.

Transport Scotland consulted on their Longman Road to Tomnahurich Swing Bridge Road Safety Scheme last year and Mr Stewart has been advised that the proposals for the Longman Road section, which includes the pedestrian crossing at Aldi, attracted a wider range of comments and they have asked their Operating Company, BEAR Scotland, to review these further.

David Stewart said “Nearby residents have very real concerns that someone is going to be hurt at this crossing and advised me of a number of near misses over the years.

“I asked Transport Scotland if they would consider moving the lights a bit further along the bridge to ensure pedestrians and cyclists could cross safely.

Mr Stewart continued “In recent days I have been advised by Transport Scotland that they have asked BEAR Scotland to review this further in light of the feedback that was received for this section of the route.

“They advised that BEAR Scotland is undertaking a detailed assessment of pedestrian and cyclist provision along this part of the A82 to determine the best option for the route and junctions, including the Telford Street roundabout, and that this will influence any decision whether to relocate the crossing or incorporate a new feature into any potential junction enhancement.

David Stewart concluded “I am pleased that this assessment is being undertaken at the roundabout and I will be keeping a close eye to see what the recommendations for this area are.”