MSP David Stewart asks the First Minister Question about £190million EU penalty

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, quizzed Nicola Sturgeon about the £190million penalty the Scottish Government faces because of irregularities in its EU structural fund spending.

In Mr Stewart’s last question at FMQs today before he retires, he highlighted how much the region had relied on European funding in the past and asked Ms Sturgeon for her response to reports about the penalty.

He said: “The First Minister will, of course, be well aware that my region, the Highlands and Islands, has been one of the UK’s top three beneficiaries of structural funds, from the Kessock Bridge to the University of the Highlands and Islands, funding which has sustained and developed the local economy.

“However, the European Commission expressed concerns for years about two points, weaknesses in verification checks by the Scottish Government and the failure to meet annual spending targets.

“Could the First Minister explain why the situation was not resolved. resulting in millions being lost to the Highlands and Islands and indeed the rest of Scotland?”

The First Minister agreed that European structural funds had supported people and communities and was pivotal to supporting growth over a number of years.

She added that the Scottish Government did not face a £190million penalty explaining that this was a “worst case scenario” if the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) remained in suspension but the suspension on the ERDF was lifted in December 2020.

She did concede however that these were “highly technical matters” and promised Mr Stewart would be contacted by the Scottish Government to explain the steps that had been taken to address the criticism.

Mr Stewart thanked Nicola Sturgeon for her detailed response, but after the session added: “People in the region will be well aware of projects that were supported by European funds.

“Take a trip around the Highlands and Islands and you can see the bridges, the roads and the structures which benefited from the welcome injection of cash, improving life for communities and for visitors alike.

“The Scottish Government didn’t come up to scratch when dealing with this funding and the First Minister can’t wriggle out of that. I await the follow up letter with interest.”

 

A fond farewell to ‘the best job in Scotland’

David Stewart has served as a councillor, an MP and an MSP

Highlands & Islands Labour MSP David Stewart delivered his farewell speech to the Scottish Parliament today before he retires at the May election – and said a fond farewell to “The Best Job in Scotland”

He gave an emotional thanks to his staff this afternoon, some of whom he has worked with for decades.

One of a small band of Scottish politicians who have served as a councillor, an MP and an MSP, he became the first Labour MP to represent the previous constituency of Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber in 1997, doubling his majority in 2001 before losing his seat to Lib-Dem Danny Alexander in 2005.

In 2007 he re-entered politics as a Highlands and Islands Labour MSP on the regional list, and was elected for a further two terms, the latest ending at the election.

In fact, Mr Stewart will be 65 the day before polling day.

During a six minute speech on Scotland’s recovery through a Highlands and Islands lens, the MSP for Highlands & Islands told his colleagues this afternoon: “This will be my final speech in Parliament after 14 years of service as an MSP – I am conscious some members will react with relief on this news! But I have a sense of sadness, humility and pride.

“Sadness, because any parting is such sweet sorrow. A sense of loss in leaving the best job in Scotland – representing my home and birthplace – the Highlands and Islands.”

Mr Stewart paid homage to Donald Dewar, describing him as “a visionary with a wicked sense of humour and an appetite that seemed to defy nature and indeed gravity”.

He described former Scottish Lib Dems leader Jim Wallace as “one of the great understated players in the foundation of devolution”.

And he celebrated “The class of ’99 – the original MSPs and the excellent officials led at the time by Sir Paul Grice”.

Mr Stewart also praised the Parliament’s “personalities”.

He said the late SNP MSP Margo MacDonald was a politician who was “greatly-missed and widely-admired” – and he would always remember her fondly as someone “who could start a party in an empty room”.

He described Banffshire and Buchan Coast SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson as “The Boer War veteran, inventor of the wheel and discoverer of penicillin” – adding: “Maybe not – but he had me convinced.”

And he mentioned First Minister of Scotland from 2001 to 2007, Jack McConnell, and described him as “a man of action and ideas who really understood rural disadvantage”.

Mr Stewart said he was proud of the Scottish Parliament and of devolution.

He said: “Devolution is just a shade younger than my daughter Kirsty but what they both have in common is that they grew stronger through conflict, experience and rebellion.”

The retiring MSP who is perhaps best known for his award-winning campaigning work on road safety, initially becoming involved in fighting for a Graduated Driving Licence for young drivers after the death of two 17-year-olds in a tragic accident in Inverness in 2010, spent eight-years campaigning and securing cross-party support from the Scottish Parliament and was delighted when the UK Government finally decided to pilot Graduated Driving Licences.  And MPs calling on government to reconsider those limits for new drivers gives room for further optimism.

Winding his speech to a close, Mr Stewart thanked his wife Linda, his son Andrew and his daughter Kirsty for their “unwavering support”.

He also thanked his Labour colleagues and members over the years – “particularly Peter Peacock and MSP Rhoda Grant for their support and putting up with my bad jokes”.

He paid tribute to his staff in Inverness and Stornoway – Olivia, Gemma, Laura, Donna, John and Chris, led by Andrene Maxwell. And he said thanks to his researcher Kate Fry in Edinburgh – “for, among many other things, being able to decipher my hieroglyphic handwriting”.

Addressing Scotland’s recovery, particularly within the Highlands and Islands, Mr Stewart said: “Before I joined Parliament in 2007 I worked for The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. I was privileged to meet hundreds of people in the voluntary sector throughout rural Scotland. The work they do – some of it paid, some of it unpaid, is the lifeblood of rural Scotland – delivering services locally and building the social capital that sustains real rural communities. That does not happen by chance.

It is not an inevitable by-product of economic success. The work these people do in their communities needs to be recognised, valued, and, most importantly, needs to be given the funding to make it sustainable.”

He went on: “Of course, Presiding Officer, some will ask: What did the Labour Party ever do to help recovery in rural areas?”.

“I would take them back to the 1940s, when Tom Johnston, the Labour Secretary of State for Scotland, nationalised hydro power giving electricity to poor Highlanders for the first time.

“I would take them back to 1965 when Willie Ross, the Secretary of State for Scotland, created the Highlands and Islands Development Board and turned around a massive population decline in the Highlands and Islands.

“I would take them back to 1999 when Tony Blair created the first national minimum wage. It was my privilege to vote for that legislation as a Highland MP.

“The votes continued all night and I left at 9am. I have to confess that it unwashed and unshaved crossing Westminster Bridge heading for my Waterloo flat I was happy – although not in a self-serving, party-political way; I was glad to protect the waiters in Fort William, the bar staff in Galashiels and the security guards in Inverness.”

And touching on the issues facing the area, he concluded: “We all know the rural development challenges in the Highlands and Islands and beyond – distance, remoteness, peripherality, low population density, lack of access to services and low GDP. My great personal concern is the loss of young people from remote and rural areas.

“However, there are great opportunities for renewal and recovery. It is better to light one candle than forever curse the darkness. Let us build on the competitive advantage of the culture and the environment. Yes, the hills and the glens are important, but it is as much about the character of the people.

“Renewal and rural development must have the intelligence and individuality of the people – but we need to develop life sciences, create green jobs in green ports, build clusters of renewables, stimulate research and development in areas like spaceports and link industry with universities such as UHI.”

The veteran MSP finished his speech by saying: “I have a great love of American political and military history – maybe soon I will have time to read all the books gathering dust on my bookshelf at home! I read the other day the valedictory speech of General MacArthur at West Point. He referred to a 1920s American ballad which said, ‘old soldiers never die – they just fade away’.

“In a few short weeks my parliamentary political career will come to an end – the torch passed to a younger generation.

“Perhaps veteran politicians never die – they just fade away. A Highlander who loved his job and tried to do his duty.”

Ends.

Stewart makes one last push for the Haven Appeal

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has made one final push for The Haven Appeal before he steps down from his role as a Highlands and Islands MSP in May.

Mr Stewart has contacted the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, again in a bid to secure the remaining funding needed to allow the project to go ahead.

The project team has secured £2.6m of the £4m required and have had what they describe as ‘very positive’ meetings with Scottish Government officials in recent months.

Mr Stewart, who is due to retire the day before the Scottish Parliament elections in May asked the Scottish Government to supply the remaining funding in July last year and has been in contact with Scottish Ministers a number of times since then, in a plea for the gap funding to be awarded.

He said “This project has untold benefits for families across the Highlands. It would be Scotland’s first multi-purpose centre for children and young people with severe learning disabilities.

“The project is being driven forward by the Elsie Normington Foundation who are desperately seeking the last piece in their jigsaw. They have secured the planning permission for the building of the centre and have worked tirelessly to secure £2.6m of the funding required.

Mr Stewart continued “On top of the benefits to the users and their families, there would be a year’s worth of construction jobs and the resulting social care jobs when the centre opens.

“I very much hope the discussions that have taken place with the Scottish Government bear fruit and the required funding comes north to allow the project to go ahead.

“People in the Highlands are very supportive of the plans for the centre and I hope their support is recognised and funding is awarded by Scottish Ministers.” concluded Mr Stewart.

Edinburgh University professor of global public health tells MSP David Stewart: “You’re absolutely right – Covid passports are the way the world is going – and Scotland needs to be ahead of this – although it does bring “real equalities issues”

MSP David Stewart supports the implementation of a digital passport for travel and tourism

A LEADING public health expert has today reinforced Highlands & Islands Labour MSP David Stewart’s continuous calls for a health passport system for travel to be implemented in Scotland.

Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University, told Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee, that Mr Stewart “is absolutely right – Covid passports are the way the world is going “though it does bring real equality issues”.

Responding to a question from Mr Stewart, Professor Sridhar said: “Looking forward, everyone says, ‘How are we going to get out of this?’

“I think if these vaccines stop transmission, which they look like they might, we will reach a stage of vaccine passports.

“It’s already being discussed in the EU. We already have countries like Israel which have introduced green cards domestically if you actually have been vaccinated. 

“And I think similar to yellow fever, where the WHO has certification if you’ve been vaccinated, we’ll reach a stage where aviation will continue – and Spain and Greece are really keen on this for their tourism industries – where you will be allowed to fly and you can have international mobility, but only when people are vaccinated and we have that confirmation that you will not infect others when you travel.”

Professor Sridhar added that WHO (The World Health Organisation) had not yet followed this pathway “because we do not yet know conclusively that vaccination status reduces your risk of transmitting to others”.

However, she said studies suggest vaccines reduce the chances of people becoming infectious.

She added: “This is really brilliant because that’s the missing piece, in a way. I think once that’s conclusive, they will move towards that.”

She believes the next stage could be to introduce a vaccine passport system domestically.

She went on: “Then you can really start creating an incentive to people. You can say to them ‘if you want to go to the concert, if you want to be able to be active in the places where spreading occurs, then you have to protect and make sure you’re not infecting others’. 

“So, it’s heading this way and Scotland needs to be ahead of this and preparing for it and thinking actually if we’re going to do it, how do we do it properly.”

Mr Stewart, speaking afterwards, said: “I have been repeatedly asking in the Scottish Parliament how do we make some inroads on the next few months on this?  What I have observed is the EU is marching ahead of this.

“My own view is that I can only see the world’s economy and particularly tourism operating anything like normal if we have an internationally-recognised passport particularly one done through the World Health Organisation.

“I am very aware of data protection and individual liberties. This is obviously a difficult balance to strike but the main focus would be on access to travel and not to day-to-day services. I understand there are more social and individual liberty issues around that.”

He went on: “There seems, however, to be a clear block her in terms of a willingness within the Scottish Government to even have a proper debate. However, if there are already countries across the world implementing Covid passports, our government is going to have to come up with some sort of system. If we are going to have to prove some sort of vaccination record or negative test record before, then we are at risk of being left behind.”

Outgoing MSP David Stewart uses his final Parliamentary member’s business debate to pay homage to the nurses and doctor who staffed and founded the Highlands & Islands Medical Service of 1913 – “the greatest achievement in the history of the region”

A PARLIAMENTARY debate was secured yesterday (Thursday, February 18) by North MSP David Stewart.

In what was his final members’ business debate before retirement, Mr Stewart paid homage to the early pioneers of 1913 who founded and staffed the Highlands & Islands Medical Service, the forerunner to the National Health Service.

Here is the speech in full:

This will be my last Members’ Debate before I retire; could I therefore thank all members who have signed my motion – and for those who have not, I warmly welcome all sinners who repent.

The establishment of the Highlands & Islands Medical Service in 1913 was, in my view, the greatest achievement in the history of the region.

“Picture the scene.

“All part of one great awe-inspiring effort to bring care and treatment to people in what would later become recognised as the world’s first provision of state-funded healthcare.

“Nurses riding push-bikes and motorbikes, cutting across some of the most difficult terrain in the country. Doctors – sleeves rolled up, strong arms at the oars, moving from one scattered and rural population to another, navigating from place-to-place by simple rowing boat.

“Bringing medicines, creams, and critical medical expertise to super rural, isolated estates where there was no care at all.

“And its practices and principles were to become the bedrock, the very foundation upon which our National Health Service was created.

The nurses and doctors took healthcare to where it was needed – free at the point of delivery

“The Highlands and Islands Medical Service came into being after it was discovered that crofters were exempt from the 1911 National Health Insurance Act.

“This meant that many people all across the Highlands and Islands were receiving no form of health care.

“And all at a time when the region’s healthcare was inadequate.

“Chaired by Sir John Dewar, the Dewar Report of 1912 sought to understand the impact poor housing, health and income was having across the region.

“And this was no armchair exercise.

“His large team travelled across huge swathes of the Highlands and Islands, engaging with, and listening to, communities in Inverness, Orkney, Shetland, Lewis, Skye, Oban, and many other settlements.

The intepid team had all corners covered including the Sleat peninsula on the isle of Skye.

“It is difficult to exaggerate the enormity of this task, with the inadequate transport infrastructure available back then in the early part of the 20th century.

“Doctors, crofters, fishermen and others were consulted across the region.

“It was found that the geography of the Highlands and Islands was proving problematic, both for doctors to reach people and for patients to travel to receive treatment.

“Poverty meant diets were poor, homes were damp, and disease spreading from livestock was rife.

“Many people died needlessly.

“Here’s an extract from the evidence of Dr James Reardon in South Uist, published in the Dewar Report:

“What do you blame? To begin with, there is no foundation for the children. At the age of three months they are supposed to be able to take porridge and sops. The reason for that is that the milk of their cows is given to the calves, and there is no milk for the children. It is a case of the survival of the fittest.”

“The Dewar Report was to change lives for the better.

“Its philosophy was that income, class and geography should be no barrier to receiving healthcare.

“It recommended the establishment of a minimum wage for doctors, funding for more district nursing associations, and the standardisation in the cost of a doctor’s visit – regardless of distance.

“Parliament approved these recommendations, and the Highlands and Islands Medical Service was swiftly established in August 1913 and handed an annual grant of £42,000 – worth more than a million pounds today.

“Good value for money.

“The Service was a rousing success.

The tentacles of care rolled right around the region.

“The grant provided accommodation, transport, further study, and holidays for healthcare workers, and the standard of healthcare began to exceed the rest of Britain.

“These successes were detailed in the Cathcart Report of 1936, a review of the state of Scotland’s healthcare systems.

It said:

“On the basis of the family doctor, there has been built up by flexible central administration a system of co-operative effort, embracing the central department, private GPs, nursing associations, voluntary hospitals, specialists, local authorities and others, to meet the medical needs of the people.”

“Additional funding from the Treasury in the 1930s led to a further expansion of the Service.

“Stornoway now had a surgeon, as did Wick, ahead of Shetland and Orkney which had one by 1934. And by 1935 the first air ambulance service was established.

“The first patient lifted by the air ambulance was fisherman John McDermid in 1933.

“He was in urgent need of a stomach operation that couldn’t wait for travel by sea or road. An hour after he was lifted in Islay, Mr McDermid arrived at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow and received treatment.

“By 1948, the air ambulance service was carrying 275 patients a year.

“Some 300,000 people across the Highlands and Islands – half of Scotland’s land mass – were able to experience a revolution in healthcare that greatly improved their quality of life, social mobility and community spirit.

“The Highlands and Islands Medical Service had been running for 35 years by the time the NHS was established by the Attlee Labour Government in 1948.

“And the rest of the United Kingdom was able to learn from and be inspired by the successes of communities all across the Highlands and Islands.

“The early pioneers of 1913 deserve our praise, admiration, and recognition. I have no doubt they inspired Beveridge and Nye Bevan in the concept of a national health service – free at the point of use.

“Not for the first time, the Highlands and Islands provided inspiration and leadership with a philosophy of “better to light one candle that to forever curse the darkness”.

Shetland.

:

Highlands and Islands MSPs back improved end-of-life and palliative care

Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs, David Stewart and Rhoda Grant, are backing calls for improved end-of-life and palliative care as new research shows that by 2040, 95% of people who die in Scotland may need additional support in their care.  

Charity Marie Curie Scotland says another 60,000 people are projected to be dying with a terminal condition by 2040 – with an increase in people dying in the community rather than hospital – and has urged end of life care to be made a priority for the Scottish Government with a new national strategy.  This is being backed by Scottish Labour.

Mr Stewart and Mrs Grant have previously called for end of life care to be at the top of the political agenda as home care services for the dying in Scotland are patchy at best. Around 10,295 people die in the Highlands and Islands each year and of these 7,720 have palliative care need. Marie Curie, in an opinion poll of Scots, highlighted that 61% would prefer to die at home.

Mr Stewart, who is also Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, held his cross-party member’s debate on the ‘Right to Full Care to Die at Home’ in the Scottish Parliament last year.

The debate was prompted by a plea from Shetland GP Susan Bowie that there should be an automatic right for people to have full care at home day or night for their last few days of life, so that then can have their wish fulfilled by being able to die at home with suitable palliative care.

Mr Stewart stressed that parents currently have the right to have their child born at home and the national health service provides midwives, but we do not have the right to carers to enable us to die at home.

“A new national strategy is desperately needed,” said Mr Stewart.

“What we have learnt from the pandemic is that end-of-life care is extremely important to families and carers as they struggle with lockdown restrictions and limits to hospital and care home visiting.

“It would be a huge relief to many GPs across Scotland that when someone says they want to die at home they know for sure they can get the compassionate care to back up the palliative care that is provided.”

Mrs Grant added: “A national strategy will help ensure that those living with and dying from terminal illness will get the support they need to live as comfortably as they can with the time they have left.

“It is not so much about dying at home it is more about living at home. When days are few they are precious. There is a greater need to live them to the full, to savour and appreciate things around you. That is much better to do at home than in an institution.”

Dr Bowie said: “I am incredibly grateful to the Scottish Parliament for discussing this, and for the cross-party support. Indeed, when days are few they are precious.

“As a Highlands and Islands GP I want to be able to care for my patients at home in their last few days. But that doesn’t always happen as my patient may have wished, because we don’t have the necessary care at home, or nurses. 

“At the moment we can be born at home, even though we can’t decide that. Our parents can, and the midwives have to help, as it’s the law. You have a right to have a baby at home, no matter the risk, and the state must provide a midwife.

“But there are no such rights for death.

“There is much talk about people having the choice to die at home, in palliative care strategies, both national and local. However, when it comes to death 60% of folk in Scotland want to be able to die in their own beds, with their loved ones in attendance.

“If, however, home care or district nurses decide they don’t have the means to support it, it forces people ‘at the last’ to be taken off to care centres or hospitals against their wishes, if the relatives are unable to manage entirely on their own.

“Sometimes relatives caring for a dying person at home just need a few nights help to care, or even just a few hours, or just help with the dignity of personal care. Help to make their loved one comfortable. Homecare don’t have to provide that help. It’s up to the Integration Joint Boards, and whilst they don’t have to provide, then many won’t. It’s all wrong and the only way we can sort this is legislation, so that councils and Health Boards will make it happen.”

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/media/press-releases/end-of-life-care-must-be-a-priority-for-incoming-scottish-government/288561

Campaigners say their case for speed cameras in a Highland tourist village has been strengthened by the results of a traffic survey

And it’s hats off to veteran road safety campaigner MSP David Stewart who says speed camera victory “could be near”

TRAFFIC speed survey results have “strengthened the case” for speed cameras on the A82 at Drumnadrochit.

The community has thanked MSP David Stewart for his campaigning support

A November study revealed two out three drivers were speeding between Borlum Bridge and Lewiston crossroads.

And one in three were speeding along the straight at the Esso filling station.

Veteran road safety campaigner MSP David Stewart – who asked for the surveys to be carried out – has written to Scotland’s Transport Minister Michael Matheson underlining the need for speed cameras.

Mr Stewart said: “The results showed 68 per cent of drivers are speeding between Borlum Bridge and Lewiston crossroads, and 33 per cent are speeding past the Esso garage. This only strengthens community’s call for traffic calming on the stretch of other A82. And the picture probably worsens when traffic is returned to pre-lockdown levels.”

Glen Urquhart Community Council chairman David Fraser said the speed survey result would come as no surprise to people living in Drumnadrochit.

He said: “This proves two out of three drivers are speeding at a road junction which has poor visibility and confirms what we already know. Despite the 30mph limit being extended from Balmacaan Road to Borlum Bridge, traffic is still travelling too fast through the village.”

He added: “We look forward to hearing Transport Scotland’s proposals to reinforce the speed limit message in Lewiston and Drumnadrochit and we would like to thank David Stewart MSP for his support on this project, and more generally for his excellent road safety campaigning.”

Drumnadrochit resident John Slater said fast action was needed to slow traffic.

He said: “Just at the weekend there, I watched a 4×4 truck go through the crossroads driving at a speed I estimated to be somewhere between 60mph and 70mph. It was unbelievable.”

Mr Stewart said he was also pressing Transport Scotland for results of an earlier survey carried out last year at the A82 stretch by the Clansman Hotel.

Stewart continues to call for Covid passports telling Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Technology “time is of the essence”

At Holyrood’s health and sport committee today, Shadow Health Minister, Highlands & Islands MSP David Stewart, asked Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Technology, Michael Matheson, for his view on Covid Passports as a route to opening borders and returning to international travel.

Mr Stewart, who has been keeping the issue at the forefront of his communications with the Scottish Government – raising it initially with National Clinical Director Jason Leitch and arguing its merits in Holyrood with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – today told Mr Matheson he strongly believed Scotland and the UK risked being left behind if it did not begin to seek international co-operation for some form of digital passport which holds a traveller’s COVID-19 immunity status.

In his reply, Mr Matheson echoed the sentiments of Miss Sturgeon, saying he was “not persuaded that it was the right approach at the present moment”. He said there were too many challenges around new variants of the virus and a lack of understanding around how the vaccine operated in the transmission stages. He also said civil liberty issues first needed to be addressed.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Stewart said: “I was grateful to the Cabinet Secretary for his response and wanted to make the wider point that these passports could be an additional longer-term strategy to quarantine. I wanted to raise it because I feel this is a massive issue which needs to get straightened out and Scotland and the UK have leadership roles to play. I just cannot see how international travel and our tourism industry can be built back up until an internationally-recognised passport showing people’s immunity status is brought in. Already, Europe is working at pace with this with the Greek government active. And we are already see airlines approaching this initiative which has been raised by people like our former Prime Minister Tony Blair and we’ve had it raised, albeit rather ambiguously, at UK government level. Obviously, it’s a longer term issue, but I believe it is going to happen. Mr Matheson and the First Minister have both said too little is known about the virus, it’s too soon for this scheme, but surely, given the scale of the pandemic and the research into COVID-19, our understanding around the nature of infection and immunity is going to rise rapidly. Leading scientists have said it: the clinical infection, with or without a measurement of antibody response, could form the basis of a time-limited immunity passport. What is really concerning me is the ability of government to deliver such a robust system if they are not already actively working on it.”

Mr Stewart said he agreed there were ethical issues but he believes those can be addressed.

He added: “It does indeed raise questions around is it right that some people should be allowed greater freedoms if they have been vaccinated while those who might want the vaccination but are still waiting cannot be allowed those freedoms? The way I look at it is every decision we make right now is going to come with consequences but allowing people to travel as soon as they are able to will help the global economy to rebuild. And for those individuals who don’t want to be vaccinated for personal reasons, that is their democratic right and I respect that. But while people have the freedom to have the vaccine or not, they do not have the freedom to place others at risk because of that decision.”

HMRC decision on Healing Process compensation a victory for common sense.

Highland and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has been notified today that HMRC has decided NHS Highland bullying and harassment victims will not have to pay tax on any compensation awarded through the Healing Process.

“This will come as a great relief to those being awarded money for the bullying and harassment they’ve endured,” he said.

“Constituents have been writing to tell me the huge amount of tax they have had to pay, sometimes on a relatively small amount of compensation.

“That has not only caused them further upset and harm, but in some cases has disrupted their benefit or pension payments.

“It is good that those who have already accepted compensation, and already have banked it, will be receiving a rebate of the tax.”

More on-line:

https://www.nhshighland.scot.nhs.uk/News/Pages/HMRCadvicereceivedontreatmentofNHSHighlandHealingProcesspayments.aspx

Too early to push for “health passports” says Scotland’s First Minister

MSP David Stewart, Shadow Health Minister, questioned the First Minister in Holyrood today.

The First Minister has said it is too early to be discussing the roll out of a coronavirus vaccine passport system.

Pressed for her view in Parliament today, Nicola Sturgeon said there was” much still to be learned” about how the virus transmits after someone has been vaccinated.

The SNP leader said the outcome of global discussions around the technical details, and the ethical and equality issues and privacy standards, would guide the Scottish Government’s work on the area.

The concept was raised at First Minister’s Questions by Labour’s Shadow Health Minister David Stewart.

Addressing the First Minister, he said: “The recovery phase of the pandemic will see a weakened global economy, with our domestic tourism industry in freefall.

“An internationally-recognised digital passport could contain details of vaccination history and recent results of COVID-19 tests accessed through a QR reader. Does the First Minister agree with me that the UK presidency of the G7 gives an opportunity to lead on this issue, an idea whose time has come?”

Miss Sturgeon replied: “Yes, I do believe there is an opportunity to lead on this discussion. Is it an idea whose time has come around now? I’m not sure we are yet at that stage because I don’t think we know enough and understand enough about the impact of the vaccine to know exactly what certification we would be certifying, and I think the whole world has to know more about this before we can take final decisions. But in the fullness of time I think they may well have a role to play.”

It comes after former prime minister Tony Blair called for the UK to use its G7 leadership to introduce such a scheme globally.

A report by his think tank, the Tony Blair Institute, said an international Covid Pass should include the traveller’s vaccination details – including what brand of vaccine they had been given, two shots or one, and the date it was injected.

Mr Stewart said he agreed it was inevitable countries would seek to bring in vaccine passports in the global race to achieve herd immunity.