Live music venue in the Highlands & Islands has moved a step closer to moving into new premises after crunch talks with key players

THE LEADING live music venue in the Highlands & Islands has moved a step closer to moving into new premises after crunch talks with key players.

The Ironwork’s director Caroline Campbell said the mood music that came out of the meeting led by the region’s Labour MSP David Stewart was “fantastically positive”.

Proposals for a hotel to be built on the site could leave The Ironworks with little time to relocate.

However, Caroline Campbell said the commitment shown to support the music business has spurred her on to investigate a potential venue for a move she believes could be seamless for her network of musicians and bookings, and her 62 staff.

She said: “David Stewart MSP and senior members of HIE, High Life Highland, Highland Council and Creative Scotland, discussed finding a new home for our key live music business that plays a vital role in the cultural life of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and I felt it was a fantastically positive meeting. David Stewart’s online petition was also discussed, and everyone took on board how important the venue is to the people of Inverness and to music-lovers across the wider Highlands and Islands and beyond.”

She added: “I can’t stress this enough when I say this building we are in right now is just a shell. Everything in it we own and is transferrable. I invested heavily in new equipment and that was done deliberately so it could be moveable. It’s business as usual for The Ironworks and details will be released as soon as we know where our new space will be.”

The meeting was arranged by the Labour MSP David Stewart on the back of his campaign to find a new home for the venue.

Highland Council’s executive chief officer Stuart Black told the meeting the local authority was “very keen to see The Ironworks remain in the city centre”.

James Martin, head of development at High Life Highland, agreed to supply Mrs Campbell with costs and crowd-capacity figures for his charity’s network of buildings. Two senior officials from Highlands and Islands Enterprise – Iain Hamilton and Stephanie Andrew – also gave a commitment to investigate the kinds of support the organisation could give to the venue.

Creative Scotland, the public body that distributes funding from the Scottish Government and the UK National Lottery to supports the arts, screen and creative industries, is also engaged in the relocation effort.

MSP David Stewart, who has secured a meeting with Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop on October 29, said he was “convinced there will be a permanent alternative home for The Ironworks”.
He said: “This venue is vital to the region’s music scene and to its cultural values not to mention the boost it brings to the city’s night-time economy and in turn to Scotland’s culture secretary Fiona Hyslop’s commitment to increase music tourism.

“People who come from as far as Dundee to see bands play at The Ironworks have signed my online petition. It’s been an institution in Inverness for more than a decade, contributing in so many ways without the backing of any regular public funding and I think it is time the Scottish Government started to recognise the good work it is doing. But for me, one of the most positive things that came out of the meeting, is we know there are levers we might be able to pull on to secure it a new home.”

A follow-up meeting has been scheduled for Friday, November 8.

FMQ – 27.09.19

On Thursday at FMQ’s i asked about a new study which suggested young people in the poorest parts of the country are three times more likely to die before their 25th birthday than those in the most affluent areas.You can see my question and the First Minister’s response below.

Public Petitions Committee – 5th September 2019

I recently spoke at the Public Petitions Committee regarding the public petition 1695 on access to justice. You can watch below where I give some backround information on this petition.
If you would like to learn more on this petition, you can click on the link below.
http://external.parliament.scot/GettingIn…/Petitions/PE01695

Operations cancelled due to lack of capacity

I have had sight of figures which show that operations had to be cancelled across NHS Highland because hospitals simply could not cope.
Data published by ISD Scotland shows that 45 operations were cancelled in May 2019 due to non-clinical reasons such as not having enough staff or unclean equipment.
Across Scotland, 500 planned operations were cancelled in May 2019 because hospitals could not cope.
Scottish Labour has pointed out that the figures show our NHS is simply not getting enough resources from the SNP government.
We have to remember that behind each of these figures is a patient waiting in pain for treatment that hospitals have not been able to give.
We have seen a staffing crisis develop in our health service, with huge unfilled gaps for consultants, nurses and midwives.
Patients across NHS Highland are being let down by the SNP government and are not getting the care they deserve.
It is time to use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to properly fund our NHS.

FMQ’s – 16.05.19

Today at FMQ’s, I highlighted the mental health care needs of those with diabetes during mental health awareness week.
You can see my question and the First Minister’s response.

MSP contacts TSB chief executive after closure and reduced hours released

 

MSP David Stewart has called for the UK Government to take action to stem the flow of bank closures and the pattern of reduced banking hours following the announcement that the TSB is to close a Moray branch and cut hours at other branches across the Highlands.

Mr Stewart, who represents the Highlands and Islands, which includes Moray, has been told that TSB is to close its Keith branch because “it is no longer financially viable due to lower footfall”.

The bank is also reducing the opening hours of eight branches in the region – Dunoon, Forres, Nairn, Wick, Tain, Thurso, Grantown-on-Spey and Dingwall. Customers will be receiving letters this week.

TSB says all eight have “reduced customer usage over time and low usage overall”.

“This is another body blow for rural areas which have already suffered from other banks closing and reducing their hours,” said Mr Stewart.

“I’ve written to TSB’s Chief Executive, Debbie Crosbie, to ask if Keith can be saved and to try to get some reassures that the other eight branches will not see closure in the future.

“While I understand that banking patterns have changed, branches provide a much-needed service and not everyone can use internet banking, especially where internet coverage is patchy, and where customers are wary of on-line systems.

“Businesses and tourists also need a High Street presence. TSB has said in order that branches are viable in the longer-term it needs to see customers choosing to bank at them, highlighting a use-it or lose-it message, especially for the Highlands.

The UK Government has responsibility for banking and Mr Stewart believes more could be done to help maintain banks on our High Streets.

The next Labour government will set up almost 300 publicly owned Post Banks in Scotland to ensure every community has face-to-face banking. By utilising the extensive network of Post Office branches, Labour’s Post Bank would have by far the largest branch network of all UK banks,” he said.

Mr Stewart added that a network of Post Bank branches would help stem the tide of post office closures, uniting important banking, business and community services under one roof and creating skilled jobs within one of the country’s most trusted brands.

 

Research by Which? has revealed that Scotland has lost more than a third of its bank and building society branches in just eight years, with 610 branches closing down between 2010 and 2018, and more than 200 ATMs in the past year alone.

SNOW – keep safe driving this winter

Highlands & Islands (including Moray) MSP and road safety campaigner, David Stewart, re-launched his social media campaign in relation to driving this winter called SNOW.

S – Scrape ice and snow from all vehicle windows before driving off
N- Never drink and drive or take drugs and drive
O- Obey all road signs and road traffic laws and regulations
W- When in doubt about driving – Don’t

David Stewart speaking today said:
“My message is simple really.
“At this time of year, only drive if you have to, always make sure you clear snow and ice from your vehicle windows. You can be given a fixed penalty if you don’t, or even charged with careless driving. Never even consider driving if you have taken drink or drugs, obey road signs and traffic laws and if you are at all unsure about driving, don’t.”
“All I am trying to do is put a simple ‘mnemonic’ out there for people to remember or relate to.
“I thought that a four letter seasonal word related to this time of year would jog the memory of drivers, hence SNOW.

MSP: NHS should be banned from buying fax machines

NHS boards in Scotland should be banned from buying fax machines and a date should be made for them to be phased out entirely, says a Highlands and Islands MSP.
David Stewart, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, previously asked health boards in Scotland how many had fax machines and was shocked to discover that more than 1,200 were still in use across the country.
The Department of Health in England has now banned the buying of machines and said their use should be phased out by 2020.
This followed a Royal College of Surgeons investigation which found nearly 9,000 fax machines were in use across NHS England.
Mr Stewart has now lodged a Parliamentary Question asking the Scottish Government if it will follow suit.
“The NHS is way behind other organisations and private companies which scrapped fax machines more than a decade ago,” explained Mr Stewart.
“It’s about time our health authorities were in step with technological advances and used secure emails instead.
“There is an argument that some fax machines should be kept in case of IT system failures, for contingencies, and that seems sensible but I cannot believe that such a large number are needed from day to day.
“The Scottish Government should be on top of this and invest in more modern communication systems. In the end it must save money and time.”
Under Freedom of Information, Mr Stewart asked NHS boards:
1) How many working fax machines each had in a) 2018 (b) 2017 and (c) 2016
2) What were the reasons for using fax machines instead of new, digitised technology?

He discovered NHS Grampian had 400 machines and that “communicating prescription requirements with the Pharmacy Department” was their main use. NHS Highland confirmed fax machines were still used but it did not know exact numbers, although added they were in the process of being phased out.

NHS Shetland had 15 fax machines and stated: “Fax is retained as a backup communication method and is only used by prior arrangement where the recipient is expecting the fax”.
While NHS Orkney had 28 to “maintain essential communications”. “Many of our locations have poor bandwidth links which are frequently unavailable and can take several days to repair,” it said.

NHS Western Isles had 18 and told the MSP: “Fax machines retained by depts/practices due to concerns over comms outages /old ways of working /supplier requirements. We are not replacing any fax machines and are actively discouraging any use.”