SCRUTINY committee urged to keep a watchful eye on the Scottish Government to make sure it follows through on its “long-awaited” promise to cut road death on the A82

A SCRUTINY committee was urged this week to keep a watchful eye on the Scottish Government to make sure it follows through on its “long-awaited” promise to cut road death on the A82.

Road safety campaigner and MSP David Stewart said the Public Petitions Committee had a critical role in ensuring the government followed-through on its pledge to look at 20 options for the A82 to make the route safer.

The Highlands & Islands MSP made the call at today’s virtual sitting of the committee.

Speaking in support of a petition lodged by The Inverness Courier, which called on the Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to upgrade the A82, Mr Stewart argued for the petition to stay open to allow members to track the government’s progress.

And he said the baton should be passed on when committee membership changes after the next Scottish Parliament election on 6 May.

However, members unanimously agreed the committee did not have the time to do the petition justice.

The petition was closed on the basis that the government’s submission had underlined more than 20 options currently being investigated to make the road safer.

The committee said it would write to the Scottish Government to flag up the petition.

And it will invite the petitioner – Inverness Courier journalist Louise Glen – to resubmit if progress is not made.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Stewart said: “I congratulated Louise Glen from the Inverness Courier for her initiative on this issue. This is what good campaigning local newspapers are all about. The government’s promises to make this road safer are long-awaited and pressure and scrutiny is crucial. Today’s decision was purely procedural and I would hope the Inverness Courier would submit a fresh petition to the new committee after the election so this can continue to be looked at.”

Ends.

Highlands and Islands MSP supports Scottish Cot Death Trust’s new guide

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, and his wife Linda, are supporting the launch of a new guide by Safe Sleep Scotland which is being released today.

Safe Sleep Scotland, run by the Scottish Cot Death Trust, has launched the resource for families, healthcare and childcare professionals, called Back to Basics, Back to Baby.

Mr Stewart is a trustee of the Scottish Cot Death Trust and he and Linda lost their youngest son, eight-month-old Liam, to cot death in 1991 and were supported by the trust.

As well as supporting families affected by Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI), the trust educates families about the risk factors for SUDI. The aim is to allow parents and carers across the UK to be fully informed so that they can make their own decisions to reduce the risks.

The resource comes with a bendable tube attached which replicates a baby’s airway. This allows parents and carers to appreciate how fragile baby’s airways are, which reinforces the importance of the Safe Sleep messages.

Mr Stewart said: “Losing a young baby is one of the greatest traumas that parents can ever face.

“The trust’s new guide will be a valuable resource for all would-be parents, parents, carers and professionals.

“The hard copy resource is supplemented by the Safe Sleep Scotland website and an easy to follow video which I am sure will be of benefit to all those who care for babies and young children.

“As many people as possible should be educated about safe sleeping in the hope that we can prevent many of these tragedies.”

More information on-line:https://scottishcotdeathtrust.org/launch/

  • If you would like to talk to the SCDT team about the support available please get in touch by visiting the website or calling on 0141 357 3946. For more information about Safe Sleep and reducing the risks of SUDI, please visit http://www.safesleepscotland.org or by following @cotdeathtrust on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Stewart still pressing for research into ionisers in fight against Covid

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has said he is still pressing the Scottish Government to see if negative ion ionisers could be used in the fight against Covid-19.

Mr Stewart, who is Scottish Labour’s Shadow Minister for Public Health, was first contacted about these devices on 25 March, just three days into the first lockdown, but has of yet not received any real reassurance that the Scottish Government has properly investigated if the use of these devices could help in the fight to control the virus.

Mr Stewart said “I was contacted by a constituent in the very early days of the first lockdown who provided scientific data which suggested that negative ion ionisers could be a useful tool in the fight against the virus.

“I have contacted the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman, and the Minister for Innovation, Ivan McKee. I have tabled Parliamentary Questions and I also raised the matter directly with the First Minister on the floor in Parliament, all to no avail.”

Mr Stewart continued “My constituent advises me that these devices are being used in other countries to fight the virus and he is deeply frustrated at the Scottish Government’s lack of urgency in fully researching their potential use.

“With the Covid crisis deepening day on day, I am again trying to encourage Scottish Ministers to speed up their research into this. The Cabinet Secretary for Health replied to me on 9 November advising that the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has set up a Short Life Working Group to consider the evidence surrounding the efficacy of “air cleaning” devices.

“Weeks later however I still do not have an answer as to when the Working Group will determine its findings, yet the virus continues to spread.

“We really need an injection of urgency from the Cabinet Secretary here and I have tabled a further Parliamentary Question asking when the Group will report back on their findings. It is essential that every possible avenue is explored in a bid to bring the virus under control.”

Scottish Government answers questions on Healing Process compensation being taxed

Following on from the information released yesterday that NHS Highland had contacted HMRC about the taxation of compensation payments through the Healing Process, Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, answered two of my parliamentary questions today. See below.

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

WRITTEN ANSWER

22 December 2020(Holding Reply Issued 21 December 2020)

Index Heading: Health and Social Care

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of The Healing Process, the initiative set up in response to bullying and harassment at NHS Highland, in light of reported complaints regarding compensation payments being taxed at source.

S5W-33872

Jeane Freeman: We are in regular contact with the NHS Highland and have had received positive feedback about the process itself. We are aware of the concerns about tax deductions and the board are addressing the concerns raised by actively pursuing these directly with HMRC to reaffirm the position and to explore if there is any dispensation available in respect of the compensation payments. Without this they cannot legally waive tax or NI contributions.

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

WRITTEN ANSWER

22 December 2020(Holding Reply Issued 21 December 2020)

Index Heading: Health and Social Care

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with (a) NHS Highland and (b) HMRC regarding compensation payments for people who have been bullied being tax free.

S5W-33873

Jeane Freeman: Given our ongoing conversations with NHS Highland that have provided assurances that NHS Highland are directly pursuing the matter with HMRC, we await HMRC’s decision to inform further actions.

Health authority contacts tax office re Healing Process

NHS Highland is contacting HMRC about tax on payments through the Healing Process. I have already received a letter about this from the health authority and sent it out to all those constituents who are in contact with me. But here’s a link to what’s on the website today.

Click here
https://www.healing-process.co.uk/tax-faqs/
The health authority says: “At this time, NHS Highland must process these payments via the payroll, for current or former colleagues. We have written to HMRC to clarify the situation and should they subsequently give a dispensation to process out with payroll, this will then be applied.”

Stewart seeks answers on football funding

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has tabled questions in the Scottish Parliament today (Tuesday) seeking clarification on when the funding and grants being made available for Scotland’s football clubs will be open for applications and what the process will be for clubs to apply.

A £55m funding package was announced last week by the Scottish Government to help sports clubs tackle the void of lost ticket revenue caused by the outbreak of Covid-19. £20m of funding is being made available to football clubs in the premiership with £10m of grants being made available for clubs at every other level of the game.

The MSP, who has been a lifelong Inverness Caley Thistle supporter and is Chair of Inverness Caledonian Thistle Trust said “Football clubs up and down the country have been hit hard by the implications of Covid-19 restrictions and I was pleased that the Health and Sport Committee agreed to my request to hold an inquiry into this. As part of that inquiry, the Minister for Sport, Joe Fitzpatrick, gave evidence at the Committee this morning (Tuesday).

“While the meeting was very helpful, the detail of how and when the funding and grants will be made available is not yet known and I know clubs at every level of the game are keen to know when and how they can apply for the help being offered.” continued Mr Stewart.

“As an avid football fan, I know just how perilously close some clubs are to going under and we need to make sure this money gets to those who need it without delay.

He continued “Football is in the very fabric of communities up and down Scotland and loss of gate sales and hospitality revenue has hit clubs hard. We must get that help out to the clubs immediately to secure the future of the game, at every level, in Scotland.” concluded Mr Stewart.

Traffic speed being surveyed at A82 spot at Drumnadochit after calls by road safety campaigner David Stewart

The Labour MSP requested an investigation by Transport Scotland to determine whether the road meets the criteria for speed cameras. Concerns were raised with Mr Stewart about cars and HGVs speeding through the area, paying no heed to the 30mph signs.

Mr Stewart said he was really pleased with prompt action by Transport Scotland to place sensors around the village – and he welcomed their agreement to add additional sensors.

He said: “This intervention will be welcome news for residents and I am pleased to see extra sensors are also now in place.

“Transport Scotland chiefs have listened and acted, and I am very grateful to my constituents for their input. They have told me they believe the sensors are now in a far better position and will be interested to know the findings. They say they are witnessing vehicles speeding through the section at all hours of the day and night.”

Stewart keen to support plans to mark centenary of landmark UK Cabinet meeting in Inverness

AN MSP is keen to support civic leaders in plans to mark the centenary of a landmark meeting of the UK Cabinet in Inverness.

The 99th anniversary of the arrival of Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Stanley Baldwin and other ministers, in the Highland capital, passed by just a few weeks ago.

Labour Highlands & Islands MSP David Stewart has written to Highland Council’s chief executive Donna Manson for information about the preparations for the 100th anniversary next year.

The September 7 1921 summit at the Inverness Town House was momentous because it was the meeting where they agreed to negotiate with Sinn Féin.

This led to the Irish Free State, paving the way for the current United Kingdom.

Mr Stewart said: “The occasion was often shared with guests to the Town House during my eight years as a councillor. It was the first ever Cabinet meeting to be held outside London or Chequers and it happened in Inverness by chance. The PM was on holiday in Gairloch when British-Irish relations hit the rocks. He called the Cabinet to meet at the Town House. There is a plaque in the beautiful Town House chamber marking this day and I am very fond of it. I am really looking forward to joining the celebrations next year.”

To view images:

Fire sprinklers in all new build social housing: result of David Stewart’s Bill

A media release was published today by the Scottish Government as a follow on from Labour MSP David Stewart’s Private Member’s Bill on the installation of fire sprinklers. New regulations will be coming into effect next year for improved safety in new social housing following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

Guidance has now been published for the house building industry.

See the Government release here:

https://www.gov.scot/news/improved-fire-safety-for-new-flats-and-social-homes/

The Highlands and Islands MSP is delighted that guidance is now going out to the building industry, ahead of installing fire sprinklers in all new social housing with new regulations coming into effect next year.

The sprinklers will be a requirement in new flats, maisonettes and larger multi-occupancy dwellings including where care is provided.

“I’m delighted this is coming in before I retire as an MSP at next year’s election – what better than a life-saving ‘present’ at Christmas?” said Mr Stewart.

“Fire sprinklers have been proven time and time again to be effective in the fight against fire and I know that this move will save lives.

“There has always been strong backing for these plans from the public, the industry and other MSPs, especially in the light of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

“I would still like retro-fitting sprinklers in older properties to be considered, and although that is my longer term hope I understand the problems this would pose.”

Mr Stewart was told in 2018 that the Scottish Government was taking forward his campaign for greater fire safety methods in social housing.

He previously proposed a Member’s Bill which would require fire sprinkler systems to be installed into all new-build social housing across Scotland, as a method of tackling Scotland’s high rates of fire death and injury.

The plans received overwhelming support, with 94% of the consultation responses in favour and over 50 MSPs, from across all five political parties, signed up in support of the Bill’s final proposal.

MSP reveals one patient had data breached twice by NHS Highland

Highlands and Islands MSP, David Stewart, has been told that one patient has found his confidential data breached twice by NHS Highland after the latest incident was made public yesterday.

Mr Stewart, who is Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, said the patient found his data breached last year when the email addresses of almost 40 people living with HIV were accidentally published by the health authority to others with the illness.

The man, who is also diabetic, has now discovered his data was circulated for a second time in the latest incident when NHS Highland apologised for sharing an excel spreadsheet containing confidential information with other patients.

“Quite honestly I could not believe it when the constituent contacted me to tell me he had his information shared again,” said Mr Stewart.

“He is absolutely devastated by the second breach as it shows lessons have not been learnt from last year and I can clearly understand why he feels so let down.”

Mr Stewart explained that the patient had initially contacted him last year following the first breach and the MSP had kept in contact as there were a number of problems thrown up by this case.

The patient, who does not want to be identified, told Mr Stewart: “When I contacted you last year, I was a newly diagnosed HIV patient and, as a direct result of the last breach, my care had to be transferred to NHS Glasgow. I will be looking for Jeane Freeman to launch an inquiry.”

Mr Stewart has already written to NHS Highland’s Chief Executive, Pam Dudek, and is now writing to Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, highlighting the latest incident and the fact that a patient has suffered a data breach on two occasions. The MSP is calling for her to ensure proper protections, staff training and systems are in place to prevent such incidents happening again.

“Data and confidential information of national health service patients must be treated in the strictest confidence by those handling it,” said Mr Stewart.

“I am aware that there is tremendous pressure on front-line staff, not only on nurses and clinical staff, but on administration staff, due to the pandemic.

“However, this is serious and the second time in 17months that an NHS Highland data breach has been raised with me.”

  • Last year Mr Stewart raised the first data breach in the Scottish Parliament with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The MSP said then: “Whilst I welcome the apology by the board, does the First Minister share my view that confidentiality is a core principle of the NHS and the decision to disclose HIV status is a matter for individuals themselves and theirs alone.” Nicola Sturgeon agreed very strongly saying that the safety of patient data was of “the utmost importance”.
  • She added that the breach was reported to Information Commissioner within 24 hours. NHS Highland had taken steps to apologise to patients, respond directly to any concerns and a formal internal review was being carried out. The First Minister admitted that “clearly there have been failings”.
  • Afterwards Mr Stewart added that he had written to NHS Highland’s Chief Executive, Iain Stewart, to ask that he be kept informed of the outcome of the internal review and the findings of the Information Commissioner.
  • “Keeping patients’ data confidential is essential for everyone and I hope lessons can be learned as a result of this breach,” said the MSP. “HIV is a very sensitive subject for those with the virus and I am told this breach has caused some distress.”