David Stewart is supporting the ‘Brake’ road safety theme this road safety week

Highlands and Islands Regional MSP and long time road safety campaigner, David Stewart is supporting the ‘Brake’ road safety theme ‘Bike Smart’ as we near this year’s road safety week, which takes place between 19th and 25h November 2018.

Cyclists and motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable road users in the UK, with more than 100 riders injured every day in needless, preventable collisions. This is why this year BRAKE the road safety charity are focussing on those that use two wheeled vehicles.
Cycling is one of the healthiest, most environmentally friendly and overall cheapest forms of transport available. The number of people taking to their bikes is increasing year on year so we need to make sure that they can cycle in as safe an environment as possible.
Motorcyclists are disproportionately involved in collisions and the resulting injuries are often severe. The speeds motorcycles can travel are equal to those of cars and yet motorcycle riders do not have equal protection in the event of a collision, such as air bags or side-impact bars, exposing them to the full force of impact. Raising awareness of safe driving behaviour for riders and drivers alike, and therefore limiting motorcycle collisions, is critical to saving lives on UK roads.
“Over the past eight years we at the North Of Scotland Driver Awareness Team (NOSDAT)have as a team and by working with others, made a real difference with regards road safety across the Highlands Islands and Moray.
“We have secured five road safety awards in recognition of our work, had some influence in persuading the UK Government to look again and improve the training of young and new drivers with a pilot Graduated Licence scheme being trialled in Northern Ireland..
“Whilst we worked closely with SCID (Scottish Campaign against Irresponsible Drivers) we have been successful in persuading the Scottish Government to introduce drug driving limits in Scotland and by working in partnership with local businesses, we have launched many other successful local road safety campaigns.

“By working together, we can and will continue to make our roads safer.”

Photo by: Tatiana

MSP stands up for the Highlands and Islands over exemption from Air Departure Tax

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart took the fight to continue the Highlands and Islands exemption to Air Departure Tax to Nicola Sturgeon today.

In Holyrood, he raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions, asking what recent discussions had the Scottish Government had with the European Commission on the tax.

Mr Stewart went on: “The First Minister will be well aware of the calls from some quarters of the aviation industry south of the Highland line to kill off the Highlands & Islands exemption, with potentially damaging consequences for businesses and communities across the region.

“Can the First Minister give Parliament an absolute assurance today that she will resist these misguided demands, and protect the interests of the Highlands and Islands by preserving this vitally important exemption.”

Ms Sturgeon replied that the Government wanted to protect the existing exemption from the tax and had written to the UK Government asking them to notify the exemption for approval to the European Commission, had on-going discussions on the issue, as well as looking at a range of different options to try to solve the problem.

She said actions to date demonstrated that the Scottish Government was absolutely determined to protect the Highlands and Islands exemption.

“I certainly would not support anybody who wanted to kill off that exemption,” she added.

Afterwards, Mr Stewart welcomed the First Minister’s positive reply and stressed that the current exemption for passengers flying from Highlands and Islands airports, meant up to a 16% reduction on some flights to the UK, Europe and beyond.

“This is an extremely important exemption for the region, also making regional routes more viable and sustainable.

“To progress this the Scottish Government needs to have further talks with the UK Government and with the European Commission as a matter of urgency.

“I will continue to stand up for the Highlands and Islands on this one.”

David Stewart, tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament today (31/10/18) acknowledging and commending Gordon and Sandra McKandie for their drive

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and long-time road safety campaigner, David Stewart, tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament today (31/10/18) acknowledging and commending Gordon and Sandra McKandie for their drive, determination motivation and strength in raising funds to purchase defibrillators which have been issued to Police Scotland Roads Policing Units in the North East Division where the medical equipment has already been used 39 times resulting in the saving of a 52 year old man’s life. The family has now raised funds to provide the Highlands and Islands Division with the same equipment. The fundraising is part of the charity they set up called ‘Kierans Legacy’ which is in memory of their 16 year old son who was killed in a road collision back in 2016 near his home in Moray.

 David Stewart said “ I am humbled and at the same time proud to have the opportunity to table a motion in the Scottish Parliament which recognises the charitable work of these two loving parents who have done so much to help save others by purchasing and donating defibrillators to Police Scotland Roads Policing Units. I have been fully aware of this tragic case through my own and my team’s work within the North Of Scotland Driver Awareness Team (NOSDAT). Despite having to grieve for the loss of their son, Gordon and Sandra have found the strength and will to set up this tremendous legacy to their son. It is a truism that is not depleted by repetition that there is no greater tragedy, no greater sorrow and no greater loss than for a parent to lose a child.


Remembrance Day

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP, David Stewart, earlier this year lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament, recognising the dedication and commitment of the team at the Black Isle Bronze Foundry, Nairn, on completion of their crafting of the bronze horse ‘Poppy’ which is now a memorial to all the horses, mules and donkeys killed in WW1.

At that time David said, “This horse is the first national memorial to the millions of horses, mules and donkeys from across the Commonwealth killed in WW1. It is testament to the endeavour and work of those involved at the Black Isle Foundry in Nairn, that the construction and sculpting of this life sized model was awarded to them by the War Horse Memorial organisation.

“The finished sculpture is situated in Berkshire, at Royal Ascot.

David concluded “ This year as we approach Remembrance Day and as a link to the crafting of the bronze war horse ‘Poppy’ by the team at the Black Isle Foundry, Nairn, I would just like to remind people that purple poppies can be worn to remember all the animals also killed as a result of conflict particularly in WW1. Not a lot of people will be aware that almost 8 million horses, donkey’s and mules were killed in action during this war and 750,000 dogs were killed in one week in the UK alone during WW2 as the Government decreed that there was not enough food with rationing to be able to feed them.

“ We are approaching the time of year when we all reflect and remember the sacrifices of so many during conflict by wearing red poppies. Purple poppies can legitimately be worn alongside red poppies if people so wish, to also remember the animals lost during these conflicts, a point I just highlight linking in to the work of the Black Isle Foundry in Nairn in their sculpting on ‘Poppy’ the war horse.

David Stewart has welcomed the Heath Secretary’s announcement this afternoon scrapping NHS Highland’s outstanding brokerage deal

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP and Labour’s Shadow Health Minister David Stewart has welcomed the Heath Secretary’s announcement this afternoon scrapping NHS Highland’s outstanding brokerage deal – previous Scottish Government loans which the health authority received to try to balance its budget.

“It is clear that there were underlying trends which caused budget problems for the health authority such as costs on adult social care, an overspend on drugs and the requirement to employ locums,” explained Mr Stewart.

“I also support the plans to allow NHS Highland to break even over a three-year period, instead of one.

“This is better news for the health service which is really struggling to balance the books and may give a bit of respite to hard pressed front-line staff and help patient services.”

ARE U READY campaign

Highlands & Islands Regional MSP and Road Safety Campaigner, David Stewart, who set up the road safety group NOSDAT (North Of Scotland Driver Awareness Team) has teamed up with local car dealer, Parks of Hamilton to launch their autumn/winter road safety campaign.

ARE U READY is an educational social media, radio and leaflet campaign advising drivers to be ready for autumn/winter driving.

David Stewart said “ On behalf of NOSDAT, I am delighted to work in partnership with Parks of Hamilton on this initiative. Through this educational campaign, which can be heard on MFR, viewed on my face book page and detailed in a leaflet, which will be circulated at North based Parks of Hamilton dealerships and Halfords Inverness, we hope to further improve the safety for all users on our roads. This campaign lists nine handy hints for driving in the autumn and winter and if nothing else, should jog the memories of those who maybe have forgotten some of the do’s and don’ts of driving on our roads during the different seasons. Support from a major car dealer like Parks of Hamilton make our work possible and I am indebted to them for this assistance. The advert will be aired on MFR between 8 and 12 October 2018.

“Changing seasons bring changing hazards whilst driving on our roads, surfaces are affected by wet and slippery conditions, low sun causes sun glare, poor light conditions can affect the area of visibility in front of us, so all drivers need to watch their speed, slow down in residential areas, or near schools and make sure their vehicles are ready for the autumn/winter.

A spokesperson for Parks of Hamilton said “We are delighted to work in cooperation with NOSDAT to highlight the importance of road safety. Road safety is key to ensuring that drivers slow down and drive to the prevailing conditions, especially throughout the Autumn and Winter months when there is perhaps poorer visibility. As a leading vehicle dealer in the North and across Scotland, Park’s Motor Group have been and continue to be, at the forefront of road safety.”

Photo by: Tatiana

Finance Secretary accused of ‘weasel words’ by MSP

Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, has been accused of using ‘weasel words’ in a reply about how many jobs would come to the Highlands and Islands as a result of the new Scottish social security agency.
In a reply to Labour MSP, David Stewart, he said that “400 locally based jobs” would be the first stage of recruitment for the new Social Security Scotland agency.
However, when Mr Stewart then lodged a Parliamentary Question about how many “locally based jobs” would come to each local authority area in the Highlands and Islands, Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Social Security Secretary, admitted there were just two.
Ms Somerville told the Highlands and Islands MSP: “Nineteen Local Delivery Relationship Leads have been recruited to date, with two of these people to be based in the Highlands and Islands.

“One will be located in the Highlands and one in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. While some Local Authorities, including Orkney and Shetland, will not have a Local Delivery Relationship Lead based in their area they will have a designated Lead. The Leads will meet regularly and work closely with Local Authorities and other public and third sector organisations to develop a service that is appropriate to the needs of the community.”

Mr Stewart said: “I feel Mr Mackay was indeed using weasel words in his original letter as it wasn’t clear where the jobs would be and how local they would be and now he has been caught out.

“More jobs should be dispersed across the Highlands and Islands but despite the Scottish Government’s smoke and mirrors replies, it is clear it only want jobs in the Central Belt.

“It’s no wonder people in more remote and rural areas feel they are being short-changed by the Government who talk a good talk but fail to deliver.”

Mr Stewart first wrote to the Finance Secretary after a Caithness constituent raised the question of how few jobs were being dispersed to the area from the Central Belt and the loss of skilled workers to the community.
The woman particularly queried how many would come to Caithness and Sutherland with the creation of the new Social Security Scotland agency which is based in Dundee and Glasgow. The Scottish Government agency is to deal with devolved benefits.
In his reply Mr Mackay said: “In April the first stage of recruitment for at least 400 locally based jobs with Social Security Scotland was launched.
“These jobs will be located across Scotland and generate employment opportunities which will reach into all parts of the country including the Caithness and Sutherland area.”