I am delighted once again to be able to pen a column for the pages of insideMoray and will start this column on the very real issues of broadband.
The SNP Scottish Government must take action to address the never ending complaints about poor broadband and mobile signals in the Highlands and Islands which includes Moray. I and my Labour colleagues have campaigned relentlessly for many years to have services improved.
Everyone welcomes the progress that is being made in the building of the superfast infrastructure in the Highlands, Islands and Moray. This is long overdue and very much needed. However, still one of the biggest complaints in my mailbox is poor speeds or indeed lack of service at all.
I continually hear from businesses and individuals throughout the area who are totally frustrated by the fact they still have a second rate service. In this day and age, it is outrageous that people in Moray struggle to get connections. People are concerned that BT, one of the partners in the Highlands and Islands rollout, are not getting to some areas that were promised connections.
Garmouth residents are no strangers to poor telephone services for example, with their community living in an infamous ‘not-spot’ for mobile telephone reception as opposed to the usual ’hot-spot’.
Hopes were raised in the community when BT said that they were set to join the new Superfast network being rolled out through Moray and the Highlands – however, so far it has been little more than disappointment and no signs of anything changing in the near future.
In addition to getting the masses in towns and villages better services, rural areas require community initiatives to deliver the last mile solutions. The solutions are out there now and I have pressed the SNP Government for years, to come up to the Highlands to see for themselves how this is being done in some areas and how it can be easily replicated in other areas. I’ve again asked John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, to come north and meet with the people who have the solutions. I await his response.
Police Control Rooms
The unfortunate incident on the M9 has led me to join calls for Police Scotland to suspend the planned closure of the Police Emergency Control Rooms, including the one situated in Inverness and Aberdeen.
I have also called for the Fire Control Rooms closure plan to be put on hold, as there may well be lessons to be learned across the emergency services, with regards to the structure of the Control Rooms and the way they operate, depending on the outcome of the HMI Review currently undergoing in respect of the Police Scotland Control Room.
It comes after warnings too much pressure is being piled on emergency service staff, after a probe was launched into the Police Scotland handling of how a couple, who had crashed a car on the M9 near Stirling, were left without help for three days.
John Yuill was found dead inside the blue Renault Clio last week. His girlfriend, Lamara Bell, later died in hospital.
This tragic incident highlights that we need to suspend the closure of local Control Rooms until such a time as we know the outcome of this enquiry. Clearly there was an unfortunate failing in the current system or process in this case and it is only right and proper that we await the outcome of the review before any further action is taken with regards to any Emergency Service Control Room closures”.
At this time we must remember the families of the deceased in this case and must also take time for reflection. Are three Police Control Rooms situated in the Central belt the best way forward. Unfortunately since the single Police Force was set up, this Government has been hell bent on demanding deep swinging cuts be made at all costs, without much cognisance for the service to be provided.
My colleague in Moray, Councillor Sean Morton, is calling on Scottish Provincial Press (SPP) the owners of the two leading Moray weekly titles, to reverse plans to sack 11 production workers in Elgin, Inverness, Wick and Golspie by outsourcing their work to India.
Of course my colleague David Stewart and I firmly support him in his efforts.
The news that Scottish Provincial Press are considering outsourcing jobs to India is bad for the Highlands and bad for the wider Scottish economy too. These are good, high-quality, skilled jobs in an industry which has had years of dedicated service from the people of the Scottish Highlands.
If SPP want to use the brand ‘local’ and they want to claim that they are the champions of local news, then surely they should be utilising local people to produce local copy.
Finally and by no means lastly, well done to tsiMoray and congratulations to them on their recently being awarded the prestigious ‘Committed to Excellence’ trophy at the Scottish Awards for Business Excellence.