Guest Editorial: Education and Transport led the list for Moray

Welcome back to Rhoda Grant MSP for what will be her final Editorial submission to insideMoray with the Scottish Elections coming up in May.

Rhoda Grant MSP - final guest editorial before Election
Rhoda Grant MSP – final guest editorial before Election

A year ago this month I submitted my first column for the Moray news site insideMoray – I would like to start this column by wishing all constituents and readers a happy 2016.

This is an opportune occasion to advise constituents and readers that the Highlands & Islands ‘Regional List Area’, in the political sense anyway, relates to all Highland and the Northern and Western Isles, Argyll and Bute and of course Moray.

I have tried to get the title changed to reflect this fact, but alas the Parliament has advised that I have to refer to the area as the Highlands & Islands, which I realise is confusing if you live in Argyll and Bute or Moray.

Teacher numbers

Education - plan to help solve teaching crisis
Education – plan to help solve teaching crisis

Former teachers living in the local military population could be recruited by Moray Council to alleviate staff shortages in schools.

I was contacted by constituents from Moray over the past few months who were trained in Teaching in England and Wales, but despite this qualification they were not able to teach in Scotland. I made contact with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) and suggested that it was an opportunity lost in Moray, being an area that had in excess of 50 Teacher vacancies, if they did not utilise the skills of local based Teachers who were not trained in Scotland.

I am therefore somewhat delighted that Moray Council and the GTCS are proposing to trial a pilot whereby such Teachers would receive on the job training to bring them up to the qualification standard of Scottish trained Teachers, thus alleviating the problem in recruiting Teachers in Moray.

Common sense seems to have prevailed and I welcome the initiative proposed by the GTCS.

Dial M for Moray

National award for Moray's Dial M bus service
National award for Moray’s Dial M bus service

Last month I lodged a motion (available in full at the end of the article) in the Scottish Parliament recognising the success of the Dial M for Moray bus service, which scooped the Campbell Christie Public Service Reform prize at a special ceremony at the Scottish Parliament.

This ‘in house’ service beat off 170 similar challengers from across Scotland and saved Moray Council around £170,000 in subsidy costs.
This is a great achievement for Moray Council and this service in particular. The local authority has listened to the communities across Moray with regard to their transport needs and produced a service which meets these needs and demands.

Well done to Moray Council and the transport service they have provided, which has also achieved the ‘buy–in’ across all council departments

Epilepsy Awareness (ICEberg Campaign)

ICEberg Campaign
ICEberg Campaign

Working with Epilepsy Scotland I set up a campaign encouraging people with epilepsy in the Highlands and Islands, Moray and Argyll & Bute to put ICE (In Case of Emergency) contact details on their mobile phones, so that if they have a seizure, the emergency services or even the general public can get in touch with their named family member or friend.

To further assist emergency personnel, we developed a pilot initiative offering free ICEberg wristbands to anyone with epilepsy.

These purple and white silicon wrist bands, identify that the wearer has an ICE contact on their mobile device. We launched the scheme and gave away purple and white ICEberg wristbands at the Epilepsy Scotland information stand at 11am on Friday, November 20 outside the glass lift in the Eastgate Centre, Inverness.

I was keen to try and fit in an opportunity in the Moray area, but time was against us. However, thanks to the local media I have been able to send out about 12 wristbands to the Moray area alone so far. If anyone else who is either a sufferer of epilepsy, a relative or friend would like one of the wrist bands, then please make contact with me and I will send one out.

In my role as a regional MSP for the Highlands and Islands, I became aware of situations where people were found either unwell or in a distressed state in public and the attending emergency service personnel had difficulty in identifying who to contact as next of kin.

I was also aware of individuals who ended up in A&E with staff there being unable to identify the individual who was brought in. There were also cases of people coming out of a fit in the back of an ambulance who then needed to go to hospital, where they would have preferred to go about their business. This got me thinking that there must be something we can do to address this issue.

I talked with Epilepsy Scotland about trialling some kind of free epilepsy ID to help in medical situations. My team made contact with Stagecoach Bus and were successful in being awarded funding by the company which allowed us to purchase the ICEberg epilepsy wristbands. Wearers can put ICE (In Case of Emergency) details into their mobile phone contacts or have an ICE app on their mobile phone screen saver. Should a seizure happen, emergency personnel or the public will know who to call.

The founder of the ICE initiative, former paramedic, Bob Brotchie said: “Imagine ringing the police because a relative or friend has not returned home. Imagine ringing the hospitals and they don’t have anyone with that person’s name, but they may have unidentified patients. Now, imagine what it’s like to be a paramedic, desperately trying to find the next of kin of someone having an epileptic seizure.

“This worry can be avoided by a simple action. Put ICE details with the person’s name and number on your mobile phone or use an ICE app to list who you’d like to be contacted in the case of an emergency. Having notified your ICE contact and gathered information, the medical team can then treat you appropriately.”

Organ Donation

Finally, I want to mention the highly sensitive issue of organ donation. I was delighted in the summer just passed that my colleague, Anne McTaggart MSP, introduced a Bill to introduce a ‘soft opt out’ system of organ donation in the Scottish Parliament.

I firmly believe the proposal would help combat the problem of scarcity of organs for donation and would ultimately save lives. We’ve already seen the Welsh Government legislate on this issue and I think it’s now time that Scotland did the same. I’m looking forward to supporting the Bill as it progresses through Parliament.
As it stands the Government are not opposed to the approach taken by Anne’s Bill, but they are poised to vote it down suggesting a cautious approach and waiting to see how the Welsh system is working after one or two years.

This is not really acceptable. People are dying every day waiting for an organ transplant. They don’t want to hear that in Scotland we are going to wait one or two years until we hear how Wales are doing.

There are currently 571 people waiting for a transplant in Scotland, although this does not include the large number of people who became too ill for a transplant and were taken off the list. Over 50 years of evidence shows us that a soft opt-out system works – there is absolutely no reason why Scotland couldn’t be among the best countries in the world for organ donation.

Dial M Motion Text:

That the Parliament acknowledges the efforts of the Dial M for Moray community bus service, which won the Campbell Christie Public Service Reform prize at a special ceremony at the Parliament; understands that this service, which beat its 170 challengers from across Scotland, has saved Moray Council around £170,000 in subsidy costs; considers that the service was borne out of genuine community consultation on transport needs, and acknowledges the partnership buy-in across local authority departments in Moray.