Guest Editorial: Safer roads and ‘Golden Hellos’ for GP’s

David Stewart MSP
David Stewart MSP

I am delighted to have this opportunity to write about some of the work I have being doing these past few weeks, specifically in relation to Moray – David Stewart MSP.

Forres man rises to the challenge

A couple of weeks ago I tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament recognising the endeavours of local Forres man Callum Finlayson.

After having served in the army for 16 years, Callum became a Driving Instructor, but was struck down by the illness neurosarcoidosis a rare condition which attacked his brain and lungs.

Callum has been back on his bike again, this time riding around the North Coast 500 (NC500) in an effort to raise money for local disabled Forres lad Charlie Skivington – and also for this own charity Pedal Strokes. I am delighted to learn that Callum successfully completed the 500miles which again prompted me to table a Motion congratulating him on his success.

These are the local success stories which should inspire us all. For Callum to have gone through all he did, but still have the courage and determination to fightback to fitness and become a cycling championship winner is tremendous.

Callum’s story can be read via this link – or for more details on Pedal Strokes Forres visit this link.

Dangerous or Derelict Buildings
Council will move to impose compulsory purchase orders on derelict properties.

I lead on the introduction of a member’s Bill, ‘Buildings (Recovery of Expenses) (Scotland) Bill’, which became law in 2014 and gives Local Authorities extra powers to re-coup their costs when dealing with defective and dangerous buildings.

The Bill reintroduces charging orders which will enable Local Authorities to recover their costs in a more efficient and cost effective manner.

Too many buildings have been allowed to drift into disrepair and need urgent remedy. It is, of course the owners’ responsibility to repair buildings. My Bill aims to enable councils to carry out desperately needed repairs whilst shifting the financial burden back to the owners themselves.

I am of course aware of local buildings falling into the category of defective or dangerous, as I saw plenty whilst I undertook my summer constituency visits across the Highlands, Islands and Moray.

In Moray for example, the local Authority could resort to the compulsory purchase of vacant or derelict buildings which have an adverse impact on their surroundings. Members of the council’s planning and regulatory services committee were told that 18 properties and areas of land had been identified as having an impact on the amenity of their neighbourhoods. I understand that these included dwellings, factory premises and industrial and commercial properties across Moray.

I plan to write to the Chief Executives of our Local Authorities within the Highlands & Islands region, which includes Moray, just reminding them that they have the ‘Buildings (Recovery of Expenses) (Scotland) Bill’ to fall back on when dealing with this issue.

Switch On To Safer Roads

Driving home the safer roads educational message and building on the success of our previous road safety campaigns I re- launched our next campaign ‘Switch onto Safer Roads’, to coincide with the dark nights which are starting to draw in.

First set up in 2013, this campaign is designed to be an educational tool to persuade drivers to ‘Switch on’ their dipped headlights in all forms of poor visibility.

New cars on the road, registered after 1 February 2011, come with daytime L.E.D. running lights which help with the visibility of such vehicles. In February 2012, HGV’s and buses new on the road also came fitted with the L.E.D. running lights.

Our Group Nosdat – North of Scotland Driver Awareness Team, which I was instrumental in setting up, are always looking at ways we can make our roads safer and in particular we want to use education as the medium to get our messages across.

To date we have been very fortunate to have the support of local businesses and the media to help us do this. In relation to the Switch On To Safer Roads campaign we worked previously with Stagecoach Bus and Acorn Signs, Inverness. This re launched campaign, is designed to do something about the number of drivers who fail to display dipped headlights in poor visibility. These lights should be displayed when driving conditions are poor, such as whilst driving in rain, snow, mist, fog and of course poor visibility due to darkness.

You do not have to travel far from home or work to see the number of drivers who just don’t get it. These drivers should remember that it is not only about using your lights to see, but about using your lights to be seen by all other road users, including and in particular pedestrians.

I am delighted that this year Halford stores in Inverness and Elgin will distribute our educational leaflets to local customers during September and October. Again a classic sign of the support local businesses have given to our team over the years.

The GP’s ‘Golden Hello’ incentive

The ‘Golden Hello’ incentive which has been touted by the Government as a good example of evidencing their efforts to address the GP shortage in rural areas has fallen far short as far as the North and Moray are concerned.

The scheme will offer the one off bursary of £20,000 to GP trainees committed to working in areas that in the past has proven difficult to recruit to.

This is obviously a step in the right direction, but I am extremely disappointed that so few of these posts have been allocated in the North.

The Government need to realise that areas that really need support and help in recruiting GPs are scattered mainly around the North of Scotland,Moray and our islands. With this example of how they propose tackling the GP shortage, they set up an initiative to try and address this issue, but they allocate no bursaries for any trainee GP to commit to a hard to fill role in any one of our remote areas or our islands.

All MPs and MSPs serving Moray as the whole or part of their constituency duties have been invited to write monthly updates on this site.  Only the Labour list MSP’s have consistently chosen to do so, although the invitation remains.