Concern as More than a Fifth of Patients Seeking Mental Health Treatment Not Being Seen Within Target Period

More than one fifth of patients within the NHS Highland area who require mental health treatment are not being seen within the SNP Government’s 18 week target, new figures have revealed.

The statistics, published this month by NHS Scotland’s ISD service, show that between June 2017 and June 2018, 20.3% of patients who have been referred for treatment are not being seen within the 18-week target period.

The information was raised in the Scottish Parliament by Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, who criticised the SNP Government over the “dire statistics”, and asked the Minister for Mental Health what could be done to improve waiting times in the Highlands and Islands.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“Access to quality mental health services is absolutely vital, and in many cases time is of the essence especially in remote and rural parts of Scotland.

The fact that more than a fifth of people who have been referred for mental health treatment in the NHS Highland area are not being seen within the target period is deeply worrying.

The SNP Government urgently needs to sort out this crisis in mental health support sooner rather than later”.

SNP Minister Fails to Provide Cost Update of Delayed CalMac Ferries

The Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands Paul Wheelhouse MSP failed to update Parliament on the likely additional costs that will result from the recent announcement that two new CalMac ferries will be delayed.

In a question to the Minister this morning, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron asked if there would be additional costs as a result of the delayed ferries currently under construction with Ferguson Marine, and if so, how much.

The Minister was unable to provide the figures, noting that he would contact Mr Cameron separately to provide him with an update.

The delay will see one vessel designated for the Brodick to Ardrossan route delayed until 2019, and another vessel designated for the Uig ‘triangle’ delayed until 2020.

Donald Cameron MSP has been contacted by a number of constituents who are worried that the delay will mean worsening capacity issues, and loss of income to rural island economies.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The Scottish Conservatives welcome the investment in new vessels, but the public has a right to know if taxpayers’ money will be required as a result of these lengthy delays, and if so, what those additional costs might be.

In his answer, the Minister was eager to grandstand about the fact the orders were made in the first place. But island communities do not want to hear boasts from the SNP Government. They want to know when these much needed ferries will be ready, and how much it will cost the public purse.”

Cameron Lodges Motion to Celebrate 10 Years of BBC ALBA

A motion celebrating the tenth anniversary of BBC ALBA has been lodged with Scottish Parliament officials by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

The motion notes the work of MG ALBA and the BBC, the principle partners of BBC ALBA and the fact that since its inception over £160m has been invested into producing Gaelic language content.

It also acknowledges the work the MG ALBA have done to work with other Gaelic organisations including Bòrd na Gàidhlig, to understand the changing trends in Gaelic culture and to implement these in its content, and also its investment in promoting Gaelic to younger audiences.

It is hoped that the motion will be debated in the Scottish Parliament as part of Members’ business if it attracts cross-party support.

The motion also recognises the recent partnership established by the UK’s four main Celtic broadcasters; S4C of Wales, Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund,TG4 of the Republic of Ireland and BBC ALBA.

The Celtic International Fund aims to “promote co-development and then co-production through Scottish Gaelic, Welsh and Irish, and to encourage a broader European and worldwide internationalisation of productions which are originally conceived in those Celtic languages.”

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The recent commitment by BBC ALBA and the other major Celtic broadcasters to invest more in original content is a perfect way to celebrate ten years of this fantastic public service broadcaster.

The fact that BBC ALBA accounts for around 50% of independently-produced hours for audiences in Scotland should be welcomed.

I am encouraged by the optimism shown by MG ALBA, and its continued investment in Gaelic media.

I would encourage all readers to get in touch with their local MSP, and ask them to sign my motion, so that we can properly recognise this landmark achievement.”

To view the motion and see who has signed it, click here

Comment: Response to News that the SNP Government will End Vital New Farmers Grant

Following an announcement from the SNP Government that they will end the New Entrant Capital Grant Scheme on the 31st August, Shadow Environment Secretary Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The Scottish Conservatives are bitterly disappointed to hear that the SNP Government is calling time on the New Entrants Capital Grant Scheme.

At this point in time, we need to do our utmost to encourage more young people into farming and to help the sector grow and prosper as we leave the European Union.

We agree with NFUS that New Entrant funding should be prioritised and it’s clear that the SNP must work to build on the work that the Scheme has already delivered.

The simple fact is that this cut in funding will be a huge blow to those currently planning a future in Scottish farming, and it is vital that the SNP Government commit to providing for the next generation of Scottish farmers and crofters instead of creating new barriers into agriculture.”

“Lets Not Loose Our Loos” Says Donald Cameron MSP in Opposition to Council Toilet Closure Threat

Proposals which could see the closure of up to 29 public toilets have been slammed as “short-sighted” by Highlands and Islands MSP, Donald Cameron.

The consultation, which is being held by Highland Council, is considering a “review of current provision, including some rationalisation of 29 existing facilities”, and also the possibility of introducing charges for the most used facilities.

The review is set to go on till the end of October, during which time the Council have stated that no toilets will close.

However, local community groups have been up in arms over the announcement, with one group “Highland Save Our Loos” attracting over 650 members on Facebook (at the time of writing) and launching a petition to prevent the closures.

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron announced his backing for the campaign, having heard from various constituents since his election about a lack of facilities in the region.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“I want to put my full support behind the campaign to save public toilets across the Highland region.

Not only are these facilities important for locals, but as one of Scotland’s major tourist hotspots, my biggest concern is that a lack of toilets will put people off re-visiting certain areas in the Highlands, which will have a real impact on the local economy.

It is completely short sighted for Highland Council to consider shelving more than a quarter of their public toilets and I will be writing to the council’s Chief Executive to make my views clear and to ensure that these important amenities are saved. Let’s not lose our loos.”

Cameron Slams SNP Scaremongering over Protected Status Products

Following claims by SNP MSP Alasdair Allan that Britain’s exit from the European Union will put the Protected Geographical Status of certain food and drink products at risk, Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said:

“This is scaremongering of the highest order from the SNP, and quite frankly Alasdair Allan should know better.

The UK Government has stated very clearly that when we leave the European Union, it will establish specific geographical indication (GI) schemes to protect products such as Stornoway Black Pudding, Scotch Lamb and Scotch Whisky to name but a few.

The fact of the matter is that the biggest threat to local businesses in the Western Isles and beyond, is losing access to the UK single market which the SNP want to put at risk by holding another unwanted second independence referendum.”

Credit to Annie Smith and the Stornoway Gazette who originally reported on the issue. 

Joint Call for More Government Action on Crumbling Island Roads

Two local politicians have come together to call for more action from the SNP Government over the problem of potholes and crumbling roads in local islands communities.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron and local Scottish Conservative Councillor Alastair Redman have issued the plea for additional funding following figures released under Freedom of Information by Argyll and Bute Council which show that a significant number of road faults have been raised with the council over several months.

Figures from May show that 106 road faults were raised from Islay, while figures for June show 101 road faults raised.

Argyll and Bute Council had announced an additional £15m worth of investment in roads in the most recent council budget.

However, local residents have raised concerns that this funding may not be enough to combat the growing problem on the islands road networks, which is largely caused in part by heavy haulage associated with the thriving whisky industry on Islay and Jura.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said: 

“These figures make it absolutely clear that councils are struggling to fix local roads, which is in large part due to successive budget cuts by the SNP Government.

I saw for myself the condition of the roads on Islay earlier in the year. It is simply unacceptable for them to remain in such a dire state.

That is why the Scottish Conservatives have called on the Government to create a £100m pothole action fund, to help local councils get on top of their roads.”

Local Councillor Alastair Redman said:

“Since my election last May, I have been calling for extra funding to resolve this scourge on the island communities that I represent.

Islay and Jura have a growing whisky industry which is welcome, but this is having a major impact on local roads, with little recognition from the SNP Government.

The SNP need to invest more in improving local roads, otherwise more faults will be raised and this will impact local road users and local businesses.

Worry as New Report Finds Western Isles Most at Risk of Depopulation in Scotland

A new report which shows that the Western Isles is the area most at risk of depopulation has been met with concern by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

The findings, which were published by the National Records of Scotland as part of their annual review of demographic trends, shows that the projected change in population between 2016 to 2026 in the Western Isles will fall by 4.8%.

Comparatively, other island authorities such as Shetland and Orkney are projected to see increases in population of 0.2% and 0.5% respectively. Nearby Highland Council will also see growth of 1.7%.

The report announced that as of June 2017, the total population of Scotland hit 5,424,800 – the largest ever seen, and it is expected to grow over the next ten years by 3.2%.

Donald Cameron MSP said:

“The news that the Western Isles is facing a depopulation crisis is not new, but what this report indicates is that little has been done to counteract that shift.

Many local residents will question why it is that other rural authorities like Shetland, Orkney and Highland are going to see modest increases in population and yet the Western Isles is set to take a massive hit.

I know that the Comhairle have done a lot in recent years to improve educational outcomes and to encourage more young people to stay on the island. Likewise the UK Government’s commitment to remote island wind will hopefully lead to economic regeneration too.

But ultimately, the SNP need to step up and encourage outside investment to the islands, otherwise this crisis could have serious economic and social implications for the islands.”

Concern as Early Cancer Detection Rates Fall in NHS Highland Area

New figures released today by NHS Scotland show that the number of early cancer detections in the NHS Highland area are falling.

The numbers, which were published by the NHS statistics service ISD Scotland, show that in 2015-16, the percentage of patients diagnosed at Stage 1 for breast, colorectal and lung cancers sat at 24.7%.

In 2016-17, the percentage fell to 24.3%, which represents 50 fewer diagnoses at Stage 1 compared to the previous year.

The figures also show a fall in the percentage of patients diagnosed at Stage 2, while the percentage diagnosed at the final Stage 4 of cancer rose from 24.7% to 25.3%.

In 2012, the SNP Government pledged to increase the proportion of people diagnosed with early stage cancer by 25 percent within three years – with specific focus on breast, colorectal and lung cancers.

But the nationwide figures released today shows that those with breast, colorectal or lung cancer, only 25.3 percent were diagnosed at the earliest stage, an increase of only 8.4 percent.

These figures are down from 9.1 percent last year, and well behind the promised 25 percent increase.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron said:

“These figures are deeply concerning, and are yet another example of the need for a new direction from the SNP Government in how they manage the Scottish NHS.

People across the Highlands will rightly be worried by this trend, particularly in light of the fact that the SNP Government are well behind on their target to increase the proportion of people diagnosed with early stage cancer by 25 percent within three years.

The new Health Secretary needs to make this a top priority”.

Donald Cameron Responds to Labour Attack on Sutherland Spaceport

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has defended the decision of the UK Government to pick Sutherland as the site for the proposed new vertical spaceport, following criticism from a senior Labour politician.

Commenting on the announcement, Chi Onwurah MP, who acts as Labour’s Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, stated in the House of Commons:

“The proposed Sutherland spaceport will be the northernmost operational spaceport in the world. As a Newcastle MP, I am all for going north. However, spaceports are overwhelmingly sited near the equator where the Earth’s rotational speed is highest, allowing rockets to harness an additional natural boost. Does funding take into account the potential extra costs associated and what factors were taken into consideration when choosing the location far from the equator, although close to Tory marginals?”

Responding, Donald Cameron MSP said:

“This is an utterly ignorant comment from a Labour politician.

The fact of the matter is that Sutherland was chosen as the vertical spaceport site because, as the UK Government rightly pointed out, Scotland is the best place in the UK to reach in-demand satellite orbits with vertically launched rockets.

The UK Government also announced an additional £2m towards horizontal launch sites, and there many parts of the UK in the running for this.

It’s abundantly clear however that this utterly bizarre statement highlights the reality that a left-wing Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn would deny Scotland vital investment.

Only the Scottish Conservatives are committed to long term investment in the Highlands”.

Credit to Calum Ross and the Press and Journal Highlands and Islands Edition who originally reported on the comments.