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FERGUS EWING: The people spoke and the politicians listened

By Fergus Ewing

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Ian Charles Hospital.
Ian Charles Hospital.

The cross-party non-partisan campaign to reverse the Scottish Government withdrawal of funding for the Grantown Health Centre has succeeded.

The promised work to refurbish the health centre was part of a wider plan agreed in 2015, to change health service provision in Badenoch and Strathspey.

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Cottage hospitals at Grantown and Kingussie were to be replaced by a community hospital at Aviemore. Provision at Grantown was to be improved, upgrading the existing building and ceasing use of the old Victorian building - the Ian Charles.

On March 7, at the Grant Arms Hotel about 300 local people turned up to hear the news of halting the scheme. This was greeted with universal shock and anger by the local residents, fearful that local provision, especially for senior citizens would be adversely impacted.

I undertook to the meeting that night to launch a campaign along with my colleagues Ed Mountain and Rhoda Grant MSPs and the GPs and staff at the centre. The difference between the Grantown project and all others which were halted is that it was nearly finished, with £2 million of work being completed out of a £2.4 million project.

The contractor Morrisons was raring to complete the job.

The campaign team met by conference call with Scottish Government health secretary Neil Gray on March 27, where we argued that the notional savings of around £400,000 to £500,000 would be exceeded by the additional costs that would result. NHS Highland were helpful in compiling the details of the case.

I am absolutely delighted that the cabinet secretary acted swiftly and decisively. He informed myself and my MSP colleagues late last week of the good news - that the money will now be found for this work to be finished.

Politics these days can be a scrappy and somewhat nasty business. It was a pleasure to work alongside my colleagues for a campaign which enjoyed total support of the people that voted us in. It does show that working together across party divides can bring results, and maybe there is a wee lesson for others to learn there!

However, the real result was achieved by the people themselves - who turned up at a meeting and who then wrote emails and letters to the Scottish Government. To his credit, Neil Gray did the right thing and did it quickly. The people spoke and the politicians listened. For that, I am truly grateful.

Controversial new law

The so-called “hate crime” law has been very controversial. All will agree that abusive hateful threats against people because of their disability or skin colour is totally unacceptable.

I would like to see the groups protected to include women too - so often on the receiving end of mindless nasty abuse. Why they were excluded is beyond me - but that can now be put right surely.

But the recording of non-crime hate incidents on personal records must be wrong. How can something be marked against you, without you even having the right to contest it to put your case and to challenge it?

As for the Hate Monster - he seems to have retreated from public gaze. Last Monday, it was announced that the good news is the Hate Monster is to be given refuge in the new proposed national park; but that the bad news is that he is soon likely to be eaten there by the reintroduced lynx or wolf!

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