Inside Holyrood: 'SNP must not fail Highlands again'
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Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Edward Mountain on health challenges and digital connectivity.
I hope all readers have had an enjoyable Christmas and are now looking forward to the New Year.
It is likely that 2022, much like last year, will again bring with it all sorts of challenges. The pandemic is not going away, however, the rollout of booster vaccines is providing the United Kingdom with more and more protection.
As we continue to recover from the pandemic into next year, our top priority must be to ensure those patients who have waited in agony for operations finally receive their treatment.
Many orthopaedic patients in the Highlands will have been frustrated by the news that their elective operations have been cancelled this month and into January too. It is vital their treatments are rescheduled as soon as possible.
With so many patients facing delays it is now essential that the National Treatment Centre, based in Inverness, is delivered and is fully operational from Autumn 2022. Rest assured, I will be pressing both the Scottish Government and NHS Highland to ensure that all healthcare professionals required for this new facility are recruited in time for its opening.
Next year I will also be keeping a close eye on the NHS Highland’s improvement works to the Raigmore Hospital Car Park. Patients, staff and visitors have all faced the struggles of securing a parking space in recent years, so additional parking will make a big difference.
The health board must also make sure that the barrier entry system to the Raigmore car park is also fully implemented this time. These extra controls should free up more spaces too.
Improved infrastructure is not only required for our health service, but also to improve connectivity right across the Highlands whether that’s roads, public transport or active travel.
Better digital connectivity must also be a top priority in 2022. Our region needed superfast broadband last year but the Scottish Government failed to deliver that as promised and have now admitted that some will have to wait until 2027. I will therefore be pressing the SNP to identify where they can extend and accelerate the rollout of superfast broadband to our remote rural communities.
Superfast broadband is not the only delayed project in the Highlands though. In 2011 we were promised a new prison in Inverness and ten years on the SNP Government have only just started the groundworks for the project. It is clear that the SNP must fast-track the delivery of the new prison if it is to be open by 2024.
Next year Highlanders must see real progress when it comes to the key infrastructure projects in our region. We cannot afford for the SNP to fail to deliver yet again.