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Politics Matters: Let’s hope election leads to better news for health workers but I wish all the new MSPs well but my main advice would be to specialise in any committee relevant to the Highlands and Islands

By Andrew Dixon

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David Stewart columnist...Picture: Gary Anthony..
David Stewart columnist...Picture: Gary Anthony..

In his new column, former Labour MSP David Stewart hopes that health workers will get a better deal

I’ve had my share of election victories and defeats. No prizes for guessing which I prefer – victory is like winning the lottery, celebrating your 21st birthday again and holding on to the Scottish Cup, all on the same day!

Election defeat is a cruel and unusual punishment – and a public humiliation more at home in Game of Thrones.

So, congratulations to the local victors in the Scottish Parliament elections last week – to Fergus Ewing, my old sparring partner in a host of previous contests; Kate Forbes, with her impressive majority; my friend Rhoda Grant, who I am delighted was returned on the regional list, along with Edward Mountain, who fought a strong local campaign, and of course Douglas Ross.

A pat on the back for the newbies Emma Roddick and Ariane Burgess. I wish them well adjusting to their parliamentary life. My main advice would be to specialise in any committee relevant to the Highlands and Islands.

Condolences to Andy Wightman, who missed out. Andy and I were on the same committee for many years, the Corporate Body, which manages the parliament and its services. He has a track record as a land campaigner and I still have his book The Poor Had No Lawyers, which he kindly signed.

However, the most disappointing part of the election for me was that John Erskine was pipped at the post and failed to get a seat on the regional list. John is a very talented young man who still has a bright future in politics.

Best wishes go to fellow retiree John Finnie, a strong campaigner for the region and a big loss to the parliament.

So, we have the campaigners, what about the new government? What will it mean for the Highlands and Islands?

Hopefully it means better news for our hard-working front-line health staff and care workers and I’d love to see one of my former campaigns, the establishment of a PET scanner in the north, come to fruition.

The scanner is crucial in cancer care and an estimated 400 patients a year leave our area to travel to the central belt to have one of these scans.

I will be breathing down the necks of my former MSP colleagues to see some action on establishing this scanner here.

Lastly, don’t let anyone tell you election campaigns are boring. Picture the scene – the 1992 General Election count for the then Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber constituency. The incumbent was the well-respected veteran MP Sir Russell Johnston.

I was fresh-faced, bearded and full of enthusiasm as a young candidate. Then disaster, a helicopter carrying ballot boxes crashed in Lochaber.

Thankfully no-one was hurt, and the coastguard had to be re-routed to pick up the ‘lost’ votes.

We eventually got the first result at 5.30am, but I had the brass neck to ask for a recount!

At 7am we had the final result and I lost by 400 votes, which just left time for a bacon roll and home to bed.

Veering away from my love of politics, I must say congratulations to Caley Thistle star Danny Mackay on his transfer to Hibs.

It is always encouraging to see local talent doing well and following in the footsteps of Scottish internationalist Ryan Christie.

As an ICT die-hard, I would like to give a huge thank you to Neil McCann and Billy Dodds, who did a first-class job in their time at the club. And now where are next season’s fixtures?

David Stewart is a former Labour politician who has served as a councillor, MP and MSP. His new column will appear fortnightly.

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