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EDWARD MOUNTAIN: Working together for Caithness can make a real difference

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Holyrood Notebook by Edward Mountain

Councillor Ron Gunn, a Liberal Democrat, has expertise on local health matters.
Councillor Ron Gunn, a Liberal Democrat, has expertise on local health matters.

I strongly believe that the challenges that the far north faces, whether its protecting local services or upgrading infrastructure, require politicians of all parties to work together.

Ensuring Highlanders can access health services such as mental health or maternity care locally are issues which are bigger than party politics.

Ever since my election in 2016 I have seen the progress that is made when parliamentarians stand together to support local campaigners, as we did in October 2017 when the Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT) organised protest marches to save our local hospitals.

That spirit of co-operation has continued in the years since. I know that my fellow Highlands and Islands MSPs and I are thankful for the ongoing engagement we have with CHAT and also Caithness Roads Recovery.

Indeed, over the last 12 months I have been working with Rhoda Grant MSP and Jamie Stone MP to press the Scottish Government into providing the support NHS Highland needs to create a mental health system that is more accessible for rural communities.

Cross-party efforts which prioritise local needs first can make a real difference. That’s the lesson that we can take away from the successful campaign to secure a Public Service Obligation for Wick John O’Groats Airport.

This crucial investment for Caithness only happened thanks to the collaboration between Highland Council, local councillors and the business community. Party differences were put aside to work for the local good.

I am therefore concerned by a recent turn of events which threaten to undermine local priorities with party politics.

I was disappointed to learn that Cllr Ron Gunn failed in his attempt to be elected to the board of NHS Highland, with the SNP councillors preferring their own candidate instead.

Ron has been a strong local voice for Caithness and his expertise on local health matters, along with his fellow CHAT colleagues, has been essential in protecting our local services from further centralisation.

It is my belief that he would have been the prime candidate for a role on the board of NHS Highland and his scrutiny of the health board’s decision making would have been invaluable.

Overall, I feel that an opportunity to set aside party politics and do what is best for our local communities has been missed.

I do hope this isn’t a sign of things to come. While the Highland Council is now in the hands of a new SNP-Independent coalition, I echo the sentiments of the Highland Conservative Group leaders, who are calling for cooperation between representatives on local issues.

Rest assured, I will continue to work with local campaigners and local councillors on a range of issues impacting communities in the far north.

I also look forward to embarking on my summer surgery tour in July and August.

My tour dates for visiting Caithness and Sutherland are currently being finalised and will be advertised soon in the local press, my website and social media channels.

I would also like to make it clear that you do not have to wait for me to come to you before seeking help. My office is open throughout the summer and is always ready to provide assistance by phone, email or letter.

MSP Edward Mountain.
MSP Edward Mountain.
  • Edward Mountain is a Highlands and Islands MSP for the Scottish Conservatives.

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