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RHODA GRANT: Concern over bird flu continues to be a challenge

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Holyrood Notebook by Rhoda Grant

Several dead gannets were found on Reiss beach recently. Picture: Alan Hendry
Several dead gannets were found on Reiss beach recently. Picture: Alan Hendry

Whilst parliament is in recess it gives me an opportunity to visit across the constituency and meet with locals the length and breadth of the Highlands and Islands.

I’ve met with some wonderful people who have spoken to me about a number of issues, from marine science, apprenticeships, higher and further education to health. I’ve also met with people who want to raise issues with me directly. August will continue to see a busy month full of constituency visits.

One issue that has been quite dominant, and I am monitoring further announcements from the Scottish Government, is avian flu. I am aware that many wild birds have been found dead up and down the region and in particular Caithness, along some of its shores. I have been in contact with Highland Council and with the Scottish Government on the issue.

The prevalence of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild birds is particularly worrying. There have been reports of dead seabirds particularly in the gannet and great skua populations. If you do come across a dead wild bird, or several dead wild birds in and around the same place, please report this to Defra’s helpline on 03459 335577. Do not touch the birds.

Once reported, the Animal and Plant Health Agency will arrange for a collection of some of the birds for testing – they may not collect all bird carcasses.

The advice from the Scottish Government is to leave any bird carcasses that have not been removed in situ. However, I have had reports of the number of carcasses being so great that members of the public are concerned. You can contact the council to raise this issue and they can arrange to remove and dispose of carcasses.

I mentioned in a previous column about the lack of dental surgeries available or able to take on new patients. This is a particularly acute issue throughout the Highlands and Islands, although it is being felt across Scotland.

The latest update received from NHS Highland outlined that there are just two dental practices in the region that are accepting new NHS patients, one in Highland and one in Argyll and Bute. This is an issue which pre-dates the Covid pandemic and one that needs to be addressed by our government urgently.

It is not acceptable to bury your head in the sand whilst folk, particularly children, continue to go without access to basic dental healthcare. The SNP promised to ensure that cost is not a barrier to accessing health care. Unfortunately, it’s not only cost that is a barrier but access. What is the Scottish Government doing to address this issue?

Well, according to the British Dental Association, despite calling for regular discussions with the Scottish Government, the SNP-Green coalition are cutting funding to dentistry, placing the sector in a precarious position.

If you find yourself with a dental emergency and unable to access a dentist, you should contact the NHS Highland Dental Helpline on 0800 141 2362.

Rhoda Grant at Wick.
Rhoda Grant at Wick.
  • Rhoda Grant is a Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands

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