Roads and healthcare campaign groups to work together on issues that 'affect everyone in Caithness'
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Two campaign groups are forming a united front to demand a fair deal for Caithness on roads and healthcare.
Caithness Roads Recovery and Caithness Health Action Team (CHAT) have vowed to work closely together to push for investment, arguing that health services and road infrastructure affect everyone in the county.
The two organisations say they each have a strong focus on safety and have built up "huge support".
CHAT was established in 2016 with the aim of protecting local hospitals and opposing the downgrading of maternity provision.
Helen Campbell and Iain Gregory founded Caithness Roads Recovery earlier this year in response to the deteriorating state of local road surfaces.
CHAT vice-chairman Ron Gunn said: "CHAT is delighted to announce that we will be working closely with Iain and Helen of Caithness Roads Recovery. Both organisations have huge support in Caithness and both campaigns are very much focused on safety.
"We continually highlight that the north suffers from lack of investment and centralisation of services. Health and the road infrastructure affect everyone in Caithness and farther afield.
"If we are to keep folk in the county, attract new businesses, stop the depopulation and encourage families to come to the area we need the best possible healthcare and roads.
"Although the numbers have reduced, there are still almost 6000 patients a year travelling to Raigmore – the majority by road – for treatment."
Caithness Roads Recovery said in a statement: "We have campaigned for many months concerning the urgent need for substantial investment in our Caithness roads to make them safe. During this time we have continued to highlight how this is affecting the health and wellbeing of many, many road users.
"Like CHAT, we are campaigning about the restoration of services that we once had, and which are now being eroded. We very much look forward to meeting with CHAT, and other local organisations, to discuss strategy and to achieve the very best for local people."
Councillor Matthew Reiss, who represents Thurso and Northwest Caithness on Highland Council, welcomed the move and said the two groups represent "democracy in action".
Councillor Reiss, a former area police commander for Caithness, Sutherland and East Ross, said: "CHAT and Caithness Roads Recovery are run by volunteers who put in long hours with their one aim being to improve the quality of life for the public.
"They are not paid and rely purely on public support. These two organisations, which I have supported, represent thousands of local people – and democracy in action.
"CHAT and Caithness Roads Recovery are speaking out as best they can to try and recover these basic services – I hope the Scottish Government will start listening."