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  Elections May 2003
Jamie Stone - Lib Dem - Archive


23 March 03
Further to the announcement earlier today that the SNH is to relocate to Inverness, Far North MSP Jamie Stone has called for the further decentralisation of those civil service posts to Caithness and Easter Ross.   Mr Stone is urging the Scottish Executive to ensure other areas of the Highlands benefit from the major transfer of the SNH posts.
Speaking from the Scottish Parliament, he said:
"This is a major victory for the Highlands.  Until now, our area had been overlooked when decisions of this kind were made.  Now, for the first time, we have a major organisation and hundreds of public sector jobs being transferred to the north.
"Although Inverness is clearly the main winner here, I think there is a very strong case for the further dispersal of these jobs to other parts of the Highlands.  The Far North desperately needs high quality jobs and the transfer of some of these civil service posts would provide a much-needed boost for the local economy.
"Given that Scottish Natural Heritage has such strong links and
responsibilities in the areas of East Sutherland and Caithness, I would like to see some of the posts based in these areas.  I will be raising the issue with Finance Minister Andy Kerr to find out what can be done.  It's important to make sure that all parts of the Highlands benefit from announcements of this significance."

18 March 03
Far North MSP Jamie Stone has welcomed the news that part of the former Grampian Records factory in Wick has been taken over by a new company.  The new firm - Gloucester based James Yorke Ltd - moved into the premises on Monday and has taken over the CD production line.  Currently, seven people are employed in Wick, with this figure expected to rise to ten in  the coming weeks.
Commenting on the news, Mr Stone said: "This is excellent news and obviously a huge boost for Wick.  It's a real breakthrough for everyone who has been working hard to develop a new future for the factory and for the former employees of Grampian Records.
"Although still in the early stages, the new operators are very upbeat about the future prospects.  It's an important signal that the new management have indicated a long-term vision for the business.   With part of the factory up and running again, and some of the former staff being taken on, there is now a solid base on which to build.  "I hope to set up a meeting with the new management to find out more about their plans for the Wick factory."

18 March 03
The Scottish Executive has announced it is to double the remote area allowance for NHS dentists in rural areas from £1500 to £3000.    Far North MSP Jamie Stone has welcomed the news as a sign that the Executive is recognising the serious problems with NHS dental services in rural areas, but says for the Far North and the Highlands, it's simply not enough.  Mr Stone has been campaigning for more money and action to tackle the problems with dental care in Caithness and Sutherland.
Responding to the news, Mr Stone said: "This news is a small step forward but quite simply nowhere near the solution needed to tackle the very serious shortage of NHS dentists that we have in the Far North.  Thousands of my constituents currently have no access to an NHS dentist.
"The remote area allowance is a welcome initiative but, on its own, not enough to overcome the well known recruitment and retention problems we face in the Highlands and Islands.  The Executive needs to investigate new ideas to help improve the situation.  "I do however, think this announcement is an indication that ministers recognise there are particular problems in attracting more NHS dentists to rural areas.  That in itself is a significant step.  It's important to keep up the pressure for more investment and action for dentistry in remote areas."

17 March 03
Jamie Stone MSP is leading the campaign for broadband technology to be rolled out in the Far North.

Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, spoke about the Executive's plans to increase access to broadband across the country during First Minister's Questions this week.  This follows his announcement at the Highlands and Islands convention on Monday that six telephone exchanges in the Highlands - Forres, Nairn, Dingwall, Buckie, Oban and Fort William - will be upgraded for broadband.

Speaking after First Minister's Questions, Mr Stone said:
"I welcome the news that other areas in the Highlands will soon benefit from high speed internet links but I want to know what is being done to extend this technology north of Dingwall.  "Broadband exchanges for Golspie, Wick and Thurso would bring a massive boost to the Far North economy.  The availability of high-speed internet connection would not only reduce costs for existing firms, but also be a major asset in attracting new business to the area.

"It cannot be left to the market to dictate where broadband access is available. It is too important for people of Caithness and Sutherland for that to happen. There is a very real danger that Far North businesses will be forced to relocate elsewhere if broadband is not accessible in the near future.

"I know there is strong desire in the community for broadband and both John Thurso and I have been encouraging local residents to register their interest with BT.  "I believe it is the job of government to level the playing field for rural business.  It's important to now step up the pressure to ensure that Far North communities get their fair share of funding for this new technology."

6 March 03

Far North MSP Jamie Stone has pressed the Scottish Executive to devolve more civil service jobs north of Inverness.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament during the weekly question time session, Mr Stone urged Finance Minister Andy Kerr to give greater consideration to the Far North when decisions are being taken over the dispersal of public service bodies.  He highlighted Wick and Thurso as good locations for pensions and IT based jobs.
Speaking after, Mr Stone said: "I'm strongly support the Executive's policy of dispersing more public service jobs around Scotland.  Progress is definitely being made.  For example, we've seen the Food Standards Agency based in Aberdeen and the Scottish Public Pensions Agency relocated to Galashiels.   Let there be no doubt - under the old Westminster system, these jobs would almost certainly have gone to Edinburgh.

"However, there is undoubtedly scope for better results, particularly for the Far North.  Even a small number of jobs can make a huge difference in a rural community.  Towns such as Wick and Thurso would benefit from new jobs delivered through the relocation and dispersal of government agencies and civil service posts.   "The Finance Minister gave a positive response to my questioning.  I certainly welcome the commitment to decentralise civil service posts.  The key test will be whether we see new jobs and government agencies in the Far North."

4 March 03
A powerful case for upgrading the Wick ambulance service from on-call to full-time has been presented in the Scottish Parliament by Far North MSP Jamie Stone.


Mr Stone secured a private members debate on the issue in a bid to move the campaign to change the current working practices forward.  Addressing MSPs in the chamber he made the point that the Scottish Ambulance Service was given £22million by the Scottish Executive yet none of that funding has been used to upgrade Wick to a 24-hour service. Mr Stone said he wanted to probe the Deputy Health Minister on that issue and to find out whether the Executive can put pressure on the Scottish Ambulance Service to consider upgrading the Caithness depot.

Speaking after the debate, Mr Stone said: "It's vital that this debate marks the start of more constructive progress for change to Wick ambulance service. I was shocked to learn the campaign to reduce the hours ambulance crews work has been underway for 25 years.  Review of the existing regime is both long overdue and badly needed.

"I discussed the situation with an ambulance driver this week. He revealed that he recently worked a typical 8am to 8pm shift. He was then called out at 10.15pm to take a patient to Raigmore hospital in Inverness. After a 200 mile round trip, he eventually got home to bed at 5am the next morning and was exhausted.  "The Wick ambulancemen are suffering from sleep deprivation. They are endangering their lives and those of patients, and the 87 pence per hour rate for out-of-hours cover beyond their shifts seems to me to be derisory.

"I recognise that a move from the current on-call system to full-time will require more staff and therefore more money, but I believe that the health and safety considerations, for both patients and ambulance staff, more than offset the cost implications.  "Health care is for all, regardless of where people in Scotland live. It seems to me that one of the most powerful arguments for change is the massive distances involved in travelling between Caithness and Raigmore Hospital. The station at Dingwall operates on a full time basis so I find it hard to accept why Wick remains on the part-time on-call system. For a
community to be disadvantaged simply because it is far from Inverness is fundamentally unjust.

"The Deputy Health Minister, Mary Mulligan's response was not as helpful as I had hoped. I am contacting her to present the case for upgrading Wick ambulance service again. However, this debate was a significant step forward and has certainly pushed the issue some way up the political agenda."
Read The Debate At Scottish Parliament Web site

25 February 03
The campaign to change the current on-call working arrangements at Wick ambulance station has taken a significant step forward following an intervention by MSP Jamie Stone.

Through lobbying, Mr Stone has secured a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the issue. MSPs will discuss the problems with the present regime for ambulance staff at Wick next Thursday.

Mr Stone is pressing for a review of the on-call system, with a view to upgrading it to full-time.

Speaking today, Mr Stone said:
“I was absolutely determined to secure time in the parliament to discuss this serious and important issue. I have already asked several questions about the service and submitted a motion. Months of lobbying for a Private Members’ Debate have brought this positive result. I am delighted to now have the chance to make the case for badly needed changes to the Wick ambulance service.

“The current on-call working regime for ambulance crews in Caithness must be reviewed. Crews are on duty for as long as 20 hours at a time. They are frequently required to make journeys of more than 200 miles. Staff are paid less than 90pence per hour for being on-call. These facts speak volumes – review is clearly needed, and it is needed urgently.

“Aside from the crucially important health and safety responsibilities, not just in terms of patients but the staff themselves, there is a need to put in place the best possible ambulance service for people in the area. For the Far North this means an upgrade from part-time on-call to full-time.

“Many other rural ambulance stations, from Dunoon and Annan in the Borders to Peterhead and Fraserburgh in the North East, have won the battle to be upgraded. There is a very strong case for upgrading services at Wick. I will be presenting this in the Scottish Parliament during the debate.

“I hope the Executive will recognise the need for appropriate ambulance services in the Far North.”