Holyrood Headlines, with Alex Salmond, MSP

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Local Activism Delivers Positive Result For Local Healthcare Provision

Last Monday’s Health Board decision to support the recommendation that Haddo Medical Group should continue to dispense from Pitmedden Practice was a great result for the local campaigners and this significant achievement will be welcomed by constituents across the area.

The decision marks the culmination of a great deal of work from local community activists in convincing the Health Board to reconsider their previous decision. NHS Grampian agreed to review the decision, following the meeting which I chaired on September 10th, and I made a detailed submission to the NHS Panel tasked with undertaking the review. North East Regional MSP, Mark McDonald, was the only other parliamentarian to make a submission to the Panel.

The Health Board’s resultant decision is in line with overwhelming community feeling on the matter, and clearly in the best interest of local health care provision. The Board has shown great flexibility in considering this matter again and this to be welcomed.

Retaining dispensing at Pitmedden provides the context for Tarves GP branch to reopen and I look forward to the restoration of this service in due course, in accordance with previous assurances given to the community by Haddo Medical Group.

Ewan Inspires Dad’s Archie Marathon Appeal

Last Monday I visited the communities of Pitmedden and Udny to see at first-hand some of the local projects that have benefitted from Udny Community Turbine funds. The turbine is a true success-story of a community-led energy scheme, with all surplus funds being ploughed back into community initiatives.

One such project is the Pitmedden Playgroup, which has received funding from the Turbine for play equipment, a new iPad and laptop.

During my visit I had the opportunity to meet Ewan Stewart, and his dad Ian. Ewan is three years old, and in May this year he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia – a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells.

I was delighted to hear that Ewan is responding well to treatment. He certainly seemed to be taking it very much in his stride during my visit–running around and playing with the rest of the toddlers of the Pitmedden Playgroup.

Though the last few months have, understandably, been particularly tough for the whole family, Ian explained that the staff of the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital have been superb, and the ARCHIE Foundation have really helped at this difficult time.

The ARCHIE Foundation does a tremendous amount of good work across the North of Scotland, making a significant and positive impact upon the lives of sick children and their families.

In recognition of this, Ian has committed to running the Edinburgh Marathon in May 2012, in support of the Archie Foundation, setting himself the fundraising target of £3,000.

Though Ian has barely run more than a bath in the past 13 years, he assured me that training is well underway, with Ewan as self-appointed Head Coach. I’ll be keeping a close eye on how he gets on, and wish him the very best with his fundraising efforts for this very good cause.

Police Numbers At Record High

The latest police officer quarterly strength statistics released last week reveal that Police numbers in Scotland have reached an all-time high.

The official figures show that there are now 17,454 Full Time Equivalent police officers in Scotland, compared to 16,234 when the SNP took office in 2007. This figure is higher than any previous recorded and every police area across Scotland has benefitted from additional police officers compared to May 2007. In Grampian, Police numbers have risen by over 130 since this date, representing an increase of 10%.

There has also been a substantial reduction in firearm-related offences throughout Scotland during the last year. In 2011/12 there were 514 offences involving a firearm, a 21% reduction on the previous year’s figure of 647 and the lowest level for 34 years. Further still, the recorded crime rate is at its lowest level for 37 years and down by 25% since 2006-07.

These statistics are no coincidence. The SNP Government has remained committed to maintaining the additional police officers that have been recruited since 2007, and this pledge has delivered results which will help people in Aberdeenshire East and across Scotland feel safer on their streets and in their local communities.