Cathy Jamieson's Holyrood Diary
High Hedges Update: Over the years I have received many complaints from constituents regarding the problems of high hedges which have become out of control and spoil neighbouring gardens.
As a result, I have been in regular contact with the appropriate Minister to press for action. He has now informed me that he has met with Scothedge – an organisation also pressing for a change in legislation, and has given Scothedge an assurance that he will launch a three-month public consultation exercise over the summer and analyse the results in the autumn to help inform a decision on the most appropriate course of action.
I will make sure that the details of how to take part in the consultation are made available on my website but if you would like to be added to my mailing list for this specific issue, please let me know.
Roads – the battle continues: It seems there isn't a day goes past just now without complaints about local roads.
Following the latest incidents on the A77, I have written once again to the Transport Minister and sent him copies of photographs kindly supplied to me by a constituent, who lives at Glenapp, to try and emphasise the very real problems.
I only hope that he will listen and order further improvements to be made quickly. Further complaints have been poring in about rural roads and I have been given petitions containing hundreds of signatures, from across Carrick.
Particular thanks should go to Mr Bennie, of Straiton, who has been tirelessly highlighting the issue, including going on BBC News!
NHS Ayrshire and Arran Alcohol Funding: I have welcomed the news that Scotland's Health Boards have received 36 million this year to tackle alcohol misuse – an increase in spending of 45 per cent – given the scale of alcohol-related problems.
Ayrshire and Arran's share is 2.9 million for 2009/10 and the cash will help identify and treat people suffering from alcohol problems.
It is estimated that alcohol-related problems cost Scotland around 2.25 billion, as well as blighting the lives of families and communities across the country.
I want to see this money used to identify those who need help and offer quick and effective interventions. Too often it takes too long to get people the help they need.
I am continuing to press the Scottish Government to do more to help children whose parents misuse alcohol.
Knife crime: A number of people have contacted me with concerns about knife crime.
When I was Justice Minister I changed the law to ensure that the maximum sentence for knife crime was doubled and supported the police in arranging knife amnesties. I also proposed legislation which would have ensured premises selling knives would require to be licensed.
Unfortunately the SNP Government has chosen not to follow through with the scheme. I am now supporting proposals to toughen the law further. Anyone who goes out carrying a knife or using it should expect a custodial sentence. There is no excuse for knife-carrying and it is not a defence to say: "I was only carrying it for my own protection."
Community policing: I am pleased to see that Strathclyde Police are publicising new community policing arrangements.
Each local area will have named community police officers and phone numbers will be available for the public to contact them directly.
Many constituents who get in touch with me about anti-social behaviour are worried about contacting the police, as they don't want any repercussions from the troublemakers.
However, I would urge residents affected to make a report, as the police will base their activity around the 'hot spot' areas and if no reports are made, action won't always be taken.
The new system should allow people to make contact with the Community Police in a way which does not publicly identify the person reporting – if you want to report an incident, but don't want the Community police to call at your home, make a phone call, give the details of the problem, and ask them to call you on the phone if necessary rather than visiting. I am also happy to pass on any information.
Town Centre Regeneration Fund Application: Before the current Scottish Budget was in a form that would gain consensus, I was amongst those arguing for money to be set aside for a town centre regeneration fund.
This was achieved in the negotiations over the budget and applications for the scheme are now open. In total, 60m has been set aside, but as there are 350 communities in total which are eligible to apply, it is unlikely that every area will get a share of the cash. In Carrick, Girvan, Maybole, Dailly, Crosshill, and Maidens meet the criteria for applications. I am urging South Ayrshire Council to ensure that they try to secure as much benefit as possible for our local communities.
Members Business Debate – Hearing Matters: I was pleased to secure debating time in Parliament to draw attention to the Royal National Institute for Deaf "Hearing Matters" campaign, which is pushing to make sure that hearing loss is identified and treated at the earliest opportunity, and for the introduction of hearing screening on the NHS for those aged 55 and over to be considered.
During the debate, I highlighted the numbers of people who suffer from hearing loss, and called for information on waiting times for audiology to be published.
I also highlighted the support being provided to the campaign by the Co-op Group, who have made RNID their Charity of the Year, and how to access an easy to use hearing test over the phone, by calling 0844 800 3838.
The automated test takes only a few minutes and you can call from your own phone. You will be given an immediate response as to whether your hearing is within normal limits or if you should seek further advice.
Local courts latest: Following the welcome victory in a vote at the Parliament's Justice Committee to block the Scottish Government's plans to close Girvan and Cumnock District Courts, and a defeat for the Scottish Government in a vote in the full Parliament for their plan to abandon the proposed Community Court in Glasgow, I expected the Justice Secretary to come back to Parliament and confirm that he would change his plans accordingly. I was angry and disappointed at the contents of his Parliamentary statement which focussed more on his proposal to scrap short prison sentences than on the issues Parliament had taken a stand on. I specifically asked him to give me an assurance that he would not go back on the decision regarding Girvan and Cumnock, but he refused to do so. This was very disappointing and I will continue to press to get this assurance.
Robert Burns Humanitarian Award: It is always humbling to hear about the work of individuals and organisations who dedicate their efforts to helping others.
This year's worthy winner of the Burns Humanitarian Award, Guy Willoughby of the Halo Trust, gave a very personal account of his work when he accepted the award at a ceremony in Ayr. During his account of why he had chosen to set up the organisation, which specialises in the removal of the hazardous debris of war, Guy explained that nearly 8,000 full-time mine clearers are working for the Trust in 9 countries, with on-going surveys into new regions. Twenty-one years after HALO, was founded, they have destroyed over a million landmines, as well as other ordnance, bullets and weapons. Guy was keen to point out that the work could not be done without the dedication of many aid workers, including a large number from Scotland, and he was keen that they received recognition. The work is managed from a small base in Dumfries, which seems a particularly fitting link for the Award in this Year of Homecoming.
Combat Stress – Hollybush Hous: I was disappointed that I wasn't able to attend the Combat Stress 90th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service which took place in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh last Thursday. Unfortunately the timing coincided with Question Time in Parliament, so I had to be in the Chamber. On my visits to Hollybush House I've seen first hand the valuable the service provided. People from across the UK, with a range of frontline armed forces experiences, come to Hollybush to get the help and support they need. Veterans stay for short periods of treatment and benefit from the chance to mix with others whose personal experiences are often very similar to their own. Hollybush House has recently upgraded its facilities to offer the best possible environment. Last year Combat Stress spent in the region of 8 million across the UK, of which 3.9 million was provided by the Veterans Agency (MoD). The rest was raised through charitable donations and grants. This year the operating costs are expected to reach 10 million – because of increased demand. It was good to see local Ayrshire motorcycle club, the Hillbillies, donating 750 to Hollybush, during their annual charity run this year.
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Weather for Girvan
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 9 mph
Wind direction: South east
Temperature: 8 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: North west