Council Funding a Welcome Boost for Levenmouth Rail

The announcement from Fife Council that it will commit £5m to help maximise economic regeneration as part of the reopening of the Levenmouth rail link is welcome news. This funding will be matched by the Scottish Government to develop a Levenmouth Reconnected blueprint to boost social and economic growth in the area.

This approval of funding is an important step in progress to reopening the rail link. With a leadership group to be set up by the end of the year, I look forward to seeing the development of its strategy, involving consultation with local communities, businesses and groups.

I particularly welcome the continued involvement of the Levenmouth Rail link campaign group who have worked tirelessly to get the project to this stage.

Complaints increasing as ScotRail fails to deliver for Fife

I am calling on ScotRail to make improvements to Fife services ahead of the onset of winter, following recent increase in complaints and new figures showing poor performance in the region.

While the latest performance update from ScotRail showed across Scotland 89.1% trains met the rail industry standard public performance measure (PPM), figures provided by ScotRail on peak time services for the Fife circle show a number of services running well below that figure.

The 0736 service from Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh had only 58.6% passing PPM over the three months to end September 2019, while the 1742 service from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy saw just 22.1% passing PPM for the same period. This means just 19 of the 86 trains booked to run that service arrived at the final destination within five minutes of schedule, calling at all scheduled stops.

Across the 21 peak time services for which information was requested, only 5 services met the 89.1% PPM, with the remaining 16 services below this level.

The number of complaints I am receiving about ScotRail services in Fife is again on the rise. Delays, overcrowding and cancellations continue to occur all too often, negatively impacting Fife commuters, and the situation does not appear to be getting any better.

For far too long, Fife commuters have been subject to a sub-standard service and these figures are just further evidence of that. Late and cancelled trains mean people are left standing unsheltered on platforms waiting for trains that are often crowded and arriving late for work. With winter fast approaching, ScotRail needs to address these issues now and stop leaving Fife commuters

Challenge Poverty Week – Right to Food

This week is Challenge Poverty Week and Scottish Labour is continuing to work to address the drivers of poverty in our communities – calling for the scrapping of Universal Credit and the maximisation of benefits.

As part of Challenge Poverty Week I will be writing to organisations across Mid Scotland and Fife asking them to sign up to support the Right to Food as a core part of the forthcoming Good Food Nation Bill.

Food insecurity continues to be a critical issue and key to addressing inequality is ensuring everyone has the right to available, accessible and adequate food. This is why the Right to Food must be  enshrined in law.

This Bill offers an opportunity to address inequality and rising demand for food banks by making a commitment to ensure everyone in our country can access the food they need and reduce the reliance on emergency food aid.

25 Years of Fife Community Interpretation Services

This week I was delighted to attend celebrations in Kirkcaldy to mark 25 years of Fife Community Interpretation Services. It’s a fantastic organisation providing a vital service which supports equality and inclusivity in Fife.

Fife Community Interpretation Services has around 60 interpreters on its register and has helped people communicate with health and welfare services, around legal matters and when dealing with other local services. They also provide translation services for official documents, letters, reports and media.

For 25 years they have provided interpretation services across Fife in a large number of different languages and I extend my very best wishes for continued success in the future.

Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight

As part of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight it was a pleasure to visit Novelli’s ice cream parlour in Burntisland to celebrate their fantastic ice cream, which is made in the parlour, and recognise its contribution to the vibrancy of the local High Street.

Claire Baker MSP with Nova Gamble of Novelli's

It’s great to see an innovative business providing a quality Scottish product and I enjoyed hearing about how Novelli’s, as a fairly new business, has flourished as well as its future plans.

This year Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight (31 August to 15 September) is celebrating 10 years of showcasing our counbtry’s food and drink sector. It’s an opportunity to highlight the success of businesses like Novelli’s which invest in quality produce and their contribution to our economy and communities.

Art in Action in Strathkinness

This week I visited the 201 Telephone Box Gallery in Strathkinness as part of the nationwide Art in Action campaign led by Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN).

The Gallery is located in a disused telephone box which was adopted by Strathkinness Community Trust and converted into a contemporary art gallery in a project led by local artist and curator Lada Wilson.

The Art in Action campaign is promoting the valuable role visual art plays within communities across Scotland – and calling for stronger recognition of this value when it comes to decision-making.

The gallery provides a fantastic opportunity for the community to connect with visual art and has generated a lot of local discussion. I hope that through the Art in Action campaign, the role of art and artists in communities can be better understood so we can work to ensure better recognition of its value in decision-making at all levels.

The gallery itself demonstrates how the smallest of spaces can be used innovatively to explore ideas and bring visual arts into communities so it can be enjoyed and engaged with on people’s doorstep.

Welcome News on Levenmouth Rail Link

The decision to take forward the reopening of the Levenmouth rail link is very positive news. The reintroduction of a rail service will bring huge economic, educational, social and cultural opportunities to Levenmouth.

The announcement is testament to the determination and commitment of the Levenmouth Rail Campaign group. I have supported their campaign since I was elected in 2007 and am proud that Labour gave a commitment to reopening the line in our 2016 manifesto.

We recognised the strong case for the economic and social benefits it will bring to Levenmouth, and I am delighted that the Scottish Government is now convinced of the argument.

New Jobs at BiFab Methil Yard

The confirmation that DF Barnes is to reopen the BiFab yard at Methil, creating 40 new jobs, is welcome news and provides a much-needed boost for the local industry in the short-term. However, work must continue to secure the long-term future of BiFab and for its skilled and committed workforce.

The new jobs are being created in Fife as part of BiFab’s contract for pin piles for the Moray East Offshore Windfarm, and are expected to be in place by 4th August.

We await news on the awarding of contracts for EDF Renewables’ Neart Na Gaoithe wind farm and I continue to urge EDF to award work to the Fife yards.

Out of Hours Service Needs to Provide for All Fife Residents

Following the decision not to retain Out of Hours services in Glenrothes, I have called on NHS Fife to ensure all residents continue to be supported in accessing available services in the region. It is extremely disappointing that Glenrothes will not have an Out of Hours service within the town and I understand people’s anger at this decision. Assurances must be provided to Glenrothes residents on the provision of free taxis as soon as possible to ensure those without transport can access services elsewhere in Fife.

I do welcome the news that overnight services will be provided in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy, and that new arrangements will be in place in St Andrews. Fife residents have undergone months of uncertainty and it has taken far too long to reach this decision. The NHS board must act quickly to put the new arrangements in place and raise awareness of the changes. What we cannot see is any further delay or confusion.

At the core of these changes is a shortage of GPs and the knock-on effects are being felt across NHS services. Urgent action needs to be taken by the Scottish Government to increase GP numbers so services across Fife and Scotland can improve.

#LoveYourLungs Week

This week marks British Lung Foundation’s #LoveYourLungs Week, with the focus on encouraging people to take an online breath test as part of looking after their lung health.

While feeling short of breath from time to time is healthy and normal, sometimes it can be a sign of something more serious. Taking the online breath test can help you find out if you should get it checked out.

Visit breathtest.blf.org.uk to take the 5 minute test.