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.

A Right to Pulmonary Rehabilitation

This week I got the chance to meet people living with chest conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) at the Scottish Parliament’s gym, where I got a “Pulmonary Rehab experience” with the help of Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.

Rehab is proven to keep people well and help them stay out of hospital, but thousands of people struggle to access rehab programmes or have long waits to get on one. Figures for Fife indicate that of the 4,837 people with COPD who would benefit from Pulmonary rehabilitation only 501 (11%) are being referred.

Claire with Morag Allison, Hazel Crombie, Mostyn Tuckwell and Linda Gray in the Scottish Parliament gym

Pulmonary rehabilitation is life-changing for people with lung conditions like COPD.  Everyone who needs it deserves access to this.Pulmonary rehabilitation prolongs lives and saves the NHS money by reducing hospital admissions – it is precisely the kind of service we should be offering more of.

I am fully behind Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland’s campaign to make pulmonary rehab available to all who need it.  There should be a universal and equal right to pulmonary rehab across the country. 

Carers Week 2019

I was delighted to receive my accreditation as a Carer Positive employer ahead of Carers Week (10-16 June), the annual awareness campaign to support Scotland’s 759,000 carers and 29,000 young carers.

The Carer Positive scheme recognises employers who offer support and flexibility to carers.

Claire receiving her Carer Positive accreditation from Sue McLintock of Carer Positive

The vital work of unpaid carers must be recognised and supported and employers have a responsibility to develop workplace policies and working practices which do this. I’m encouraging all employers to engage with Carer Positive on steps they can take to provide a supportive workplace for carers.

I also visited a Young Carers Group afternoon tea event in Lochgelly, just one of the hundreds of events taking place across Scotland as part of Carers Week. A parliamentary reception will celebrate 25 years of Carers Week and five years of the Carer Positive Award.

Most of us will care for someone, or be cared for, at some stage in our lives so it’s important for everyone to speak more openly about caring and for all of us to help support our carers practically and emotionally.

Claire with Kirstie Howell and Charlie Bowie from the Young Carers Focus Group in Lochgelly

 

Fife – Ready for Renewal

This week Scottish Labour led a debate in Parliament on the BiFab construction yards. Ahead of the debate I met with representatives of Fife – Ready for Renewal and gave my support to their campaign, which calls for work to be delivered to the yards in Methil and Burntisland.

 

The debate highlighted the location of EDF’s planned Neart Na Gaoithe (NnG) Offshore Wind Farm off the Fife coast, calling for related contracts for turbine jackets to be awarded to BiFab rather than to overseas firms.  

The idea that EDF will award the contracts for wind-turbine jackets for the NnG Offshore Wind Farm, sitting off the coast of Fife, to Indonesia to then be shipped over seven thousand miles to Scotland is just not acceptable.

I am urging EDF to do the right thing, to honour commitments they have given to local investment, to support the Scottish industry. In return they will receive a highly skilled, committed workforce.

 

Christian Aid Week event in Parliament

I recently sponsored a Christian Aid event in the Scottish Parliament in advance of Christian Aid Week, which ran from the 12th to the 18th May 2019.

The event highlighted Christian Aid’s work on tackling extreme poverty, climate change, maternal health, and tax justice.  The week brings together partners and supporters to raise funds to support its global effort to fight poverty and find practical ways to highlight issues around it.

This year the annual fundraising effort was very successful, raising over £8 million.  Next year, there will be an opportunity for everyone in the Mid Scotland and Fife Region to get involved, attend organised events or make a financial contribution and I would encourage anyone who is interested to go to the website at www.christianaid.org.uk where you can find a wealth of information and resources.

 

Fife Passengers Still Waiting for Rail Improvements

Ahead of the introduction of new timetables in parts of the rail network, including on the Fife-Edinburgh line, ScotRail is promoting upcoming increases in available seats for passengers through its introduction of more high-speed trains and class 385 electric trains.

However there are no planned improvements for passengers travelling on the Fife circle, where commuters continue to experience delays, overcrowding and cancellations. ScotRail is failing to address the frustrations of Fife passengers and continues to deliver a sub-standard service. 

While increases in available seats might be good news for other passengers, I am really disappointed that there is no good news for Fife commuters. Fife is again forgotten about while passengers continue to travel on overcrowded trains and have to put up with cancellations.  Fifers spend a significant portion of their income on rail transport and this service continues to be not good enough.

We need to see improvement on the Fife circle sooner rather than later and I will continue to push for the Fife service to either be brought up to standard or for travellers to have a fare cut in compensation for the ongoing poor service.

Fife Gingerbread Funding Crisis

Recently in Parliament, I raised the impending funding crisis currently facing Fife Gingerbread, an award winning family support service, with the First Minister.

Fife Gingerbread are describing the funding crisis as a ‘perfect storm’.  Unless they are able to secure additional funding, they will have to stop supporting two thirds of the families currently receiving support and also possibly lose over half of their workforce.

I have therefore urged the First Minister and the Scottish Government to provide any support that they can to the organisation and the families that they work with, and encouraged them to work with Fife Council and relevant partners to try to quickly find a solution to the crisis facing the organisation.   

The funding crisis is due to a number of factors, including the end of project funding, and if we are to find a solution, all supporters need to work together.

I recognise that Fife Gingerbread are not the only local charity facing significant funding problems as we face the consequences of budget cuts but they are on the brink of a contraction that will impact significantly on vulnerable families.

I am pleased that in response to my parliamentary question, the Communities Secretary has agreed to engage with all involved and I remain in contact with Fife Gingerbread to help in any way that I can.  

I hope that a resolution is found quickly to enable their good work to continue.