Letters, May 21 2021


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Transport Scotland needs to just get on with it

I have been reading a lot of reports and letters in national and local newspapers about the problems experienced at the Rest and Be Thankful.

I have no doubt that those charged with keeping the trunk road operational and safe for drivers are doing their best in the circumstances.

However, there now seems to be an acceptance in Transport Scotland that a new solution has to be found.

In a letter to the press, George Allan points out that the 20-mile route from Strathlachlan to Colintraive and the eight miles between Ormidale and Tighnabruaich were designed and constructed in 12 or 13 years.

I was a member of the survey and design team on these routes. I was also involved in the construction of 100 miles of the A9 between Perth and Inverness in 10 years. These civil engineering schemes demonstrate what can be achieved when there is real political will and commitment to prioritise projects.

I realise Transport Scotland has its own procedures for appointing consultants for the design processes and there are detailed environmental impact assessments to be done. It does, however, seem to me that its programming of the Rest and Be Thankful improvement is completely lacking in ambition.

As a former director of roads and transport in Highland, perhaps I may be permitted to comment on the long-term solution.

I would say if there are no geological features found on the other side of the glen which will cause a repeat of current problems, then the construction of a new road in diversion would cause less disruption to traffic than trying to form landslip shelters or tunnels adjacent to the existing carriageway.

The main thing though is for Transport Scotland and their political masters to just get on with it.

Philip Shimmin, Inverness.

Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance celebrates 8th birthday

This week, Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance (SCAA) marks its eighth anniversary – after a year like no other.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, our Helimed crews have never missed a beat; maintaining our emergency helicopter air ambulance service across Scotland’s mainland and island communities. In fact we’ve enhanced our service with the launch of a new aircraft – Helimed 79 in Aberdeen last year – which has already had a huge impact on pre-hospital care in the Grampian, Highland and island regions.

In our busiest year ever, our aircrew have endured challenging working conditions, with additional procedures and cumbersome protective and safety equipment as they go about an already difficult and stressful job.

But they’re not complaining – this is what the Scottish public ask of them, to save and improve lives, wherever the need arises, and they fulfil their role with courage and pride.

Our exemplary performance during this national crisis has been a tribute to how far SCAA has come in just eight years and I, for one, am immensely proud of what the SCAA team has achieved.

But our operational teams are acutely aware that we are only able to provide this critical service, thanks to the continued public donations which you have maintained throughout these difficult times. So you are the real heroes in our charity.

SCAA is the people’s helicopter – funded by the people of Scotland, for the people of Scotland – and our two frontline aircraft are stood by ready to help you, your family, your friends, colleagues, neighbours or anyone in your community when you most need us.

As we mark our eighth birthday on May 22, we are asking the people of Scotland, if they can, to support us into the future. Any donation, however small, to celebrate our anniversary will help to save a life – just like the numerous lives we have already saved over almost 3,000 missions.

SCAA vows to continue to transform emergency care in Scotland, particularly to our rural and island communities, with your support. Thank you.

John Bullough, chairman, Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance.

Young people’s mental health must be a priority for MSPs

As a coalition of leading providers of care and support to vulnerable children and young people, we congratulate all MSPs on their election and welcome the consensus there is between the major political parties to tackle the growing mental health crisis in our young people.

We have for some time raised concerns over a potential lost generation of vulnerable children and young people, whose mental health is being impacted even further by the Covid-19 pandemic.

There have been dramatically increased waiting times for mental health treatment during lockdown.

In December 2020, for example, 14 per cent of children and young people had been waiting more than a year for specialist treatment, compared with 5.4 per cent in 2019, a truly frightening statistic.

A commitment by MSPs to focus on mental health, increasing investment in support services and intervention strategies, must be a priority for this parliament, giving our young people the care and support they need, when they need it.

The frightening statistics on the deteriorating mental health of many young people presents a compelling case for a radical new plan for our struggling mental health services and for a national crusade to address what is a mental health pandemic, underpinned by considerably greater resourcing.

This is a crisis we can overcome, but it will require a similar energy and commitment to that demonstrated for Covid-19 if we are to achieve this and prevent many young people giving up on their futures.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition: Kenny Graham, Falkland House School; Lynn Bell, LOVE Learning; Stephen McGhee, Spark of Genius; Niall Kelly, Young Foundations.

Sight loss charity support on offer throughout pandemic

At sight loss charity RNIB Scotland, we are concerned the Covid-19 crisis might have impacted on people who are blind and partially sighted, many of whom are older.

We would like to highlight the emotional reassurance and practical help we offer during the coronavirus lockdown and its aftermath.

Covid has eclipsed all other health news in the past year but 10 people still start to lose their sight in Scotland every week. Add to that stress over Covid and the lockdowns and there could be more people needing support and reassurance.

Our Need to Talk telephone counselling service remains available in Argyll and Bute and the Western Highlands for anyone diagnosed with sight loss, as well as families, friends and carers.

Losing your sight can be devastating news to take in. But our trained helpers can support you in coming to terms with your condition and finding the way forward.

The uncertainty during the Covid lockdown over access to basic shopping and medication, a lack of information in accessible formats, the social isolation, the barriers to being guided because of social distancing – these have all added to and compounded the mental and emotional stress people are experiencing.

But we want people with sight loss to know they are not alone and that help is available.

To contact the Need to Talk service, phone the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or email needtotalk@rnib.org.uk

James Adams, director, RNIB Scotland.