March 2019

Apprenticeships valuable route to future success

There was a time when apprentices were part of many workforces, large and small, across Wigtownshire and beyond.

It was an effective way of passing on knowledge and skills down the generations and maintaining continuity in a range of businesses, trades and crafts.

They also provided young people with a great starting point in careers, instilling a good work ethic, which for some led them to progress up to senior positions in their organisations.

That combination of on-the-job training, often backed up by college work and formal qualifications, became less popular for a period as more school leavers opted for full-time university education.

Whilst apprenticeships declined as the economy changed, the concept I'm pleased to say never fully disappeared and is now making a welcome resurgence.

That's why I fully support Scottish Apprenticeship Week, promoted by Skills Development Scotland, and a similar initiative this week south of the border.

There is general agreement that the university route is not right for everyone and that work-based training while earning has many advantages -- not only for the individual but for the country -- by helping remedy some of the skills shortages of recent years.

I believe apprenticeships are as important today in our fast-changing world as they were in my younger days and should be encouraged.


Time to look again at case for rail return

As I mentioned recently in the Free Press I fondly remember travelling as a young child with my parents on the last passenger train on the original Stranraer to Dumfries railway when it closed in June, 1965.

However, my interest in a fresh look being taken on the feasibility of the once well-used transport artery, which might potentially again traverse the region, is not based on nostalgia but on the strong environmental, economic and tourism potential of such a project.

There is no doubt bringing back the railway would be costly but the long-term benefits of the infrastructure could be to create a vital strategic route for the UK and Irish Republic.

The rail link should not be at the cost of future A75 investment but a complementary strand to the regeneration of the Dumfries and Galloway economy, particularly in the west.  

I wish the growing band of campaigners well in their efforts to put the railway back on the national agenda.


Job well done

I was pleased to see a largely positive report for the Galloway Community Hospital at Stranraer from Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HEI) following an unannounced inspection late last year.

The team examined various areas including wards and threatres and also sought the views of patients along the way.

Amongst aspects praised were the good standard of environmental cleaning and staff compliance with mandatory infection prevention and control training.

The NHS is greatly valued across my constituency and, whilst it is important to highlight problems when they occur, I believe it is equally vital to emphasise the excellent contribution of the hard-working medical and support staff.