Hospital clarity needed
My email inbox continues to reflect ongoing concern in the Newton Stewart area about the Cottage Hospital in the town still being closed to in-patients.
I understand the challenges faced by NHS Dumfries and Galloway due to the unprecedented circumstances caused by the pandemic and factors such as maintaining staffing levels, maximising infection control and delivering care in the community.
But it is clear that the hospital's continued temporary status as an overflow stand-by facility for Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary -- should it reach capacity because of the health emergency -- has added to local worries that it will not revert back to being a community hospital.
Uncertainty about restructuring and the long-term future of community hospitals has been a recurring issue across the region for a number of years and that is certainly the case now at Newton Stewart.
The site has been used for other purposes such as vaccinations but I urge NHS Dumfries and Galloway to, at very least, clarify the situation and give a firm commitment to reintroduce community hospital in-patient services to the town as soon as the health emergency allows.
There is rarely a week goes by when the Free Press quite rightly reports details of adverse incidents or accidents on the A75 or A77.
As constituency MP I was delighted when the Union Connectivity Review recently highlighted as a priority the importance of the routes to the entire UK transport network.
I await with interest details of the UK Government investment proposals but it is clear the best way forward is a partnership with the Scottish Government, which, as SNP Ministers have repeatedly pointed out, has devolved responsibility for many areas of transport.
These roads are vitally important to south-west Scotland and, whilst not wishing to repeatedly focus on this issue, I would urge SNP Ministers to put the people of Dumfries and Galloway first and get round the table with the UK Government to help take improvements forward.
We should all be working towards the same goal.
Injections save lives
At time of writing, more than 70 per cent of the UK population have had two vaccinations against covid and in excess of 40 per cent have had their booster.
These figures are growing rapidly by the day and I'm delighted that in Scotland the number of UK services personnel helping with the vaccination campaign has increased to 221, with a further 114 driving ambulances and others supporting the NHS else where..
We are incredibly fortunate in the UK in having such committed, skilled and willing Armed Forces to support our magnificent NHS and wider care sector in such challenging times.
I was fortunate recently to have my booster inoculation and would like to thank the soldier involved who expertly and efficiently completed the task.
Meanwhile, I would again urge everyone to have their booster inoculation as soon as they can. They would not only be helping themselves and others but assisting our NHS during this difficult winter.
Jackie makes her mark
I wish to congratulate Mid Galloway and Wigtown West councillor Jackie McCamon on being nominated and then chosen as 'New Councillor of the Year' in national local government awards.
Jackie, a native of the area she represents, was elected with a large majority in a by-election, and has made a positive impression in local communities through her empathy and help for constituents, particularly with the many issues emerging during the pandemic.
The young mum, a member of the Conservative group, will no doubt be a role model for many candidates across the political spectrum as they prepare for the local government elections this May.
Extra Omicron crisis support
I warmly welcome the UK Government decision to double this winter's Covid pandemic crisis support funding for the SNP-Green Scottish Government taking the total to £440 million.
This extra package provides Ministers at Holyrood with the opportunity to provide urgent vital assistance to businesses north of the border which are being badly hit by the impact of the fast-spreading Omicron variant.
My constituency office team have received a number of enquiries from local business people seeking guidance on how to apply for support to help them through this difficult period.
As this is a devolved matter, the administration and targeting of this additional public funding will be a matter for the Scottish Government and I would urge Holyrood Ministers to act swiftly to ensure the funds reach struggling businesses as soon as possible.
It is important the First Minister and her colleagues do not revert to usual form by stoking up alleged differences with the rest of the UK and instead focus on getting the additional money to where it is most needed -- protecting vital public services and helping firms survive, preserving jobs for the future.
The quality and diversity of designs from primary schools across Dumfries and Galloway constituency in my recent Christmas card competition were excellent.
It is often said that it is the taking part, not the winning, in competitions that is most important and after seeing the hundreds of entries I tend to agree.
My thanks to the teaching staff and congratulations to all the pupils who entered, and, of course, our prize-winners, who this year came from primary schools at Drummore, Sheuchan, Dalbeattie, Castle Douglas and Minnifgaff.
Well done, everyone.