Difficult times for NHS nationally and locally
Recent news coverage in the Free Press has underlined the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on other more mainstream medical conditions.
The unprecedented demands placed on the NHS services in all four UK nations has put huge demands on medical staff and resources throughout the health emergency.
As a consequence long waiting lists have built up for diagnosis and treatments for a range of conditions, which can be extremely stressful for the individuals involved.
Significant extra funding has been made available to the Scottish Government to help deal with Covid and the lengthy waiting lists that have understandably expanded over the last year.
Around £17 billion is expected to be spent on health services in Scotland this financial year -- a record amount -- and careful stewardship of these funds and wise decision-making will be needed in order to meet the many ongoing challenges.
Key to success will, of course, be the NHS workforce, at every level, who have gone above and beyond throughout these difficult times.
It remains important, as the NHS evolves, that investment at community level, benefiting patients in remoter areas like Wigtownshire, is a priority to ensure they are not disadvantaged through geography.
Investing for a greener climate friendly future
I'm pleased to see that the UK Government's Green Recovery Scheme could result in substantial infrastructure investment on the ground within Dumfries and Galloway constituency.
The projects largely focus on the electricity distribution network and accelerating shovel-ready schemes to stimulate economic recovery and support faster delivery of decarbonisation to combat climate change.
On a lengthy official list of proposed local projects is £1.29 million for electrical infrastructure which would facilitate fitting heat pumps, solar PV, batteries and electric vehicle charging points at hundreds of existing and new homes.
Upgrading 16 secondary sub-station transformers would make it possible to increase the number of electric-powered vehicles used by Police Scotland.
Another example of the planned projects is the installation of advanced monitoring equipment, communication infrastructure and improved control technology to the electricity network at Glenluce which would cost an estimated £2.2 million.
In all 12 proposals by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) have been assessed by industry watchdog Ofgem and are worth £40.92 million in total investment funding.
Cottage bank museum an asset worth saving
One of many accomplished Galloway figures was the Rev. Henry Duncan, who was a son of the manse born and brought up at Lochrutton in Kirkcudbrightshire.
Amongst many achievements in his lifetime, the social reformer restored the famous Ruthwell Cross, founded two of the region's local newspapers, developed schemes to help the poor and perhaps, most notable, founded the world's first savings bank at Ruthwell.
I was, therefore, disappointed to learn recently that the small museum in the cottage where the pioneering grass roots savings bank movement was established in 1810 is threatened with closure by owners TSB and, to rub salt into the wound, some of the artefacts are planned to be moved to their HQ in Edinburgh.
Whilst online accounts has put pressure on traditional forms of banking, the TSB have in the past expressed pride in their south-west Scotland roots with Henry Duncan's 'penny bank' at Ruthwell even featuring it in national advertising campaigns.
I'm pleased that the TSB retain a presence in Wigtownshire and commend the team at their Stranraer branch for continuing to promote the community connection so valued by Henry Duncan all those years ago.
Like other UK and Scottish parliamentary colleagues in the region, I would urge the bank's management to think again and explore every possible avenue to keep the museum in tact -- and to work with the community to identify other workable and affordable options.
Surely having such a visible link to the home of the global savings bank movement is an asset for the TSB, not something to be discarded?
Third Sector's vital role in Dumfries and Galloway
I completely agree with Third Sector Dumfries and Galloway (TSDG) and their chief executive Norma Austin Hart when she points out that the value of volunteers in our society has never been more clearly seen than during the coronavirus pandemic.
Her remarks were a timely intervention as this is National Volunteers Week and I would like to add my own congratulations to everyone who has given so freely of their time during this global crisis to help others.
In my role as constituency MP I've seen just how important volunteers have been in supporting many of the professional services in numerous different ways, whether acting as guides at vaccine centres, delivering supplies to those self-isolating or simply running errands for house-bound neighbours.
It is also worth remembering that during more normal times many events and organisations across Wigtownshire are completely dependent on the efforts of hard-working volunteers from many walks of life and skill sets.
Well done to everyone.
Strong voice for region at Scottish Parliament
My warmest congratulations go to my Conservative and Unionist colleague Finlay Carson on winning the Galloway and West Dumfries seat with an increased majority in the recent Scottish Parliament election.
His track record in speaking up for local people at Holyrood and, as a native of area, his intimate knowledge of the constituency and the serious issues faced have stood him in good stead.
I look forward to again working closely with Finlay is assisting constituents of all political viewpoints and continue to press the case on issues such an upgraded A75 and A77, further progress with the Stranraer Waterfront development, improved local health provision and accelerated expansion of high speed broadband in rural areas.
Countering the SNP threat of a second divisive independence referendum, along with the uncertainty and economic damage that would bring, will inevitably remain a priority for both Finlay and myself.
Visitors flock to enjoy bank holiday sunshine
The sunny bank holiday weekend showcased the breathtaking and diverse scenery of south-west Scotland, including our magnificent coastline.
It was good to see the busy scenes at many of our tourism hotspots and that businesses in our vitally important hospitality sector seemed to be well supported after the weeks and months of lockdown restrictions.
As we move into what may be a growth period for staycations let's also not forget to support our High Streets and the instant and knowledgeable service shopkeepers and staff can provide.