Gap in Care Call coverage needs filled promptly
The 24/7 Care Call system operated by Dumfries and Galloway Council provides an extremely useful and reassuring service to people living at home who are vulnerable for a variety of reasons.
A team of operators, based in Dumfries, are alerted over the phone system in a number of ways, such as from an emergency button pendant, smoke or fall detectors and even flood and extreme temperature monitors.
I was concerned to learn from a constituent about an issue with the service in Wigtownshire -- particularly affecting people living alone, who do not have family, friends or any kind of support network nearby.
This is because to take advantage of the system the client requires two nominated key-holders in the locality who can respond quickly should there be an urgent need.
A commercial service responds to such call-outs in more populated parts of the region but that is not considered viable because of relatively low numbers in areas such as Wigtownshire.
I contacted the council about this unfair situation, which is discouraging potential clients from joining what is otherwise an excellent system. Officials tell me the Health and Social Care Partnership is currently exploring options for a regionwide or localised emergency responder service.
My preference would be for a responder service available across Dumfries and Galloway to be put in place as soon as possible.
Vaccination playing key part in slowing Covid virus spread
Sadly our journey through the global pandemic has continued to take a toll on Wigtownshire communities.
With a further four deaths reported in the local care home sector within 28 days of a positive Covid test, my thoughts are very much with the family, friends and dedicated staff who looked after those who passed away.
On a more positive note, there are signs of an easing in Covid case numbers, which will, hopefully, eventually ease the strain on the NHS, particularly on the ambulance service and A and E units.
Across the region, vaccination has clearly had a positive impact on public health and credit must go to all those continuing to deliver this on-going programme.
With winter approaching, further pressures, such as seasonal flu and the long non-pandemic waiting lists for treatment and procedures, remain a cause for serious concern.
Because of pressures on the ambulance service and elsewhere in the NHS the UK Government is providing the Scottish Government with support from Army personnel.
Our servicemen and women made a valuable contribution in the early stages of vaccination and are now being deployed more widely when and where they are most needed.
Meanwhile, with some aspects of life getting back to normal in the region and vaccination underway in schools, it remains important that we do not become complacent and continue to do our utmost to reduce the spread of the virus.
Borderlands bid worth supporting
I was disappointed but not surprised when the SNP group on Dumfries and Galloway Council voiced opposition to a Borderlands bid to become UK City of Culture.
It seems entirely proper that a cross-border coast-to-coast partnership of local authorities, aimed at fuelling economic regeneration, should highlight our rich history and cultural attractions in this way.
Through securing a place in the next selection phase, Borderlands would receive £40,000 in UK Government financial support to help prepare their bid.
Even being a candidate in the competition can shine a spotlight on some of the cultural attractions of rural areas like my constituency, which for generations has been a magnet for artists.
Transport review publication closer
I'm confident that the full Union Connectivity Review findings which will make recommendations for future transport infrastructure improvements to streamline transport links amongst UK nations will be published in the fairly near future.
It would be wrong for me to speculate on the conclusions as that is clearly a matter for author Sir Peter Hendy and his hard-working team who carried out the detailed independent investigation.
There has been much discussion about the prospects -- or not -- of a fixed link crossing, possibly a tunnel between Dumfries and Galloway and Northern Ireland, which could be a long-term aspiration requiring complex judgements about public spending.
At very least I'm pleased that the historically long-considered concept has been re-examined and it has been fascinating and useful to learn how technological and engineering advances have driven down costs and increased interest in similar long-distance crossings in various parts of the world.
From my point-of-view, and I'm sure most of my constituents, a top priority in the coming years must be for meaningful improvements to the A75 and A77, both vital links to the Cairnryan ferry ports.
At the heart of Government
I felt honoured to be invited to a meeting with the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street on the day I was re-appointed to the role of Scottish Secretary following the Cabinet reshuffle.
I look forward to continue working with the Scotland Office team in ensuring smooth delivery of UK Government services north of the border and that Scotland enjoys the full benefits of being part of our UK family.
My top priority remains, as always, representing the interests of the people of Dumfries and Galloway Constituency and to do my upmost to assist them with any issues and concerns they face.
Games tickets deadline day
With so many things going on in the world just now it may have escaped some Free Press readers' attention that the Commonwealth Games will take place in Birmingham next summer.
I've been asked by the Games organisers to issue a final reminder to constituents that there is a ballot for tickets for the world-class events which take place between Thursday July 28 and Monday August 8.
Sport is important to many across Dumfries and Galloway and I'm sure some constituents will still be eager to secure tickets as the deadline looms.
The ballot remains open until tonight (Thursday) with full details on how to enter and prices available at the birmingham2022.com website.
Warm welcome in south-west
I warmly welcome the commitment by Dumfries and Galloway Council to help find a home for a number of refugees from Afghanistan within the region.
As I've stated in this column before, our area has a good track-record in helping those fleeing some of the world's troublespots.
In particular, we owe a huge debt to those who worked alongside our armed forces in Afghanistan and it is right that we as a country are offering them a secure life through the UK resettlement programme.
Special tribute at Westminster
Like all my colleagues at Westminster I will have the opportunity to place a small remembrance tribute and marker at a House of Commons Garden of Remembrance in New Palace Yard during this year's Remembrance Day period.
The commemoration has been organised by The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and will mean that all 650 parliamentary constituencies will be represented at a focal point within the Palace of Westminster grounds during the Remembrance period.
My tribute will be dedicated to all forces members from Dumfries and Galloway who have served their country in past operations and conflicts, particularly the family and friends of those whose lives were cut short.