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Well said Bob. Earlier today I endured …

Comment posted Are tenant farmers, let down by bad law, also snagged in politics? by Mairi.

Well said Bob. Earlier today I endured the a committee stage of the Land Registration Bill in the Scottish Parliament. In essence it is a simple measure – to create a full Land Register for Scotland, a listing that (a) is embarrassingly lacking right now, and (b) is left to excellent individual campaigners like Andy Wightman who collate and publish who actually owns our land.

Sad to say, even sensible, practical amendments were knocked back by the Minister – Fergus Ewing, often on the grounds that ‘lawyers and land-owners have been consulted …’. I cannot accept the rationale that if lawyers and landowners think it is OK, then the rest of us should blithely accept it. For example, there should be no completion date, says Fergus. If owners don’t register their land – that’s not a problem. The Keeper can ask them to do so, but no date has been set by which time owners must comply. So the Register can remain incomplete, and those with something to hide can continue their concealment.

There seems to be a worrying pattern, whereby the SNP high-command don’t want to do anything that upsets the land-owners. And if that means tenants suffer, or communities wither, then that is of no interest. This is not even what the SNP grass-roots want.

Bob – count me in on your campaign. This whole issue needs a lot of effort, and I’m very keen to help.

Mairi also commented

  • The serious point Ken, if you care to engage with the topic rather than make cheap party political points, is that lots of legislation emanating from the Scottish Parliament appears to be wanting. Don’t take my word either,

    For that both the technical drafters and all the politicians (ministers in government and others in the scrutinising committees) need to take responsibility. All parties need to have a look at what they could do better. No-one wilfully drafts or votes to pass poor quality, weak or ineffective laws. But it happens. I think because we legislate too much, too often and too readily – ie go for quantity rather than quality.

    Many problems needed an administrative solution, not a legislative one. Is the latest anti-sectarian legislation actually going to achieve much? Did we ever need to *legislate* on the nutritional standards of school meals? Take action – fine, but pass laws that then keep lawyers and courts busy? I don’t think so.

    Anyway, I know lots about agriculture, having myself been reared on a farm. But since you won’t take my word for it watch the video yourself to see how Fergus Ewing appears to be content to serve the interests of land-owners and lawyers.

    I fully understand that establishing the Land Register, despite its simple premise, is not straightforward. But for the legislation and the Register itself to have much value at all, some important provisions were vital, in my view. Such as a target date for its completion. Even one that could be revised, long-term (eg ten years was mentioned). But that was rejected by Fergus. So we are legislating to create Land Register that we acknowledge may be, in perpetuity, incomplete. That doesn’t even start to make sense in my opinion.

  • Gentle Otter’s fantastic and vivid blog,, tells you a lot about the miseries experienced by tenant farmers right now. Bob is right to highlight this.

    Sorting this is firmly in the gift of Lochhead and the Scottish government. All that is lacking is POLITICAL WILL. I despair about the reluctance of the SNP to challenge the wealthy landowners.

Recent comments by Mairi

  • Partial victory in campaign for return of local maternity scanning services – but…
    Fiona, I agree with you that there is – and always will be – a place for specialist services –whether for maternity or anything else. With you 100% on that.

    Both guidelines on what scanning should be done, and the qualifications necessary for who can do scanning have changed in recent years. The qualification/ training is a major change – because whereas previously midwives did a one week course, now they (or radiographers) need to do a one-year post-graduate course. Such is the level of skill and capability once you’ve done that course, that apparently a decreasing number of obstetricians now turn their hand to scanning. So I’m led to believe that it would only be a very rare scan that would ever need a centre of expertise. That said, in such circumstances, there would probably be a need for a consultant obstetrician too – so regardless of the sonography capabilities of local midwives, a pregnant woman would need to travel to a centre of excellence.
    And I also applaud your past efforts, and can understand how pessimism can set in.

    Call me mad (love your analogy, by the way!) but I do believe (as I think you do) that we owe it to each other to battle for what we believe is right. I’ve fought battles in the past, won some and lost some. The successes are vital – they give all of us confidence. People in the NHS are first to admit that it can be a difficult organisation in which to bring about change. I should know – I worked in the NHS in both England and in Scotland – for the old Argyll & Clyde Health Board. So I’ve got first-hand experience. And I’ve also got maternity services first-hand experience – having two daughters of my own.

    I’m going to keep going. So many women have been in touch telling me about their awful experiences. There are available solutions that can improve at least part of the overall care they receive. It’s collective will that’s needed to make it happen. From all the politicians, managers, users and others you mention. If you ever want to dip your toe in the water again … let me know. Sounds like you’ve got all the credentials 😉

  • Partial victory in campaign for return of local maternity scanning services – but…
    Hi Fiona

    That’s very interesting – it just shows what can be done. Thanks for sending that.

    The plans to bring back scanning would mean that all scans could be done locally – not just the 12 week / confirmation ones. It would also mean that ad hoc and emergency scanning could be done here – something that currently means a round trip and often an overnight stay for what can be a ten minute scan.

    From what people say, this latest reduction of what’s available locally seems like the straw that broke the camel’s back. If this campaign on scanning can act as a catalyst to reviving the Maternity Services User Groups across Argyll & Bute, and with renewed focus on this vital service, bringing about a wide range of improvements – as happened in Angus – then it will have succeeded.

    Thanks for your good wishes!

  • Partial victory in campaign for return of local maternity scanning services – but…
    The campaign seeks three things, in summary:

    1. The restoration of local scanning
    2. Better communication with service users
    3. More support from the Scottish Government.

    And I count the challenge and correspondence between myself and the officials – in both Inverness and Edinburgh – as part of the whole campaign. When I first wrote to the NHS Highland Chief Executive, the expert/ review group hadn’t even met. So pressure was being brought to bear long before the PPF meeting you refer to.

    Had they got their skates on immediately after the September 2013 service withdrawal and reached a decision to do what’s now planned (however insufficient we may believe that to be), we could have had midwives being trained from September 2014, and some degree of service restoration from autumn 2015. Instead of what we now face, namely starting training in the autumn of 2015, and services a year later.

    Success, such as we’ve witnessed, has been to articulate – publicly – some limited progress on the local service restoration. But I think a lot more needs to be done on this front to accelerate local scanning. As stated, that could be by bringing sonographers from elsewhere to our hospitals (as stated above or locums), training our midwives, or recruitment of trained professionals.

    I believe that a very positive achievement on the second point, re communication, is to establish Maternity Services User Groups across the area. Ideally, they should be part of a wider piece of governance to ensure that services are consistent across the area. The NHS managers themselves, in their announcement too, lamented the inconsistency in what’s been available across Argyll & Bute.

    This is progress. Bringing service users and public authorities together can be a challenging process for all parties – yet it’s incredibly powerful and worth pursuing.

  • Partial victory in campaign for return of local maternity scanning services – but…
    Hi Fiona

    Routine ultrasound scanning is no longer offered anywhere in Argyll & Bute. This service was withdrawn in September 2013.

    The National Screening Programme is designed – among other things – to minimise infant mortality. So while no one can be compelled to attend for a scan, the higher the uptake, the greater the chances that problems will be spotted and dealt with.

    At the public meeting in Oban last week, several people raised questions relating more generally to maternity services, and one way of addressing them is to get involved in the Maternity Services User Groups that NHS Highland has committed to setting up. This is a good move, in my view, and would be a good place to bring up the concerns you have.

  • Partial victory in campaign for return of local maternity scanning services – but…
    Hi Lowry

    I was made aware of this issue almost a year ago which is when I first approached the Health Board.

    You’re wrong to suggest that plans were developed before I took notice because when I first contacted the NHS Highland Chief Executive their ‘expert group’ tasked with recommending what to do hadn’t even met. Services stopped in September 2013, and their first meeting was in July 2014. An unacceptably long delay: Babies were conceived and born in that period yet the Health Board couldn’t even hold a meeting to decide what to do.

    I wanted to establish all the facts and take action based on what I discovered. So I’ve been researching what happens in other areas, asking questions of the Scottish Government and making inquiries with other organisations who have an interest in this topic. What we’re campaigning for is well-researched and supported by professionals and users alike.

    Very little communication has taken place since services stopped. The meeting I organised in Oban last week was the first time there had been any public engagement in almost 18 months. User involvement is now happening as a direct consequence. So my interventions have made a difference, I’d suggest.

    Normally you contributions are incisive, Lowry, but you’re wrong about when I started to take an interest in this issue. And my interventions have made a difference so far, for example in promoting and establishing User Groups.

    Crucially, I’m now also challenging how robust and resilient the new plans are. I’m not convinced, and the extra questions I’m asking need to be answered if we want a service that works and stands the test of time. That’s what any campaigner, candidate or representative should be doing.

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