David Stewart MSP

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MSP presses Scottish Government for introduction of reduced time of Inverness – Edinburgh train journeys

17 August 2011

 

Highlands & Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, has pressed the Government to state when the improved reduction of 35 minutes in the rail journey time between Inverness and Edinburgh will come into effect.

In responding Keith Brown MSP, Minister for Transport said, ” The project will be delivered in phases and provide incremental journey time reductions”.

He went on to say, ” A number of technical improvements will be implemented later this year and should deliver reduced journey times on some services form next year”.

Mr Stewart said,

” The Minister has advised me that these speed improvements will take place between Stanley junction and Blair Atholl, Inchlea and Newtonmore and Carrbridge and Inverness”.

He continued,

” I will look forward to these improvements, as it is imperative for the Highland economy that we have good business links and routes with the minimum of time spent travelling between the Highlands capital and the other major cities in Scotland if not the UK”.

Written by davidstewart

August 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm

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David Stewart presses Scottish Government on A96 dualling between Inverness and Nairn

15 August 2011

Highlands & Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, continues to push the Scottish Government to dual the A96 between Inverness and Nairn.

In a motion laid before the Parliament he asked when the feasibility study on dualling this section of the A96 would be published.

Keith Brown MSP, Minister for Transport, stated in his reply,

“The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges Stage 2 was completed in August 2008.

“More recently Transport Scotland and Highland Council have undertaken an assessment of infrastructure requirements between the A9 and the A96 Nairn, to support the Local Development Plan.

“Both Transport Scotland and Highland Council are considering the findings in the context of the implications for adjacent local road network and once these issues have been resolved the report will be published”.

Mr Stewart said,

“I understand that the initial assessment completed in 2008 costs in excess of £900.000 and the more recent study which commenced in 2009 has costs over £1 million.

“I would have thought that now we are in the second half of 2011, these studies would be nearing completion and published in order that consultation could take place regarding the preferred options for the route”.

Mr Stewart continued,
“ I tried to ascertain from the Government what proportion of land if any had been required to allow this over due upgrade take place to this important arterial route.
“The Minister advised me that no land had been purchased or acquired.
“My concern is that the decision making wheels relative to this issue are turning too slowly and they need a fresh impetus”.

Written by davidstewart

August 15, 2011 at 9:11 am

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David Stewart : The Church in Modern Scotland

Speech in Old High Church, Inverness

12 June 2011

Introduction

It is a great privilege for me to speak tonight in such a place of great History as the Old High Church.

President Obama recently remarked in his speech to both Houses of Parliament, of the illustrious former speakers who had predated him in Westminster Hall, including the Pope, Nelson Mandela and Her Majesty the Queen.

But here in Inverness we have our own record to rival anything Westminster Hall can produce, dating back to the early mists of time and including a cast list of St. Columba, King Brude, James Wolfe and John Wesley.

It was here in 565 AD that St. Columba preached the Gospel to King Brude and established a Celtic church dedicated to St. Mary on this site.

It was here in the early 1750s that Major General James Wolfe attended worship prior to active service in Canada where he became known as the ‘hero of Quebec’.

And it was here in 1764 that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, arrived on his horse to preach the Gospel in the Highlands.

I have had the privilege of having many dealings with the Old High over my time as a Councillor, an MP and an MSP.

As a young Councillor I never missed the very historic annual Kirking and march from the Town House led by superb Provosts such as Alan Sellar and Bill Fraser, and I am pleased to see the tradition continued by my good friend Provost Jimmy Gray.

It was as an MP that I was privileged to meet Rev. Colin Anderson – and it was with great sadness that I learnt of his recent passing.

The historic and modern contribution of the Old High Church to our great city of Inverness is immense and it is a fitting venue in which to discuss the subject of the Church in Modern Scotland.

I was privileged to attend the rededication service of your tremendous ‘Father Willis’ organ and in many ways this project symbolises the Old High Church and its place in Inverness.

This is a church conscious of its history and yet not trapped in it.

A church where the past is rightly celebrated yet where things can be changed and restored to reflect the needs of the modern world.

This can also be seen in your response to the current needs of Inverness with your involvement in Street Pastors, the Night Shelter and a number of other initiatives.

The Church in Scotland

It is hard to overestimate the role of the Kirk in the shaping of modern Scotland.

Scotland is in large part the nation it is today because of the twin influences of the reformation and Scottish Enlightenment.

Since this time the church in Scotland has taken an active social and political role within Scottish society.
We see this in the development of Scottish public services with the School Establishment Act of 1616 laying the basis for “A school in every parish”.

We see it in Medical and Welfare developments.

And of course we see it as part of the wider Victorian UK Evangelical Movement most notable for the abolition of the practice slavery, a practice in which we know unfortunately Inverness played its part.
In more recent decades this work has continued with the Church providing support services across a whole range of social care areas.

This can be seen in addiction, homeless, care and youth services.

Indeed CrossReach (run by the Church of Scotland) is currently the largest Social Care organisation in Scotland with over 2000 staff and a £50 million annual budget.

This work has developed across the Globe with Scotland’s churches playing a key role in the developing world.

Following in the footsteps of David Livingstone and Eric Liddell the church in recent years has sought the benefit of people across the world through aid agencies like SCIAF and movements such as Jubilee 2000 and the Make Poverty History campaign.

As the Westminster MP for this area during the time of the above campaigns I saw for myself the important and vital role the churches played forcing these issues to the top of the political agenda.

This was replicated across the country with churches and other faith groups leading the political debate on this issue to such an extent that the three main UK political parties have all made a commitment to spending 0.7% of GDP on overseas aid, even in these straightened financial times.

In a recent speech to faith group representatives my former colleague Gordon Brown made the following observation about the impact of churches on this issue:

“You should be proud that it was the churches and faith groups that created the momentum – and the mass membership, the mass crowds – for the Jubilee Debt Campaign and for Make Poverty History, answering in a modern way the injunction of Isaiah that we should ‘loose the chains of injustice and let the oppressed go free.’

And you should be prouder still that your efforts changed the world – and that because of your voice there are men, women and children whose names you will never know and whose faces you will never see but who are alive today because of what you did.”

(Gordon Brown: Archbishop of Canterbury Lecture 16/02/11)

Present Day

This is not just the work of the past and in the present day the church has continued to find ways to deal with very modern social issues.

Churches have been praised in Scotland for the way they have welcomed the asylum seeker and refugee to our shores.

They have offered support and help in the face of widespread public indifference and media hostility, by offering non-judgemental support to families who have often fled from situations of war and persecution.

And as you know with Street Pastors, this nationwide church initiative offers a proactive response in tackling our nation’s problems with binge drinking, working in partnership with the Police and Local Authorities, to help vulnerable young people in their hour of need.

The Future
So looking ahead to the future, what role should the church play in the national and community life of Scotland?

The issues of Church and State can be complex and can only be briefly discussed tonight.

However I do believe that an important consensus can be reached.

Furthermore I believe that there are two principal ways that the church can contribute to national and community life and it is to this which I will devote the remainder of my time.

Church and State

The Scottish church writer and thinker David Robertson offers four models of church interaction with the state.

The first two models offer a situation where either the state is dominant over the church or the church is dominant over the state, neither of which can work of course without one body destroying the role of the other.

If we are agreed that both Church and State have the right to exist then the problem arises of the relationship between them.

The third model answers this by offering strict separation between Church and State with a barrier between them and no interaction.

The fourth model seeks to address this problem in a different way.

This model, simply called ‘Good Neighbours and Good Friends,’ affirms the legitimacy of both church and state and their areas of responsibility in society.

It also affirms the idea that both institutions have some limitations and cannot perform the role that the other is intended perform within a healthy society.

It will not surprise you to know my preference. The state cannot do the job of the church in offering moral and pastoral care within society, but nor can the church attempt to do the job of the state in attempting to provide civil law and other key public roles.

However this does not mean that the Church should have no public voice and that religion should be left at the edge of the public square, as the strict barrier would suggest.

Gordon Brown also addressed this subject
recently in his Lambeth Palace lecture.
In his thoughtful contribution to the debate he questioned:

“Why it seems so uncontroversial, so incontestable, even natural, for members of churches and faith groups as individuals, and indeed for churches and faith groups as institutions, to involve themselves in a great moral movement for political change – which suggests a major role for faith in politics – and why, in spite of that, the conventional orthodoxy today is of a public square, an arena for making political decisions, where religious belief is, at best, at arms-length and which, with some notable exceptions, has become the embodiment of what some people call liberal secularism.”

Instead he argued for a politics in which values and ethics are brought into the discussion of public policy, and one in which churches and faith groups have a role to play. He summarised this as a:

“deliberative democratic politics, one in which the ethical basis of decisions is at its forefront, and in which we debate not only the ‘how’ of policy but also the ‘why’.”

How then may it be possible to achieve such a politics in which the voice of churches, faith groups and other members of civic society may be heard and may be recognised?

Words and Deeds

The book of James reminds us of the importance to the Christian of having both faith and deeds. It reminds the church of the importance of having both a voice to speak but also hands that take action to serve our communities and the most vulnerable for the common good.

As the book of James reminds us in chapter 2 verses 14-18:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?

Can such faith save them?

15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16

If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

This passage reminds us of the futility of speaking words without demonstrating the very faith the church professes.

Yet it also speaks of this faith as being the reason for the good deeds and so it would be foolish to pretend that the faith could somehow be separated from the good deeds.

It is in both words and deeds that I believe the church must work in Modern Scotland.

Words

I am in agreement with Gordon Brown that there must be a place for the church in bringing the values of faith into the public square.

Politics is about the contesting and debate of ideas, principles and philosophies; and therefore this should include the faith groups within our nation, which most definitely includes the Kirk.

An ethical dimension to politics has often sadly been lacking in our national debates and nowhere more has this been seen in the run up to and the fallout from, our banking crisis.

Has there been a debate in relation to how we got into this mess, the greed and selfishness evident, and how we can rebuild a system or have we sadly reverted to simply speaking of pounds, pence and GDP?

There can therefore be a place for the church to regain something of the Old Testament prophetic voice in calling for ethical values to be part of every aspect of the national debate.

Deeds

What then of deeds?

I believe that this is an area in which the church can excel.

I have already mentioned a number of fine examples of church action including very recent examples based from your very congregation.

It is these social good works that gives the church the legitimacy and the mandate in which to speak and ensure that your voice is heard.

It is these good works that will demonstrate the gospel in communities across the land as the church works for the common good.

Whatever view one takes of the public spending cuts one thing is clear.

The community needs the church to be fulfilling its role.

It needs the church to play its part in supporting those left unemployed by the recession.

It needs the church to help families struggling to bring up children, to pay their bills, to make the choice to heat or eat, by continuing to offer children’s clubs and parent support groups.

It needs the church to be offering pastoral support to everyone in the community who desires help.

For us all to heed the parable of the Good Samaritan not to walk by on the other side as the poor, the disposed and the homeless walk by.

Conclusion

So to conclude I do believe the church has a crucial role within Modern Scotland as part of Civic Society.

As we meet in this place of great history it is easy to imagine the giants of the past preaching to our forebears, and their words echoing from wall to wall.

And hearing John Wesley’s famous injunction:

“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can!”

Thank you very much

Written by davidstewart

June 15, 2011 at 4:37 pm

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David Stewart steps up Fort George army base campaign

15 June 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has stepped up the campaign to save a historic army base in the Highlands.

He has tabled a motion at the Scottish Parliament calling for Fort George near Inverness to be saved amid speculation that the Con-Dem coalition is considering closing down the barracks, also a tourist attraction, as part of a defence cuts programme.

The motion notes that any plans to close Fort George would have “Severe economic consequences in Inverness and the surrounding areas and have an adverse effect on tourism, including plans to redevelop the Highlanders’ Museum at the barracks.”

It states that the development of a “survival plan” to save Fort George to ensure it remains both a working Army barracks and a premier tourist destination would be welcomed.

Mr Stewart said Inverness-based economist Tony Mackay had estimated the economic impact of closure on the area would be about £30million a year.

He added: “I lodged the motion in the Scottish Parliament because I want to send out a strong message to the UK Government that says hands off Fort George.

“I also want First Minister Alec Salmond to think very carefully about contingency plans for Historic Scotland.”

Mr Stewart went on: “If all our plans to save the barracks fail, we need to have plans in place to preserve the historic buildings and ensure the visitor attraction continues.

“It would be a triple-whammy for the area if Fort George closed because we would lose the link with the Army in the Highlands, the spending power of the military and their families and the benefits of tourism.”

The UK Government is expected to make an announcement on the future of Fort George and RAF Lossiemouth next month.

Written by davidstewart

June 15, 2011 at 4:35 pm

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Diabetes : MSP calls for more Scottish Government support

9 June 2010
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has welcomed the coming of Diabetes Week 2011 and again urged the Scottish Government to do more for people with the condition.
He has put forward a motion supporting the week, which will run from June 12 to 18, noting the work already being done to help diabetes sufferers, and calling for greater access to insulin pumps.
Mr Stewart said: “Scotland has the second highest prevalence of type 1 diabetes in Europe but the lowest pump provision.
” I urge the Scottish Government to challenge NHS boards to improve their record on widening access to insulin pump provision.”

David Stewart’s motion is as follows:
S4M-00241 David Stewart (Scottish Labour): That the Parliament welcomes Diabetes Week 2011, being run from 12 to 18 June and which aims to raise £200,000 to expand what is considered Diabetes UK’s vital Careline service, which provides practical information and support to anyone affected by diabetes; notes
that the theme of Diabetes Week 2011 is Let’s talk diabetes, which reflects the fact that too many people keep their diabetes a secret, which can be both physically and psychologically damaging; congratulates Diabetes UK Scotland for holding their own question time in March 2011 that brought
to the attention of the panel important and pressing issues such as poor access to insulin pumps services across Scotland; recognises that there are an estimated 228,000 people in Scotland who are diagnosed with diabetes and a further 60,000 who remain undiagnosed; further notes that Scotland has one of the highest prevalence of type 1 diabetes in Europe, with over 27,000 people living with type 1 diabetes and that insulin pump therapy provides a significant opportunity to improve quality
of life of people with type 1 diabetes, reduces risk of complications and frees up NHS time and resources; commends Diabetes UK Scotland for its campaign for greater access to insulin pumps, and looks forward to welcoming Diabetes UK to the Parliament on 29 and 30 June 2011 when it will be showcasing its healthy living programme aimed at schoolchildren in Scotland.

Written by davidstewart

June 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm

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Scottish Government criticised over Gourock-Dunoon service

3 June 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has criticised the Scottish Government for failing to look after the interests of people using the Gourock to Dunoon ferry service and called for an independent inquiry into the whole history of tendering.
He was speaking following the Scottish Government’s announcement of the tender results for the ferry link between Dunoon and Gourock town centres in which it was confirmed that there would be no vehicle element to the new service.
Mr Stewart, an ex-member of the Scottish Parliament’s transport committee and a long time campaigner for the ferry, has tabled oral Parliamentary questions on the issue.
The MSP said: “What we have effectively got now thanks to the Scottish Government’s decision is a private monopoly of vehicles on ferries with no regulation from the Government over pricing and frequency of services.
“The Scottish Government’s role should be as defender of the public interest.
” I am also calling for the Office of Fair Trading to carry out a full , comprehensive and independent enquiry into the whole history of the tendering for this ferry service.”

Oral Question in the Scottish Parliament
Thursday 2 June 2011
Gourock to Dunoon Ferry Service (Tender)

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) : To ask the Scottish Executive what progress has been made on the Gourock to Dunoon ferry tender.

The Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment (Alex Neil): On Wednesday 25 May, we announced that the preferred bidder for the Gourock to Dunoon ferry service tender is Argyll Ferries, a subsidiary of David MacBrayne. Subject to a statutory standstill period, the contract to run the service is due to be signed on 7 June. The new passenger ferry service will then start by 30 June.

David Stewart: The Gourock to Dunoon ferry tender has had more twists and turns than a trip over the Rest and be thankful. The minister does not need to take my word for that; he need only read the letters page of any edition of the Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard over the past 12 months. Does the minister accept that the route from McInroy’s point to Hunter’s Quay on the Clyde is eligible to be treated as a public service route under the European Union’s maritime cabotage regulations of 1992, should Scottish ministers deem it appropriate? Will the minister support my call to refer the matter to the Office of Fair Trading for a full, comprehensive and independent inquiry?

Alex Neil: Not everyone agrees with David Stewart’s assessment, including those who write to the local newspaper. Indeed, before I came into the chamber this morning, I received an unsolicited letter from a member of the public in Argyll—

Members: Mike Russell!

Alex Neil: The letter said:

“I was delighted to read that the Dunoon – Gourock Ferry saga has reached conclusion. It is a decision which I am certain will be welcomed by the vast majority of ferry travellers on the Cowal peninsula.”

I am sure that that sentiment is shared by the local member, as well as many others.

I recognise that there is a need in general terms to consider the issues of competition and the co-ordination of ferry services. As I indicated when I announced the outcome of this contract award, we are seriously considering the possibility of establishing a ferry regulator.

Written by davidstewart

June 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm

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Call to ease congestion on Kessock Bridge

3 June 2011

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart has again called on the Scottish Government to ease traffic congestion on the Kessock Bridge with major roadworks scheduled for later this month and next year.

Mr Stewart who has campaigned for infrastructure improvements at the bridge to ease peak-time gridlock, said: “We all know how congested the bridge is at peak times and this is going to be made worse by these new roadworks at the height of the tourist season.

“They will not only be a powerful disincentive to tourists but an impediment to commerce.

“Whilst I understand that the work and resurfacing works planned for next spring are essential what is really needed to cope with current traffic growth is for an extra lane to be created at the Longman roundabout for buses and high sided vehicles and for a permanent park and ride facility to be established at North Kessock.

“If major traffic improvements are not made there will be massive traffic chaos during the estimated six-month period of maintenance works on the Kessock Bridge next spring, when traffic capacity will be halved.”

Written by davidstewart

June 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm

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