Yesterday (Monday 18th)  marked the launch of Mental Health Awareness Week, the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health.  

The week, which is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, is in its 20th year and runs from 18-24th May.

This year, the theme for the week is kindness. Across the country, people will be celebrating kindness in a range of digital and creative ways within social distancing restrictions.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

“Mental Health has been a priority for me and my constituency team for some time and the current lockdown makes that concern even greater. All of us are experiencing unique levels of uncertainty and stress and everyone who needs help should be encouraged to seek it. Kindness should not only be the corner stone of how we treat others, it should also be how we treat ourselves and I hope that as we continue through this difficult time we will be mindful of that need and determined to see it carried out by us, for us and to us.”

Mark Rowland Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation said: “This year may be the most important week we have ever hosted, as we deal with coping and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. We must do all we can to reduce the psychological and social impacts of the pandemic which could outlast the physical symptoms of the virus.

“At time when we must socially isolate, stories of kindness have helped spread a shared sense of connection and joy. The research backs this up – kindness is deeply connected to mental health. The message this Mental Health Awareness Week is that kindness matters. It matters to our mental health and it will matter hugely in the society we build from here – one that better protects our mental health.” 

How to get involved online:

·         Reflect on an act of kindness. Share your stories and pictures (with permission) of kindness during the week using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

·         Use Mental Health Foundation resources in your family, school, workplace and community to join with thousands in practising acts of kindness to yourself and others during the week 

·         Share your ideas on how you think we could build a kinder society that would support our mental health using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

For more information about this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week visit mentalhealth.org.uk/kindnessmatters or join the conversation on social media using #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

Local MSP Michael Russell has expressed his concern about the outcome of the survey on bullying undertaken by NHS Highland of NHS workers in Argyll and Bute and endorsed the HSCP’s process of support and change which is now underway.

Mr Russell commented: 

“This survey makes upsetting reading. It took place after recommendations in the Sturrock report on bullying in Highland NHS and clearly John Sturrock was right to suggest it, given the very disturbing picture it reveals.

A culture of bullying has pervaded the local NHS for a long time and those who were responsible for allowing that culture to develop, and sometimes enforcing by their behaviour need to be held to account. The new board and the new HSCP are right to have apologised and I am glad that they have also put together a radical and far reaching plan to tackle and eradicate workplace bullying once and for all.

Now they need to put that plan into operation in co-operation with staff and to do so in an open and sympathetic way. I think the change of management in the HSCP has been and will be  of great benefit and I know that Joanna MacDonald is committed to securing a better future and better working conditions for all HSCP staff in the area. I will support her in her efforts to achieve that.

I am sure we all want to ensure that local NHS workers, who are doing so much for us during this crisis – and always do – are respected, listened to and supported.  

The culture of bullying extended further though. Local organisations and local representatives were often treated with disdain and sometimes experienced hectoring and bullying behaviour from senior staff as well. It happened to me on more than one occasion and it was utterly unacceptable. It was one of the reasons that I was so keen to see major change in the management and governance of the HSCP and so glad when that was achieved.

Rebuilding trust with communities across the area has already started but it will need to move forward apace. I am happy to do all I can to help and to banish this stain on the reputation of the local NHS once and for all”

£900K FUNDING FOR ARGYLL AND BUTE SOCIAL CARE COVID COSTS

Local MSP Michael Russell has welcomed an initial £903k funding to help the social care sector in Argyll and Bute deal with the financial implications of coronavirus. The funding was confirmed by the Scottish Government as part of a £50 million package for the sector across the country.
The funding will help address immediate challenges faced in the social care sector and support ongoing provision of social care. Health and Social Care Partnerships across Scotland have all put in place mobilisation plans to ensure the health and social care system is as well placed as possible to address the Covid-19 pandemic.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

“The social care sector is at the frontline of the current pandemic and will inevitably face additional costs.

“This funding demonstrates the Scottish Government’s commitment to social care – and will ensure that any increasing need for social care as a result of the pandemic is met.

“I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone in Argyll and Bute when I share my gratitude towards those working in social care, and all of our frontline key workers, who are doing vital work in the most difficult of circumstances.”

Two West Highland MSPs join forces to promote vital Coronavirus message.

The MSPs for two neighbouring constituencies which, between them, cover the whole of the Scottish west coast from Skye to Kintyre, have joined forces to plead with people not to visit during the pandemic and to rigorously observe the Scottish Government “Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives” message.

Kate Forbes, the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch and Michael Russell, the MSP for Argyll and Bute, decided to issue the message after the weekend confusion caused by the new UK Government coronavirus slogan and changes to lockdown. They are fearful that these factors and good weather in recent weeks could encourage some people to venture out into the Scottish countryside and even to attempt to visit some of the islands they represent.

Kate Forbes MSP said:

“Communities throughout our constituencies – which cover a huge part of Scotland and almost 30 inhabited islands – are telling us that they want the lockdown to continue, and to be firmly enforced, so that lives can be saved. Many are concerned that the new UK Government message is confusing and worried that people will feel that they are now free to visit the wonderful Highlands and Islands of Scotland, which look their best in the current sunny weather.

“Whilst tourism is the lifeblood of our areas it is absolutely vital that the Scottish regulations are observed and that means people are not free to visit at present. They cannot and must not seek out beauty spots or favourite places distant from their homes, go for prolonged drives by car or motorbike even if they don’t stop anywhere, nor can they stay in tents or use motor homes. The iconic sites across my constituency – like Ben Nevis, the Fairy Pools, Loch Ness and the Cairngorms – are all still going to be there at the end of lockdown.

“If the rules are flouted not only will that put lives in our constituencies at risk, it will also set back any hope of slowly easing the lockdown and bringing some new normality into our everyday activities. Those who defy the law are also likely to be stopped by the police who are increasing their vigilance and can expect not just an on the spot fine, but also to be turned round and sent back home, where they should be staying safe and not endangering themselves and others.”

Michael Russell MSP added:

“I know everyone is keen to see progress made and the lockdown eased. It has been and remains tough, particularly for those on their own.  

“But if we get this process wrong then we run the risk not just of even longer in strict lockdown but also overwhelming our health service which up until now has been able to cope with the increased pressures. That would put every one of us in danger.

“There are some essential national infrastructure works, for example in the energy, construction and food sectors, that have to go on but even these are subject to strict controls and must be able to prove that they can work safely not just to protect their workers but to protect the communities in which they are operating.  All other work that is not prohibited in regulations can only take place if social distancing and rigorous hygiene is observed at all times and it is subject to inspection by the local council and the Health and Safety Executive.  Companies can be fined or closed for breaking these laws. 

“Kate and I are as keen as everyone else to see an end to this difficult time but we will only get that point if we do the right thing now.  

“The right thing for our constituents is to stay at home. And the right thing for those who might want to come and visit our area is to accept that they cannot do so at present and that they must observe – to the letter – the lock down regulations passed by the Scottish Parliament. 

Kate mentioned the iconic sites in her constituency – let me mention mine too.  I hope that it will not be too long until people are able to come “doon the watter” to Dunoon and Rothesay, to stand in the view point above the Kyles of Bute, to take a ferry across Loch Fyne , to stroll along the main street in Oban or Campbeltown  and to experience the hospitality and special beauty of Mull, Islay, Iona, Tiree and a host of other islands.   

But that time is not now.

“There can be no ifs, no buts and no excuses. Please stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.  And go on doing that until the regulations in Scotland are eased, no matter what others are doing.”

STATEMENT FROM MICHAEL RUSSELL MSP AND COUNCILLOR JOHN ARMOUR ABOUT SCOTTISH POWER RENEWABLES AND THE COMPANY’S STATED INTENTION TO RE-START WORK ON THE BEINN AN TUIRC WINDFARM


Firstly can we express our deepest sympathy with the family of Robert Black, one of the local paramedics, who died at the weekend as a result of Covid-19. His unique contribution to the community in Campbeltown and Kintyre will be remembered by many for a very long time and his selfless service is an example to us all.

We are grateful to Scottish Power Renewables for accepting that their intention to restart work on the Beinn an Tuirc wind farm today would have been totally inappropriate given the circumstances and we therefore welcome their decision not to do so.

The company have however indicated that they may start safety briefings for local staff on Wednesday and other work shortly thereafter. We oppose that decision.

Whilst we understand that Scottish Government regulations do permit some very limited re-opening of essential power related construction sites we do not believe it is safe to have incoming workers coming to Kintyre on a temporary basis and who will be returning to their homes elsewhere from time to time, risking the spread of the virus both into and out from the area. The only acceptable way to recommence activity on the site would be to use a local workforce which is permanently resident.

We therefore ask the company to reconsider its current decision and to wait until the current lock down has been significantly eased.

None the less if the company is determined to operate despite what we think is a near universal local view that it should not be doing so we will continue to seek from them not just a firm commitment to a complete separation between incoming workers and the local community, including in transportation to and from the site, use of local facilities including shops and contact with local businesses and residents but also a rigid adherence to social distancing at work and when not at work.

In addition we would wish the company to make sure, by testing, that all workers are free of the virus when arriving in the area and leaving the area and that there would be arrangements for social isolation if any show or feel symptoms.

We are communicating these views to the company today and we hope they will listen to them and enter into a positive dialogue about them before making any decision about re-starting work.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell has said that the public must prepare for restrictions on normal life to continue for some time.

The comments come as the Scottish Government published a new document outlining how decisions will be taken to control coronavirus (COVID-19) while restoring a degree of normality to everyday life.

The paper – COVID-19: A Framework for Decision-Making – sets out the position during this ongoing period of lockdown and outlines the factors that must be considered as we move gradually to ease restrictions.

It also recognises that new ways of living – effectively a “new normal” – may have to be in place for some time to come.

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell said:

“It is welcome that the Scottish Government has published an outline of how and when the lockdown may be lifted and I urge everyone to take the time to read the document.

“It is vital that any decision to ease restrictions is based on the best scientific advice possible – but we are in uncharted territory and we must be prepared to adapt. That might mean having to reapply restrictions after they are lifted.

“It is only when we are sure the virus is under control that we can even start to ease any of the restrictions because the virus will not have gone away.

“There are no easy answers – but it is right for the Scottish Government to be clear about the factors that will inform decision making.

“In the coming days and weeks members of the public will be invited to contribute their thoughts and views on the next steps we must make together.

“Unfortunately, returning to what we regard as a normal life will not be possible in the near future so we need to prepare for a new normal until treatments and a vaccine offer different solutions.

“While these measures are difficult for all of us, they are saving lives and protecting our NHS.”

PUBLIC ENCOURAGED TO BE VIGILANT AND REPORT SCAMS 

MSP for Argyll and Bute, Michael Russell has encouraged people in Argyll and Bute to be aware of scams and fake news following an increase in reports across Scotland about scam emails, text messages, and doorstep callers. 

Across the UK there is evidence fraudsters are increasingly targeting members of the public, as well as organisations of all sizes, with emails, texts, telephone calls, social media messages and online shopping scams relating to the outbreak.

Police Scotland have now launched a new Shut Out Scammers resource to protect the public and businesses from COVID-19 related scams. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has also launched an email reporting service, which the public can use to report any suspicious activity.

Michael Russell MSP said: 

“While the community response to the coronavirus outbreak in Argyll and Bute has been overwhelmingly positive, it’s disappointing to see a few individuals taking advantage of the situation with unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages. 

“During this coronavirus crisis, everyone in Argyll and Bute should take extra care to ensure that they only share information from trusted sources, ask for identification from all doorstep callers, and never hand over any personal information.

“It’s vital that people in Argyll and Bute remain vigilant against scams during this challenging time and report any suspicious activity to the relevant authorities.”