Celebrating the Scottish Spud

Potato Council

I was pleased to have the chance to attend a lunch in Parliament to mark 10 years of the Grow Your Own Potatoes (GYOP) scheme. I’ve visited schools in the Highlands and Islands who have participated in the scheme, and it’s clear that it has encouraged a curiosity and interest in the pupils about where their food comes from. Here’s hoping that more schools- and more adults!- are able to grow their own produce in the future.

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Free Microchipping Events in the Highlands

Signing the CPG's Pledge to protect Scotland's animals
Signing the CPG’s Pledge to protect Scotland’s animals

I was pleased to have a chance to catch up with the Dogs Trust in Parliament last week as part of the CPG on Animal Welfare’s exhibition. With debate continuing over the microchipping of dogs, it was great to hear that the Trust will be travelling across the Highlands offering free microchipping to anybody who’d like to have peace of mind in the unfortunate event of their dog going missing. They’re currently hoping to make it along to the following locations:

Friday 6th June

Thurso Lorry park opposite Riverside Replicas Shop KW14 8BU 9am – 12pm
Wick Riverside area next to Riverside Walk. Near Macleay Lane, Wick KW1 2pm – 5pm

Saturday 7th June

Golspie Community Centre, Golspie High School, Sutherland KW10 6RA 9am – 12pm
Dingwall Dingwall Auction Mart, Mart Road, Dingwall, Highland IV15 9PP 2pm – 4pm

Sunday 8th June

Alness West End Community Centre, Firhill, Alness IV17 0RS 10am – 3pm

Monday 9th June

Inverness Coronation Road Car Park, Merkinch, Inverness, IV3 8AD 10am – 2pm

Tuesday 10th June

Nairn The Links, Links Place, Nairn IV12 4NH 10am – 2pm

Music Therapy: Pledging My Support

Every week in Parliament, different charities, voluntary organisations and other groups have the opportunity to host a stall by the Members’ Block or the Members’ Lobby to discuss issues with MSPs. Two weeks ago, it was the turn of the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy in Scotland group to highlight the tremendous work they do to MSPs.
Music Therapy is vital for many people, whatever their condition or illness. Music Therapy helps people to take their first steps in engaging or re-engaging with the world around them, and the work of groups like Nordoff Robbins changes the lives of people with dementia, autism, learning disabilities and other complex conditions by enabling them to connect and communicate. They currently help nearly 400 people a week, and although they don’t currently have a centre in the Highlands and Islands, their clinics in Broxburn, Maryhill, Crosshill and Dundee and their work in schools, hospices and other settings across Scotland are really to be commended.
I pledged to help them in any way I can in the future- if you’d like to learn more, visit visit http://www.nordoffrobbinsscotland.org.uk or call 01506 239 578 .

Jean at the Nordoff Robbins stall in Parliament
Jean at the Nordoff Robbins stall in Parliament

Photo: One Big Drum in the Scottish Parliament

I was delighted to meet with the members of One Big Drum in the Scottish Parliament as part of Trade Union Week. One Big Drum are a community music group based in East Sutherland that bring together children with and without learning disabilities to learn how to work and play with other people. It was a pleasure to hear the group play their African drums in the Garden Lobby, and thanks go to the STUC for the terrific programme they organised for the whole week.

OneBigDrum1

Photos: Dogs Trust Visit, July 2013

On July 4th, I was lucky enough to visit the Dogs Trust Rehoming Centre near Uddingston. The Dogs Trust are a fantastic charity whose dedicated employees and volunteers rehome over 1000 dogs every year. Each rehomed dog is neutered, vaccinated and microchipped, and is matched carefully to its new owners.

I discussed key dog welfare issues with front line staff at the rehoming centre – issues such as microchipping, which is a simple and effective tool that Dogs Trust believes should be made compulsory in Scotland to help trace abandoned pets back to irresponsible owners and reduce the number of healthy dogs unnecessarily put to sleep in the country.

Sadly abandonment is one of the main reasons dogs come in to the centre, and in 2012 they saw 4,524 dogs picked up in Scotland. This equates to 12 dogs being picked up each day by Local Authorities. Dogs Trust strongly believe that these numbers could be reduced by the introduction of compulsory microchipping.

I really enjoyed my visit to Dogs Trust Glasgow, especially meeting all the lovely dogs and dedicated staff who work so hard to care for them. The service that Dogs Trust provides for the dog population in Scotland is invaluable, and I greatly support the work that they do. I’ve been a supporter of compulsory microchipping, and hopefully the Government’s consultation later this year will yield further good news for man (and woman!)’s best friends.

Jean with Ben Hope, one of the centre's puppies
Jean with Ben Hope, one of the centre’s puppies
Jean and the team with Ben Hope.
Jean and the team with Ben Hope.
The Centre has dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages, but there's been a growing number of breeds requiring regular exercise such as huskies, malamutes and collies being brought to the Centre.
The Centre has dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages, but there’s been a growing number of breeds requiring regular exercise such as huskies, malamutes and collies being brought to the Centre.
The dogs in the Rehoming Centre are very well looked after- as well as temperature-controlled rooms, the dogs are well groomed and have at least one long walk a day
The dogs in the Rehoming Centre are very well looked after- as well as temperature-controlled rooms, the dogs are well groomed and have at least one long walk a day
The Centre receives about 3 or 4 dogs every day, and houses 100 or so dogs at any time. Some dogs stay for only a few weeks; others remain at the Centre for years waiting for the perfect owner. So far, 489 dogs have found new homes in 2013.
The Centre receives about 3 or 4 dogs every day, and houses 100 or so dogs at any time. Some dogs stay for only a few weeks; others remain at the Centre for years waiting for the perfect owner. So far, 489 dogs have found new homes in 2013.
Jean with Sandra, the Manager of the Dogs Trust at Uddingston. Sandra was kind enough to show us around the facilities and answer all of our questions.
Jean with Sandra, the Manager of the Dogs Trust at Uddingston. Sandra was kind enough to show us around the facilities and answer all of our questions.

 

Screen Machine Event, Scottish Parliament

Last week, I was able to catch up with some old friends when the Screen Machine  rolled into Parliament for its 15th anniversary. The Screen Machine is a tremendous mobile cinema, lodged inside a 35-tonne articulated lorry and taken into every nook and cranny in Scotland to bring the latest films to rural communities.

Thanks to funding from Creative Scotland, HIE and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, as well as support from RBS, the Screen Machine was able to visit 34 different communities in 2012/3, and is soon to be on its travels again. One of the films being shown is the much-lauded crowdsourced documentary We Are Northern Lights, and I was lucky enough to meet its director outside the Screen Machine last week.

Full details of the current tour and programme, including details of how to book tickets, are available at: www.screenmachine.co.uk or by phone on 0871 902 5750 – more information can also be found on their Twitter and Facebook pages.

Jean with Nick Higgins, Director of We Are Northern Lights (photo by Hannah Houston)
Jean with Nick Higgins, Director of We Are Northern Lights (photo by Hannah Houston)

 

Photos: National Epilepsy Week Photocall

Last week I took part in a photocall organised by Epilepsy Scotland to mark National Epilepsy Week. As a member of the Cross-Party Group on Epilepsy, I’m becoming more and more aware of the issues affecting Scots with epilepsy and the great work being done by so many in helping to research and raise awareness of the condition. It was great to see so many fellow MSPs take part and to touch base again with Epilepsy Scotland, who are a credit to their cause.

DSC01603 1 DSC01607 Jean Urquhart MSP

Plockton Railway Station Plaque Unveiling

On April 26th, I was privileged to unveil a plaque at Plockton Railway Station to recognise a unique partnership initiative which has driven down anti-social behaviour.

Following complaints of low-level anti-social behaviour at the station by pupils from the neighbouring high school, it was felt the best way to encourage a feeling of responsibility and ownership was by bringing together a collaborative committee of those affected.

As a result incidents have been reduced considerably and the committee, which is made up entirely of pupils, has now gone one step further and adopted the ScotRail station. They now play a part in the station’s upkeep such as maintaining poster boards, planters and picking up litter.

 

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