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

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‘Outside the Box’ – art by Inverness prisoners

I had the pleasure of seeing Out of the Box at the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery last Thursday. The show is an exhibition of art created by prisoners taking part in Fife College learning programmes at HMP Inverness over the past year.

One prisoner who took part in the exhibition said:

“Prison can be an emotional and daunting experience, with some prisoners feeling like worthless failures who have no hope of going anywhere in life. The education department offers prisoners both the support and tools they’ll need to change their lives, in an attempt at, hopefully, changing these thoughts and feelings.”

I think that captures something important – that the dehumanisation of prisoners that is apparently so popular among some politicians and tabloid columnists is not only revolting in its own right, but also stands in the way of prisoners rebuilding their lives and, in so doing, reducing reoffending.

My favourite painting was the G4S van plunging into a lake – a rejection of just the kind of industrialised, for-profit incarceration to which this project is diametrically opposed.

Outside the Box is at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery, Castle Wynd, IV2 3EB until Saturday 15th February 2014.
Please call 01463 237 114 to check availability, as part of the exhibition is in a room that is used for other events.

MoonWalk and the Highlands & Islands

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Walk the Walk to hear about how the Moon Walk is helping improve the lives of Scotland’s cancer population. The amount of good that Walk the Walk are able to facilitate through their grants system is truly astonishing. Over the last 6 years, the Moon Walk has raised over £15 million in Scotland- hopefully I can help add to that total when I take part next year!

HIGHLANDS MSPS WITH WALKERS FROM THE WALK THE WALK CHARITY....PIC PETER JOLLY HIGHLANDS MSPS WITH WALKERS FROM THE WALK THE WALK CHARITY....PIC PETER JOLLY HIGHLANDS MSPS WITH WALKERS FROM THE WALK THE WALK CHARITY....PIC PETER JOLLY

Climate Challenge Fund Advice Surgeries

 

The Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) has made 563 awards to the value of over £46.9 million since its launch in 2008. The fund helps community groups who have projects designed to help reduce their carbon footprint, and funded projects in the past have included community growing projects, initiatives to reduce, reuse and recycle and energy efficiency advice.

To encourage potential applicants, the Scottish Government will be holding two further advice surgeries in the Highlands and Islands next week to provide information to local community groups and interested parties. These will be held between 9.30am and 12.30pm on Tuesday 23rd July at the Merkinch Community Centre in Inverness and between 9.30am and 2pm on Thursday 25th July at the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Council Building in Stornoway (with videolinks to the Council Offices in Balivanich and Barra).

I would encourage any and all community groups with any ideas to pop along to these events in Inverness and Stornoway to hear more from the CCF. More information can be found at their website.

Photos: Planting Potatoes at Hilton Primary School, Inverness

Despite the sudden flurries of snow, I was able to attend Hilton Primary School’s potato-planting session as part of the “Grow Your Own Potatoes” project this morning. It was great to see so many kids so enthusiastic about getting their hands dirty; projects like this and Crofting Connections, which teaches kids about crofting, are fantastic, and long may they continue.IMG_0374 Jean at Hilton PS P5 Hilton PS Potato Planting at Hilton PS

PRESS RELEASE: JEAN URQUHART WELCOMES FUNDS TO BOOST YOUTH EMPLOYMENT IN HIGHLANDS

Funding announced today, worth over £100,000 to the Highlands and Islands, to help young people find work has been welcomed by Jean Urquhart MSP.

The Shirlie Project, based in Inverness but with offices throughout the Highlands and Islands, has been granted £106,952 by the Scottish Government to help continue its work in supporting individuals into work.

The money from the Scottish Government’s Third Sector and Social Enterprise Challenge Fund – spread across 24 organisations nationally – will mean over 2000 young people are given the chance to improve their employability.

Mrs Urquhart, SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, said:

“This is excellent news for both Inverness and the Highlands & Islands as a whole.

“The Shirlie Project, like so many other organisations across the Highlands and Islands, does sterling work in helping people find employment in their chosen field.

“In the current economic climate, it’s vital that we continue to support organisations like the Shirlie Project wherever we can, so I’m delighted to see this work being supported by the Scottish Government.”

PRESS RELEASE: JEAN URQUHART WELCOMES SCHOOLS FUNDING ANNOUNCEMENT

Jean Urquhart MSP has welcomed today (Wednesday’s) announcement from the Scottish Government of £80 million to fund the building of new school campuses across Scotland, including projects in the Highlands and Islands.

As part of the third and final phase of the Schools For The Future Programme, Anderson High School in Lerwick, Elgin High School and Inverness Royal Academy will all receive funding for much-needed improvements, allowing them to begin construction in the next 12-18 months.

In total, 12 schools have been given funding to allow them to begin construction in the next 12-18 months, changes that will benefit 26,000 pupils nationwide.

Jean, a list MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, said:

“It’s great to see schools in sore need of new facilities being given the funding they need to begin construction as soon as they can.

“I know from correspondence I have received from pupils and parents of these schools just how necessary these changes are.

“Elgin High School pupils actually sent me a DVD chronicling the challenges posed by their current building, showing just how much this investment in new schools was needed.

“This investment in the future of our children will pay off in the short term, the medium term and the long term for both the pupils and the wider community.”

Speech: Great Polish Map of Scotland

I would like to congratulate my colleague Christine Grahame on bringing this debate to the floor- timely, I believe, as it was announced on Monday that the Great Polish Map has been awarded listed status. It is undoubtedly worthy of protection, and I am delighted that future generations will be able to admire the attention to detail of this unique structure. The use of gravity-driven water to recreate our rivers and lochs is truly magnificent,

I am sure that those speaking this evening will all concur with the historic importance of the map, not only as a feat of architecture and a reminder of the sacrifices made by Polish soldiers during World War II, but also as a symbol of the long-standing links between Poland and Scotland forged in that era that have remained strong ever since.

It is this connection that has continued to this very day that I wish to concentrate on. While all of Scotland has benefited from its special relationship with Poland- I think particularly of the Polish food shops that can be found in any city across Scotland, and the dedication of our supermarkets to providing Polish produce- the Highlands and Islands in particular has attracted a large number of Poles.  

As late as 2004, the Highlands and Islands were threatened with yet further depopulation. However, this has dramatically changed, with Inverness still one of the Europe’s fastest growing cities, a growth that is concurrent with economic regeneration and attributable in part to its active, dynamic Polish community, forming roughly 10% of the population of the city. Across the Highlands and Islands, approximately 69% of all immigrants come from Poland, showing the strong ties that exist between our two nations. The mutual benefit of these ties is evident; they contribute hugely to civic life in Inverness and the surrounding region, and I was privileged to have the chance to recognise this by inviting along Zosia Fraser. Chair of the Polish Association, as my “local hero” for the opening of Parliament last summer. Among other activities, Zosia has organised translation services, accommodation and put in place other measures to help new arrivals to the early to settle and to truly become part of the local community.

Zosia is typical of the Polish community in Scotland in contributing so much to our society. I’m sure all of us in this chamber recognise the value to future generations of growing up in towns, cities and villages where many cultures are known and celebrated, where an awareness of our place in the world and that of others helps to inculcate a sense of internationalism and global citizenry- a sense, I am sure, will be all the more beneficial when Scotland regains its place among the community of nations.

In closing, Presiding Officer, I would like to once again welcome the continuing restoration of the Map, and support this motion.

 

Motion: Moving Stories Travelling Exhibition

Moving Stories Travelling Exhibition
That the Parliament welcomes the travelling exhibition, Moving Stories, which is at Eden Court, Inverness, until 24 July 2012; understands that the exhibition highlights the experiences of 10 members of the public who have had some involvement with the Parliament; notes the wide range of topics covered in the exhibition, including knife crime, public petitions and health matters; believes that it is an excellent showcase of the work carried out by the Parliament and how people can best get involved; congratulates the organisers of the exhibition on attracting over 300,000 people since its launch in 2009; considers the interactive nature of the exhibition, its geographic spread and the diverse venues that it uses to be just some of its strengths; understands that the exhibition will also visit North Ayrshire Heritage Centre, Dalry Town Hall and the Scottish Borders Campus in 2012, and looks forward to it continuing to bring the work of the Parliament to the people.

Supported by: Roderick Campbell, Anne McTaggart, Rob Gibson, John Finnie, Annabelle Ewing, Chic Brodie, Margaret Burgess, Colin Beattie, Joan McAlpine, Bill Kidd, Willie Coffey, Paul Wheelhouse, Joe FitzPatrick, Hugh Henry, Richard Lyle, Mike MacKenzie, Fiona McLeod, Dennis Robertson, Sandra White, Kevin Stewart, Stuart McMillan, David Torrance, James Dornan, Mary Scanlon, Jamie Hepburn, Maureen Watt, Gil Paterson, Rhoda Grant, Stewart Maxwell