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South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has urged the Scottish and UK Governments to turn their “warm words” about the Borderlands into “hard cash” and use their forthcoming budgets to fund a Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal.

The call was made by the local MSP following today’s (18 June) Borderlands Conference hosted by Dumfries and Galloway Council. Speakers at the event included the Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council Elaine Murray and Scottish Government Economy Secretary Keith Brown MSP, although Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell MP pulled out of the event at the last minute.

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said, “Having been involved in the Borderlands Initiative since it was established, I know how much effort it has been over the years to firstly bring all five councils from across the border together with a shared vision and list of key themes and possible projects and secondly to get both Government’s round the table to listen. It’s vital that the final list of projects are shaped locally by the community, businesses and councils, not in any way imposed by central Government. Whilst it stills seems a problem getting Ministers from both Governments in the room at the same time, once the final proposals are agreed, the Scottish and UK Governments must show real backing and match their warm words about the Borderlands with hard cash in their next budgets. It’s also important not to raise expectations. Any deal could mean investment of a few million pounds a year in the South of Scotland but spread out over a ten-year period not starting until 2020, but if the right projects are selected then it can help make a real difference to the local economy”

The Borderlands Initiative brings together the five cross-border local authorities in South Scotland and the North of England to promote economic growth and competitiveness of the area that straddles the Scotland-England border. The initiative was established following a report in 2013 entitled, ‘Borderlands: can the North East and Cumbria benefit from greater Scottish Autonomy?’ The Councils are developing a series of projects as part of a Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal for consideration by the Scottish and UK Governments and held a conference today (18 June) to discuss a draft list of possible projects and themes with local stakeholders including local businesses, further and higher education establishments, the third sector and local councillors and MSPs.

TIME FOR GOVERNMENTS TO TURN “WARM WORDS” OVER BORDERLANDS INTO “HARD CASH”

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South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has described figures from a recent report which showed 15.1% of chronic pain sufferers across Ayrshire and Arran, are waiting over the 18-week legal waiting time target for treatment, as “totally unacceptable.”

The figures were revealed in a Scottish Government report published on 12 June by their Information Services Division – ISD Scotland – on waiting times for chronic pain.

15.1% of patients seen over the first three months of 2018 were forced to wait above the 18-week target for their first appointment. The figures show little improvement from the last three months of 2017.

The same figures also revealed that 86.7% of patients attending a pain psychology appointment were forced to wait over the 18-week target for their first appointment. This is an 86.7% increase from the same period last year.

Colin Smyth MSP said, “These waiting times are totally unacceptable for people suffering from chronic pain across Ayrshire and Arran. The figures released in this report show that services for patients experiencing chronic pain are only getting worse, not better.

The fact that the NHS recruitment crisis is affecting local services could mean that these waiting times are unlikely to improve anytime soon. After a decade of SNP mismanagement of our NHS we now have patient services getting worse. It’s time the SNP started to resource our NHS properly and tackled the recruitment crisis that is impacting on patient care.”

MSP EXPRESSES CONCERN OVER “TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE” WAITING TIMES FOR CHRONIC PAIN PATIENTS ACROSS AYRSHIRE AND ARRAN

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