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6,000-strong petition demanding improved NHS care in Caithness reaches Holyrood

The Chat petition is handed over at Holyrood.
The Chat petition is handed over at Holyrood.

A 6,000-signature petition was delivered to the Scottish Government yesterday demanding improved NHS care in Caithness.

Campaigners were frustrated that Health Secretary Shona Robison was unable to receive it personally, instead handing it to Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Ed Mountain, who promised to deliver it.

The latest protest by campaign group the Caithness Health Action Team (Chat) was aimed at keeping the issues of a “downgraded” maternity service and increased dependency on ambulances for hospital transfers to Inverness in the public arena.

Prior to visiting Holyrood, Chat members had sent symbolic plastic cows to each MSP, claiming livestock laws better protected cattle than NHS Scotland’s treatment of pregnant mothers.

Under EU law, it is illegal to transport heavily pregnant or labouring livestock or newborn calves.

Chat vice-chairwoman Kirsteen Campbell said: “We’ve definitely raised the profile by speaking with various MSPs and we’ll keep fighting.”

Mr Mountain accused local SNP MSP Gail Ross of attempting to “airbrush her constituents out” by amending a motion he put to the parliament yesterday, in which he had congratulated the Chat campaign’s challenge to maternity service reforms.

Mrs Ross won support for her amendment, removing the word “congratulates” and any reference to the protest group. It noted the findings of the region’s puiblic health director that safety concerns necessitated reconfiguration of maternity services.

Mr Mountain later described the amendment as “shameful”.

Mrs Ross said the tone of his motion had been “totally inappropriate, demoralising for staff, worrying for prospective mothers and supported a campaign which was based on inaccurate information”.

She added: “Pregnant cows can be transported for medical reasons” and that a campaign “comparing mothers to livestock was not something that we should support as a parliament.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The health secretary has asked that NHS Highland, who made the decision on grounds of safety, keep her informed of progress and to involve local residents in that process.”

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