NHS Highland’s vaccine programme is progressing well, and I have been encouraged by their updates over these past weeks. Many constituents have also been in touch to share their experiences, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I know the wait isn’t easy, but with the most clinically vulnerable now receiving their appointments, the vaccine programme is moving at pace.  As I write this, we are reaching nearly 50,000 vaccines a day across Scotland and while these numbers will fluctuate, these are incredible achievements by our NHS.

In other news, I will be taking on a new role, shadowing International Trade which allows me to focus on promoting Scotland the brand, our record and the enormous potential for our region and nation in the future.

When you get down to it, Trade is simply the exchange of goods. The better the quality on offer and better the reputation a brand has, the more likely it is to take off and create jobs and opportunity. I’m going to do all I can to ensure that our quality products, services and offerings are given as much exposure and opportunity as I can influence.

That, of course, means more than goods and our communities and businesses need support now. I continue to urge the Chancellor to do the right thing and finally help support those left out of the self-employment scheme, including the newly self-employed and some company directors. We also need proper sectoral support and investment in recovery. Rest assured I will keep on the case.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes MSP has the impossible task of trying to make limited funding stretch to help everyone missing out on UK Government support, including the newly self-employed and many freelancers. Similarly, Fergus Ewing MSP, continues to do all he can to get support out to businesses in the tourism sector.

Two new grants are particularly welcome; the new self-catering grant and the new discretionary fund managed by The Highland Council, which will hopefully offer help to those who have missed out on other funds. I would encourage anyone still in need of support to visit the Highland Council website for more information on these funds.

I want to say a special thanks to the Highland Council team who have been working on distributing these new funds – they are doing a terrific job to get money in people’s hands as quickly as possible.

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