Diary of an MSP: Alex Fergusson

For any reader who isn’t aware of the truly extraordinary the Great Tapestry of Scotland, my advice is simple: find out about it and go and see it.

This amazing tapestry, the longest in the world at 143 metres, has been created in a mere 18 months. It tells the history of Scotland and some of the panels were created here in Dumfries and Galloway. I had the pleasure of hosting a visit by the “Galloway Broderers” (embroiderers were originally called broderers), whose members contributed the panel entitled “Bruce’s Siege of Carlisle 1315”.

It is most easily spotted by the Belted Galloway cow and calf in the bottom left corner but, like every other panel I have looked at, it is crafted beautifully. The 160 panels are a huge credit to the more than 1000 people who put in the 50,000 hours of stitching that have gone into it.

The tapestry was first displayed in the Scottish Parliament during September, and the number of visitors took everyone by surprise. Up to two-hour queues were in evidence, and there was a 
bonus for the parliament shop, which usually takes about £1000 a week. During the tapestry exhibition, that went up to £5000. Perhaps we should keep it permanently!

Single beds only

The fact that the new hospital in Dumfries is to have single-bed rooms only is controversial. I have always had concerns about this, as I am convinced multi-bed wards have a positive impact for some patients. There is no evidence that single rooms reduce infections. But my real beef is that patients were never consulted. There should be a mix.

I was, therefore, pleased to speak in support of a petition brought to the Petitions Committee by two constituents which questioned this policy. One of the committee members picked up on the fact that government thinking changed from a 50/50 mix to all single-beds almost overnight and with no apparent new evidence to back the change. As a result of this petition, the government is being asked a few searching questions by the committee – I await its response with interest.

Money, money, money!

I recently completed my second descent of the zipwire at Laggan Outdoor. My first descent was in thick cloud which completely removed any consciousness of speed or height. This time I wasn’t so lucky, and my eyes were mostly closed! But it was in a fantastic cause. A young mum been diagnosed with breast cancer decided to do something in return for all the support she received, and organised the Scream Out for Cancer sponsored zip the longest wire in the UK. She raised over £17,000 – a truly incredible effort.

The same evening I went to a more formal fundraiser: a dinner and auction for the Galloway Fisheries Trust, Combat Stress and Marie Curie Cancer that raised more than £27,000.

I am incredibly proud of the people in this region.

The dreaded crayfish

Regular readers will be aware of my concerns about American signal crayfish in Loch Ken. Authorities have continued to refuse any solution that incudes a commercial aspect on the grounds that any profitable enterprise involving ASCs would increase the likelihood of them being spread by human activity. The problem is that those same authorities haven’t come up with any other solution yet.

I recently watched a cooking programme on TV that featured a chef demonstrating three ways to serve up crayfish. These unpleasant creatures are not yet in every waterway in Scotland. But if nothing continues to be done, they soon will be. At least then we will be able to eat them!


September seems to have been a month of openings. I have had the pleasure of opening a new entrance for the wonderful Aldouran Wetland Garden at Leswalt, a tranquil new Jubilee picnic area at Mossdale, and the Bird Town Festival at Dalry. Each of these projects has one thing in common: a huge voluntary input from the community.

Crossroads milestone

Carers are often taken for granted. So anyone who makes life easier for those carers deserves our support and I was delighted to be able to attend the launch of a new website by Crossroads (Newton Stewart and Machars). Some branches of this charity have closed but this one has thrived since being established in 1985. The aim is to “treat carers and people with care needs with respect and sensitivity, recognising the dignity and value of each person for whom the service is provided.”

Who could possibly argue with that? May they continue to flourish.