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Column: Douglas Ross reflects on Save Our Surgeries campaigners and Forres Banking Hub

By Douglas Ross

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The Easter break in both parliaments allowed me to spend some much needed time with the family over the Easter weekend.

Save Our Surgeries campaigners at the height of their campaign. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Save Our Surgeries campaigners at the height of their campaign. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

In particular, Easter Sunday was full of fun activities with Alistair and James eager to search for chocolate eggs and then painting some hard-boiled ones to roll down the hill.

I hope that families across Moray were able to have a relaxing Easter weekend whatever you got up to.

I know for many parents that they will be looking for things to do with their children over the Easter Break so I hope that the weather improves and that they can take in many of the wonderful attractions and shops that Moray has to offer.

Just a couple of weeks ago it was fantastic to be able to welcome Save our Surgeries campaigners from Hopeman and Burghead to the Scottish Parliament to listen to a debate about the surgeries and meet with a number of local and national politicians.

They have worked tirelessly to try and re-open their GP surgeries in their respective villages and I have been determined to get their voices heard by the government.

It was great to see Dennis Slater, Rhona Grant, Hazel Grant, Syaneess Tungall and Liz McKnockiter in the public gallery as I led a debate on their campaign.

Afterwards, I joined them for a meeting with new SNP health secretary Neil Gray and minister Jenni Minto so they could hear their case first-hand and how crucial it is for them to have access to GP surgeries in their own communities, rather than having to do -what is for many - long and inconvenient trips to Lossiemouth, for short appointments.

This issue is rightly above party politics, and I hope that cross-party working will ensure NHS Grampian will have the resources to re-open healthcare facilities in Burghead and Hopeman as soon as possible.

I know that the Save our Surgeries campaigners will continue their relentless hard work and it is testament to what they have done, that I was able to secure cross-party support and host a debate and I will continue to press their case with government ministers at every opportunity.

Finally, I was delighted to be able to cut the ribbon at the official opening of the Forres Banking Hub.

I had worked closely with local postmaster Paul McBain, the local community and Cash for Access to bring banking services back to the town, following the last major bank closing its branch.

I have been deeply dismayed in recent years as to how banks have abandoned communities across Moray and left vulnerable and elderly customers without access to banking services where they live.

When I was first elected to Westminster in 2017 and opened my constituency office in Forres High Street, there were four bank branches, now there are none.

With access to online and mobile banking still very tricky for many in Moray due to lack of connectivity, they need physical branches open.

There was a real buzz at the official opening of the hub, with the hub already proving popular in the two weeks it had been open in the High Street. Forres can now proudly boast to having the most Northerly banking hub in the whole of the United Kingdom, but I know other towns in Moray are looking for the same and I will support their efforts as well.

The opening in Forres was a culmination of a lot of hard work and it was great to see it come to fruition. I know that loyal customers of major branches will continue to use the hub and it is an example of how crucial services can be protected in our rural communities.

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