REPORT CONFIRMS BREXIT RISK TO SCOTTISH FARMING “IN EVERY SCENARIO”

A study from the SRUC has confirmed that leaving the single market and customs union poses a serious risk to Scottish farming.

 

The report – published on Monday – found that in every scenario examined, Scotland’s farmers would be worse off compared to under the current trade arrangement, with some or all producers facing lower returns.

 

The study analysed the potential economic impact of three post-Brexit trade scenarios on four farm types – beef, sheep, dairy and crops. Including; a Bespoke free trade deal with the EU similar to the single market; World Trade Organisation default Most Favoured Nation tariffs, and; Unilateral trade liberalisation.

 

Commenting, South Scotland MSP Emma Harper said:

 

“This study confirms once again what the SNP has been saying all along – leaving the single market and customs union poses a serious risk to Scottish farming.

 

“The SRUC raises serious concerns, particularly in relation to beef and sheep farming. The model predicts that the national beef herd could shrink by up to 28% and the sheep flock by 56% depending on the trade and policy scenario.

 

“The findings reiterate how vulnerable hill farming systems are to trade deals and policy choices.

 

Meanwhile, David Mundell’s silence has been deafening in the face of a series of grim predictions for Scotland’s economic future post-Brexit.

 

“Just after the EU referendum, he pledged to protect Scotland’s interests and to get the best deal for Scotland – which in his words – ‘involves being part of the Single Market’. It’s time he stood by his words, and delivered on his promise to the people of Scotland.

 

“Mr Mundell is fast losing credibility and authority when it comes to standing up for Scotland, given he has now also been shunned from Theresa May’s Brexit ‘war cabinet’- as well as his promise to bring forward amendments to the EU Bill, which he failed to do.

“Far from the cries of ‘scaremongering’ from the Tory party, the UK government’s own Brexit analysis almost mirrors the Scottish Government’s analysis published last month which conveyed that the only plausible Brexit scenario, based on existing EU arrangements, is that Scotland and the UK will be much worse off.  

 

Link to SRUC research: https://www.sruc.ac.uk/ScotfarmBrexit

 

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JACK ACCUSED OF “SELLING OUT” RURAL COMMUNITIES IN CALL FOR HARD BREXIT

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper has accused Conservative MP Alister Jack of “selling out” his constituents by calling for a hard Brexit.

 

The accusation comes after the MP signed a letter, along with some of his Conservative Party colleagues, calling for an extreme Brexit that would have devastating consequences for rural Scotland.

 

Ms Harper wrote to Mr Jack today (Wednesday) expressing her dismay at his decision to call for an extreme Brexit, just days after research published by Scotland’s Rural College warned that leaving the single market and customs union poses a serious risk to Scottish farming.

 

Ms Harper said:

 

An extreme Brexit that would have devastating consequences for rural Scotland – not least for our constituents who make their livelihoods in the agricultural sector.

 

“Mr Jack’s demands that “any implementation period should be based on WTO principles” and for further trade liberalisation is of particular concern – especially in light of the recently published SRUC study on the potential economic impact of post-Brexit trade scenarios for Scotland’s farms.

 

“The possible effect of the Tories preferred hard Brexit on the sheep and cattle farmers we represent in the south of Scotland is seen to be particularly damaging, with sheep numbers in Scotland falling by more than half, beef cows by more than a quarter, and the removal of direct support payments leading to 89% of specialist sheep farms making losses in 2022 and two-thirds of specialist beef producers.

 

“Just yesterday it was reported that Scotland’s food and drink industry leaders are concerned that costly tariffs would hammer the sector under a Brexit scenario where exports between the EU and UK would subject to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules – something for which Alister Jack is now openly advocating.

“I have written to Mr Jack today urging him not to sell out our rural community in the south of Scotland in pursuit of his own personal ideological positioning on Europe.”

 

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SNP Budget give NHS Dumfries and Galloway £7.8 million funding boost

A funding boost delivered by the Scottish Government for Dumfries and Galloway will support frontline health care and help meet new demands across the region, Joan McAlpine has said.

 

NHS Dumfries and Galloway is set to receive an extra £7.8 million compared to last year – taking the total investment from the SNP Scottish Government for the year ahead to £289 million.

 

The commitment is part of a funding increase of over £400 million across Scotland – and NHS staff are also set to benefit from the ending of the public sector pay cap, boosting wages for hard working nurses, doctors, cleaners and clerical staff throughout the NHS.

 

The budget also sees over £1.8 million going direct to schools across the region to tackle the attainment gap, and £10 million for the creation of a new enterprise agency for the South of Scotland to drive inclusive growth.  The budget also commits to undertake a review of transport in the region.  

 

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

 

“The SNP in Government continues to deliver for our NHS in Dumfries and Galloway

 

“The extra funding will ensure that Scotland continues to have the best performing NHS across the UK – with lower waiting times and higher patient satisfaction.

  

“And this SNP Scottish Government budget also delivers a pay rise for workers in our NHS – the only part of the UK to make such a commitment, proving that when it comes to supporting workers in our NHS, only the SNP can be trusted.”

 

Notes:

 

NHS Funding Allocations:

NHS Frontline Boards

Total Extra Spend 2018-19 (Revenue + Capital uplift) £m

Total 2018-19 Allocation £m

Ayrshire & Arran

19.9

694.9

Borders

5.4

200.6

Dumfries and Galloway

7.8

289.1

Fife

19.5

636.6

Forth Valley

16.4

506.8

Grampian

31.3

920.6

Greater Glasgow and Clyde

69.2

2154.5

Highland

18.6

604.3

Lanarkshire

33.1

1156.1

Lothian

52.5

1384.3

Orkney

1.7

47.7

Shetland

1.7

48.7

Tayside

23.2

734.8

Western Isles

2.3

73

Source: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S5W-14783&ResultsPerPage=10

 

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Jack puts farming at risk with Brexit demands

MSP Joan McAlpine has hit-out at Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack after he signed a leaked letter to the Prime Minister demanding the hardest of Brexits.

 

Jack was among 62 hard tight Tory back benchers who wrote to Mrs May pushing for ‘full regulatory autonomy’ with any implementation period based on World Trade Organisation principles – meaning EU-UK barriers would go up.

 

The letter was signed by three Scottish Tory MPs – Alister Jack MP, Colin Clark MP and Stephen Kerr MP – and publicly backed by Ross Thomson MP.

 

Ms McAlpine said Mr Jack was brazenly putting farmers in the region at huge risk.

 

Commenting, she said:

 

“It is extra-ordinary that Alister Jack MP would sign a letter calling for the hardest of Brexits when agriculture is so important to the economy in Dumfries and Galloway.

 

“The UK government’s own Brexit analysis papers that were leaked two weeks ago warned that agriculture faced up to 17% extra costs – with a hard Brexit this will be significantly worse.

 

“Rather than standing up for Scotland, nearly a third of Scottish Tory MPs are now openly advocating an extreme hard-Brexit that will have catastrophic consequences on jobs, the economy and the living standards of millions of people.

“It is ironic that on the day same day David Davis promised the EU that the Tories do not want a race to the bottom in terms of standards, Jack and these Brexit extremists are calling for just that.

 

“With such divisions in her party, it gets clearer day by day that the Prime Minister is not going to be able to deliver a Brexit deal that protects jobs and the economy locally and across Scotland.”


Scottish Tories sign Brexit letter to PM:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-43140486

Davidson says Scots Tory MPs will argue Scotland’s case ‘forcefully’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40232374

Scottish Tories expected to vote as bloc to protect Scotland’s interests: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/11/scottish-tories-expected-vote-bloc-protect-scotlands-interests

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Langholm community ‘misled’ over flooding problems

Joan McAlpine has said that the community in Langholm has been misled around the flooding problems holding up development of the care village.

At a public meeting this week it emerged that it was the Council’s flood management team who had zoned a large part of Langholm as at risk – but they had previously blamed SEPA.

 

Locals attending the packed meeting on Monday were shocked to hear SEPA say that they had not in fact been involved in the process to date.

 

Ms McAlpine said she was particularly angry because the flood risk study conducted by the Council had not used the local knowledge of Langholm residents.

 

The one resident at the meeting who had spoken to a member of the flood risk team said they betrayed absolute ignorance of the Esk, the Ewe and the Wauchope rivers, and didn’t appear to know what they were.

 

Ms McAlpine said:

 

“It seems the Council has spent money on its own flood modelling, which appears entirely based on computer hypotheses and not local knowledge.

 

“The people in the room pointed out that the river had not flooded since 1977, and even then no homes were affected.

 

“And that is despite heavy rain causing serious floods in other parts of Dumfries and Galloway, which have not had the same flood risk label stuck on them.”

 

Residents shared their views on the ludicrous situation whereby Council planning officials were refusing applications for conservatories citing the flood risk – but had been quite happy to allow the building of the primary school and sewage
works in the area, which they were now claiming was out of bounds.

 

Ms McAlpine and constituency MSP Oliver Mundell agreed to write jointly to the Chief Executive of the Council, who had been invited to the meeting but declined.

 

They intend to speak to the leadership of the Council, who previously promised to deliver the care village that Langholm desperately needs.

 

Ms McApine said:

 

“Whenever I have raised the Langholm economy with the Chief Executive he has pointed to the care scheme as a potential regenerator because of the number of people it would employ.

 

“I know that’s what John Seinney was told when he chaired a number of meetimgs about the economy in Langholm several years ago.

 

“It is simply not acceptable that one part of the Council can claim to support this initiative as members of the IJB, combining health and social care, but elsewhere in the Council they are pursuing a policy that locals say would prevent
any future development in Langholm, by designating the town a flood zone on the basis of very poor evidence as far as the locals ae concerned.”

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McAlpine praises hospital during Health Secretary visit

MSP Joan McAlpine praised the new Dumfries hospital as Health Secretary Shona Robison had a tour of the facility yesterday.

 

The £274 million facility is one of the most technologically advanced in the UK. 

 

Each of the 344 single rooms has its own computer point, allowing staff to update patient records on the spot.

 

The construction of the hospital – funded by the SNP government – was completed on budget and on time last year.

 

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

 

“I had the chance to visit the new hospital this week, along with Cabinet Secretary Shona Robison. 

 

“The facility really is something special – and I say that as someone who has recently stayed over-night in a central belt hospital with an ill relative.

 

“The rooms are very spacious and allow patients privacy and dignity – something missing from the usual four bed wards where is can be hard to rest.”

 

The new DGRI boasts a cutting-edge design as well as all the latest technology, so patients from across the region will receive the highest standards of treatment and care. 

 

Ms McAlpine said:

 

“The design of the new complex is focussed squarely on patient care.

 

“The nursing model has moved from a central bay to one where nurses are caring for small groups of patients, and a new intercom system saves time by allowing patients to speak with nurses remotely. 

 

“Curtains have been replaced with glass ‘smart walls’ that turn opaque when privacy is needed, and a state of the art system allows from fresh air and gives a therapeutic feel. 

 

“The designers really have thought of everything – from landscaped gardens for visitors and chairs that turn to beds in the children’s ward should parents need to stay over, it really is a fantastic building.”

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Harper Welcomes Health Secretary to Dumfries and Galloway

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The SNP MSP accompanied Ms Robison to the recently opened Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, followed by a visit to Newton Stewart Community Hospital, and Galloway Community Hospital.

 

Ms Harper invited the Cabinet Secretary to the region to see first-hand how vital front-line health services are developing to different models of care, and to hear from NHS staff.

 

Ms Harper – a former employee of NHS Dumfries and Galloway and registered nurse – commented:

 

“Today’s visit had been positive and productive. I am pleased that the Cabinet Secretary has spent the day and made time to visit facilities in both the east and west of the region. I felt – as did Ms Robison – that it was important for her to come and speak with those working on the front line of the NHS here and see the excellent work that they do.

 

“Clearly there are challenges facing the Scottish Health Service and NHS in England – but there are a distinct set of challenges to be addressed in rural areas. For example, today we have discussed issues around recruitment, and heard from some of the people at the forefront of changing methods of working including delivering and adopting new models of care.

 

“I am In very regular contact with constituents regarding the health service in south west Scotland and will continue to work with government, the health board, and fellow MSPs representing the region for the best outcome.

 

“Ms Robison’s visit today will certainly be useful going forward.”

 

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MSP calls for pardons for Suffragettes to celebrate centenary of votes for women

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine used a speech in Parliament to call for Suffragettes who were imprisoned for campaigning for votes for women to be pardoned.

The call came during a debate celebrating the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 – which granted some women over 30 the right to vote.

Ms McAlpine said it was time for us to live up to the Suffragette motto ‘deeds, not words’ and to pardon the campaigners who risked everything so that women can take part in the democratic process.

Commenting, the SNP MSP said:

“These brave women broke the law so that we could make the law”

“Today I have used the debate to remember the women behind these demonstrations, some destructive, some mischievous, none causing any loss of life. 

“It is time to consider pardoning these women.”

MSPs from all parties used the centenary today to pay tribute the Suffragists and Suffragettes who campaigned to extend the suffrage to women.

Ms McAlpine highlighted the Scottish suffragettes who are not household names like the Pankhursts – but just as surely changed the course of history.

Ms McAlpine said:

“Scotland saw significant examples of direct action throughout the campaign – this was partly due to the strength of the movement here, and the fact that high profile members of the cabinet, such as Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Herbert Asquith held Scottish seats.

“Maude Edwards was jailed for damaging a portrait of King George the fifth at the Royal Scottish Academy. Frances “Fanny” Parker, of the Scottish Universities Womens Suffrage Union attempted to set fire to Burns Cottage to draw attention to the rights of women.

“The case of Ethel Moorhead, who threw an egg at Churchill in Dundee– also highlights the shocking treatment of these women at the hands of the State.  Ms Moorhead was the first suffragette to be force fed in Scotland in Calton Jail – the vaseline coated tube forced down her throat entered her lungs and caused double pneumonia.

“We have praised these women today in word.  The time has come for deeds of our own – to use the power they gave us to clear their names.” 

Photo credit: Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. 

Speech will be available via the Official Report here.

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McAlpine welcomes reprieve for RBS Gretna branch

MSP Joan McAlpine has welcomed the decision by RBS to keep its Gretna branch open until at least the end of 2018 – followed by an independent review.

 

Ms McAlpine has been lobbying RBS bosses to reverse closures in the region. 

 

She says the decision to close the branches is a betrayal to loyal customers and communities.

 

RBS bosses had previously said that they would not reconsider the decision – but lobbying from the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford has softened their position.

 

She said:

 

“It is welcome news that the Gretna branch will be open until at least the end of 2018.

 

“The decision seems to have been made because if the Gretna branch closes, there will be no other Royal Bank branch within a nine mile radius. 

 

“It is to the credit of SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford that RBS have softened their position on at least some closures.

 

“However, RBS is taxpayer owned, and it is about time the Secretary of State for Scotland was lobbying the bank to stop these closures completely.”

 

Notes to editors:

 

Statement from RBS below:

 

Royal Bank of Scotland listens to customers by providing additional support to customers and keeping branches open

 

Royal Bank of Scotland has listened and engaged with customers, communities and elected representatives from all parties and will now keep ten branches open until at least the end of 2018 and provide an additional support package for customers across Scotland. At the end of the year an independent review will be carried out of the use of these branches. The vast majority of these branches are in communities where there is no other Royal Bank branch within a nine mile radius. 

 

As part of the package of support the Royal Bank will look to open new branches across Scotland, improve ATM accessibility for all communities affected by the closures, review opening hours of remaining branches, and work with communities to give empty branches to local community groups for free.

 

The total package includes:

 

1.            Branches: We will keep ten branches open (Biggar, Beauly, Castlebay/Barra, Comrie, Douglas, Gretna, Inveraray, Melrose, Kyle, Tongue) until at least the end of 2018. Should any of these branches see sustainable transactional increases and viable new income over this period, then we will reconsider the closure of the relevant branch as part of a full independent review.

2.            Branch buildings: Where we own the building and where there is no demand for a building, we will work with development trusts and local communities to transfer ownership of a building to a community for free if there is a viable and deliverable three-year business case. As part of the proposal if the community venture fails within those three years, then the ownership of the building will remain with the Royal Bank. Where possible we will also donate all suitable branch furniture and other suitable equipment to local organisations for free.

 

3.            Digital Access: In response to concerns over digital access we will work with a small number of communities across Scotland to support the digital adoption of contactless terminals for local Royal Bank of Scotland business customers and will seek to offer free initial contracts. We will also give free digital devices to a small number of high-use, regular branch customers affected by branch closures, who have no access to a nearby branch where they can bank online. We will also ensure access to training if necessary from our TechXperts in local areas affected. We will also work with BT and other local partners to explore improving broadband options in these local communities.

 

4.            ATM Access: On access to ATMs we will ensure we do not remove, or will replace at a suitable nearby location, the branch ATM if there is no other free-to-use ATM within 1km of the closing branch.

 

5.            Branch Access: We will undertake a review of the opening hours of all receiving branches to ensure that, where there is reasonable demand, they are open at appropriate times.

 

6.            Opening New Branches: We will continue to invest in our remaining branch network and look to open branches across Scotland where it is convenient for customers and where it makes viable business sense.

 

7.            Post Office Training and Note Fraud: In response to concerns over Post Office capability we will work with the Post Office to roll out our fraud and scams training to their franchisees. We will also supply, for free, bank-standard fraudulent note detection and cash counting machines to the nearest Post Office from a closing branch.

 

8.            Mobile Van Service:  We will review Mobile Van routes and times on a monthly basis and be open to suggestions of change from local communities or community representatives.

 

9.            Alternative Ways to Bank: As planned we will continue to implement our strategy of providing all areas affected by branch closures with alternative ways to bank. Overall there are more ways to bank with us than ever before and, while this includes digital, it also includes face to face in Mobile Vans and through our Community Bankers, in Post Offices (where customers can withdraw cash, deposit cash and cheques, view balances and business customers can get coinage) Telephony and through our network of ATMs.

 

Commenting on these changes, Managing Director for Personal Banking, Jane Howard, said:

 

“We are committed to ensuring our customers and communities are able to continue accessing quality banking services. Having listened to the concerns of customers, communities and elected representatives from all political parties we have decided to keep ten branches open until at least the end of 2018. During this period we will monitor the level of transactions and new income at each branch and if there is a sustained and viable increase in both then we will reconsider the closure of the relevant branch as part of a full independent review.

 

“We’ll continue to invest in our branch network and services across Scotland. We provide our customers with more ways to bank than ever before – they can choose from a range of digital, to face-to-face options, including; Mobile and Online Banking, telephone banking, video banking, Community Bankers, our mobile banks on wheels, and Post Offices”.

 

Notes to editors:

We’re working hard to develop new services to respond to the changing needs of our customers and make banking effortless:

 

Digital

•             Customers can bank when and where they want to using our market leading mobile app and our online banking services for both personal and business customers – we have more than 924,000 mobile users in Scotland.

•             Today 7/10 customers are enrolled on our mobile banking app and /or using online banking. In 2017, to date we have processed via the mobile app:

•             Almost 28m transfers;

•             20.9m payments;

•             We provide 24/7 Webchat messaging, Message Us through the Mobile App, Social Media, and Telephony for those times when face to face is not needed.

•             Royal Bank customers complete over 31,000 Webchats each year to answer basic queries.

•             We currently have 120,000 active business customers using our Bankline platform.

•             We’ve launched Free-Agent, a free cloud-based accounting software for small businesses, to help our customers keep track of their finances and report their taxes digitally. It’s easy to use, reduces errors and saves our small business customers valuable time. And with the customer’s permission, we can link it to their business bank account so we can share data for real time conversations about a loan, or another solution to help grow their business.

 

Face to face banking in the community

•             By the end of H1 2018, 99.7% of all our customers will live within 15 minutes of a branch, a mobile branch or a Post Office location.

•             The Post Office allows customers to carry out their everyday banking in over 1,400 Post Offices across Scotland – as well as via their mobile branch service.

•             All Post Offices in Scotland accept deposits of cash and cheques; balance checks; withdrawals; and can provide change.

•             Our fleet of 21 mobile branches in Scotland serve over 440 Scottish communities each week. At one of our mobile branches you can deposit funds; withdraw cash; businesses can deposit and withdraw cash and coin; pay bills; make balance enquiries.

•             We understand our Scottish communities and are providing the right solutions for each one – Island communities are served by our flying banker; we’re keeping branches in rural and remote communities where other options aren’t sufficient (Scarinish, Lochboisdale, Sanday and Stronsay); and we’re relocating three branches in Inverness, Stirling and Hamilton by end H1 2018.

•             We now have a dedicated Royal Bank TechXpert in every branch across Scotland, who support our customers with their digital journey, providing digital education and reassurance that we provide a safe and secure digital service that all our customers can use confidently.

•             We are the only bank to have Community Bankers – they remain in the community when a branch closes and will get to know our customers – just like the old-fashioned Bank Manager. They will help customers with their individual financial goals and support communities to be safe and secure when managing their money.

•             By the end of March 2018 we’ll have 21 Community Bankers in post across Scotland serving 63 communities.

•             Our Business Growth Enablers support local business customers by providing specialist advice and events and training to support their business needs. They put businesses in touch with local experts, across the bank and through their networks in their town or city to help businesses where and when they need it most.

•             Our new Video Banking service allows customers to connect to us wherever they are. Video Bankers can assist in many different ways, in a location most convenient to each customer. Services include full Financial Health Checks, opening accounts and discussing their short-term borrowing needs. This service can be accessed on a mobile or tablet, via a video connection.

 

Self-service

•             We have invested significantly in automated devices for our non-personal customers over the last four years.

•             Customers can self serve through our ATMs, Business Quick Deposit Units & Cash and Deposit Machines across Scotland – 73% of our remaining branch network will have coin-in facilities and 77% will have Business Quick Deposit machines.

Courier service / at your location

•             We have cash courier services with our Bank to You and Direct Cash products.

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Joan McAlpine champions rights of people affected by M.E.

MSP Joan McAlpine attended a screening of ‘Unrest’ – an award-winning film about the difficulties of living with ME in the Scottish Parliament, to raise awareness of the debilitating condition, ME.

 

Hosted by Ben Macpherson MSP, the reception was funded and organised by a group of volunteers with the support of the charity ME Action.

 

The reception included a short excerpt from a documentary film, Unrest, which tells the story of people with ME.  Unrest won a special jury award at last year’s Sundance Film Festival and was longlisted for the Oscars.

 

Two speakers who suffer from ME told MSPs about the devastating impact of ME on their lives.

 

The discussion highlighted that around 21,000 people in Scotland are affected by ME, which strikes indiscriminately of age, often devastating previously healthy and active lives.

 

Following the event, Ms McAlpine wrote to NHS Dumfries and Galloway to ask about their approach to the treatment of M.E. as well as approaching NHS Education for Scotland to ask what training can be provided for health professionals to help them provide effective support to ME sufferers.

 

Commenting Ms McAlpine said:

 

“Unrest was very moving, and I am grateful to those constituents who took the time to tell me their stories of suffering with ME.

 

“I have written to the local health board and NHS Education for Scotland in hope of opening a dialogue about how we approach the treatment of ME.”

 

NOTES:

 

ME is a debilitating neuro-immune disease which leaves sufferers unable to work or even carry out basic everyday tasks.  It causes profound fatigue and can lead to cognitive impairment.

 

Famous Scots including Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch, author Ali Smith and former Celtic player Davie Provan have all been sufferers. 

 

In a recent survey of Scottish patients, two-thirds of people with severe ME had been ill for 10 years of more.

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