Orcadian column, 27 June 2024

27 Jun 2024

Few are the events or occasions in Orkney where Ken Amer is not to be found floating around the margins if not at the very centre. Well-known and well-liked in equal measure, Ken’s ready laugh and wicked sense of humour quickly put at ease those he is filming or photographing. In more recent times, he has also been very open about his battle with prostate cancer, using the experience to help raise funds for and awareness of this awful condition.

News that Ken had suffered head and facial injuries after a bad fall while out filming in Stromness last week will have come as a shock, therefore, to folks across the county. The fall was serious enough to land Ken in intensive care in Aberdeen, though thankfully he and Glynis returned home on Monday evening, earlier than expected.

The road to recovery will take time, though Ken will travel it with the best wishes of all who know him. Meanwhile, as he would be the first to acknowledge with a cheeky wink, the modelling career is over.

On a more serious note, the incident last Thursday evening provided a further example of delays in despatching ambulances locally. While the paramedics and Balfour staff were first class, Ken apparently waited around an hour in great pain and having lost a lot of blood before an ambulance arrived, by which stage a second call had been required.

Similarities with the recent case of a footballer left waiting at the Bignold Park with a broken leg are painfully clear, and I have already been back in touch with Michael Dickson, Scottish Ambulance Service Chief Executive, to highlight my concerns and seek a meeting later this week. Mr Dickson has previously acknowledged the case for avoiding island-based calls getting caught up unnecessarily in national ‘escalation’ processes. This now needs to be reflected in practice.

The only minor upside I can see for Ken from last week’s events is that he was probably spared the pain of witnessing Scotland’s ignominious exit from Euro 24. Having had our initial hopes crushed by heavy defeat to Germany, expectations were back up at fever pitch ahead of Sunday night’s clash with Hungary following a nerve-shredding midweek draw with Switzerland.

Normally, the pain only lasts for 90 minutes, but always keen to find new ways of putting their fans through the ringer, Scotland managed to stretch things out to 100 minutes before delivering the sucker punch and conceding a last-minute goal. In reality, it’s not a result any long-suffering Scotland fan would have bet against. So it’s probably safe to assume that close advisers to the Prime Minister were happily having a flutter in the build-up to Sunday.

Quite honestly, I’m astonished at how far and fast the Conservative campaign has unravelled since Rishi Sunak called a snap election on a date few predicted. That some around the Prime Minister saw this surprise move as a gilt-edged opportunity to cash in at the bookies speaks volumes for where the party now finds itself. While not on the scale of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street parties during Covid, there is something of the same arrogant mindset that somehow the rules only apply to other people. This is unlikely to be a view shared by the Gambling Commission, which is now investigating various Conservative candidates and staffers over alleged illegal betting.

As political attention continues to focus on the upcoming election on 4 July, MSPs gather at Holyrood this week for the final time ahead of summer recess. The main item of business will be a vote on the government’s Circular Economy bill, but I also have a chance to raise with Ministers concerns about the availability of childcare in Orkney.

Theoretically, parents are entitled to 1140 hours of free early learning and childcare. In practice, however, many parents find this difficult to access, with particular challenges faced by those living in the islands. Those who work shifts or don’t work 9-5 often find it hard to get the support they need. Ultimately, as I told the Minister, an entitlement only has value where it can be readily accessed.

Let me sign off, however, by wishing Ken a full and speedy recovery.

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