IMPROVING transport links, helping make people healthier choices and praising the miracle workers of the NHS – these are just a few things that the Jeane Freeman wants to do whilst making sure to do all she can for the people of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley.

Ayrshire’s only Cabinet Minister in the Scottish Government has spoken exclusively about her aspirations for the rest of the parliament term, dealing with a high-profile position and her love for the area she grew up in.

An MSP since 2016, and speaking at her office in the heart of Cumnock, Jeane Freeman is proud to represent her local area.

She said: “Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley is a big constituency, for me one of the best things is this is the area I was born and grew up in, so it has that connection.

“I think it’s diverse in that it does have genuinely beautiful parts to the constituency and opportunities for people to do lots of outdoor activities but at the same time the communities are strong.

“You hear a lot about communities that have weakened over the years. I don’t know how true that is elsewhere in Scotland but I don’t think that’s true here.

“I think you see that in situations, for example, a couple of years ago there was bad flooding, it was the community, along with all the public services as you would expect, but it was the community that really rallied.”

But the Health Minister recognises that she has priorities in the constituency and in her cabinet position.

Explaining how they deal with incidents and how the positives of the NHS sometimes go unnoticed, she said: “The most important thing when incidents are reported, whatever they are and however they are reported, is to be absolutely certain of the facts of the case.

“So that is everything from what happened, when, who was involved, do we know why, what is the impact and then the level of seriousness in which you treat it is by and large guided on the basis of ‘has it or will it impact on patients’. On their safety, access to healthcare and what can we do about it?

“I need to hold a sense of context in that it may be a serious incident that needs to be treated seriously and dealt with but it shouldn’t detract from the fact that every single day positive, good work is done by staff in our health service, as they say miracles happen.

“From neo-natal units through to intensive care through to what paramedics do in keeping someone alive. You can’t lose that perspective, not because it makes politicians look good but the staff who do that deserve not to lose that sight of what they are achieving, even if from time to time things can wrong.”

Jeane wants to see transport improvements in East and South Ayrshire and highlighted exactly what needs done and how the opportunities are there, she said: “I want to significant improvement – or at least moving towards significant improvements – to the A77.

“The Maybole bypass is now about to begin construction and that is good but that whole road south is a strategic route and there is work going on with Transport Scotland to review that. and I’d like by the end of the next two years for us to have seen some significant move in that direction.

“There are other transport issues to resolve like the A76 that comes in from Kilmarnock and the rail network that runs from Kilmarnock through Mauchline, New Cumnock and down to Dumfries – there’s opportunities there to increase the frequency of trains at commuter times.

“Now that the Growth Deal has been agreed, then that begins to open up opportunities for that kind of investment.”

Deaths due to drugs and alcohol have been on the increase in Ayrshire and the SNP MSP spoke of what is being done to help those struggling with addiction.

She concluded: “The alcohol and drug local partnerships and the funding for them is not only protected for next year but has been increased as well as the work that the police do. “You have two, broadly speaking, areas in terms of drug deaths. You’ve got people who have had an addiction, and a lot of the time it is both drugs and alcohol, for very many years and there has been lots of input and support but it is very hard for people to break that if it has been there for a long time and because they have had that addiction for many years it has significantly harmed their health so many will die much younger than they otherwise would do. The younger age group we have the problem with what is actually on the streets and being bought and the difficulty in some instances is that we don’t actually know what is in some of these drugs.

“A lot of work continues in the background, and the police are best source of this, to work out what are the drugs that are out on the street, what is in them and what would be the impact. There is the general work that goes on all the time in schools to educate young people on the harm that drug use and alcohol use causes and then interestingly the most recent statistics show quite a significant decline in the numbers of young people who are smoking, using alcohol or taking drugs.

“It is beginning to show a bit of fruit but we need to keep going.”