Helen Martin: Holyrood must ring changes on cold calls

The Scottish Government runs a Loft Insulation Grant Scheme
The Scottish Government runs a Loft Insulation Grant Scheme
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SCOTLAND is targeted by more nuisance calls than any other part of the UK. On our land-line we usually get anything between three and six calls a day – and that’s despite being registered with the Telephone Preference Service.

Last week, yet another unknown voice asked for me by name. Unusually, the caller was Scottish, but as per the normal nuisance sales-call routine, asked if I was having a nice day. He went on to give me his first name, and added he was calling on behalf of Help for Homes.

Edinburgh City Council superhero The Reducer promotes the 20mph zone message. Picture: Scott Louden

Edinburgh City Council superhero The Reducer promotes the 20mph zone message. Picture: Scott Louden

I asked him to repeat that. Then told him I was registered with the TPS so he shouldn’t be calling. His response was the same as every other unwanted sales call…his company had software which screened out TPS numbers.

Some of them even go as far as insisting I am not registered, and their software is always right. I can assure them, it’s always wrong. But this chap was reasonably polite, admitted the call shouldn’t have been made, wished me a good day, and hung up.

I complained to the TPS but began by searching the internet for Help for Homes. Now it’s possible this polite young man is a lying scammer, but if he’s genuine, Help for Homes took me to the Public Contracts Scotland part of the Scottish Government website, revealing the project’s purpose is to help people improve their homes by using equity in the property.

My local MSP is currently investigating the possibility that firms involved in a government scheme are ignoring TPS registration and making nuisance calls.

Then came a worrying coincidence. We own a rental flat on the other side of town and keep in close contact with the other owners. The stair has been repeatedly pestered by different groups of dubious guys who (with no paperwork or ID) fraudulently announce themselves as “this building’s surveyors” in order to gain entry.

They then try to persuade the upper flats to give them access to the loft to inspect the insulation. We believed they might be “cowboys”, burglars or con men. They certainly weren’t professional surveyors and when asked for ID, one guy wrote his first name and mobile number on a Post-it note! I rang him and he told me he was working on behalf of a government scheme and would e-mail the details. He didn’t.

Up went a notice on the stair door saying cold callers were not welcome. That didn’t deter them. Back they came, ripped the notice down and continued banging on doors, lying that other owners in the stair had agreed to go ahead with insulation.

It transpires there really is a Scottish Government Loft Insulation Grant Scheme. The public are supposed to apply before an “insulation surveyor” turns up to inspect the property and deliver the paperwork.

So once more, either these guys are scamming on the back of that scheme, or they are genuine insulation firms harassing people and invading their property to get paid for as much work as possible before the grants run out.

Are they enabled and contracted by the Scottish Government? Are they con men? Or is our government contracts team incapable of vetting and laying down rules for contractors?

Medical staff need more parking spaces

THE consequences of the horrific PPP arrangement under which the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was built and run will haunt us all for ever.

In all NHS-owned car parks there are no charges, yet at the ERI nurses are paying £100 a month just to get to work with a five-year wait for passes. As for visitors, even being prepared to pay through the nose doesn’t mean they can find a space – just what they need if they are distressed and in bits when a loved one is seriously ill!

We need more nurses and doctors – so why make getting to and from work a nightmare for them? This problem is not going to go away. The only answer is more, cheaper spaces for visitors and more free parking for staff. Cut through the bureaucracy of government guidelines, city planners and council transport policy and just make it happen.

We must get that 20mph message across – properly

I LIVE in one of the first 20mph pilot streets. We have sleeping policemen that can rip the underside off a low-slung car.

Yet, as it’s a relatively quiet street, the majority of drivers still whizz through at 40mph, particularly those in high 4x4s or commercial vehicles. One of the fastest I’ve ever seen was a lorry loaded with a skip.It’s a route used by children from many schools, those attending the local cricket club, as well as elderly people living in retirement flats nearby so we asked the local police to conduct speed tests, and they have done so. But it hasn’t made any difference.

The council says there are high levels of awareness about the 20s-plenty limit – but awareness doesn’t necessarily mean compliance.

Before rolling out any more 20mph zones they need to sort out confusing signs and ensure the limit’s working in existing zones. Otherwise it’s a pointless exercise.