A RECENT survey by Independent Age, the older people’s charity, revealed that more than two in five (44 per cent) of drivers aged 70 and over in Scotland say they would feel like they’d lost part of their identity if they were not able to drive and for more than nine in 10 (92 per cent) of older drivers it would mean a loss of independence.

The survey was commissioned to promote our new, free advice guide, Behind the Wheel: Tips for safe and confident driving in later life.

The guide is full of tips to help support older drivers, and provides information on alternatives if they decide to stop driving.

It is accompanied by online information for the families of older drivers around how to start difficult conversations about driving.

The survey showed that, for many older people in Scotland, being able to drive means so much more than just being able to get out-and-about.

Whether it’s keeping in touch with family and friends or continuing to do their shopping, driving can help maintain a sense of independence, and identity too.

There are almost five million people over the age of 70 who hold licences in the UK, with more than 100,000 of those over the age of 90.

There are many benefits to continuing to drive into older age and, as long as they remain safe, older people should be able to continue driving for as long as they want to.

It’s also vital that people who are no longer able to drive have access to information on the various options available for getting around without a car.

Independent Age is one of the two charities who provided contributors for ITV’s 100-year-old Driving School, which airs at 9pm on Tuesdays from 12th-26th September. Independent Age representatives attended the three regional hubs to talk to older drivers and their families participating in the programme about their experiences of driving, in research for the Behind the Wheel advice guide.

Behind the Wheel is completely free to order and download from www.independentage.org/driving-guide or can be ordered by calling 0800 319 6789.

To make a donation or find out more about how you can support the work of Independent Age and help older people stay independent, please visit www.independentage.org.

Lucy Harmer, director of services, Independent Age.

THIS September is ‘Women and Heart Disease Awareness Month’ at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), a cause I feel extremely passionate about.

On September 20 I was officially announced as a BHF Ambassador, marking the occasion by spending the morning at The William Harvey Heart Centre, Queen Mary University of London, where the BHF funds life saving heart research.

I spoke with BHF researchers at the university about research they are doing into pre-eclampsia, the leading cause of death worldwide for women during pregnancy, and heart transplant rejection.

This research is of particular interest to me, as my mother was previously diagnosed with pre-eclampsia which resulted in my sister Sophie being stillborn.

It is estimated that globally around 76,000 pregnant women die each year from pre-eclampsia and related hypertensive disorders.

Whilst at Queen Mary’s I also met various women who are fighting a daily battle with heart disease.

These women included Bina Ghelani and her baby Aarya.

Bina was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia when she was 32 weeks pregnant with Aarya. Thankfully they both made a full recovery but this is something no family should have to face.

It’s a very sad reality that coronary heart disease remains the UK’s single biggest killer. It kills twice as many women as breast cancer.

In Scotland there are 670,000 people alone living a daily battle with cardiovascular disease. 1,250 lives are lost every month in Scotland because of these devastating conditions.

But there is hope. The BHF currently funds 146 research projects at Institutions across Scotland to help fight this heartless disease.

It’d like to encourage all Scottish readers to help fund the BHF’s life saving research this September by donating any unwanted items to your local BHF Scotland shop.

I have already donated a bag of my unwanted items to the BHF’s Bag It Beat It (BIBI) campaign, their annual stock donation campaign this September so you all must!

The BHF has a 1 million bag target throughout the month. Your donations really are a life savers.

For more information on the BHF and their Bag It Beat It campaign visit www.bhf.org.uk/bagit. To book a free collection call, 0808 250 0024.

The Duchess of York, ambassador for the British Heart Foundation

IT seems that not a day goes by when I’m not contacted by farmers and crofters in my ward with justifiable concerns about single farm payments and the plight of our rural economy.

Unfortunately the bad news just keeps rolling in as the Scottish Government could face a fine of up to £700,000 for the late payment of European subsidies to farmers this year. The penalty, estimated at between £500,000 and £700,000, relates to delays to 2016 Common Agricultural Policy.

The figure is on top of potential financial penalties of around £5 million as a result of late payments in 2015 after delays caused by the introduction of a new £178 million IT system.

A total of 90.4 per cent of payments due to farmers were paid by the June deadline, with the European Commission rejecting a request from Scottish Ministers for an extension to the payment window.

Even worse the Scottish Government could also face separate EC financial penalties, known as disallowance, if weaknesses in the administration and control of CAP payments are identified.

A recent assessment from Audit Scotland warned the figure for this could be as high as a massive £60 million.

To add insult to injury the SNP has announced cuts worth tens of millions of pounds for projects aimed at helping Scotland’s farming communities.

In a recent written statement to the Scottish Parliament, rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing said he was slashing support for less favourable areas by £40 million, with a further £42 million being removed from climate change schemes.

Along with the SNP’s aforementioned mishandling of hundreds of millions of pounds in Common Agricultural Policy payments due to a botched IT system this makes for a double hammer blow for our framers, crofters and the wider economy in rural Scotland.

Most shocking of all is that as part of the revision, the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme will have money reduced from £459 million to £419 million.

That’s money which supports businesses in areas of the country which are harder to farm successfully, particularly in remote areas.

Due to mixture of incompetence and indifference we in rural Scotland are having our economy starved by an urban, central belt and separatism obsessed Scottish Government.

We in Kintyre, the Islands and the rest of Argyll and Bute deserve better.

Cllr Alastair Redman - Islay.

I AM one of 90 Armed Forces athletes heading out to the Invictus Games in Toronto this weekend to stand proud for my country once more.

For us, the Invictus Games means more than simply competing for glory – it's the pinnacle of a long journey of recovery and rehabilitation.

My journey began in 1996, when in a split second, my life changed forever.

A tractor turned into my path while I was riding my motorbike, the trailer it was towing rolled over my chest and I was left with catastrophic injuries. I was paralysed from the chest down.

I was medically discharged from the RAF and at my lowest point, the RAF Benevolent Fund stepped in to provide furniture and funding for resettlement training.

As a previously fit and active member of the RAF Regiment, my injuries were devastating.

But I found a positive by focussing my recovery around sport, and took up hand cycling, indoor rowing and wheelchair rugby.

Again the RAF Benevolent Fund was there for me, this time helping to buy a racing hand cycle which allowed me to race competitively.

So when you support the brave men and women who will compete at this year's Invictus Games, cheer for all those standing behind us; our families and supporters like the RAF Benevolent Fund and other military charities, without whom this would not be possible.

Luke Delahunty, Invictus Games athlete

SCOTLAND'S first national quidditch team, the Scottish Thistles, has been launched to compete in the Quidditch Premier League (QPL).

This follows QPL’s highly successful inaugural season, where the West Midlands Revolution won the 2017 Championship. Try-outs for the Scottish Thistles will take place in the spring.

The Scottish Thistles will enter the northern division of the League, competing in divisional fixtures against the Yorkshire Roses, the West Midlands revolution, the East Midlands Archers and the Northern Watch before heading to the 2018 Championship.

Quidditch is a competitive, inclusive sport with thousands of players worldwide.

Many players play in university teams with a growing number of community teams in the UK. The sport is mixed gender and emphasises LGBT+ inclusivity.

The Quidditch Premier League (QPL) is an elite quidditch league that represents the sport in the United Kingdom.

Following a highly successful inaugural 2017 season, the 2018 season will see two new teams competing in the league, the Scottish Thistles and the Welsh Dragons.

Ten teams from across the UK will be competing to become national champions of the sport, culminating with the 2018 Championship held in August.

To find out more about the Quidditch Premier League and the Scottish Thistles, you can visit quidditchpremierleague.com and their Facebook page.

Laura Jamieson, communications executive, Quidditch Premier League.