18 December 2003

S2M-698 Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-698, in the name of Malcolm Chisholm, that the Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill be passed, and two amendments to the motion.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Indeed, it is the Christmas season and there is a certain amount of jollity in the chamber. I say to Carolyn Leckie that I am extremely pleased to be in room 101. On 2 May, one of her colleagues said that she wanted to turn the Scottish Parliament into a "Big Brother" series. Of course, those of us who remember the original room 101 in the book "1984" will also remember that when O'Brien asks Winston Smith about his true feelings towards Big Brother, Smith confesses "I hate him". At that point, O'Brien passes judgment on Smith. It is not enough to obey Big Brother, one must also love him, which is why O'Brien then utters the dreaded words, "Room 101". If that is the company I will keep when I am consigned to room 101, I am very happy to resist the forces of totalitarianism and to join Winston Smith in drinking gin for ever after at the Chestnut Tree. In reality, this lunch time I was at Carol Finnie's excellent establishment, the Railway Inn in Juniper Green. Before I move off the subject of "1984", I should also mention that for the whole time that he was outside room 101, Winston Smith succeeded in believing that two plus two equalled five.

The issue of privatisation and earning money from the health service has been one of the SSP's enduring themes in this debate. In that respect, I find it quite interesting that at half-past 6 in the evening on 20 November a certain Colin Fox was speaking at The Gaelic Club in Sydney, Australia. I note that the event was not free; indeed, he was charging eight Australian dollars for the privilege. Obviously, profit is okay in the SSP on some occasions.

The Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport (Mr Frank McAveety): A bargain!

Stewart Stevenson: Pensioners could get in for five dollars. Is the minister one of those?

I am really quite worried about some of our friends in the SSP.

Tommy Sheridan (Glasgow) (SSP): I think that "obsessed" is the word that he is looking for.

Stewart Stevenson: Well, at least I have some obsessions that are worth having. [Laughter.]

I am really rather worried for Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, because I gather that in the socialists' Christmas poll he was voted top totty. Their affections now appear to be drifting towards Phil Gallie, but I have to say that my money is on James every time.

Tommy Sheridan: At least Stewart Stevenson does not have to worry.

Stewart Stevenson: Let me briefly make a couple of serious points about this important bill, which we are happy to support as a move forward in primary health care in Scotland. We think that there will be more difficulties in bringing the out-of-hours proposals home in rural areas than has perhaps been realised by health boards, by GPs and their representatives or by ministers. We would be delighted to hear that the ministers have done sufficient research to be absolutely sure that the new system can be brought in according to their proposed timetable.

Many years ago, my father had enormous difficulties as a single-handed rural GP in providing 24-hour-a-day cover, in a much simpler world than that in which GPs now operate. We want to hear a little bit more about whether, in this modern, complex world, we really have a fighting chance of achieving that.

We must now move on with an agenda for change minimum for pay for other workers in primary health care, because the issue is not just about GPs. No longer is it the GP and the GP alone who delivers primary health care.

I shall close with one final word to the SSP members, to illustrate how they fail—

Tommy Sheridan: Obsession!

Stewart Stevenson: Yes, absolutely, and we are on the case. I want to illustrate how little the SSP members understand. Curiously enough, the effect of taking the out-of-hours cover away from GPs and putting it in the hands of the health board is likely, on balance, to be a reduction rather than an increase in the amount of primary health care that is provided by private contractors, because I am sure that salaried doctors will have to form part of that provision. I leave that thought with the minister.

We will support the bill and, of course, our amendment, which will improve the motion that the minister has lodged.


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