25 April 2002

S1M-3021 Freshwater Fish and Fisheries

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The next item of business is a debate on a motion on "Scotland's freshwater fish and fisheries: Securing their future" and two amendments to that motion.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Fishing for pleasure has been around for at least 4,000 years. The first reference to rod angling is in Greek texts in Macedonian times. "The Compleat Angler" is still a subject of controversy. Apparently Jeremy Paxman disagrees with many of the recommendations in Izaak Walton's historic text.

Fishing is important. We know that. Even the Financial Times has an angling correspondent. In 1792, William Pitt the younger joined the first angling club to be formed.

In introducing the debate, the minister said that the Executive has planned few activities in the short to medium term. In responding to the debate, I hope that Mr Finnie will tell us about some of the specific things that will happen in the short term because, sure as heck, we need them. Just to reinforce something that came up earlier in the debate, research into the Scottish economic impact of salmon and sea trout was announced on 29 July, to Mike Rumbles. It is time that we got off the pot and got on with it. We welcome the early introduction of a ban on the sale of rod-caught salmon.

Jamie McGrigor said some quite astonishing things. He felt that part 3 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill was deficient in applying only to the crofting counties in the Highlands and Islands. I agree with him. We should have exactly the same rights as are being proposed in part 3 of the bill across Scotland, to recover derelict fishings for the public good.

Mr McGrigor: Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I have no time.

Of course, we could follow the example of many across the Highlands and Islands and acquire those derelict fishings for the public good by confiscating them, as so many of the landowners did in the first place. The Land Reform (Scotland) Bill is far too moderate in that regard.

I share Mike Rumbles's disappointment that some of the environmental agencies are not acting to the extent that they should be in protecting water quality and hence the environment for freshwater fish.

Dennis Canavan made an interesting point in relation to the common law. Looking across the chamber, I can see that the gamekeeping fraternity is represented. I will not point to where the poaching fraternity is represented, but I am confident that it is.

If Alasdair Morrison will forgive me, I will forgive him. I was once a water bailiff, when I was a student. Would that I had been suitable for the police force, I could have followed another path.

Rhoda Grant made points about fishing management. If we bring crofters in the Highlands and Islands into fishing management, we will see an improvement and derelict fishings will return to making effective economic returns.

Winnie Ewing made the point about research on where salmon come from when they migrate. The fact that we need 15 years of research indicates how urgent it is that we start now. We cannot wait.

Like John Scott, I was a fisher as a boy—for brown trout—but unlike him, I have fished for salmon. Alas, I have never caught one. The key point is that we have seen a decline in the salmon fisheries since the 1960s. That tells us that reform is urgently needed. Alasdair Morgan tells me that he has seen a picture of a salmon—so have I.

We need a new bill to protect our freshwater fisheries, and we need it urgently. I would like the Executive to tell us when it wishes to make progress on that. Please protect some of the historic terms that are used in the existing legislation. I have in mind gaffing, hang nets and, of course, sniggering. We will not snigger at the Executive's proposals if they are worth listening to.


S1M-3022 Primary Health Care

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S1M-3022, in the name of Malcolm Chisholm, on modernising primary health care in the national health service to improve health, and three amendments to that motion.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): My father graduated as a doctor at the age of 42—he came to the primary care sector late in his life. He was the centre of the health service for his patients. He started in medicine just before the health service was established. He was a strong supporter of the health service and welcomed its coming to pass. My father came from another age. He shared a GP cottage hospital with colleagues in Cupar in Fife. The hospital had X-ray equipment and an operating theatre. Occasionally, he even carried out an appendectomy. He did all his maternity work in patients' homes, which people welcomed.

We should not imagine that 50 years ago was the golden age of medicine, although it was the golden age in respect of customer care and the relationship between the primary care provider—the GP—and the patient. In many other respects, that period was the dark ages. When my father graduated, there were no antibiotics. What could be done for people with severe infections was strictly limited. Diabetes was diagnosed by the doctor's tasting the patient's urine—there was no other effective means of diagnosis. Often, the smell of acetone on the patient's breath was an indicator, but the test was inaccurate and incomplete.

There was blood and guts. Once, on a Saturday night at 11.30 pm, a rugby player appeared at the front door at home. He had survived the rugby match, but the post-match dance had had a severe impact on him. He stood at the door with his ear in his hand—a fellow celebrant had bitten it off. My father sewed it on. The patient had already taken sufficient anaesthetic and there was no requirement for more.

We know that there are still health care problems in Scotland. Indeed, yesterday at the Justice 2 Committee meeting, an interesting and alarming statistic from the Procurator Fiscal Service was mentioned. Do members know that, in Strathclyde and Glasgow in a single year, 1,570 accused people died before their cases came to court? That says something about the state of health care.

People in Banff and Buchan do their best. We produce the best food in the world—oily fish—and we will certainly play our part in improving Scotland's diet.

I welcome a return to primary health care as an important part of the NHS. Practical measures can be taken in the primary sector. Type 2 diabetes—late onset diabetes—for example, is largely a matter of diet and lifestyle. The primary health care sector has a huge role to play in advising people. Nurses can weigh patients and give them advice on lifestyle.

I have come across curious little facts. My sister-in-law is a nurse in a nursing home. She is fully qualified but is not allowed to give injections, as the nursing home is not insured for the consequences of any errors that might occur. Therefore, she must call out GPs to supervise her when she gives injections.

My father had some interesting patients who were Tories. He refused to give them private service. Consider the leader of the Tories in the House of Lords and the Chairman of Ways and Means in the House of Commons. Even Tories can support the health service if we give them the quality. With the exception of the Tories, all parties in the chamber strongly support the health service and the public provision of that service.


18 April 2002

S1M-2993 Prison Estates Review

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): We move to our first item of business, which is the debate on motion S1M-2993, in the name of Jim Wallace, on the prison estates review, and on two amendments to that motion.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I thank the many members throughout the Parliament who have approached me to express their support for Peterhead. I also thank Maureen Macmillan for her helpful remarks. My first point relates to what the minister said and what Maureen Macmillan spoke about. I suspect that I am one of only a few people to have read the Kilmarnock contract. I have here paragraph 6 of schedule D of the contract, which relates to the way in which Kilmarnock prison must deal with prisoners. There is absolutely nothing in the contract about the prevention of reoffending.

The situation at Peterhead is the main issue that I shall address. The prison was built in 1888 at a cost of £57,400, on land costing £5,000. It has been a centre of innovation for many years. In 1923, the major innovation was the production of mattresses for the prisoners for the first time. However, the prison's recent history has been more substantial. The case for knocking down Peterhead prison has been made. The first argument is that the building is clapped out. It is true that the building needs to be replaced, but members of the Justice 1 Committee—including me—who visited the prison recently know that it will do for a few years more. It is unsatisfactory in modern terms, but prisoners there put toilets seventh on their list of priorities. Nonetheless, we must do something about the sanitation.

The second argument relates to remoteness. The minister will be aware that, although 85 per cent of the prisoners come from outside the Peterhead area, this week two thirds of them have petitioned to keep the prison open. Neither the prisoners nor the staff are a source of pressure regarding the prison's remoteness. It has been suggested that the pressures of delivering sex offenders programmes are considerable and that staff need to rotate to other prisons. However, the absence rate at Peterhead is the best—that is, the lowest—in the entire service, and the absence rate is one of the key indicators of stress.

The third argument relates to finance. However, the cost per prisoner at Peterhead is only 11.7 per cent more than the cost per prisoner at Kilmarnock, according to Clive Fairweather's report on Kilmarnock, which was launched this week. That is despite the fact that Peterhead is a specialist prison with inefficient, old premises.

George Lyon (Argyll and Bute) (LD): Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I would like to, but I do not have time.

I am slightly baffled by the exclusion from the discussion of Parc prison, in Wales, which I visited a week ago, where the cost per prisoner is substantially greater. Parc prison opened in November 1997 and is delivering at £31,000 per prisoner. That is at odds with the statement that private prisons need time to settle down.

George Lyon: Will the member take a short intervention?

The Deputy Presiding Officer: The member is in his last minute. The Presiding Officer has said that we are tight for time, and I cannot allow a member to speak for more than four minutes.

Stewart Stevenson: I respond to the minister's plea for an alternative model by informing him that a private sector person is even now considering a building at Peterhead and drawing up plans and costings. They are also prepared to lease the building for public service operation, should the minister come through on that.

Do we trust accountants? The Kilmarnock prison service's accounts claim that Kilmarnock prison was sold to the Home Office in 1999. Apparently that was an error, but it did not stop Deloitte & Touche managing to sign off the accounts. We should not always listen to what big, international accountants say.

I close with a comment about the staff at Peterhead. When the Justice 1 Committee visited Peterhead, it spent 45 minutes with the staff. All members should take account of one significant fact: in those 45 minutes, not a single word came from the staff about the adverse effects of closure on their personal circumstances. What we heard was about public safety and their dedication to the public service ideal. Good leadership, committed staff and the public service ideal are what we need in the prison service.


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