26 June 2003

S2M-136 Fireworks Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-136, in the name of Andy Kerr, on the Fireworks Bill, which is United Kingdom legislation.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I thank Iain Smith for his good wishes for Shona Robison. I am not quite sure what stage her pregnancy has reached. I think that she has had an early warning and we should not necessarily expect an outcome today. I also hope that when Sylvia Jackson said that John Young was no longer with us she was referring merely to his absence from the chamber. I can see members nodding to indicate that our dear friend is, in the more common and general usage of the term, still with us. I welcome that assurance.
It has been a cracker of a debate, full of explosive interventions, which have all clearly gone down a bomb. Having said that, this is not a matter for undue levity. Few of us do not look with awe at the fireworks concert each year, just down the hill from here. However, equally few of us do not share horror at the disfigurement, injury and even death that occur all too frequently during what seems an increasingly long fireworks season, or the alarm and fright of animals that do not understand what is going on.
The real question is what to do. My colleague Shona Robison secured a members' business debate on a proposal for a bill to regulate the sale and use of fireworks in Scotland. It is clear that members, on the SNP benches and throughout the Parliament, think that there is a need for change.
Elaine Smith: The SNP members have talked about the possibility of a total ban. Will that apply not to organised firework displays, but to sales of fireworks to the general public? Will the member comment on illegal imports and the problem that people are able to buy fireworks on the internet?
Stewart Stevenson: Elaine Smith makes good points. I reiterate what Fergus Ewing said; we are not seeking a total ban on either the private or public purchase and use of fireworks. However, the bill might be the appropriate instrument to ensure that powers are available to ministers to introduce a total ban on private or even public use of fireworks if circumstances change. I will return to the detail of the bill in a minute or two.
Linda Fabiani referred to the lack of a financial memorandum. We do not know the potential cost to councils, businesses or to police. We know the cost of the present circumstances—Strathclyde police had 2,000 calls about fireworks last year.
Under clause 17(2) of the bill, any revenues that are derived will be paid into the consolidated fund at Westminster, so we will not get the benefit.
There has not been any explanation so far of what particular powers the Scottish ministers might exercise as a result of the bill and I would welcome clarification of that.
We have a good record of speedy action in this Parliament but we cannot deny that, although we have been talking about fireworks for a long time, we have not delivered anything. The question is whether Westminster or Holyrood should act. SNP members are not going to oppose the motion, although we are minded to abstain. Is the Scottish Parliament, as a matter of general principle, prepared to go along with ceding responsibility, or is it going to take control?
Elaine Smith: Will the member give way?
Stewart Stevenson: I am going to develop some points about the bill; I will try to come back to Elaine Smith later.
I have specific questions about the bill. Consultation is mentioned in clause 2(3). Would that include the Scottish ministers and the Scottish Parliament or its committees? What particular regulations would it enable us to make?
Under clause 4(1) and clause 4(2) there are provisions against possession under some circumstances, but unless I am missing the point, there does not seem to be a general provision banning possession. Perhaps the minister will clarify his previous remarks.
Fergus Ewing has been teasing some members a little bit about whether the bill provides an absolute power. My reading of it suggests that it does. Under clause 2(1)(a), ministers may act to reduce use to a point at which there is no risk. The succeeding subclause refers to their being able to act to reduce risk. The only way in which we can ensure that there is no risk is to ban the use of fireworks altogether, unless I am misreading the bill.
It appears to me that in line with the campaign that the Daily Record has mounted and in line with Paul Martin's campaign it would be possible, under the eventual act, to enforce a complete ban. I would welcome the minister's views on that in his summing up.
Phil Gallie: Stewart Stevenson referred to clause 2(1)(a), but it seems from clause 3 that the total ban would apply only to supplying young persons. Does he therefore agree that there would not be an all-encompassing ban?
Stewart Stevenson: The member will find that clause 2(1)(a) refers to clause 2(2), which mentions the death of animals or persons and disruption or damage of property. My question whether there could be a ban is genuine; I am not making a party-political point. That illustrates the point about the sort of things that the Parliament could examine in detail if we had the opportunity to do so. After all, the last clause of the bill—clause 19(2)—states:
"This Act does not extend to Northern Ireland."
There is no Assembly currently operating in Northern Ireland and yet, although there is a Parliament—not an Assembly—operating here, we will not have the opportunity to examine the measures in detail.
Cathie Craigie: Will the member give way?
Stewart Stevenson: How long do I have, Presiding Officer?
The Deputy Presiding Officer: Strictly speaking you have 30 seconds, but you have taken several interventions, for which I will compensate.
Cathie Craigie: There is a complete ban in Northern Ireland. That has nothing to do with whether Northern Ireland has an Assembly or a Parliament; it is because of the political situation there.
Stewart Stevenson: I am obliged to Cathie Craigie for that information, of which I was not aware.
Contravening prohibitions imposed by regulations is an offence under clause 11(1) of the bill, but clause 11(5) stipulates that
"Fireworks regulations may not provide for any contravention of the regulations to be an offence."
It is not at all clear what will and will not be an offence.
We are often assured that Sewel motions speed solutions, but it is not clear that, in this specific instance, that will be the case.
Elaine Smith: Stewart Stevenson mentioned Sewel motions before. I am no great fan of Sewel motions and I express concern about the 46 that were passed in the previous session. However, it seems to me that Sewel motions are allowable for a good reason, and the Fireworks Bill is one that fits in with the ethos of Sewel motions. It is an enabling bill and the minister has said that there will be consultation on it, so it would be rather churlish of the SNP to abstain on the motion today. Does not Stewart Stevenson agree that the bill will help us to make a difference in Scotland and that the Sewel motion is sensible?
Stewart Stevenson: I thank Elaine Smith for her intervention. The SNP is not opposing the Sewel motion—she will recognise that that is slightly unusual—because we want to make progress and we are not going to put up barriers. However, ministers must be aware that they are very much on trial with this Sewel motion, as with others, to deliver the benefits that they claim will result from ceding responsibility to Westminster. With the Fireworks Bill, as with other bills, we will be tracking progress carefully to see that those benefits are actually delivered. As Nelson did not say, "Scotland expects."

25 June 2003

S2M-191 Modernising Justice

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The next item is a debate on motion S2M-191, in the name of Cathy Jamieson, on modernising justice, and two amendments to the motion.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I join many other speakers in the chamber in welcoming a large number of the proposals that the minister has announced. If the measures can contribute to an effective justice system for the people of Scotland, we should all welcome them.
I start by congratulating the people who work in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service on their commitment to the public service ideal and on their ability to deliver—often, over recent years, in circumstances of lamentably inadequate resources. The rise in cases that have been marked as "no proceedings"—or "no pros"—is damaging to the workings of the system of justice and to its credibility and image among the public.
That said, I support much of what the Executive is proposing although I, like other members, have one very serious reservation, which relates to the 110-day rule. To increase the 110 days to 140, as is being suggested, might in fact risk making things substantially worse. I say that as someone who is looking at the proposal as a management issue. The benefit of 30 extra days will deliver a resource benefit once and once only. Once it is used, the capacity of the system to deal with cases will remain absolutely unchanged, because the number of people working in the system remains the same.
The idea gets worse, however, when one examines it more closely. The backlog of cases will increase and it will take more resources to manage that backlog. An individual case will be picked up more often and reviewed more often, and that will use additional resources. Very quickly, the one-off benefit in resource terms of a further 30 days would be reduced over the longer term. To view the matter purely as an operational efficiency issue, reducing the 110-day rule to a 90-day rule would make for more effective use of resources.
Of course, it is not just a resource issue. It is a question of justice, and that must be the top priority. There must be justice for the victims of crime and the real sufferers of unacceptably high numbers of no pros. Justice must also be delivered to the accused. Cases' being dragged out works against that, but shortening time limits to restrict the justice that can be delivered would not be any better. It is against the serving of the ends of justice that we must test the Executive's plans. Let us look at what has actually been happening. The Justice 1 Committee and Justice 2 Committee joint discussions on the budget for 2003 revealed that total managed expenditure rose by 3.1 per cent in real terms, while justice department expenditure fell by 1.7 per cent.
If I return to time limits, the minister might argue that the Executive's proposal is a modernisation. If we look at the matter differently however, it could be an opportunity to make real changes rather than just tinker at the edges and have to revisit the whole issue when the system melts down at a later stage.
I would like to make a few suggestions, some of which are entirely personal, as a member of Parliament contributing to the debate. The document on modernising the justice system refers to early pleas. If the accused pleads guilty on the day of the trial, that inconveniences a vast number of people. In 2001, more than half of all cases ended that way. Of course, that is not a free-standing problem; it is part of a general system. Judges must have the discretion to decide on sentencing, but perhaps there is scope for more transparency and more statutory provision to enable sentence discounting. The minister should seek the opportunity to make it clear that criminals will get discounts for admitting what they have done, but that must also be something that the victims and the public feel happy with.
Miss Goldie referred to the increase in 1887 from 100 days to 110 days, and she said that the modern world should make things faster. However, there is a saying that every new solution brings a new problem, and technology creates many new opportunities for wrongdoing, so perhaps it is not quite as simple as she suggested.
The minister has proposed a correctional agency, and we shall see how the detail of the proposals works out. If it helps, I am sure that it will have our support. There is one thing that it might do that is not currently done. At the moment, those who do not go to jail after being found guilty are not tested for literacy, which is a big factor in much offending. The minister might care to think about that.
Moving from three-year sentences to five-year sentences in the sheriff courts will involve dealing with long-term offenders in the sheriff courts for the first time. Will that have implications for parole eligibility for programmes? Currently, the bail limit is 12 months and the Executive discounts changing to nine months. It takes nine months to create a life, so it might be reasonable to deliver a life in a similar time scale.
Finally, although the minister referred to civil proceedings, there has not been much reference to such proceedings, although there needs to be more. With only one in 20 civil actions proceeding on the scheduled day, there is plenty of scope for the minister to contribute to reform in that area.
I support Nicola Sturgeon's amendment.

19 June 2003

S2M-31 Airport Investment (Glasgow and Edinburgh)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-31, in the name of Sandra White, on investment in Glasgow and Edinburgh airports.
Motion debated,
That the Parliament notes the response by BAA plc to Her Majesty's Government's consultation document, The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom: A National Consultation - Scotland, which states that the upgrading of Glasgow Airport to international hub status would cost £1.1 billion, £200 million less than government estimates, and that the cost of upgrading Edinburgh Airport would be £1.3 billion, £400 million more than previous estimates; further notes the massive investment planned for airport expansion in the south east of England; expresses its support for Scottish Airports Ltd's call on Her Majesty's Government not to put Scotland's long-term economical prospects at risk by opting to develop only one of the country's main airports, and believes that the Scottish Executive should make representations to Her Majesty's Government to ensure that the necessary investment is made available to ensure that both airports grow to their full potential.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I draw attention to my entry in the register of members' interests, which shows that I am a member of the Edinburgh Flying Club and therefore dependent on the facilities there.
The BAA submission to the consultation mentions new runways at Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as an extension of the length of the runway at Aberdeen. We should start by saying that, whatever the long-term future of Scotland's airports, it is important that the Executive plays its role in protecting the space that those airports will require for such expansion should those proposals crystallise into reality at some point in the future. At the same time, we must ensure that the owners of property adjacent to airports, who might be affected by such expansion at some time, are adequately compensated.
Incidentally, airports are a great source of biodiversity, because they provide an oasis of relatively undisturbed habitat for a range of wildlife. Do members know, for example, that there is a pair of otters at Edinburgh airport? I believe that that is the only place in Edinburgh where otters can be found.
Bill Aitken: Twin or otherwise?
Stewart Stevenson: I do not know.
There is already a lot of air traffic in central Scotland, with Edinburgh and Glasgow airports between them handling some 200,000 movements a year, to such an extent that we actually have a one-way system for air traffic. The two airports are already operated as a single entity for air traffic approach purposes. Some of the constraints that will have to be addressed are outwith the power of the Parliament and indeed outwith what the BAA has said. Military flying constrains the routes into Scotland. There is no viable east coast route to the south or the continent that is equivalent to the west coast airway, alpha 1. There is limited capacity there, and that is something that must be considered.
Military flying generally across Scotland is an issue. Prestwick does not have protected airspace and therefore has to be included in the centre of Scotland. Edinburgh is a significant cargo airfield and is therefore important for business purposes, so it is important that we have the space and capacity to develop that further. In the short term, I hope that the Executive will support proposals to extend the taxiways at Edinburgh. At present, they do not go to the ends of the runway, which imposes a severe limitation on the capacity of that airport. Extending the taxiways would double the capacity of Edinburgh airport for very little cost and small on-the-ground environmental impact.
We also have to interlink the big operations with the small operations. It is a source of continuing regret that we still do not see public transport single-engine planes providing services in Scotland, although they actually have a better safety record than twin-engine planes of an equivalent size. There is a whole range of issues surrounding this complex issue and I am sure that the minister will take account of them. I am happy to support the motion.

S2M-137 Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-137, in the name of Malcolm Chisholm, on the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill, which is UK legislation. I invite members who wish to participate to press their request-to-speak buttons now.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): It is 125 minutes since Jack McConnell, in answer to Frances Curran in the chamber, stated:
"Devolution is about taking responsibility for our affairs".
That is the simple nub of the issue and it is why the Scottish National Party, on each and every occasion, will have the Scottish Parliament legislate on matters that affect people in Scotland and not cede that duty to another place, unless doing so has a clear and identifiable benefit to Scotland.
Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con): On the same ground, will the SNP begin to ignore European directives as well?
Stewart Stevenson: Where Europe has the legislative competence to legislate, Europe should legislate; where the Scottish Parliament has that legislative competence, we should do so. This current matter is an example of an area in which we have the competence to legislate and should do so. Mr Johnstone's views on Europe are well known and differ radically from mine.
I want to ask the minister some practical questions. It appears that the consideration that is financially associated with the proposal is some £7 million to £12 million a year. The figure is not entirely clear and will not be so until the proposal is implemented. The minister told us that he is considering having a £33,000 cap on the scheme, but it appears to me that a range of costs, which might be similar to or greater than the benefits that are to be derived, might be associated with implementing the changes. What will be the cost to underwriters of the process of negotiating the additional cover that they will need to write for a variety of insurance policy holders? What will be the cost of notifying the 1 million or so insurance policy holders in Scotland whose insurance will be affected by the proposal? What will be the cost to small businesses? Indeed, what are the views of the Federation of Small Businesses and the Forum of Private Business on the additional costs that might be borne by their members? It is quite reasonable that we seek equity, of course. What will be the cost to the national health service of implementing the proposal?
The minister told us that a tariff will be set. I assume—since I am not familiar with the tariff—that there will be a tariff for various kinds of incidents. Having the health service charge in that way will, of necessity, be relatively arbitrary. If the scope of this sort of recovery is extended, I foresee that it will be challenged on the basis that it does not reflect the costs that are incurred by the health service with regard to an individual incident. Does that mean that the NHS will have to introduce a timekeeping operation for all incidents that occur in accident and emergency departments against the possibility that such a claim might be made? If so, what would be the cost of that to the NHS?
I ask those questions not because I expect the minister to answer them, but as examples of the kind of questions that the Scottish Parliament should be asking when it considers this proposal. If we cede this matter to a Parliament elsewhere, where it will be hidden well from the media and MSPs, we will end up not knowing the cost to the Scottish Executive, the NHS, insurance companies and small businesses of legislation that is enacted elsewhere.
Mr Monteith: The member voted to remove the cap on the spending on the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood at a time when he could not have known how much it would cost. Surely that fact does not fit with his current argument.
Stewart Stevenson: I am not entirely sure which vote the member is referring to, but I seem to recall that, within my first month in the Parliament, in June 2001, I voted differently to the way that Mr Monteith suggests.
I am into value for money. The costs of implementing the proposal could be extraordinarily high. Frankly, it might be better to cut out the middleman and get the insurance industry to sub the NHS £12 million a year, because that would reduce the amount of administration that would be needed. That suggestion is yet another example of the sort of issue that we should be debating in the Parliament in relation to all the Sewell motions that are used willy-nilly to pass power from here to another place.
I will oppose the motion.

S2M-144 Subordinate Legislation - Water Industry (Scotland) Act 2002 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2003

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-144, in the name of Ross Finnie, on the draft Water Industry (Scotland) Act 2002 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2003. I invite members who want to participate in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons now. I call Allan Wilson to speak to and move the motion. You have seven minutes, Mr Wilson—[Laughter.]—and we insist.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate Mr McNulty. I believe that Fergus Ewing holds the parliamentary record for the longest uninterrupted speech, which took place in committee on the subject of agricultural holdings.
Allan Wilson: I remember it all too well.
Stewart Stevenson: It lasted 32 minutes and the minister remembers it.
I am sure that Des McNulty will have a claim on being the speaker who spoke for the greatest proportion of a debate. I will not put that record in jeopardy. This is exactly the kind of issue that could have been dealt with in committee. The minister and I have traded information across committee rooms on many occasions. As would have happened in committee, I have some specific questions for the minister.
In article 4(2)(c) of the order, on the Control of Pollution Act 1974, there is a change—[Interruption.] Presiding Officer, could you bring Roseanna Cunningham to order—otherwise I, too, will corpse?
The Deputy Presiding Officer: I do not think that her conduct is in any sense discourteous, so she is not out of order.
Stewart Stevenson: I thank her for the brief opportunity to gather my thoughts.
Mr Alasdair Morrison (Western Isles) (Lab): He could sit down if he wanted.
Stewart Stevenson: No, I am not going to sit down. Let me move instead to article 7. What will be the effect of repealing section 36(3)(g) of the Environment Act 1995, as is specified in paragraph (2) of article 7? I would have asked that question in committee.
Article 4(2)(c) stipulates that the third occurrence of "person" in section 30H of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 be amended to "the person". What will be the effect of that?
I must say how much I admire the minister's method of opening and closing brackets. It is done in a style that has no parallel in this chamber.
Finally, is the minister responsible for there being no water in the members' lounge?

S2M-161 Care Homes for the Elderly

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-161, in the name of David Davidson, on care homes for the elderly. There are three amendments to the motion.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I need to draw attention to a personal interest that could be seen as relevant to the debate—both my sister and my wife's sister are employed as nurses in private care homes.
That the Executive recognises that there is a problem is great, but it has not yet found a solution. It is also great that the minister focused on people, as they are at the core of the issue. By contrast, the Conservative motion speaks about people only in relation to funding.
It has been said:
"The crisis in these care homes has become a national scandal".
Those are not my words—they are the words of David Steel. The abandonment of our elderly people and the neglect of residential nursing homes are a badge of shame for the Executive. If only it raised the amount that was paid by the 60 per cent that Mr McCabe raised his speaking time in the debate, we would not have the current problem.
George Lyon (Argyll and Bute) (LD): The Scottish National Party has just fought a general election and promised not one penny extra to the care home sector. Therefore, how on earth can the member criticise the Executive?
Stewart Stevenson: If the member goes to section 3.1 on page 6 of our manifesto, he will find the appropriate references at the paragraph at the bottom. [Interruption.]
The Deputy Presiding Officer: Order.
Stewart Stevenson: Today, we must consider the decline in the effective funding of the sector and the decline in the number of care homes from 681 in 1998 to 605 last year. The number of beds has declined from 16,677 in 1998 to 14,851 last year, which is the lowest level since 1984. Another 880 will also leave the sector shortly if the Church of Scotland closes its homes.
As a consequence of the lack of places that are available in homes, the number of people who are waiting for discharge from hospital is at record levels—some 514 are now waiting for discharge; three years ago, 334 were waiting. There has been a dramatic uplift, which has taken place against a background of a rising trend of older people in our society.
We do not have to look far for the cause of our troubles. I say to the minister that there is more money in the sector, for which the sector is grateful, but that it is clear that there is not enough money. Weekly charges that are paid to care homes by local authorities for looking after residents fall short of the amount that is needed per resident to provide a decent level of care.
What amount is required? The figures of £390 for nursing care and £332 to £360 for residential care were mentioned by Scottish Care, COSLA, the Church of Scotland, the Salvation Army and the Scottish Executive, but it took two years for the Executive to get to the appropriate level. With money already short, we are now looking at another review that will come in only in 2005-06. If the Church of Scotland closes homes in the voluntary sector, it will make matters dramatically worse, as the people in question will have to go somewhere. Utilisations in other homes will rise. The costs that are borne by voluntary organisations will rise and there will be a cascade of further closures. The three-legged stool of the local authorities, the private sector and voluntary organisations will be unstable if one leg is sawn off.
Our elderly population deserves better than to be treated in the shabby fashion in which the Executive has treated them. The Executive must thoroughly review the true cost of care in Scotland now and take the necessary steps to do so in early course.
I move amendment S2M-161.1, to leave out from "believes" to end and insert:
"regrets that the present funding levels to the voluntary and private sectors leave vulnerable older people exposed to disruption and distress at a point in their lives when they deserve support and stability; believes that the Executive should undertake an urgent review of funding for the care home sector based on an analysis of the true cost of care, and calls on the Executive to carry out an urgent review of bed provision in care homes in order to establish and commit to a long-term plan for the sector."

18 June 2003

S2M-59 Concorde (Museum of Flight)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S2M-59, in the name of John Home Robertson, on Concorde and the Museum of Flight. I invite those members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons now, and those members who are leaving to take flight at once.
Members: Shame!
The Deputy Presiding Officer: That shows that someone out there is listening.
Motion debated,
That the Parliament notes that British Airways will be withdrawing Concorde aircraft from service and welcomes the approach from the Chairman of the Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland to the Chief Executive of British Airways requesting that one of these aeroplanes is donated to the Museum of Flight at East Fortune; recognises the interests of education and tourism and the important role that museums play in both of these areas; takes into account the associations of Concorde with Scotland, namely that the design of the wings was undertaken by a Scot from Penicuik, Sir James Arnot Hamilton, that the early test flights were carried out at Prestwick in the early 1970s and that it was Concorde that flew over Edinburgh to celebrate the opening of the Scottish Parliament in July 1999; further recognises the wealth of experience of staff at the Museum of Flight in the preservation of aircraft and their years of experience in welcoming visitors to the museum; further notes that staff at the Museum of Flight are confident that the practicalities of landing a Concorde aircraft and of providing enclosed space for display have been investigated and that no difficulties are anticipated following a brief period of minor works; notes that the National Museums of Scotland has recently appointed a new General Manager at the Museum of Flight and that a major programme of development is planned to position the museum as a world class attraction, and recommends strongly that support be given to the National Museums of Scotland in its bid for Concorde for display at the Museum of Flight.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): It is a matter of some considerable pride that Concorde was made in these islands. Indeed, it reflects the heady days when co-operation across the channel was still possible. The "e" in Concorde came about as a result of an unusual alliance between Francophone and Anglophone interests—before that point was reached, the aircraft's name was spelt differently on either side of the channel.
BOAC, which was the first airline to put Concorde into service, booked the registration sequence BOAA to BOAG, thus ensuring that one of the Concordes had the registration BOAC—such was the pride that BOAC took in the aircraft.
The Museum of Flight at East Fortune is a cornucopia of aviation history. As a youngster yae high, I got the "Eagle".
Mike Pringle (Edinburgh South) (LD): Mr Stevenson is showing his age.
Stewart Stevenson: Some members are old enough to remember the "Eagle".
Each week, the "Eagle" had aviation break-down diagrams. I remember the Comet being tested to destruction in one of them.
Examples of our space industry are on show at East Fortune—I am thinking of Blue Streak and Black Knight. John Home Robertson referred to the Comet 4C. I am not sure whether I have flown in that aircraft, but I have certainly flown in one of the Comet aircraft.
I have two personal attachments to East Fortune and the first is as a private pilot. I should declare that my entry in the register of interests shows that I am a member of two flying clubs. I have flown into East Fortune on a number of occasions to visit the museum and hope that nothing prevents the runway being accessible for future visits.
It is worth noting that there are 100,000 private pilots in the United States, many of whom would be delighted to come to Scotland and to include a visit to the museum at East Fortune during their time here. They are precisely the kind of wealthy visitors that we could attract to the museum.
My main plea is that Concorde is put into hanger four when it comes to East Fortune, which I am sure it will with the support of the Scottish Parliament. My reason for saying that is that another important aircraft, which was donated by the Scottish airline Loganair, is in hanger four. It is a Beech 18 and it was designed in 1935. It took one particularly important flight, which departed Aberdeen for Stavangar at 14:35 on 4 August 1969. The flight number was LN2501 and the registration of the plane was golf, alpha, sierra, uniform, golf—see how boring flying people can be.
The important thing about the flight was that my wife and I were on the plane, it was the first time we had flown and we were flying off on our honeymoon.
Mr Home Robertson: Was it turbulent?
Stewart Stevenson: No, it was a piston engine—a Pratt and Whitney rotary engine, if John Home Robertson really wants to know.
The Scottish aviation industry is practically at an end. In April, I flew in a Jetstream 31, which is one of the last aircraft to be built at Prestwick. We are down to the last fragments of the Scottish aviation industry with the Montgomery gyrocopter continuing to be built in very small numbers in Ayrshire.
Flying is not only a pleasure thing for me; it has also been a business thing. I had a pal who was in an electronics company. He got up one morning, flew on a 757 to London, got on to Concorde, went to New York, met someone at the airport, showed him a piece of electronic equipment, signed a £12 million order, got back on to the same Concorde, returned to London and was back in Edinburgh for his tea. He was able to do that £12 million-worth of business because of the unique capabilities of Concorde.
We would be proud to have Concorde at East Fortune. For once, I am happy to support colleagues of other political viewpoints in this particular venture and I wish John Home Robertson well in it.

S2M-154 National Health Service (Patient Focus and Public Involvement)

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-154, in the name of Malcolm Chisholm, on patient focus and public involvement in the national health service, and two amendments to the motion.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): When Jack McConnell was elected as the new First Minister of the Parliament, he said that he would support good ideas from wherever they came. It is in that spirit that we move our amendment today to require the majority of places on NHS boards to be filled by election. It is in that spirit that we support Bill Butler's bill and in an equally friendly spirit that we support Paul Martin's bill. We would also have no difficulty if, as Carolyn Leckie wishes, 100 per cent of board members were elected. In that spirit of consensus, let us move on.
Malcolm Chisholm said that our culture must be patient-focused, that we must listen to patients and respect their views, and that we must deliver the right care in the right place and at the right time. In the spirit of consensus, I can hardly argue against any of that. We welcome any measures to shorten the period before people get the treatment or the appointment that they require. However, the minister should consider what constitutes failure in the health service. At the moment, there are many failures; and I believe that the minister thinks that there are many failures. We are prepared to support him in fixing them. The failure of waiting times and waiting lists is undoubtedly the main one.
Another thing that concerns me is the apparent retreat from universality. For example, there is little mention in recent documents of dentistry or chiropody. We need national standards that are delivered locally. However, we must acknowledge that patients come in all shapes and sizes and that they are not an undifferentiated mass. For example, none of the Executive's recent documents mentions the needs of young patients in any way, shape or form. Young patients are perfectly capable of making informed decisions about their medical treatment.
As a spotty 12-year-old—
Members: No!
Stewart Stevenson: Indeed, I was a spotty 12-year-old who had the most appalling acne, which required the assistance of a consultant. Being on an experimental programme to sort my acne left me with a condition that is with me to this day. I was not consulted about the treatment and discovered information about the potential side effects only a number of years later. As a 12-year-old, I should have been involved in the decision on my treatment. I hope that we will find that young people today are involved in such decisions.
I thoroughly agree with Christine Grahame's suggestion that we should have an independent patient body. Indeed, while sitting here I came up with a name for such a body. In line with such titles as Oftel and Ofgem, it should be called Of-ill. On that note, I hope that Dr Jean Turner is returned to good health shortly. Her contribution to the debate has been sadly missed.
I turn to the Conservative's contribution to the debate and in particular to Mr Davidson's bizarre suggestion that only the qualified should be entitled to be elected to contribute to decision-making in the health service. I think that he will probably be on his own on that, even among the Tory benches, unless Mr Monteith tells me otherwise, which would be a welcome relief to any who are listening in the chamber.
Mr Davidson: Will the member take a brief intervention?
Stewart Stevenson: Come on, then. Let us have it.
Mr Davidson: If Mr Stevenson had actually been listening, he would know that I asked his party's spokesman to give us the full details of how people would be put up and how they would qualify. I asked whether it would just be assumed that they would have the knowledge to take over the running of the health service.
Stewart Stevenson: It is simple. I would be perfectly happy if people nominated themselves and then got elected because they gained the confidence of the electorate that they were the appropriate people to do the job. That is the basis of democracy in our society, but it is clear that that practice is alien to Conservative members.
To my surprise, Carolyn Leckie referred to amnesic shellfish poisoning. I am delighted that she is becoming engaged with that subject, which I confess has been an obsession of mine and some of my colleagues for some time. Domoic acid from affected shellfish affects the memory. Therefore, if I do not remember Carolyn Leckie referring to amnesic shellfish previously, I must have been eating shellfish. Like her, I would like more EU initiatives to be introduced.
Mr Duncan McNeil made an interesting and rather jokey point about people getting the wrong treatment when they went into hospital. It is clear that there is a difficulty of patients receiving the wrong treatment in some parts of the health service. I have received information about three examples of that in recent weeks, all of which were based on difficulties in having patient notes delivered to where a patient was being treated. In one case, a patient ended up being severely constipated, which sounds trivial. However, if the patient notes had been available, the patient's particular health issue would have been recognised. That patient nearly died because the patient notes were not available, so getting the wrong treatment is not simply a joking matter.
Mr Monteith highlighted the 1991 patients charter. He seemed to think that that is a perfect instrument that should be implemented properly. The Tories were happy to support changes to the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991, which they introduced. In the same spirit, they should look at the 1991 patients charter as something on which we should move forward.
Patients' rights and responsibilities are referred to in the document that we have before us. We must consider the rights of older people. There does not appear to be adequate reference in the document to how people who are no longer in a position to speak for themselves will be treated. I am sure that that was not a deliberate omission by the Executive.
Waiting times will continue to haunt the Executive. Of course, they are a huge overhead for the health service. If the number of people on waiting lists remains static, the health service has the capacity to process them; we just need the resources to eliminate the waiting list.
I believe that the minister is sincere in wanting to improve the NHS. Whenever he makes proposals that will have the effect of doing so, he will have our support. Indeed, I believe that that is generally true across the chamber. Only the Tories have an agenda to slim down the NHS and perhaps to abolish it.
A developed society must not be judged solely by its economic performance and by its ability to impose its will on others. A developed and civilised society is judged by how it supports people in their hour of need. The health service is the support that we give to such people. I support the SNP amendment.

05 June 2003

S2M-103 Young People

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S2M-103, in the name of Peter Peacock, on young people. There are three amendments to the motion.
... ... ...
Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate Margaret Mitchell on her debut on the Conservative's front bench and I welcome Peter Peacock to his new job. I notice that Margaret Mitchell's initials are MM, Peter Peacock's are PP and mine are SS. There is a message there somewhere.
One of the interesting things about our having a debate on young children is that we are all experts because, I hope, we were all children and young people at some point. The difference between some members and others is that some remember what it was like to be a young person, whereas others are no longer capable of that. I ask Jamie McGrigor to stop looking at me like that. I know that he is in the latter category, although he has a mischievous look—perhaps he oscillates between the two.
I will pick up on one thing that Margaret Mitchell said. The issue to which I refer is sending youngsters to youth courts, family courts—as we would advocate—or children's panels versus sending them to the main courts. It would be broadly accepted that many young offenders who are sent to the adult court view that as a badge of pride and promotion, which is not something that we should encourage among our young folk.
Parents look forward to the birth of their children with great enthusiasm. My colleague, Shona Robison, has told me that she certainly looks forward to the birth of her child in about a month's time. We need to help parents convert that enthusiasm for birth into positive support for their children and for giving them positive help to make their own choices in the future. The clever parents will learn from their children, who will pick and choose what they want to learn.
Susan Deacon asked us to support parents, but it would be rather surprising if any member were to suggest that we should oppose parents. That goes to the nub of some of the difficulties around a debate of this kind. The debate is consensual, which is great, but does it lead us anywhere? Let us see where it takes us.
My father was a country general practitioner, and used to have a particular way of dealing with senior primary school children when they were about to get an injection. Just as he came up to them with the syringe, he would ask them, "Are you married?" While they were giggling at that, they got their jag—it was a bit of distraction therapy. I wonder whether, in doing that, he created a psychological link between getting a jag and being married, which perhaps accounts for part of the reduction in the number of married people in society today. That illustrates that communication between adults and the young can in fact have serious long-term effects.
Peter Peacock said that we should engage and listen. All of us would pride ourselves on our listening skills, which are a necessary attribute for politicians. In considering our responses to what we hear, however, I am drawn to the conclusion that many of us are not so much hard of hearing, which comes with age, but hard of heeding, which comes from indifference and a lack of preparedness to respond genuinely to what people have to say.
I turn now to the role of children in society and to the activities in which they engage. Like other members, I receive many invitations to get involved in events that are driven by and involve children, and which are for children. I very much enjoy and welcome the opportunity to attend such events. I recently attended the Scottish heat of the Global Rock Challenge event in Aberdeen. It involved several thousand children putting together music-based pieces of entertainment in competition with other schools. It is a great disappointment that that particular event nearly folded because it depended largely on commercial sponsorship that was withdrawn at the last moment. It is fortunate that the public sector, including the police and the local authorities, filled the gap, but it is still an illustration of the vulnerability of provision for children when the private sector is brought in; we cannot always get private sector bodies locked in.
Pauline McNeill referred to low-frequency radio in Glasgow, I think meaning low-powered radio. That is an excellent way of joining children in one place to others elsewhere via a modern medium, and allows them to gain new skills. I welcome and encourage that.
I regret the fact that, despite my intervention suggesting that he say some positive things about children because he was some way through his speech, Lord James Douglas-Hamilton did not find himself able to do that. However, other Conservative colleagues did so in their speeches.
Robert Brown brought a most intriguing idea to us—that there should be midnight football games for youngsters. I would be happy to play football with youngsters at midnight, if that is a way of diverting them from less salubrious and desirable activities late at night. Robert is on to a winner.
My colleague Fiona Hyslop asked when the children's commissioner would be appointed. I hope that the minister is listening so that he can give his response to that question. Fiona Hyslop illustrated perfectly the dangers to which Patricia Ferguson is currently exposed by the extension of her period as business manager, because she actually asked when the Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill would be passed. If someone is shut in a smoky back room, they forget that certain things have happened. I know that Fiona Hyslop meant to ask when the commissioner would be appointed.
Rosie Kane brought emotion and knowledge to the debate. She described with passion some of the problems that young people experience. I cannot in any way criticise her analysis, although I must—given their absence during the winding-up speeches—criticise her stamina and that of her colleagues in a debate in which I thought they would wish to be fully involved. I cannot support her nostrums and solutions, for the simple reason that she gave none. She seems to be obsessed by labels at the expense of behaviour. Let us guide our young people away from unacceptable behaviour and create the facilities to reward good behaviour. The SSP has a long way to go before it makes progress on that issue.
Scott Barrie asked about the low birth rate. Scotland's birth rate is declining faster than that of any other country in the European Union. Alone among countries in the European Union, we have a shrinking population. I do not have a magic answer to that problem—I am infertile, so I cannot contribute to the solution. I hope that others who are not so constrained will play their part.
Rob Gibson spoke about the benefits of exposing our children to live music. As a nine-year-old, inspired by Lonnie Donegan, I used to play a tea box with a hole cut out the back into which I put my foot, a single string and a broomstick. That did more to put children off music than anything else, but standards of musical performance have improved considerably.
I hope that during the recent election politicians have all been exposed to some of the views of young children. Far and away the best contribution to political debate in Banff and Buchan was made by a primary-school age pupil who spoke up at an evening hustings organised by New Deer community association. She expressed forcefully and in a focused and proper way what she and her colleagues wanted for her community. The best hustings overall was that which was held at Peterhead Academy.
Young children deserve to be listened to; they have much to say to us. However, there are hard issues. We must recognise that much of the relationship between adults and the young is based on trust and understanding: we do not understand them and they do not trust us. If we have done anything today, I hope that we have started on a road towards building trust and understanding between young people and us.
David Davidson referred to mental health, for which we need better provision.
I will close by asking a few questions and making some comments. How many older people trust young people today? We must break out of the cycle of mistrust. Too many of us fail to judge our young by what they do, too many of us fail to judge our young by what they think and too many of us judge our young by what we think they do. Our young learn their failings from us, so it is time that we changed our ways and learned the valued virtues of enthusiasm, energy and commitment from the great mass of our young who possess them.
I support the amendment in the name of Fiona Hyslop.

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