29 November 2006

S2M-5172 Child Poverty

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 29 November 2006

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]
… … …
Child Poverty

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-5172, in the name of Jackie Baillie, on ending child poverty in Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament agrees that it is unacceptable that children living in severe poverty in Scotland are missing out on basic necessities such as fresh, nutritious food, new clothes and shoes and having a warm home in the winter; welcomes Save the Children's campaign to end child poverty, which highlights the effects for children and their families of living in severe and persistent poverty; acknowledges the progress made by the Scottish Executive in lifting 100,000 children in Scotland out of poverty and helping children in the Dumbarton constituency and across Scotland to improve their life chances, and believes that more needs to be done and that the Executive should prioritise the needs of the very poorest children and continue to work with the UK Government in implementing solutions, such as child seasonal grants, proposed as part of the Save the Children campaign.

… … …

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I welcome the opportunity to participate in this important debate, which Jackie Baillie has secured. The number of Scottish National Party members in the chamber is a clear indication of the priority that we in the SNP place on the issue. Of course, the facts provided by various pieces of research reinforce the need to engage with the subject.

Figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation indicate that, in the most deprived ward in my parliamentary constituency, 44.4 per cent of children aged between zero and 15 are dependent on the workless, which is one definition of poverty. Although the overall figure for the Aberdeenshire Council area is 10.5 per cent, a significant number of wards are in serious difficulties. In the City of Edinburgh Council area, which by that definition has twice the overall level of poverty of the rural area of Aberdeenshire, the figure for the most deprived ward is 59.6 per cent, so three out of every five children meet the test of being dependent on the workless. In Glasgow, where the overall figure is a startling 39.4 per cent, the figure for Parkhead, the most deprived ward, is 63.4 per cent. At the other end of the scale in Glasgow, the figure for Jordanhill is 4.2 per cent. The localisation of deprivation is one of the key challenges for Governments—here and at Westminster—and local authorities, whatever their complexion.

In Jackie Baillie's constituency, the percentage of children aged between zero and 15 who are dependent on the workless is 28.8 per cent overall and 44.1 per cent in the most deprived ward. The reason why she perhaps brought the debate to Parliament is that the figure for the least deprived ward is 10.1 per cent, which is the overall figure for the whole of Aberdeenshire, which tells us a little bit about something. The issue should engage MSPs and should be debated.
I am glad that, in the past couple of weeks, Gordon Brown has appeared on GMTV to nail his colours to the mast. Of course, I remain sceptical until I hear what he has to say, but he is a man of good will—I hope. However, if he decides to introduce seasonal grants, as requested by the campaign that will be launched immediately after the debate, he must not rob Peter to pay Paul but add new money to the pot of support for the neediest families in our society.

In the 25-country European Union, the United Kingdom is ranked 21st in the league table of child poverty. Of the long list of countries that escaped from the Soviet Union in the 1990s—hardly an economically successful group—only Slovakia and Poland are ranked lower. All the other such countries, which had to struggle out of serious deprivation, are doing better than the UK. That shows how far we still have to come and the steps that we must take to get to where we need to be.

At the moment, the website is running a poll on whether child poverty can be beaten. Although only 70 people had voted when I looked at the site, 70 per cent of them thought that, with proper investment, the problem could be solved. Let us do so—and soon.


23 November 2006

S2M-4833 School Bus Safety

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 23 November 2006

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

School Bus Safety

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The final item of business tonight is a members' business debate on motion S2M-4833, in the name of Alex Neil, on school bus safety. The debate will be concluded without any questions being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that in certain local authority areas in Ayrshire and elsewhere there is a concern about the need to tighten up the rules and guidelines regarding the safety of buses carrying children to school and, in particular, believes that the regulations should be changed so that it is mandatory for a supervising adult to accompany primary school children travelling on a school bus whether the bus is a single or double decker.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Contrary to Robert Brown's sedentary remark, I have never a driven a school bus. Indeed, I will go further than that and inform members that I have never used a school bus to travel to school—although as someone who was a member of many sports teams when I was at school, I used buses to travel to many away events.

I congratulate Alex Neil on securing a debate on an important topic that has universal application. Every member of the Parliament should be concerned about safety on school buses; would that every party were represented in the chamber to take part in the debate.

Of course, school pupils use other means of transport that we might address on other occasions. Many kids commute to school by train or—in Glasgow—subway. In the Western Isles, ferries are used for inter-island transfer and in Orkney, in particular, a number of kids commute to secondary school by air. As we are comparing public and private modes of transport, I wonder whether we might reduce the number of kids who are ferried to school by their parents if we required a responsible adult other than the driver to be present in private vehicles—I leave that thought pinned to the wall.

At the core of the debate is safety, both of the kids on the bus and of the kids in the vicinity of the bus, either as they wait for it or after they have got off it—the importance of which an example in my parliamentary constituency has well illustrated. There is action that we can take. Dave Petrie mentioned that school buses in America have external signs that prevent overtaking. We could not introduce that measure because the Parliament does not have the necessary powers, but we could put advisory flashing signs on the backs of buses that said, "Please do not overtake." The "Please" could be in small print and the "do not overtake" in very large print.

Such a warning would certainly have saved the grief and pain of one of my constituents, whose child ran out from behind the bus and was hit and brain damaged by a passing car. All of us will be aware of stories of a similar nature. Although we cannot ban overtaking as has been done in the States, we could require councils to put into the contract for the provision of school bus services that the buses should have appropriate designations at the back and elsewhere. We should certainly consider taking such action, which would fall within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

In Aberdeenshire, there are already a number of yellow buses. The fact that they are distinctively different means that they contribute to improved safety, which I welcome. We are probably some way off being able to light every road along which kids walk. Aberdeenshire is the most rural council area in Scotland—57 per cent of its population live in the country, which is 2 per cent higher than is the case in Highland. Many of the roads in Aberdeenshire that kids use are single carriageway and there is no prospect of their being lit, so training and more buses to the door are essential.

Aberdeenshire Council gets only one quarter of the money that it has to spend on school transport. Glasgow City Council, by contrast, gets three times what it spends on school transport as part of its annual funding allocation. That issue should be part of a wider review of how we fund our councils—a process that leaves Aberdeenshire at the bottom of the per capita league.

I congratulate Alex Neil again on securing the debate and hope that the absent members on the coalition benches will read the debate and hang their heads in shame for their absence.


15 November 2006

S2M-5099 World Diabetes Day

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 15 November 2006

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

… … …
World Diabetes Day

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S2M-5099, in the name of David Davidson, on world diabetes day 2006. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
Motion debated,

That the Parliament expresses its support for World Diabetes Day 2006 on 14 November and the launch of the year-long campaign to raise awareness of the impact of diabetes among disadvantaged and vulnerable groups; notes the campaign's message that every person with diabetes, or at risk of diabetes, deserves the best quality of education, prevention and care that is possible; is concerned that people on the lowest incomes are around twice as likely as those on the highest incomes to develop type 2 diabetes and that the prevalence of diabetes in the most deprived areas is over two-thirds higher than in the most affluent; further notes that black and minority ethnic groups are at least five times more likely to develop diabetes than their Caucasian counterparts and are more likely to live in more deprived areas; recognises the developing epidemic of diabetes in young people in Scotland, and believes that the Scottish Executive should ensure that the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups are fully addressed in the roll-out of the Scottish Diabetes Framework: Action Plan and that resources for diabetes awareness, screening and early intervention treatment to reduce long-term costs to the NHS are made available to all of Scotland's NHS boards.


… … …

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate David Davidson on securing a debate on this important subject. I frequently disagree with him on political matters, but on this occasion I pay tribute to him as a practical example of longevity in a diabetic, which serves as a model of what can be achieved. He also illustrates perfectly some of the points that he made. Although I disagree with him, he is articulate and able to engage with his condition, understand it and ensure that he is managing it. The best way to manage a lifelong condition is for the person who is subject to it to be a key part of the management. That illustrates why there are difficulties in more disadvantaged communities in which people have less capability.

Like Eleanor Scott, I have examined the figures. Having had a brief exchange with her, I think we agree that the prevalence of type 1 diabetes is higher in the Highlands than it is anywhere else in Scotland but, paradoxically, the prevalence of diabetes overall is lower in the Highlands than it is in many other parts of Scotland. That means that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Highlands is low compared with the rest of Scotland. The reason for that is that people who live in a rural area such as the Highlands are much healthier and fitter psychologically, physically and dietetically, even though there is deprivation in rural areas. City deprivation, in particular, is a problem.

About one in 25 of our population has diabetes. The interesting question to pose is what proportion of people with diabetes have intrinsically avoidable diabetes. The answer is that a very high proportion of people with diabetes have essentially avoidable diabetes, because type 2 diabetes is environmental and diet based.

I have been doing my bit to constrain the further development of diabetes. I will name names. When I found Jamie Stone and Frank McAveety eating chips in the members' lounge during the stage 3 process that we started today, I pointed out the health risks that they were running and told them that they were in conflict with the Executive's policies and practices, which I support. Perhaps the minister will have a reinforcing word with them.

As David Davidson said, diabetes is a worldwide problem—but we should consider some uniquely Scottish aspects of the issue. Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to have a world-class medical school, which was located in Edinburgh. The huge morbidity on the doorstep of the medical school in the old town of Edinburgh provided a climate in which people could study the conditions that were engaging practitioners in medicine in the middle ages.

As various genetic links are associated with type 1 diabetes and as, with record-keeping that is superior to that of many other developed countries, we have a very good understanding of the genetic mix of the people in this country, we have a key opportunity to take a lead in research into how we can prevent the development of type 1 diabetes and continue, support and reinforce a primarily diet-focused approach to dealing with type 2 diabetes.

Of course, we also have to engage with the psychology of people whose behaviour, as far as diabetes is concerned, is not good for their health. As other members have pointed out, diabetes is accompanied by a wide range of other conditions that not only damage people's quality of life but incur substantial public costs. That should give us a clue about where we should look for the money to invest in world-class research that would benefit the people of Scotland and make a contribution to the rest of the world.

By the way, coming to the Parliament might be one solution. My blood pressure is 30 points lower, which helps a wee bit. That said, my diet might not be any better for being here.

We certainly have to engage with the problem. I congratulate David Davidson on securing this debate and am interested in hearing what the minister has to say.

18:21 Categories [Health and Community Care]

09 November 2006

S2M-5109 Violence Against Women

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 9 November 2006

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

Violence Against Women

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-5109, in the name of Malcolm Chisholm, on violence against women.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): The experience of this man—I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the debate—as an MSP is probably, alas, not dissimilar to that of others. I think of one instance of a woman sitting across the desk from me at my constituency surgery, shaking from the stress of telling me of her experience: I face a woman to whom I cannot offer a physical hand to hold because, as a man, I may too closely represent the source of her legitimate fears. She shows me photographs of the bruises and cuts that cover her torso and limbs, but which do not cover her face, because the violent man in domestic circumstances is too clever to beat his partner where it will show.

As other members can justifiably be, I am proud to have been party to some of the legal changes that Parliament has made that go some way towards helping with what happens in public. I will quote another politician—my namesake Adlai Stevenson, the late US Secretary of State—who said:

"Laws are never as effective as habits".

The public policy that we are discussing intersects with private practice, because violence against women is largely a secret vice that is conducted behind a front door and is observed by no one other than the violent man, the beaten woman and perhaps by a wide-eyed and mystified child, whose immature mind may be imprinted with the idea that violence is normal as a model for their future behaviour in another generation as a dominant male or as a female who is expected to be submissive.

When children watch television or play video games on a computer, violence is increasingly a large part of the experience. The reason for that is encompassed in Alfred Hitchcock's comment that

"Drama is life with the dull bits cut out".

In a sense, that is the reason for the temptation for too much drama and too many video and computer games to be violent—the dull bits have been cut out. Too much drama passively absorbed with too little engagement, as a contrast to positive energy-consuming activity, reinforces the adverse experiences to which too many of our children are exposed.

Figures that I have used previously suggest that less than half of all the violent incidents that are reported to the police lead to an offence being recorded or a conviction. Private violence, which includes sexual violence, violent shouting and bullying in all its forms, is the least likely type of violence to be reported because people are much less confident that cases involving such violence will be successfully pursued. A public fight at a pub door, by contrast, may have been witnessed by people and people might know that witnesses exist; the injured party will then be confident that the matter can be dealt with.

Violence against women is a huge problem, and I say to Cathy Peattie that it should shame all men. Some 40 per cent of members who are present for this debate are men. If we take into account the total number of members who are men, perhaps pro rata not as many men are present as we might wish for, but we are not doing too badly. For the first time, I commend the Tories—their team today is all male.

I particularly welcome something that not everyone may have noticed. Recently, in considering a bill, we decided to criminalise men who use 16 or 17-year-old prostitutes. I hope that we will move the burden of illegality away from providers of sexual services to users of sexual services because sexual abuse is at the heart of much of what we are discussing.

The last time I participated in a debate on violence against women was on 25 November 2004. The title of that debate was exactly the same as the title of this debate and the same member moved the motion—even the source of one of the amendments was the same—but there has been a different emphasis in this debate. I hope that I will not participate in many more such debates as a result of the need for them diminishing as the scourge of violence against women is eliminated from the too many households in which it takes place. However, I am not overoptimistic about that and should not hold my breath until it happens.

I close by quoting Molière, who said:

"The greater the obstacle, the more the glory in overcoming it."

There is much glory to be earned by all of us in tackling violence against women, but earning that glory is, as yet, a distant prospect.


03 November 2006

S2M-4920 Scottish Commission for Human Rights Bill

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 2 November 2006

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

Scottish Commission for Human Rights Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-4920, in the name of Robert Brown, that the Parliament agrees that the Scottish Commission for Human Rights Bill be passed. ... ... ...


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Des McNulty's amendment to the Executive's motion was not selected for debate—members can read it in the Business Bulletin. That amendment sought to restrict the amount of money for the Scottish commission for human rights in relation to functional costs. I do not want to worry about whether we should be debating that amendment, but I hope that if the bill is passed at 6 o'clock, we will find a way of controlling the balance of the commission's expenditure.

Following all the work that has been done and the considerable period in which the proposal has been considered, we are left with a fundamental dichotomy that I cannot solve. The bill is about the promotion of human rights within public institutions, but Scottish National Party members want a bill that protects the individual human rights of the citizens of Scotland.

That is a very different thing. Human rights can be compromised by, for example, commercial companies. On other occasions, human rights can actually be promoted and supported by commercial companies. For example, one of our major banks flouts the law that requires people who open bank accounts to have an address. The bank opens accounts for the sellers of The Big Issue, who are, by definition, homeless. My point is that human rights issues go far beyond simply the public bodies, and the effects can be positive or negative.

Individuals should be at the heart of our concerns in relation to human rights, but this bill simply does not focus on individuals. Public institutions already have duties in relation to human rights. The case has been made that they are not properly exercising those duties, and we have heard a number of Government speakers criticising the performance of public bodies—be they local authorities, parts of the health service, or whatever.

We are in a curious position. We are seeking to create a bill whose purpose is to compensate for the human rights deficiencies of public bodies; however, the overall human rights performance of those public bodies is probably better than that of private bodies and companies, and that of public companies and individuals. We should instead be focusing on the human rights of individuals. If we had put the people of Scotland at the heart of the bill, SNP members would have been able to support the bill at 6 o'clock. However, as it stands, the bill is not worth salvaging. It will simply create a post for someone who will book advertising space and go into public authorities of one sort or another around Scotland to try to persuade them to up their game.

Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green): Does the member acknowledge that, out there in civic Scotland, people across the entire human rights field support the creation of the commission? Even though they share some of Mr Stevenson's concerns about the bill's limitations, they see that it has value.

Stewart Stevenson: In so far as they have contacted me—and quite a number have done so—my constituents have entirely different concerns from those who are employed in the business and who have campaigned for the commission. I say that as someone who has been a member of Amnesty International. Through inadvertence, I do not happen to be a member at the moment, but that is not because I do not support the work that Amnesty International does. I do support it, and other human rights bodies have had my support as well.

There is a fundamental difficulty about putting a bill on the statute book that does not deliver what is on the title of the tin. We have to go back and think again. I and my colleagues do not expect to support the bill at 6 o'clock.


01 November 2006

S2M-4648 Wind Farms (Public Inquiries)

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 1 November 2006

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...

Wind Farms (Public Inquiries)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-4648, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on public inquiries into wind farm proposals in the Ochil hills. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the large number of planning applications to construct wind farms in the Ochil Hills, with six consecutive public inquiries scheduled between October 2006 and March 2007; considers that all appropriate expert evidence must be made available to such public inquiries; notes the Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development's parliamentary answer on 8 June 2006 confirming that both Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have adequate resources to make representations to public local inquiries, and considers that SNH, SEPA and Historic Scotland should provide witnesses to all pertinent public inquiries so that the burden of providing evidence to such inquiries does not fall disproportionately on communities.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I start by drawing members' attention to my voluntary entry in the register of members' interests declaring shares in a wind farm co-operative in my constituency. I am the only member who has made such a declaration—others may hold shares, but they do not require to make a declaration.

My remarks will focus on the part of the motion that refers to ensuring that

"the burden of providing evidence to such inquiries does not fall disproportionately on communities."

That issue extends beyond the Ochils. The best public inquiry is, of course, the one that does not take place at all because the proposal has been developed so as to bring the community along with it each step of the way.

Andrew Arbuckle mentioned the wind farm in Gigha. That example is a little bit special in that the community owns the site as well as being the instigator of the wind farm. It will be an excellent model for what can happen in many areas, but I am not sure that it can apply in the Ochils.

In my constituency, the proposal was for the development on a brownfield site—a derelict airfield quite closely adjacent to a community—of a seven-turbine, 14MW wind farm. The whole approach of the developer seems to have been quite different from that adopted in Perthshire and the Ochils in particular. Perthshire might learn something from the approach.

Before any public declaration of interest in the development was made, engagement took place with all the elected representatives of the area at all levels—councillors, MSPs and the MP. That engagement enabled the developer to lay out its stall as to how it might work with the community, and it allowed the developer to receive some advice as to how it might proceed—although it was its responsibility to work out the details. That approach led to there being not a single adverse letter in the local press and not a single objection from the local community.

Mr Ruskell: I accept Mr Stevenson's point that it is better to do front-end development work and not to go instantly to a public inquiry. However, does he agree that it is inappropriate for MSPs such as Murdo Fraser to try to drive every single wind farm application, good or bad, to a public inquiry? Such an approach burns out local communities, wastes taxpayers' money and stifles economic development.

Stewart Stevenson: I am sure that Mr Fraser takes the member's point.

I will point to some of the attributes of a successful development, which could apply to the proposed developments in the Ochils in Perthshire. The local community can benefit substantially financially, even though it does not own the site. For example, a site in Ayrshire delivers £45,000 per annum to its owner. A similar amount goes to the community in my constituency, to whose members shares were made available. Preference was given to local people. Of the 5 per cent of the capital investment that was made available as shares, 95 per cent of the take-up was by people such as me, who can see the turbines. There are some people who do not like the development post hoc, but they are few in number.

I will close by giving an example of a good practical idea that helped to diffuse some early comments about the proposal in my constituency. Six months before it submitted a planning application, the developer put up on the site a pole that was the same height as the proposed turbines. That meant that people from miles around could get an idea of where the development could be seen from. It was an excellent idea.

I close by repeating my opening remark: the best public inquiry is the one that disnae happen. I suspect that SNH and SEPA might just agree, but does the minister?


Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP