29 May 2014

S4M-08987 Fairness for Local Television in Scotland

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-08987, in the name of Joan McAlpine, on fairness for local television in Scotland.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the establishment of new local television services for Scotland; recognises the role that they can play in delivering public service broadcasting commitments such as news and current affairs; understands that Glasgow and Edinburgh have won local licences and that Ayr, in the South Scotland region, is on the shortlist for the next round of licences as well as Dundee, Inverness, Falkirk and Aberdeen; considers that local television’s public service content justifies a prominent position in electronic programming guides of Freeview and other digital providers to maximise discoverability by viewers; notes with concern that Digital UK, the body responsible for allocating channel slots on these electronic programming guides, proposes to locate new local television channels at position 26 in Scotland compared with position 8 in other parts of the UK, and notes calls for all stakeholders and those with a regulatory responsibility for broadcasting, including Ofcom, which has a Scotland office, to work together to ensure that local television in Scotland is not disadvantaged.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I join others in congratulating Joan McAlpine on securing this important debate. I apologise for perhaps not hearing the whole debate, should I have to leave early for the Conveners Group meeting that starts shortly, although I will certainly look at it afterwards.

The Scottish Parliament information centre tells me that broadcast media—TV and radio—employ something like 3,500 people in Scotland, so it is a significant industry. More fundamentally, it is significant for the people who consume the industry’s products. One of the little things that gives us an insight into what the public wants is the circulation of the Press and Journal, which is roughly equivalent to that of The Herald and The Scotsman put together. Why is that so? It is because the P and J is essentially a paper that is rooted in local news, as it has outposts across the north and north-east of Scotland, with journalists embedded in communities and reporting on what is going on. Every day the P and J has a page and a half of news from my constituency.

There is an appetite for local news, which the new stations absolutely play into. The time for local television has come, as the cost of entry has shrunk to an entirely different level from that which it was at years ago. We must not allow the initiative to fail because of some essentially technical issues around the stations achieving the right prominence. If channel 7 is going to be available, it should—to be blunt—be allocated to those stations, because we have public service broadcasters in the east and in the west and will have later in other parts of Scotland. Ofcom should respond to its guidance and allocate the channel to those stations.

There has been a bit of a lack of imagination on the part of Ofcom in examining other ways of achieving such prominence for the channels. This week, for example, when I came back and switched my telly on in my wee house down here, a message said, “There are new channels available. You have to retune.” I pressed the retune button, and three minutes later the TV had retuned. That is fascinating.

However, I have examined the behaviour of Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Humax and Pace boxes—just a sample, not a comprehensive survey—and they always wipe my favourites. The reality is that if we could get our favourites set up so that retuning did not interfere with them, it would be okay when such a message came up and we had put our local channels on the favourites. However, the reality is that every time we retune, it overwrites our choices. The software that does that in all those boxes is downloaded from the network, so Ofcom could set regulations for the software as well as for the data content of the EPG, and could require the providers of the software not to do that. It is, in any event, specific to the UK, so that would not be to touch on international matters.

With a bit of imagination, we could get things to a different place. Ofcom could even require that there be little icons on the screen, so instead of having a dozen stations on the first screen that we see there could be—let us use an arbitrary number—26 of them, so we could get the new stations on the screen. There has been a lack of imagination.

The world is changing and will continue to change. I have just realised that it is 20 years since I first published a website. There is a lot happening and there is a lot more to happen. Let us ensure that there is a fair wind for this excellent local news initiative—for which I am sure there will be great demand—and that our local stations are prominent, so that the public can easily access and enjoy them.


27 May 2014

S4M-09777 Scottish Wildlife Trust (50th Anniversary)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-09777, in the name of John Wilson, on the 50th anniversary of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates the Scottish Wildlife Trust on celebrating its 50th anniversary; thanks the trust’s current and former volunteers and staff for their contribution toward protecting, restoring and enhancing the country’s wildlife and habitats and for inspiring people to engage with nature; understands that the trust is involved in many conservation activities, which include managing its network of 120 wildlife reserves, policy work that aims to influence decision makers to take biodiversity into account when developing plans and policies, natural capital work that tries to encourage businesses to lessen their impacts on the natural world, and work that seeks to inspire people of all ages through education, events, visitor centres and a Scotland-wide network of wildlife watch groups for children; notes what it sees as the important role that the trust has played in the Scottish Beaver Trial and the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel project; considers that it has been innovative in developing a landscape-scale approach to conservation through its living landscape projects in Coigach–Assynt, Cumbernauld and Edinburgh, and applauds the Scottish Wildlife Trust on its continued hard work and its commitment to protecting the wildlife of Scotland.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): As other members have done, I thank John Wilson for providing us with the opportunity to have this debate, which is—of course—about thanking the Scottish Wildlife Trust for the work that it has done over the past 50 years. I am sure that the current Minister for Environment and Climate Change will value—as I did, as a minister—the sage words that come from many of the forums that ministers find themselves chairing. I always found it useful to listen to what was being said.

One of the core things that the Scottish Wildlife Trust promotes is ecological diversity. When he was in office, my predecessor Mike Russell—our first Scottish National Party environment minister—introduced the beavers at Knapdale. As a minister, I visited the beavers, and was it not impressive? Those little chappies had done a huge job. The dam was twice my height and more than an acre of forest had disappeared under the loch that was thus formed. The evidence of the beavers chewing the trees could be seen all around. More fundamentally, the biological diversity that came from that reintroduction was substantial. The effect of that tiny number of beavers was quite large, which illustrates the need for care, monitoring and looking after the effects in the long term. It is grossly irresponsible to release new animals without supervision and management.

In this country, as in many other countries, we have experienced introductions that are not down to nature—starting, perhaps, with the brown hare. There has been a long debate about whether the Normans brought it here. However, an archaeological dig in Essex has found that the Romans brought it, so that is thought to have resolved the debate. The brown hare has, therefore, been here a couple of thousand years. The Romans brought the rabbits, too, though I wish that they hadnae, because they chew things in my garden that I would prefer they did not chew. On the other hand, the existence of the rabbit means that the buzzards are doing incredibly well; they are having a very good season. A month ago, they were still flying around with twigs in their beaks, building this year’s nests. They are now avidly hunting the rabbits, and I hope that they continue to do so.

Some introductions are hugely damaging. One such example is the American signal crayfish, which—to be blunt—we do not know how to get rid of. It is possible to get rid of such things, though. We seem to be on the verge of getting rid of the mink from the Western Isles. We know that the Australians managed to eliminate the rabbit in 1973, so it can be done. However, Australia still has the dingo, which is a dog that was introduced to the continent.

The grey squirrel came here from North America and continues to threaten the red squirrel. In the north-east of Scotland, Steve Willis of the SWT is the saving Scotland’s red squirrel project officer. We are making some progress there, and we are isolated from the main body of grey squirrels, which is helpful. I worry about some of the squirrels, though. I was driving up a country road last year and a grey squirrel was standing in the middle of the road. It would not move and I had to stop and wait for it to get off the road.

Nigel Don referred to ospreys. In 1971, the Loch Garten reserve saw the arrival of the first ospreys in Scotland. Since then, they have moved further south and are now breeding in Rutland. If we make a start, we can do well.

The SWT has made a huge contribution to biological and ecological diversity and is of significant importance for the climate change agenda. Its tentacles spread wide. Let us hope that they continue to do so.



The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a debate on the Local Government and Regeneration Committee’s inquiry into the delivery of regeneration in Scotland.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I congratulate my former colleagues on the committee on the excellent report that they have produced.

The convener’s foreword defines regeneration as being

“aimed at reducing poverty, inequality and decline with a clear focus on people in the most disadvantaged communities.”

It is hard to disagree with a single word of that, but there is something missing. In the long run, we must make the communities self-sustaining. If they continue to depend on outside support, regeneration is a non-ended task.

I take a rather iconoclastic view of the debate that is a bit different from those of colleagues around the chamber. However, I do not disagree with what I have heard—indeed, the genuine passion that Duncan McNeil just contributed is exactly the sort of thing that we should be hearing. He has perhaps got closer to the issue than almost anybody else.

As has been mentioned, the committee visited the Seaton backies project in Kevin Stewart’s constituency. What was inspiring about that visit was that the excellent things that were going on in that community were nothing whatsoever to do with any centrally brought regeneration activity. They were grassroots changes that were inspiring people in that community who were so disconnected from any of the organisations that were involved in regeneration that nobody had ever told them that what they were doing could not be done—so they just got on and did it, and they succeeded.

With people like that, we must not use the word “regeneration”, because it is not their word. The moment we use a big long word with multiple syllables that people are not familiar with, we are saying, “This is someone else’s responsibility, not yours.” We must use language that means something to the people who will make the difference—the Seaton backies enthusiasts.

I will take an example from another area entirely—that of Kip Keino, who won a gold medal in the 1,500m at the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968. He also won a gold medal in the 3,000m steeplechase at the Munich Olympics in 1972 and a gold medal at the Commonwealth games in Edinburgh in 1970. He grew up in a rural part of Kenya and his parents died when he was a youngster. When he rose to his feet to take his first steps, nobody knew that he was going to be a world champion. Nobody told him that it would be difficult. He did not know how difficult it would be; he just got on and did it. He was not surrounded by people who said, “Don’t worry, son. It’s our responsibility. We’ll take it away.” The people who are involved in the Seaton backies project are in exactly the same position that Kip Keino was in.

Sarah Boyack said that she wanted a more joined-up approach to be taken—no, we want the opposite of that. We do not want a joined-up approach, because a joined-up approach means waiting for someone else. If we do it ourselves in a granular way, we will succeed or fail in small steps, and then the little grains can join together and build their successes from the community upwards. The joined-up approach is the enemy of effective community regeneration.

Of course, I am exaggerating for effect, as members know perfectly well, but we must look at the issue in a slightly different way. I want space to be left for happenstance—for accidental success. I want things to be done on a small scale, so that no failure cripples the person who failed but, instead, encourages them to go and find a new solution.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP): I agree with much of what the member says, but would he accept that there are some issues, such as dealing with big areas of contaminated ground, that have to be addressed on a top-down basis?

Stewart Stevenson: Of course there are. Is there a role for the top? Yes, but only at the command of the bottom. That is the point. It is not that there is not space for the big things; the issue is who says that the big things get done.

In his wonderful book on project management, “The Mythical Man-Month”, Fred P Brooks talks about the non-commutativity of time and effort. That is garbage, isn’t it? We cannot understand a word of it. What it boils down to is that, if there is a hole that it would take six hours for a man to dig and you put six men on the job, it will not get done in one hour, because they will have to collaborate and co-operate, which is an overhead. One person will often do a job far more effectively than a team.

Fred P Brooks poses a second question: how do you make a late project later? His answer is that you add staff. When staff are added, the staff on the project have to train the new staff and stop doing the job that they are supposed to be doing. The corollary is to take away the people who are causing the problem and slowing things down and let the remaining bare handful get on with it. That is the recipe for community action.

The whole business of community regeneration is not new—far from it. Two and a half thousand years ago, Hippodamus the Greek was the inventor of town planning. His regeneration involved a different system. Aristotle criticised him and said that his ideas were loopy. In Scotland, Sir Patrick Geddes came up with terrific ideas. Of course, his mother was Janet Stevenson, so he was bound to be a good guy. He was actually a sociologist, not an engineer or an economist; he was a person who looked at people. If we do not look at people, we will not succeed.

We must not take those people out of their area of success. The Peter principle is that people get promoted until they have been promoted to a senior position where they are no longer capable of being promoted; in other words, they are no longer capable of doing the job into which they have been promoted. We must leave people in the communities where they can make a real difference.

I am delighted to advise Mr Stewart that my wellies have survived the visit to Cumbernauld and continue to prosper. They are available to other members, if required. We politicians are often guilty of saying “Think big”, but I am here to say “Think small”—indeed, think very small. There is enormous capacity out there, and we have just not allowed it the space. There is one word that the people in our communities must never hear—it is, of course, particularly relevant this year—and that word is no.


15 May 2014

S4M-10051 Homecoming Scotland 2014

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The first item of business this afternoon is a debate on motion S4M-10051, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on homecoming Scotland 2014.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I congratulate VisitScotland on the very impressive and wide-ranging 64-page brochure that it has produced for homecoming 2014. As we have heard, it lists 837 events, not all of which—again as we have heard—have been organised by VisitScotland itself. Of course, we should not be surprised by that, given that VisitScotland is a marketing organisation that markets other people’s activities, hotels, restaurants, bed and breakfasts and events. My view is that, by drawing this wide offering into one package, it is simply multiplying the effect.

As a tourist who has visited more than a quarter of the world’s countries on various occasions over the past 50 years, I can think of similar examples. People who visit Edinburgh go down Rose Street if they want to find something to eat, because it has lots and lots of restaurants. People are attracted by density. When I go to Amsterdam, I always go to Korte Leidsedwarstraat, which has even more restaurants than Rose Street has; in fact, there are 40 different kinds of restaurants off Leidseplein. Drawing things together, which VisitScotland does very successfully, creates the attraction for our many visitors.

Like, I am sure, many others in the chamber, I have relatives all around the world. My great-great-grandfather Archibald Stewart, who was born in Bannockburn in 1778, emigrated to Canada in 1853 after he was widowed, taking most of his family with him. Thanks to an act of breathtakingly successful fecundity, I now have 500 living relatives in Canada and the United States who stem from that migration of my great-great-grandfather and his offspring. They come back to Scotland and I encourage them so to do. Every one of us has similar opportunities that have been created by the wanderlust and fecundity of the Scots and I encourage people to use them.

In the modern world, things have moved on a little. In 1870, my great-great-grandfather received a letter from one of his offspring, who was still in Bannockburn, to tell him of the death of a family member; now, we have the electronic world. This week alone, using Facebook, I have communicated with relatives who live in Australia, South Africa, England and Denmark. The way in which we connect and the immediacy of connection are different.

Because of such communication, I can tell members that Emma, who is the sister-in-law of one of my nieces, drove with four of her pals all the way up from the south of England to be there when the Kelpies were opened. That is a bit of domestic tourism; the Kelpies are already successful in my family. That hardly illustrates the overall general point—I cannot and will not attempt to do that—but it shows that there is an associated draw.

Jenny Marra: Does the member agree that Emma has perhaps bucked the trend? Perhaps the number of domestic visits would have decreased by 25 per cent if it had not been for her visit.

Stewart Stevenson: Let us have a little talk about international and domestic tourism. International tourism is generally based on relatively long lead times for booking, so variations in it are comparatively modest and are more in the long run. The average number of nights that a domestic tourist stays for is less than four. Such visits are opportunistic and are booked at short notice. They are highly influenced by the weather—if the weather is not good, ye dinnae book. They are also influenced by a wide range of issues.

I encourage members to visit the VisitEngland website, where they will find that the graph for domestic tourism in England is pretty similar to that for Scotland. Something is going on, which I cannot and do not pretend to be able to get to the bottom of, that is not unique to Scotland. It probably relates to the fact that the weather wisnae very good in November and December, although I could be entirely wrong and I am happy to be corrected later.

I am encouraged by something that has not been mentioned. I have an interest in genealogy; I have studied the subject for more than 50 years and I have identified 4,365 relatives in my family tree. We are to get the “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” show, which is coming to Glasgow in August. That will draw not just domestic tourists from other parts of the UK but international tourists to meet experts in genealogy, which is one of the great links. Last year, an unknown cousin of my wife appeared from New Zealand, carrying an outline family tree, and spent two months going round Scotland to research graveyards. Even things such as graveyards are tourist attractions.

I have other connections to Bannockburn. My great-grandfather on the Stevenson side was born there. There are no records of that—he managed to escape the parish registration system, so he was difficult for me to track down. In 1841, 308 Stevensons were living in Bannockburn, and I do not think that they were all my relatives. There were also more than 100 Stewarts; that is the name of the other side of my family.

One of my great-grandfather’s offspring was responsible for the Bruce and Wallace statues that are at either side of the entrance to Edinburgh castle. He unveiled them in 1929 and they are tourist attractions to this day.

I will give a local example—the Scottish traditional boat festival in Portsoy in my constituency. Perhaps 20,000 people go to that town of not much more than 1,000 people. The 21st run will take place this year, and I know from previous visits that people come from Australia, South Africa and America to the event. I am deeply disappointed that the minister’s motion makes no reference to the Portsoy traditional boat festival, which is a hugely important economic event for the north of Scotland that also exhibits food and drink. Glenglassaugh distillery is just next door, so Bruce Crawford would be pleased. It is a wonderful event, as members will see from the television coverage that will be broadcast around the world. It is but one of the many examples that we can all come up with.

Picking up on what Jenny Marra said earlier about the relationship between Scotland and England, I will quote from Ludovic Kennedy’s autobiography. He said that, on independence,

“England would lose a surly lodger and gain a good neighbour”.

I am absolutely certain that that is the case.


S4M-09418 Animal Rights and Human Responsibilities

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-09418, in the name of Christine Grahame, on animal rights and human responsibilities. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament considers that companion animals, farmed animals and wild creatures are sentient beings whose contribution to communities and the environment should be recognised and celebrated; acknowledges, in particular, the positive role of pets in the lives of children and adults throughout Scotland, including in Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, and the comfort and assistance that they provide for many people who have difficulty with vision, hearing, mobility or socialising, and affirms that animals need and deserve the best possible welfare standards appropriate for their species whenever they are bred, reared, traded or kept.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I congratulate Christine Grahame on securing the debate and on arranging the spectacularly interesting and engaging display that we have in two locations in Holyrood. I am slightly worried that my two cats, Malcolm and Donald, will hold me to account for submitting their photograph without their permission, but I guess that I will just need to live with that.

As he did on many subjects, Winston Churchill had something to say on the subject of animals. He said:

“Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

He was a great fan of pigs. Like millions of others, I am a lower form of being, and am at the bottom of the pecking order—certainly in our house.

When Christine Grahame said that we are a wee bit higher up the evolutionary scale, I am not sure that she is correct. The fruit fly has eight chromosomes and man has 46. However, hermit crabs have 254 and the Ophioglossum fern has 768. More fundamentally, the Oxytricha trifallax has 15,600 chromosomes—2,000 copies of each of them in a single cell. Perhaps that animal does not engage with us because it is so intelligent. We will never know—it is not interested in the lower form of being that we are.

The motion talks about farmed animals and wild creatures, but I do not think that anyone has said much about wild creatures so far. Where I live, we have badgers about 400m away. We have roe deer—we once had 20 of them in the garden. We have foxes and weasels—I have seen a weasel drag off a young rabbit about 10 times its size. Of course, we also have those interlopers that the Normans brought about 1,000 years ago: rabbits.

In the country, we also have lots of farmed animals of one sort or another. All those farmed, wild and companion animals occupy important ecological niches and interact with each other.

Alex Fergusson rightly referred to hearing dogs, and we have dogs that help people without sight. We also have dogs that look after people with failing mental faculties and keep them from danger. Animals are a very important part of many people’s lives. The widowed or deserted can have long conversations with their companions, maintaining mental alertness, and the daily walk with a dog maintains physical fitness in many of our older people.

A well-cared-for, well-regarded animal companion who has been trained to understand proper relations with humans—it may be boisterous but may not bite—can gain, just as we do. We protect such animals from hunger, disease, debility and danger. We also have duties to them. We must keep the sheep from the goats—Ezekiel 34:17, in the Bible, makes reference to that practice from many years ago. Specifically, we have a duty to neuter our cats, as our failure to neuter an adequately high proportion of our cats is diluting the stock of Scottish wildcats to the point that there are now fewer pure-bred wildcats left than even the threatened Bengal tiger.

I will close by illustrating one businesslady’s attitude to her animals. Halfway between here and my home in Banffshire is Peggy Scott’s restaurant on the A90. Unless they have talked to the owner, few people will realise that Dawn Scott always names her businesses after her pets. Peggy Scott is actually a wee dug, and she has her own restaurant.


13 May 2014

S4M-09697 Recovering Health Costs for Asbestos-related Conditions and Diseases

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-09697, in the name of Bill Kidd, on recovering health costs for asbestos-related conditions and diseases. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the proposals by Clydeside Action on Asbestos regarding the recovery of costs to the NHS of treating people with asbestos-related conditions and diseases and considers that these proposals would address these health issues here in Scotland and, in doing so, help the constituents of Glasgow Anniesland, the home of generations of shipyard and engineering workers and their families, many of whom were exposed to asbestos-related illness during their lives.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): The subject that we debate tonight is one that I and others have spoken on over the past decade. Hanzala Malik mentioned a couple of our predecessors: Des McNulty and Bill Butler. It is worth saying that on the Tory benches Bill Aitken was assiduous in pursuit of this issue and, on my own benches, the late Margaret Ewing pursued the interests of her constituents, who were mainly in the defence-related industries, on this issue.

In addition, on this one occasion—if on no other—I commend the actions of Johann Lamont, who was the Deputy Minister for Justice when the Rights of Relatives to Damages (Mesothelioma) (Scotland) Bill was taken through this Parliament in 2007. She was very much on the case and supportive of what we needed to do.

Hanzala Malik focused on some of the practical difficulties that there may be for those who end up having to pay, in terms of the motion before us. Let me just say that I have rather less sympathy than perhaps he has. We have heard that awareness of the dangers associated with asbestos dates back to 1946. We have learned more in the meantime, but we have known about the dangers since then. Someone who started work in 1946 is unlikely to be any younger than about 85 or 86 today, so very few people will suffer disease from industrial exposure to asbestos that predates our knowledge of its risk in 1946. Let us get that on the record and in our minds right at the outset.

Let me compare and contrast with another way that the health service pays out costs needlessly: in relation to road traffic accidents. There is already legislation on that, and if members read their insurance policies very carefully, they will see that the NHS can claim against their car insurance to pay for the costs that it incurs. We are not breaching a new principle here: that is already the case in law, and we are extending the principle to people affected by asbestos.

The debate is timely and appropriate. Mesothelioma, which was the subject of the 2007 bill, is a very unusual disease: a condition of the mesothelium, which sits between the lungs and the outside part of the body, which is only caused by asbestos. There is no other known cause, so the responsibility for either of the variants of mesothelioma should be entirely at the door of those who caused it.

How many people will be affected? In 2006 the British Journal of Cancer suggested that there would be 90,000 deaths between 1968 and 2050. However, the numbers in any given year are not many. In 2007, when the regime changed, Frank Maguire from Thompsons Solicitors said that he reckoned that he had 100 active cases. There may not be many at any one particular time, but there are significant numbers over the considerable length of time concerned.

In this Parliament we often have quite robust debates, but there has always been very significant consensus across the Parliament that this is an important issue on which we can seriously contribute something.

In 2006, Johann Lamont said:

“It is only right that we do all we can to minimise the distress this problem causes to those suffering from this disease and to their families as speedily as possible.”

It is now the NHS’s turn to have its rights respected. I have great pleasure in supporting the motion that is the subject of tonight’s debate.


08 May 2014

S4M-09392 Skin Cancer

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-09392, in the name of Fiona McLeod, on ultraviolet radiation awareness to prevent melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the increase in the prevalence of skin cancers between 1987 and 2011 as published in the NHS Information Services Division report, Cancer Incidence in Scotland (2011); notes that the report highlights morbidity and mortality from UV radiation induced cancers; is concerned that there is a continuing increase in the number of people with melanoma in the 15 to 34 age range, including in Strathkelvin and Bearsden; notes the potentially significant human, personal, financial and societal costs of what it understands is Scotland’s most common form of cancer, and believes that sun protection is an important part of decreasing the prevalence of skin cancers.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I congratulate Fiona on bringing this important and interesting debate to the Parliament.

It is worth looking at the science that underpins some of this. The ultraviolet rays that we have been talking about have a wavelength in the range of 100 to 400 nanometres, so quite a narrow range of light causes the problem, albeit that ultraviolet light is important and omnipresent. It is particularly interesting that the part of ultraviolet light that is most likely to reach us is in the most dangerous part of that narrow range.

Jackson Carlaw and other members have talked about their experiences. I was so badly sunburned as a 10-year-old, in 1956, that I had sunstroke and had to be hospitalised. My father, who was a general practitioner, did something important on the back of that experience: he counselled me to look at my skin critically for the rest of my life and he described some of the things to which I should pay close attention.

That is an important point, which I hope is made by everyone who advises people who have been burned, because checking one’s skin is simple and cost free. People do not need to be particularly technical; they should just look for changes and not assume that they are trivial.

I have a particular reason for saying that. A good friend, Mitchell Burnett, who was a councillor of ours in Aberdeenshire, developed a tiny black spot on the top of his ear. When I say “tiny”, I am talking about something that was not the width of a pen—certainly less than 20mm across. It killed him. It took a while to do it—it was clipped out, but the cancer came back and went into his scalp. The start of skin cancer can be quite small and early action is needed.

Ken Macintosh: Dr Girish Gupta, a dermatologist at Monklands hospital, says that the advent of digital cameras makes checking one’s skin easy, because a person can take a photograph of, for example, their own back, head and neck every year and compare the photos. That is a good way of detecting moles. Does Mr Stevenson agree that that is good advice?

Stewart Stevenson: I wonder whether my wife will allow me to upgrade my camera on the basis of that advice, which sounds like very good advice indeed.

Jackson Carlaw talked about walking under clouds. The science is quite interesting. Where the cloud is thin and high, the risk of UV impact is raised compared with the risk under totally clear skies. I think that people are relatively unaware of that.

This is an issue for the whole population, even if they never go in the sun, because climate change is changing the impact of UV. The increase in temperature in the troposphere is matched by a decrease in temperature in the stratosphere—in other words, the upper bit—and, as that happens, it promotes the growth of a particular cloud type called polar stratospheric clouds, which increases the size of holes in the ozone layer and lets more UV through. There are issues for us all and we need to protect people who are particularly susceptible. I will go away and consider my personal make-up as a result of Jackson Carlaw’s comment.

When I looked this morning at who had signed the motion, I noticed that no Tories or Liberals had signed it, though I am delighted to see Jackson Carlaw here. I have therefore concluded that for the Tories and Liberals, their time in the sun is over.


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