31 May 2017

S5M-05455 Child Safety Week

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-05455, in the name of Clare Adamson, on child safety week 5 to 11 June 2017, safe children: sharing is caring. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that Child Safety Week, the flagship annual campaign run by the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), takes place this year between 5 and 11 June 2017 and its theme is “sharing is caring”; further notes that accidents are a leading cause of death, serious injury and acquired disability for children and young people in the UK, that they account for three deaths every week and over 2,000 hospital admissions and that many of these accidents can be prevented; commends CAPT’s aim of securing a safer environment for children of all ages by helping families understand the risks, as well as the consequences, but most importantly, the simple ways that accidents can be prevented; further commends work undertaken in Child Safety Week in bringing together individuals and organisations around the UK to promote safety messages to families in a fun and engaging way and encourage parents and carers to increase confidence by sharing experiences and learning; congratulates CAPT and other organisations working in accident prevention on their outstanding dedication, in particular the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) which, this year, celebrates its centenary; notes RoSPA’s past successes from the Tufty Club in the 1960s and the introduction of the seatbelt law in the 1980s, to a successful campaign for moulded plugs in 1992 and EU-wide regulations on looped blind cords in 2014; further notes the new hazards for parents and carers to be aware of such as liquid laundry capsules, button batteries, hair straighteners and nappy sacks, and congratulates all those many organisations that continue to work tirelessly and collaboratively in the field of accident prevention and child safety.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I declare that I am a member of the safety-related body, the Institute of Advanced Motorists. I congratulate Clare Adamson on bringing the subject of the debate to Parliament tonight.

I was probably the pupil who always sat at the back of the class not listening to, or engaging with, safety messages. I have a long history of what I can only describe as attempted suicide. I will start with being in the Rev Willie McCraw’s manse garden at Bow of Fife at the age of approximately three, when a swing hit me in the middle of the nose. That meant my first visit to the hospital, which I still remember. There was a white line down a table which I had to lie on so that my nose could be X-rayed—it was not broken.

Aged 15, I am cycling back from the football, my football boots are hanging over the handlebars and the studs in the boots are engaging with the wheel, but I am ignoring that. Eventually, they get trapped in the spokes, the bike stops and I fly over the handlebars and land on my elbows, which both swell up: another visit to the hospital, but I still did not manage to break anything.

My memories are not quite in the right order, but not long after we got a television, I saw that the power cable was unplugged and thought that it would be a jolly good wheeze to stick my finger in the socket to see what electricity was like. I had a black line round the finger and a near-death experience.

One would think that those various experiences as a child would teach me to be a more sensible adult. Hardly. On 4 November 1975—parachute failure at Strathallan at 3.30 in the afternoon. It is strange that I can remember the time. In April 1965, I was out with my pals and we had been up Ben Macdui and were walking back across—suddenly, one cloud appears and we are in almost zero visibility, I am at the front of the queue and we have not roped up, put our crampons back on or any of that stuff. I get too near the edge of the corrie, walk on to a snow cornice, fall 300 feet and walk away. I still did not manage to break anything.

In 1980, we decided to go to Peru, despite the Foreign and Commonwealth Office having said “essential travel only”. The taxi that we were travelling in as we went over the Andes, because the trains were on strike, got shot at. The bullet hit the car just 2 feet behind me. So, that was another one.

In 1956—this is entirely relevant, so members should listen carefully—I got sunstroke at Benderloch beach and was hospitalised at Oban. I survived that one as well. So, I am doing pretty well. By the way, I have come off a plane in an emergency on three occasions, so do not fly with me.

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: Yes, of course I will.

Jackie Baillie: I am trying not to have an accident in making this intervention.

The gallery is starting to clear at that litany of accidents. I wonder whether Stewart Stevenson would, given his tendency to have accidents, recommend that we should, in fact, clear the chamber right now.

Stewart Stevenson: Of course, I would draw an entirely different conclusion: if there is going to be an accident, people will want me there because I always survive, and they probably will, too. We are politicians: we can turn any example of anything to any point.

There is a serious point to all this, besides my just having a bit of knockabout fun. Parents and everybody else simply cannot anticipate every danger to which children will choose to expose themselves. My parents simply did not know that I was going to do all those daft things. As well as responding to specific dangers, we must think about how to educate our children to recognise that they are putting themselves in danger and to recognise appropriate actions to mitigate the effects of putting themselves in danger. I do not know how to do that, by the way, but I state it as an important point to think about.

Every day we hold our lives in our hands. When I look at my hands, I can see the scar from when I was drilling into metal and forgot to key the bit, and I look at what happened when I tried to scythe off my thumb. More important, I can look at where six stitches had to be put in my hand when I stuck it through a letter box and a dog got it. That was during a Falkirk East by-election campaign.

Life is full of hazards, and children will meet those hazards, as well.

I congratulate all those who seek to support children and, more fundamentally, who seek to support them to be safer and more responsible citizens than I have ever chosen to be in my entire life.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Please be careful when you sit down. The wheels on the chairs can be a bit dodgy.


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