26 June 2018

S5M-12842 National Health Service 70th Birthday

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-12842, in the name of Richard Leonard, on the NHS’s 70th birthday. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament celebrates 5 July 2018 as the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS; agrees with the words of its founder, Aneurin Bevan, that it is “a triumphant example of the superiority of collective action and public initiative”; believes that, each and every day, both in Central Scotland and throughout the country, there are countless examples of the importance and success of the NHS; thanks all health service staff, past and present, for their compassion and dedication in delivering care to people in need, and wishes the NHS a happy 70th birthday.

... ... ...

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

I start by paying tribute to things that the Labour Party has done, which is not a natural thing that members would expect me to do. However, in the past hundred years, the legislation that it has introduced to establish the national health service is a most significant and enduring achievement that we should all commend. In this Parliament, I have commended Jack McConnell in the past—and I do so again today—for his political courage in introducing legislation on smoking. The Labour Party is capable of getting things right. However, I have to draw one or two different conclusions from those that we have just heard in the contribution that has been made so far in this debate.

First, I remind members on the Labour benches that, in fact, the story of the national health service really started with the Highland and Islands medical service, which was established in 1913 and covered half of Scotland’s land mass. It was not free at the point of supply, but it set the limit on what people paid at a very low level so that, for the first time, ordinary working men and women had access to a health service.

In rolling out the service in the 1940s, Beveridge was drawing on that model, so the routes that have got us to where we are are more diverse than the simple idea that it was Beveridge. It is none the worse for any of that, I have to say, and I do say. Indeed, the quotation from Nye Bevan in the motion is one that I agree with.

I will do what I did in the previous health debate. I went again to the Care Opinion website and found the following entries, all from the past week, and it is not all doom and gloom. A patient treated at Aberdeen royal infirmary said:

“I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes in September 2017 ... the support of the whole diabetic team at Davidson Anderson Building, ARI has been incredible.”

A comment on the play service at Aberdeen children’s hospital states:

“I think the play service is a really valuable service that helps children make the hospital seem less scary.”

Commenting on their son’s three-and-a-half-week stay at the Royal Aberdeen children’s hospital, a parent said:

“My boy broke his femur at 2.5 years old and was in traction for 3.5 weeks ... My son really enjoyed his time with the play staff who made his stay very enjoyable”.

Listen to that. They are talking about someone in traction with a broken femur. That is how good the hospital was. Another comment, on Dr Gray’s maternity hospital, states:

“When my grandchild was born in August 2017 he had to stay in SCBU for 10 days ... The care that was given to both my daughter and grandchild was exceptional.”

That tells us a lot about the staff in the health service, because that is front-line experience. It also tells us about the system that supports the staff.

I will conclude with a comparison with the world before then, because I was born before the health service. I have here a copy of a medical bill that my mother had to pay, because the year before I was born she had an ectopic pregnancy—a pregnancy in the fallopian tube—and had to go to hospital and have that fallopian tube removed. It was a very serious operation, but fortunately it was done with such skill that she was then able to give birth to me, her first live birth, and to two subsequent children.

The point is that the amount of money on the bill is three-and-a-half weeks of the average working man or woman’s wage at that time. My mother was fortunate to come from a family who could afford that. The health service made it possible for the quality of service that my mother was able, fortunately, to pay for, to be available to all. I congratulate the health service on its upcoming 70th birthday. We are all grateful for its enduring contribution to our society.


19 June 2018

S5M-11823 International Women in Engineering Day

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-11823, in the name of Gillian Martin, on welcoming women in engineering day. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes that Women in Engineering Day is on 23 June 2018; notes that it highlights the work needed to go further and faster to meet the target of 140,000 women engineers by 2022; understands that only 9% of engineers and 18% of the tech workforce are female; notes the view that action must come from the industry and other stakeholders to make the changes within the sector; believes that there are a number of positive action measures that can be taken, such as outreach, placements, training and activities, which target women and girls, and notes the calls for the industry to meet the future needs of the engineering and technology sectors.

... ... ...

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

I will certainly not try to be too frivolous, but I will try to rise to the challenge that Iain Gray issued and give some role models in software engineering and related activities. Girls do belong.

Ada Lovelace, who was Lord Byron’s only legitimate child, was born in 1815 and died in 1852. She was the computer programmer for Charles Babbage, who got a huge amount of money from the Government to develop the analytical machine and the calculating machine. She developed the first computer algorithm and identified the importance of branching—testing and changing the direction of a program depending on the results, which is key to how software works today. She was a mathematician and a computer person. She was largely encouraged by her mother, because her father fled one month after she was born and she never saw him again.

On 5 October 1972, I had the immense privilege of meeting Rear Admiral Grace Hopper at the University of York. Born in 1906, she was a programmer on the US Navy mark 1 computer in 1944. That computer had a partly electromechanical system. One of her program runs failed—a moth was stuck between the contacts. The Americans call a moth a bug, and that bug is Sellotaped to her lab notes and can be seen in a New York museum; it is why we say that computer programs have bugs.

Grace Hopper did something incredibly important. She was the first person to develop a computer program that wrote computer programs. Today, we utterly depend on such computer compilers.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper retired three times from the US Navy. She was re-recruited because she was genuinely indispensable. She finally retired at the age of 80 as the oldest ever uniformed member of the US armed services, but then went to work full-time for the Digital Equipment Corporation, where she was still working at the age of 85.

Stephanie Shirley used the name Steve professionally, so that the people she was dealing with would not know that she was female. She developed a rather deeper voice than the one she might have been born with to use when on the telephone. She founded Female International, which is one of the very successful early computer consultancies. She is still around doing good works in the House of Lords.

I turn to the original NASA computers for the orbital manned missions. In 1962, John Glenn did three hops around the earth. The computer failed for three minutes during his three orbits—only 99.95 per cent reliability was required, and failures were allowed. Thank goodness that Katherine Johnson, who was the orbital mechanical engineer responsible for the mission—or “that computer”, as such ladies were known—was there when the computer failed.

Today in the NASA Langley research center, the director, the chief scientist and the chief technical editor, Pearl Jung, are female. There are plenty of places where girls belong in engineering.


S5M-12846 Scottish Crown Estate Bill: Stage 1

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani):
The next item of business is a stage 1 debate on motion S5M-12846, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on the Scottish Crown Estate Bill.

... ... ...

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

I draw members’ attention to my registered small agricultural holding.

I will respond first to something that Tavish Scott said. I cannot find where it says in the bill—although I know that it is there—that it is possible to sell assets, provided the proceeds are used to purchase another heritable asset. That may not be a complete answer to Tavish Scott’s point.

I respond to the suggestion that this is a technical bill by making a few technical points that go beyond the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee’s consideration of the bill. A particular point relates to section 6(2)(a), which requires that a body that takes over the management of an asset has to have

“no fewer than 20 members”.

I invite the Government to have a wee think about that and build in some flexibility. I am thinking in particular of the recent buyout at Ulva, where, because of the way in which the community was defined, consent was required by a large number of people who were not on Ulva. There might be similar circumstances in future.

I want to make a few points about finance. Managers of assets that have been devolved to local communities are allowed to have other interests, although they have to keep the accounts for the Crown Estate asset separate from the accounts for any other assets. That is a perfectly proper provision. However, the aggregation of a Crown Estate asset with one that is not from the Crown estate may add to the value of the two assets. There is an unresolved question in the bill as it is currently drafted about how the income and liability should be divided.

Speaking of which, I refer to section 3(4)(a), which relates to a transferee ceasing to exist. It says:

“the function, and any rights or liabilities, transferred to the transferee ... are to transfer to another person”.

There is a wee bit of an awkward construct there in relation to liabilities if a community organisation becomes insolvent. Such an organisation is likely to be registered under the companies acts and therefore there will be provision for insolvency. It would be very unusual for the liabilities not to be extinguished at the point of insolvency; instead, we are legislating that they be transferred to someone else. In some very unlikely circumstances, a degree of irresponsibility could arise, where liabilities never rest on the shoulders of those who should be responsible for them. I invite ministers to have a wee think about that.

Section 14 limits the granting of a lease to 150 years. The period is a slightly odd choice; the period in the Long Leases (Scotland) Act 2012 is 175 years. Mr Wightman in particular will remember that because, as minister, I worked with him on that subject. I heard Edward Mountain refer to long leases of the sea bed. If a lease was more than 175 years, the 2012 act converted it to ownership. I post that as an interesting little aside, because I do not know whether there are any cases in which that has happened.

Primarily, I want devolution in relation to Crown Estate assets to work to the maximum possible degree. I am less interested in local authorities taking responsibility, although clearly there are areas in which that is appropriate. The success of what we are doing here will depend on our getting good, effective devolution down to quite small communities for which it may make a substantial difference.

The bill is relatively silent on the issue of community and there is some advantage in that. The Ulva buyout illustrates that as, although we were able to make the land reform provision for community buyouts work, it worked in a very odd way, because only a tiny minority of those who had to give permission were on Ulva. It is worth looking at that.

Paragraph 342 of the report draws attention to the absence of an

“up-to-date assessment of the condition of Crown Estate assets in Scotland”.

I welcome the fact that that is being remedied, because lack of knowledge of one’s assets is the road to economic and financial perdition.

I wish the bill every success.


13 June 2018

S5M-12706 Mental Health

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-12706, in the name of Alex Cole-Hamilton, on health.

... ... ...

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

Alex Cole-Hamilton’s motion says that the

“hard-working staff do not have the resources and support that they require to deliver the service that they would wish”.

I beg to differ. I agree with Anas Sarwar, who said that it is the patient who matters. Therefore, my entire speech simply quotes from the Care Opinion website. All three cases come from the previous week and cover all Scotland.

The first comment is about Aberdeen royal infirmary:

“I attended A&E during a mental health crisis. From the start, reception staff were really patient and understanding. I got seen in triage by Gail and, her manner with me was just fantastic. She genuinely listened to me and didn’t make me feel like I was a burden or anything.

Due to the way I was feeling and the state I was in, I was kept in A&E to see the psychiatry team. In A&E whilst I was waiting, another nurse, Bethan was looking after me. I appreciated just the small things—giving me some juice and a biscuit, listening to what I had to say.

I was in A&E for about 3 hours and, in that 3 hours they didn’t fix everything but, they gave me somewhere safe when my thoughts were too much and a plan. I can’t really ask for much more.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton: Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: We will hear from patients; we have heard from politicians.

The comment continues:

“I know a lot of the A&E nurses from various admissions with self harming but, Gail and Bethan did an absolutely amazing job when I needed it most”.

A kiss—an X—then follows.

The second comment, which was made this week, is about Crosshouse pharmacy services:

“My son who has Aspergers Syndrome and mental health issues.

“His medication leaked in his bag on Sunday. If he misses a dose of medicine his mood can change considerably. It is normally a special order prescription, I rang my local pharmacy who had none in stock.

I then phoned the pharmacy at Crosshouse Hospital and spoke to a very helpful pharmacist, Ailsa, she phoned round a number of community pharmacies and found one which had it in stock, making sure that I knew exactly where it was. I can’t express strongly enough how grateful both my son and myself are for this excellent service.”

This is what someone in the south of Scotland had to say last week:

“I suffer with depression and anxiety (which can be pretty severe)”

They said that they had

“suicidal thoughts and feelings (which are present every single day) and at times become overwhelming”,

and went on to say:

“What I would like to say about the Crisis Team is how I feel they really are in a league of their own when it comes to Mental Health Services. It was during my first experience of using the service that one nurse in particular said a few words to me in a moment of such mental and emotional pain, with such compassion and conviction, that someone felt my life, me, had value, to know that someone out there was ‘hoping’ for me because I couldn’t.

A nurse from the team would visit me every day for around the next 10-14 days ... the crisis team are a team of very special people”

Of course there are challenges in mental health. I have experienced suicide in my family, so I know that perfectly well. However, there are good stories, too, and let us not demean our staff by pretending that there are not.


12 June 2018

S5M-12690 Improving the Lives of Scotland’s Gypsy Travellers

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-12690, in the name of Angela Constance, on improving the lives of Scotland’s Gypsy Travellers.

... ... ...

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

Alex Cole-Hamilton referred to the Gypsy Traveller community as being disengaged from the political process. During the 1995 Perth and Kinross by-election, which brought Roseanna Cunningham her parliamentary debut when she won it from the Tories, one of the things that I was given to do as a campaigner was to go and talk to the Travellers who were just outside Milnathort. I found a group of well-engaged people who had some focused and relevant questions to ask of the person who called at their door to ask for their vote. We had an animated discussion, followed by a welcome cup of tea and a biscuit. I am sure that, although I did meet a Conservative voter among them, I can use the singular word.

Alex Cole-Hamilton: I was not suggesting that the Gypsy Traveller community is not engaged politically. The political class infers that they are not engaged politically, so politicians do not reach out to them.

Stewart Stevenson: I hope that, between us, we have made the point that we neglect the involvement of anyone in our society at our peril, including the Gypsy and Traveller community.

As my name is Stewart, it would be perilous for me to be disconnected. When my father was a GP and the Travellers used to come for the berries and the tattie howking later in the year, three names came to the door—the McPhees, the McAlindens and, of course, the Stewarts, who are a well-established Scots Traveller family. I have a wheen of people in my family who are called Stewart and I also have McPhees in my family. I do not know whether they were Travellers in either case, but I certainly cannot disregard the possibility.

The key thing that those people exhibited that we should tak tent of is that they were self-sufficient. They could teach us a lot about how to make the most of our circumstances and attributes. The rest of us often lie back while those who travel and seek work and success where they can find it are much stronger people in some ways.

Kevin Stewart referred to Jeannie Robertson, so I will, in turn, refer to Belle Stewart from Blairgowrie, who was a well-known Scots folk singer from a Travelling family. Just to illustrate how prejudice works in rather curious and irrational ways, in the early 1980s Belle Stewart went to the Sidmouth festival to sing at the festival’s invitation. Among the people attending were new age travellers, not Travellers in the traditional sense. They did not believe that Belle Stewart could possibly be a Traveller because she was far too clean. Is that not another example of the kind of prejudice that was embedded in the people that she met there?

Belle Stewart’s biography was written by her daughter and it captures the Travelling spirit and the spirit of Belle Stewart. It is called “Queen Amang the Heather”.


06 June 2018

S5M-12573 Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh):
The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-12573, in the name of Michael Matheson, on the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill at stage 3.

... ... ...

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

I am an accidental participant in the debate. Before the stage 1 debate, the whips found that they were one short in volunteers to participate, so I got the tap on the shoulder to do so. I did what I always do in such circumstances, particularly as I was the last member to speak, at the end of the debate: I read the bill. That is how I was able to identify a little something that I was delighted to bring forward at stage 2—and I have heard acknowledgements from two colleagues for that little bit.

When members have attended 266 Justice Committee meetings, as I have, they will have learned how to read bills quite quickly and spot where the elephant traps are. There is no special skill; it is just length of service. Members will all be able to do that when they have been to 266 Justice Committee meetings—I wish them well with that prospect.

This stage 3 debate is very unusual. There are no amendments—that, in itself, is not particularly unusual. However, the Parliamentary Bureau has served the Parliament well by extending the time for the stage 3 debate to fill a full debate slot. That might be unique; it is certainly pretty unusual. I very much welcome the comprehensive opportunity for a much wider range of members than usual to participate in the stage 3 debate.

We are not here to rewrite the past, because we simply cannot do that. Any attempts to do so would require the most careful of considerations. I do not much like the renaming of streets, for example, in an attempt to rewrite history, but I might support the removal of celebratory statues. For example, the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, who used to gaze across Dzerzhinsky Square, at the back of Red Square, to the Lubyanka, is no longer there. The street is no longer called Dzerzhinsky Square, and that is proper, given the abuses of human rights that he oversaw as the founder of the precursor to the KGB.

However, I like righting the effects of wrongs that were done in the name of the state. We do not forget what has happened, but we can offer some redress. We should bear in mind that, although we might be striking the official record from public gaze, the newspapers will still carry many reports of convictions and prosecutions. We cannot legislate for that in any meaningful sense, but I hope that that will not interfere with what we are doing today.

I will touch on some of the preceding debate. It is worth saying that we are all making a journey. My parents were both Edwardians who were born well before the first world war, and their moral compass and view of society would have been very different from mine and the views that we are expressing this afternoon. My youngest grandparent was born in 1872, at a time when women could not even own property. The world changes, and society evolves.

I gently engage with Patrick Harvie in that context. I do not think that we can bully anybody into changing their point of view; that just does not work in politics or in life. There is a five-stage process that we might consider. I have just jotted down that process, so it can be criticised. Step 1 is to get people to recognise that there is a difference. Step 2 is to get people to acknowledge that difference. Step 3 is to get people to engage with that difference. Step 4 is to get people to celebrate that difference. Step 5 is to get people to promote the positive values of difference. That is not simply about today’s debate; it is how we progress people, step by step, to a new view of the world. I encourage Patrick Harvie to consider that we should find a way of engaging with those who have a particular viewpoint rather than bully them.

It is worth returning to Alan Turing, who is one of my great heroes. Alan Turing lives on in computer science in the Turing test, which is the test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour. That is exactly what we are doing today: we are exhibiting intelligent behaviour.

I very much welcome the bill and the work of Tim Hopkins, who was probably the first lobbyist I met when I came to the Parliament in 2001. He does not look a day older.

Tim Hopkins does not look a day older, but he should because of his indefatigable efforts to help us and to help me, as someone who came from an Edwardian family and was not naturally equipped for today’s debate, not only to engage in all the stages of the debate but to vote for the bill at decision time with gladness in my heart.


05 June 2018

S5M-11127 Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-11127, in the name of Daniel Johnson, on the portrayal of ADHD treatment. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the documentary, Take Your Pills, which has been distributed by Netflix; expresses its strong concern about what it sees as the programme's unbalanced portrayal of ADHD and its treatment; notes the recent publication of updated NICE guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of the condition and the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland’s, ADHD in adults: good practice guidelines; acknowledges the calls for the Scottish Government to bring forward plans to update the SIGN guidance on ADHD, which, it understands, has remained the same since 2009, and notes the views that there is a need for a more informed understanding of the condition in Edinburgh and across the country and that taking prescribed medication to treat diagnosed neuro-developmental disorders and mental health conditions is as legitimate as taking prescribed medication to treat physical illness.

... ... ...

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

Like others, I thank Daniel Johnson for the opportunity to have the debate. I congratulate him on his very individual and particular contribution and the courage that it takes to make it. Fortunately, I am not in a position where I have to exercise that kind of choice.

Members may have heard me talk previously about the first job that I had when I left school. For about eight months in 1964, I worked in a locked ward in a psychiatric hospital, just at the time when the very first medications were becoming available that would give people with quite a wide range of psychiatric and other conditions better treatment than simply being locked up in the old asylums. The asylum in which I worked had about 1,200 patients; today, the hospital that sits on that site has around 100 patients. My starting point, therefore, is that medication is an important part of dealing with a wide range of conditions, one of which is ADHD.

As others have done, I thank the Scottish ADHD Coalition for its briefing for the debate. The briefing talks about the coalition’s survey of parents and refers to

“medication, parent training, school interventions and psychological support.”

I must confess that I have not watched the Netflix film—I take Daniel Johnson’s word for what is in it, supplemented by what Emma Harper said. However, a few weeks ago I saw “The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs”, which was on BBC Four on 23 May 2018. What was interesting was that the doctor used a mindfulness approach to support school students who had ADHD, the idea being not to get them off the drugs but to give them choice and space. I was quite impressed, although of course television programmes always short-circuit complexities; we need to be very careful about that. I am not assuming that the magic bullet was contained in that one hour of television.

That leads me to an important general point, which is our use of the word, and concept of, “normal”. We increasingly view normal as a much narrower range than it is proper to consider. Normal is anything—behaviours, aptitudes, abilities and conditions—that does not harm the individual or cause the individual to harm anyone else. We should review normal as covering a much wider range and variety.

I have my own phobias. I cannot go to my office on the fifth floor of this building—I am generally in first—without straightening up all the rubbish bins. It is just something that I feel compelled to do. I rarely use the phone—I am virtually phobic about that—and I hate pills. There is a reason why I hate pills; I was in an experimental drug programme for a condition that I had when I was 12. The trial did not sort the condition and has left me with lifelong issues associated with it. I use self-hypnosis to deal with pain and asthma. I have not taken medication for my asthma for 35 years; I am fortunate in that I am able to do that, because my condition is probably not severe enough to require medication. Is that not at the heart of the issue? We have to treat people as individuals and find individual treatments that suit them. That might involve a mix of medications, psychological support, family support and educational system support. When we think about ADHD, we should perhaps consider the diversity and range of what is normal.

Daniel Johnson deserves our thanks for raising the issue in this context and showing us that there is more—or perhaps less—to the issue than we might otherwise have thought.


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