15 Dec 2010

Paisley Daily Express - 15 December 2010

Road Chaos

So the Scottish Transport Minister had to resign after claiming a “first class response” to the chaos on our roads. I’ve spoken to people who had to sleep in schools in Lanarkshire. It must have been a nightmare for those trapped overnight in their cars on the motorway. Alex Salmond, as well as his Transport Minister, tried to say this was not predicted. Yet the television showed clips of warnings on BBC the night before. Frankly Alex Salmond and his team were “at it”, trying to blame the Met Office and anyone else they could, for their complacency. It would be foolish to say that a Transport Minister can dictate what the Police and local agencies do. But at the very least we should expect Government Ministers to listen to the warnings, make sure emergency measures are in place, and take immediate action once the scale of the problem became apparent. We are extremely lucky that there were no fatalities among those who were trapped. We can’t gamble like this again.

Local Priorities

I have received numerous complaints about local roads and pavements during the recent bad weather. I know that keeping the main roads open must be a priority, but many communities felt they were abandoned completely. The Paisley daily Express showed pictures of an empty town centre in Paisley. The Council spent over £100, 000 on a fireworks display and the switching on of the Christmas lights in Paisley. It gave £15, 000 to Olly Murs from X Factor. Surely the Council would have been better advised in spending this money on gritting roads and pavements?


Stalking can be a deeply frightening crime for victims. Last week a new offence of stalking came into effect. For the first time in Scotland it will now be a criminal offence to behave in a way that is likely to cause fear and alarm. This could include following another person, contacting or attempting to contact another person, loitering in any place, either public or private, watching or spying on another person as well as a range of other activities. Some people, most often women, have had their lives ruined by stalking. My Labour colleague Rhoda Grant MSP, lobbied for the law to be changed and it was. But credit also must go to Ann Moulds, a victim of stalking, who campaigned for this change. Ann was awarded the title of “Campaigner of the Year” for her work. I hope that her achievements will lead to better protection for those Scots whose lives have been affected by stalking.

Margo MacDonald’s Bill

The Scottish Parliament recently rejected the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill proposed by Margo MacDonald MSP. A similar proposal had first been proposed by the Liberal Democrat MSP, Jeremy Purvis, but he too had failed to gain support.

Margo MacDonald is a formidable campaigner. She has not let Parkinson’s Disease stop her crusading on a wide range of issues. I have a lot of respect for Margo but I could not support her on this matter. The Bill would have decriminalised Scots Law on homicide as it applies to the acts of assisting suicide and voluntary euthanasia.

No one can doubt it is harrowing to watch a loved one suffer in the final stages of a terminal illness. But surely we should be improving the availability and quality of palliative care before there is any debate about assisted suicide?

I worried about the undue pressure which could be put on a terminally ill patient. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility for a relative who stands to gain financially putting pressure on someone who is terminally ill and who doesn’t want “to be a burden”. I also worried about the pressure this would put on doctors and nurses. Margo’s Bill risked undermining patient trust in doctors and the medical advice they offer. Scotland’s Hospices were opposed to the Bill and they know at first hand the reality of caring for those approaching death.

For these and many other reasons, I would not support Margo’s Bill.