The media plays an important and powerful role in our society. It’s right that we have a free press which is not dictated to by Government or politicians. But equally the press has to behave in a responsible and indeed legal way. The stories of phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch’s News International are shocking and sickening. If others have done this, they need to be exposed. It’s time for politicians of all parties to stand together to say that what happened at News International is just not acceptable. The report last week from a House of Commons Committee presents a damning indictment of Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and their senior executives. It also now transpires that Alex Salmond was a cheerleader for Rupert Murdoch taking full control of BskyB. Even now, despite all the revelations, our First Minister, refuses to say that Rupert Murdoch should not be allowed to control BskyB.
This is not just about politicians. The Levenson Inquiry has shown that thousands of people from all walks of life have had unacceptable intrusion of their privacy. Even after all the disgusting stories about the hacking of the phone of Milly Dowler, Alex Salmond invited Rupert Murdoch for tea. Alex Salmond is demeaning Scotland by continuing to cosy up to Rupert Murdoch, Surely it’s time to do the right thing?
Last week the Cystic Fibrosis Trust was in the Scottish Parliament to highlight their campaign to raise awareness. They also want better care and support for people with the condition. Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic condition affecting primarily the lungs and the pancreas. Those with the condition find it difficult to breathe and digest food. On a day to day basis individuals have to perform physiotherapy and take many tablets, to combat infection and digest food. Tragically for those with this condition, the median life expectancy is only 41.
The Cystic Fibrosis Trust does a fantastic job campaigning for and supporting those with the condition. If you need any information about the work of the trust, go to www.cftrust.org.uk
Police and Fire Reform
We currently have eight Police Forces and eight Fire Services across Scotland. There is one Police Force for Strathclyde which covers nearly half of Scotland, and seven for the rest of the country. The same applies to Fire Services. We have far too many organisations for a small country the size of Scotland.
I welcome the proposals to reduce the number of Police Boards and Fire Services. I believe it is still possible to build in local accountability. I do however have concerns about the way the Scottish Government is handling this. The way Scottish Ministers propose to set up the new bodies will mean that VAT exemption will be lost. This will result in Scottish taxpayers having to fund an extra £36 million in VAT, leading to cuts in services.
Ministers were warned this would happen yet they have still pushed ahead. There is an option to avoid this, which would mean less Ministerial influence and even better local accountability. It’s wrong to cut budgets and services just to give the Scottish Government more influence. This is yet another example of Alex Salmond centralising control in Edinburgh.
University Fees Dodge
European students receive free University tuition in Scotland, while students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland have to pay. The Scottish Government promised a solution to this problem, but so far has failed to deliver. Now we hear that students from Northern Ireland can qualify for free University tuition if they apply for an Irish passport, as they are entitled to do. It’s already costing us over £75 million per year to provide free University education for European students. Now this cost is likely to rise. Alex Salmond’s Ministers have cut funding to Colleges like Reid Kerr to pay for this. It’s time they kept their promise to sort this out.
We recently heard the good news that the number of people on the Organ Donor Register in Scotland is now over two million – a record high. At the same time more than 600 people in Scotland are still waiting for life saving transplants. Signing up to the register takes a couple of minutes, but it could mean the difference between life and death for those waiting for a transplant. If you want to know more, go to www.organdonationscotland.org