Legislative Programme

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:55 am on 16th June 1999.

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Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative 11:55 am, 16th June 1999

I would like to address much of what is not included in the Government's priorities. Having stood twice for Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber and now being a list member for the Highlands and Islands, I can honestly say that issues such as health and education were raised by far greater numbers of constituents than raised issues of land reform.

I believe that everyone in this chamber came here with a commitment to improving the health of Scotland. Health accounts for one third of this Parliament's budget, it is one third of our responsibilities, yet in the First Minister's statement there was but one passing mention of the chronic heart disease and cancer problems that we have in this country. I must express my disappointment-and, I am sure, the disappointment of many in the chamber-that health has not been given the priority that I feel it deserves.

The people of Scotland will judge this Parliament by how we care for two of the most vulnerable groups in our society: our children and the elderly. In the next four years, the Conservatives will clearly pursue the health commitments that we set out in our manifesto. While I realise that improvements can be made without legislation, I would ask the Government to make it clear what the health priorities are in the Scottish Parliament and when it will address those priorities. Will the Government give us a clear outline of where it stands on health?

Too many concerns to mention in this Parliament today have already been raised with me, as health spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives. An urgent concern, however, is the issue of blocked beds. There are 1,600 to 1,700 blocked beds each week in the national health service at a cost of about £30 million. Will the Government look at the relationship between social work services and the NHS? Our manifesto made a clear commitment to serve the elderly and the most vulnerable people in our society, to give them seamless transfer of care and to give them the care of their choice. There should also be a level playing field between privately run residential homes and council-run homes.

I am shocked to discover that the most common reason for admission of 14-year-olds to in-patient and day care beds is dental decay. When will the Government bring forward a public health bill or address this issue? I look forward to that, as it is a major issue for the British Dental Association, for parents and for children.

Trish Godman and Annabel Goldie, who both spoke on drugs, and Keith Raffan, who has raised the issue in a written question, have shown that every member of this Parliament is greatly concerned about the scourge of drugs in Scotland. Margaret Curran mentioned Mothers Against Drugs and the Conservative party has listened to people such as Patsy Siegerson and Cranhill Mothers Against Drugs. I do not mean to score a point here, but I can honestly say that we listened to what they said, we heard what they said and we included their advice in our manifesto. I ask the Labour party again to rethink what Mothers Against Drugs and others with concerns about drugs in Scotland have said, and to please listen to them. Do not just listen to them, but hear what they have to say. I beg the Government to address this issue, whether by the legislative process or otherwise.