Legislative Programme

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:43 pm on 16th June 1999.

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Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour 2:43 pm, 16th June 1999

That makes my point extremely well. I thought that this debate was about the alternate legislation that was required, not about actions that might-appropriately, I agree with Mary Scanlon-be taken.

Although Mrs Ewing said that she, and the public, had not been impressed, I have been impressed that a number of speakers from different parties have already shown a passion and a determination to tackle the scourge of drugs, which affects so many communities in Scotland. However, does the issue of drugs require new laws? No; it needs a joined-up, multi-faceted approach-to which Keith Raffan referred-which deals with education, treatment and effective policing. Above all else, it needs the involvement of the people: unless our citizens are genuinely on our side-on that, we can provide leadership without new laws-we will not achieve our objectives. Mary Scanlon referred to Mothers Against Drugs; a group in my community-Locals Against Drugs in Alloa, or LADA-represents another sign that individual groups are beginning to get together to tackle the issue of drugs. We must provide the leadership, without legislation, to enable them to do so.

I am sorry that Alex Salmond is not here, because I have asked the SNP twice whether it is prepared to go against the advice of the chief medical officer on the beef-on-the-bone ban. It is important that we should know and, at some point, I should like a clear answer. I know the SNP's policy on the ban and I have already said that we all wish it to be lifted at an appropriate time, but to go against the chief medical officer's advice is an extremely dangerous course of action.

Opposition members have said that the legislation that was outlined today is inadequate and does not meet the needs of the Scottish people. The 100,000 Scots who are affected by the incapable adults bill would not agree with them. That bill sets a stamp on what this chamber is about; it deals with a group of people who are the subject of archaic and unfair laws, which are higgledy-piggledy, fragmented and all over the place. If the Parliament can address such issues in its first session, we will deal with them effectively.

I was in my surgery on Monday, as I have the misfortune of still having to work out my notice in my previous job. A patient said to me, "I know your views on living wills, which I very much support, but will the Parliament make them statutory?" I answered that I was not sure that we needed a statute. We need health professionals who are prepared to listen to patients, accept what they say, put living wills into their case notes-as I have done throughout my professional life-and respect the wishes and dignity of the individual patient. Health professionals should take people's clearly expressed prior wishes into account, and I think that they are beginning to do so. Through this chamber, we can encourage them to do so, but I question whether we need specific legislation on living wills.

We need legislation on the general issue, because it is an important area in which difficult questions need to be answered. For example, in accident and emergency departments today-at this very moment-a junior doctor is probably technically assaulting a patient. Junior doctors do not have the authority or permission, in law, to undertake the necessary tests to produce a diagnosis and to go on to manage that patient. Indeed, if a junior doctor goes on to administer treatment to a still-unconscious patient, for example to reduce brain swelling, the doctor is technically assaulting the patient. Our hard-pressed junior doctors, to whom Opposition members referred this morning, have enough problems on their hands without worrying about the legal position. The chamber has a duty to ensure that the health professionals have clear laws that support them and allow them to proceed appropriately.