Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:32 pm on 23rd January 2002.

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Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party 5:32 pm, 23rd January 2002

I join colleagues in congratulating Alex Fergusson on securing this important debate, which will be important in raising awareness about ME.

Susan Deacon was right to speak about the growing awareness of ME, but that should not mask the considerable ignorance that still exists in Scotland about the condition and its symptoms. ME sufferers do not simply experience fatigue. In general, they regularly experience many other symptoms, such as sore throats, muscle pains, headaches, disturbed sleep, digestive problems and depression.

There is also ignorance about the fact that the condition affects a great many people in Scotland—many more than are affected by higher profile conditions. In Scotland, some 15,000 people are thought to have ME. They include people of all ages, all social classes and men and women, although women are slightly more at risk than men.

The effects are severe. For young people, there can be disruption to education. There can be disruption to family life, work life and other serious effects. Despite that, and Scotland's history and record in medical research, we still do not have answers to basic questions—as Janis Hughes said. We do not know what ME actually is or who has it. There is no diagnostic test for it, as Fergus Ewing and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton rightly said. Diagnosis is still primarily done by excluding other conditions. That is not good enough.

Some members have rightly said that more research into the condition is needed. More publicly funded research is needed. Alex Fergusson said that there is expertise in Scotland. There is a need to carry out research here. We could engage in initiatives that would go a great deal of the way to beginning to find some answers to basic questions without involving an enormous investment of public resources.

Many members want to speak, so I will be brief. I am glad that the issue has united members and that the deputy minister can offer a positive contribution.