Secretary of State for Scotland (Meetings)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 2nd December 2004.

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Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 12:00 pm, 2nd December 2004

To ask the First Minister when he will next meet the Secretary of State for Scotland and what issues he intends to discuss. (S2F-1253)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I expect to speak to the Secretary of State for Scotland tomorrow and I am sure that we will discuss issues of importance to the people of Scotland.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

Among other matters, the First Minister might discuss the problem of troops returning from Iraq with combat stress. In the light of the continuing horrors of the illegal occupation of Iraq, what is the Executive doing directly to support soldiers returning to Scotland with combat stress?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I am afraid that I do not know the specific answer to that question, but I am sure that there will be plans in our health service, which I know works closely with the Army, to support those who are returning. I will ensure that the Minister for Health and Community Care writes to Mr Harper with a full and complete answer.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

I inform the First Minister that Executive support for Scotland's only centre for combat stress—Hollybush House in Ayrshire—is just £54,000 over three years. That is shockingly inadequate. The centre faces growing demand for its services. Currently, it operates at a loss and it needs £1 million to build new accommodation to comply with the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001. The First Minister's party supported sending troops to Iraq, which is now a civil disaster area. Will he support those troops now and re-examine the centre's funding needs as a matter of great urgency?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

It is important to recognise that the centre does not represent the sum total of the support services that are provided for troops in Scotland. It is also important to recognise that there are important relationships between the health service and the Ministry of Defence that involve close working to ensure that those who work in our armed services receive the support that they need across a wide range of services. I am happy to ensure that the specific issue is addressed in the reply that Mr Harper will receive from Mr Kerr following this question session.