Commonwealth Day 2006

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 5:15 pm on 16 March 2006.

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Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 5:15, 16 March 2006

I warmly welcome Sylvia Jackson's enlightened motion and her speech tonight. Her motion highlights the continued contribution of Scotland and its people to nations across the world and it reaffirms the Parliament's support for the work of the CPA Scotland branch.

As it happens, one of my sons is working in Africa. He tells me that poverty is so great that it is almost obscene to hear people in this country talk about the latest designer fashions when such matters are beyond the ken of most people in the continent of Africa. Of course, the answer to that is that everything is relative. I am reminded of the statement of the father of the Indian nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who said:

"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver."

We in this Parliament can make a difference and help to make a contribution by developing a strong understanding and a helpful relationship with Malawi. I refer not just to my friend Ted Brocklebank's donation of many of the best sets of St Andrews golf clubs ever delivered through the diplomatic bag but to the successful trip to Malawi by CPA Scotland branch delegates in February last year. The subsequent signing of a co-operation agreement between Scotland and Malawi in November has allowed us to continue to develop those relationships and to foster an important partnership for the exchanging of skills and expertise.

One of the most important areas of common interest, in which Edinburgh has for long excelled, is the development of skills to protect the health of nations. The theme of this year's Commonwealth day is health and vitality—the Commonwealth challenge. Currently, two thirds of the 40 million people who live with HIV and AIDS are Commonwealth citizens, and nine of the most heavily infected countries are in the Commonwealth. In addition, each year in the Commonwealth, some 500,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth. It is believed that many of those deaths could be prevented by higher standards of health care.

There is an old saying that prevention is better than cure. In today's world, prevention has never been more important. In order to help others, it is vital not just to make health care accessible but to enable developing nations to absorb the most significant basic principles of health care through education and training.

Good health and vitality are also developed in the context of sport. Taking part in sport can play a big part in developing health and fitness, one's ability to work in a team and the capacity for human endurance. As I mentioned, I am glad to see Malawi develop its interest in golf and in many other sporting pursuits.

We are right to support the CPA, which has the vision to influence Governments by highlighting the ways in which they can help others. With mutual co-operation from our global neighbours, we must work hard to drive back the frontiers of poverty, ignorance and disease so that we help citizens to enjoy longer lives and a higher quality of life. In general, we must make the world not just a wonderful place in which to live but one that is enjoyable as well.