It is very strange to be on this side of the chamber for this year’s debate when I was in the Presiding Officer’s seat for last year’s debate, which was led by my colleague Gordon MacDonald. I am glad to be leading this year’s debate, and I am glad to see so many Marie Curie volunteers in the public gallery. [
The debate on Marie Curie’s great daffodil appeal has become an annual event; it is accompanied by an annual reception, which is always great. I have not done this before but, this year, I want to thank Richard Meade of Marie Curie’s central office for all the work that he does to make sure that the appeal takes place every year. I have no doubt that, wherever he is sitting, he will be blushing.
The motion that I lodged talks about the campaign that we have every March, which involves the wearing of daffodil pins in memory of someone who has died or to show support for Marie Curie services. The pins are also worn—for me, this is extremely important—in recognition of the dedication, the hard work and the contribution of volunteers all over Scotland.
Because the care that Marie Curie provides touches people so much, the organisation has many volunteers who, every year, provide vital care and support to more than 7,500 people and their families in their own homes across 31 local authorities in Scotland. On top of that, there are the information and support services that are available to everyone who is affected by a terminal illness.
The helper services provide emotional support, companionship and information to carers and families. After all, everyone is affected by death and bereavement, and everyone deserves the best possible experience in dealing with that, reflecting what is most important to them. Marie Curie’s ambition to enable that to happen is very important, and it shows in all the work that it does, whether it is lobbying MSPs, speaking to the Government, encouraging people to volunteer or providing the training to volunteers and professional staff, including nursing staff, who carry out the vital services. Marie Curie has ambition and commitment to the individual, which is very important, as is the daffodil pin, which unites millions of people who believe in those ideals and who do that extra bit of campaigning every March.
I keep mentioning the volunteers, because they are crucial. I did a bit of research and looked up the Marie Curie website to see what volunteers do, because I thought that there might be something that I could do instead of just bumping my gums every year, putting money in a collecting tin and standing with a Marie Curie hat on every so often. I thought it might be time for me to commit to doing something more.
The first thing that I saw on the website was running and cycling, and I thought, “No way.” That is not me. I can maybe do a wee bit of walking, and I might even do a wee bit of trekking and hiking if it is flat. I am absolutely not doing swimming; it is too cold and wet. I had no idea what gaming was until I clicked on the link, but I do not think that I would be very good at that either. I thought the overseas challenge sounded quite nice. I could go on holiday and pay the equivalent into Marie Curie, but then I realised that I would have to go on holiday to run, cycle, walk or hike, and I thought, “I’m not doing that either.”
Then I saw the Marie Curie tea mornings, coffee afternoons and home-baking competitions, and I thought, “I could do that.” It sounds quite good to sit with a cup of tea and speak with caring people who are all coming together to do good work. That led me to ask some of my colleagues what they were doing to be part of this wonderful movement. Fiona Hyslop is like me: she does not want to walk, run, hike or swim, so she is going to a tea party at Armadale Methodist church to stuff her face with home baking.