On May 29th I spoke in a members’ debate in Parliament on automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in Scotland. As far back as November 2011 I spoke about the need to introduce emergency life support training in schools throughout Scotland. Since then a number of schools have taken part in the training. However, it is still not a universal service throughout Scotland. The curriculum for excellence provides schools with the opportunity to add that training to the school day, and I encourage the government to do more in this regard.
North Lanarkshire council has installed AEDs in all its 34 secondary schools, the first local authority to do so and I applaud them on this move. For every minute that passes without defibrillation in the aftermath of a cardiac arrest, the chances of survival decrease by 14%. It is therefore essential that AEDs become more widely available, ideally being held in all public buildings, along transport routes, in private gyms and in all work places. The initiative cost £70,000 which is nothing in comparison to the value we get from a generation of life savers in our communities.
I would therefore like to congratulate North Lanarkshire Council and their healthy lifestyle co-ordinator Charles Fawcett on the initiatives that they have introduced, as well as the heartstart campaign on providing ELS training through schools in Scotland, and call on the Scottish Government to establish a programme of such training across the country.
The Con-Dem Government at Westminster’s attack on disabled people’s right to a decent standard of living is disgraceful. The introduction of Universal Credit has left half a million disabled people worse off. The cuts are crippling the public services that disabled people rely on.
That is why I am urging people to sign the War on Welfare (wow) petition. The main aim of the petition is to call for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.
It is vital that we do everything in our power to protect the most vulnerable people in our society from the cuts of the Con-Dem Government.
If you would like to sign the petition, click on this link and follow the instructions http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/43154
To find out more about the WOW campaign, visit their website at http://wowpetition.com/
I hope that as many children as possible take part in the Royal Mail’s Christmas Children’s Stamp Art Competition for 2013. The competition is for primary school aged pupils from 4-11. One winner will see their design on a First Class Christmas stamp; the other on a second class Christmas stamp. The theme of the competition is ‘What does the Christmas season mean to you?’ and the designs can be religious or secular.
Schools, and parents of home-schooled children, can sign-up to the competition online or by returning the postcard in a resource pack sent to them by iChild, the online educational resource centre, in association with Royal Mail. Applications for the resource packs will be sent out on a first come first served basis and entries must be received by the closing date of 19 July.
This is a great opportunity for school children to showcase their artistic and creative talents and possibly see their design on a stamp over the Christmas period. These are the kind of competitions I used to love to take part in when I was at school, although if truth be told I never quite made the final cut!
Christmas feels like a long time away at the moment, but as the closing date of the competition is July 19th I’d like to encourage children from across Central Scotland and from all backgrounds to get involved in this exciting competition.
I recently spoke in the Scottish Parliament debate on chronic pain services where I called on the Government not to hesitate in implementing the Scottish model for chronic pain across Scotland and to establish the specialist intensive paint management centre without delay.
The Scottish Government will undertake a consultation on how to improve health services for hundreds of thousands of Scots suffering from chronic pain in the coming months.
Currently, access to NHS pain clinics can be a postcode lottery, with people’s ability to access specialist care dependent upon where they live. Often many Scots are forced to travel to Bath in Somerset to be treated at the Bath Centre for Pain Services.
According to NHS Scotland, chronic pain is very common. Around one in five people have continuous pain. In 2008, the Lanarkshire health survey showed that 26 per cent of Lanarkshire’s adult population was affected by chronic pain. That means that an estimated 120,000 people in Lanarkshire may live with pain. It is therefore pleasing to me that NHS Lanarkshire recognised that problem and was one of the first health boards in Scotland to offer primary care pain management services.
I am lucky that in my area, Central Scotland, if a constituent lives in the NHS Lanarkshire or NHS Forth Valley areas, they can access a primary care multidisciplinary pain management service. However, that is not the case for people who live in other areas of Scotland, which is why it is essential that we move to a clinician-led service across Scotland. Where you live should not determine the level of healthcare that you receive.
I urge the Scottish Government to take action today to implement the Scottish model for chronic pain across Scotland and establish the specialist intensive pain management centre without delay. We cannot afford to wait any longer.
I have backed a petition calling on the Scottish Government to review its policies on the funding of the Bus Service Operators Grant and concessionary bus travel and to consider the re-regulation of the bus industry. I met local campaigner John Nelson who led the petition, which aims to ensure that people across Scotland are provided with affordable and reliable local bus services, and Sandy Livingston and Jim Lee who were also involved.
The petition was brought to the Scottish Parliament via the Public Petitions Committee who have referred the matter onto the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee for their consideration.
Scotland’s local bus and inter-city coach services are provided by private sector operators. Services are provided on a purely commercial basis, unless a local authority wishes to offer a subsidy for the operation of a socially necessary service which cannot be provided on a commercial basis. However, some areas are being let down by these providers as services are cut and fares are increased.
I am delighted so many people have signed the petition and that it is making progress through parliament, and would like to congratulate John Nelson and the other campaigners for their tireless work on this issue. The bus services in Central Scotland are inadequate and have been for a long time. We need better regulation of the service as some areas are being let down by the private market. Many residents in areas across my constituency, which has some of the lowest levels of car ownership in the country, are not able to afford expensive taxi journeys and therefore depend on adequate public transport services for a good quality of life.
On May 28th I spoke in an Equal Opportunities Committee debate on “Having and keeping a home: steps to preventing homelessness among young people” at the Scottish Parliament, where I called on the Government to do everything in its power to tackle youth homelessness.
The debate followed an enquiry and report which aimed to explore the existing good practice in local authorities and other agencies in and beyond Scotland which are effective in preventing youth homelessness.
I heard evidence from young people across the country about the principle causes of youth homelessness, including family breakdowns, addiction issues and mental health problems. The report stated that homeless young people are being failed by a lack of support in overcoming inadequate life skills, compounded by substandard accommodation and isolation.
I am sure that everyone would agree that it is scandalous that young people who are already in a vulnerable position are subjected to such low levels of housing provision. It is not acceptable that young people who have been forced into homelessness are treated in that manner.
Finance is of course the biggest barrier to action being taken. I hope that the government will take seriously the points highlighted by many members and that it will do everything in its power to ensure that no young person is denied a home, an education or the support they desperately need in the future as a result of a lack of funds afforded to them.
It was a pleasure to able to team up with leading anti-sectarianism charity Nil by Mouth (NBM) at an event in Holyrood. NBM was founded by Glasgow teenager Cara Henderson after the brutal sectarian murder of her friend Mark Scott in 1996. Since then it has campaigned tirelessly against sectarianism on, and off, the terraces.
The charity currently offers workshops in schools, colleges and youth groups through its ‘Champions for Change’ scheme which seeks to inspire young people to challenge sectarian attitudes and learn more about other cultures and beliefs. The project seeks to embed strong anti-sectarian policies, practices and procedures into schools and encourage pupils to set up their own anti-sectarian initiatives.
I’m delighted to be able to lend my support to this cause. In schools across Scotland young people have used ‘Champions for Change’ to run inter-faith events, football competitions, set up pupil action committees and draw up anti-sectarianism charters. It shouldn’t be forgotten that only a third of arrests for sectarian behaviour are related to football. This problem seeps right across our society and that’s what makes Nil by Mouths work in schools all the more important. Sectarianism is a problem for Scotland but not an insurmountable one and this can be the generation which defeats it once and for all.
Nil by Mouth Campaign Director Dave Scott said:
“We are extremely grateful to have Siobhan McMahons support for our campaign. Everyone has a part to play in ridding Scotland of bigotry and we have been working with a number of youth groups, schools and colleges right across Scotland. All NBM services are free of charge and we are very keen to deepen our work with groups in the Central Scotland area. By working together we can banish bigotry once and for all.”