Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Prescription charges swindle

Last Thursday I asked a question in the Scottish Parliament regarding the Executive review of Prescription Charges. Here's my questions, the answer I got and a subsequent article in the Evening News.

My initial question was
To ask the Scottish Executive what the latest position is on the review of NHS prescription charges for patients with long term conditions and on what date it expects to present the outcome of the review.


Frankly Minister that answer is a disgrace
4 years ago the Executive promised to review prescription charges accepting the current exemption arrangements were not fit for purpose.

13months ago you asked Parliament to reject my Bill to abolish charges promising instead to bring forward proposals yourselves to exempt many long term conditions.

On Nov 10th in a Parliamentary answer to me the Minister promised to publish proposals ‘by the end of the year.’

And yet here we are barely a month away from the dissolution of Parliament and still you have produced nothing – not a word, not one exemption, nothing!

Isn’t it the case that all medical opinion over the last 40 years warned you, just as I did, against trying to ‘play god’ by choosing which debilitating conditions were more deserving than others.

And isn’t this Executive attempting to play fast and loose with this Parliament, run down the clock and renege on every single promise made to patients on the issue over the past 4 years.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Lothians Voice bulletins

We've now delivered 40,000 of our original 50,000 bulletins across the Lothians. Housholds across the Lothians have received our paper from Roslyn, Penicuik & Rosewell through, Inch, Burdiehouse, Stenhouse, Bingham, Musselburgh, Abbeyhill, Dumbiedykes and Oxgangs to Broxburn and Bathgate

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Craig murray - Rector of Dundee University

S2M-5605 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Congratulations to Craig Murray, New Rector of the University of Dundee— That the Parliament congratulates the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, on his election as the new rector of the University of Dundee; believes that Craig Murray’s election further shames Tony Blair, the British government and, in particular, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and that Craig was dismissed for refusing to cover up British complicity in horrific human rights abuses carried out by the Karimov regime in Tashkent; congratulates the students and staff at Dundee on having elected a man who has been at the forefront of exposing Britain’s double standards on the so-called “war on terror” and “war on drugs”, and wishes Craig Murray every success in his new post.

Supported by: Donald Gorrie

Lodged on 19 February 2007

Monday, 19 February 2007

Fox Challenges Lothian MPs to ‘come clean’ on Trident

Scottish Socialist Party National Convener Colin Fox today challenged all the Lothian’s MP’s to ‘come clean on Trident’ and explain whether they will vote to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system in the crucial Commons vote due next month.

The Lothian’s MSP pointed to newspaper adverts taken out by Greenpeace which identified 27 Scottish Labour MP’s at Westminster who have yet to reveal where they stand on the issue. Fox believes it is time the public knew which way these elected representatives intend to vote
‘I agree with Greenpeace, whose ship Arctic Sunrise I visited this week in Leith docks, who say it is time the 4 Lothian’s Labour MP’s – Nigel Griffiths, Alastair Darling, Davie Hamilton and Anne Moffat came clean and told us where they stand on this most important of issues.
Do they stand with those of us who believe these weapons to be immoral, illegal and a terrible waste of money - £100bn by the last estimate? Or do they stand with Tony Blair and his government of warmongers?
Seventy five per cent of Scots are against Trident and against replacing the current ‘nuclear weapons of mass destruction’ based on the Clyde with even more deadly versions.
I too challenge Lothian’s Labour members, many of whom I know used to carry CND membership cards, to join me on Princes Street today [Saturday] and to explain to the public where they stand on Trident. Are they going to vote with the Tories, defy the wishes of the Scottish electorate and spend billions on these evil weapons? Or are they going to defy the government and carry out the wishes of their electorate?’

Thursday, 15 February 2007

UK child poverty shame

S2M-5592 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Unicef Report on Child Poverty Shames UK— That the Parliament is ashamed to find that, according to UNICEF’s Report Card 7, Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-being in Rich Countries,the United Kingdom has come last in a comparative examination of children’s well-being in 21 countries; believes that this report on child poverty, deprivation, quality of life, safety, health and behaviour is a terrible indictment of the failure of government policy in Britain; notes that, while other countries have made real progress on many fronts, the British government has fared particularly badly; notes that the countries of Scandinavia have fared far better and generally occupy the top places in the study because of their policies to redistribute wealth and the higher political priority given by their governments to children’s needs, and concludes that, if Britain is to be rid of this particular badge of shame, then improving children’s well-being in Britain must now become an urgent priority.

Lodged on 14 February 2007

Arctic Sunrise

Last week I visited the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise when it was docked at Leith.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Unite the Clubs march

Today I had the pleasure of joining 2500 young footballers, their coaches and parents in a march through Edinburgh demanding new and improved facilities at football pitches across the city. The march was excellent, colourful, noisy, good humoured and even the weather was good. When we arrived at the Parliament I had the opportunity to speak to Craig and Charlie of the Proclaimers and they told me how important this issue is for them. It is an important issue for me as well, on the one hand we constantly talk of the need to promote exercise amongst youngsters yet we ask them to change in dank, horrible facilities when they play football. We should be doing everything in our power to ensure children get every opportunity to play sport – providing them with top class playing pitches, equipment and all weather training facilities.
As a nation, us Scots, dream of one day lifting the World Cup (I remember Argentina ‘78!) and it has to be said that if we don’t get it right at grassroots level then it will always remain a dream. The coaches and parents who give up their free time to run the thousands of clubs across Scotland do a great job and they should be applauded, but their job isn’t made easier with constantly waterlogged pitches leading to fixture congestion later in the season meaning players are expected to play two or even three games in a week.
Finally I have to say well done to Les Trotter and the others on the Unite The Clubs Forum who worked so hard to organise such a successful event today. Let’s hope the pressure has worked, and I’ll continue to support the campaign until every pitch has been upgraded.

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Justice for Farepak customers

S2W-31625 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 2 February 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive whether the Accountant in Bankruptcy has the power to consider what remedies are available to Farepak customers in Scotland in receipt of benefits under the Social Security Administration Act 1992 with regard to recovering monies lost and, if so, what action the Accountant in Bankruptcy has taken in this respect.

Due for Answer 16 February 2007

The financial benefits of not replacing Trident?

S2W-31435 - Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) (Date Lodged 26 January 2007) : To ask the Scottish Executive how devolved services may benefit from any monies which become available should a decision be taken not to replace Trident nuclear weapons.

Answered by Tom McCabe:
The responsibilities of the Ministry of Defence are reserved to the UK Government and so no Barnett consequential come to the Scottish Executive as a result of allocating resources to defence.
Only if the UK government reallocated resources to another UK Department, to be spent on functions with a devolved comparator, would any additional resources come to Scotland. It would be misleading to suggest that there would be any automatic additional resources available to the Scottish Executive.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Fox addresses Scottish Stop the War Conference

Scottish Socialist Party National Convenor Colin Fox will be one of the keynote speakers at the Scottish Stop The War Conference in Glasgow this weekend.
The Lothians MSP will tell his audience in Glasgow University that it is now time for Britain to end it’s ‘catastrophic‘involvement in the Iraq war.

He will tell the conference
‘The carnage and civil war in Iraq shows no sign of ending. Indeed its brutality worsens every day. The misery which ordinary Iraqis face involves power cuts and shortage and a constant threat of violence and death. Figures from the United Nations show that 100 Iraqis are murdered every day. These numbers being killed are equivalent to the 9/11 outrage happening every three months.
It is time Tony Blair accepted the fact that he is, together with George Bush, responsible for this catastrophe. His decision to send British troops to fight in an illegal war represents a catastrophic failure of policy which is having unimaginably tragic consequences for everyone.
The presence of British and American troops is unquestionably exacerbating a brutal civil war. The Iraqi insurgency is driven by the fact that there are foreign armies occupying their country. And the Iraqi government which the Americans installed does not enjoy the support of the people.
It is my view that this situation can only be resolved in the long term by the immediate withdrawal of British and American troops. Their presence is resented by Iraqi’s and plays no valuable purpose.’

Scottish Stop the War Conference

Yesterday I spoke at the Scottish Stop the War Conference in Glasgow, this is a copy of the speech I delivered. I was also lucky enough to meet Craig Murray (picture below) the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who was dismissed by the government after he exposed the awful human rights abuses of the central Asian state which is US’s ally on the ‘war on terror.’

Bring you the fraternal greetings of the Scottish Socialist Party.

I am grateful for the invitation to join you today and believe I can humbly say that no party has done more to oppose the illegal invasion, war and continuing occupation of Iraq by British and American forces than the SSP.
Ours has since day one been and remains a consistent and unrelenting anti imperialist position.

Our Opponents Pronouncements
It is always an interesting starting point to look at the point of view of your opponents in order to measure up our achievements.

Last November I was involved in a prolonged piece of correspondence in the letters pages of the Scottish Sunday newspapers with Scots Labour loyalists Brian Wilson, the Former Cabinet Minster, David Cairns MP, Des Browne then the newly installed defence secretary and his departmental colleague Adam Ingram MP.

They had pronounced in the wake of defiance of MOD policy by Military Chiefs of Staff, and escalating carnage in Iraq that
‘We [Britain and US] are bringing peace, stability and democracy to Iraq.’

You could have fooled me. Not much evidence of all three on ground in Iraq.
Peace? Where. Stability? Where. Democracy? Where.

Attacking those of us here who have called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, Wilson accused us of having
‘little regard for people in Iraq whose lives depend on the presence of British troops.’
Troops whom Wilson claimed without obvious blushing, had ‘arrived three years ago to liberate the people of Basra’!
I mean you could not make this up.
We are the ones who apparently have little regard for innocent Iraqis and they are the ones who invaded and murdered in order to liberate them.

And all this whilst even Wilson was forced to concede that
‘Today Basra is largely run by religious parties and their militias who have infiltrated the police and are backed by Iranian insurgents to run the proliferating political assassination squads and criminal gangs.’
He goes on
‘The evidence of improvements in the provision of daily necessities like foodstuffs, water supplies, adequate housing and electricity is not easily seen.’[ Nov 2006]
And remember this was supposed to be the ‘safe south’ around Basra.
What on earth would he be forced to say about Baghdad?

All of which hugely underplays the carnage and mayhem that is part and parcel of daily life in the greater Baghdad area where most Iraqi’s live.

It is worth reminding ourselves
What the Invasion of Iraq was For?
I] Because Saddam Hussein's regime was responsible for 9/11
Ii] Because S H regime was harbouring and backing Bin Laden
Iii] Because S H had WMDS
Iv] Because S H was a threat to his neighbours, UK , USA
V] Regime Change- yes but not job of Bush and Blair

All complete and calculated lies.

SSP took the view then and maintains that the illegal invasion, war and continuing occupation of a sovereign nation was for US imperial interests in the 21st century.
Those interests pursued to ensure US economic and political power underpinned by worlds only military superpower as a warning to the world.

And of course underpinning all their interests, their interest in oil and its continuous supply to the western world.

21st century US economic imperialism demands taking more out that puts in.
Seizure Of IRAQI OIL Riches
US Plans to privatise Iraqi oil fields and are well under way.
Iraqi Parliament will vote through Bills to that end in April. Paul Bremmer the US envoy has put US companies in place to receive that oil.

Oil Privatisation Opposed
But the plans are being opposed by the Iraqi unions.
The SSP is in contact with these Iraqi unions /political groups, indeed we have continued our links with the Iraqi Union Solidarity Campaign’ and have material here this weekend if people want to take that away with them.

All Events Overshadowed by the
Bloodthirsty Communal and Sectarian Civil War
Or as Labour loyalists like to refer to it as ‘Peace, stability and Democracy’.

UN estimates the killing running at 100 per day. This the equivalent of 36,500 per year of ten times 9/11!
Yet To the demand we here have made for the immediate unconditional withdrawal of UK Troops it is claimed ‘there would be a bloody civil war’!
No wonder we are angry.

How much blame for this massacring blood lust is US/UK occupation responsible?
The current situation is out of control;
Iraqi government is a puppet of US, utterly ineffective and moreover only there because backed by the US military. Do not have the support of the Iraqi population.

So the insurgency –so called – feeds off the hostility of the wider population to the Iraqi government.
The insurgency of the former Ba’athists and Sunni militias on the one hand faces the Iranian backed Shia rebels of the Maghdi Army on the other.

Foreign military occupation is therefore a catalyst for the violence and not a force for unification or pacification or liberation.

Troop Withdrawal
The situation on the ground according to US military command is desperate.
Even in the safe south of Basra the British military command has not been able to venture out of its Basra Palace command HQ in 6 months other than on military protected sorties back and forth to the UK.
They are well aware that the so called battle for ‘hearts and minds’ has been lost.

It is in these dire circumstances, which led to the utterly unprecedented interviews in the Daily Mail last November by the General Command, effectively to go public and countermand MOD policy in Iraq and demand an immediate plan for a phased withdrawal must be seen.

So what has happened to the phased withdrawal?
Last November MOD forced to promise the number of UK troops in Iraq, then at 7200, would be reduced to 3500 by February.
However like their US allies have actually sent more. Bush announced that 30,000 more US troops be sent.
In other words they are headlong into a disastrous and ‘catastrophic failure of policy’ and cannot easily get out of it.
To withdraw would be to lose huge credibility and admit defeat and to stay is to make that defeat all the more certain and all the more humiliating.
If I stay there could be trouble, if I stay it will be double.’’

Tony Blair’s Legacy
Has the hands of 130 UK troops on his hands and 3,000 US troops and 660,000 innocent Iraqis. Iraq will haunt him the rest of his life.
His political legacy Iraq: lies, death, and a catastrophic failure of policy.
The worst leader Labour has ever had…paradox as first to lead them to three election victories.

Trident TWO his parting gift.

The longer UK forces remain in Iraq the greater their defeat, the greater the bloodshed and the greater the ignominious retreat forced on American imperialism. In that sense another Vietnam on the way.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Lothians Voices

The Lothians Voice bulletins are flying out now, this is me in the Inch. The other picture is of the ever diminishing pile of leaflets.

End bridge tolls

A motion to abolish tolls on the Forth & Tay bridges was narrowly defeated in the Parliament yesterday. This is my contribution to the debate.

Forth And Tay Road Bridge Tolls
[Debate Feb 2007 on Motion that the Parliament believes tolls on both Forth and Tay bridge shows be scrapped.]

The Scottish Socialist Party is opposed to tolls on our bridges and motorways and trunk roads etc and therefore support the motion in front of us today for 3 key reasons.

First – To my mind it is the governments responsibility to build, maintain, and operate our roads, motorways, bridges etc in the public sector. These are part of the infrastructure of our country of our economy and should therefore be owned and controlled by government on behalf of us all.
Tolls are a regressive form of taxation which hit poor people hardest.

Second – The situation where tolls have been abolished on all other bridges in Scotland –like recently the Skye and Erskine - or were never levied in the first place means there is an obvious unfairness applying to the Forth and Tay only.

The Executive told us that the tolls on both Skye and Erskine were abolished because they clearly had a poor effect on the local economies in those areas. Skye tourism and economy in general and Erskine particularly industry and commerce.
I supported their case.
But I think the same case applies to Fife and Tayside most especially obvious in the wake of the latest disgraceful decisions by Solectron in Dunfermline- the latest in a long line of Fife closures – and NCR in Dundee.
It seems to me what is good for the goose is good for the gander and the tolls are an economic disincentive to the Fife and Tayside economies .

The third issue to focus on is the need to address climate change , CO2 emissions, pollution and congestion

Toll collection causes traffic snarl ups and congestion on the bridge and adds to the deterioration of the bridge. I have seen as I’m sure we all have the tail backs up to Kirkliston and along the A8000 for miles and also the tailbacks into Dundee City centre which is caused by the tolls themselves.

I respect the work of Transform Scotland very much but I feel they have gone over the top in their briefing for this debate in suggesting that those opposed to tolls ‘undermine the nations attempts to reduce climate change emissions.’
Furthermore by their logic we would still have a £7 toll on the Skye bridge and tolls in Erskine.

I favour far more effective ways to tackle climate change.
SSP support free public transport provision as the way to address climate change, pollution , congestion etc.
The Scottish Executive have introduced free bus travel for seniors and free ferry travel for youngsters etc. I welcome those steps in the right direction.
As members may know the Belgian town of Hasselt has introduced a completely free public transport system and saw passenger numbers leap 870% and have dramatically reduced emissions, pollution and congestion as a result. That’s the way to do ii.

Transform Scotland and the Greens need to think more about persuading people to do the right thing not just punishment and penalty.

They say abolishing tolls would worsen congestion – b y acting as an incentive to use the car. Forth Estuary Transport Authority believe toll abolition could increase traffic volumes by 15% southbound and 20% northbound. This is an important issue to consider. They say
‘Action should be taken to remove traffic flows from the Forth Road Bridge’ yes, but not by increasing the tolls.
More charges with no alternatives provided represents the Luddite and backward approach.
This is precisely the approach so overwhelmingly rejected in Edinburgh’s congestion charging scheme.

Honesty needed in this debate
Remember the Dunfermline West by election last year and the Liberals voting two ways at once on the matter – calling for tolls to be scrapped in the by-election , voting via there rep on the Bridge management body for tolls to increase. And in this debate today they have still not made up their minds calling for ‘abolition to be considered’ in future months.

SSP will support the motion at 5pm.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

My first Podcast

I recently recorded my first ever podcast, for the Sunday Times. They asked me to discuss the 300th anniversary of the act of union and the case for an independent socialist Scotland.

You can read my "script" below and view the podcast via the Sunday Times website in the coming weeks.

Hi , I’m Colin Fox. I’m the National Convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party and I’ve been asked to speak to you on the 300th anniversary of the act of union, about the case for an Independent Socialist Scotland

There is a saying in the Scottish Borders -‘its aye been’.
It’s a phrase signifying a certain resignation, a sense that things always stay the same and it’s quite useless trying to change them.
It seems ironic then sitting in the Scottish Parliament because there were those who said throughout the 80’s and 90’s we would never have our own Scottish Parliament and never be able to make our own decisions.

This anniversary of the union offers us a chance to look at the present day political arrangements and consider how we can improve them.

The case for independence it seems to me is based on two fundamental pillars –democracy and social progress.
I believe Scotland as a sovereign nation is entitled to exercise democratic control of our economy and I am confident we are quite capable of running our own affairs. Dozens of countries big and small have gained their independence in my lifetime.
This period of reflection on the union then for me is not an abstract historic or dry constitutional debate. I believe Scotland would be much better off economically, culturally and politically if we were making our own decisions.

And you know I sense a very different kind of debate today on Independence from that which first raged around me as a 15 year old schoolboy in Motherwell in the late 70’s when ‘Its oor oil’ was unveiled as the slogan of the time.
Defenders of the union argued then that Scotland was too poor to stand on our own two feet. Of course the discovery of North Sea oil changed all that. And nowadays the argument has shifted considerably. Even unionists now accept that Scotland is a rich country. They now concede that we could go it alone but we are better off under the union, allegedly subsidized by England and safe from instability and violent threats inherent in the modern world.

I scoffed at those who told me when I returned after 8 years in London that ‘Scotland is essentially a socialist country’, but I would concede that our political centre of gravity is certainly social democratic by instinct, left of centre politically. The evidence of this all around us. Today Scottish public opinion is well to the left of New Labour.
Opposition to Trident is stark, privatization is despised, there is much greater support for public ownership here, a stronger sense of community, greater support for redistribution of wealth, we are much less monarchist and more internationalist in outlook , than the dominant South East of England.
Furthermore I have no doubt whatsoever that an Independent Scotland would not have sent our troops to IRAQ.
Neither do I believe Scots would spend billions promoting British and American imperial aspirations. Not when the option to spend the money on our much needed social services was posed instead.
Nor would Scots spend up to £75billions on more nuclear weapons of mass destruction, labeling our small country amongst the ‘notorious nuclear nine’: the 9 countries of the world armed with nuclear weapons.
All this is important in defining modern Scotland.

For me Independence is a democratic question. Support for Independence is growing and growing. I see support amongst the young and amongst the working classes as a whole twice as strong as in other groups. And the hideous but very real prospect of a Cameron /Tory victory at the next Westminster elections will I believe accelerate the momentum towards Independence considerably.
Remember how the ‘democratic deficit’ which developed under Thatcher and Major led inexorably to the creation of a Scottish Parliament? Well multiply that force ten fold and see the irresistible force really push aside the immovable object. !!!!!!!

I fully acknowledge that the case for independence must arouse and uplift Scots, enough for them to appreciate fully that it must fought for. Our opponents are not merely the unionist Tories of New Labour but the British ruling classes who see in the United Kingdom a power which they do not want to lose.

I want an Independent Socialist Scotland because I want to see all our revenues used for the best egalitarian interests of the people of Scotland, a planning of production, distribution and exchange based on need not profit.
A Scotland independent of the Bank of England yes but independent of the Royal Bank of Scotland too.

Since I started with a phrase from the Borders let me finish with another which I love for all the wrong messages it sends out.
They say ‘A day out of Hawick is a day wasted.’
My vision of an independent socialist Scotland has little truck with such narrow nationalism. I see a Scotland which is outward looking, forward looking, ambitious, welcoming and internationalist, one that is better known for its fun loving, friendly ‘tartan army’ than its warmongering armies decked in tartan.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Pair team up to blast Blair's nuclear policy

I recently sent this press release to the Evening News, which was carried today!


Update - I just noticed that my good friend, Ron, had a letter published in the evening News tonight as well

Former MP and MSP Join Forces in ‘New Nuclear Labour’ Protest
Former MP Ron Brown will join forces with his Scottish Socialist Party colleague Colin Fox MSP in blasting government plans for more nuclear power stations and nuclear missiles at a public meeting in the city Thursday [8th Feb] night.

The MP for Leith from 1979-1992 Ron Brown has long opposed government plans for nuclear power generation. He told us
‘The nuclear option being promoted by Tony Blair and his big business cronies is unacceptable for a number of reasons.
First it leaves behind dangerous waste, toxic contaminants lethal to human life for 1,000 years to come. It is therefore not only the most expensive way to generate electricity it is also far and away the most dangerous. Has Tony Blair forgotten about Three Mile Island and Chernobyl? I find it incredible that on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, where perhaps as many as 100,000 people may have perished, and Tony Blair proposes to build 20 new nuclear reactors. I would far rather the £50bn set aside for such schemes went into new renewable technologies and projects such as hydro electric, clean coal generation, wind, wave and solar power. Having worked on hydro electric schemes myself I believe Scotland can lead the world again in this technology. As an Amicus trades union member I share the SSP’s non nuclear vision and believe only this party stands up for socialism, trades union values and democracy.’

The government’s plans for nuclear weapons have also come under fire. Lothian’s MSP Colin Fox is appalled at plans to develop Trident Two.
‘Tony Blair is dead set on spending £25bn of our money on more nuclear ‘weapons of mass destruction’. This Prime Minister warns the rest of the world not to develop nuclear weapons and signs up to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, then he turns around and threatens the rest of the world with ‘mutually assured destruction’. He must be stopped. Does he ever stop to think what instability he causes around the world? The man with warmongering, belligerent form bar none, after his invasion of Iraq, now threatens the world with his own second generation of nuclear missiles.
The Scottish Socialist Party is steadfastly opposed to the development of Trident. I can think of a thousand better ways to spend £25billion pounds; on our health, education or social services. I am confident voters will reject New ‘Nuclear’ Labour.’

The public meeting will take place in the Communications Workers Union premises at 15 Brunswick Street, Leith on Thursday 8th Feb at 7.30pm.

Simclar fight back

No doubt you'll have heard about the Simclar workers, who occupied their factory over the weekend in opposition to closure of the plant.

On Saturday night, along with scores of other SSP members, I showed my support and solidarity with the workforce.

We'll be showing this support again on Thursday when they lobby the Scottish Parliament at 12 noon!

Friday, 2 February 2007

S2M-5472 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : prescription charges review

That the Parliament notes that it is now exactly one year since the Stage 1 debate on the Abolition of NHS Prescription Charges (Scotland) Bill and since when the Scottish Executive promised to come forward with proposals to increase the list of long-term conditions exempt from payment; further notes that Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care, Lewis Macdonald MSP, has stated that he acknowledged that “the current charge and exemption arrangements are no longer fit for purpose and that changes are necessary” and that “we will review the exemption arrangements for people with chronic conditions” but that no changes have been brought forward by the Executive in a year despite giving repeated assurances in parliamentary answers that a decision was imminent; believes that no promised proposal has emerged because all medical experts have warned the Executive not to try to list the many different chronic conditions in an order of those that are more “deserving” or “painful”; considers that this is precisely what would be needed in order to distinguish between those conditions which are to be exempt from charges and which are not; notes that in 40 years medical opinion has veered away from such an approach because it was simply not possible on medical grounds to make such a judgement; believes that the Executive has failed to keep a promise it made to the Parliament and has dashed the hopes of thousands of chronically ill patients, and reiterates its belief that the fairest and most sensible way forward is to follow the example of the Welsh Assembly and abolish the £6.75 prescription charge for every patient.

Lodged on 24 January 2007

Follow this link to read my letter in the Linlithgow Gazette


S2M-5473 Colin Fox (Lothians) (SSP) : Welsh Assembly abolishes prescription charges

That the Parliament congratulates the National Assembly for Wales for taking the decision this week to abolish completely NHS prescription charges for every patient in Wales from April 2007; agrees with the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services, Dr Brian Gibbons AM, that the measure will reduce patient inequality and particularly benefit those patients with chronic illnesses or on low incomes and “enable those people who need medication to get it to improve their health and ultimately their quality of life”, and believes that Scotland should follow the terrific example set in Wales and also abolish the charges.

Supported by: Ms Rosemary Byrne, Frances Curran, Rosie Kane, Carolyn Leckie, Campbell Martin, Eleanor Scott, Tommy Sheridan, Chris Ballance, John Swinburne