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26 January 2006

Executive Fails On Prescription Charges - Stevenson

Speaking following the vote in the Scottish Parliament in which the proposal to abolish prescription charges was defeated, Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson said that the Executive had failed to seize a golden opportunity to abolish an unfair tax on sickness.

Mr Stevenson said:

“I am very disappointed that the Executive failed to take this opportunity to follow the lead made by their Labour colleagues in the Welsh Assembly and vote to abolish prescription charges.

“Far from being a move to aid the rich, as Labour was desperately trying to argue, it would have removed the disgraceful anomaly of there being some chronic diseases for which prescription charges are not applicable and other where they are.

“In my discussions on this issue with patient groups in the North-east, exemption for those suffering from a chronic disease was a point which was raised again and again and which I made to Ministers. I am pleased therefore that the Executive has said it will review this area, but this has only come about as a result of pressure from the SNP.

“Abolition would have removed a significant financial pressure from people on low incomes who do not currently qualify for free prescriptions.

“In order to find out the effects of abolition, all Ministers had to do was get in touch with their opposite numbers in Wales, who could have given them any detail they desired.

“I cannot help but feel that for the want of a little bravery, the Executive has missed an opportunity to remove an outdated and unfair tax on the sick purely because of which party proposed it and which other parties gave it their support. They have done those people for whom prescription charges are an ever-present burden a great disservice.”

Stewart Stevenson
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