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30 June 2006

Speech on International Development and Co-operation with Malawi

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 29 June 2006

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

International Development and Co-operation with Malawi

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on international development and co-operation with Malawi.

14:58

... ... ...

16:14

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): We can take great pride in the institutional links that are now working between our country and Malawi. I quote the First Minister, Jack McConnell, with approbation. He said:

"If we are not part of the solution in Africa ... we exacerbate the problem." —[Official Report, 1 June 2005; c 17383.]

I agree, and I suspect that everyone else does.

However, it is the personal links that disperse the value of our connections throughout society both in our country and in Malawi. Those links entrench the value beyond the period in office of a single Government and beyond a single session of Parliament.

In my case, the links are twofold. Dr Hastings Banda won his first election here in Edinburgh. He stood for, and won a seat on, the council of the University of Edinburgh union when my father was the president of that body. I have to say that they learned different lessons from their experience. Hastings Banda learned to be captivated by the power of elected position and became a vicious despot. My father was rather different. He was always conscious of duty over power. That is a lesson that we must all learn with humility while in office. It is a gey hard task that has to be learned by each new generation of politicians. We can say with honesty that there are encouraging signs of that approach taking root in Malawi.

My other personal connection—a relatively small one—is through a gentleman called Dr Wilson, who was my father's locum. My father was a general practitioner in Fife and Dr Wilson came for a few weeks in the summer each year so that my father could get away. Dr Wilson happened to be Livingstone's grandson, so occasionally we talked about life in Africa.

I turn to the challenges and the new responses that we have to think about. First, it is a myth that trade solves all the problems. The Department for International Development in London states on its website:

"A 'successful' outcome to the World Trade Organisation ... round is likely to result in Malawi losing 11% of its export earnings. Malawi has lost its preferential access for sugar to the European Union ... Malawi's main export is tobacco whose market is vulnerable to increasingly widespread health concerns."

Progress brings challenges, and we must not assume that simple-minded knee-jerk reactions will be the solution. The absence of trade is of course a problem, but it is also an opportunity. The imposition of a perfect free market is a bigger challenge than steady, careful progress.

Another myth is that money solves the problem. Used wrongly, money can make the problem a great deal worse by separating those who have in society even further from those who have not. In local manufacturing, money is often used to import products—often engineering products—that could more appropriately be produced locally, which would build capacity and be sustainable in the long term.

There are other myths about money. One of the great myths played a part in one of the great lost opportunities for the banking industry. When apartheid ended in South Africa, none of the banks would go into Khayelitsha or the other squatter camps and lend people money for houses. They thought that that was a no-no. The reality was that people who had not used credit before were always desperate to repay loans that were made to them, and the indigenous banks that sprung up have been successful. The microcredit movement, which exists throughout the world, is the way forward for money in less developed economies. I commend it—and any support that we can give it—to the minister. Although money is valuable, our individual time is invaluable by comparison.

Another myth is the idea that we in the west innovate and people in the less developed world do not. I point to the honeybee network, which began in India, primarily in Gujarat province, but is spreading outside India. It is a network of village innovators who produce simple innovations. The network is designed to ensure that the lessons that are learned in one village are passed on to others. It is being mentored, led and supported by some of the top profs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By using the modern communications that are available, they need not visit Malawi to mentor and support innovation in villages.

I will give examples of what has happened. A power-free water cooler has been developed and is being sold abroad. A motorcycle has been adapted to create a tractor from almost no money, simply by recycling. A new design of pulley makes it possible to draw water from a well in a way that is more effective and involves less effort.

The third world has much to teach us. Perhaps one point is that we must stop calling it the third world, because it will overtake us by avoiding some of the mistakes that we have made. We must support it in that journey. Only a few of us will make the journey to Malawi in body, but we can all connect in our minds and in our spirit, and we must do that.

16:21

Speech on James Clerk Maxwell

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 28 June 2006

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...

James Clerk Maxwell

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S2M-4337, in the name of Alex Fergusson, on the anniversary of the birth of James Clerk Maxwell. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament acknowledges the 175th anniversary of the birth of James Clerk Maxwell on 13 June 2006; recognises his great achievement in discovering the nature of electromagnetic waves which opened the way to the invention of television, radio, radar and the mobile phone; applauds his work on colour perception which enabled the successful development of colour television and colour photography, and believes that he is worthy of greater recognition throughout Scotland, given the acknowledgement of Albert Einstein, who said that "the special theory of relativity owes its origins to Maxwell's equations of the electromagnetic field", and of Ivan Tolstoy, who wrote "Maxwell's importance in the history of scientific thought is comparable to Einstein's (whom he inspired) and to Newton's (whose influence he curtailed)".

17:11

... ... ...

17:30

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate Alex Fergusson on bringing this topic for debate, but I must correct his initial statement that it would be impossible to put all the material into the time available. The point is that Clerk Maxwell laid the basis for Einstein's later work, which of course showed that to get the material into the time available one only needs to move close to the speed of light. Therefore, Alex Fergusson was entirely wrong, thanks to Clerk Maxwell.

There are many interesting aspects to the subjects of natural philosophy and mathematics. I remember the excitement and enjoyment I felt, as a spotty-faced young lad at secondary school, on being charged up by the Van der Graaf generator and going along the corridor and shaking hands with the first victim I found. That was the sort of primitive piece of science that engages the mind and starts to make young people think about the world around them.

Clerk Maxwell's contribution to the world was to explain some of the phenomena that we can see and experience. He attended Marischal college in the University of Aberdeen, where I went as a student. I was an extremely indifferent student, so when I finally graduated my mother gave my girlfriend a present because she knew that the fact that I had finally graduated was nothing to do with me. When I was at the university, the professor of natural philosophy was R V Jones, who said that Clerk Maxwell made

"one of the greatest leaps ever achieved in human thought."

R V Jones was, of course, famed for his work on radar during the second world war, which depended utterly on Clerk Maxwell's earlier thinking.

Natural philosophy it was when I was at Aberdeen. My studies were in the arts faculty rather than the science faculty because it is about thinking and a philosophy with which to see the world. I think that that is important.

It has also been said that Clerk Maxwell's contribution was that he curbed Newton's influence. He certainly avoided descending into the sequence that Newton did at the end of his life, when he spent some 10 years pursuing the chimera of alchemy and thus in many ways devalued his contribution to world thinking.

The reality is that we now understand that what we can see and touch is perhaps only 4 per cent of the universe; another 24 per cent is said to be dark matter; and the rest is energy, which is far and away the biggest part of the universe. We have today, through the work of Clerk Maxwell, an explanation that covers much of the universe that we are unable to see.

The Scottish Parliament is perhaps particularly fortunate in that all the major parties, with the exception of the Liberals, have mathematicians represented here—even the First Minister is one. We now have five mathematicians in the Parliament. Therefore, I hope that the Parliament is a great place in which we can do thinking well. Clerk Maxwell changed the world by pure thought, which was an important contribution to the modern world.

17:34

29 June 2006

Banff and Buchan MSP visits Cornerstone service in Peterhead

Banff and Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson visited the Peterhead services of leading learning disabilities charity Cornerstone Community Care this week.

Mr Stevenson was invited to visit the service and meet the people who live there by service manager Fiona Weir. Fiona Weir said “We invited Mr Stevenson to the service to help provide him with an understanding of the services Cornerstone provides in his constituency. The support of our local MSP can be very important when raising issues faced by the people with learning disabilities that we support.”

Mr Stevenson said:

“The visit was a great opportunity to meet some of the people supported by Cornerstone and see the difference that Cornerstone has made to their lives. I am sure that this is down to the hard work of the staff, who are hardworking and dedicated. There is still some way to go before people with learning disabilities can enjoy the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us and we all have a part to play in making that dream a reality.”

Cornerstone currently supports people in Peterhead through a combination of supported accommodation and community support services which support people with special needs to live in their own home and take part in activities they enjoy. Across Scotland the charity supports almost 1,500 people and employs 1,800 staff.

To find out further information about Cornerstone please call 01224 256000 or email laura.buchan @ cornerstone.org.uk. Cornerstone also has a website at www.cornerstone.org.uk.

Notes : Cornerstone provides supported accommodation and other services to children and adults with learning disabilities across Scotland. Cornerstone also supports individuals with autism, elderly people with dementia, and people with head injuries or a terminal illness. Cornerstone provides a range of services including supported accommodation; respite and community based support. Scottish charity number SC004780.

28 June 2006

400 Scots Children Abuse Cannabis - "The Herald"

TOM GORDON, Scottish Political Correspondent
June 28 2006

A CHILD of nine was among almost 400 youngsters treated for cannabis use last year according to new figures, prompting claims that the government is reaping the whirlwind for reclassifying the drug.

Data released to the SNP by the Scottish Executive revealed the number of under-16s seeking help for cannabis has almost trebled in the past five years.

From 127 cases in 2000-01, the problem had grown to 376 by the end of 2004-05.

Until last year, the youngest users of the drug were aged 10 but then a nine-year-old was treated for using it in the Lothian health board area. The most frequent age for treatment was 15, accounting for around half of all cases.

The figures are the latest on drug use by Scottish children to emerge in recent weeks. Earlier this month it emerged that an eight-year-old had undergone rehabilitation in Dumfries and Galloway. The drug which the child was using has not been revealed. This week the United Nations warned some cannabis strains were now as dangerous as heroin or cocaine and could no longer be dismissed as a "soft" drug.

Stewart Stevenson, the SNP deputy justice spokesman, who obtained the data through a parliamentary question, said:

"These figures are of grave concern, especially following the UN report which stated that traffickers have invested heavily in ways of increasing the potency of the drug.

"This should be taken as a wake-up call for all Scots. The blasé attitude held by some towards cannabis use undermines the real dangers associated with drugs.

"We should be sending a clear message to our young people about the dangers of cannabis use; that cannabis does cause harm, and studies are now being published which highlight the long-term mental damage cannabis causes."

Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Tory leader, said the increase in children being treated for cannabis coincided with it being downgraded in 2004.

"Surely this is evidence, if it were needed, that the Labour government's decision to reduce cannabis from a class B to class C drug was a massive mistake.

"She called on ministers to replace their drugs education programme Know the Score with a zero-tolerance approach, using rehabilitated addicts to warn children about abuse.

However, David Liddell, director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said the higher figures represented more services for children, not an explosion in cannabis use."The higher numbers are in areas where there is provision of specialist services such as Fife, Lothian and Lanarkshire.

There is no evidence that cannabis acts as a gateway to harder drug use – very young people who take any type of drug are almost without exception suffering wider social and emotional problems. The key is to ensure better social, family and emotional support for our most vulnerable young people so they don't become the drug users of tomorrow," he said.

The Scottish Executive said it was clearly disturbing that children were using illegal drugs. A spokesman said drug education was available in every school and a new Know the Score leaflet had been issued specifically on the dangers of cannabis. Investment in rehabilitation places had also been increased 35% since 2001, he said. The data on cannabis treatment emerged alongside a new study which found one baby in eight born at a Glasgow maternity hospital had the drug in their system because their mothers were users during pregnancy.

The survey of 400 deliveries at Glasgow's old Rottenrow hospital was carried out in 2001 but has only now been published. It found 53 newborns with traces of cannabis, 11 with cocaine, and seven with amphetamine.

27 June 2006

Stevenson Warns Council Not To Fall Into Health Board Trap

27 June 2006

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Use

STEVENSON WARNS COUNCIL NOT TO FALL INTO HEALTH BOARD TRAP

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson is urging Aberdeenshire Council to think very carefully when considering the Motion put forward by Tory Cllr Humphrey which asks the Council to retain at least two of the free standing Maternity Units in Aberdeenshire.

Mr Stevenson says that each of the affected communities has a valid case and the council must be careful not to fall into a ‘divide and conquer’ trap by backing a Motion which only calls for at least two of the units to be saved.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“As I have said on many occasions, maternity services to any community are extremely important and extremely careful consideration must be given to the decision on the future delivery of maternity services in the North-east.

“The Motion put forward by the Conservatives asks that Aberdeenshire Council give their consent to retain at least two units in Aberdeenshire which sounds acceptable on the surface. However, it cannot disguise the fact that this decision, should it be accepted, results in the understanding that there shall be the closure of at least one unit within the Aberdeenshire area. Obviously, closure of any maternity unit in Aberdeenshire I am against and as MSP representative of the area I have listened to the concerns of my constituents and have contacted the relevant authorities on the matter emphasising just how destructive a closure can prove to be.

“Each North-east community currently housing a maternity unit has a very valid case for retention and it is therefore up to all responding to the formal consultation to put this message across as I have done. When it comes to taking a decision on this very important matter we must not allow ourselves to fall into the trap created by NHS Grampian which seems determined to divide communities from each other.

“It must be remembered that having local services is not a matter of tactics or politics, but of principle.”

Note: The Conservative Motion before the council on Thursday is as follows:

In view of the formal consultation now being carried out by NHS Grampian on Older People's Services, Diagnostic and Treatment Services and Maternity Services in Aberdeenshire, this Council urges the Board of NHS Grampian to take account of the clearly expressed wish of a substantial number of the people they represent, to maintain freedom of choice in the delivery of Maternity Services by retaining at least two of the free standing Maternity Units in Aberdeenshire.

376 Children Treated For Cannabis

For immediate release: Tuesday 27th June 2006

Attn: NEWS DESKS, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENTS
376 CHILDREN TREATED FOR CANNABIS USE - 9 YEAR OLD TREATED FOR DRUG USE

The SNP's Shadow Deputy Justice Spokesperson Stewart Stevenson MSP today published new official statistics which show that the number of children accessing drug treatment and rehabilitation services for cannabis use has more than doubled in the last 5 years.

The statistics also show that one nine year old child in Lothians was treated for cannabis use in the last year.
A parliamentary answer shows that the number of new clients aged less than 16 years, reporting cannabis use, who have accessed drug treatment and rehabilitation services in the last 5 years increased from 127 to 376.

Mr Stevenson said:

"These figures are of grave concern, especially following the publication of the UN report yesterday which stated that traffickers have invested heavily in increasing the potency of the drug.

"Since 1999 there has been an almost three fold increase in the number of under 16 year olds that have been admitted for cannabis treatment. The most shocking case revealed today is that of a child of nine who was treated for cannabis use.

"This should be taken as a wake up call for all Scots. The blasé attitude held by some towards cannabis use undermines the real dangers associated with drugs. In many cases cannabis can be a gateway for the use of harder drugs, so action must be taken to protect our youngsters from entering into this trap.

"We should be sending a clear message to our young people about the dangers of cannabis use, that cannabis does cause harm, and studies are now being published which highlights the long term mental damage that cannabis causes."

The full written answer is as follows:

SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT WRITTEN ANSWER

23 June 2006
Index Heading: Justice Department

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive how many children have been treated for (a) cannabis addiction and (b) cannabis-related illnesses in each of the last five years, broken down by age and NHS board.(S2W-26860)

Hugh Henry:The Scottish Drug Misuse Database (SDMD) collects information on new individuals coming into contact with drug treatment services.

Information showing the number of new clients aged less than 16 years, reporting cannabis use, who have accessed drug treatment and rehabilitation services in the last 5 years, and broken down by age and NHS board, has been placed in the Scottish Parliament's Reference Centre (Bib number 39914).

Information showing the number of people aged 15 years and under, discharged from general acute Scottish hospitals with a diagnosis of mental and behavioural disorders due to use of cannabis, has also been placed in the Scottish Parliament's Reference Centre (Bib number 39914).

SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE

Table 2: New individual patients / clients under 16 years who reported the use of cannabis to the Scottish Drug Misuse Database by NHS board of residence, from 2000/01 to 2004/05

2000/01

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

TOT

Argyll & Clyde

0

0

0

1

0

11

13

25

Ayrshire & Arran

0

0

0

0

0

1

7

8

Borders

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Dumfries and Galloway

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Fife

0

0

1

0

1

11

11

24

Forth Valley

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

2

Grampian

0

0

0

0

0

0

5

5

Greater Glasgow

0

1

0

2

7

16

20

46

Highland

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Lanarkshire

0

0

0

0

1

2

3

6

Lothian

0

0

0

0

1

0

7

8

Orkney Islands

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Shetland Islands

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tayside

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

3

Western Isles

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

SCOTLAND

0

1

1

3

11

44

67

127

2004/05

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

TOT

Argyll & Clyde

0

2

0

2

7

17

29

57

Ayrshire & Arran

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

Borders

0

0

1

2

4

9

10

26

Dumfries & Galloway

0

0

0

2

3

8

6

19

Fife

0

0

0

3

15

25

40

83

Forth Valley

0

0

0

0

2

4

4

10

Grampian

0

0

0

0

4

2

11

17

Greater Glasgow

0

0

0

0

6

5

11

22

Highland

0

0

0

0

3

10

22

35

Lanarkshire

0

1

1

4

3

13

25

47

Lothian

1

0

0

2

3

22

18

46

Orkney

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Shetland Islands

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Tayside

0

0

0

0

1

1

11

13

Western Isles

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

SCOTLAND

1

3

2

15

52

116

187

376

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