John’s Speech Marking MS Week 2015

I, too, congratulate George Adam on all his work on MS and on framing a very practical motion. I very much appreciate its wording. Dennis Robertson told us that it is about people and the motion is on “my life my MS”, so it is very much concerned with the individual and, as the motion goes on to say, “explores the whole person”.

The campaign will look at all the issues that influence the lives of people with MS. Those are the same issues that influence all of us, but with an added challenge—a phrase that we have heard already. The issues are not simply about health; they are about housing and the difficulties with aids and adaptations, transport, increasing problems as people’s mobility alters, and education.

Chic Brodie mentioned employment and there is certainly a long way to go with regard to education on the treatment of people with MS. I assisted a constituent whose employer thought that it was entirely unreasonable to make a reasonable adjustment—and, I have to say, the adjustment was extremely modest. There is some way to go with that.

My colleague Liam McArthur talked about isolation, which is another factor that can have an impact—his constituency is a clear example.

I had a look online this morning for information about MS and, of course—as with everything—there is a wide range of issues. A lot of information online is about fundraising and the commendable activities that take place around the country and around the world. There is also a lot of coverage of the Edinburgh centre for multiple sclerosis research, which I will not repeat. However, I was delighted when I looked at the centre’s website to find that the management board is made up of independent MS research scientists and people who are affected by MS. Again, it is terribly important that we keep it—to use the term that has been used previously—person centred and that this is not something that is done to people; it is something in which people have an active involvement.

In last year’s debate, I mentioned a young woman and the challenge around securing a drug. I am delighted to say that that matter is resolved. That is not just to the individual’s benefit; it is to the benefit of their family and, in particular, to their wee boy.

There is an understandable clamour for a cure. There is a clamour for drugs to ameliorate the effects of MS. Vitamin D is mentioned not just in relation to MS; it is mentioned in relation to other matters as well.

I am always impressed by the energy I encounter when I meet people who are associated with MS. In the past year, I have visited Kirkwall, Oban and Lochgilphead and I am a regular at the Inverness centre. The energy of the people who assist and the energy of the people who have the illness are commendable.

We know that the campaign is the latest in a series. Again, it talks about caring and support and we have to ask ourselves, “Who is going to do the caring and who is going to do the supporting?” There is a pivotal role for this establishment in that. Politics is about priorities and if the priority is replacing weapons of mass destruction ahead of putting that funding to more constructive use for humanity, the financial challenges will not be restricted to welfare reform, the austerity programme and the difficulties—as George Adam highlighted—around the 20m walk rule.

The hallmark for me of people who are involved in MS is their stoicism. They are not going to give in to it. I think that Chic Brodie said that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I am sure that, with proper funding for research, that tunnel will get shorter. I hope that that happens sooner rather than later.