MS Awareness Week 2017

John spoke yesterday (26/04/17) in George Adam’s member’s debate on MS Awareness Week 2017, you can read the text of his speech and watch it below:

I congratulate George Adam on a number of things: on the motion; on his role in the cross-party group on MS, which works effectively with the assistance of the MS Society; on his promotion of the positive aspects of dealing with the pernicious thing that is MS; and on his generally positive outlook, which I imagine is an essential characteristic of the St Mirren fan. I wish him—if not his team—very well.

The motion

“welcomes this opportunity to put … MS … on the agenda”.

To many people in the chamber, and to about 11,000 people in Scotland, their carers and loved ones, MS is never off the agenda. I had forgotten that we did not have a debate last year, because such debates seem to have been a regular feature, but I have been reflecting on what might have happened to people in the past year, given the undulating nature of the condition, which George described very well.

Presiding Officer, if I were able to use a prop, I would hold up a newspaper with the headline:

“MS sufferer slams ‘awful’ benefits chiefs who axed her Motability car in favour of £65,000 taxis”.

There is no doubt that the welfare reform that the cruel and heartless Tory Government at Westminster has foisted on us has had an impact on everyone, not least the woman in the article, whose car was one of the 800 Motability cars that are being taken away every week. The decision was reflected on, and the same Government department ruled that the woman qualified for help to get to her work, so the Government is now paying £19,000 a year for taxis. That is the economics of the madhouse. The decision is deeply offensive to the woman in question, and it shows a heartlessness that we really do not want to see.

What we want to see, of course, is independence and mobility. There are many practical issues in that regard, with which I deal regularly, as I am sure that other members do. I was keen to support the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers case against driver-only operation and the loss of the safety-critical train guard, particularly when I heard that wheelchair-bound people are often carried beyond their stop because there is no assistance for them. The problem was eloquently explained to me by Gale Falconer, a friend in the Highlands who is an MS sufferer. In a meeting, she described the frustrations of travel, the planning that needs to go into it and the advice and support that are needed.

I am also dealing with someone with mobility issues in relation to the repeated failure of a lift at a ferry terminal. If we want to take a collaborative approach to the issue, we need to get such small things sorted. There are also challenges to do with bus travel, which are well known.

Although I have very limited time, I also want to talk about the challenges of recruiting specialists, be they neurologists or MS nurses. That has been touched on with regard to the situation in Lanarkshire. I am particularly concerned about the retention of specialist staff given the threat posed by Brexit.

There is a lot to be very positive about. I will not reiterate what was said in this afternoon’s carers debate, but there is a lot of common ground. Setting aside the partisan nature of some of the amendments that were lodged for that debate, there is a lot of recognition of the real benefit that carers provide.

The motion for this debate commends the charities, MS Society Scotland and the MS Trust, and I know about the good work that is happening across my area. In particular, I am aware of some innovative work in Moray. In fairly recent times I have visited MS therapy centres in Inverness, Kirkwall, Oban, Lochgilphead and Portree. There is much to be positive about and there are a lot of challenges, but people who suffer from MS need to know that the people in the chamber give them their unqualified support.

Once again, I thank George Adam for lodging the motion.