30th October 2015
November is already upon us and this weekend many of us will take time to remember those who have been lost through military service. I am honoured to be laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in Troon on Remembrance Sunday in commemoration of all those who have fallen and have been injured whilst serving their country, both in the past and in the present.
In advance of Remembrance Sunday, I was delighted to lend my support to the launch of the annual Poppy Scotland Appeal, which raises funds for the invaluable work they do supporting the Armed Forces community in Scotland. And, this week, I will be taking part in a 12-hour Charity Static Bike Ride for the Central Parliamentary Poppy Appeal – it won’t be a pretty sight! Not that I will be doing 12 hours, but between the efforts of several dozen colleagues, we hope to complete the course!
Whilst the focus of remembrance is often on those who, tragically, never returned from service, it is important we also think about those service personnel who return to civilian life with a physical or psychological injury. Many veterans struggle with life outside the forces, particularly in the early days, and require specialist help and support. While various organisations provide much needed services for these brave men and women, I believe there should be more formal care and support provided by the State that sent them into war in the first place.
If you or a loved one need help, further information can be found at http://www.poppyscotland.org.uk/get-help/
November is also Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month and to mark this Pancreatic Cancer UK is running its annual Purple Lights for Hope campaign. The campaign is designed to bring people together across the UK and unite them in their commitment to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer. Last year it captured the imagination of patients, families, health professionals and campaigners alike and saw 60 landmarks and buildings lit up in purple across the UK, including the Hydro in Glasgow.
Whilst survival rates for Breast Cancer have improved greatly over the 3 decades of my medical career, those for Pancreatic Cancer have remained static. I was pleased to be able to show my support for the campaign whilst down at Westminster. For further information on the campaign and on the signs and symptoms of the disease visit http://www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk/campaigning-and-volunteering/get-involved/pcam-2015/purple-lights-for-hope/#sthash.0G1rNya6.dpuf
Much of the focus at Westminster in recent weeks has been on Welfare and, specifically, the proposed cuts to Child Tax Credits, which would see thousands of working families lose over £1000 per year. The SNP is vehemently opposed to the cuts and has continued to pressure the UK Government to change its approach. Opposition is widespread across the country and even the House of Lords voted to force the Tories to delay their implementation.
That wasn’t the only surprise of the week, however. Having had their wrists firmly slapped by the Lords, the UK Government then decried the vote as undemocratic because the Peers are unelected and unaccountable, which is exactly why their very existence is an abomination and why the SNP wants to see the institution abolished! All rather ironic when you consider the Tories are the ones who insist on continually propping it up!
Whilst the decision is a welcome one, it only delays the cuts rather than reversing them, and the whole shambolic process highlights why welfare needs to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. It also illustrates just how inadequate the current level of the national minimum wage is. If workers were paid a proper living wage, as promoted by the Scottish Government, the need for wages to be topped up by benefits would be greatly reduced and workers would feel valued rather than having to rely on the State to help them put food on the table despite working hard. Unfortunately, until we have control over such matters in Holyrood, the current situation is likely to remain.