Humanity and Holocaust Commemoration

29th January 2016

On the anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth, I was delighted to submit an Early Day Motion to Parliament congratulating this year’s winner of the Burns Humanitarian Award, which recognises individuals and groups who have shown selflessness and dedication to save, enrich or improve the lives of others. David Nott is a trauma surgeon who has worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres in war zones across the world and a worthy winner, putting his own life at risk to help others and a fine example of the good that is done by individuals in times of crisis or darkness. The motion was the one thousandth EDM to be submitted this Parliament, which I hope will give Mr Nott further, well-deserved recognition.

Later in the week, I was pleased to attend a ceremony to mark Holocaust Memorial Day to commemorate the Holocaust and honour those who were murdered during one of the darkest times in Europe’s history. I also took time to sign the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment and pay tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people about the appalling events of the Holocaust and the need to fight prejudice and intolerance at every turn. Wednesday 27th January marked the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and I believe we should use the opportunity not just to remember both the victims and survivors from that period but also those who suffered during the genocides that have taken place more recently in other parts of the worlds, including Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. We must ensure that we learn from these atrocities and continue to challenge anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry.

At the end of the week, I found myself in the rather bizarre position of having to defend the work I carried out in Crosshouse Hospital during my Christmas holidays to cover for a former colleague who had taken ill. In total, I worked 5 days to take clinics and perform surgery to ensure there was minimum disruption to planned appointments and operations. Despite the fact I had only agreed to do this once Parliament was in recess and I was back home from London, the Scottish Daily Mail took it upon themselves to suggest that this was a regular arrangement and I was doing it out of greed for cash and at times when I should have been holding constituent surgeries. The journalist who wrote the article had spoken to both me and NHS Ayrshire & Arran and was well acquainted with the circumstances surrounding the shifts I worked but, nonetheless, chose to distort the situation to try and discredit me and the SNP. Unsurprisingly, it has backfired pretty spectacularly with an enormous outpouring of support for me – from constituents, patients and their families, former colleagues and other medical professionals, and even politicians from other parties – and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who took the time to send me supportive messages either directly or via social media.

One of most peculiar aspects of the article was that Labour’s Jackie Baillie seemed to suggest that doctors shouldn’t be paid more than the living wage, despite their years of training and the life-saving work they do. I await Labour’s manifesto for the Holyrood elections with interest if this is the kind of policy pledge we are likely to find in it!