5th October, 2015
Questions to the First Minister
Last week, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon appeared before the conveners of the Scottish Parliament’s committees to answer questions on her legislative programme for the year ahead. This is an annual event and provides a chance to hold the First Minister to account for her policies.
As convener of the Health Committee, I was given the opportunity to raise concerns about the huge inequalities that exist in Scotland. Inequality is of course an amalgamation of a whole range of issues but low pay is one of its major causes.
Almost four years ago the Health Committee, as part of its inquiry into the regulation of care for older people, recommended to the Scottish Government that all workers in the social care sector should be paid a Living Wage.
Interest in paying the Living Wage has increased ever since but implementation has been slow. However, I was glad that Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that the Scottish Government is currently meeting with local authorities to meet the challenge.
I also asked the First Minister about the barriers facing people with terminal illnesses in accessing the medicines that would allow them to extend and improve the quality of the life they have left.
There has been progress since the committee reported on the issue in June 2013. Access has improved and a fund now exists to give financial support to those who cannot afford new medicines.
But there are still glitches in the system. Last week, I met a young women who says she is having to pay out of her own pocket to access the drug she dearly needs. The First Minister invited me to pass on the details of her case.
Politics rarely solves problems overnight but we have to take every opportunity we can to drive change and give help to those who need it most.