Apr 23 2008 Stirling Observer
CAMPAIGNING is one vital aspect of the many roles of an MSP and MP. This can take the form of leading on an issue and galvanising support or playing a supportive role to activists in the community or nationally.
It is important not only because that is the way that many important changes are brought about, but also because it is the one way in which those who would otherwise have nothing to do with “politics” become engaged in the democratic process.
Of course not all campaigns will be supported indeed some need to be actively countered.
In the first Scottish Parliament I persisted in opposing the campaign against the MMR vaccine, despite repeated highly personalised attacks on me in the national press.
The doctor, whose flawed research sparked off this high profile campaign, is now before the General Medical Council charged with a long list of improper behaviour. The purported link between MMR and autism has now been discredited totally.
The national press has never apologised for misleading the public.
Even more importantly, despite the rising numbers of children now being vaccinated (93% in 2006) there is a whole generation who are not immunised.
As Shadow Public Health Minister I would strongly encourage those who were misled to now have their children's vaccination brought up to date to prevent both measles and German measles (rubella) for girls.
Measles can be dangerous and after almost eradicating it by 1999 the numbers quadrupled to nearly 1000 cases last year.
Since I wrote a report for the Health Committee in 2001 on organ donation many changes for the better have occurred. But the situation for those needing a transplant has got worse.
Demand is rising and as many as half of those who need a heart or lung transplant will die waiting. This is in part because improvements in car safety and roads have reduced road deaths in the UK to its lowest level yet. But it is also because many potential donors' families are being asked to make a difficult decision about their deceased relative when they are in a state of shock.
Around 90% of us support organ donation but, despite Scotland having the highest level of registration on the organ donation list in the UK at 28%, we have a much lower rate of donation.
When asked, 40% of families decline donation and many of them regret that decision later.
The proposed system of a “soft presumed consent” continues to respect both the wishes of the deceased through registration and the wishes of the family where the deceased's wishes were not clear.
It also for the first time allows legal force for those who object to organ donation by having an “opt-out” register. The evidence from the rest of Europe, most of whom now have this system, is that it could increase donation in the UK by around 40% and, when taken together with other measures, could raise the number of donations by nearer 100 percent bringing us up to the average rates in Europe.
Your views on this are important and I invite you to write to me at my Parliamentary Office, 22 Viewfield Street, Stirling, FK8 1AU.
Meantime I applaud the recent excellent article in the Observer and invite all of you who support donation to register through my office or your GP or on-line at www.uktransplant.org.uk.
Another campaign that has arisen from the recent tragic accidental death of a youngster in Clackmannanshire from entanglement in a loop of a blind cord. These looped cords have been banned in a number of countries as dangerous and Gordon Banks MP is leading a campaign to achieve this ban in the UK.
Last week I supported a celebration of volunteering by the RSVP Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme. I can recommend this group which is the largest of its kind in Scotland and has a great time enjoying a variety of volunteering activities, gaining self confidence whilst helping our community.
For more information contact: - Stan Sanderson, c/o Stirling Volunteer Centre, 4 King Street, Stirling FK8 1AY Tel: 01786 475800
My colleague, Stirling MP Anne McGuire meanwhile will be supporting the Forth Valley Diabetes Group at their coffee morning at 10am on Saturday, April 26 in the Allan Centre, Bridge of Allan, so why not drop in.
I will return to the other campaigns being run or supported by myself along with Anne and Gordon Banks MP in a future column.
Contact any of us if you have an issue you want us to take up.