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Scottish Parliament
Public Petitions Committee
[THE CONVENER opened the meeting at 10:01] New Petitions
Dementia Treatment (PE886)
The Convener (Michael McMahon): Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the 15th meeting in
2005 of the Public Petitions Committee. As ever, we have a busy agenda. Having received no
apologies, we can go straight to the first item.
The first new petition is PE886 by James McKillop on behalf of the Scottish dementia workinggroup. It calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Executive and NHS QualityImprovement Scotland to ensure the continued availability on prescription of medications such asdonepezil, rivastigmine, galantamine and memantine for use in the treatment of Alzheimer's diseaseand other forms of dementia.
David Turner is here to make a brief statement in support of the petition. He is accompanied byPhilip Bryers. You are both welcome. You have a few minutes to make your opening remarks andthen we will discuss the issue that you have raised.
Philip Bryers (Alzheimer Scotland): Thank you, convener. I start by giving apologies on behalf of
James McKillop, who is the chairman of the Scottish dementia working group, and Andrew Banks.
Both of them had hoped to be here, but for personal reasons they cannot attend.
I am the co-ordinator of the group, and I do not usually speak on behalf of its members. Therefore, Iask David Turner to make a statement on our behalf. After David has spoken, I would like, if I may,to return to our script to read any paragraphs that David has not covered in his remarks, becauseDavid would have some difficulty in reading from a script.
David Turner (Scottish Dementia Working Group): Good morning to you all. I was diagnosed as
suffering from Alzheimer's disease just over five years ago. At present, I am on a medication that I
know as Aricept, although it has various names. I heard the convener mention one of them earlier.
I call Aricept my wee golden ball. It costs about £2.50 to produce the tablet and to get it to me. Thedifference that it has made to my life and to the life of my children and family has been amazing. They had lost me: I did not know what day of theweek it was, where I was or where I was going. I could not go out on my own; I had to be takeneverywhere. Since I have been given Aricept, I have got my life back.
I have been to see my MSP, Andy Kerr, about it. He felt that it made quite a difference to me, as I The Scottish Parliament - Public Petitions Committee Official Report Helen Eadie: Perhaps we could write to the Scottish Executive and ask for an update on the issues
that have been raised in the petition.
The petitioners have not asked for this, convener, but I wonder whether you might be disposedtowards approaching the institutions that have not responded to Alan Draper, to seek reconciliation?I know that that falls slightly outwith the terms of the petition, but would you be willing to do that,and to write to the Executive? Alan has told us that he has had a variety of responses, but someinstitutions have not been responsive at all.
The Convener: I recognise exactly why you have raised that point. However, we have not yet
closed PE535, the original petition. Under our consideration of that petition, we are still having
discussions with various organisations on the matter of apologies from the institutions concerned.
That is still on the table.
Helen Eadie: Okay.
Alan Draper: I would like to add that we are working closely with representatives of the Executive,
and we have been addressing those issues. We are very grateful for the co-operation from the
Executive in that regard.
The Convener: Shall we write to the Executive on the matter?
Jackie Baillie: I suggest that we also write to the Scottish Law Commission and inquire about the
timetable for its public consultation on limitation.
The Convener: Are members happy with that?
Members indicated agreement.
The Convener: When we get responses from the Executive and the Scottish Law Commission, we
will let the petitioner know and we will discuss the matter further then. We will keep him updated.
Chris Daly: Thank you for your time.
Common Good Assets (PE875)
The Convener: Our third new petition is PE875, from Mary E Mackenzie, which calls on the
Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Executive to ensure that all moveable and heritable
common good assets throughout Scotland are properly recorded, audited and insured, and to
introduce legislation to ensure that such assets are properly safeguarded. Before being formally
lodged, the petition was hosted on the e-petitions website where, from 29 August 2005 to 26
September 2005, it gathered 122 signatures. The usual e-petition briefing has been circulated to
The petitioner is concerned at an apparent laxness in maintaining records of common good assets,particularly in the case of moveable assets. Complaints that have been raised regarding thestewardship of common good funds include allegations that detailed or complete lists of commongood assets do not exist; that common good assets are sold to private enterprise without sufficientjustification; that profits and other moneys due to common good funds are not properly accountedfor; and that common good assets are not utilised to their full extent. Christine Grahame has joinedus, having indicated an interest in the matter.
Christine Grahame (South of Scotland) (SNP): First, I congratulate my constituent, Ms
Mackenzie, who has been tenacious in relation to the issue. At first sight, it appears to be a strange
matter to bring to the committee's attention, but I am a self-confessed anorak about it. I began to
find it terribly interesting when it came to light in the Borders, in particular when—strangely enough
—bus services were withdrawn in Peebles and the common good fund was used to subsidise the
bus service. Suddenly, people began to get interested in what a common good fund is. There was a
recent case in Edinburgh in which rather expensive chairs, which were found in an antique shop,
had apparently come from City of Edinburgh Council offices. They had the logo and the designation
of the council on them. It is interesting that there are historical and valuable artefacts out there in The Scottish Parliament - Public Petitions Committee Official Report common good funds throughout Scotland that are not auditable or are not listed in any way. It is asimilar case with land, and with revenues.
My interest came about as a result of the business of the bus service being subsidised. Memberswill see in their papers that Scott- Moncrieff conducted an audit on the matter. I lodged parliamentary questions some time ago askingwhat we have in Scotland and what we know that we possess. What seems rather an historicinterest turns out to be literally a little treasure trove of moveable and heritable assets. We havetaken no account of where those assets are, who has them, whether they are insured and theirvalue in monetary and historical terms. The issues that the petitioner has raised are of greatimportance.
I do not know whether the issue merits legislation, although I see in one of the papers—I feel a billcoming on—a recommendation by a researcher on the introduction of legislation on the abolition offeudal tenure with regard to common good. I am interested to hear what the committee will say,because PE875 is one of those strange little petitions that expose something. I am sure thateveryone has got common good funds in their area of which they were unaware.
The Convener: I am interested to hear what members have to say as well.
Ms White: When I was a member of Renfrewshire Council, the issue of the common good fund was
raised constantly, particularly by the good residents in the old burgh of Renfrew. Other councils up
and down the country have common good funds; some of them are maintained well, while some are
not maintained as well. As Christine Grahame said, the petition may be small and innocuous
looking, but it has wider implications. It is good that the matter has been raised in the committee,
because the common good fund exists for the common good of the people and unfortunately some
councils—as residents will say—do not use it properly. I would like to get the views of the
Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on the common good fund, because councils administrate
it. Christine Grahame mentioned chairs; I had not heard about that before, but perhaps such things
go on and Historic Scotland could comment. Perhaps it would even be worth asking the Accounts
Commission for its view.
John Scott: The petition raises an interesting and valid point. I had assumed that each local
authority would have its own register of the heritable and moveable assets in its common good fund,
but if they do not it does not seem unreasonable that perhaps they might. It is the sort of thing that
would have to be done on an authority-by-authority basis. Although the idea has been sprung on us,
so to speak, the subject is worthy of a members' business debate; that would be one way in which
to explore the views of members of the Parliament on the subject.
Helen Eadie: The issue is important to people in Inverkeithing, too, because Fife Council has
disposed of property there. It emerges that any investigation into whether the disposal of a commongood asset is legal or communally approved requires to be done through the courts. At the heart ofPE875 is the point that good, accurate and up-to-date council records should be made publiclyavailable for scrutiny. I support any approach that would result in our making representations in theway that is outlined in the paper.
Jackie Baillie: I do not want to be in danger of widening the discussion—
The Convener: But you will do so anyway.
Jackie Baillie: Yes.
The national health service in Scotland has a considerable amount of heritable assets. Althoughthey cannot directly be described as assets that are held in the common good, they fit the principlenevertheless. The issue applies not only to local authorities. Land that has been gifted down theyears for hospital provision fits the category of a common good asset, albeit that it is administeredby a body other than a local authority. I would be in favour of a register, but not one that is The Scottish Parliament - Public Petitions Committee Official Report restricted to local authorities—the issue is much wider.
John Scott: Under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, a local authority or health
board could be questioned about their assets and they would be under a statutory obligation to
supply the information. At any rate, it would be good practice for them to put in place such a
Christine Grahame: Miss Mackenzie was one step ahead of you; she used FOI to get the
information about common good assets. What John Scott said about FOI is right; all the information
should be amalgamated.
I was interested in Jackie Baillie's point about the NHS. Cottage hospitals, in particular, weredonated by the community but are now under threat.
The Convener: I am happy to widen out the subject in the way that Jackie Baillie suggested. The
subject of PE875 does not restrict the debate solely to local authority assets; the petition concerns
all common good assets, heritable and moveable, the definition of which can be as wide as
someone wants to make it.
The recommendation is that we seek the views of COSLA and the Accounts Commission forScotland.
Ms White: And the Registers of Scotland.
The Convener: And the Scottish Executive. Whom should we write to at the Executive? Do we
need to write to each department?
Jackie Baillie: Two ministers have an interest in the subject: Tom McCabe, given the local
authority involvement, and Andy Kerr, the Minister for Health and Community Care.
Helen Eadie: Perhaps we should also write to the Minister for Communities.
Jackie Baillie: I suggest that we write to at least one minister and ask them to take comments
across the Executive.
The Convener: It is probably best that we write to Tom McCabe. Are members agreed?
Members indicated agreement.
John Scott: At some point, the issue will become subject to a point of law. Is Tom McCabe the
correct minister? Should we not write to Cathy Jamieson?
The Convener: Given that finance matters are involved, Tom McCabe would seem to be a good
starting point. If we were to take a scattergun approach, we might not get anywhere.
John Scott: I am not suggesting that we write to all three.
Helen Eadie: Jackie Baillie suggested that we ask the minister to approach all other ministers. We
would therefore get their feedback in the response from the lead minister.
The Convener: We will make that suggestion and say that that is the way in which we hope the
Executive will progress the matter. Are members agreed?
Members indicated agreement.
Christine Grahame: You mentioned a number of bodies, convener. To whom will the committee
The Convener: We are writing to Audit Scotland, Historic Scotland, COSLA, the Accounts
Commission, the Registers of Scotland and Tom McCabe at the Scottish Executive.
Christine Grahame: Thank you. The Scottish Parliament - Public Petitions Committee Official Report The Convener: Is that agreed?
Members indicated agreement.
Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (PE885)
The Convener: Petition PE885, which was submitted by Mark McCabe, calls on the Scottish
Parliament to amend Scots criminal law relating to sexual offences to create a statutory offence of
male rape in line with the rest of the United Kingdom and Ireland and to ensure that no offences
may be committed exclusively by gay men and that all sexual offences apply equally to everyone,
whether man or woman, gay or straight. Before being formally lodged, the petition was
hosted on the e-petitions website where, from 2 August 2005 to 30 September 2005, it gathered 68signatures. The usual e-petition briefing has been circulated. Do members have views? Jackie Baillie: I understand that the Scottish Executive has asked the Scottish Law Commission to
consider a comprehensive review of the law in relation to rape and other sexual offences. I think
that a discussion paper will emerge towards the end of this year, with a view to publication of a
report in 2007. Given that the scope of that review is likely to cover the subject that the petitioner
talks about, it would be useful if we were to write to the Scottish Law Commission and the Scottish
Executive for an update.
The Convener: I am happy with that.
Ms White: Jackie Baillie is right. The petition is interesting. I had not realised that inequalities
existed in sex crimes, not just here but in England and Wales. I am glad that the Scottish Law
Commission is considering the issue and I hope that section 61 of the proposed draft criminal code
will change the law. I agree with Jackie Baillie's suggestion. We should ask for feedback and keep
the petition alive.
The Convener: Are we happy to do that?
Members indicated agreement.
New Towns (PE887)
The Convener: Petition PE887, which was submitted by the Rev Neil MacKinnon, calls on the
Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Executive to review the long-term planning, social,
economic and transportation issues that relate to the creation of new towns, such as Cumbernauld.
Before being formally lodged, the petition was hosted on the e-petitions website where, from 4 July
2005 to 23 September 2005, it gathered 424 signatures. The usual e-petition briefing has been
The petitioner's concern is that although Cumbernauld is a town of strategic importance in thecentral belt, it is widely regarded as having one of the worst town centres in Britain. The petitioneris particularly concerned about inappropriate planning decisions, such as the routing of the A80 andA8011 through the heart of the town, and about the poor design and upkeep of the town centre. Domembers have any ideas about how to deal with the petition? Ms White: I will not say whether I agree or disagree with the petition. Unfortunately, Cumbernauld
has won not very good awards. We need to have the views of North Lanarkshire Council,
Architecture and Design Scotland, the
Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, the Royal Town Planning Institute and the ScottishExecutive.
The Convener: We will ask for general views on such issues. The petition is about Cumbernauld
town centre, but we must couch our request in terms of seeking information about town centres in


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