Wednesday, 23 December 2009

We have left the building

Well, not quite, but no more blog postings this year. The Parliament will shut down from tomorrow (Christmas Eve) until we return on Tuesday 5 January 2010 (Committee's first meeting is 12 January so papers for that will go out on the 5th or 6th). How will you cope without this blog and my pointless and tenuous musical references/connections. However, I have a few CDs coming my way at Christmas (from Richie Havens to the Silent League) so will be back with a vengeance next year!
We have some projects we are taking forward and which we hope to launch in January. These are aimed at further publicising the petitions process here and the work of the Committee. The anticipation! Can you contain yourself!! I think next year will be a good one for the Committee and, importantly, we hope for petitioners.
Anyway, I hope you all have a good Christmas an a guid New Year.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Screening and diagnosis of Haemochromatosis (Iron Overload)

We've considered quite a few health petitions over recent meetings. This afternoon we considered another one from George Scott on Haemochromatosis. This is a genetic disorder which causes the body to absorb excessive iron from the diet and then deposits it in the liver, pancreas, heart, endocrine glands and joints. This can lead to liver cirrhosis, heart damage and diabetes.
It's always interesting to receive petitions like this, people seeking to raise our awareness of conditions that perhaps don't receive a lot of attention compared to others. I thought the petition was really well put together with lots of information. The oral presentations from George Scott, Dr Fitzsimons and Dr Robson were particularly useful. You could see the committee was getting absorbed into the topic.
In the end we agreed to write to the UK National Screening Committee, the Scottish Government, Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, British Society for Haematology, Molecular Haematology Unit and the Canadian Hemochromatosis Society looking for more information about the issues raised in the petition. We've also asked the petitioner for some statistical data about incidence rates.
We'll have another look at this petition next year once all this information comes back.
John Farquhar Munro MSP, Deputy Convener

Friday, 11 December 2009

School bus safety

Our discussion this afternoon on school bus safety was interesting and hopefully productive. You will know that we have been looking at these petitions for a while now.
It was good to hear from petitioner Ron Beaty again (sorry that Lynn Merrifield couldn't make due to illness) - we hope they found some satisfaction in our discussion and what we are trying to do. It was interesting to hear from Garth Goddard of the Yellow School Bus Commission about the outcomes from the report which it published on this issue earlier this year and from Malcolm Bruce MP who tried to legislate on this issue in the House of Commons.
Malcolm Bruce mentioned the scope for a 'school bus overtaking ban' pilot scheme that he had raised with the UK transport minister and which could perhaps run in Scotland. We agreed to look into this idea further. Also discussion around what individual local authorities are doing and what provision is made by them in terms of school buses. What are the regional variations? What scope is there through contracts to address this issue? The committee will follow up issues that arose from this afternoon and then come back to these petitions next year to see where we are.
Nanette Milne MSP

A braw year?

I think this has been a braw year for the PPC. As I said at our meeting this afternoon, we met 18 times during 2009, with three of these meetings being external in Easterhouse, Fraserburgh and Alness. Here we met with local groups and individuals, schools, and discussed issues around what we do, the role of the Parliament, how to get involved through petitioning. Some great moments (folk sitting on the floor at the Easterhouse meeting as we ran out of space and seats; the pupils at Fraserburgh Academy and who had the nicest hair; being piped in at Alness Academy when we arrived!).
We hosted our knife crime summit in the Parliament back in January on John Muir's petition; contributed to the moving stories exhibition with 4 of the 10 stories being from petitioners; played a role in the recent Understanding and influencing your Parliament conference; met with several delegations eg Wales, Vietnam, Victoria in Australia; concluded our year long inquiry into the public petitions process; introduced several ways to better publicise the work and role of the committee (including this blog!); and continued our consideration of our access to cancer drugs petition inquiry from 2008.
We considered 79 new and 277 current petitions over the course of our 18 meetings. This resulted in the issuing of around 2,000 letters and e-mails seeking information.
Now I think all of this, and all the other work we've done is pretty impressive. But we can do more and we will. We've got some exciting work ahead of us in 2010 including more external meetings in St Andrews, Thurso and Arran, our young petitioners meeting which we will hold, more projects to increase our presence using new e-technologies plus, of course, lots of interesting and important petitions to consider. We will continue to improve the petitions process wherever and whenever we can to ensure it meets the needs and expectations of the people who use it.
Can I wish you all a happy Christmas an a guid New Year.
Frank McAveety MSP, Convener of the PPC

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Welcome Back My Friends...

... To The Show That Never Ends by Emerson Lake and Palmer was one of the first elbums I every bought (from a place called Easy Rider in Forrest Road in Edinburgh). Triple album. Wow! Anyway, Tuesday sees the final meeting of 2009 of the committee but, of course, the work continues in 2010 with a very full programme of meetings and external events. We are already filling the agendas for January meetings. The work goes on. So that's this week's tenuous musical link.
Two oral presentations on Tuesday. The first will take the form of a round table discussion on two petitions relating to school bus safety. Taking part are petitioners Ron Beaty and Lynn Merrifield, along with Malcolm Bruce MP, Garth Goddard of the Yellow School Bus Commission, a representative from Aberdeenshire Council and Josh Kane MSYP who is the Convener of the Scottish Youth Parliament Transport, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee. Those following the committee will be aware of the past consideration it has given to these petitions, mainly around the issues of seat belts and improving safety signage on school buses.
The second oral presentation relates to George Scott's petition on Haemochromatosis (Iron Overload). There have been a number of health petitions before the committee in recent weeks (eg the last meeting petition on Low Dose Naltrexone). Two very interesting petitions. You can see all the petitions being considered next Tuesday on the agenda. I just hope the meeting doesn't last as long as the ELP album mentioned above! (me, Royal Albert Hall, circa 1995, ELP reunion concert - not 'alf!).
Will post an update after Tuesday's meeting.
All the best,
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Friday, 4 December 2009

Local public petitioning processes?

Interesting petition just posted up on our e-petition site which is calling for the introduction by local authorities of locally based public petitioning processes (perhaps modelled on the system we operate here in the Parliament?). This would allow people at a very local level to take forward petitions on more local issues and have them considered (as the national parliament, petitions here must have a national aspect to them).
Of course this was something which the committee looked at during its inquiry into the public petitions process (paras.178-185).
You can of course support this e-petition by simply adding your name online (easy peasy) or posting a comment up to the discussion forum. Looking to put this before the committee at its 26 January meeting.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC

Thursday, 3 December 2009


The Scottish Parliament was the first legislature in the world to accept e-petitions. A what I hear you ask! Basically, its a petition which we would host on our website which allows people (from all over the world) to go in, view it online, add their e-signature and enter into a discussion forum where they can, if they wish, put forward an opposing view to that set out by the petitioner. You can view our e-petition site here.
E-petitioning is often cited as a good example of e-democracy. Now that opens up an entire debate as to what e-democracy is which I am not going to go into here but we are proud of the opportunity which e-petitioning has provided to encourage and provide a further option for people to participate in the public petitions process as a democratic process. To give you some stats, around 3/4 of the petitions that come forward, the petitioner want to go up as an e-petition. Since 2000 when the first e-petition was hosted, there have been over 100,000 e-signatures and over 3,000 discussion comments. Site usage is over 1 million hits per month. Pretty impressive!
Of course, since then many other legislatures (and local authorities) have introduced e-petitioning systems - Queensland, Bundestag to name two of the big players in this field. E-petitioning has also enhanced the world profile of our public petitioning process here. However, the core of a petitioning process must be the scrutiny that is given to the petition itself, whether e or not. It is what the Parliament does with it. That is where the role of the PPC here is so crucial.
The reason for raising this issue is that we are now taking forward a project to revamp our e-petition site. We want to improve the appearance and functionality of it, introduce more modern technologies eg Web2.0 and offer more facilities to users which will allow us to share more information about the petition with them. Central to this project is ensuring we maintain ease of use for users. So, what would you like our new system to do? If there is a feature which you think the new system should have, let me know. At the end of the day, it must meet the needs of petitioners and the people who want to access e-petitions.
Fergus, Clerk to the PPC