When our three children were young I remember them discussing the nature of crosswords – along the lines of: Why is mum so interested in cross words? Why would they (ie Mum and Dad) be so interested in angry words? Indeed. Discuss.
I was thinking about cross (ie angry) words myself last week during a visit to the Scottish Parliament – a place where we tend to hear cross words more often than not in exchanges between all the political parties. At question time, our First Minister is often heard loudly berating the failings of the other parties (rather than answering the question asked of him), while he in turn has been scorned as being “as straight as a corkscrew” or referred to as “Pinocchio” by the leader of the main opposition party. At a time when the turnout at elections is lower than it should be, I often wonder if our tribunes ask themselves whether this sort of exchange is likely to switch on young people and others to our democratic institutions.
At any rate, I was there to attend a Cross Party Group – in this case “cross” in the sense of “across” – on heart disease and stroke. I do not know how many national parliaments have such things as cross party groups in existence, but it is one of the better features of our Scottish parliament that such groups exist to promote discussion of particular interests and causes. The cross party groups (CPGs) have no powers, but they are there as a forum to allow our MSPs to meet with charities, other organisations and individuals who have a particular interest or expertise in specific areas of health, education and so on. Here is a link to the current Scottish Parliament CPGs,
CPGs can do no harm; they allow politicians of opposing parties to hear measured views from professionals and others with a real knowledge a specific topic; above all they make possible informed intelligent discussion of important issues of the day away from the febrile atmosphere of the main debating chamber. Why, who knows, they may even lead to better policy making and decisions in the future.
The CPG on Heart Disease and Stroke is admirably and sensitively chaired by Helen Eadie, the Labour MSP for Cowdenbeath, and is regularly attended by MSPs from all parties. My own small role at last Wednesday’s meeting was to represent the Stroke Association and to report back jointly with a consultant physiotherapist to the CPG on work a sub-group had been doing on a charter for stroke survivors. This charter spells out in straightforward terms what we can expect in the way of rehabilitation and support from the NHS and social care services in Scotland on discharge from hospital. The discussion at the meeting around this charter was so positive that we are hopeful it may lead to some real change.
At the very least it should lead to a better understanding of what is provided for stroke survivors and what they are entitled to expect. Watch this space for further developments.