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partners, including, importantly, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, to develop an appropriate approach for each policy and proposal over the next few months.” She added that early warning signals


should be put in place on softer measures to make sure they could be strengthened or compensated for if they did not achieve what they were intended to do. The minister concluded by stating


that work on the next RPP would have to begin before the end of 2011 and a low carbon management system to help internal monitoring of practical action on emissions reductions was being developed. Labour’s environment spokesperson


Sarah Boyack criticised the Scottish Government’s progress on climate change, saying they had failed to publish essential strategies and take action on emissions quickly enough. She said: “What is missing, in


particular, is a sense of urgency and clear priorities, especially on transport. As there is little prospect of the EU signing up to the 30 per cent reduction target to which the minister referred—it has now published a 25 per cent target—what does the minister intend to do?” The minister criticised Labour’s


negativity, saying they had “nothing positive to contribute to the debate”. She responded to the question of EU targets by saying that they were a “contentious issue” and the RPP allowed room for manoeuvre if the EU did not get to 30 per cent, but Scotland along with countries such as Greece, Sweden and Portugal wanted the EU to back the higher target so did not want to “give away the argument” at this stage.


Certifi cation of Death (Scotland) Bill


16 March 2011 By Katie Mackintosh The Certifi cation of Death (Scotland) Bill provides us with a “proportionate and robust” approach to the scrutiny of death certifi cation, Public Health Minister Shona Robison said, adding that it will “lead to a modern Scottish death


64 Holyrood 28 March 2011


A complete round up of all forthcoming parliamentary business


Telephone 0131 272 2114 editor@holyrood.com


certifi cation system that is sensitive to bereaved families’ needs”. The legislation offers reassurance to the public, she said. “No death certifi cation system can guarantee to prevent criminal activity such as that which Harold Shipman carried out, but our proposals are robust and have been designed to deter malpractice and provide public reassurance. It is important that the new death certifi cation system will benefi t bereaved families, to whom we owe a duty to ensure that any new system will minimise distress, avoid undue delay to funerals and be affordable.” Nowadays, the majority of families opt for cremation, she pointed out. “Once the new system commences,


they will no longer have to pay cremation fees, which are currently £147 plus an additional fee for the medical referee. Instead, a universal fee of about £30 will be charged. In addition, individuals will for the fi rst time be empowered to request a review of the information in the certifi cate if they have concerns.” The emphasis of the new system is on improving the quality, she said. “I stress that, at the heart of the


future Scottish system, the emphasis will be on improving the quality of death certifi cation. To that purpose, the independent medical reviewers will undertake 1,000 random comprehensive reviews, as well as additional targeted reviews. Actions following those reviews will be part of a quality improvement programme, and will include direct feedback to the certifying doctors, further investigations of the case, links with clinical governance, and training and educational activities.” The role of the new national statistician will also be important, she stressed. “Regular statistical tests will be run


on all death data and any unusual results will be identifi ed and reported to the medical reviewers. Furthermore, following concerns expressed in the committee about deterrence and public reassurance, medical reviewers will also randomly scrutinise 25 per cent of all deaths—around 13,500 in all—by way of shorter level 1 reviews. That means that, when those deaths are combined with the number of cases that are reported to the procurator fi scal each year, around 50 per cent of deaths in Scotland will be subject to scrutiny. In other words, a doctor will have a 1


in 2 chance of their certifi cate being scrutinised.”


Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson said


the “major fl aw” with the Bill was the level of scrutiny. He said: “Originally, the Bill arose as a result of the Shipman case. Although the committee and the Government agreed that no system could ever have prevented someone as devious and psychopathic as Shipman from operating, public confi dence must be retained. As the Bill has gone through its stages, we have reached a point at which 50 per cent of death certifi cates will be scrutinised. That is a satisfactory move, but we will have to review and examine it in future. In England, a 100 per cent review rate has been adopted, but the costs of that are very much greater. We have a lower-cost system, but it has yet to be demonstrated that it will fully retain the confi dence of the public.” Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon also


expressed her uncertainty whether the Bill will lead to a more robust system than the current arrangements. “Although I remain unconvinced by


the Bill, I am a non-clinical member of the Health and Sport Committee. I am concerned, however, that the two highly experienced doctors on the committee also have reservations about it,” she said. The Bill has changed “radically” since it


was introduced, she said. “That demonstrates how poorly the


measures on certifi cation of death in the Bill as introduced refl ected 21st-century life, and it calls into question the extent to which the minister and the bill team took on board the written evidence that was submitted during the consultation,” she said.


She added that she trusts that the


reservations expressed throughout the Bill’s passage will be taken on board by the Government and whatever administration is tasked with issuing the guidance after the election in May.


Local Elections Administration (Scotland) Bill, Stage 3


16 March 2011 By Kerry Lorimer


Minister for Enterprise, Energy and


Tourism Jim Mather began the debate by setting out the two key purposes of the Bill: fi rst, to establish the electoral management board for Scotland on a statutory basis for its work in relation to Scottish local government elections; and second, to extend the Electoral Commission’s statutory remit to include local government elections in Scotland. “The Bill represents a further


step towards improving electoral administration and ensuring that the electoral system that is in place has, at its core, the clear objective of meeting the needs of the electorate,” he said. Michael McMahon (Lab) welcomed the Bill and noted that all political parties recognised the need for such legislation and agreed with it. “By passing the Bill, we will show that the Parliament can learn from past mistakes,” he said. But he expressed concern that the


same lessons had not been taken on board when the decision was taken to hold the AV referendum on the same day as elections to Holyrood. “It is with some regret that I express a wish that the current Westminster Tory coalition had not ignored the lessons that we have learned and decided to press ahead with its ill-advised referendum on the same day as the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election,” he said. “Let us hope that the arrogance of our UK Government does not cause us to have to address the aftermath of another electoral shambles in May. The lack of interest in the referendum may be the main reason why that will not happen.” But Alex Johnstone (Con) was


confi dent that the confusion that characterised the 2007 poll would not reoccur in May. “I believe that having three ballot papers on which electors are asked to mark a single X is not the same as the problem that we had whereby the differing electoral systems required an X on one paper and numbering of candidates on the other,” he said. “I have faith in the Scottish electorate and I believe that they will not experience diffi culties in the election that is about to happen.” Jim Tolson (LD) described the Bill


as “a welcome step in making the electoral arrangements for Scottish local authorities more robust”. However, a recent demonstration of the new counting equipment and software had


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