As-it-happened: First Minister's Questions on Thursday, 6 December

Key Points

  • First Minister Alex Salmond answered questions from opposition party leaders and backbenchers in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament.
  • The weekly Q&A took place the day after Chancellor George Osborne confirmed Holyrood would receive an extra £331m in capital spending.
  • Questions were dominated by health issues, in particular the issue of funding specialist cancer drugs for NHS patients north of the border.

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  1.  
    1135:

    Hello and welcome to our weekly coverage of First Minister's Questions with Alex Salmond; opposition leader and backbenchers.

     
  2.  
    Analysis Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

    "It is, apparently, still autumn. This thought will undoubtedly console Scots commuters as they dig out their cars from the snow tomorrow or dust down their wellies for the trudge to the bus stop..... Read more from my blog."

     
  3.  
    1147:
  4.  
    Information
    Willie Rennie, Ruth Davidson, Johann Lamont and Alex Salmond will hold talks Willie Rennie, Ruth Davidson, Johann Lamont and Alex Salmond will hold talks

    Following FMQs today, First Minister Alex Salmond will meet opposition party leaders to discuss the way forward on press regulation. The summit follows publication of the Leveson Inquiry findings into newspaper ethics and standards. Lord Justice Leveson carried out his nine-month investigation in light of the phone hacking scandal. The main party leaders will also be joined by Greens Party leader Patrick Harvie.

     
  5.  

    To follow the debate online, use Twitter #FMQ

     
  6.  

    @WingsScotland tweets: Almost #FMQ time. Looking forward to party activists posting lots of considered, impartial, thoughtful reactions to events.

     
  7.  
    1155:

    Labour's John Park, who is standing down as an MSP on Friday, should have gotten a ticking off from Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick for not properly submitting a parliamentary question, but she says: "On today of all days, I'm not going to give him a row."

     
  8.  
    1159:

    The Lords economic committee has published that EU letter on its website.

     
  9.  
    Information

    Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement in the Commons yesterday. He announced an extra real spend for Holyrood of £331m. Finance Secretary John Swinney said he was ready to spend that money on "shovel ready projects".

     
  10.  
    1202:
    Alex Salmond

    First Minister Alex Salmond (FM) says he'll be speaking with a company which is bringing new jobs to West Lothian. He also pays tribute to John Park and suggests Celtic manager Neil Lennon is on his way to "becoming a legend" after reaching the last 16 of the Champions League.

     
  11.  
    1202:

    Labour's Johann Lamont begins her questioning. She says she welcomes the FM's comments on jobs, John Park's leaving of Holyrood and congratulations to Celtic. She asks the FM why cancer patients in Scotland don't get the best access to drugs?

     
  12.  
    1203:

    FM says the process in Scotland for drug access is "robust" and people should continue to have confidence in it.

     
  13.  

    @RobGirvan tweets: Pretty good #fmq so far. Substance being debated here.

     
  14.  
    1203:
    Johann Lamont

    Ms Lamont says she was not asking the FM about what happens elsewhere. There is a postcode lottery in Scotland, she adds. She goes on: "We spoke to Ian Morrison, 56, today who spends £1,700 a fortnight for the drugs he hopes will extend his life, part of that is an admin charge on the drugs he is not being given free." She asks: "Is that right?"

     
  15.  
    1207:

    FM says people should always look for ways to improve the system and the work of the Scottish Medicines Consortium, but says this process has been supported by all the parties.

     
  16.  

    @mrjamesmack tweets: If Labour want to take away my free hayfever pills let them tell me to my snotty red-eyed face. #fmq

     
  17.  
    1208:

    The Scottish government has launched a review over drug access concerns and the Scottish Parliament's health committee is also investigating the issue.

     
  18.  
    1207:

    Ms Lamont says what she is saying is there is a postcode lottery in Scotland. "The FM's response is what we have got is very good," says Ms Lamont. Will he confront this major problem, she asks? She goes on to illustrate the inequalities within Scotland and the ability of those middle-class, articulate patients being in a better position to get better treatment than those in poor communities.

     
  19.  
    1210:

    FM says the health committee has heard concerns about the cancer drug fund south of the border. Mr Salmond says the system in Scotland is not perfect, but that's why a review is being held.

     
  20.  

    @Cirein_Croin tweets: A far better calibre of questions and answers this week. No posturing or backbench jeering. #FMQ #FMQs

     
  21.  
    1210:

    Ms Lamont believes the review needs to be broader. Cancer specialists don't want to work here, she insists. Doctors cannot prescribe the latest drugs, she adds. "Will the FM be honest with patients and doctors and confront the reality that this is about the choices he has made and his priorities for spending in the NHS?" she asks.

     
  22.  

    @cowrin tweets: The NHS will always be underfunded, no matter how much money you throw at it #fmq

     
  23.  
    1215:

    FM says Ms Lamont should accept that cancer treatment in Scotland gets significant resources. He again says that Scottish Medicines Consortium procedures are "robust", but there are areas which can be improved such as access to new, experimental drugs.

     
  24.  

    @euanmccolm tweets: johann #lamont's best #fmqs for a long time. well briefed on a serious issue. #salmond wisely playing gently in response.

     
  25.  
    1214:
    Ruth Davidson

    Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader, continues with the Scottish cancer drugs fund issue. The fund might not be "perfect", she says, but it is a solution to getting better treatment, she adds. "I have raised this issue with this FM," Ms Davidson says. Does he know the routine drugs which have been denied Scottish patients, she asks.

     
  26.  
    1217:

    The FM says he's seen a number of drugs available in England which can only be obtained in Scotland through individual requests, but adds that the opposite is also true. Mr Salmond again says the suggestion that a cancer drugs fund "is the solution" is not backed up by the evidence.

     
  27.  

    @PeatWorrier tweets: Curious. Ruth and Johann end up talking about the same topic again at #fmq. Bit of a run of things...

     
  28.  
    1217:

    Ms Davidson says she has information that she is happy to lodge in Spice on the issue. She adds that more than 23,000 cancer patients in England have had their lives continued. She lists the kidney cancer, breast cancer and non-Hodgkinson Lymphoma drugs which are not available to Scots patients.

     
  29.  
    1220:

    The FM is going over old ground now, saying Ms Davidson needs to recognise that there's been a lot of criticism of the cancer drugs fund and says the Scottish Medicines Consortium process is "well regarded". He says people in Scotland are getting better cancer treatment than ever before.

     
  30.  

    @cowrin tweets: Ok, the English get all these cancer drugs. But we've got Tunnock's Teacakes #fmq

     
  31.  
    1221:

    Ten minutes left of FMQs and backbench questions starting now.

     
  32.  
    1220:
    Liam McArthur

    Liam McArthur, on the RMT ballot of Orkney and Shetland island ferry workers and the threat of industrial action during the Christmas period. Can the FM ensure that the disruption does not happen?

     
  33.  
    1222:

    The FM says the government is concerned about disruption to lifeline ferry services.

     
  34.  
    1221:

    Bruce Crawford on the Remploy factory closures. The workers in these factories have been badly let down by the UK government on this matter. Does the FM agree, he asks.

     
  35.  
    1222:

    FM says the attitude to Remploy workers is "poor" and reflects badly on the UK government.

     
  36.  

    @stephenflynn88 tweets: Still no mention of companies charging heinous prices for drugs which could extend lives. WTO has done nothing to alter this status quo #fmq

     
  37.  
    1222:

    Drew Smith on the Glasgow IVF unit which has had to make alternative arrangements following conception problems. What guarantees can he give on the matter, he asks?

     
  38.  
    1224:

    Green leader Patrick Harvie asks about the consequences of the chancellor's Autumn Statement.

     
  39.  
    1224:

    FM says the Treasury's own analysis shows households will be worse off next year as a result of the mini-budget announced on Wednesday.

     
  40.  
    1224:

    Mr Harvie says the UK government has failed and instead of changing track, the chancellor has taken from the pockets of the poorest. Should corporation tax rates not be the way forward, he asks?

     
  41.  
    1226:

    The FM says tax policies should increase wealth in communities and equitable distribution of that wealth.

     
  42.  
    1226:

    Jim Eadie asks the First Minister what steps the Scottish government is taking to ensure that the transport network is prepared for winter.

     
  43.  
    1227:

    The FM says he can't control the weather, but there's been a great deal of planning for bad conditions, including a new "ice-buster" train and other new equipment.

     
  44.  

    @AddictedtoTweed tweets: I think that politicians are playing a very dangerous game as they prioritise cancer treatment over other general health giving drugs #FMQ

     
  45.  
    1227:

    Mr Eadie accepts the FM does not control the weather, but can asks can he ensure that all the agencies work together to make sure that people travelling by foot and bike in bad weather can keep safe.

     
  46.  
    1228:

    FM says key footways on the trunk road network are treated and the public is also encouraged to play a part in that too.

     
  47.  
    1228:
    Mary Scanlon

    Mary Scanlon on the recent Supreme Court ruling relating to the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.

     
  48.  

    @andywightman tweets: First Minister says we have an "Ice buster train" Where is it? How much are tickets? Where does it go? #fmq

     
  49.  
    1229:

    The FM said the government is currently considering the ruling.

     
  50.  
    1231:

    Richard Simpson asks the First Minister what the maximum time is that a patient has waited beyond the cancer waiting times targets in 2012. The targets dictate that patients urgently referred to hospital with suspected cancer should be seen within 62 days, and treatment should start for all those who require it within 31 days of the decision to give them therapy.

     
  51.  
    1232:

    The FM says the target has not always been met, which is "unacceptable", but says the vast majority of patients are seen within the target time.

     
  52.  
    1234:

    FM says he'll look at the specific issue Mr Simpson has raised. Mr Salmond says compliance with the target is at 95%.

     
  53.  
    1232:

    Mr Simpson - who is a doctor himself - says that annually 600 Scots are not being treated for cancer in the 62-day target. Colorectal cancer patients are a particular areas for focus, he adds.

     
  54.  
    1234:

    FM says "we should aspire to 100%" of patients being seen within the target time.

     
  55.  
    1236:

    Tricia Marwick says there's been an incident in the public gallery and an ambulance has been called. Someone has taken ill and Labour MSP Richard Simpson, who is a doctor, went to help and got to ask his question later.

     
  56.  
    1236:

    So there were no questions on the EU then. FMQs was very health-orientated today.

     
  57.  

    @dhothersall tweets: Ah. Explanation of reordering of questions there. Dr Richard Simpson was called to medical incident in the gallery. Hope person is OK. #fmq

     
  58.  
    1239:

    That's it for FMQs this week. Join us again, same time same place, next Thursday. To keep abreast with all things Scottish politics, bookmark our Scottish Politics webpage.

     

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