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Archives for September 2009

Does Gordon Brown deserve another chance?

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Graham Stewart | 10:06 UK time, Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Gordon Brown at 2009 conferenceAs he rallied the party conference with a string of new policies yesterday, the Prime Minister insisted Labour's "not done yet". But with dire poll ratings and The Sun newspaper withdrawing its support, has Labour lost it?

Gordon Brown pledged that Labour would "change the world again" and said voters at the general election, due to be held by next June, would have the "biggest choice for a generation".

However, The Sun's front page headline this morning claims "Labour's Lost It", although interestingly while the London edition is backing David Cameron's Conservatives, the editor of the Scottish Sun has said he is "yet to be convinced" that the Tories are the best party for Scotland.

What do you think about Gordon Brown, the newspapers and how it's all going to play here in Scotland? Leave your comments here.

Overprotecting our kids?

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Graham Stewart | 10:03 UK time, Monday, 28 September 2009


Leanne Shepherd

Is the state interfering too much in how we look after our kids?

Two police officers in England were told they'd broken the law by babysitting each other's children when they were working shifts. Ofsted said the recipricol arrangement contravened the Childcare Act because it lasted for longer than two hours a day, and constituted receiving "a reward". As a result, it said the women would have to be registered as childminders.

The Chief Executive of the Scottish Childminding Association, Maggie Simpson, told us on today's Morning Extra that the same thing could technically happen in Scotland. The piece of legislation may be different, but the definition of childcare is much the same. The main difference here is that the Care Commission regulates childminding rather than Ofsted.

The bottom line is that it's illegal for an unregistered person to look after children under 16 for "reward". However, reward isn't just a case of money changing hands. The supply of services or goods and, in some circumstances, reciprocal arrangements can also constitute reward. And it's the interpretation of "reward" that's precisely at issue in the English case, which Ofsted and the UK government are currently looking at.

What is clear is that people do not need to register if they are a close relative of the child (grandparents, siblings, aunts or uncles), or if they are working in the child's own home. Also, if the care is for less than two hours or it takes place on less than 14 days in a year, you are exempt. It's only where such arrangements are regular and for longer periods, then registration is usually required.

Many of you who look after children called and texted the programme with concerns and questions about whether you might fall foul of the law. Below, I've found answers to some of your questions and provided you with contacts of the organisations which can best advise you.

Scottish Childminding Association: 01786 445377 (10am to 4pm every Mon-Fri)
The Care Commission: 0845 603 0890

Your questions answered
Many of you texted the programme today with queries. I've asked those 'in the know' and these are the answers I got:

Q: My daughter is paid to babysit for one of your colleagues Graham. Is this wrong? (Joanni in Portsoy)
A: No, not if she's babysitting/nannying in the child's own home. This is considered to be the parent's responsiblity and it's fine for money to change hands without being registered.

Q: What happens if a kid goes on holiday with their pal and their pal's parents? (Graeme in Fife)
A: That's fine, although you could say there's a "reward" to the child involved here, there's no "reward" to the parent as such.

Q: So u can't host a kids party or take a group of friends kids to the beach, the cinema or a day out to a theme park?
A: Again that's fine, it's also a one-off event, not a regular arrangement.

Q: What will happen with pals having sleepovers? (mgt in Dornoch)
A: Sleepovers are fine as there's no "reward" involved.

Do small class sizes matter?

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Graham Stewart | 11:06 UK time, Wednesday, 23 September 2009


The Scottish Government wants to cap primary one classes at 25 pupils, but should it be a priority? Are you a parent or teacher? Do limits improve a child's education? Or does a good school count for more?

Do the Scots have a special bond with America?

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Graham Stewart | 09:03 UK time, Tuesday, 22 September 2009


As far as the US government's concerned, the love affair's back on. They say they don't want to punish Scotland over the Lockerbie bomber's release. But what of the American people.. and our business ties over there? Has any lasting damage been done?

If you've just returned from holiday, or you do business there, what kind of reaction do you get when you tell them you're a Scot?

Call me now on 0500 92 95 00.

Misdiagnosis NHS

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Graham Stewart | 09:17 UK time, Monday, 21 September 2009


On today's Morning Extra we're hearing the stories of patients who've suffered for years -- or even died -- because doctors mis-diagnosed their illnesses.

Experts have confirmed to the BBC that the current rate of misdiagnosis for all consultations is probably around 15 per cent -- that's one in six of patients walking through hospital or GPs' doors. Annually, that amounts to around 3m consultations in Scotland alone that result in a misdiagnosis. Although not all of those will end in harm to the patient, nobody knows how many actually do, because nobody records misdiagnosis, even if they have led to serious harm.

Action against Medical Accidents - 0845 1232352
Epilepsy Scotland - 0808 800 2200
Adam Bell Foundation (diabetes)

What to do about careless driving?

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Graham Stewart | 10:04 UK time, Thursday, 17 September 2009


Have we now got the right penalties for bad driving? New legislation's been used for the first time in Scotland to jail a woman for 'careless' driving. Is prison the only way to get the message through? Or are we unfairly punishing people for what's often just a lapse of concentration?

Do people on benefits deserve more help?

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Graham Stewart | 10:06 UK time, Wednesday, 16 September 2009


It's often been said that there's a financial disincentive to taking a job compared with a life on benefits.

That conclusion's backed by a report out today from an independent think tank set up by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith. The Centre for Social Justice says we need to scrap the system that makes it possible to earn more on benefits than you can in work. It says spending more than £3.7bn to subsidise those on low wages in the UK would make work pay for more people.

Would that be money well spent? Should the taxpayer bear the burden, or should more pressure be put on low-paying employers? And do you think there should be more compulsion placed on the unemployed to take any job -- no matter the financial cost?

What sacrifices should be made in the Scottish budget?

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Graham Stewart | 10:12 UK time, Monday, 14 September 2009


What sacrifices are you prepared to make to help out the public finances?

The Scottish Finance Secretary, John Swinney, says he's confident that council taxpayers in Scotland will see their bills frozen for a third successive year despite the growing pressures on the Holyrood budget.

But should he rethink this policy if it were to safeguard jobs? Or is it long before time the public sector made the kind of efficiency savings the private sector's had to recently?

What's your experience of property factors?

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Graham Stewart | 09:05 UK time, Friday, 11 September 2009


Property factors are rarely people's favourite professionals, but 800,000 Scottish households rely on them to manage their homes. Earlier this year the industry was heavily criticised by an Office of Fair Trading investigation, which found that one in five people were not satisfied with the level of service they received.

Now, a BBC Scotland investigation into one such company -- Glasgow firm Walker Sandford Property Management -- has revealed allegations of clients being bullied into paying excessive penalty charges, running to thousands of pounds.

We heard some of your stories on today's Morning Extra. You can also post your stories here. And if you want to contact our Investigations Correspondent Mark Daly with a story about factors, or indeed anything else, you can contact him at his email address.

Wha's like us?

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Graham Stewart | 10:03 UK time, Thursday, 10 September 2009


George Burley
Scotland's world cup dream is over, we've fought and lost a battle with a multinational drinks company, and there's evidence that our education system is far from the best in the world. Is it better to have high expectations dashed, or do the Scots need to take a reality check?

That was the subject of today's Morning Extra... continue the debate here!

The Investigation: Rape crimes

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Graham Stewart | 08:17 UK time, Monday, 7 September 2009


On today's Morning Extra Investigation, we examine the question of
why Scotland's rape conviction rate is so low? Will changes in laws and investigation methods, brought in over the last 3 years, make any
positive difference?

Our programme hears from victims: 'Sarah' who was raped in the 1990s,
who gave evidence, yet didn't see her attacker jailed; Jeane Dearie, a
former Special Constable, who was violently raped by a fellow cop Adam
Carruthers, and who finally saw him sentenced - but not before
considering suicide herself; and Linda Armstrong, mother of rape victim
Lyndsey Armstrong, who was raped on 7th sept (8 years ago today) 2001
by a fellow teenager in new Cumnock. He was later sentenced but
tragically Lyndsey killed herself 3 weeks after a trial which saw her
being asked to hold up her underwear in court.

We also talk to Prof Fiona Raiit, from Dundee University, and ask why
the new Sexual Offences Act, passed this summer and coming into effect
from Jan 2010, was needed and what impact it will have? We hear from
solicitor/advocate John Scott, who has defended many clients accused of
rape, and hear his thoughts on whether such a law was needed (he
doesn't think so) and his response to key changes it ushers in.

These changes include:

- Definition of rape (this is widened: not just about a penis entering
a vagina and involving a man and woman; now men are included and rape
can also mean insertion of foreign objects etc; and it can mean
insertion of penis into other orifices etc).

- Consent is changed: It used be left to a judge and lawyers to
explain what it meant: now it's written in law as 'free agreement'.

- For a rape, or other sexual offence to be committed, consent must
exist and the person accused of committing the offence, must have
'reasonable belief' that they had such consent if they are denying the
rape/offence occured.

Corroboration is required in Scotland - and this remains a possible
roadblock to higher conviction rates.

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