Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Updates from Holyrood

Alison writes a regular column for local newspapers in the North East to keep residents updated with the latest goings on at Holyrood, and on her work on important issues from around the region. Below you can find a recent column, along with links to those from previous months.

Deputising at First Minister's Questions

It was a privilege to deputise for Willie Rennie and lead the Scottish Liberal Democrats during First Minister's Questions last week.

I used the opportunity to question Alex Salmond on problems with the detention and treatment of young people needing emergency mental health care.

The Mental Welfare Commission has raised concerns that more children are being admitted to general hospital wards which don't specialise in the care they need. The organisation also found safeguards around their detention are not always obeyed.

The First Minister agreed this is a serious issue and said he would arrange for me to meet the Health Secretary to review these important procedures.

I will be standing in at First Minister's Questions again this week for what will be the penultimate session before Alex Salmond leaves the post.

NHS Grampian

People regularly tell me about the quality of the care they have received locally. However, NHS boards have been under enormous pressure and Grampian is no exception. This has caused growing concerns about its performance among both staff and patients.

The Chief Executive and Chairman of NHS Grampian recently announced they are stepping stepped aside. As well as steering the organisation through difficult times, their achievements include a transformation of dental services across the region and the Aberdeen Health and Care Village. But the challenges of increasing costs, growing demand for services and chronic underfunding by the Scottish Government have taken their toll.

NHS Grampian only met two of its eight waiting time targets last year. The number of patients with a delayed discharge increased. With our competitive local economy, the organisation has also had difficulty recruiting and retaining all levels of staff with almost 10 per cent of consultant posts currently vacant.

Just last week an impartial, independent report by Audit Scotland told it straight. It confirmed our healthboard was short-changed by £39.9 million in 2013/14.

Such a shortfall isn't sustainable or fair on patients in the North East. It only risks further undermining frontline services and jeopardising the chances of NHS Grampian meeting the government's own targets.

The Scottish Government must now deliver a fair budget to NHS Grampian and its staff to address these fundamental problems.

Revenge pornography

I recently called on the Scottish Government to help protect those Scots whose ex-partners publish explicit and intimate photographs of them without their permission. So-called revenge pornography is usually distributed online with the intent to distress, embarrass, manipulate or humiliate that person.

This growing problem has ruined lives, destroyed careers and caused untold psychological damage. It is important that victims understand that they have done nothing wrong and don't suffer in silence. I believe that introducing specific legislation to tackle these despicable and cowardly acts will give victims confidence that such violations of their privacy are unacceptable.

After the House of Lords backed new proposals that will make this a criminal offence in England and Wales, I lodged a motion in Parliament and wrote to the Justice Secretary calling on the Scottish Government to follow the lead of Liberal Democrats in government.

I am delighted that my call has since received cross-party support, the issue has received widespread media coverage and the Scottish Government has revealed it will bring forward legislation to tackle this crime.

My Holyrood Columns