Should Homeopathy and other forms of complementary and alternative medicine receive funding from the Scottish NHS?

PH: I would not support a blanket rule against anything and everything labelled
“complementary and alternative”. I would prefer to see all products and therapies held to a reasonable standard of evidence. I have little doubt that sugar pills would fail such a test, but the phrase “complementary and alternative” covers a much wider range.

2. Scotland has declared itself GMO free – do you welcome this or do you worry it could have an impact on our world class life sciences research?

PH: I welcome the GMO free stance, with particular reference to food production. I regard
GM crops as serving the private interests of corporations, rather than the public's common interests in sustainable agriculture.

3. What would you propose as a “Scottish Solution” for funding our universities? Should we take similar steps regarding fees as England and Wales? Should we introduce a graduate tax? How can we ensure that Scotland’s Universities continue to be world class?

PH: Graduates already pay tax. Progressive income tax would mean that the more a
person earns (whether as a result of their education or any other factor) the more they pay for the provision of public services and investment.

We remain fully committed to opposing tuition fees, which are turning HE south of the border into a market commodity, as well as opposing a special graduate tax. Unlike the other parties taking this position however, we are being clear about the need to raise taxation, as fairly and progressively as possible, to pay for Scotland’s HE institutions.

4. Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?

PH: No. Telling young people that creation myths or intelligent design are in any way
comparable to evolution would be the opposite of education.

5. Do you agree that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?

PH: It would be impossible to end all animal testing at present, and in the foreseeable
future. In that sense, it is currently necessary. However we should never stop trying to find ways to reduce the need for such testing. Most researchers share a concern for the welfare of the animals they experiment upon, and I would hope that this concern extends to a willingness to make every reasonable effort to reduce the number of animals involved.

6. Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counterintuitive? What steps should policy makers take to evaluate claims and seek evidence?

PH: Trust in scientific evidence, like trust in any source of knowledge or authority, is not
something which switches on and off like a lightbulb. It takes time to grow and to deepen. The evidence on climate change for example was very strong for years, even decades, before most politicians began to act. The degree to which any person will choose to trust evidence on a particular policy will always be conditioned by their attachment to that policy and by their views about the alternative policy options. It would be foolish to ignore this aspect of human nature.

Pilots, trials and legislative sunset clauses are all mechanisms by which politicians can try to gain evidence about the effectiveness of a policy. However it is also important to remember that political decisions are not mechanistic or based solely on objective facts. There are subjective judgements involved as well, and these are informed by a wide range of factors including economics, political ideology, emotions, and the desire to communicate social values.

Finally, it is often necessary to try new ideas out in the absence of evidence. Sometimes the imperative for new action is urgent, and policy changes are needed before the evidence can be gathered. “Evidence based policy making” is a compelling phrase, and we should all aim to make good use of the evidence which is available. But we should not allow attachment to such a phrase to become a barrier to making decisions where there is a want of evidence.

7. Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus?

PH: Scientific and medical consensus should inform the decisions made about abortion
time limits, but they are not the only factors which should inform those decisions. A commitment to respecting women's reproductive rights is also important, and this is a political stance rather than a scientific one. The freedom to choose whether and how to control one's own fertility is a principle which I remain strongly committed to.

8. Do you support gay adoption? Do you believe certain adoption agencies should be able to reject individuals based on sexuality?

PH: Yes to the first question, and no to the second. Adoption decisions should be made in
the best interests of the children involved, and putting prejudice against a whole category of people ahead of that principle is wrong.

9. Would you retain European Human Rights legislation or seek to replace it if elected?

PH: I am a strong supporter of human rights law, and while it should always be allowed to
evolve like other areas of law, I would absolutely oppose any attempts to abolish the Human Rights Act or to weaken our commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights.

10. What are your views on nuclear power and green energy?

PH: The opportunity which Scotland has to develop a truly sustainable energy system is
far too important to miss. With demand reduction, decentralised generation (and decentralised ownership), a mix of renewable technologies, a large increase in electrical storage, and a sub-sea HVDC supergrid connecting Europe, we can more than meet our own electrical and energy demand without relying on nuclear.

As in other areas, the objective must be to meet our needs from within our ecological “income”, as for far too long we have been living off the Earth's “capital”. This will mean bringing our demand down to the levels which can be met sustainably, rather than trying to cater for eternally-growing demand.

11. What public services would you retain/scrap in Scotland if elected?

PH: The major cut that we would support would be in the road-building programme, and
aviation subsidies. This money would be better spend on repairing and maintaining the road network we have, which has suffered badly from two harsh winters, and in improving and subsidising public transport which is presently unattractive or unavailable to many people. Support for the private sector has also been to open to abuse by multinationals; these funds would be better spent on small business and in keeping our local economies strong.

However these changes would be made for policy reasons, not in an attempt to hand on the UK Government's cuts to Scotland. We do not accept the view that Scotland must operate within a fixed budget; by empowering local councils to raise taxation either to service debt which they take on for investing in infrastructure, or to fund public services directly, we can close the gap between rich and poor as well as protecting the services which people in Scotland depend upon and value.

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