Alison Johnstone

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Alison Johnstone is a Scottish Green Party MSP the Lothian region. She was previously councillor for Meadows/Morningside.

Genetically Modified Crops

August 2015:

Bee Populations and Pesticides


Skeptical Voter Questionnaire 2011

In March 2011, in the run-up to the Scottish Parliament general election, Alison Johnstone was sent a copy of the Skeptical Voter Survey Questions[1]. A Scottish Green Party representative sent the following response "on behalf of the SGP candidates in Lothians":

I'm volunteering for the party to help deal with the vast amounts of similar mail that come in during the election, as candidates simply don't have time to deal with it all individually.
Apologies for taking some time to reply, your questions were quite extensive and touched on some potentially contentious issues of exact policy, so I've been taking advice and looking into exactly what our position is on some of them to ensure an accurate reply. What is attached is based on current party policy.
It is worth noting that policy is always subject to change and discussion - for example your very first question is regarding Homeopathy. I have answered this based on policy as it currently exists as agreed by the party conference, but feel the need to point out informally that a policy motion was on the agenda of our last Conference which would quite markedly change and clarify this position - and was unfortunately not discussed due to lack of time. It is intended to re-submit it this year. However I cannot of course anticipate the result of that debate, the motion may not pass, of course, so must answer based on current policy!
1. Should Homeopathy and other forms of complimentary and alternative medicine receive funding from the Scottish NHS?
This is a hard one to just give a simple answer to, since it is the subject of some contention. Current SGP policy lists homeopathy as an example in a list of other types of healthcare provision which should be delivered through local community-based health services. We also have a clause which makes a general statement that we view healthcare in a broad sense, incorporating both conventional and "complementary" methods. However our policy does NOT state a view as to the efficacy or otherwise of that or any other form of treatment, and it is debateable if the wording we do have is really intended to be read as actual "support" for homeopathy being paid for by the NHS. The wording is not very specific on that point.
Based on my own personal experience within the SGP, I would say that it would be in keeping with general principles within and behind SGP policy that treatments which have been demonstrated to have genuine benefits (medical, emotional, psychological) for patients should receive funding, within the bounds of most efficient use of available resources - and that the determination of benefit should be a matter for appropriately vetted and scrutinised medical assessment and scientific method. Where treatments have been demonstrated to be without any benefit, or without sufficient benefit to warrant inclusion as an option for patients, this principle implies that they should not be NHS funded.
However - as I have said our policy does currently list homeopathy as an example among many of a type of healthcare service that should be available. So if absolutely pressed, therefore, I would probably have to say "Yes" to the question but feel that a simple "yes" may be an exaggeration of our true position on this issue. I apologise, as I am sure you were looking for a simple and direct answer on this one but I hope you understand my taking the time to write so many words in response instead.
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?
The SGP recognises that some methods of genetic modification may be useful and benign, and support the use of GM techniques "for appropriate medical applications" (a good example being the medical production of insulin) - but are opposed to the patenting of living matter and naturally occurring genomes and have concerns about the social control issues and economic implications of increasing monoculture and dependance on large corporations for farming. We therefore welcome Scotland's status as a means to further much needed debate in this area.
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 Scotlands Universities continue to be world class?
The SGP is opposed to tuition fees in any form for first degrees at university for all EU domiciled students. We would fund university education through progressive taxation. In the context of a devolved Scotland this may involve reducing spending on projects such as road expansion and an unnecessary additional Forth Road Bridge in favour of increasing funding to further and higher education, among other things.
4. Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?
No. Creationism is a religious belief, rather than a scientific position and should therefore not be taught as such. The SGP is clearly opposed to state-funded religious schooling as a matter of policy, and therefore against the teaching of creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution in schools that are state-funded. Teaching pupils *about the existence of* creationism as a religious belief as part of a class on comparative religious education would be acceptable, mixing religion in with science would not.
5. Do you agree that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?
No. Current SGP policy is to work towards ending animal testing and research into xeno-transplantation. We believe that current legal frameworks result in a requirement for a great deal of unnecessary and scientifically unhelpful animal testing. We would re-examine such legal requirements and instead favour greater reliance on more modern, scientifically robust and humane methods (such as human body simulation and in-vitro testing).
6. Should policy-makers trust scientific evidence even when it appears counter-intuitive? What steps should policy makers take to evaluate claims and seek evidence?
It is the nature of science that evidence can sometimes be superceded or refuted. While this should not be used as licence to ignore it, we must take care to ensure that scientific evidenced is held to a high standard, is not biased or influenced by those with vested interests in the results, and subject to appropriate scrutiny and critical assessment. If the best available evidence was demonstrably produced using methods that meet a high standard of proper scientific method, free of influence and backed by independently assessed and reproduced evidence, then it should be accepted. What is made of that evidence, and what moral assessments are made thereafter are a separate question.
7. Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus?
The SGP does not currently support any changes being made to current (2007) law on abortion time limits. We accept that there are many factors at question in deciding where those limits should be, and these cannot ever be fully limited to scientific and medical discussions due to the issues involved which are a matter of a moral/ethical position. However we strongly support the right for individuals to control their own fertility.
8. Do you support gay adoption? Do you believe certain adoption agencies should be able to reject individuals based on sexuality?
The SGP believes it is always unacceptable to reject applicants for adoption based on their sexual orientation.
9. Would you retain European Human rights legislation or seek to replace it if elected?
The SGP would retain existing EU Human Rights legislation. It would be unwise to rule out any future amendments of any kind, but the SGP would not seek to 'replace' the current legislation as the question implies.
10. What are your views on nuclear power and green energy?
The SGP believes that present available forms of Nuclear Power should be phased out as quickly and safely as practically possible, and that they represent an unsustainable form of energy production resulting in serious long-term pollution concerns. We support rapid shifts to the use of green energy, coupled with a reduction in energy use to more sustainable levels. This is particularly attractive in Scotland where we have abundant options for green energy generation that could meet our needs many times over.
11. What public services would you retain/scrap in Scotland if elected?
This is a very large question, and a simple answer will unavoidably miss out a lot of the fine detail and be overly general.
The SGP believes that reducing public services is not an answer to economic difficulty, and in fact investing further in public services can be a way to increase long-term economic stability, as well as social justice, health and well-being. Some public services may be in need of improved efficiency or better ways of working - for example we support the phasing out of much of the overly complex and inefficient benefits system in favour of a system of Universal Citizens Income. We believe that taxes should be increased for those most able to pay (high earners, large corporations and by closing tax loopholes) in order to pay for the retention and improvement of public services.
I hope this is helpful, and again apologise for the length of time it took to respond.
Phyl Meyer
Communications Volunteer
Scottish Green Party Lothians Region campaign
on behalf of the SGP candidates in Lothians



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