John Mason

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John Mason is the Scottish National Party MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, having won the seat in the 2011 Scottish general election. He was a Westminster MP for Glasgow East from 2008 until 2010, when he lost the seat to Margaret Curran (Labour).

Skeptical Voter Questionnaire 2011

In April 2011, in the run-up to the Scottish Parliament general election, John Mason was sent a copy of the Skeptical Voter Survey Questions[1]. His response:

Thanks for the email.
Firstly I would agree that we should use evidence in decision making. The problem arises when there is evidence on each side of an argument. This is similar to court cases where each side produces evidence to support its argument. The challenge for the jury is which side to believe, i.e. which side has produced the more compelling evidence. Many issues are not clear cut.
Some of the issues you raise can be considered as moral issues. Speaking personally I seek to be guided by the Bible in making judgements on these issues. I do this because I am convinced by the evidence that the Bible is what it claims to be and is trustworthy as a guide to life. However, I accept that others do not see the same evidence as convincing. Probably that is not a discussion we have room for here!
Also affecting a number of questions is my desire for a pluralistic society. I want to see in Scotland a society where many different minorities (races, beliefs, ages, etc) are accepted and welcomed. It is easy to accept people we agree with. The challenge, if we want to have a tolerant society, is to accept and work with people we strongly disagree with. Therefore, despite following Christian teaching, I do not want to have a Christian dominated society just as I do not want any other group (including aggressive secularists) to impose its views on everyone else.
Schools are a good example of this within present SNP policy. Rather than having all schools the same, we have 'non-denominational' (broadly secular) schools and we have denominational (broadly Roman Catholic) schools. We could potentially have Jewish, Muslim, evangelical Christian, Steiner, and other types of schools. Thus families can choose the particular form of education they consider best suits them. This is the kind of equality I want.
1. Should Homeopathy and other forms of complimentary and alternative medicine receive funding from the Scottish NHS?
1. Homeopathy. This is not an area I have much experience or knowledge of but I would be supportive of such alternative medicines receiving public funding (for the reasons given above).
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?
2. GMO Free. I think we have to be wary of rushing into uncertain new technologies. We have a world class food and drinks industry whose reputation could be easy to damage and very hard to restore. An example of this was farmers feeding cattle recycled meat which was not natural food for cattle. This led to great damage to our meat exporting business. We should be patient and test new ideas fully before rushing to use them widely. It seems to me that such an approach ties in well with having world class life sciences research.
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?
3. Tuition Fees. We have suffered for centuries from some Scots looking at England and thinking the grass was always greener there. I would suggest this shows a lack of self-confidence on our part. My understanding is that within Europe most countries are moving away from charging tuition fees. I believe the majority of states in Germany have done away with fees. At a time of recession in particular, education is absolutely essential. If poorer students are excluded from university, then not only do they personally suffer, but we as a wider society and economy lose out on their potential skills. We have reassurances that the Scottish Government can cover the costs of the universities (who are tending to be very alarmist). So I would want funding, including re-introducing grants, to come from general taxation.
4. Should schools be allowed to teach creationism as an equivalent theory to evolution?
4. Creationism and Evolution. In an area like this where scientists take different views, I would expect the schools to tell pupils that there is this disagreement and teach what each side believes. I would also expect the individual teacher to be open about his or her beliefs. And I would expect that the large area of overlap in the middle would also be explained, i.e. that God created the world but took more than 6 days to do it. As a Christian I am relaxed about exactly how long God took on this; for me the important thing is that He created it all.
5. Do you agree that testing on animals (within strict criteria) is a necessary part of the development of medicines?
5. My presumption is against experimenting on animals and I have signed up to the BUAV code of practice. (I understand I was the first Scottish MP to do this.) However, I would not completely want to rule out testing on animals if there is really no alternative and human life and health is at stake.
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?
6. Policy makers should sit down and listen to the scientists on both sides of an argument. Even though I understand the vast majority of doctors and scientists supported the combined MMR vaccine, I would still want to hear the other side and how one side answered the other.
7. Do you think that abortion time limits should always be determined by the current scientific and medical consensus?
7. Abortion. I am not sure if there is scientific and medical consensus on abortion. Some scientists and doctors are for and some are against. I suppose the bottom line is when does human life start. If it is at conception, then almost all abortion is wrong. If it is at birth, then abortion is acceptable. If it is somewhere in between, then it is probably difficult to say when that is.
8. Do you support gay adoption? Do you believe certain adoption agencies should be able to reject individuals based on sexuality?
8. Gay Adoption. This is largely a Westmister reserved matter and it can be argued it is water under the bridge. As stated in my opening remarks and in reference to schools, I would support a pluralistic approach. By all means have many types of adoption agencies with different emphases and core values. I would not want to ban gay adoption nor would I want to enforce everyone to accept it.
9. Would you retain European Human rights legislation or seek to replace it if elected?
9. Human Rights. I am European and have more faith in the European Union than I do in the United Kingdom. I consider minorities, workers, and others are generally better protected in the EU than in the UK. However, all human rights legislation can be improved and I would want to help see it improved at Scottish, UK, and European levels.
10. What are your views on nuclear power and green energy?
10. Nuclear Power and Green Energy. Scotland has been incredibly fortunate in having first oil and now huge wind, wave, and tidal energy potential. As such I do not believe we need nuclear power. It continues to be dangerous (as seen in Japan) and no solutions have been found for waste disposal.
11. What public services would you retain/scrap in Scotland if elected?
11. Public services. I opposed the privatisation of gas, electricity, and rail and did not buy shares in any of these. Ideally, if funding permitted, I would want to see all such utilities back in public ownership. It seems to me absurd that there should be competition in electricity supply when it is the same electricity coming out of the same wire whoever claims to be the supplier. However, this may not be possible in the short term. I am opposed to privatisation of water or the post office.
I hope these comments are helpful.

Religion

Following the adverts bought by the Atheist Bus Campaign on public transport in January 2009, John Mason signed Early Day Motion 424 claiming that the rationale behind the adverts was that non-religious people can be less careful about their lifestyle choices and life's consequences[2].

Creationism

In January 2015 Mr Mason proposed Motion S4M-12149: Creationism and Evolution, which stated:

"That the Parliament notes that South Lanarkshire Council has issued guidance concerning the appointment and input of chaplains and religious organisations in schools; understands that some people believe that God created the world in six days, some people believe that God created the world over a longer period of time and some people believe that the world came about without anyone creating it; considers that none of these positions can be proved or disproved by science and all are valid beliefs for people to hold, and further considers that children in Scotland's schools should be aware of all of these different belief systems."[3]

In February 2015 Mr Mason was asked on Twitter if he believed creationism should be taught in science classes at school. Mr Mason replied "I think science is better sticking to what exists. How and why things came about is probably better not included in science."[4]

See also Mr Mason's answer to question 4 above.

Abortion

In October 2015, Mr Mason proposed Motion S4M-14542: Devolution of Abortion Law, which stated:

"That the Parliament notes the stated intention of the Secretary of State for Scotland to amend the Scotland Bill to achieve the devolution of abortion law; recognises what it considers the fundamental rights of babies to be protected both before and after birth as well as the importance of women's sexual and reproductive rights, and commits to achieving a proper balance between these respective rights."[5]

See also Mr Mason's answer to question 7 above.

Same-Sex Marriage

In August 2011, John Mason put forward Motion S4M-00586: The Equal Marriage Debate to the Scottish Parliament:

"That the Parliament notes the current discussion about same-sex marriages and the Scottish Government’s forthcoming public consultation concerning equal marriage; further notes that, while some in society approve of same-sex sexual relationships, others do not agree with them; desires that Scotland should be a pluralistic society where all minorities can live together in peace and mutual tolerance; believes that free speech is a fundamental right and that even when there is disagreement with another person’s views, that person has the right to express these views, and considers that no person or organisation should be forced to be involved in or to approve of same-sex marriages."[6]

Mr Mason's purpose in proposing the motion is unclear as there do not seem to be any groups advocating forcing non-governmental organisations such as churches "to be involved in or to approve of same-sex marriage". However, a possible legal consequence of the motion might be that, e.g. a government-employed registrar could refuse to marry a gay couple (would need a lawyer to confirm/deny that possibility).

The motion received little support and not a little criticism from other politicians[7].

MMR Vaccine

John Mason signed the February 2009 Early Day Motion 754: MMR Vaccine and the Media supporting the use of the MMR vaccine. The motion expressed disappointment with the reporting of the vaccine by Jeni Barnett on her LBC radio show in January 2009, and expressed the hope that future reporting of the issue of MMR would be less sensationalist and more evidence-based.[8]

References

  1. http://www.thetwentyfirstfloor.com/?p=1910
  2. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2008-09/424
  3. http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S4M-12149
  4. https://twitter.com/JohnMasonMSP/status/562020229837230081
  5. http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?SearchType=Advance&ReferenceNumbers=S4M-14542&ResultsPerPage=10
  6. http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/28877.aspx?referencenumber=S4M-00586&isinanything=true&resultsperpage=10
  7. http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-politics/2900-snp-and-opposition-msps-condemn-john-masons-motion-against-gay-marriage.html
  8. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2008-09/754

External Links


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