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National Focus: Stories from Scotland

Scotland’s First Minister calls on the UK government to back a ceasefire in Gaza

In a speech to the Scottish Parliament on 24 October, First Minister Humza Yousaf called on the UK government to support a ceasefire in Gaza and to issue humanitarian aid “without delay”. On 2 November, Yousaf increased the total pledged support from the Scottish Government for displaced people in Gaza to £750,000, which the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s Flash Appeal plans to use to improve access to food, water, shelter, and medical supplies for affected Gazans.

“Too many mothers and fathers have lost their children, too many children have become orphaned, and that is why we need an immediate ceasefire”, the First Minister said. “I made this very point to the Prime Minister this afternoon when we spoke on the phone”.

Yousaf’s parents-in-law, Elizabeth and Maged El-Nakla, who are from Dundee, were visiting a sick friend in Gaza when Israel began to retaliate to Hamas’ taking of hostages on 7 October. Though the First Minister has since made contact with his family, he has learnt that, like many in Gaza, the El-Naklas lack safe drinking water.

Former Scottish National Party MSP, Ash Regan, defects to the Alba Party over independence

Ash Regan, former SNP minister, resigned from the party and announced her joining of the Alba Party on 28 October at its annual conference in Glasgow. Regan finished third in a contest to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as SNP leader behind Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf earlier this year.

“Sadly, it has become increasingly clear that the SNP has lost its focus on independence, the very foundation of its existence”, Regan said. “I am proud to become the first Alba member of the Scottish Parliament. I do this with a clear focus on reinvigorating the cause of independence”.

The Alba Party was founded in February 2021 with a platform of Scottish independence as an “immediate necessity”. Alba has also attracted a number of opponents of the SNP’s Gender Reform Act, which, subject to judicial review, would remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria for persons legally changing their gender in Scotland. Regan is among these opponents, calling a 1 November legal decision that upheld counting trans women among women in the gender balance of Scottish public boards “disappointing”.

Thousands of Scottish A&E patients wait 24 hours for treatment

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has reported that in the first half of 2023, 3,949 patients spent 24 hours or more in A&E, which is up from 15 in 2019. The RCEM has estimated that up to 500 patients died during the period because of overcrowding or long wait times in emergency departments. The figures were obtained by the RCEM through a Freedom of Information request to Public Health Scotland, which responded on 3 October.

“The system is stretched to beyond capacity. Nobody wants to be in this situation – not patients and certainly not clinicians. And this should not be blamed on the pandemic – it is symptomatic of a much wider issue”, said Dr John-Paul Loughrey, RCEM Vice President for Scotland.

Michael Matheson, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, warned that the country has “extremely challenging” winter ahead of it.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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