Latest on the College's policy engagement
12 August, 2020
Even during a pandemic and the shutdown of society, Scottish politics didn’t stop for a moment.
Polling on hypothetical referendums, major u-turns deciding a whole generation’s future and an assistant football referee taking up the leadership of Scotland’s main opposition party are just some of the headline-grabbing narratives ‘north of the border’. We are also seeing radical shifts in mental health policy pursued in days and weeks rather than months and years. It is to the credit of our membership we have been able every step of the way to mobilise their expertise to inform and influence these developments.
The business of instigating long-term and lasting change is still going on, though. Launched last year, the Scott Review, led by John Scott QC, has taken on the mile-wide remit of considering how to reform Scottish mental health law. It seeks to take in the furthered understanding of human rights since the main pieces of mental health legislation were passed in 2003 and tackle the gap between the letter of the law and the reality on the ground.
As psychiatrists are the chief profession responsible for implementing mental health law through providing care and treatment, it is no surprise the College in Scotland has prioritised this review.
Our overall aim has been to ensure the voice of psychiatry is represented in its recommendations. This includes proposing immediate changes, such as around guardianship rules, through to a longer-term fusing together of the various pieces of mental health law that exist. The latter would not only represent a significant and positive undertaking for the Scottish Parliament, but also further embed in our laws a forward-thinking, human rights-focused settlement for those with mental ill health.
Advocating for this during a pandemic has seen us virtually gather our Legislative Oversight and Trainee forums across Scotland, in cluttered offices, sun-lit conservatories and poorly ventilated bedrooms. Without having met anyone on these calls personally, we have spent much time in each other’s company.
As a result, the College developed an extensive response to the Review’s initial consultation that has enhanced our role as a credible and respected voice in its deliberations. This has been followed up by direct engagement with John Scott QC as we seek to map out how we can best inform his and the wider Review Group’s work.
As we look forward to engaging further with the Review as it progresses, it remains a case of keeping our eyes on the prize while ensuring we continue to represent our members across the daily changing picture of Scottish policy making.