Tag Archives: emma walker

“Those bloody Liberal Democrats are in town”

The main hall in the Town House in the South Lanarkshire Town of Hamilton was the room where it happened this weekend (see what I did there?). The song from the musical Hamilton tells us to “Talk less, smile more” but there was actually a lot of both this weekend as Scottish Liberal Democrats gathered for Conference.

I have to admit, I was sceptical about this new venue and the hour I spent dragging my suitcase round empty streets in the dark on Thursday night trying to find the hotel did not improve my mood.

One of our number overhead in the ASDA across the road from the conference hotel “Those bloody Liberal Democrats are in town this weekend.”

However, the Town House is a lovely building, even more so when lit up purple by LGBT Youth Scotland for Purple Friday, the last Friday of LGBT History Month. The staff there and in the Town House were so  friendly and helpful.

We had some intense debates over the weekend. I actually ended up making five speeches, which is unheard of. I had planned to do three – I was proposing a motion on providing better housing support for victims of domestic abuse, summating the Scottish Young Liberals’ motion on trans rights and I’d hoped to be called in the debate on sex work.

I ended up also speaking about the problems people face with housing and the social security system when they leave prison and proposing the constitutional amendment which would allow the implementation of the new disciplinary process in Scotland.

The latter struck true terror into my heart. It meant going up against Scotland’s wonderful constitutional guru, John Lawrie who had concerns that we were giving too much power to the Federal Party. Actually, Sheila had cannily drafted the amendment so that we retain the power and delegate the functions so covering all our bases.

As persistent troublemaker (in the best possible way) Richard Coxon said in his speech, two inalienable truths of the Scottish Party are that Sheila Ritchie (the convener who wrote the amendment) is always right. And John Lawrie is always right. The party dealt with the conflict in Sheila’s favour this time.

One of my best highlights was the look of utter surprise and mild irritation on Sheila’s face when she won the Scottish Lib Dem Women’s award for the person who had done most to advance diversity. She has become a real driving force for the implementation of the Alderdice Review, showing local parties how to engage more with BAME people and get them involved in the party. She absolutely deserved the accolade. The SLDW AGM, by the way, decided to name the award after Helen Watt, who devoted so much time to the organisation until her far too early death in 2016.

I shall tell you more about the weekend in the next few days, but the agenda was absolutely packed with things that actually provoked debate. An attempt to overturn our policy on decriminalising sex work and replace it with the controversial Nordic model was unsuccessful, but the summating speech in favour of the motion affected everyone, whichever side of the debate you were on.

Diane Martin, who experienced the most awful treatment by exploitative pimps and ended up being trafficked for sex work, described her horrendous experience in an incredibly moving way. There was shock as she told how she was raped by a man with a gun who told her he was having a “freebie.” Diane won the award for the best speech of the Conference.

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Lib Dem Emma Walker tells Sky News about #Askhertostand event in Parliament

This Wednesday marked 100 years since the passing of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 2018 which made it possible for women over the age of 21 to stand for Parliament.

A century on, women make up only just over 200 of 650 MPs. That’s why MPs were asked to invite a woman from their constituency to an Ask her to stand event to mark the anniversary.

Christine Jardine asked Emma Walker who, just over a year ago, wasn’t even a member of the Party. She’s made a massive impact in Scotland this year, getting involved in campaigning and member recruitment – and she opened the Autumn Conference in September.

Emma talked to Sky News about what had motivated her to get involved:

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Scottish Conference passes groundbreaking policy on ME

A year ago, Emma Walker hadn’t got round to joining the Liberal Democrats. She finally took the plunge in November 2017 and since then has made a massive impact. She’s launching a pioneering recruitment campaign (of which more in due course) and at last week’s Scottish Conference, she proposed her motion on ME. ME Action Scotland were there and tweeted about the occasion. They think it might be the first time a political party has adopted a policy on ME in the world.

Emma has sent us her proposing speech, which you can read below:

Imagine if, sitting in your seat here at conference, you suddenly begin to feel ill. Your vision blurs, you head begins to pound, and it feels like you may be having a heart attack. Maybe you collapse or you can’t remember your name. Your body has essentially crashed. Although it may take weeks. months or even years for you to receive a diagnosis, you are now one of the 21,000 people in Scotland living with M.E. For so many this is exactly how it starts. What’s more – there is no test, no cure and no proven effective treatment.

M.E, or myalgic encephalomyelitis, is an invisible illness in many ways. People who have mild to moderate M.E often look well, despite facing crippling symptoms such as bone-aching fatigue, excruciating pain and the inability to tolerate light or noise. 25% of all Scottish patients are severely affected – which means that they are house-bound or bed-bound, which in turn means that they are easy to ignore.

Only an estimated 5% of people with M.E recover fully, and some doctors question if they were misdiagnosed with other fatigue conditions. A slightly higher proportion learn to manage their symptoms and some return to work, but M.E remains in their system.

In Scotland, M.E affects more people than Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis combined. Yet we do not have a single M.E consultant and there is only one clinical nurse specialist, here in Fife. Shockingly, it’s the most common cause of long term school sickness absence.

This illness is a stigmatised one and it is characterised as being the fault of the patient. That they are not trying hard enough to get better, or that their belief that they are ill is the reason why they are ill. Those children who don’t attend school are often marked down as ‘refusing attendance.’ Parents have been taken to court for not sending their kids to school even though they are ill. GPs often send adult patients away telling them that everyone feels tired now and again. In fact ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ is a term that is sometimes used for M.E. But it is so much more than that. We would rightly never limit our definition of dementia to ‘chronic forgetfulness’, so why do we limit M.E patients to one symptom?

Two pieces of research have influenced the field. The first, in 1970, was led by two psychiatrists who after simply reading case notes from an ME epidemic that had occurred in the fifties, concluded that ‘mass hysteria’ was the cause. The reason why they concluded that? “The high rates in females compared to males.”

It’s easy to shrug this off as outdated, misogynistic research but this research delegitimised ME as an illness. It created a hysteria narrative which has paved the way for the ongoing dismissal of patients. In fact throughout the 80’s and 90’s, M.E became known as ‘yuppie flu’ or ‘the lazy disease’.

In 2005 the PACE trial came along. It was another bunch of psychiatrists testing various treatments, mainly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Graded Exercise Therapy. The findings were published in 2011. The data suggested that 64% of patients were improved and 22% were cured by the practices of thinking differently and running around the block. Given that the vast majority of patients regard GET as harmful, doctors and patients with any understanding of M.E immediately disputed the figures, and demanded access to the raw data. It took five years, repeated Freedom of Information requests and a tribunal to eventually access the data.

Independent analysts ruled that the PACE authors’ flawed methodology had been based on their preconceived views that M.E was not a real illness.

13% of the study sample had been recorded as simultaneously sick enough to take part and already recovered! M.E patients who couldn’t walk as far as those with Class 2 heart failure were recorded as being fit enough to return to work.

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