Scots mental health bill faces election obstacle

Mental health charities fear that next year’s election to the
Scottish parliament could hold up legislation to protect the
nation’s mentally ill people.

The new mental health bill, which was due to be debated in the
parliament this week, has taken three years to reach this stage.

Now the Scottish Association for Mental Health is concerned that
the legislation might be delayed even further. Association chief
executive Shona Barcus warned that March 2003 was the cut-off point
for new legislation to be passed before the election was held in

She said: “It seems ironic that such a crucial piece of legislation
has only six months to make its way through parliament.

“If everybody does not agree on its content by next March it could
be too late and we may not have a new act even after all this.

“This is a highly complex piece of legislation and I hope for the
sake of the many people who stand to be affected by its
implications that it will succeed.”

She added: “While the proposals are not as draconian as the
legislation being proposed south of the border, there are areas
causing us great concern.”

Controversial areas include the introduction of powers to compel
people to take medication in the community and the need for greater
safeguards around the use of treatments for mental disorder
including electro-convulsive therapy and neurosurgery.

She also said there is a need to invest in community mental health
services to ensure compulsory interventions are minimised.

But Barcus added that many of the proposals in the bill were widely

These include the introduction of tribunals to replace the role of
sheriff courts in “sectioning” patients and the introduction of a
right for service users to nominate a named person to protect their

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