‘Rushed’ Scots bill causes anxiety

The biggest shake-up of mental health legislation in Scotland for
40 years was complete last week after the Mental Health Bill was
passed amid concerns that it had been rushed through.

Margaret Smith, MSP, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson and
chairperson of the health and community care committee that
scrutinised the bill, said it was “a prime candidate for early

The bill, which was supposed to have been drafted by February 2002
did not appear before parliament until September. Consequently, it
had just six months to go through its three readings.

At the second stage, it had 1,400 amendments and at the final stage
last week more than 750 remained. Smith said lack of time meant the
executive had been unable to “find out whether amendments would
make a difference and whether we should support the

She added: “There were times when we were considering sections of
the bill and had to make very close judgement calls.”

Chief executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health Shona
Barcus said that the bill would be more welcomed by professionals
than service users, adding: “Overall, we think that the bill is
good but that it could have been better.”

The organisation had campaigned for a last-minute amendment to be
added that would see restrictions placed on the use of compulsory
treatment orders, but it had not been included.

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