The People’s Railway – The Case for Nationalisation

Everyone looks to political parties to serve their interests. Likewise, corporations lobby policy-makers to give priority to their interest, for them the exclusive pursuit of profit.

The debate about the role of the state in all our lives is fundamental raw politics; the competing tensions about the extent to which the state ‘interferes’ in citizen’s lives versus the view that a state should provide for its people.

The Scottish Green Party’s mantra of ‘people, planet and peace’ incorporates the view that there is a ‘such a thing as society’ with recognition that public services, run exclusively in the public interests, are an important foundation stone of any socially just country.

The National Health Service (NHS) attracts wide support and strident defence from an appreciative public, an ever reducing number of whom have no memory of the time when access to free health care for all was a pipe dream. The return of a Conservative government means more of the neo-liberal agenda – not that involvement of the other two unionist parties would have slowed that particular direction of travel. Indeed, the result was no sooner announced than the promotion of ‘private health insurance’, was being trailed in one of the right’s pernicious journals.

So what of our other public services? Greens value individuals, their community, and the country and wish to see public services serving the public not corporations and their shareholders.

Many whose political ideology causes them to mock the former British Rail conveniently forget the level of public subsidy that the private companies who were given our rail network by the Thatcher government, receive.

Rail franchising in Great Britain was created by the Railways Act 1993, with which any Scottish Government must comply. Franchising is the mechanism by which Scottish Ministers secure rail passenger services and by which a private operator provides rail services on the Scottish rail network on behalf of the Scottish Government. I know all this because I have been lobbying for publicly run rail in Scotland since my election in 2011 and, whilst I was never met with hostility, the proof is there was, and remains great caution to pushing the issue. I was advised that for a public sector bid to succeed the applicant would have to have a proven record of having run rail services, something which wouldn’t rule out for instance a bid from the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive.

Cross-border rail services should have an input from the Scottish Government. The East Coast main line from London to Inverness and Aberdeen, long the jewel in the crown of the UK’s rail services, failed twice whilst being operated under a private franchise. So, in stepped the UK Government with a publicly-run East Coast service returning £1billion over five years to the public purse, public profit for public benefit. Now many, myself included, might consider that highly successful state operated model was ripe to be replicated across the network, however, the UK Government, no matter its persuasion, will never place its citizens ahead of corporations and the franchise, and the consequential profits, and was awarded to ‘Virgin East Coast.’ The change wasn’t even discussed with the Scottish Government.

Within Scotland the franchise operates over 2,270 train services each day, and has 86 million passenger journeys per year. The rail franchise is the single biggest contract let by Scottish Ministers, worth a total value of over £7 billion over 10 years. The contract was recently awarded to Dutch state railway firm, Abellio who, along with German and French state railways, have also been shortlisted for the Northern Rail franchise in England.

The irony that state-run bids from foreign countries are permitted surely can’t be lost on anyone and the profits Abellio make will be invested on Dutch rather than Scottish public services. The Scotrail franchise returned a profit to previous franchise holders, First Group, and the notion that profit comes without public investment is errant nonsense as 64% of that franchisee’s income comes from the taxpayer.

Another intriguing aspect of the present contract is a guarantee of income for the franchisee in the event of industrial action affecting their profitability. That absurd clause is a significant disincentive to ensuring good industrial relations and clearly avoids the need for willingness to ensure early resolution of disputes.

In the last Westminster session, Green MP Caroline Lucas introduced a Bill at Westminster to return the railways to public ownership, something a clear majority of Scots want.

As with many government contracts, the rail franchises have ‘break clauses’ meaning that 5 years into the Scotrail franchise the Scottish Government could make alternative arrangements.

We must be vigilant about the East Coast reprivatisation as the potential exists that railways are just the start of the privatisation bonanza we can expect if corporate lobbyists get their way. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the trade deal being negotiated between the European Union and the US, which would give corporations the power to dismantle public services. TTIP also poses a significant threat to workers’ rights and environmental protections as will anything else that get in the way of the corporations’ profits.

So where do we go from here? The Green parties across the UK ran a very successful campaign to renationalise rail and enjoy the full support of the rail unions. We must broaden the coalition of support to once again run this vital public service exclusively in the public interest perhaps by building on the EU-wide coalition opposing TTIP. Scotland’s left, including members of the SNP and Labour Parties, support a public rail network and I hope they can join together with the Green parties to ensure there’s sufficient political will to make it happen, our communities and our planet deserve no less.

 

 

Originally published here: http://thepointhowever.org/index.php/issues/293-the-peoples-railway-the-for-nationalisation

John joins Edinburgh students’ climate protest

"Occupied until Divestment" placard at Charles Stewart House, Edinburgh University
Photo: Edinburgh People and Planet
John has praised student climate activists who have occupied an Edinburgh University finance office over the University’s decision to continue investing in the coal and tar sands industries.

At the invitation of Edinburgh’s People and Planet group, John will be visiting the occupation and speaking to the campaigners this afternoon.

Edinburgh University’s top governing body, the University Court, voted unanimously last Tuesday (12 May) to reject calls to divest from the dirtiest fossil fuels. Over 30 students occupied Charles Stewart House, which houses the University’s finance department, the following day.

In October last year, Glasgow University became the first in Europe to divest from fossil fuels, withdrawing £18m of investments from the industry, after a student campaign that was also led by People and Planet activists.

John has been campaigning for divestment and ethical investment practices, including calling for investments in fossil fuels, weapons and tobacco to be dropped from the Scottish Parliamentary Pension Scheme. [2]

Ahead of his visit to the University, John said:

“There can hardly be a more nakedly selfish act than profiting off of the human suffering of climate change.

“I am disgusted by the University bosses’ decision to keep on bankrolling the big oil and coal corporations that are knowingly destroying the very futures of the students the University exists to serve.

“These are companies like Shell, which, it was revealed yesterday, is operating based on a strategy that allows global average temperature to rise by 4°C – twice the level considered the maximum safe increase by scientists. Companies which, despite their huge profits, take more money in subsidies than the world’s governments spend on healthcare.

“The idea that these companies can be made benign by ‘engagement’ is utterly, and probably wilfully, naïve. Institutions who claim to care at all about the world they are shaping with their money need to stop supplying harmful industries with capital and instead put that money into the alternatives, like renewable energy, that have massive potential but are crying out for investment.

“I am optimistic about our chances, not least because of the courageous actions of the students I’ve met here today. As long as there are principled people willing to fight for our future, we have a chance of human welfare ultimately winning out over corporate profit.

“The campaign to get Edinburgh University out of the oil business is far from over, and neither is the fight for a safe climate.”

Peter McColl, a former Rector of Edinburgh University, policy director of the Common Weal think tank, and Scottish Greens candidate for Edinburgh East in the recent General Election, is joining John at the occupation today. He said:

“The great issues of our day are the environmental and economic crises. I’m hugely proud of the students occupying Edinburgh University, who are taking a vital stand to solve these crises.

“Now is the time to divest from fossil fuels. At a time when investment in clean energy technology like wind and solar power is vital we must invest in these technologies rather than the dirty fuels of the past. We need to develop ways to store the energy generated through these technologies. That also requires serious investment, but promises huge rewards. It’s an area where Scotland – including our universities – can lead the world, and end climate change’s destruction of people’s lives.”

John visits Asher’s in Nairn to back apprenticeships

John Finnie at Asher's bakery in Nairn with Alister Asher, Jane Weir of Skills Development Scotland and apprentices Lawrence Gimenez and Gary Mann.
John Finnie at Asher’s bakery in Nairn with Alister Asher, Jane Weir of Skills Development Scotland and apprentices Lawrence Gimenez and Gary Mann.
John paid a visit to Asher’s Bakery in Nairn this morning to meet Modern Apprentices and learn more about their importance to the business, as part of Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2015.

Asher’s employs three Modern Apprentices at its Nairn bakery. The firm was founded in the town in 1877, and is still family-owned, with 13 shops across Inverness, Strathspey and Moray.

John said:

“It was great to meet these young people who have both the drive and the opportunity to build a career in baking. So much UK government policy is about pushing us towards an unskilled, zero-hours, poverty-pay economy, so it’s really encouraging to see that there are still businesses investing in young craftspeople.

“The apprentices I met today at Asher’s show passion for their craft and work hard for the business. They’ve held up their end of the bargain and then some. Employers and politicians alike have a duty to make sure these skilled craftspeople are valued, and can look forward the fulfilling, well-paid career they have a right to expect.

Asher’s director Alister Asher said:

“It was great to host John this morning and show him around our bakery, especially in support of something as important as Scottish Apprenticeship Week.

“Our three apprentices make a huge contribution to our business right now, but they’re also the future of Asher’s. There’s no machine that can replace the skill of a great baker, so it just makes sense for us to invest in training the bakers of tomorrow.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2015 runs from 18 to 22 May, and is the fifth year of the campaign by Skills Development Scotland (SDS) to highlight the benefits apprenticeships bring to employers, individuals and the local economy. SDS Chief Executive Damien Yeates said:

“Modern Apprenticeships work for employers of all sizes, from family firms to global companies. Scottish Apprenticeship Week celebrates Modern Apprentice employers and the achievements of apprentices, who play a vital and valuable role in Scotland’s economy.”

John’s Speech on Media, Society and Democracy

Yesterday (14/05/15) my colleague Jean Urquhart MSP led a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the role of media in society and democracy. I was delighted to be able to take part, you read the transcript of my speech below.

Motion debated:

That the Parliament believes that there is widespread debate in Scotland about the relationship between the media, political power and democracy; believes that critical and well-supported journalism is essential to a thriving democracy; believes that many Scots have lost trust in a range of media institutions; notes the development of new methods of delivering news and commentary through the internet and social media; notes the importance of local media and press in areas such as the Highlands and Islands, which rely on the many and diverse local news services available, and welcomes the continuing public debate on how media can be held to account by citizens and civil society and how to sustain and develop diverse media outlets that contribute to generating positive engagement with politics, the Parliament and the important issues facing society.

 John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Ind):

I, too, congratulate my colleague Jean Urquhart on bringing the motion to the chamber. We know from the media and from the speeches that we have heard that the subject is of great interest to the general public. It is perhaps unfortunate that there is not a bigger attendance in the chamber for the debate.

The motion refers to a “widespread debate” and to “the relationship between the media, political power and democracy”.

Members have talked about the range of media, from the locals, nationals and broadcasters to social media and the internet. The question of who has the power may be important. Mr McGrigor touched on that, and I venture that, at United Kingdom level, the power still rests with a group of elites—bankers, public schoolboys, the military and the like, and their lobbyists—and people will always have concerns about the term “state broadcaster”.

Jamie McGrigor:

I referred to witnesses we had at the European and External Relations Committee. Is Mr Finnie suggesting that all of them were public schoolboys?

John Finnie:

I do not know the committee that Mr McGrigor talks about, but I am not suggesting that the witnesses from whom it received evidence were exclusively public schoolboys, and nor was my remark a personal dig at Mr McGrigor.

The promotion of news is terribly important, and so is the reflection of opinion. We need to ask ourselves what we expect from the media. We want facts, opinion and analysis, and we want a combination of all that, but we must look at what the facts are and at who says that they are facts and on what basis. Opinions cannot be right or wrong, but we can ask whether they are based on facts. Analysis of facts and opinions is challenging for many people in the media, for the very reasons that we heard from Graeme Dey—it was good to have that input from someone from the profession.

People ask, “Are there agendas?” Of course there are agendas. We all have agendas. I support an organisation called Reporters Without Borders, which wants freedom of expression and of information and says that that will always be the most important freedom that the world has. It also says:

“if journalists were not free to report the facts, denounce abuses and alert the public, how would we resist the problem of child-soldiers, defend women’s rights, or preserve our environment?”

Reporters Without Borders is asking the United Nations Security Council to refer to the International Criminal Court the situation in which its members find themselves in Syria and Iraq, and we know about the situation with Al Jazeera staff.

By and large, our media people do not find themselves in such circumstances, and we know that good work is done by those who work on community broadsheets and on local radio stations, as a result of community empowerment. We must sustain and develop those media outlets, as the motion says. The national corporations follow a narrow agenda, and I am not sure how we can deal with that, but there is much to commend outlets such as Common Space and Bella Caledonia.

The motion notes that trust has been lost “in a range of media institutions”.

Trust has been lost in a lot of institutions, including politics, and we must all move away from spinning stories and towards a situation in which we provide facts and the basis for saying that they are facts. That would allow analysis. It is a two-way engagement.

As has been rightly said, the Highlands and Islands have a vibrant papers sector, and long may that continue. People view the sector as having a public service ethos.

There must be a separation between our media and party politics. There is much to be positive about for the future, and I applaud the work of the National Union of Journalists to encourage young people into the profession. I commend its code of conduct, and I stress that journalists must at all times uphold and defend the principle of media freedom, the right to freedom of expression and the public’s right to be informed. If we stick to those principles, I do not think that we will go far wrong.

 

 

John’s speech on the Human Trafficking Bill

Yesterday, John spoke in the Stage 1 debate on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill. He said:

I declare an interest, in that I am a member of Amnesty International, and I thank Amnesty and others for the briefings that they provided for this debate. I also thank Jenny Marra for the work that she has done that has led us to this point. We are at a welcome stage.

The cabinet secretary opened the debate by quoting the bill’s policy memorandum, which says that this is a “serious, complex and multifaceted crime.”

That is entirely the case. However, we are going to have a single offence coming out of it, which I think is positive.

The first of the committee’s recommendations talks about better alignment. The reason for that is highlighted in one of the briefings, which refers to the belief that deviating from internationally accepted definitions might complicate transnational crime investigations with countries that operate within the internationally accepted framework. We need to be conscious of that.

In 2008, Amnesty undertook an inquiry that produced a report called “Scotland’s Slaves”, which highlighted the prevalence of human trafficking in Scotland. Amnesty called on the Scottish Government to implement parts of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, within its devolved powers. I think that this legislation does that and that the dedicated resources that we have heard have been put in place by Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, including the special prosecutor, show that action is being taken.

As many have said, this is an international issue, a cross-border issue and – with reference to the word “travel” – is also something that takes place within our borders. I hope that the Scottish Government will give due consideration to that.

Clearly, there are challenges relating to detection, prosecution and support and to the issue of forced criminality, which involves the victim becoming the accused. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s positive response on that issue.

The issue of consent has also been addressed. The consent of someone who is held in slavery and servitude is not a defence for the perpetrator. Clearly, the Stockholm syndrome has applied in these circumstances.

As has been said by many people, the issue of statutory defence is one of the most interesting aspects of the bill. During evidence taking, we heard compelling arguments from both sides, and we asked the cabinet secretary to reflect on it. Amnesty and others seek to have that statutory defence included in the bill.

Others have talked of the national referral mechanism, which is the process by which people who have been trafficked are identified, assisted and supported by the UK Government. Malcolm Chisholm referred to the fact that this cross-border issue is often clouded by issues relating to immigration and that, in the current climate, it is considered in the context of hostile public opinion in some instances.

That term – that the issue is clouded by immigration – is not just my personal view. It is the view of the Home Office, which produced a report in November 2014 on its review of the national referral mechanism. It outlined some good practice, but there was also criticism “of decision making, the quality and communication of decisions and the ability to manage and share information effectively in the best interest of victims”.

That is clearly something that is absolutely vital if we are going to get things right. The report found further “concerns over the conflation of human trafficking decisions with asylum decisions” – no surprise at all, given that the same parties are involved on occasions — and “elongated timeframes for decisions, lack of shared responsibility and provision of relevant information for decision-making”.

We have some way to go. I was one of the committee members who went on the external visits along with the convener and Alison McInnes, and I am grateful to Barnardo’s Scotland for the visit that it facilitated. We heard graphic stories about people travelling around the world, often not knowing where they are. We forget at our peril, if we dwell too much on statistics, that it is humans we are dealing with. It is for that reason that calls for the best possible psychological support have my backing.

We heard a lot about the strategy. The cabinet secretary used the term “awareness and understanding”, and I think that there is already some of that. The Equal Opportunities Committee heard from an official from City of Edinburgh Council about housing officers being likely to be the first point of contact for people who are the victims of trafficking, rather than police officers or other officials, so there is already some awareness in the system.

GIRFEC has been mentioned, and the committee report refers to the merit of including that approach in the bill. There is a good reason why children would be singled out. We know from the International Labour Organization that children make up 26 per cent of victims trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation, and we are told that, sadly, that figure does not include trafficking for the removal of organs or for forced marriage or adoption. Psychological support of the highest quality should be made available to those victims.

The committee’s report also says that more clarity is required to ensure that child victims receive appropriate and consistent support and assistance across Scotland. We heard COSLA’s concerns and we clearly want the same facilities to be available regardless of where a victim is found. Similarly, with guardianship, there are options that need to be considered, and others certainly support that provision.

A section in the bill on the presumption of age is important, because we know that children have been incarcerated. As other members have said, there can be great difficulty in determining an individual’s age. I am aware of a specific case in the Highlands in which a young man thought that he was on the outskirts of London, when in fact he was on the outskirts of a Highland village, and he ended up in prison although he was quite clearly a victim.

Returning to the definitions, we have talked about the challenge of consistency, and it is not just an issue that the Justice Committee has come up against with this bill but one that recurs whenever we deal with issues affecting children or young people.

The independent and Green group fully supports the bill and the efforts that everyone is putting in to make Scotland a place that is hostile to the traffickers.

You can read the full debate in the Scottish Parliament’s Official Record, or watch it on YouTube – John’s speech begins at 2:01:55.

John’s Speech on the Mediterranean Migrant Crisis

I join other members in congratulating Alex Rowley on securing a debate on this hugely important issue. I also thank Amnesty and Save the Children for their briefings, and I declare my membership of both.

Amnesty talks about thousands of people fleeing from conflict, persecution and violence, and trying to reach safety. The conflict has been fuelled by the ready availability of armaments, many of which have been designed and manufactured in and sold from Scotland, so we are under an obligation.

People are fleeing persecution. The west’s attitude to the Arab spring sent a very confusing message. There was initial support but then an indication that we are not that bothered about democracy but about who is in charge and access to resources. That has resulted in a violent and brutal backlash, much of which passes without comment.

Many people are leaving Libya, which is in a state of anarchy. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice is against all travel to Libya. Indeed, it urges British nationals to leave immediately. However, the Government is also urging other people to stay there, despite the shortage of medical supplies, water and food. The situation is similar in Tunisia and Egypt, and there is lengthy advice about travel to those areas.

We know that the Mediterranean route is the most dangerous and lethal in the world. However, for those who are desperate enough to attempt it, it is clearly better than the alternative, whether that is Syria, Eritrea or, as is increasingly likely, west Africa, where conflict is rife.

It is entirely wrong to lay the responsibility entirely at the door of Italy. As the motion states, the Italian ambassador to the UK spoke of a

“common interest” that should be“managed at a common level”.

That is entirely right. The decision to end operation mare nostrum, Italy’s search and rescue operation, was taken in agreement with the EU, and the situation therefore demands an EU response.

Common humanity has been mentioned a number of times. We know that operation mare nostrum was replaced by operation Triton, which involves patrolling borders in smaller craft, nearer to the shore and further from the north African coast—previously, the patrols went 95 nautical miles off the Libyan coast. Alex Rowley noted that technology allows us to be fully aware of the tragedy that is occurring. We are increasingly reliant on coastguards and on the humanity of people on commercial ships. I found out, while looking into this matter, that all shipmasters are bound by an obligation that is codified in the international law of the sea, to render assistance to those who are in distress at sea, regardless of their nationality, status or the circumstances in which they are found. That is a sound foundation for any operation that the EU might mount. It is important to praise the Italian coastguards and the armed forces of Malta.

Many members here will have signed Stewart Maxwell’s fine motion on Nepal, which talks about the contribution of six firefighters from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, who are working with colleagues from across the United Kingdom to provide support that will include medical assistance and search and rescue missions. That is proactive humanitarian support, and it is right that we applaud it.

There was a news report yesterday about dozens of people drowning off the coast of Italy. Some members will have seen the footage that showed an overladen craft, terror on everyone’s faces and a bewildered toddler girl, sitting in the middle and looking to adults for support. These people are victims; they are not the accused. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that Europe must step up the capacity to save lives.

Triton is a mythical Greek god. In Virgil’s “Aeneid”, we are told that Triton killed Misenus by drowning him.

Alex Rowley talked about the need for this Parliament to speak out, and I think that that is what we are doing. Next week, the EU presents its operational plan. We are not only calling for an expansion of the search and rescue operation; we are hoping for action to address the reasons why thousands of people flee conflict, persecution and violence to reach safety in the first place.”

 

Motion debated as below:

That the Parliament expresses its shock at the recent loss of life in the Mediterranean sea where almost 400 migrants attempting to reach the EU are believed to have died in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya; supports the comments of human rights groups across Europe that have condemned the scrapping of rescue operations in the Mediterranean, which it believes is endangering the lives of thousands of desperate migrants making perilous journeys across the sea; acknowledges the comments of the human rights group, Amnesty International, which stated that “European governments’ on-going negligence towards the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean has contributed to a more than 50-fold increase in migrant and refugee deaths since the beginning of 2015”; believes that the decision of the EU to stop funding Italy’s Mare Nostrum rescue mission last year in favour of the surveillance patrols currently being carried out by its border agency, Frontex, is a clear example of its dereliction of duty with regard to this matter; notes the evidence given to the European and External Relations Committee by Pasquale Terracciano, the Italian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, who stated “We are pressing to persuade the European Union that there is an external border that is of common interest and should be managed at a common level, we are pressing other partners to make it a European priority and all political pressure is welcome to create awareness of the scale of the phenomenon”, and believes that it is the duty of all EU nations to work together to tackle this humanitarian crisis, the scale of which it considers is causing widespread concern and disbelief in the Cowdenbeath constituency and in communities across Scotland.

John’s Speech Marking MS Week 2015

I, too, congratulate George Adam on all his work on MS and on framing a very practical motion. I very much appreciate its wording. Dennis Robertson told us that it is about people and the motion is on “my life my MS”, so it is very much concerned with the individual and, as the motion goes on to say, “explores the whole person”.

The campaign will look at all the issues that influence the lives of people with MS. Those are the same issues that influence all of us, but with an added challenge—a phrase that we have heard already. The issues are not simply about health; they are about housing and the difficulties with aids and adaptations, transport, increasing problems as people’s mobility alters, and education.

Chic Brodie mentioned employment and there is certainly a long way to go with regard to education on the treatment of people with MS. I assisted a constituent whose employer thought that it was entirely unreasonable to make a reasonable adjustment—and, I have to say, the adjustment was extremely modest. There is some way to go with that.

My colleague Liam McArthur talked about isolation, which is another factor that can have an impact—his constituency is a clear example.

I had a look online this morning for information about MS and, of course—as with everything—there is a wide range of issues. A lot of information online is about fundraising and the commendable activities that take place around the country and around the world. There is also a lot of coverage of the Edinburgh centre for multiple sclerosis research, which I will not repeat. However, I was delighted when I looked at the centre’s website to find that the management board is made up of independent MS research scientists and people who are affected by MS. Again, it is terribly important that we keep it—to use the term that has been used previously—person centred and that this is not something that is done to people; it is something in which people have an active involvement.

In last year’s debate, I mentioned a young woman and the challenge around securing a drug. I am delighted to say that that matter is resolved. That is not just to the individual’s benefit; it is to the benefit of their family and, in particular, to their wee boy.

There is an understandable clamour for a cure. There is a clamour for drugs to ameliorate the effects of MS. Vitamin D is mentioned not just in relation to MS; it is mentioned in relation to other matters as well.

I am always impressed by the energy I encounter when I meet people who are associated with MS. In the past year, I have visited Kirkwall, Oban and Lochgilphead and I am a regular at the Inverness centre. The energy of the people who assist and the energy of the people who have the illness are commendable.

We know that the campaign is the latest in a series. Again, it talks about caring and support and we have to ask ourselves, “Who is going to do the caring and who is going to do the supporting?” There is a pivotal role for this establishment in that. Politics is about priorities and if the priority is replacing weapons of mass destruction ahead of putting that funding to more constructive use for humanity, the financial challenges will not be restricted to welfare reform, the austerity programme and the difficulties—as George Adam highlighted—around the 20m walk rule.

The hallmark for me of people who are involved in MS is their stoicism. They are not going to give in to it. I think that Chic Brodie said that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I am sure that, with proper funding for research, that tunnel will get shorter. I hope that that happens sooner rather than later.