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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January, 2005, 17:25 GMT
Respect at centre of sex strategy
Couple kissing
The strategy also puts emphasis on relationships
Young people should be informed about sexual health services and have access to them, according to the Scottish Executive's new strategy.

The Action Plan for Improving Sexual Health, unveiled on Thursday, stresses the need for respect and taking responsibility for sexual health.

The issue of sex education, particularly in Catholic schools, has already provoked controversy.

The strategy is aimed at tackling high rates of STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

Health Minister Andy Kerr said "real change" could be delivered.

ACTION PLAN FOR IMPROVING SEXUAL HEALTH
A balance between government action and the individual's responsibility for their own health and the safety of others
A focus on respect and responsibility as the cornerstones of mature and loving relationships
Redesigned sexual health services to ensure improved access in all areas of the country
15m additional funding over three years
National leadership through the creation of a National Sexual Health Advisory Committee
Strategic leaders for sexual health in NHS Boards and local authorities
Continued education to raise awareness of the issues relating to good sexual health

He said: "We respect the right of faith groups and others to hold on to and promote their religious, moral and spiritual values.

"But in return we also expect respect for the rights of young people to have knowledge of, and access to, sexual health services so that they can make informed choices."

The policy aims to tackle the causes behind the incidence of sexually transmitted infections across all age groups and unintended teenage pregnancies.

Other factors covered by the strategy are overcoming embarrassment, the quality of relationships and abstinence or delayed sexual activity.

The minister also stressed that the morning-after pill would not be available in schools.

All schools - including Catholic schools - will be expected to follow national guidelines, but head teachers will have the final say.

Ministers are to spend an extra 15m over three years on the strategy.

It surprises me that no-one has hit upon the bright idea of just telling girls in detail what happens to their bodies during pregnancy and childbirth
Caroline
Glasgow

Scotland has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Europe, while infections such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia have been on the rise in recent years, with the latter increasing by 39% between 1999 and 2002.

The reforms were first suggested by an expert group 14 months ago, but the executive, mindful of likely controversies, has been careful not to rush the issue.

Reacting to the sexual health strategy, the Catholic Church's Cardinal Keith O'Brien welcomed the emphasis on marriage and abstinence.

He said he recognised that current approaches to sexual health had failed, but said there were areas of the strategy which could not be reconciled with the church.

The strategy published today does nothing to change national policy on sex and relationships education
Peter Peacock
Education Minister

The cardinal said: "Among them is the continued support for the distribution of the morning-after pill to schoolchildren without parental consent through pharmacists, general practitioners and clinics.

"I hope such areas of disagreement will be the subject of debate and discussion by the new National Advisory Committee announced today and I underline the willingness of the church to participate in its work."

Education Minister Peter Peacock said: "The strategy published today does nothing to change national policy on sex and relationships education.

"It simply reinforces the principles on which the guidelines are based, and reiterates the need to involve parents, carers and the wider community in the development and revision of sex and relationships education programmes."

condoms
The strategy will tackle STDs and unwanted pregnancy

The Scottish Greens said the executive must guard against "postcode lottery".

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "If young people's access to services and education is dependent on where they live, or which school they go to, the strategy will have failed an important test.

"It must be a strategy for all of Scotland."

Scottish Conservative health spokesman David Davidson said blanket measures for sex education were not the answer.

He said: "We cannot have a simple uniform approach to this.

"Schools and parents should be trusted to teach their pupils and children as they see fit and the emphasis in this case must be on teaching what is in their best interests."

Funding call

The Scottish National Party welcomed the strategy but questioned the level of investment.

Health spokeswoman Shona Robison said: "With only 5m a year pledged to support the strategy, we need to ensure that this cash is sufficient to do the job.

"In comparison, John Reid has budgeted 300m for a similar programme in England and Wales."

And the Scottish NHS Confederation appealed for "full, unequivocal backing" for NHS boards in implementing the policy.

Confederation director Hilary Robertson said: "Sexual health is often an unpopular destination for NHS resources in the eyes of the public, the media and some interest groups.

"Local NHS systems must therefore be confident that they will receive the full backing of the Scottish Executive for funding decisions designed to implement the action points set out in the strategy published today."

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV welcomed the move as "fantastic milestone" for sexual health in Scotland.





SEE ALSO:
HIV figures reach record number
20 Oct 04 |  Scotland
Sex health strategy unveiled
12 Nov 03 |  Scotland
Scotland: Sexual health
19 Feb 04 |  Politics Show


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