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Iain MacWhirter reports for the Holyrood programme
"Health Minister took Precious Life head-on"
 real 28k

Sunday, 5 December, 1999, 17:45 GMT
Minister dismisses 'spin doctor' row
Susan Deacon Susan Deacon vowed to stick to policies

Scottish Health Minister Susan Deacon has dismissed calls for an emergency statement on the role of government spin doctors in stories alleging her safety was threatened because of opposition to anti-abortionists.

The Conservatives and the SNP have accused spin doctors of manipulating a row over the minister's positions on abortion and teenage pregnancies.

However, Ms Deacon said she was more concerned with policies than alleged threats.

Susan Deacon Susan Deacon: "Not enough talk about issues"
The controversy arose after Ms Deacon warned she would get tough with militant anti-abortion groups which have been accused of intimidating staff at pregnancy advisory and abortion clinics.

Following her pronouncement, it was reported that the minister had received threats to her personal safety.

However, opposition parties seized on the allegations as "spin doctoring" by Labour in an attempt to deflect from the issues.

Ms Deacon said she refused to be deflected from promoting the Scottish Executive's policies.

She said: "I think there has been much too much discussion in recent days about me and not enough discussion about the issues.

"The real issue is how do we reduce the number of teenage pregnancies, how do we reduce the 4000 teenage abortions that there were last year or the 2000 sexually transmitted infections."

Alex Salmond Alex Salmond: Challenge to Dewar
"I'm the health minister. I've got a responsibility to try and face up to the deep-rooted health and social problems that are facing us in Scottish society."

Scottish National Party Leader Alex Salmond has written to First Minister Donald Dewar, demanding a full statement on the matter and the role of Mr Dewar's chief spokesman, John Rafferty.

In his letter, Mr Salmond said: ""It is vital that the debate about the subject matter at stake is conducted in a reasoned and responsible manner, and I am sure you will agree that this process is hardly assisted by the appearance of false stories in the media.

"Only a First Ministerial statement is adequate to deal with allegations involving a senior public servant who is directly accountable to the Scottish Executive, and I hope that such a statement setting out the facts will be forthcoming this week."
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See also:
05 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Anti-abortionist admits loyalist links
02 Dec 99 |  Scotland
'Stalin' jibe over abortions warning
02 Dec 99 |  Scotland
Cardinal condemns sex clinics call
24 Oct 99 |  Scotland
Opposition to abortion clinic plans

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