Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Autism (Scotland) Bill debate

The Autism (Scotland) Bill fell at its first stage of its parliamentary scrutiny on 12 January 2011.

The purpose of the bill, launched by Liberal Democrat MSP Hugh O'Donnell, was to place a statutory duty on the Scottish government to publish a strategy responding to the public service needs of those with autism.

About 50,000 people in Scotland have autism, a developmental disability that affects how a person communicates and socially interacts with the rest of society.

Mr O'Donnell said the intention of his bill was to provide "in a legislative framework a level playing field" for those with autism, to access public services.

He said many of those who suffer with the condition tell him they continue to be let down with the systems available in Scotland.

Education Committee Convener Karen Whitefield said her committee could not support the bill, for fear it could create a two-tier system.

She explained the bill required legislation to underpin the strategy being called for, but it had the potential to undermine the strategies of many other user groups not supported by legislation.

Public health minister Shona Robison said the Scottish government were now about to embark on a national strategy for autism, and paid tribute to Hugh O'Donnell for the contribution his bill made to their decision.

She said legislation would have delayed the undertaking of such a strategy, and in turn would have delayed ministers attempts to address the many needs of Scotland's autistic community.

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