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Frank Maguire <em>Picture: Thompsons Solicitors</em>

Frank Maguire Picture: Thompsons Solicitors

Tributes have been paid to the campaigning lawyer, Frank Maguire, who has died aged 55. The joint managing partner of Thompsons Solicitors, he died at home in Ayrshire after a long battle with cancer, his family at his side.

A specialist in personal injury and health and safety law, Mr Maguire came to prominence first through his work representing trade unions following the Piper Alpha disaster in 1988 and then through his long struggle to win justice for those who had been exposed to asbestos at work or who suffered with hepatitis C through infected blood.

His firm has been appointed to represent all transfusion and haemophiliac victims at the Penrose Inquiry, set up by the Scottish government two years ago. It is gathering evidence on how hundreds of people in Scotland were given contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s.

In a statement, the Maguire family said: “Frank’s wife, Fiona, and their sons, Calum, Matthew, Luke and John, would very much like to thank all those who have been concerned in Frank’s care, especially over recent weeks.”

“Our heartfelt sympathies lie with Fiona, the boys, and Frank’s immediate family,” said Syd Smith, joint managing partner at Thompsons Solicitors. “Frank Maguire combined a a razor-sharp intellect with a passionate commitment to fight for justice for victims, particularly those suffering from industrial diseases like asbestos exposure and Hep C.

“His loss will be keenly felt by everyone who knew him, but particularly his colleagues at Thompsons, his fellow campaigners, politicians at Holyrood and Westminster, the legal profession and the trade union movement.”

Having interviewed Mr Maguire several times though the years, he always struck me as a man of great integrity, strength of character and determination. That was also reflected in the admiration and indeed affection of those whom he represented, sometimes without reward.

That determination was demonstrated last year when he won a major victory for the victims of asbestos-related illness when Lord Emslie threw out a bid by insurers to block a law passed by the Scottish parliament which confirmed the right to compensation.

Leading the tributes to Mr Maguire at Holyrood was the Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray, who described him as “a true champion for the underdog. His tireless campaigns for the victims of Hepatitis C blood contamination and former shipyard workers, their families and others affected by asbestos-related diseases, will live on as a tribute to him.

“As legal adviser to many of the UK’s leading trade unions, Frank’s advice and counsel led to many victories for ordinary men and women seeking compensation from rogue employers. He will be sorely missed.”

The funeral arrangements will be announced later in the week.

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snp1First Minister Alex Salmond has launched a £50m fund to invest in green transport technology. The Future Transport Fund is part of the Scottish Futures Fund, and will invest in projects which improve connectivity whilst reducing CO2 emissions.

Mr Salmond launched the fund on a visit to the University of Dundee Centre for Renewable Energy. DUCRE is engaged in a range of diverse renewable energy and environmental research including electrical vehicles.

Commenting on the launch of the fund, Mr Salmond said:

“In our first term, the SNP Government led the world with the most ambitious climate change targets ever introduced – legislating to reduce harmful emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 with our Climate Change Act. A re-elected SNP Government is committed to investing in the technology to make this ambition a reality.

“Transport is a major source of CO2 gases and accounts for a quarter of Scotland’s total emissions. Through the Scottish Futures Fund, the SNP will invest £50m in improving connectivity and innovation in transport.

“The fund will deliver economic as well as environmental benefits by encouraging Scottish firms specializing in low carbon transport technologies.

“The low carbon economy offers us a huge chance to reindustrialise Scotland with the development of innovative projects from our universities to our industries. Low carbon transport firms like Axeon here in Dundee are part of that opportunity for the future.”

Mr Salmond also commented on the Foreign Office statement that former Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa has left the UK for Qatar, saying:

“Mr Moussa Koussa was interviewed by Scottish police last Thursday as a potential witness in the Lockerbie investigation. He has not been under Scottish jurisdiction, and therefore the Crown Office has no power over his movements.

“However, we have every reason to believe that the Scottish authorities will be able to interview him again if required.”

Want to discuss other issues? Join in the debate on our new Scottish Voices forum

Also, as Labour leader Iain Gray attacked First Minister Alex Salmond in the Times yesterday, SNP Business Convener Bruce Crawford said:

“Iain Gray’s remarks are laughable – if he can’t even speak to Glaswegians protesting against Tory cuts, he is clearly incapable of standing up to the Tories.

“Labour’s record of standing up for Scotland is pitiful. The SNP led the protest against the Tory Budget’s smash and grab raid on Scotland’s North Sea revenues – and when it came to the vote in the House of Commons, Labour MPs betrayed Scotland and sat on their hands.

“And Iain Gray’s examples are ludicrous – the last Labour Government failed to hand over Scotland’s near £200 million Fossil Fuel Levy, while the SNP have consistently pressed the issue and led the debate to build a Holyrood majority demanding Scotland’s money.

“And if it had been left to Labour’s Andy Kerr, Scotland would have lost the £1.5 billion that he left tied up in the UK Treasury’s End Year Flexibility.

“The SNP Government agreed a Joint Declaration with the Welsh and Northern Irish administrations protesting against the UK Government’s unilateral decision to write off EYF stocks. And thanks to John Swinney’s financial acumen, we got Scotland’s money out before the Treasury closed the bank, leaving only £23 million – far less than the £150 million each that the Welsh and Northern Irish lost.

“John Swinney is the most effective Finance Minister that Scotland has had – all that Iain Gray has demonstrated is that he has no knowledge or understanding of these issues.”

Meanwhile, Stuart McMillan, the SNP’s candidate for Greenock and Inverclyde, welcomed the decision of three Court of Session judges to reject an appeal by the insurance industry to overturn a law brought in by the SNP Government which gives victims of an asbestos-related illness the right to claim damages.

Welcoming yesterday’s decision Mr McMillan said:

“The SNP Government and Kenny MacAskill acted swiftly to address the injustice faced by pleural plaque sufferers. The decision of the House of Lords was outrageous and I am pleased that action was taken by the Justice Secretary to ensure that the ruling has no affect in Scotland.

“Those who are suffering from work related illnesses, particularly those caused by asbestos, should have the right to seek compensation and it is quite right they can still do so in Scotland.”

HSE candy floss cartoonThis month sees the end of a highly entertaining campaign by the Health and Safety Executive to target some of the myths surrounding their work. They’ve used humour in some delightful cartoon posters to get the message across that “elf and safety” is actually about common sense.

In particular, they wanted to tell people that they hadn’t banned anything, at least not in the way some of the media had portrayed it.

As they themselves put it, “There are few greater myths than that health and safety has gone mad. During the last four years we’ve debunked some truly ridiculous misrepresentations of health and safety, including the banning of conkers, firemen’s poles and park benches. We’ve scotched scare stories about excessive safety signs, rebutted rumours about onerous risk assessments and kicked back at claims that kids need to be wrapped in cotton wool.

“This trivialisation concerns us. It confuses businesses about their responsibilities and workers about their rights. HSE publishes advice setting out the sensible and proportionate steps we can all take to deal with workplace risks properly.”

It’s worth looking back to some of the issues they’ve highlighted. The campaign started in April 2007 with the curious myth that “they” had banned the use of stepladders.

The reality was that HSE had not banned stepladders – nor had they banned ladders! Despite this, the allegation was regularly repeated and some firms had fallen for the myth and acted upon it.

“For straightforward, short duration work stepladders and ladders can be a good option,” they explained, “but you wouldn’t want to be wobbling about on them doing complex tasks for long periods. A large number of workers are seriously injured or killed using ladders and stepladders each year. So:

Yes – we want people to use the right equipment for the job.

Yes – there are some common-sense rules for using them safely.

But no – we have not banned them!”

Then there were the myths about the theatre and performing arts. For a start, there was a lovely poster produced this time last year showing a pantomime dame being prevented from handing out sweeties. Health and safety rules had been blamed when a panto stopped throwing out sweets to the audience. In fact the real reaon was a concern about the cost of compensation if anyone got hurt.

“If you’re unsure about an event you’re organising, you might want to talk to your insurer to check that you’ve got the right cover and you’ve managed any risks effectively. It can help to make sure that trivial risks don’t cause too much concern.

Realistically, if a panto throws out sweets the chances of someone being seriously hurt is incredibly low. It’s certainly not something HSE worries about – as far as we’re concerned, this is a case of ‘Oh yes you can!’”

Even more curious was the myth that health and safety laws mean concert-goers had to wear earplugs. Again, the reality was that this was nonsense. Going to noisy concerts is choice of the individual. The laws are there to protect people who have to work in loud places.

However, they did explain that “concert staff are at more risk of suffering hearing damage because they regularly worked in high levels of noise. That is why employers should make sure they provide protection – this could be as simple as moving staff away from the noisiest areas, or providing suitable earplugs. Hearing loss is preventable, so it’s important to protect people to help them enjoy long and successful careers. The laws are there to control real risks to workers – not to take the fun out of concerts.”

There were the social myths as well. For instance “Health and safety bans bunting”. The claim was that assorted regulations effectively stopped people from hanging bunting at weddings and village fetes or flying flags for sporting events.

As the HSE explained, they actually encourage people to have a bit of common sense about their attitudes to risk, not to make everything risk-free. “ There won’t be an army of inspectors cutting down bunting or insisting flags are lowered.”

More amusingly, there was the myth that health and safety would bring candyfloss to a sticky end. As the HSE was quick to point out, “come the summer sun and what tops off a great day out better than good, oldfashioned candyfloss? But if you believe some newspaper headlines this beloved sweet treat is under threat – because of the dangers posed by the stick it is spun around. The truth is that there are no health and safety laws banning candyfloss on a stick.

“Is the traditional form of this sweet disappearing because it is easier to mass produce and store it in plastic bags? Who knows, but it certainly isn’t health and safety leaving anyone with a bad taste in their mouth.”

There were sensible and practical issues however. There was a curious myth that drivers didn’t need to secure a load if they were just driving down the road for a short distance.

That really is dangerous. The reality is that, if not properly secured, vehicle loads can become unsafe, even over a short distance. Loads that haven’t been firmly tied down increase the risk of vehicle rollover and spillage. They risk the lives of drivers and other road users, and can also cause annoying traffic disruption.

So the HSE stressed that “more than 1200 people a year are injured as a result of unsafe loads, and millions of pounds are lost in damaged goods. Don’t take the risk – make sure your load is restrained and contained!”

Finally, there’s the myth HSE still bans this, that and the other.

As they explained: The reality is that they’d “said it all before, but there are still too many reports that HSE and health and safety law are responsible for all sorts of bans – cheese-rolling events, knitting in hospitals and even toothpicks!

“In reality HSE has banned very little outright, apart from a few high-risk exceptions like asbestos, which kills around 4,000 people a year. Too often health and safety is used as a convenient excuse, but it’s time to challenge this and remind people to focus on the real risks – those that are still causing people to be killed, injured or made ill at work.”