President's column

Ray Miller writes on conferences and statutory regulation.
‘Lang may yer lum reek!’ A traditional Scottish greeting at New Year, translating as ‘Long may your chimney smoke’. Leaving aside, for a moment, concerns about carbon emissions and climate change, it carries a message of good wishes. May you be prosperous enough to afford the warmth of a fire in your hearth and healthy enough to have fire in your heart. New Year is a time for grateful reflection on the months past and a time of hope and aspiration for the year ahead.

‘Lang may yer lum reek!’ A traditional Scottish greeting at New Year, translating as ‘Long may your chimney smoke’. Leaving aside, for a moment, concerns about carbon emissions and climate change, it carries a message of good wishes. May you be prosperous enough to afford the warmth of a fire in your hearth and healthy enough to have fire in your heart. New Year is a time for grateful reflection on the months past and a time of hope and aspiration for the year ahead.

Another saying learned at my grandmother’s knee was ‘Count your blessings’. In their article on p.18, Wood, Joseph and Linley tell us that gratitude can increase our sense of happiness and decrease our sense of depression. I was grateful for the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) in November as their guest. Held in Galway, I arrived in time to see the sun go down over the bay. Someone should write a song about it.

The PSI is still a relatively small organisation but one with which we have strong links. Many members of our Northern Ireland branch are also members of the PSI and there is a synergy that makes Ireland a vibrant and exciting place to be a psychologist. This is reflected in the attendance at their conference where the numbers represented almost a third of the total membership. In October this year the Society signed a Memorandum of Co-operation with the PSI allowing for mutual recognition of undergraduate degrees accredited by either body. Work is progressing on postgraduate qualifications.

Our own 2008 Annual Conference will be in Dublin. The Society conference team ran a stand advertising it at Galway. Interest was high and there are plans for joint events within the programme. I’m looking forward to another sampling of Irish hospitality. Don’t miss York this year though!

Other examples of the dynamism of the profession came in the annual lectures to A-level and Higher students in Edinburgh and London. Presentations were lively and riveting with topics ranging from myth and reality in psychological profiling to understanding madness. These lectures are an excellent shop window on the profession for future members. Though well attended, it is a pity, in a way, that they are delivered to a limited school and college audience. Those attending clearly found them inspiring, as did I. They reminded me yet again of the breadth and depth of psychology’s contribution and I felt grateful to be a psychologist.

Looking ahead it is clear 2007 will be a busy year. A range of important issues are likely to come to a head. Funding for educational psychology training, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), and the reintroduction of the new Mental Health Bill in England (see p.4) are all important topics. We are also keen to reinforce the teaching of psychology as a science both in schools and at degree level. The new chief executive of the Science Council attended the October meeting of the Trustees and we discussed ways of strengthening the role of psychology within the Council.

Then there is statutory regulation. Our campaign to inform MPs, Peers and MSPs has gone very well. Throughout November and December the presidential team (including the Vice President and the President Elect) have had a large number of personal meetings at both Westminster and Holyrood. Our message has been well received. MPs tell us one of the most effective pressures is a letter from a constituency member. Thank you to those who have already written. I hope more of you will still do so.

A range of further activities involving those who use psychology services is also under way. We have developed a brief leaflet for general public information that is being distributed to subsystems for dissemination. It is also downloadable from the Society website at www.bps.org.uk/statreg.

The Society was offered the opportunity to address the Scottish Health Committee early in December and, by the time you read this, we should also have met with Andy Burnham as the Minister at the Department of Health with responsibility for regulation. Efforts will continue strongly in the new year. Our message is a clear and simple one. Only better regulation can provide proper public protection – current government plans will fail to deliver.

So, let me take this opportunity to pass on my best wishes for 2007 to you and yours. My gratitude for your many contributions over the last year and my thanks in advance for your continuing efforts in the coming year. And as for my initial worries about climate change, ‘May your boiler flue continue to produce non-polluting emissions!’ just wouldn’t seem the same, would it?

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