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To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on whether the existing and proposed marine protected areas, and other spatial measures, are sufficient to preserve the health of the seabed.

Current Status: Expected Answer date 27/11/2018

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that its services, such as financial health checks, which are delivered through Citizens Advice bureaux, are equally accessible in local authority areas where no bureaux are present.

Current Status: Expected Answer date 22/11/2018

To ask the Scottish Government what percentage of the world’s carbon output is from Scotland, and what it plans to reduce this to by 2050.

Current Status: Due in Chamber on 14/11/2018
Acquittal of Asia Bibi

That the Parliament welcomes the decision by the Supreme Court of Pakistan to overturn the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy in 2010 who has spent most of the last eight years in solitary confinement; understands that the conviction stemmed from an argument Asia Bibi had with a group of women in June 2009 while harvesting fruit, after the women said that they could no longer touch a cup because Asia Bibi’s Christian faith had made it unclean; recognises that Pakistan's blasphemy laws, first codified in 1860 and expanded upon in the 1980s by the military government of General Zia-ul Haq, carry a potential death sentence for anyone who insults Islam; understands that, shortly after Asia Bibi’s conviction in 2008, the Punjab Governor, Salman Taseer, was murdered for speaking out in support of her and calling for Pakistan’s blasphemy laws to be reformed; notes with concern that, even after Asia Bibi is freed, the legacy of this case will continue and Christians living in Pakistan will still be vulnerable to what it considers a climate of intolerance and a legal system that is frequently used to seek revenge after personal disputes; is aware that the Islamist movement, Tehreek-e Labbaik (TLP), had previously vowed to take to the streets if Asia Bibi was released, and that protests broke out in Islamabad and Lahore soon after the ruling was announced, and calls on the Pakistani Government to put an end to the use of blasphemy laws against minority religious groups and journalists critical of the Pakistani religious establishment.

Supported by: Richard Lyle, Emma Harper, Stuart McMillan, David Torrance, Joan McAlpine, Clare Adamson, Bill Kidd, Murdo Fraser, Gordon Lindhurst, Sandra White, John Mason, Angus MacDonald, Tom Mason, Tom Arthur, Colin Beattie, Gillian Martin, Gil Paterson, Fulton MacGregor, John Finnie, Mark Ruskell

To ask the Scottish Government what action is being taken to help boost the Ayrshire economy.

Current Status: Taken in the Chamber on 07/11/2018
The Ocean Cleanup

That the Parliament marks the commencement of the first operation by the Dutch non-profit environmental organisation, The Ocean Cleanup, following the arrival of its environmentally-friendly floating clean-up device, System 001, at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), which is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world, located between Hawaii and California on 19 October 2018; recognises that cleaning up the GPGP using conventional methods  such as vessels and nets would take centuries and tens of billions of dollars to complete, whereas The Ocean Cleanup’s passive system is expected to remove 50% of the GPGP in just five years, and at a fraction of the cost; understands that System 001 consists of a 600 metre-long floater, which provides buoyancy to the device itself and prevents plastic from flowing over it, and sits on the surface of the water with a tapered three meter-deep skirt attached below to stop debris from escaping underneath; acknowledges that, as wind and waves propel only the system, while the plastic is just beneath it, the system moves faster than the plastic, allowing the plastic to be captured; appreciates that, if fleets of systems are deployed into every ocean gyre, combined with source reduction, The Ocean Cleanup projects to be able to remove 90% of ocean plastic by 2040; notes that The Ocean Cleanup was founded in 2013 by the Dutch inventor, Boyan Slat, at the age of 18 in his home town of Delft in the Netherlands and has now grown to a team of over 80 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modellers working daily to rid the world's oceans of plastic; recognises that his visionary approach has earned the young CEO a host of awards and accolades, including the Champions of the Earth Award of the UN Environment Programme in 2014 and the Euronews award, European Entrepreneur of the Year, in 2018; notes that, on 8 June 2018, the Dutch Government entered into an agreement with The Ocean Cleanup relating to the deployment of its clean-up systems on the high seas, detailing matters such as navigation, protection of the marine environment and the rights of other users of the high seas with respect to their clean-up systems; recognises that the non-profit organisation requires more funding from governments, organisations and individuals to help further realise its ambitious programme; urges the Scottish Government to investigate what it can do to support The Ocean Cleanup and how its technology can be used to benefit Scotland’s marine litter clean-ups, and wishes Boyan Slat and The Ocean Cleanup every success in its future endeavours.

Supported by: Gail Ross, Richard Lyle, Stuart McMillan, Maurice Corry, Bill Kidd, John Mason, Sandra White, David Torrance, Angela Constance, Pauline McNeill

English Local Authorities in Financial Crisis

That the Parliament notes with concern the calls made by County Councils Network (CCN), which represents England's 37 county councils and county unitary authorities, for a massive injection of government funds for county councils after stating that they no longer had sufficient money to run vital frontline services, from children’s centres to rural bus routes; believes, for example, that Norfolk County Council is currently undergoing public consultation regarding plans to shut down 46 of the council’s 53 children’s centres as a cost-cutting measure as its children’s centre budget for 2019 was halved from £10 million to £5 million; understands that councils across England and Wales are facing significant budget deficits, with the Conservative-run Northamptonshire County Council the first council to issue a section 114 notice in 20 years, banning all spending except on statutory services; understands that Surrey County Council has been warned by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy to act now to ensure that it has enough reserves to plug its predicted budget gap of £94 million by 2019-20; recognises that, on 2 September 2018, an application for judicial review got under way to assess the legality of Surrey County Council's decision to cut its special educational needs and disabilities budget in 2018-19 by £21 million; is concerned by the research released by CCN in June 2018, which suggested that England's 36 shire authorities face funding pressures totalling £3.2 billion over the next two years, because of funding reductions handed down by the UK Government and rising demand for services; notes the findings of a study published by researchers from the University of Cambridge on 9 October 2018, which found that council spending cuts were twice as deep in England as in the rest of the UK, and believes that the ongoing financial difficulties at these councils demonstrates the hardship caused by years of austerity and punitive local government budget cuts, which it considers are attributable to the Conservative UK administration.

Supported by: Richard Lyle, Emma Harper, Bill Kidd, John Mason, Christine Grahame, Fulton MacGregor, Keith Brown, David Torrance, Maureen Watt, Tom Arthur

New Salary Threshold for EU Migrants

That the Parliament condemns the UK Government’s recently announced proposal to end freedom of movement and introduce new immigration rules, which would be in effect from January 2021 and set a salary threshold of £50,000 for EU nationals wishing to live and work in the UK; believes that this could prevent many skilled workers, including teachers, pharmacists and electricians, from entering the country as they might not meet the income threshold; acknowledges what it sees as the negative impact that this will have on the economy as it could exacerbate a skills shortage and provoke a response from EU countries that could make it difficult for UK citizens to work in the EU, and calls for this proposal to be scrapped.

Supported by: Richard Lyle, Patrick Harvie, Bill Kidd, John Mason, Tom Arthur, Mark McDonald, Sandra White, Stuart McMillan, Fulton MacGregor, Gillian Martin, John Finnie, Angela Constance

Persecution of Human Rights Activists in Saudi Arabia

That the Parliament notes with concern what it sees as the repeated and consistent violation of human rights in Saudi Arabia, in spite of recent attempts of societal reform led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman; welcomes that Saudi Arabia has recently taken steps towards becoming a more egalitarian country, for example, by repealing the world's only ban on women driving in June 2018, and by permitting the admittance of women into sports stadiums and military service; notes, however, that this was preceded by what has been described by Human Rights Watch as an "unprecedented crackdown” on the women's rights movement and that Saudi prosecutors are, it understands, currently seeking the death penalty against Israa al-Ghomgham, a female activist charged with non-violent offences; considers that the detention of peaceful women’s human rights defenders, who have been arrested and detained on a wide scale across the country, demonstrates a contradictory stance in policy towards women’s rights; expresses its concern regarding the detention of people in Saudi Arabia on the basis of their activism, the exercise of their right to freedom of expression, and their exercise of the right to freedom of association, which it considers is an affront to international human rights conventions; is alarmed that Christians, Jews and members of the Shi’a Muslim minority continue, it considers, to face discrimination because of their faith, limiting their right to express religious beliefs and their access to justice, and arbitrarily restricting other rights, including the rights to work and to state services, which culminates in Shi’a activists facing arrest, imprisonment and, in some cases, the death penalty following unfair trials, and notes the calls on the UK Government to work in partnership with other nations to use international engagement opportunities to promote the human rights of those living in Saudi Arabia.

Supported by: Bill Kidd, David Torrance, Richard Lyle, Mark McDonald, Neil Findlay, John Mason, Colin Beattie, Fulton MacGregor, John Finnie, Angela Constance, Alex Rowley, Gordon MacDonald, Sandra White, Mark Ruskell, Gillian Martin

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the outcome of the BBC Loneliness Experiment, which indicates that levels of loneliness are highest among 16- to 24-year-olds, with 40% saying they often or very often feel lonely.

Answered by Christina McKelvie (26/10/2018):

We recognise that particular groups, like young people, can be at greater risk of social isolation and loneliness than others. Analysis of responses to our public consultation highlighted issues specifically relevant to young people. These range from the important role schools can play in raising awareness of and tackling stigma around the issues of social isolation and loneliness; risks posed by use of digital technology for communication; and the challenges faced by young parents. We are continuing to develop our national strategy, A Connected Scotland, which takes a whole population approach to these issues and we will publish this before the end of the year.

Current Status: Answered by Christina McKelvie on 26/10/2018
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