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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 15, 2022


Point of Order

Stephen Kerr (Central Scotland) (Con)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

I seek your guidance on comments that were made in the chamber by Jamie Hepburn, the Minister for Higher and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training, that do not appear to bear any resemblance to accuracy.

On 27 October, Mr Hepburn said in this chamber:

“There is no freeze on apprenticeships this year. There are still many places available to be taken up in the contracts that have been awarded, and they should be fulfilled. Let us be clear: there is no freeze on apprenticeship places this year.”

Training providers have been in contact with many members to make it clear that they have been told something very different by Skills Development Scotland. At the start of the financial year, training providers were told that they could utilise the process for requesting additional starts as long as they met their key performance indicators, as has been standard practice in many previous years.

However, last month, despite meeting all their key performance indicators, training providers were told that, as a result of John Swinney’s announcements, Skills Development Scotland was unable to process any further requests for additional volume or value to provide modern apprenticeship qualifications. That has removed the ability of training providers to respond to the needs of our businesses and to provide opportunities for our young people.

It has always been the practice that training providers can apply for additional places halfway through the year, to allow for flexibility in the labour market. They had received assurances to the effect that that would continue. I know that Mr Hepburn has received the same correspondence that I and many other members have received from training providers. That normal practice has ended and the number of places on apprenticeship schemes is frozen, yet Mr Hepburn said that there was “no freeze on apprenticeships”. There is. That feels more than a little misleading.

What options exist for members to have Mr Hepburn come to the chamber to explain what he meant by

“there is no freeze on apprenticeships this year” —[Official Report, 27 October 2022; c 47.] ,

when, clearly, there is a freeze on apprenticeships?

If Mr Hepburn has misled the Parliament inadvertently, he should put the record straight. What sanctions exist? If there has been a change since the minister spoke a few days ago, relatively speaking, would not it be normal practice for him to inform the Parliament?

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

I thank Mr Kerr for his point of order.

It is of paramount importance that members, including ministers, give accurate information to Parliament and that they correct inadvertent errors at the earliest opportunity. If any member has a question about the factual accuracy of another member’s contribution, they should raise it with that member. I am sure that all members are aware that Parliament has a corrections procedure and are aware of how that mechanism operates. I have not received a request to make a statement. If a member considers that a statement should be made, they should raise that directly with the relevant member. If a request to make a statement were to be received, I would notify the Parliamentary Bureau so that time could be scheduled and set aside for it.

My points reflect the procedures and practices that have been agreed to by Parliament but, of course, if anyone considers that those should be revised, they can raise the matter with the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee. We will move on to the next item of business.