Website survey

We want your feedback on the Scottish Parliament website. Take our 6 question survey now

Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig


Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, October 3, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 03 October 2019

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Great British Beach Clean, Scotland’s Onshore Unconventional Oil and Gas Policy, Portfolio Question Time, Business Motion, Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Motion Without Notice, Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill, Business Motion, Decision Time


First Minister’s Question Time


The deal that was presented by the Prime Minister to the European Union, about which he is currently speaking in the House of Commons, has now attracted support from people who want to leave the European Union with a deal. I would vote for it—why will the First Minister not do so?

We found out this week that Jackson Carlaw will vote for whatever Boris Johnson tells him to vote for.

The proposals that were published by the United Kingdom Government yesterday do not look, at this stage, like they will be acceptable to the European Union. The proposals also seem to break all the promises that were made to Ireland at the start of the Brexit process. Aside from all that, the proposals would take Scotland out of the European Union, out of the single market and out of the customs union, all against our will, and they suggest a much looser relationship with the EU—a much harder Brexit—even than that proposed by Theresa May.

I will be quite clear, as I have been crystal clear in the past, that I will not support something like that, because Scotland does not support that. If Jackson Carlaw was interested in standing up for Scotland, as opposed to simply standing up for Boris Johnson, he would not be supporting it either.

Our position is that further dither, delay and uncertainty, and the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister—to which the First Minister is disgracefully open—is much more damaging to us all than getting the matter sorted now. We are at the 11th hour; there is a need on all sides to compromise if we are going to reach a negotiated settlement. Yet, the record of this Scottish National Party Government has been to fail to do so.

The First Minister repeatedly says that she will do anything possible to stop no deal, yet, despite three opportunities so far this year, her MPs have never voted for a deal. Does she regret not ordering her MPs to vote for a deal when she had the chance?

My alternative to no deal is no Brexit. That is what the people of Scotland voted for. All the efforts that I made at compromise, to keep us in the single market and the customs union, were spurned and cast aside by Theresa May. I will not support an option that takes us out of not just the EU but the single market and the customs union.

Jackson Carlaw has no credibility on this, or perhaps on anything else, after the events of this week. He has gone from being an enthusiastic remainer to a Boris Johnson-loving, no-deal Brexiteer in what seems like a heartbeat. To use the language of the Secretary of State for Scotland, he has brought the Scottish Tories “into line” with his Westminster bosses. In doing so, he has completely abandoned the interests of the Scottish people—shame on him for that. No wonder his colleagues now want to get rid of him. I have to say that I thought the Labour Party was the master when it came to getting rid of leaders, but at least it waits until the leader is elected before it tries to oust them. Jackson Carlaw is about to be ousted before he is even elected.

The real shame is a First Minister who is prepared to conspire to make Jeremy Corbyn the Prime Minister of this country.

Once again—and typically—the First Minister confirms that there has not been a referendum this century the result of which she is prepared to accept, support or implement. That is not democracy. Let us just examine for a moment the First Minister’s plan and the fantasy top team that she now wants to run Britain. We have the Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit altogether—although Jamie Stone, the official spokesman for Scotland, wants to support no deal over Jeremy Corbyn. We have Jeremy Corbyn, who wants to get a new deal and then possibly campaign against it in a referendum that he may or may not support. That is topped up by the SNP, which claims that it will do everything to avoid a no-deal Brexit, other than to vote for a deal.

The Conservatives want a deal and we would vote for a deal—[Interruption.]

The First Minister has said that she wants a deal, but now will not vote for one. Which approach does she think is most likely to secure a deal?

I want Scotland to remain in the European Union. First, because that is the best option for Scotland and secondly, because that is what people in Scotland voted for—they voted to remain in the EU. Jackson Carlaw used to agree with me on that: he used to agree that, if that was not possible, we should at least stay in the single market and the customs union, and he used to agree with me that no-deal Brexit should be avoided at all costs. Now, we have a situation where Jackson Carlaw’s position can be simplified to simply doing whatever Boris Johnson instructs him to do.

Jackson Carlaw does not care about the best interests of the Scottish people. I am not even sure that he cares about the best interests of the Scottish Conservative Party, because backing no deal is certainly not in those interests. I think that Jackson Carlaw has made the miscalculation that backing Boris Johnson is the best way to remain leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. I have to say that his colleagues seem to have a completely different view of that. Jackson Carlaw has squandered any shred of credibility he ever had.

If the First Minister had the courage of her convictions, she would have voted for a general election several weeks ago and there would have been an opportunity for the issue to have been resolved before 31 October. She had a chance, but once again, her MPs were all talk and no action.

The Scottish Conservatives welcome the fact that, in the EU and the European Commission, senior figures have not rushed to judgment—unlike the First Minister—and have made it clear that they are prepared to examine the plan in detail. We urge both those in Europe and the UK Government to continue their intensive discussions over the coming days. That is the best way to get the matter resolved, rather than the neverendum that the First Minister supports.

The truth is—and the First Minister has confirmed it—that the SNP does not want a deal. It is not prepared to respect or implement the result of the referendum; whether it is this deal or Theresa May’s deal, the SNP’s answer is always no. Rather than have yet more delay, is it not time that we got this done?

When it comes to Boris Johnson’s proposals, it is probably more a case of intensive care, rather than intensive discussions, given the reactions that we heard yesterday. I do not see any indication that the proposals will be acceptable to the European Union. They also break every single promise that was made to Ireland. I remember Ruth Davidson saying that she would never, ever back any proposals that put a border down the Irish Sea, but now Jackson Carlaw has completely changed his position on that.

The fact of the matter is that there is not a shred of principle in the Scottish Conservatives’ position. They have gone from enthusiastic remainers to no-deal Brexiteers, simply because they have been instructed to do so by Boris Johnson.

Support a deal.

Jackson Carlaw is saying that I do not support a deal. I do not know where Jackson Carlaw has been for the last three-and-a-half years: I do not support Scotland being taken out of the European Union. I want us to remain in the EU. I do not want Scotland to be dragged out against our will by any Tory Government. That is why I will continue to press for Scotland’s place in the European Union and I will continue to offer a choice to the people of Scotland, so that we can choose an independent future as a way of protecting that relationship.

Mental Health Services (NHS Tayside)

In May, Dr David Strang published the interim report on his independent inquiry into mental health services in NHS Tayside. What has been done to implement his recommendations?

Discussions continue while we await David Strang’s final report. In the meantime, we have taken a range of actions to ensure that we improve mental health care and treatment for people who need it.

In his interim report, Dr Strang made only one recommendation. He said that proposals to centralise mental health services in Dundee should not be considered before

“a comprehensive review of mental health service strategy”

is carried out. Not only has NHS Tayside failed to carry out the review, but, worse still, the board is pressing ahead with the centralisation of services. Speaking in the past week, Dr Strang said:

“It is disappointing. This was the only recommendation in the whole report, because I thought it was urgently needed.”

The independent inquiry was set up because of the deep concerns of families who have lost their loved ones through suicide. Why is there no urgency? Why is it that, so far, the sole recommendation of the independent inquiry is being wilfully ignored?

Richard Leonard is right to talk about the seriousness of the issue and about the impact of such decisions on families across the country. Let me be very clear: when an independent inquiry makes recommendations, the Scottish Government and I expect national health service boards to take those recommendations fully into account. I expect NHS Tayside to take account of the recommendations that David Strang has made thus far in its decision-making process in relation to mental health services in the Tayside area.

When we receive David Strang’s final recommendations, we will expect the recommendations for the NHS to be complied with. Any recommendations that come forward for the Scottish Government will be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Let us remember why the independent inquiry is taking place. It is three years since David Ramsay died by suicide, and too many other families have lost their loved ones. Just yesterday, David’s niece Gillian told me:

“NHS Tayside refuse to listen, they refuse to change, they are being allowed to carry on: business as usual ... things are getting worse at NHS Tayside, not better”.

The independent expert who was appointed to chair the inquiry—a man with considerable experience—says that his recommendation is being ignored, despite action having been demanded as far back as May. Grieving families are saying that things are getting worse, not better. The First Minister’s expectation is not being met, so it is not time that she stepped in before more time is wasted, before more families are made to suffer and before more lives are needlessly lost?

I will—and always do—reflect very carefully on issues that are raised with me at First Minister’s question time. I will do so today, given the seriousness of the issues that Richard Leonard has raised.

I repeat what I said in my earlier answer: I expect health boards to properly take account of such recommendations in the decision-making processes that they are required to undertake. I will certainly consider carefully the points that Richard Leonard has made.

I take the opportunity, again, to put on record my condolences to David Ramsay’s family and to anyone else whose loved one has lost their life to suicide. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport would be very willing to meet David Ramsay’s family, if that would be of interest, to hear at first hand their concerns about the on-going situation at NHS Tayside. It is important that we listen to the lived experience of patients and patients’ relatives, and we will continue to do that in good faith and in all sincerity. I am happy to ask the health secretary to write to Richard Leonard once I have had the opportunity to consider carefully the points that he has raised and the quotes that he has put on the record.

We have some constituency supplementaries, the first of which is from Murdo Fraser.

National Health Service (Winter Planning Funding)

NHS Tayside has serious financial difficulties, but it has just been advised by the Scottish Government that its winter planning budget has been cut in half. It received £737,000 last year and will get just £396,000 this winter. Can the First Minister give me an assurance that elderly and vulnerable patients will not be put at risk from the cut? Why is it being made, when the Scottish Government is set to receive an additional £635 million in Barnett consequentials due to increased health spending south of the border?

Murdo Fraser’s comment about winter planning funding is not quite right. Today, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport announced initial allocations to health boards. We will continue to discuss winter plans with boards and see what further financial provision is required to support them. I stress clearly to members and health boards that today’s announcement was of initial allocations, but that is not necessarily the end of the process.

I know well—not just as First Minister but from my past experience as health secretary—the importance of winter planning, of keeping winter planning under review and of the Scottish Government working closely with health boards to ensure that planning is robust and properly resourced.

We hear a lot from the United Kingdom Government about spending commitments and the consequentials that might flow from them. However, if Murdo Fraser does not mind, I prefer to see the colour of the money and have the cheque cashed—rather than have it bounce—before we start allocating it. On past experience, what the Tory Government says about consequentials does not always flow through into actual money, so we will wait and see.

Finally, I remind Murdo Fraser that while we are ensuring record funding to the national health service in Scotland, if we had taken the advice of the Scottish Conservatives on tax cuts for the richest, we would have had to take £650 million out of our budget, which is equivalent to having 16,000 fewer nurses in our national health service.

EU-US Trade Dispute

The First Minister will be aware that, as part of the European Union-United States trade dispute, the US has published a list of products from the EU to which tariffs of 25 per cent will apply from 18 October. The list includes a range of iconic Scottish goods: whisky, cashmere, shortbread, cheese and seafood. The financial and economic impact on businesses in constituencies such as mine is likely to be huge. Will the First Minister assure Parliament that the Scottish Government will press United Kingdom Government ministers to do all that they can to protect Scotland’s interests?

I thank Gail Ross for raising an extremely important and concerning issue. The news this morning is profoundly worrying for producers of Scotch whisky and the other Scottish products that are exported to the United States that Gail Ross mentioned.

On pressing UK Government ministers, I recently wrote to the Prime Minister highlighting the threat to, in particular, the Scotch whisky industry, and I discussed the issue directly with the Scotch Whisky Association just a couple of weeks ago. We will continue to encourage the UK Government to support a negotiated settlement on that, and we support the efforts of the EU to find one.

It is in nobody’s interest to have such trade wars; everybody ends up being a loser. The sooner that we find a resolution, the better, so I encourage UK ministers to work hard to find one.

Fair Work Practices

Agency workers at Amazon in Dunfermline face having wages withheld, unrealistic performance targets and hourly rates that are, in effect, below the minimum wage. This time last year, the First Minister welcomed Amazon’s commitment to pay the living wage. What action will she take this year to ensure that Amazon applies fair working practices to all its staff?

We will continue to press all employers, including Amazon, to use fair work practices, including the living wage. As Mark Ruskell will be aware, we have made commitments to our fair work first policy, under which future Government funding streams, grants and investments, for example, will be made conditional on fair work practices being followed.

The issue is extremely important, and my message to Amazon and any other employers is that they would not be able to make the profits that they make without the contribution of their workers, and it is essential that they treat their workers fairly.

Flood Damage (Aberdeenshire)

Last weekend, seven bridges were destroyed in central Aberdeenshire through severe weather and flash flooding, with numerous roads damaged. I have spoken with a major vegetable producer who employs 100 people and who has had access to his premises severely restricted as a result of the flooding. There are numerous households in rural areas that are severely disadvantaged due to the road and bridge damage.

I have been talking with officials from Aberdeenshire Council all week, and the estimated cost of repairs will run to millions of pounds. Can the First Minister commit to delivering extra funding to Aberdeenshire Council to help rebuild the bridges and repair the damage?

We will continue to engage in dialogue with Aberdeenshire Council, as we do with any council whose area suffers from the kind of severe weather that was suffered in Aberdeenshire last week. There are recognised and well-used schemes in place. In addition, we have on-going dialogue with councils, and we will seek to help wherever we can. I know how much of an impact the flash flooding had and how much of that impact is still being felt. We want to ensure that that impact is mitigated as soon as possible.

Home Care (Availability)

On Monday, I met Douglas Dawson at St Andrews House care home. The local authorities have been unable to provide a care package so that he can go home, and he has been stuck there for 18 months. Now the authorities want to charge him £26,000 for 24-hour care that he does not need in a care home that he does not want to live in. Mr Dawson told me that that is a completely degrading way of dealing with someone who just wants to go home. Does the First Minister agree?

Yes, in general terms I strongly agree. As Willie Rennie will appreciate, I do not know all the details of Mr Dawson’s case. If he wishes to share those with me and with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, I will look into the issue as a matter of urgency.

We have taken action in a range of ways, from integrating health and social care to increasing the funding going specifically to social care, to reduce delayed discharge and ensure that people are in the care setting that is most appropriate to their needs. I am not saying that this is the case with Mr Dawson, but sometimes there will be particular circumstances that make that particularly challenging. However, the general principle is that people should be in the care setting that is right for them. I would be very happy to look into the particular case.

If the Government had kept its bedblocking promise four years ago, Mr Dawson would not be subject to that degrading treatment. He is not alone. There have been 2 million unnecessary bed stays in Scottish hospitals since Scottish ministers promised to stop the practice completely. There is a home-care crisis across the country, and it is getting worse. In Fife alone, 400 people are waiting for a care package. People in real need look to the Government and listen to its promises, but they have been left waiting and abandoned. What do they have to do to get something done?

As I said in my original answer, I do not know the circumstances of Mr Dawson’s case, so I cannot draw conclusions as to what the reasons for that are. What Willie Rennie has described to me is not acceptable for any individual to be going through, but I will look into the case.

More generally, delayed discharges have been coming down overall over the past few years. Delayed discharge remains a challenge, and that is why we have integrated health and social care, why we are investing more funds specifically in social care and why some of the other work on waiting times, particularly in accident and emergency, is so important, as the issues are interconnected. We will continue to take the action that we need to take, as well as supporting and extending free personal care for people who need it, so that everybody across Scotland gets the care that they need in the setting where they need it. That commitment is very important to me and to the Government.

Food Insecurity

Is the First Minister aware of the new report from A Menu for Change, which is out this week and was produced by Oxfam, the Poverty Alliance and others? It shows that Scots are being pushed into food insecurity by low wages, zero-hours contracts and delays in receiving universal credit. Does the First Minister agree that the social security safety net is failing to catch enough people? What can the Scottish Government do to stop people becoming hungry in my constituency and throughout Scotland, including through this place taking full control over welfare policy?

I absolutely agree that nobody should experience food insecurity in a country as prosperous as Scotland. This week’s report from A Menu for Change highlights the impact of the United Kingdom Government’s punitive welfare changes and welfare cuts. We will continue to challenge those cuts and we will continue to call for a halt to universal credit, which is clearly causing so many of those problems.

In addition, our £3.5 million fair food fund supports dignified responses to food insecurity. Last week, we announced an additional £1 million investment through the charity FareShare to support community resilience to the impacts of Brexit on food insecurity. The Scottish welfare fund provides vital support to those who need access to emergency funding to help with the cost of essentials, such as food and heating. Since the fund’s start in 2013, more than £200 million has been paid to more than 330,000 households in crisis.

We will continue to do everything we can. However, as I often say in the chamber, until all the powers over welfare lie in the hands of this Government and not in the hands of the Government at Westminster, we will continue to do that with one hand tied behind our back. That is not acceptable.

Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015

Four years ago this week, the Parliament unanimously voted for the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015, section 11 of which gives unaccompanied children the legal protection and support of the Scottish guardianship service. Members should make no mistake about how important that is. Children who are trafficked into Scotland, many from Vietnam, with no idea where they are and no parent or guardian to look after them, are alone and vulnerable to criminal gangs. Four years later, that protection has not been implemented by the Scottish Government. Why not? Those children do not have the legal protection that we passed into law for them. Will the First Minister commit to implementing in full that vital protection before Parliament breaks for Christmas?

I will write to Jenny Marra on that point. I will give her a full answer on why that provision has not been commenced so far and the timescale for bringing it into force. It is an important issue.

More generally, I commend and pay tribute to the work of the Scottish guardianship service. A couple of weeks ago, I visited young people who are under the care and support of that service, and I saw its benefit to them. We want to make sure that the service is available to all young people who need it. I will make sure that Jenny Marra gets a specific answer to that question as quickly as possible.

Houses with Aluminium Cladding

I am receiving a growing number of emails from constituents and Edinburgh solicitors in relation to flats in the city that cannot be sold due to the attitude of lenders, who refuse to lend for properties with aluminium cladding. Surveyors are giving home reports with zero valuation, which means that people’s homes are unsaleable. Next week, I will speak with stakeholders. I ask the First Minister for her Government’s assistance in sorting out that growing problem.

I am happy to look into that issue in more detail. We want to make sure that we help, in any way that we can, any home owner who is in that position. If Andy Wightman shares with us the evidence that he gathers from constituents, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning will be happy to discuss additional support that the Scottish Government might be able to offer.

WASPI Women (High Court Judgment)

The First Minister will be aware of the decision of the High Court today with regard to WASPI women—the women against state pension inequality. Unfortunately, they have lost their case. Does the First Minister agree that the United Kingdom Government must acknowledge the suffering and disadvantage that the transition period has caused those women? Does she also agree that a payment should be made by the UK Government to all WASPI women?

I thank Sandra White for raising that issue. Although it is a matter for the court, like many people, I am disappointed in this morning’s judgment. Those women should not have to be in court, trying to protect what is theirs by right. The UK Government has effectively robbed women of their pension entitlement. It is disgraceful.

Today, like Sandra White, I call on the UK Government to reverse that policy, to give back to women what is theirs and to ease the suffering that so many women are experiencing because of the policy. When people save for their pensions, they have a right to expect that that is what they will get, not to have it taken away from them by a Tory Westminster Government. The policy affects women in particular, which makes the women’s position even more regrettable.

Cummins UK (Closure)

Cummins UK is set to close its factory in Cumbernauld, with the loss of 130 jobs, after 30 years of loyal service by that community. Along with Unite the union, will the Scottish Government intervene to do everything possible to save those vital jobs?

In these circumstances, the Scottish Government will always work with a company and trade unions to see whether there is action that we can reasonably take, within the constraints within which we operate, to try to save jobs and save the company. That is always the first step that we take. If that does not prove possible—and we are not yet at a stage at which I can say that in this case—we bring to bear the resources of the Government to try to help people to find alternative employment.

We are always interventionist in these situations—I am about to answer a question on which I will make that very point. We always seek to intervene where we can. It will not always be possible but, where it is not possible, we provide whatever help we can.

My thoughts are very much with the workers in this case, because I know what a difficult time it is for them at the moment.

Attacks on Police Officers

To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to reports that the number of police officers injured in attacks has risen by almost a third amid heightened sectarian and other tensions. (S5F-03600)

Nobody should be the victim of abuse or violence while they are at work. Attacks against our police officers are despicable and perpetrators must be dealt with in the strongest possible way.

A wide range of powers is available to tackle such crimes, and we fully support the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in dealing robustly with perpetrators. The Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 enables penalties of up to 12 months’ imprisonment or a £10,000 fine, or both, following convictions for offences against emergency services staff.

We are introducing restitution orders—a new financial penalty that can oblige offenders to contribute to the cost of support services for police officers and staff who have been assaulted.

I thank the First Minister for her comprehensive reply. Does she agree that the repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012, which was driven through this Parliament by the Opposition parties, has sent a signal that behaviour that was considered unacceptable just a couple of years ago is somehow less reprehensible?

Will the First Minister provide an update on measures that are being taken to enable police officers to work safely and respond to attacks appropriately and effectively?

I agree with Kenny Gibson. I have consistently said that, in my opinion, the repeal of the 2012 act sent entirely the wrong signal. The Scottish Government resisted repeal, because no viable alternative was offered at the time. As we have clearly seen since, the issue of sectarianism at football has not gone away. Repealing the act rather than seeking to strengthen it took away important protections to help us to address the issue, and we now have to deal with the consequences of that.

The tactics that are used by Police Scotland to police events and parades are an operational matter for the chief constable. I know that all police officers receive regular officer safety training and all public order officers receive additional training and have access to enhanced protective equipment.

Loans and Investments (Write-offs)

To ask the First Minister whether she will provide an update on the £135 million in loans and investments that the Scottish Government has recently written off. (S5F-03604)

We published a full set of audited consolidated accounts for the financial year 2018-19 last week, including detailed disclosures on the value of the Government’s loans and investments.

Our support for private companies has protected hundreds of jobs and ensured that key economic infrastructure and business assets are preserved for future productive use. We will continue to support companies and workforces that face challenges, not least the dire economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit.

I thank the First Minister for mentioning the Government’s accounts. In a response to the Government’s published accounts, the Auditor General for Scotland said:

“The Scottish Government’s financial reporting has taken a step backwards ... Parliament needs better information to be able to better scrutinise ministers’ financial decision-making”.

Does the First Minister accept that writing off such large sums of money adds to public spending pressures? Does she accept the Auditor General’s criticisms of her Government’s financial transparency and reporting?

We will take on board all recommendations of the Auditor General around financial reporting.

On investments to protect and preserve jobs, I am afraid that I take a different view from that expressed by the Conservatives. These loans and investments were made for the purposes of protecting vital businesses and jobs. It says a lot about the Tories that, last week, they described that as “a waste of money”. I take a different view. This Government, as I have just said, follows an active industrial policy and we are prepared to step in where action is required to safeguard industries and preserve jobs.

I would have thought that Jamie Greene, given the region that he represents, would have welcomed the steps that we have taken to support the workforce of Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow and the staff of the former Texas Instruments plant in Greenock. Through those two interventions alone, we have safeguarded around 600 jobs in Inverclyde. Jamie Greene might think that that is a waste of money; I think that that is what Governments should be doing.

The loans to Ferguson Marine in Port Glasgow were important at the time and are equally important now. Does the First Minister agree that the decision by the administrator and the subsequent announcement yesterday is the only way that Ferguson Marine can safeguard jobs and build more ships, which provides the future that my constituents want for the yard?

Yes, I agree. The bottom line is that if the Government had not acted in the way that we did, there would be no Ferguson Marine right now and none of those jobs would exist right now.

Our action in bringing Ferguson Marine under public control has ensured that the jobs are protected, that the yard has stayed open and that much-needed new ferries can be completed. The administrators have concluded that despite other bids being submitted for the yard, the Government’s offer presents the best outcome for creditors, so the administrators are now in discussion with the Government to agree the final terms of the sale. We expect that to be completed within the next four weeks.

Although we recognise that there is still a lot more to be done, our actions have ensured that there will be a future for Ferguson’s shipyard and those are the right actions to have taken.

Will the First Minister now develop an industrial strategy to ensure that financial interventions in private companies secure the companies’ futures, secure jobs and build the Scottish economy?

That is exactly what we are doing. Labour regularly calls on us to step in—rightly, in my view. Only today, a Labour member of the Scottish Parliament called on us to step in in another case, which we will consider, as we always do. It is not always possible for us to step in, because all investment decisions have to be subject to proper due diligence and we have to be satisfied that we are acting within the law.

Within those constraints, we will always take action to save companies, to give them a future and to protect the jobs of the people who are employed there. I hope that even if the Tories think that that is a waste of money, we will always have the support of Scottish Labour for taking such action.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to ensure that young people can quickly access mental health services, following reports that there were over 36,000 children and young people referred to CAMHS last year. (S5F-03609)

It is to be welcomed that the stigma around mental health is breaking down and that people are coming forward to get the help that they need. We have demonstrated our commitment to supporting the mental wellbeing of children and young people, including through the £250 million commitment to support positive mental health in children and young people.

We are taking measures to strengthen the support that is available in communities, including the development of a national 24/7 crisis support service and provision of community wellbeing services. We are building the capacity of schools to provide early support: we are ensuring that every secondary school will have access to a counselling service by next September, and that an additional 250 school nurses will be trained by 2022. We are also working closely with national health service boards across Scotland to improve access to CAMHS.

Earlier this year, and soon after his general practitioner explained that it would take a very long time to get a CAMHS appointment, my constituent Kyle Stevens, who was just 14, completed suicide. His family is not looking to apportion blame, but they want to make sure that no family experiences the same painful and preventable loss.

In the past year, 7,500 children and young people in Scotland were refused access to specialist mental health services and did not even make it on to a waiting list. We have no record of what support, if any, was offered.

After a year of saying that it would do so, will the Scottish Government commit today to implementing the 29 recommendations that were set out in the audit report “Rejected Referrals Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services” audit, and put an end to children and young people being turned away from specialist mental health support when they need it most?

First, I convey my deepest condolences to Kyle’s family.

In response to the question, I say that we are working to implement all the recommendations. It is right that we do so. On referrals to CAHMS, the number of referrals that are accepted has increased over recent years. The number of referrals is also increasing.

However, Monica Lennon is right. When a referral is rejected—which should happen only if the reason is legitimate—it is important that good community services be available, which is why, as I said in my original answer, we are investing in the community wellbeing service and 24/7 crisis support, as well as support in councils and schools.

I have said many times that we must make sure that young people have the access to CAHMS that they need. However, young people are often referred to CAMHS because there is no community support, when it would be better if they could access that. Building up community services is therefore just as important, so we are working, using considerable investment, on all aspects of that approach.

In Glasgow, more than two in 10 children and young people are waiting longer than 18 weeks to be seen. The figure is worse than it was a year ago. On top of that, nearly 5 per cent of patients in Glasgow had to wait between 36 and 52 weeks to receive treatment.

This time last year, when the Scottish National Party Government made promises to radically overhaul mental health services, people expected to see those promises being followed through. Instead of warm words, what urgent action will the First Minister take to support children and young people in Glasgow who are in need of that vital support?

We will continue to implement the measures that we set out last year, on which we are making progress. More people are coming forward for mental health support. That is a good thing that we should welcome, but we must build up the service to ensure that the increased demand can be properly met. That means making sure that we invest in CAMHS services. In the past 12 years, CAMHS staffing has increased by 76 per cent; it is important that we continue that investment.

However, it is also important that we build up community services so that we also take much more a preventative approach to mental health problems. That is why we are prioritising £250 million of investment, including for additional school counsellors and community wellbeing services. We set out the measures last year in the programme for government, and we are implementing them. We will continue to focus on and make progress on doing that.

Will the First Minister provide an update on child and adolescent mental health referral waiting times in the NHS Grampian area since the opening of the dedicated CAMHS centre in Aberdeen?

The dedicated facility for child and adolescent mental health in Aberdeen officially opened yesterday, although the facility was operational in advance of that. The Scottish Government provided £1 million for the new unit. Such facilities are the future for CAMHS. It has been purpose designed for children and young people with mental health issues, and a number of services are available under one roof. That co-ordination between services is crucial.

The statistics for the next waiting times update for the quarter ending September 2019 are due to be published in early December.

Heart Attacks (Diagnosis and Treatment)

To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to tackle inequality between men and women in diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks. (S5F-03610)

The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that everyone, regardless of gender, has access to the best care and treatment. The “Bias and Biology” report by the British Heart Foundation Scotland, which has been published this week, raised really important issues about inequality between men and women in terms of diagnosis and treatment of heart disease.

Our programme for government committed to establishing a women’s health plan to reduce inequalities in health outcomes that affect women. That includes reducing inequalities relating to cardiac disease. We will work closely with the third sector, including the British Heart Foundation, as we develop that plan.

We also continue to implement our heart disease improvement plan, which sets out the priorities and actions that we will take to deliver improved prevention, treatment and care for all patients.

Parliament is rightly proud of its work on highlighting issues to do with gender bias. However, as the First Minister has stated, research that was funded by the British Heart Foundation and others has uncovered that at every stage—diagnosis, treatment and aftercare—women who have heart attacks receive poorer care than men. Underlying all that is the common misconception that coronary heart disease and heart attacks are men’s diseases. What can the Scottish Government do, in collaboration with organisations such as the British Heart Foundation, to tackle that dangerous misconception?

That is a very important question. In some respects, Scotland is probably slightly ahead of other countries both in recognising the issue and in starting to tackle it. The British Heart Foundation’s publication is an important contribution; it supplements research in the book by Caroline Criado Perez that was also published recently.

There are many issues. The particular one that Brian Whittle referred to was that although symptoms of a heart attack in women often manifest differently from how they manifest in men, when we think of somebody having a heart attack we often think of the symptoms that men tend to have. There are also issues to do with some treatments perhaps not being tailored properly to women’s biology.

Those are all big issues. The first step in tackling them is to make sure that there is properly detailed and in-depth understanding. We should, through the actions that I have set out—in particular, the women’s health plan—then be very systematic in tackling the matter. Not only do I and the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport have a keen interest in it, but our chief medical officer is leading the way on it. I am sure that Parliament will continue to take a very keen interest in it, too.

12:46 Meeting suspended.  

12:50 On resuming—