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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 06 November 2019

Agenda: World Day Against the Death Penalty, Portfolio Question Time, Ferries, Curriculum for Excellence, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, UN Year of Indigenous Languages and European Day of Languages


Contents


Portfolio Question Time


United Kingdom Budget (Cancellation)

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the UK Government regarding the impact on Scotland of the cancellation of the 2019 UK budget. (S5O-03703)

The Scottish Government learned about the cancellation of the United Kingdom budget through the media. The calling of a general election means that a new UK budget date will not be known until December at the earliest.

Without the UK tax announcements and the tax, social security and economic forecasts that are produced for a UK budget, we will not have clarity on the funding available for public services in Scotland in 2020-21. The delay and uncertainty unreasonably constrain our ability to plan future spending and the associated time for parliamentary scrutiny.

Although the UK Government departments, as a result of the October spending round, have been given certainty on their budgets for next year, the Scottish Government, along with its counterpart in Wales, still lacks the certainty that it requires in order to set its budget. What can the minister do in that regard? It is not just custom and practice that have been abandoned; the Tories have compromised the basis of funding Scotland’s public services and setting out the Government’s tax plans and have damaged this Parliament’s ability to scrutinise tax and spending plans ahead of the new tax year.

Gil Paterson is right. The UK Government has compromised the ability of the Scottish Government, the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament to deliver certainty for public spending next year. The UK block grant adjustment counts for more than 40 per cent of the Scottish fiscal resource budget. We still do not know when the UK budget will be announced. That makes it difficult to plan the timing of the Scottish budget. A later budget means less time for the Scottish Parliament to scrutinise spending plans. We all agree that that is unsatisfactory and that it is the fault of the UK Government. We will continue to do everything we can to progress the Scottish budget and protect the interests of Scotland.

I have supplementary questions from three members. The questions should not be too long.

Being a fair-minded person, the minister will be happy to acknowledge that all parties called for a December general election, with the consequence that we now see for the budget process. We do not know who will be in government after 12 December, so any spending commitments that were made up to that date might or might not be carried forward. Will she acknowledge that the Scottish National Party MPs in Westminster must take their share of responsibility for the position that we are in?

Being a fair member in return, Murdo Fraser will understand that the issue faces not just the Scottish Government but all members in the chamber who believe in scrutiny. Because the UK position has changed significantly with the announcement of the general election, the Scottish Government has to consider its approach to the budget. We will continue to engage with Parliament and the Scottish Fiscal Commission in relation to the options that are available to us.

Given the fact that, at the start of devolution, simpler budgets used to have something like four months of scrutiny, we are now in a tight, constrained process. We do not yet know whether there will be a UK budget before the next Brexit cliff-edge date at the end of January.

In that circumstance, would it be helpful for the Scottish representatives in this Parliament of the two parties that are likely to form the next UK Government to write to their Treasury counterparts and insist that their parties commit now that the UK budget will be no later than the first week of January?

Indeed: the earlier the budget is set at a UK level, the quicker we can get on and set our own budget. It is in the interests of not just the Government but all members of the Parliament to have maximum time for scrutiny. To that end, as always, if members of the two main UK parties could put pressure on their respective counterparts in Westminster to ensure that we have as much certainty as possible on when the budget is, that would be in everybody’s interests.

The minister will be aware that the delay to the Scottish budget will have a knock-on effect on other bodies such as local government and voluntary organisations. What contingencies is she putting in place to ensure that they can continue to deliver their services and that they will be adequately funded to do so?

I recognise the pressures on other bodies that depend on Scottish Government funding. We have various options available to take the budget through—we would like to do that as quickly and early as possible. It is in the interests of the Parliament that we engage as much as possible, including with the Scottish Fiscal Commission, to find the best approach in the circumstances that have been forced on us by the UK Government.


Michelin Site (Dundee)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress on the future of the Michelin site in Dundee, in light of the first anniversary of the announcement to close it in 2020. (S5O-03704)

Earlier today, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work attended the latest meeting of the Michelin Dundee action group, comprising Michelin and a range of national and local public sector bodies and the trade unions.

Michelin’s commitment to the long-term future of the site is evident, and we are clear that the Scottish Government and its partners must at least match that. That is why we have announced a joint funding package of £60 million, together with Michelin, to deliver our shared vision for the Michelin Scotland innovation park over the next 10 years. The park will attract companies, research institutions and a highly skilled workforce. We want Scotland to lead the way in developing and manufacturing the technologies of the future, and the park will be vital in helping us achieve that.

I welcome the fantastic announcement of the £60 million investment by the partners—Michelin, the Scottish Government and Dundee City Council. Will the minister join me in welcoming the launch of the new branding for the Michelin Scotland innovation park, which I attended this morning? The branding is absolutely fantastic. Will he also pay tribute to the Michelin workforce, without whom none of that could have happened? They have played a key role in securing the investment in the site.

Finally, how much has the United Kingdom Government offered to contribute towards this important project?

I join Shona Robison in welcoming the fact that the branding for the park is now available. We want the park to be very visible, and having some outward-facing branding is an important part of that.

I, too, pay tribute to the workforce at Michelin. They have been outstanding throughout the process. As soon as the news about the future of the plant was announced, their clear determination was to secure a future for the site and for the city of Dundee. Working with them, that is exactly what we have been able to do.

The UK Government has not contributed any funding towards the Michelin Scotland innovation park. Derek Mackay has written to Andrea Leadsom, seeking a commitment to fund specific projects for the park, and we await a response with interest.

It is good to hear of those recent developments, but it is a pity that it took the loss of 800 jobs to get the Scottish Government to begin to think about those innovative opportunities.

What action has been taken to shake up Scottish Enterprise, such that the Scottish Government does not sleepwalk into losing 800 crown-jewel manufacturing jobs again?

What an utterly miserly response to the news that we, together with Michelin, have ensured investment of £60 million into the city of Dundee to secure the future of the Michelin site. We might think that Mr Bowman, as a member who represents North East Scotland, would welcome that news, but he has failed to do so, and I am sure that the people of Dundee will reflect on that.

Question 3 was withdrawn; question 4 was not lodged.


Independence (Economic Impact)

To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to publish an assessment of the possible economic impact on Scotland of it leaving the United Kingdom. (S5O-03707)

In this year’s programme for government, the Scottish Government committed to updating the plans that it made for an independent Scotland in advance of the 2014 referendum. Currently, the greatest threat to the Scottish economy is presented by Brexit. Last week, we published a further “Scotland’s Place in Europe” paper, assessing the revised withdrawal agreement and political declaration. The paper highlights the damage that will be done to Scotland should the UK leave the European Union under the deal and underscores the importance of allowing the people of Scotland the opportunity to choose their own future.

The Scottish Government was right to publish its economic impact assessment of Brexit, because it would damage our economy, cost jobs and cause cuts to our public services. However, we cannot defeat chaos with more chaos. We share a border with England, we trade more with the rest of the UK than we do with the rest of the world combined, and our nations have been intertwined for 300 years.

We should not let any nationalist ideology damage the interests of Scotland; that is why I support the UK staying in the European Union and Scotland staying in the UK. If the minister genuinely believes in standing up for Scotland’s interests, why does he not do the same?

I am not sure where to start with that.

As I said, the Scottish Government has committed to updating the economic impact assessment in advance of any future referendum, which is exactly what we will do. That will be very different from what was done in the UK in advance of the EU referendum, when all we had was a slogan painted on the side of a bus. The member might care to look at the work of the Sustainable Growth Commission or at the situation in which many of our small, independent neighbours in Europe find themselves. Because such nations have the ability to make their own economic decisions and decide their own futures on the basis of what is best for their economies, they have gone from strength to strength—unlike Scotland, which has suffered because it has been part of the union.

The Scottish Government’s website publishes the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures, which show that Scotland has a fiscal deficit of £12.6 billion. It describes those figures as being

“produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics ... free of political interference”

and providing a reasonable basis for assessing Scotland’s stand-alone fiscal position. Does the minister agree with that description?

Yes, I do. However, as the member will understand, the GERS figures also reflect Scotland’s current position as part of the union. He will also understand that if Scotland were given the opportunity to make its own economic decisions as an independent country, its economic position would be very different from the one that it currently suffers because it is part of the union. Further, he will be aware that the work of the Sustainable Growth Commission, which tracks Scotland’s deficit reduction over time, has predicted that our deficit reduction will reduce to below the level that is required by international norms. We are currently progressing in advance of that reduction and doing better than the Sustainable Growth Commission predicted when its work was published two years ago.

Can the minister explain how it is possible for Scotland to have a deficit when we cannot borrow any money, and how, if the Government does not spend up to the limit that it has, we could then lose the right to govern this country?

As the member has correctly identified, the Scottish Government’s borrowing powers are severely restricted and it has to manage within the budget that is allocated to it, which it balances on an on-going basis—unlike the UK Government, which runs up significant deficits.

As I indicated, the GERS figures reflect the notional position that Scotland would be in were all those numbers allocated to its accounts. However, as I also said, they reflect the position in which Scotland finds itself as part of the union and not the one that it would find itself in as an independent country, which, like other such countries, could make economic and fiscal decisions to suit its own economy and population.


Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Financial Powers)

To ask the Scottish Government whether the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has made any suggestions regarding additional financial powers that it seeks during the remainder of the parliamentary session. (S5O-03708)

We are committed to making local taxation more progressive while improving the financial accountability of local government. We are delivering our commitments on local tax reform, which will deliver the most significant financial empowerment of local authorities since devolution. COSLA has made no specific suggestions, including in its submission to our local governance review, for additional financial powers since we made those commitments in January of this year.

I thank the minister for that reply. COSLA has certainly made a number of suggestions to the Local Government and Communities Committee on the need for additional powers. Does the minister agree that it is incumbent on any organisation that makes representations to ministers or committees for additional funding to at least suggest where such funding should come from, saying whether it should be through transfers from other areas of the Scottish budget and, if so, how much should be transferred, or through additional taxation, in which case it should say on whom that taxation should fall and to what extent?

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work has made it clear to COSLA that we will consider specific proposals that it may have. We have made good progress in empowering local authorities financially in relation to a discretionary local tax on tourism, as well as the devolution to local authorities of non-domestic rates empty property relief.

However, at the end of the day, the member is quite right. It is the responsibility of all parties that request additional funding, including those in this room, to identify where else in the budget they believe it should come from and, if it would involve additional tax-raising powers, who the taxes should fall on and to what extent.

Given the existing pressures on local government, which I know the minister is aware of—they include inflation, promises and wage settlements—will she ensure that there is proper funding for new Government initiatives? For those areas in which the Scottish Government has ring fenced investment for local authorities, will she commit to that funding?

As part of our budget process this year, we will obviously engage with COSLA on the financial settlement for the coming year. Separately from that, in relation to the fiscal framework and the funding settlement, I am leading work to develop a rules-based framework for local government funding, which would be introduced in the next session of Parliament, and that work is being taken forward in partnership with COSLA.

On all matters of future funding, including for local government and particularly with the prospect of a three-year funding settlement, the UK position has changed significantly following the announcement of a general election on 12 December, and that uncertainty over our budget date flows into some of the commitments around long-term funding plans.

I ask Patrick Harvie to make his supplementary question short.

Does the minister accept that the small, independent northern European countries that Scotland likes to compare itself to do not hoard power at the centre but give not only tax powers but powers over land value capture, energy, public transport services, housing and much else to the local level? Does she accept that the power of local government in those countries to transform communities is awesome? Why should Scotland not expect that strong, creative tier of local government, which we are so lacking at the moment?

That is why we jointly launched the local governance review with COSLA—to ensure that Scotland’s diverse communities and different places have greater control and influence over the decisions that affect them most. The reforms that we announced in January delivered the most significant financial empowerment of local authorities since devolution.

We know that there is further to go, and that is why I mentioned in my answer to the previous member that work is being done on a rules-based framework. We recognise that more control should be held at a local level and we continue to work with members in the Parliament to ensure that it is.


Scottish Growth Scheme

To ask the Scottish Government how much funding it and Scottish Enterprise have provided to companies as part of the £500 million Scottish growth scheme. (S5O-03709)

The Scottish Government is committed to unlocking private sector investment for businesses through a variety of mechanisms. The Scottish growth scheme uses public sector investment to lever the private sector and aims to unlock up to £500 million of investment for Scottish small and medium-sized enterprises. To 30 September 2019, some £160 million had been invested under the Scottish growth scheme, which has supported 262 businesses. That has been enabled through investments totalling £24.1 million from Scottish Enterprise and £3.5 million from the Scottish Government.

The current uncertainty in the economy has likely had an impact on demand for funding, with recent research indicating that firms are putting off investment as they await the outcome of Brexit.

Nicola Sturgeon stood in this very chamber and said that she would deliver a £500 million vote of confidence in Scottish businesses. As we have just heard, the truth is very different. Why should anyone believe a word that this SNP Government says when it said that it would deliver £500 million but did not mean anything close to that?

I think that Annie Wells—this is surprising for a Conservative member—fails to understand what this is all about. It is about the Scottish Government using its economic power to unlock private sector investment by looking for barriers that exist in the system and supporting the removal of those blockages to unlock that private sector investment into Scottish SMEs. It is about lubricating the wheels to make the private sector do what it should and can do to support Scottish businesses.

The £500 million to be put into businesses to which the member refers is not Government money; it includes unlocking all the private sector investment to enable that investment to go into SMEs in order to support them to grow and develop in the current situation. The current uncertainty in the economy is what is causing the lack of demand for businesses. That investment is there, and businesses that want to come forward and take advantage of the funding are very welcome to do so.

If the member is aware of any businesses that would like to do that, I ask her to encourage them to come forward. The blockage is the result not of a lack of Government support to lubricate the private sector and unlock private sector investment, but of a lack of businesses coming forward to take advantage of the offer from the Scottish Government that is on the table.

Question 8, in the name of Gail Ross, was not lodged.


Non-native Invasive Species

To ask the Scottish Government how it tackles non-native invasive species. (S5O-03711)

The Scottish Government is working with a range of partners to minimise the negative impacts that are caused by invasive non-native species in Scotland. The focus is on preventing their release and spread, and on responding quickly when necessary. There are three parts to our strategy: first, to prevent the release and spread of non-native species, focusing on areas where they can cause damage to native species and habitats and to economic interests; secondly, to ensure a rapid response to new populations of non-native species; and thirdly, to apply effective control and eradication measures where they are needed.

Yesterday, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee highlighted multiple strong concerns about progress on the Scottish Government’s climate change adaption programme. Water quality in almost half of Scottish rivers is poor and not improving, and pressures on freshwater habitats from non-native invasive species are increasing, which suggests that the current targets and actions may not be sufficient to address the rising risk. Even with excellent work that is being done by organisations such as the Galloway Fisheries Trust and the River Cree Hatchery and Habitat Trust, more needs to be done to ensure a fit-for-purpose—

Get to your question please, Mr Carson.

More needs to be done to find a model to attack the problem on a catchment basis. What is the Government doing to address the shortcomings in the current funding schemes?

We recognise how important it is to tackle invasive non-native species because of the threats that they pose to our biodiversity. They are estimated to cost us in the region of £250 million a year in Scotland, so it is a massive challenge. I agree that we have always to strive to do more to try to tackle invasive non-native species.

One such project that is under way in the north of Scotland is the Scottish invasive species initiative, which is a four-year project on river catchments. I went to visit the project on the South Esk in my constituency this year, and met the project manager and the project officer. To give members an idea of some of the figures involved in that project, 342 volunteers took part in it last year, 736km of giant hogweed was treated and 195 volunteers helped to monitor mink rafts. Part of the secret of tackling the issue is working with communities and volunteers and trying to encourage as much of that work as possible. We are also working with Scottish Natural Heritage to look at a more strategic approach to how we tackle invasive plant species. I would be happy to get back to the member with more detail on that.

Will exiting the European Union damage our ability to prevent invasive alien species from arriving in Scotland?

Invasive non-native species, by their very nature, do not respect national boundaries. That is why we aim to work collaboratively with EU countries where we can after Brexit. However, leaving the EU will limit our ability to get species on to the EU-wide lists that guarantee co-operation and collaboration with other European countries, and it will reduce our capacity to prevent the spread and establishment of species that can damage our biodiversity as well as our economy.


Shell and Forestry and Land Scotland Partnership (Carbon Credits)

2. Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

To ask the Scottish Government how many carbon credits will be generated for Shell as part of its partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland. (S5O-03712)

The five-year work programme that has been developed by Forestry and Land Scotland will enable Shell to claim up to 250,000 carbon units over the next 100 years through the creation of new woodlands and the restoration of degraded peatlands in and on Scotland’s national forests and land. All carbon units will be validated and verified under the woodland carbon code and the peatland code, as appropriate.

There is little in the public domain from the Scottish Government on that partnership. Perhaps the Scottish Government is—understandably—uncomfortable about taking money from one of the world’s largest polluters. However, Shell itself is boasting that the deal is worth £5 million and suggests that it will allow drivers to offset their fuel purchases. Can the minister confirm whether the sale of carbon credits from the public estate to fossil fuel corporations is now Government policy and whether any further deals are being discussed?

We come at the issue from a perspective that is fundamentally different from that of the member. The project does not change any of our ambitions or the work that we hope to do. We have the most ambitious climate change targets in the world, but we must recognise that we cannot cease production of oil overnight and just import problems from elsewhere. We have a just transition commission to help us to achieve the transition to a low-carbon economy. In the meantime, partnerships and initiatives like the one with Shell are vital and will continue to be so in our transition work. Such projects do not change the work that we have to do or alter any of our targets, but they help us to sequester more carbon from the atmosphere in the meantime.


Flood Resilience Plans

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on flood resilience plans ahead of winter. (S5O-03713)

It is important to remember that flooding can happen at any time, so we work closely with our partners to promote flood preparedness and build community resilience throughout the year. We have also increased to £190,000 this year our funding to the Scottish Flood Forum, which provides vital support before, during and after flooding to communities across Scotland. I encourage those who are at risk of flooding to keep informed by signing up to receive flood alerts and warnings through the Scottish Environment Protection Agency’s floodline service.

Yesterday, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee heard from the Committee on Climate Change that flood mitigation plans and infrastructure development need to plan for a scenario of an increase in global temperatures of 3° to 4°. Is the Government’s climate change adaptation plan working on that assumption? Is it planning for the effects of climate change, to which Scotland does not contribute but other places in the world do, taking place across all Government portfolios?

The five-year programme to help Scotland prepare for the impacts of climate change that was introduced to Parliament on 23 September addresses the priority risks for Scotland and follows advice provided by the Committee on Climate Change. The programme will work across a range of policy areas, including conducting an economic assessment of flood risk, and undertaking research into recovery from extreme weather events and climate impacts on social care. Obviously, a huge range of planning and housing issues are also affected. The work on planning for the effects of climate change therefore ranges over a significant number of portfolios.

If we keep supplementary questions short, we will get through all the questions.

Is the Scottish Government in dialogue with local authorities, Scottish Water and communities to take forward action to support sustainable urban drainage systems and an assessment of the development of urban creep in order to help minimise the effect of future flood incidents and develop community resilience?

That dialogue is almost constant. My officials, SEPA and local authorities are in constant conversation about those issues, because we are very conscious that more than one thing impacts flooding. Flooding is an understood consequence of climate change, but human activities that are not related to climate change can nevertheless exacerbate flooding and need to be addressed, too.

In the winter of 2015, after severe flooding, the First Minister committed to help my home town of Newton Stewart. However, it is only through the community’s incredible resilience and determination that the main street is returning to normal. Despite the First Minister’s promise four years ago, no flood prevention measures have been taken.

Can you get to your question, please?

Can the cabinet secretary give my constituents in Newton Stewart a commitment that the Scottish Government will deliver on the First Minister’s commitment to the people of Newton Stewart?

This Scottish Government has spent more and done more on flood protection than any previous Government. That has been brought about by an overall strategic approach to the issue that is agreed with local authorities, which is on-going. I invite Finlay Carson to indicate directly to me, if not to his local authority, what the local authority’s representations have been. I will be happy to engage with him on that.


Pollution Management (Tarbolton)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to address issues regarding pollution management at the Tarbolton landfill site. (S5O-03714)

Legal duties regarding the management and condition of the site are the responsibility of the owner or operator. In this case, legal obligations under the permit are on-going and rest with the official receiver, which is the liquidator of the company.

Although the official receiver currently remains responsible for site management, Scottish Environment Protection Agency officers continue to undertake an intensive programme of monitoring. Nevertheless, SEPA has arranged for scoping work to be done to establish the likely costs and practicalities of options for management and mitigation works at the site.

The cabinet secretary will be aware that I have raised the issue several times in the chamber, because it is raised at every surgery that I hold. The four-year-old twins of a constituent of mine are now not permitted to play outside; they report that they can smell pollutants on their clothes. I have sent video evidence indicating that the situation is terrible and is getting worse. Is not it time that the Scottish Government stepped in to make the site safe for the health of people in the surrounding area? It could then seek to establish responsibility and seek recompense.

I entirely appreciate how horrific the situation is for the people who are most directly affected by it and I have discussed the issue with Brian Whittle.

I have outlined where the legal responsibilities currently lie. The solution is not as simple as us stepping in and taking over—notwithstanding that we are the Government—because we have to act legally.

I am conscious that work has been done by SEPA very recently. SEPA is there on the ground as the Government agency that is monitoring and working on the issue. I know that it is concerned about the additional remedial work that has to be done before it can continue its work. I confirm that that will be funded in the immediate future, so I very much hope that there will be progress.

However, that does not remove from the equation the fact that the site is in private ownership and is in the hands of the liquidator. It is a tricky situation, which I know Brian Whittle understands. I also know that he is—quite rightly—concerned about the impact on local people, as are we all.


Farms (Emissions and Carbon Sequestration Data)

To ask the Scottish Government what progress it has made on improving farm-level emissions and carbon sequestration data. (S5O-03715)

We know that our farmers and crofters provide wider benefits through actions such as tree planting, renewable energy generation and protection of historical carbon stores. The Scottish Government remains committed to working with our farmers, crofters and others who have the means to demonstrate such actions, and to exploring whole-farm carbon footprinting and agricultural produce emissions intensity. However, it must be understood that none of those complementary actions can replace the greenhouse gas inventory, which is determined by international classifications.

That kind of data is certainly complex and crucial if we are to have an accurate assessment of carbon management by individual farms and estates. Given that talks are already taking place, will the Scottish Government publish a report next year showing clear dates and timescales for the progress of its work?

I am happy to consider that suggestion. There is so much work under way, because we recognise the scale of the challenge.

I know from farmers to whom I have spoken that the idea that they are causing emissions, rather than doing positive work on their land, can be a great cause of frustration. That is why it is vital that we find a way of properly taking account of their work in the data. Work on that will be on-going. I am happy to talk to Alexander Stewart about other initiatives that we are considering, and about how we intend to progress the work.

Can the minister advise Parliament how many carbon audits were provided for in the farm advisory service and how many have been taken up?

The farm advisory service has received 629 applications for carbon audits, which is more than twice our annual target. That number shows the willingness of our farmers, crofters and land managers to be part of the solution in tackling climate change and cutting emissions.

I encourage all farmers and crofters to look at the opportunities, information and advice that are available through the farm advisory service. Carbon audits are just one aspect of the service: it can also provide integrated land management plans, specialist advice and mentoring, and a raft of technical notes and case studies that are aimed at helping our agriculture industry to work towards a more sustainable future.

Question 6 was not lodged.


Geese and Stoat Population Management (Orkney)

I draw the attention of Parliament to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a partner in a farming business.

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the management of the geese and stoat populations in Orkney. (S5O-03717)

Scottish Natural Heritage met the Orkney goose management group in June 2019 to discuss agricultural damage caused by resident greylag geese. A range of actions were agreed to help the group to develop a management strategy.

Work has now commenced seeking to eradicate stoats from Orkney, as part of the Orkney native wildlife project. Stoats are a non-native species on Orkney, and sightings can be reported on the websites of the Orkney native wildlife project and Scottish Natural Heritage.

I know that the cabinet secretary and Scottish Natural Heritage are aware of the impact of goose numbers on Orkney. The frustration of local farmers has not been addressed yet, and a long-term sustainable solution needs to be put in place. However, the cabinet secretary will also be aware that some elements of the package of measures that are being considered will require funding for implementation. Is she looking for funding to support measures to combat geese numbers in Orkney being included in the Scottish Government budget?

I am always looking for more money for my portfolio; I hope that Jamie Halcro Johnston will take that as read. However, the arrangement between SNH and the Orkney goose management group talks about a range of actions. I do not want to list them because I suspect that the member already knows what they are.

I understand the real problem that is developing. Historically, greylags have been a migratory species, but there is now a population that is staying put: they have stopped travelling and have decided to take up residence. That is one of the factors that creates the problem. I reassure Jamie Halcro Johnston that we are keeping an eye on the matter and thinking very carefully about what can be done.

In the summer, I took up the offer from Douglas Paterson to see first hand the damage that is caused to crops and farmland in the east of Orkney’s Mainland. I acknowledge the work that has been done by SNH and others in the local group, but I extend the invitation, on behalf of Douglas Paterson and the local NFU Scotland, to the cabinet secretary to visit Orkney in the early part of next year to see first hand the damage that is being done to farm land in Orkney.

I am sorry that my schedule did not allow for that during my August visit. I am always happy to visit Orkney and to have a reason to do so, so I will be happy to talk to Liam McArthur about the best time for that.


Community Recycling (Glasgow)

To ask the Scottish Government how it supports community recycling initiatives in Glasgow. (S5O-03718)

The Scottish Government supports community recycling through different funding streams, such as Zero Waste Scotland’s resource-efficient circular economy accelerator programme and the climate challenge fund, which support projects involving waste and circular economy activities, including recycling. Community groups can also get tailored support and advice for recycling initiatives from Zero Waste Scotland.

I draw the cabinet secretary’s attention to an ambitious plan by the newly formed Springburn youth forum, in my constituency, to reclaim a patch of neglected land outside Springburn academy as a seating area for students at lunchtime, and to co-locate community recycling facilities that could also act as a community hub to encourage recycling across the wider area. Will the cabinet secretary offer her support for such innovative plans, and does she think that such initiatives should be encouraged more widely, not only in my constituency, but right across Scotland?

I certainly do. That sounds like an extremely interesting project. If Bob Doris wishes to invite me to come and visit, I would be happy to do so.