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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2019

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Business Motion, Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Charter of Rights for People with Dementia and their Carers


Portfolio Question Time

Government Business and Constitutional Relations

The first item of business is portfolio questions on Government business and constitutional relations. I remind members that questions 3 and 8 will be grouped together.

Brexit (New Agreement)

To ask the Scottish Government what communication it has received from the United Kingdom Government regarding proposals for a new Brexit agreement. (S5O-03635)

Although the UK’s exit from the European Union was discussed at the meeting of the joint ministerial committee (European Union negotiations) on 12 September in London, we received no correspondence from the UK Government on its proposals for a new Brexit agreement ahead of their announcement by the Prime Minister.

I spoke to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union shortly after the proposals’ publication, at his request. As has been the case throughout the negotiations, the Scottish Government has not been treated as a trusted partner; indeed, we have had to keep abreast of events through media reports. It is disappointing and frustrating that, yet again, the devolved Administrations have had no meaningful opportunity to influence discussions—a point that I will raise again at tomorrow’s meeting of the joint ministerial committee (European Union negotiations), which will be held in Edinburgh.

I share the cabinet secretary’s disappointment.

Yesterday, we heard from number 10 an extraordinary briefing about a telephone conversation with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in which the UK Government claimed that what she had said had put the kibosh on its achieving a deal. That claim was widely refuted, and led to an unprecedented intervention by the President of the European Council, who cited a “blame game” being played by the UK Government. Does the cabinet secretary share my belief that that briefing simply represented Boris Johnson’s and the Tories’ attempt to shift the blame for the Brexit fiasco to anyone but themselves?

Yes. I think that there is a general view that whatever is taking place at 10 Downing Street is so outside the norms of behaviour for a Prime Minister—or, indeed, for any civilised Government—that we have to wonder what will come next.

I noticed the question at the end of Donald Tusk’s tweet yesterday. We do not know where the Prime Minister is going or where Brexit itself is going, but the damage that it is doing is immense.

The cabinet secretary mentioned that a meeting of the joint ministerial committee (European Union negotiations) will take place in Edinburgh tomorrow. Does he not welcome that, and the fact that he will, as I understand it, be in the chair? I think that I am correct that it will be the first time that a minister who is not from the UK Government will chair such a meeting. Are those facts not to be welcomed, and do they not offer opportunities for the cabinet secretary to raise with UK Government ministers and officials precisely the sorts of questions that he mentioned?

I welcome the fact that the JMC(EN) meeting will be held here. I pay tribute to the Welsh Government, which was due to host it. Because of its other commitments, I and my colleagues have stepped in to host the meeting here. I also welcome the fact that, provided that the meeting takes place, I will be the first minister who is not from the UK Government to chair the JMC(EN) since it was commenced at devolution.

However, who is in the chair and where the meeting is held are minor matters in comparison with what its outcomes might be. I will be satisfied tomorrow only if I find that we have made progress on the key issues on the agenda. So far, I am not hopeful that we will, although I remain hopeful that Michael Gove and Stephen Barclay will prove me wrong.

No-deal Brexit (Possible Disruptions at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde)

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions regarding possible disruptions in the event of a no-deal Brexit it has had with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. (S5O-03636)

My colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport has had regular discussions with the chairs of all NHS Scotland boards, including NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, about their preparations for the United Kingdom’s exiting the European Union. In addition, officials are in regular contact with the health boards. All such discussions have covered a range of risks and issues, including the potential for disruptions to supplies and the impact that those might have on service delivery.

I am sure that the cabinet secretary will agree that we cannot believe a word that Prime Minister Boris Johnson says, especially in relation to his promise that Brexit would bring the national health service an extra £350 million a week. Does the cabinet secretary agree that, in stark contrast to that promise, Brexit uncertainty and the threat of there being no deal have put the NHS and social care under even more pressure? Given the challenges that health boards already face, and with Brexit uncertainty creating staff shortages, the possibility of a lack of medicines and there being less money to invest in the sector, will he outline how the Scottish Government will prioritise our NHS and ensure that health boards get the support that they need in the run-up to the Brexit deadline?

I appreciate that the issue is very important, but I would like to hear shorter supplementaries.

I agree with Johann Lamont. I point out that the publication yesterday of “Scottish Government Overview of ‘No Deal’ Preparations”, to which the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills spoke in the chamber, indicates the priority that we have given the matter. Clearly, there are issues to do with the workforce and with medicines and other crucial supplies.

In addition, we must be realistic with people. We will do everything that we can to avoid disruption, but we cannot do everything. Therefore, people should take the position that a no-deal Brexit, or, indeed, any Brexit, will be immensely damaging.

European Union (Future Relationship)

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of reports that Northern Ireland will be given powers to shape its future relationship with the EU, what representations it has made to the UK Government regarding similar powers being given to Scotland. (S5O-03637)

The Scottish Government has long argued for Scotland to have its own arrangements for Brexit, recognising that the vote in the referendum here was comprehensively against leaving the EU.

As far back as December 2016, we set out in “Scotland’s Place in Europe” comprehensive proposals to achieve that, including the powers that should be transferred to this Parliament to enable us to implement our proposals.

The UK Government has not shown the slightest inclination to have serious discussions on what Brexit means for governance in these islands, beyond its instinct to centralise and control. The proposals that the Prime Minister set out this week seem to be designed to fail, as they are demanding that the EU abandon some of its core principles.

The best way to protect our place in Europe and our relationship with the EU is for Scotland to become an independent member in our own right.

As the cabinet secretary said, the Scottish Government was the first in these isles to publish a Brexit plan, which the UK Government ignored. The Scottish Government then put forward a compromise position, which the UK Government also ignored. The Tories have ignored the voices of the 62 per cent who voted to remain—


—and they ignored their trouncing earlier this year in the EU elections.


Excuse me. I will decide when the question is to come. I do not need you to tell me.

Is not it the case that the people of Scotland should have their say on their own future? If the UK Government continues to—

No—that is long.

—ignore the voters, they are the ones who will take the future into their own hands as an independent country—

Naughty, naughty, Ms Watt. That was a long question. I do not want long supplementaries. I know that you will be good, cabinet secretary.

I am almost too nervous to speak, now. [Interruption.] I said, “almost too nervous to speak”, just in case Johann Lamont thought that I might be wishing not to.

One of the many tragedies of the Brexit situation is the refusal of the Prime Minister—of any Prime Minister—to listen to what is being said to them by Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and, indeed, their own party. That is one of the root causes of our finding ourselves in this position. It is essential that Scotland’s voice be heard on a simple question: does it want to exit the EU with the UK, with all the chaos, or does it want to be a normal independent state in the EU? That is the core question. I know which side I am on.

Northern Ireland (Impact of Relationship with the European Union)

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the impact on Scotland of Northern Ireland having a different economic relationship with the EU to the rest of the UK. (S5O-03642)

I have raised that issue with the United Kingdom Government at meetings of the joint ministerial committee (European Union negotiations) and bilaterally.

We have always made it clear that we support the Good Friday agreement absolutely and in its entirety, and the need to maintain the invisible border on the island of Ireland.

However, it should be noted that as far back as 2016, and completely separate from any discussion about Northern Ireland, the Scottish Government put forward plans to keep Scotland in the single market, but the UK Government rejected them out of hand.

Any form of Brexit will be damaging to Scotland, and it is now clear that the UK Government favours a much more distant long-term relationship with the EU even than that which was envisaged by Theresa May. That will have a very damaging impact on Scotland and the Scottish economy.

Whether we end up with the UK Government’s latest half-baked proposed deal, or crash out in a devastating no-deal Brexit, there will be a unique impact on the Cairnryan ferry port in south-west Scotland. What support is the Scottish Government providing to best mitigate the impact of that challenge on communities in south-west Scotland?

I am fully aware that each part of Scotland will have its own questions and difficulties. Today we have released an online tool that will allow any member and anyone in Scotland to look at the impact on their communities. It is interesting to see how varied the impacts will be, although all the impacts will be negative.

Yesterday, the Deputy First Minister said that the unused parts of Stranraer port, in the south-west, will be used for marshalling lorries in the event of there being demand. There are security issues that will need to be addressed, if there is to be a border in the Irish Sea. A range of other issues need to be addressed for each part of Scotland. We will do that.

However, I stress the point that I made to Johann Lamont: we will work with members and others to do everything we can, but we cannot do everything, in the circumstances.

European Union Citizens (Assistance to Stay)

To ask the Scottish Government what assistance it is providing to EU citizens to stay in Scotland ahead of 31 October. (S5O-03638)

The Scottish Government has committed over £1 million to support EU citizens, including £800,000 over three years to Citizens Advice Scotland’s EU citizens support service, which provides advice and information.

In April, we launched the stay in Scotland campaign to provide information, advice and practical support on the EU settlement scheme, including £250,000 for community support across Scotland.

In Fife, less than a third of our 10,000 EU nationals have applied for settled status. Would it not provide much more security and peace of mind for thousands of my constituents if the Tories scrapped the scheme? If they will not scrap it, does the minister agree that voters should have the chance to throw Boris Johnson’s party out of number 10 and to decide Scotland’s future as an independent member of the European Union?

I know that Jenny Gilruth has sought to provide peace of mind for her EU national constituents, as far as that is possible, by holding her own advice event and I commend her for that. I know that a number of members around the chamber have done something similar.

The UK Government should be providing certainty on this issue; it could disapply the requirement for five years’ residence and remove pre-settled status altogether. I was struck by the comments of Daniel Hannan, a Conservative member of the European Parliament and a leave supporter. He said:

“I have had constituency cases of EU nationals being denied settled status despite living here for years. This is a breach of the assurances I and other Leavers gave during the referendum.”

On the point about Boris Johnson and independence, it will not surprise anyone in the chamber that I concur with the views of Jenny Gilruth.

What steps is the Scottish Government taking to encourage and support EU citizens in rural Scotland to apply for settled and pre-settled status?

Immigration is a reserved matter under the devolution settlement, including the operation of the settlement scheme. However, we are taking a number of steps, including those that I mentioned earlier. I encourage everyone in the chamber to actively promote the stay in Scotland campaign in their constituencies. That campaign was launched by the First Minister in April to raise awareness of the settlement scheme in Scotland. There is a good deal of publicity around that, and there are a number of different elements to the scheme, which covers EU nationals who are based in rural and urban areas. Emma Harper is right to highlight the issue of rural-based folk, because often, as well as being valued friends and neighbours, they are particularly important to those rural local economies.

No-deal Brexit (Environmental Governance Mechanisms)

To ask the Scottish Government, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, what immediate environmental governance mechanisms it will put in place. (S5O-03639)

In the Scottish Government consultation paper that was published in the spring, we made it clear that we were considering appropriate interim governance measures should the United Kingdom Government take us out of the European Union without a withdrawal agreement. The Scottish Government is totally opposed to a no-deal outcome because of the severe damage that it will cause. We will, however, do all that we can to protect the natural environment in that eventuality.

A no-deal Brexit would leave our environment at risk in many areas, not least at risk of potential unscrupulous actors. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has committed to interim governance arrangements in a no-deal scenario. Although I strongly believe that there should not be a no deal and I will campaign on a public vote for remain, in this instance will the cabinet secretary confirm that the Scottish Government will publish its interim and long-term proposals for environmental governance quickly if we have the dreadful no deal?


Indeed—it is minister, not cabinet secretary. However, I appreciate the promotion.

The Scottish Government will make an announcement on interim governance arrangements if and when a no-deal exit appears inevitable. The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform will shortly write to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, of which Claudia Beamish is a valued member, to update the committee on the issue.

Question 6 was not lodged.

Veterans (Historic Allegations)

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of his recommendations in the chamber on 4 December 2018, whether the minister for veterans raised with the UK Government members’ views regarding historic allegations involving Army veterans from Scotland who served tours in Northern Ireland. (S5O-03641)

I do not know what is in your copy of the Business Bulletin, Mr Mountain, but, in the text that I have, the question says “comments” rather than “recommendations”. However, that is a small change.

I recognise the genuine passion that the member has for the subject. I took the view that the issue should be raised face to face at ministerial level, and I planned to do so with United Kingdom ministers at the intended meeting of the Ministerial Covenant and Veterans Board. However, that meeting was postponed by the UK Government and, for a variety of reasons, including ministerial changes at Westminster, it has still to take place. I also planned to meet the new Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Johnny Mercer, on Monday of this week in Glasgow and to discuss the issue then, but that, too, fell through.

Efforts are still being made to stage an MCVB meeting that accommodates the availability of all participants. I hope to meet Mr Mercer face to face before too long, and the same applies to Ben Wallace, who is the third defence secretary to occupy the post in my 15 months in my role. At whichever of those opportunities arises first, I will pass on the views that Edward Mountain expressed in the debate last year, and I will write to him once that has been done.

Mr Mountain, you looked a bit bewildered earlier. My point was simply that, in my script, the question says:

“in light of his comments in the chamber on 4 December”.

There is a difference between comments and recommendations. I do not know whether that was just a slip of the tongue. You looked a bit lost.

I will bow to your position on that. I think that you are right. If I misread the question, I apologise.

I thank the minister for his efforts. The issue is vital, as veterans are living in fear of historic allegation inquests being driven by political motives. I therefore urge the minister to continue with the process. I ask him to confirm not only when the meetings have taken place but when they are going to take place, so that I can exert as much pressure as possible to ensure that they happen.

I am more than happy to give that undertaking. We all recognise that Mr Mountain has deeply held and genuine views on the issue. That is why I decided that the conversation was best held face to face. I have to say that, when I took the decision, I never imagined that, 10 months on, there would have been no face-to-face opportunity. However, I absolutely give that undertaking and I will keep Mr Mountain apprised of the outcome.

Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

I remind members that questions 4 and 8 have been grouped.

Tourism (Inverclyde)

To ask the Scottish Government what support it is giving to Inverclyde Council to increase the area’s tourism offering. (S5O-03643)

Through the Glasgow city deal, we are investing over £7 million in Greenock ocean terminal, which will see an estimated 150,000 passengers disembarking each year, contributing £26 million to the Inverclyde economy. Through VisitScotland, we support the local authority, Tourism Inverclyde and Inverclyde Tourist Group to help steer strategy and tourism activity. We recently awarded Scotland’s boat show almost £32,000 to mark the year of coasts and waters, which will greatly enhance one of Scotland’s largest marine events. I send my best wishes to the show, which I believe starts on Friday.

I welcome the minister’s comments regarding Scotland’s boat show, which takes place in Inverkip this weekend.

The minister will be aware that Inverclyde Tourist Group consists of volunteers who direct cruise ship visitors and provide tours. Does the minister agree that, with the new ocean terminal being built in Greenock, more support must be provided to retain visitors in Inverclyde in order to boost the local economy? Any additional support for the Inverclyde Tourist Group and Tourism Inverclyde would certainly be warmly welcomed.

The Scottish Government shares the industry ambition to see the benefits of sustainable tourism spread across Scotland. The new ocean terminal offers an excellent opportunity for Inverclyde to benefit directly from the growing cruise market, which operates in a highly competitive global market. We are all aware that building or renewing infrastructure does not on its own inevitably lead to a thriving tourist destination, particularly in the case of our many visitors on cruises who disembark and take excursions. It is equally important to ensure the excellence of the overall experience for visitors and host destinations.

The new developments around the ocean terminal and the continued work of local businesses and volunteers will encourage greater numbers of visitors from whatever source to stay and experience what Inverclyde has to offer. I am confident that VisitScotland and other agencies will lend their support to help the sector realise the opportunities that arise around the new ocean terminal and the wider Inverclyde area.

Question 2 is not lodged.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (Relations)

To ask the Scottish Government how it is developing relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina. (S5O-03645)

The Scottish Government values Scotland’s good relations with our European neighbours and is determined to maintain open and constructive dialogue in the coming months and years. In November 2017, the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary Hyslop met the former ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Kingdom in Edinburgh, and, last year, Ambassador Marincic attended our St Andrew’s day reception at Scotland House in London, where I met her briefly. In August 2016, the First Minister visited Srebrenica to learn at first hand about the genocide and the lives of its survivors.

The Scottish Government has been very supportive of the charity, Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, including through the visit that the First Minister made to Srebrenica.

Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica. Will the Scottish Government make contact with Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, to see what support it can give for events that are planned to commemorate the occasion?

We support Remembering Srebrenica Scotland and allocated funding of £25,000 for 2019-20, through the promoting equality and cohesion fund, to support the charity’s work. The charity organises events to mark Srebrenica memorial day and raise public awareness, with the aim of countering discrimination and building stronger community relations. The wider Government and I would welcome correspondence from the charity about its plans for the 25th anniversary. I am sure that, as a country and as a Parliament, we will come together to mark that significant anniversary.

Brexit (Decline in European Tourists)

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the reported decline in the number of European tourists visiting Scotland due to negative perceptions associated with Brexit. (S5O-03646)

Again, I ask members to read what is on the Business Bulletin, please.

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs meets the United Kingdom culture and tourism minister regularly, when that is possible. Most recently, she had meetings in June and August to discuss a number of issues, including the potentially damaging impact of any Brexit on our tourism industry, in Scotland and in the UK as a whole.

Visitors from the European Union are vital for Scotland’s tourism industry and wider economy, so we will continue to raise awareness of our serious concerns. Six of our top 10 markets for overseas visitors are in the EU. Those markets accounted for 44 per cent of our overseas overnight visitors and for spending of more than £800 million in Scotland in 2018.

The Scotland is open campaign, which ran in March and early April this year, was an important step in reaching out to key markets in Europe to remind people that Scotland’s doors are open. It has been our best-performing marketing activity to date, reaching more than 80 million people—some 27 per cent of the population in key tourism markets.

Does the minister agree that the bungling Brexit approach of the UK Government is unlikely to create a more favourable impression of the UK and Scotland, and will limit the opportunity to recover from the £193 million drop in associated spending that has come with this decline?

There is no doubt that continuing Brexit uncertainty poses a threat to Scotland’s tourism industry. Figures for the year to March 2019, which the Office for National Statistics published, showed a 3 per cent decrease in European visits to Scotland and a related fall in expenditure, and a recent study that VisitBritain published earlier this year indicated that 44 per cent of European respondents expressed concern about the uncertainty around travel arrangements, due to the on-going negotiations.

Scotland and the Scottish Government did not choose to leave the EU, and we continue to oppose Brexit. However, as a responsible Government we will continue to do everything that we can to prepare and to support Scotland’s tourism industry.

Brexit (Impact on European Union Tourists)

With incredible similarity—to ask the Scottish Government what the impact has been on the number of EU tourists coming to Scotland this year of any uncertainty caused by Brexit. (S5O-03650)

That is why the questions were grouped, Mr Beattie.

As I indicated in my response to Mr Stevenson, European visitors are essential to the success of Scotland’s tourism industry, with EU countries accounting for six of our top 10 overseas markets in 2018. Although overseas visitor numbers have increased in recent years, data for the year to March 2019 suggest that European visitor numbers fell by 3 per cent, compared with the previous year.

It is clear that continuing Brexit uncertainty poses a threat to our vital tourism industry. That is why we will continue to support the industry, to ensure that Scotland offers a warm welcome to and a high-quality experience for all visitors.

It is hard to deny that Brexit will result in barriers to those visiting Scotland and all that we have to offer here. How is the Scottish Government mitigating the negative effects of Brexit on tourism, which is one of Scotland’s vital industries, and welcoming those who wish to visit?

I mentioned the Scotland is open campaign, and Visit Scotland has produced a guide for EU citizens in six different languages which offers practical advice on travel to Scotland after Brexit. It will help to ensure that potential travellers are not deterred by uncertainty relating to visas and/or other issues.

In addition, our new tourism strategy, which was developed in partnership with the Scottish Tourism Alliance and other key partners, was recently launched and places meeting visitor expectations at its heart. We will continue to build Scotland’s international reputation as a warm and welcoming destination for visitors from across the globe through our Scotland is now campaign.

Culture and Heritage (Engagement by Young People from Disadvantaged Backgrounds)

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to engage with culture and heritage. (S5O-03647)

The Scottish Government and Creative Scotland fund and deliver a wide range of programmes that encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to engage with culture and heritage. Examples include our national youth arts strategy, time to shine, and the youth music initiative.

Other examples include our funding for Sistema Scotland, the work with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by organisations that receive regular funding from Creative Scotland, outreach and engagement work from our national collections, and Historic Environment Scotland’s education visits policy.

The Scottish Government promised a cultural youth experience fund in its 2016, 2017 and 2018 programmes for government, although it did not, apparently, do so in this year’s document. When will that fund be set up?

As the cabinet secretary Fiona Hyslop indicated in the chamber during portfolio questions on 12 September and at the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee’s pre-budget scrutiny meeting on 26 September, we have deferred the introduction of the fund as budget constraints continue.

We continue to work with partners, including Education Scotland and Creative Scotland, to explore the barriers to young people experiencing culture and the actions for tackling those. Officials are carefully considering how best a cultural youth experience fund might enhance existing provision and how to ensure that location is not a barrier to experiencing culture. We intend to introduce the fund once budgets allow.

Historic Buildings and Landmarks (Dundee)

To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with the National Trust for Scotland regarding the preservation of historic buildings and landmarks in Dundee. (S5O-03648)

The National Trust for Scotland is a charity that is independent of Government and Scottish ministers. Ministers have not held recent discussions with the trust about historic buildings and landmarks in Dundee.

Alongside the great strides that have been taken to develop Dundee’s waterfront, we need to make sure that we do not lose sight of our city’s history and historic culture.

Dundee’s Camperdown house, which was built in 1828 and transferred along with the adjacent park into the city’s ownership in 1946, has fallen into disuse over the past few years. Following the recent decision by Dundee City Council to close the adjacent Camperdown golf course, will the minister have discussions with national bodies such as the National Trust for Scotland to protect the house and bring it back into public use?

It is also my understanding that the National Trust has no properties in the Dundee City Council area, which is perhaps the only local authority area without such a property.

Historic Environment Scotland currently provides Dundee Historic Environment Trust with an annual grant of £250,000, which is used for the organisation’s running costs and to award grants to benefit the historic environment in Dundee.

Also, as I said, as a non-departmental public body, Historic Environment Scotland operates at arm’s length from the Scottish Government. The organisation’s priorities for the support that it offers for the presentation of historic buildings such as Camperdown house is an operational matter for it. I encourage Jenny Marra to contact the organisation directly through the chief executive’s office. I would be happy to be copied into that correspondence, along with the cabinet secretary, so that we can be kept informed and learn more about the issues that Jenny Marra has raised.

The minister may or may not be aware of the historically significant Union chain bridge, designed by Samuel Brown, which is in my constituency. It spans the River Tweed and links England and Scotland. What engagement has the minister had with the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge? Will the minister look into supporting the bridge as it celebrates its bicentenary in 2020?

Just a minute—where was Dundee in that question? I got a wee bit lost. The original question related to

“the preservation of historic buildings and landmarks in Dundee”.

I did not know that the Tweed ran through Dundee, but I learn things every day.

Presiding Officer, it—

Don’t bother answering.

I refer the member to my previous answer about the relationship between Historic Environment Scotland and the Scottish Government, and, in particular, the point about Historic Environment Scotland being an arm’s-length body. As I did with Jenny Marra, I encourage her to contact the organisation directly through the chief executive’s office and to relay full details of the project that she mentioned.

Culture and Tourism (Participation by Disabled People and People with Long-term Health Conditions)

To ask the Scottish Government how it supports the participation in cultural and tourism-related activities of disabled people and people with long-term health conditions. (S5O-03649)

Inclusion is central to the artistic purpose of all Scottish Government-funded culture bodies, and they all share a desire to communicate with as large and diverse an audience as possible, running a range of associated activities. The public bodies that are responsible for culture and heritage are, of course, also subject to the Equalities Act 2010, and report on progress against objectives frequently.

Inclusive tourism is hugely important for Scotland’s offer as a welcoming destination. VisitScotland runs several programmes that advise about and provide support for inclusive practices that benefit the widest possible range of customers and businesses.

According to the 2018 household survey, the only category of cultural participation in which the participation rate of people with a minor incapacity was higher than that of people without such an incapacity was library attendance. When we look at the attendance of people with long-term health conditions at museums, galleries and historic places, we can see a big gulf between them and other people, particularly for those whose disability has a major impact on their daily life.

The minister will know about Historic Scotland’s admissions policy, which offers no discounts for disabled people but allows a carer to attend for free. The National Museums of Scotland has the same policy. With the new disability assistance system being built on dignity and respect, will the Government explore extending concessions for those on the new benefits, so that disabled people can enjoy our culture and heritage independently and in their own right?

The Scottish Government knows that actions are important in terms of making a difference when it comes to accessibility and the 2010 act and also with regard to ensuring that we are taking forward the disability delivery plan. We need to know that our actions are making a difference, and, where we see that they are not making a difference, we need to do something about that. We will report on progress in relation to the United Nations’ examination of the United Kingdom under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will take place next year, and through the progress reports on the fairer Scotland action plan and the mainstreaming equality policy, both of which are due for publication in 2019.

I note the points that Mr Griffin raises in his question about the application of social security and its relation to the wider questions of the accessibility of cultural activities. The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs and I—as well as, potentially, the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People—would welcome any further correspondence that Mr Griffin would like to provide on those points.