Meeting date: Wednesday, September 11, 2019
Meeting of the Parliament 11 September 2019
Agenda: Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Portfolio Question Time, Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, Citizens Assembly of Scotland, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight
- Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund
- Portfolio Question Time
- Royal Hospital for Children and Young People
- Citizens Assembly of Scotland
- Business Motion
- Parliamentary Bureau Motion
- Decision Time
- Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight
Portfolio Question Time
Cameron House Fire (Investigation)
To ask the Scottish Government when the Crown Office will release its findings from the investigation into the fatal fire at Cameron House in December 2017. (S5O-03499)
It is a live investigation, which is continuing under the direction of a senior advocate depute. Like other incidents of its sort, it involves technical issues that require input from relevant experts. A decision as to whether there should be a prosecution can be made only once final reports have been submitted to the Crown by Police Scotland and other regulatory and investigating agencies. On receipt, those reports will be considered fully and carefully by prosecutors. That stage has not yet been reached. The Crown continues to keep the families of the deceased updated.
I am sure that the Lord Advocate will appreciate that it has been almost two years since the fire at Cameron House, which claimed the lives of Simon Midgley and Richard Dyson. The families have been patient, and of course we want to give the Crown sufficient time to investigate, but can the Lord Advocate give us any indication of when the Crown is likely to arrive at a conclusion?
I appreciate the impact that the passage of time in relation to both criminal investigations and death investigations has on those who are involved, particularly bereaved families. Jackie Baillie will appreciate that it is essential that the criminal investigative process be allowed to take its course. A decision will be made just as soon as it is possible to do so.
Football Grounds (Drug Use)
To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to support police in tackling drug use at football grounds. (S5O-03500)
The Scottish Government has invested £800 million since 2008 to tackle the problem of alcohol and drug use. As Margaret Mitchell will be aware, our programme for government that was announced last week commits another £20 million over the next two years to support local services, provide targeted support and raise awareness of the dangers of drug use.
Police Scotland will continue to work with football clubs to investigate any drug misuse at matches, and it is committed to ensuring that people who are involved in drug dealing and distribution are very effectively targeted for arrest and prosecution.
We want Scotland’s football grounds to be welcoming places for everybody, including families and children. The Scottish Government is working with the football authorities, clubs and other partners to address some of the negative issues that we have seen in recent months, including reported drug misuse. We fully support clubs in their efforts to deal with any behaviour that is illegal and that contravenes the grounds’ regulations. The use of sniffer dogs by Hibs is just one example of the positive action that clubs can take to deter illegal activity and unacceptable conduct.
Although the allocation and prioritisation of resources is obviously a matter for the chief constable, the Scottish Government’s funding for policing in 2019-20 has increased by £42.3 million.
I do not want to interfere too much with the cabinet secretary’s position, but if we could have slightly shorter answers, we will make greater progress with the questions. I am very hard on members in that regard.
The cabinet secretary will be aware from recent reports that there is a growing problem of cocaine use, which has been highlighted at grounds such as Hamilton, Easter Road, Pittodrie, Celtic Park and Ibrox. Given that we know that drug use is an aggravating factor and is likely to increase hooliganism and antisocial behaviour at football games, will the cabinet secretary release more details about the talks that he has had with clubs and the effort that is being made to identify drug use and deter fans from using drugs, because—
No, please, that is sufficient.
The evidence of cocaine use is clearly there.
Your question has been asked, thank you.
Will the cabinet secretary also provide details of extra, intense sniffer dog use?
Ms Mitchell, I want to get other members in.
I will be as brief as possible, and I am happy to have a conversation with Margaret Mitchell. I have met a number of the clubs whose grounds she talked about—Aberdeen, Celtic and Hibs. The issue has been raised with me only by Celtic and Hibs, and I know about some of the proactive measures that the two clubs are taking. I continue to have conversations with the clubs and I am more than happy to speak or write to Margaret Mitchell, if she feels that that is appropriate, about how those conversations are going.
I point to a quotation from John McKenzie, the head of what was known as the focus unit in Police Scotland. He said:
“We do not have any analytical evidence that demonstrates the link between football disorder and the misuse of drugs, but Police Scotland works closely with supporters’ groups and clubs to tackle any issues”.
As I said, I am more than happy to furnish Margaret Mitchell with further details.
I call Iain Gray. I beg your pardon—I had indicated that Kenneth Gibson could ask a supplementary question. It has to be brief, Mr Gibson.
Can the cabinet secretary confirm that alcohol remains the drug of greatest concern at football matches? What is the cabinet secretary’s view on whether alcohol should be available under certain restrictions at Euro 2020 matches?
I am not convinced by the argument that alcohol should be available at football grounds, as things stand. I have had detailed discussions with a number of stakeholders on the unacceptable conduct that we have seen at football matches, and I am not convinced that introducing alcohol into the mix—beyond what is currently available in grounds—is a good idea, even under restricted circumstances.
People Leaving Prison (Throughcare Service)
To ask the Scottish Government how it will ensure the restoration of the throughcare service for people leaving prison. (S5O-03501)
I thank Iain Gray for that important question. The decision by the Scottish Prison Service to temporarily suspend its throughcare support service is an operational matter and, rightly, a decision for SPS to make. As SPS has made clear, the decision has not been taken lightly. It has been taken very reluctantly and only because experienced throughcare officers are required for duties in prison due to the high prison population that we currently have, unfortunately. It should be said that SPS has indicated that the service has been suspended, not stopped.
In the meantime, the prison service will continue with other work to help individuals prepare for their release, such as the work of personal officers, prison link centres and individual case management activity.
The Government funds other throughcare support. We provide substantial funding to the third sector, investing £3.4 million in the shine and new routes programmes, which have built excellent track records. My officials and I are in discussions with the leaders of those third sector organisations and SPS. We will consider how the third sector might be able to come in to temporarily support SPS with the work that has been left due to it making this decision, for understandable and very difficult reasons. I hope to be able to update Iain Gray and other members in the relatively near future on how that work is progressing.
It is not really good enough to say that it is an operational decision for SPS. The creation of throughcare services was a policy decision that was driven by ministers in the past. I appreciate that our prisons are currently operating at around 5 per cent overcapacity, which is the reason that SPS has given for bringing throughcare officers back into the prisons. However, given the importance of throughcare in reducing reoffending rates, does the cabinet secretary agree that SPS is cutting off its nose to spite its face, and that he should get SPS to change its mind?
I appreciate the question and I do not disagree with Iain Gray’s premise that throughcare support workers do an excellent job and that, through their work, they reduce reoffending. I do not disagree with that sentiment. Where I disagree with Iain Gray is on the point that if I was to overturn an operational decision by SPS, he and other Opposition members would be the first to drag me to the chamber to tell me that I was interfering.
I must be careful to give the chief executive of SPS the right operational space. That is not an excuse. I highlighted in my answer that my officials are working with SPS and third sector leaders to develop a proposal whereby the third sector might be able to fill the gap that has been left and provide throughcare support, for example by expanding the new routes and shine programmes. In the not-too-distant future, I will update—with a positive development, I hope—Iain Gray and other members who have questions on this issue.
As the cabinet secretary acknowledged, throughcare has been suspended as a result of the rising prison population. Instead of expanding this progressive service, which is key to rehabilitation, the cabinet secretary has presided over its suspension. What are the current projections for the prison population over the next 12 months? Assuming an increase in that population, what realistic prospect is there of throughcare being reinstated in the near future?
As I said, the suspension is temporary. I hope that the presumption against short sentences, which Liam McArthur and his party supported, will deliver a reduction in the number of prisoners. It might be small but, nonetheless, it will be a reduction.
I hope that we will also see a reduction through some other measures that we will bring forward. For example, as the member knows, there will be a revision to the guidance around the home detention curfew. There has been an understanding with the Justice Committee, of which Liam McArthur is a member, that the pendulum around HDC has swung too far in the other direction.
Those are a couple of measures that will help to reduce the prison population. However, frankly speaking, if we want to make a substantial dent in our prison population, this Parliament will have to support the progressive agenda that we are bringing forward.
I am confident that the suspension of throughcare support will be temporary but, as I said in my answer to Iain Gray, even with a temporary suspension, we are keen to work with the third sector and other partners to see how that gap might be filled.
We all agree that it is vital that, before leaving prison, offenders are helped to get themselves free of illegal substances. However, the most recent figures show that 26 per cent of those leaving prison test positive for illegal drugs, which is up from 17 per cent in 2009. Is the Scottish Government doing any analysis to find out why attempts to keep drugs out of prisons appear to be failing?
I am happy for Liam Kerr to be put in touch with SPS and those who are dealing with that on the ground. He will be aware of the fact that, in the past three to four years, there has been a huge spike in psychoactive substances—namely, spice—entering prisons. The difficulty around psychoactive substances is that they are difficult to detect. Therefore, various solutions are being tested in the prison estate, such as rapid scan machines. That equipment is being piloted, and I am waiting for an evaluation of it to come back from SPS. If there are, for example, capital funding requirements around that, the Government will have to look at that issue closely. If Liam Kerr wants to follow that up with the prison service, I am happy to facilitate those discussions.
Police Scotland (Contact Assessment Model)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the contact assessment model pilot. (S5O-03502)
CAM is the new operating model for police call handling that is being introduced by Police Scotland. Utilising a robust approach to the assessment of risk and vulnerability, it will enable Police Scotland to respond more effectively to vulnerability and demand.
Phase 1 implementation of CAM progressed on 12 June 2019 in Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway. Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority indicate that phase 1 implementation is proceeding positively and is delivering the benefits of improved risk assessment and service delivery.
The SPA and Police Scotland intend to proceed with phase 2 implementation from late autumn this year, when the new model will be rolled out in greater Glasgow. The CAM oversight group, which is chaired by the SPA, oversees the model’s implementation.
During recess, I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about the CAM pilot, along with my colleague Rona Mackay, at the contact command and control centre in Govan. Given that the CAM pilot had a 99 per cent compliance rate, can the cabinet secretary provide more detail regarding when he expects the model to be rolled out nationally?
Jenny Gilruth will forgive me, but there are operational decisions around when the model should be rolled out nationally. I am delighted that she came to my constituency and Govan and saw the contact assessment model up close. However, although the timing is a matter for Police Scotland, I can confirm that Police Scotland intends to roll CAM out nationally. The timescale is subject to all phases of implementation being successfully completed, in accordance with the relevant assurance processes, as well as monitoring and evaluation of each phase to ensure that there are no unintended consequences.
Jenny Gilruth can contact Police Scotland directly, and it will be able to give her more detail about the phasing. However, I can confirm that there will be a national roll-out of CAM.
Given that adequate police resources are important for the successful implementation of the contact assessment model, is the cabinet secretary concerned about the comments of Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr, who said that the current budget has a potential shortfall in police numbers of 700? If that is the case, the consequence is severe for resourcing CAM and for adequate police cover in local communities.
I welcome James Kelly to his first justice portfolio question time.
I always take seriously what the police say to me, particularly an officer of DCC Will Kerr’s seniority.
We now have more than 1,000 additional officers in comparison with when the Government came to power in 2007, which is in sharp contrast to the picture in England and Wales. We continue to invest in our police and increase police numbers. The agreement with Police Scotland is that numbers can be reduced only if enhanced operational capability is demonstrated. The agreement is overseen by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary for Scotland, and if it cannot be achieved, there is a conversation to be had with the Government.
As James Kelly suggested, the SPA will, rightly, request additional funds, as it would from any Government. Otherwise, the deficit reduction plan will need to be revised. We will continue to engage positively with Police Scotland. I will not prejudge the spending review later this year, but the important point is that we have more police officers now than when we inherited power more than 12 years ago.
Programme for Government (Equally Safe Strategy)
To ask the Scottish Government how the Cabinet Secretary for Justice’s priorities in the equally safe strategy will be supported by its programme for government. (S5O-03503)
This year’s programme for government clearly sets out the Scottish Government’s on-going commitment to prevent and eradicate gender-based violence. Each action for the year ahead is aligned with one of the four priorities set out in the equally safe strategy, which include actions to ensure that
“Men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls”.
The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 came into effect this year and we will continue to support the implementation of that landmark legislation by engaging with those who work in housing, social work, health and schools to ensure that professionals have the resources available to them to support a shared understanding of domestic abuse.
Later this year, we will introduce the forensic medical services (victims of sexual offences) bill to promote early and consistent access to healthcare for victims of sexual assault, and we will support a pilot to make a video record of rape complainers’ statements to police to be used as evidence in a trial, to reduce the need for them to recount their ordeal again in court.
The cabinet secretary mentioned the equally safe strategy’s priority 4, which is that
“Men desist from all forms of violence against women and girls, and perpetrators of such violence receive robust and effective response”.
Will he outline how the Scottish Government intends to tackle human trafficking?
I thank Ruth Maguire for that exceptionally important question. I should have paid credit to her for the work that she has done to promote the equally safe strategy in Parliament.
Any form of human trafficking and exploitation, including sexual exploitation, is completely unacceptable in 21st century Scotland. I have been hugely impressed by the commitment of officials and the stakeholders involved in the work to eradicate human trafficking. There are still huge problems around human trafficking, not just in the United Kingdom but here in Scotland. That is evidenced by the referrals that come into the national referral mechanism.
We know that people are trafficked for a range of reasons, including labour exploitation of male victims, which has increased in recent years. However, as Ruth Maguire said, we have to recognise that the impact of trafficking for sexual exploitation can be particularly devastating. We have a strategy, we are progressing some elements of the legislation and we will continue to support specialist groups such as the trafficking awareness-raising alliance and Migrant Help. If the member wishes a fuller answer on all the actions that we are progressing, I will be happy to write to her.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (Gold Commanders)
To ask the Scottish Government in what circumstances Scottish Fire and Rescue Service gold commanders are deployed. (S5O-03504)
Operational decisions, including the deployment of gold commanders, are a matter for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Gold commanders are deployed in a broad range of circumstances, such as all level 5 incidents, spate conditions in a region or regions and large-scale, serious and major incidents.
Does the minister—
I would like to call you first, Mr Macdonald, although I know that you are dead keen and want to save time. I call Lewis Macdonald.
Does the minister accept that current procedures mean that, in the event of such a serious incident at St Fergus, on royal Deeside or in Aberdeen, the gold commander in charge would be deployed no further north than Dundee? If she acknowledges that fact, does she agree that it is time for the centralisation of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to be brought to an end?
It is imperative that we have the right level of leadership for such major and large-scale incidents in place at the right time. The SFRS is constantly reviewing and planning the resource that is required for the delivery of front-line services, which includes succession planning for senior leadership.
Gold command officers have been mobilised approximately 14 times over the past two years. I assure Lewis Macdonald that there has never been a single occasion on which the SFRS has not responded with the required resources, but I will follow up with him in more detail on the specific point that he raised.
I am afraid that there we must conclude our first set of portfolio questions. I apologise to Maureen Watt that, despite my best efforts, we failed to reach her. We will move on to the second set of questions in a moment, once members on the front benches have changed places.
Government Business and Constitutional Relations
I remind members that questions 1 and 3 will be grouped together. Any member who wishes to ask a supplementary on either of those questions should press their request-to-speak button in the usual way. I will take such supplementaries after I have taken questions and supplementaries from the members whose questions have been grouped.
As usual, all members should try to make their questions short. I beg ministers to do the same with answers. I know that that is difficult, and I understand why, but members should try, please, to let everyone get their questions in. Ministers should be helpful, too.
Citizens Assembly (Recommendations)
To ask the Scottish Government how it will ensure that it considers and takes action on recommendations made by the citizens assembly of Scotland when it concludes its deliberations in April 2020. (S5O-03507)
All recommendations made by the citizens assembly of Scotland will be debated in Parliament. Where Parliament agrees with such recommendations, the Scottish Government will set out a plan for implementing the Parliament’s decisions, which will be published by the Government within three months of the assembly’s recommendations having been received.
Does the cabinet secretary share my observation, that a stark contrast now exists in the United Kingdom between the Scottish Government, which is actively listening to and acting upon the views of its citizens, and the UK Government, which is, in shutting down the UK Parliament, denying the people a voice and preventing those who elected it from exercising their right to hold that Government to account?
That contrast will be provided in this afternoon’s debate in which, I hope, we will discuss the citizens assembly in a constructive and consensual way.
Meanwhile, the judges in the inner house of the Court of Session have now indicated that the prorogation of the Westminster Parliament is illegal, and that in the circumstances what should happen, in order to parallel our positive step, is that it be recalled immediately and the prorogation cancelled.
Citizens Assembly (Impartiality)
To ask the Scottish Government what measures it is taking to ensure the impartiality of its planned citizens assembly. (S5O-03509)
I will address that matter this afternoon, in the debate that will follow. In the meantime, I point out that the assembly is led by two independent conveners, one of whom is a third sector leader and the other of whom was a Scottish Labour Member of the European Parliament for 35 years.
The members of the assembly will be selected in a scientific process that broadly represents the Scottish adult population—by which is meant those who are aged 16-plus—and which takes into account a range of factors including geography, age, gender, ethnic group, educational qualifications, limiting long-term health conditions, disability, attitudes to Scottish independence and the UK’s membership of the EU, and Scottish Parliament voting preferences. The contract for the recruitment of members on those bases was awarded following a competitive procurement process.
When the cabinet secretary introduced the idea of the citizens assembly he said that it would be “transparent”, “inclusive” and “independent”, but his colleague Joanna Cherry MP has said that it would be
“‘the perfect way’ to move Scotland ... towards independence”.
Those two things do not sit together. Which is correct?
In the Scottish Government, I am responsible for the establishment of the citizens assembly. I have indicated to Liz Smith what the Government’s position is on the matter. I know that Ms Smith is addressing me as a member of the Scottish Government, so I hope that she will accept my assurance, as a person who is involved in it, that I am determined to ensure that the assembly is an independent body and that I have taken many steps to do so, more of which I shall outline this afternoon. It will be a totally and fully independent body that will set its own terms, choose how it operates and report in a fully independent way. Liz Smith and I have known each other for many years, so I hope that she will accept my assurances on the matter.
Scottish Government (Freedom of Information Practice and Performance)
To ask the Scottish Government what progress it has made on fully implementing the recommendations in the Scottish Information Commissioner’s intervention report on its FOI practice and performance. (S5O-03508)
The commissioner published on 29 July his annual progress report on the Scottish Government’s implementation of the action plan. In it, he outlines the significant progress that has been made across each recommendation, and confirms that he anticipates that the Scottish Government will complete implementation by the end of the current calendar year.
For confirmation, is the minister comfortable that the Government will complete the action plan by the end of this year?
A great deal of time and effort has gone in not only to improving performance but to embedding change, so the answer is—in short—yes, I am.
I like clear and short answers.
Scottish Elections (Reform) Bill (Timescale)
To ask the Scottish Government what its anticipated timescale is for the progress of the Scottish Elections (Reform) Bill. (S5O-03510)
The Scottish Elections (Reform) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 2 September 2019. Its timetable thereafter is a matter for the Parliamentary Bureau.
This Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee, of which I am a member, is currently dealing with the Referendums (Scotland) Bill and will, likely, have to deal with the franchise and electoral reform bills as well. Has the Scottish Government seriously considered how all three of those bills will be passed at least six months before the next scheduled Scottish Parliament election, thereby taking into account the Gould principle?
With the greatest respect to Alexander Burnett, I say that I think that he presumes something in that question. It is for the Parliamentary Bureau to allocate a bill to whatever committee is relevant.
However, I assure him that among the considerations that I, as Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans, always have in introducing legislation are the workload of committees and the need to ensure that they have sufficient time to interrogate bills that are introduced. Sitting next to the member is Edward Mountain. He would, I am sure, concur that when a committee—his, for example—has requested additional time to allow it to carry out its work, I have been receptive to that.
House of Commons (Constitutional Developments)
To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the impact on Scotland of constitutional developments in the House of Commons. (S5O-03511)
No one should underestimate the significance of events at Westminster. With prorogation, the Prime Minister used prorogative power to remove from members of Parliament a decision on how many days the Commons would sit on before 31 October. The prorogation of more than 30 days is significantly longer than any other prorogation in modern times, and the court’s decision in Scotland today reflects on that. The Prime Minister took the step pre-emptively, before the Commons had returned from recess, thereby presenting MPs with a fait accompli.
All those factors—the use of executive powers to deny MPs a voice, the discarding of recent commonly accepted practice and the denial of any opportunity to challenge or scrutinise Government action—should give us all grave cause for concern. It is no surprise that those actions of the Prime Minister have galvanised opposition parties in the Commons to come together to prevent a no-deal Brexit—an action with which the Scottish Government completely agrees.
In a week of astonishing constitutional events, none can top the Court of Session’s ruling this morning that the Prime Minister acted unlawfully in proroguing the United Kingdom Parliament. The court said that proroguing
“was motivated by the improper purpose of stymying Parliament”.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that Downing Street sources would now be advised to spend more time preparing for recall of Parliament and less time making outrageous remarks about Scotland’s judges and judicial system?
Yes. I have to say—I do so speculatively, but I think that he is agreeing with me—that Adam Tomkins, for example, has indicated his disagreement with what was said.
It is outrageous.
Mr Tomkins uses the word “outrageous”. I—for once—completely agree with him. Sources at number 10 Downing Street suggested that
“The legal activists choose the Scottish courts for a reason”.
That is an outrageous thing to say.
Gavin Barwell—I think, now Lord Barwell—who was Theresa May’s chief of staff, said that
“This is a ... unwise road for a party that believes in ... the Union and ... the rule of law to go down”.
Robert Buckland, the UK Secretary of State for Justice, eventually tweeted:
“Our judges are renowned around the world for their excellence and impartiality and I have total confidence in their independence in every case.”
Alasdair Allan is right. The right reaction is to recall Parliament. If I may use a song title from the estimable band Peat & Diesel from his constituency, this may be the way the Tories do it, but it is not the way we do it in Scotland, let alone in the Western Isles.
To ask the Scottish Government when it last spoke to the United Kingdom Government regarding intergovernmental relations. (S5O-03512)
This morning I met Oliver Dowden, HM Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office. The most recent ministerial meeting to take place was the finance ministers’ quadrilateral on 29 August. My colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work discussed the governance and terms of reference for that forum with UK and Welsh Government ministers.
The most recent ministerial discussion at which the quadrilateral review of intergovernmental relations was on the agenda was the joint ministerial committee (European Union negotiations) on 28 June. There is a meeting of the JMC(EN) tomorrow, and the new Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will co-chair that meeting.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that intergovernmental relations with the UK Government are broken, and that the attempts to formalise a respect agenda are continually rebuked by a disrespected UK Government? Clearly the best way to have a respect agenda would be for Scotland to become an independent nation and to formalise relations as equals.
I cannot disagree with a single word of that. Even in its present confused state, it is important for the UK Government to recognise that procedures and relationships are not simply in its gift. I had occasion to say to the Paymaster General this morning that, although the UK Government might wish to change the way in which the intergovernmental review is discussed by, for example, doing it trilaterally rather than through the JMC(EN), that is a matter for all participants, not just for one of them. He took the point, but it is an important point and it has been emphasised by Mark Drakeford. The JMC process does not belong to the UK Government, and the more it behaves as though it does, the harder it will be to make any progress.
UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill
To ask the Scottish Government what advice it has received on the effect that the legal date of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union will have on its continuity bill. (S5O-03513)
As members are aware, the Scottish ministerial code states that ministers must not ordinarily divulge either the source or the content of legal advice. Legal advice is confidential and it is a long-established convention that legal advice that is provided to the Scottish Government is not published, and that the Government does not disclose the source of advice.
The Scottish Government is determined to respect to the maximum extent possible the choices that Parliament made when passing the continuity bill. The new bill will therefore bring back provisions to ensure that Scots law continues to keep pace with EU law, as we believe that the extent to which devolved law aligns itself with the law of the EU should be a decision for this Parliament to take, not the UK Government. The bill is also intended to maintain the role of environmental principles and effective and proportionate environmental governance after EU exit.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish National Party’s previous bill was largely incompetent. The independent judiciary, which all in the chamber support, decided that the SNP had refused to accept that. When the new bill is introduced, will it meet the criteria set out by the courts?
I advise the member to read the judgment, as I do not understand where his interpretation comes from. The Supreme Court judgment was very clear that, with one very small exception, the continuity bill was competent for Parliament to pass. Of course, the UK Tory Government, which the member supports, chose to change the law after the Scottish Parliament had voted for the bill in order to stymie this Parliament’s intention.
That might have given us a hint of what was to come with prorogation, because Tories of all shapes do not seem to be willing to consider democracy above all. I do not think that the member would want to support that, so perhaps he should read the judgment again and then he might like to correct the record of what he has actually said this afternoon.
European Nationals Resident in Scotland (Status)
To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the status of European Union nationals who are resident in Scotland. (S5O-03514)
Ending free movement will significantly reduce the rights that EU citizens in Scotland currently enjoy. The Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development met former immigration minister Caroline Nokes multiple times this year to discuss the rights of EU citizens in Scotland and to express concerns about the UK Government’s EU settlement scheme. He has also raised concerns in writing with new Home Office ministers, and requested a meeting, and he will continue to press the UK Government to safeguard the rights of EU citizens in Scotland.
I presume that the Scottish Government has noted the number of EU nationals who are being refused settled status. The UK Government has tried to justify its actions by suggesting that granting pre-settled status is not, in fact, a refusal, but that has created great uncertainty and gives people no security. At the next meeting with the UK Government, will the minister raise the issue and denounce this nonsense in the strongest terms? It is causing huge stress to many EU nationals, both in my East Kilbride constituency and across the country. These people have lived here for decades and, up until now, have considered Scotland their home.
I associate myself with much of what Linda Fabiani has said. She is right to air the issue. As a constituency MSP, I recognise the matters that she has described.
The stress and emotional toll that have been inflicted on our friends and neighbours who have chosen Scotland as their home does not end when they are fortunate enough to be granted settled status. There have been examples of our friends and neighbours applying for settled status, getting an acknowledgement and then being left in limbo for months.
Some of my constituents have been granted settled status, but the news has been conveyed to them by email—that is it. They are now worried that, if they leave Scotland to go on holiday before 31 October, they might encounter difficulty in gaining re-entry to the country. My constituents are genuinely concerned. They are talking about printing off the email and carrying it with them, and they are asking where they should carry it. The matter is very serious. We should all be alive to the stress that is being created for our friends and neighbours.
I will ensure that Mr Macpherson is aware of Linda Fabiani’s point about raising the issue in the strongest possible terms.