Meeting date: Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Meeting of the Parliament 20 September 2017
Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Finance (Income Tax), Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Tax Collection (Jobs)
- Portfolio Question Time
- Finance (Income Tax)
- Business Motions
- Parliamentary Bureau Motion
- Decision Time
- Tax Collection (Jobs)
Portfolio Question Time
Community Sentences (Funding)
To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to review the funding for community sentences. (S5O-01255)
The Scottish Government recognises the importance of ensuring that criminal justice services have the resources that they need, and funding for community justice services across Scotland remains at record levels. We have allocated funding of around £100 million to local authorities, which work with a range of organisations and partners to help deliver community sentences, support the rehabilitation of people with convictions and reduce re-offending. That funding includes an extra £4 million investment in community sentences—it was introduced in 2016-17 and continued in 2017-18—to support local authorities to deliver robust community sentences.
The Government is committed to supporting local authorities to deliver robust community sentences. The new funding distribution model for allocating criminal justice social work funding that was introduced in 2017-18 allows each local authority, working in partnership with statutory partners and the third sector, the flexibility to target resources to better meet local priorities and needs, including in relation to community sentences. We will continue to work with partners to ensure that robust community sentences continue to be delivered.
Research by the Scottish Conservatives has revealed that, under hundreds of community payback orders, it has taken months after sentencing for work to begin; in some cases, it has taken more than a year. Delays have progressively worsened over the past three years. Will the cabinet secretary commit to ending those delays, and will he tell the chamber how he intends to do that?
The details that Finlay Carson refers to do not put the issue of community sentencing into any context. The reality is that, in 2015-16, about 19,500 community sentences were issued and there were delays in taking forward about 6 per cent of them within the required timescale. Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that they comply with the timeframes that are set for community sentences and for the way in which they are delivered. We are reviewing the existing guidance on breaches of community sentences to make sure that it is robust and that it is clear about what sanctions should be put in place when community sentences are breached. As I set out in my previous answer, the record funding that we are providing to local authorities helps to support them to deliver robust, effective community sentences right across local authorities in Scotland.
Will the cabinet secretary confirm that the funding for criminal justice social work services, which includes the delivery of community sentences, will continue to be ring fenced?
We recognise the importance of criminal justice social work funding in ensuring that we have effective delivery of community sentencing options and programmes. That is why we have ring fenced that particular funding to local authorities; we have no intention of changing the existing arrangements.
Last week, the cabinet secretary told me in the chamber that
“the funding formula for the allocation of resources has already been published.”—[Official Report, 14 September 2017; c 45.]
Will he explain to the chamber when and where that formula was published? The information that I have is that, although the formula has been shared with the sector, it has not been placed in the public domain. I ask him to ensure that the formula is published and deposited with the Scottish Parliament information centre.
If it will help the member, I am more than happy to send a copy of the formula directly to her following question time.
I want to reassure the member. Her question appeared to imply that this is a formula that is being imposed by Government, but nothing could be further from the truth. The formula that has been introduced has been agreed by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and has been approved by the COSLA leadership group. It is not something that has been forced on local authorities by the Scottish Government; it is part of making sure that there is a process for distributing the funding to criminal justice social work teams in a way that reflects the demands facing their services. That is exactly why we have taken it forward on a co-production basis, working with local authorities to achieve that.
I reassure the member and other members that the distribution model was not imposed by the Government but was taken forward in partnership with local authorities and was supported by COSLA and its leadership group. I will ensure that a copy of the formula is sent to her for her information.
The cabinet secretary will recall from our exchanges last week that the welcome extension of the presumption against short prison sentences relies on proper funding of the community-based measures to which he has alluded. Does he accept that the delivery of such measures in rural areas, and particularly in island areas, is of necessity going to be more costly? Will he assure members that the funding distribution model to which he referred will take proper account of that and of the need to adequately fund small and proportionate island-based services on a year-on-year, ring-fenced basis so that those services can be maintained?
As I mentioned earlier, we are providing record levels of funding for the community sentencing programme, and we have increased funding over the past couple of years to support local authorities in developing new programmes. We are considering how we can continue to support them in that area in the years ahead. The funding model has a rurality weighting within it, in order to recognise some of the specific challenges that our more rural communities and rural local authorities face in delivering the programmes. Some of the redistribution that is taking place around that resource is there to help support those specific local authorities.
I assure the member that we have taken forward the redistribution model in a way that develops a partnership with local authorities. Alongside that, over a five-year period, we have capped any changes, in terms of a reduction in funding for any local authority, to ensure that no local authority is at a disadvantage as a result of the redistribution. Again, I assure the member that the new distribution model has a rurality weighting within it in order to recognise some of the specific challenges that our rural local authorities face.
Community Policing (Support)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its plans to support community policing during the current parliamentary session. (S5O-01256)
The Government is committed to supporting our police service, which is why we are protecting the police resource budget in real terms in every year of the current session of Parliament and have committed £61 million of reform funding in this financial year to support transformation of the service. The Scottish Government’s strategic policing priorities, which were laid before the Parliament last October, seek to strengthen further the focus on community policing and inclusion. They underline our expectation that local community needs are understood and reflected in the planning and delivery of policing and that our police service is accessible to all people in Scotland and responsive to their needs. That focus is reflected in the policing 2026 strategy, which is the 10-year strategy from Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority and which seeks to develop local approaches to policing in partnership with communities across the country.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that the Tories’ outrageous rules that leave Police Scotland the only territorial police service in the United Kingdom that has to pay millions of pounds in VAT, which cannot be reclaimed, need to end, just as the Tories managed to end such rules for Highways England and academy schools? We need that to happen to ensure that Police Scotland can provide the best service possible.
I completely agree with the member. Police Scotland is the only territorial police force in the UK that is not able to reclaim VAT; that is also the case for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. When it has suited the Conservative Government at Westminster to do so, it has changed the VAT rules for particular organisations. For example, the Tories changed the rules to suit Highways England when it was turned into a national organisation. When it has suited the UK Treasury to change the VAT rules, it has sought to do that in order to allow particular non-departmental public bodies to reclaim VAT. The UK Government is disadvantaging our fire service and police service in Scotland through the discriminatory way in which it goes about continuing to prevent them from being able to reclaim VAT. That could cost the Scottish public purse some £280 million by the end of this session of Parliament alone: £200 million for our police service and £80 million for our fire service. It is about time that the Scottish Conservatives started standing up for our police officers and firefighters in Scotland. That money should be going into our police service and our fire service; it should not be going into the Treasury’s pockets.
In the light of a news report this week that had the headline “IT system ... ‘threatens safety’ of Police Scotland staff”, what support is the Scottish Government giving Police Scotland to improve its information technology system and to ensure that there is an integrated network that allows the safe delivery of community policing?
The short answer is that Liam Kerr should not believe everything that he reads in The Scottish Daily Mail.
As Liam Kerr will be aware, the taking forward of the Police Scotland IT system is a matter for Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority. We are providing Police Scotland with an additional £61 million of reform funding this year to support it in making an investment in key areas that can support the service.
I hope that Liam Kerr will stand up for Police Scotland and allow it to reclaim VAT, so that it can use that money to invest in front-line policing services, including the information and communications technology system.
For a number of years, I have been raising the illegal use of quad bikes and off-road bikes in public parks and on public paths in Fife, and I recognise the proactive response that we have had from community police in tackling that problem. That response has been supported by the excellent work of the Kingdom Off Road Motorcycle Club, which helps to achieve behavioural change in the area. What assurances can the cabinet secretary give that such collaborative working can be delivered with community police throughout Scotland?
Claire Baker raises a very good example of the collaborative way in which Police Scotland works, particularly at a local level, with a range of partners to tackle such unacceptable behaviour. That was one of the key areas that we set out in the new strategic policing priorities; we did so to make sure that there was a greater focus on inclusive and proactive local work in the police service.
At national level, that work has largely been taken forward by Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick, who has made it very clear that working in partnership with a range of agents at a local level to tackle such issues is key to preventing them. It is about not only taking a law enforcement approach to dealing with those issues, but looking at how to work with partners in the local community in a way that can support the young people who are engaging in unacceptable behaviour get into a productive way of participating in the activity that they want to do without causing disruption or risk to the rest of the local community.
That is exactly the type of work that Police Scotland takes forward day in, day out. The level and standard of policing that we receive in Scotland is very high. I reassure Claire Baker that that is the approach that Police Scotland is determined to make sure that it continues to take around the country as and when appropriate.
To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the use of Mosquito devices to deter the gathering of young people. (S5O-01257)
The Scottish Government is opposed to the use of Mosquito antiloitering devices. Their use is not consistent with our approach to tackling antisocial behaviour, and we note that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concerns over their use and children’s right to freedom of movement and peaceful assembly.
The Scottish Government will be aware of the conclusions of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about prohibiting
“the use in public spaces of acoustic devices used to disperse gatherings of young people. (so-called ‘Mosquito devices’)”
What measures is the Scottish Government taking in the light of those conclusions?
I have taken a number of actions in that regard. I have written to all local authorities and to other public bodies including Transport Scotland, Police Scotland and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to emphasise the Government’s opposition to the use of Mosquito devices. I have asked for information on their policies on Mosquito devices and I await their replies.
I am not unsympathetic to those who take the view that we should consider an outright ban on Mosquito devices, but at present, there are no reliable figures on how widespread use of the devices is in Scotland. To proceed successfully down a legislative route, we would need to show that legislation was justified as a proportionate response. We will continue to work on that and to ingather all the available information.
Community Payback and Direct Reparation
To ask the Scottish Government, in the light of the recent comments by the Lord Advocate, what role community payback and direct reparation with victims of crime will play in its future plans for the justice system. (S5O-01258)
Paying back to the community is at the heart of our approach. Community payback orders deliver real benefits for their communities. More than 1.8 million hours of unpaid work were imposed on offenders as part of their CPOs in 2015-16.
In addition, prosecutors have the option of imposing direct measures, such as financial penalties including compensation to victims and unpaid work. That approach is in line with our national strategy for community justice, which sets out our commitment to shifting criminal justice interventions upstream, using the least intrusive intervention at the earliest point.
“Justice in Scotland: Vision and Priorities” laid out the Government’s intention to adopt a more progressive and evidence-based approach that is designed to reduce and prevent further offending, which underpins our determination to ensure that we live in safe, cohesive and resilient communities.
I attended the recent Apex Scotland lecture by the Lord Advocate, and witnessed the positive reaction in the room to the presumption against custodial sentences of up to 12 months. Does the cabinet secretary agree with the Lord Advocate when he says that prosecutors and courts look for decisions that are appropriate and proportionate, and that that is not the same as a soft touch?
I recognise that since we announced our decision to seek Parliament’s agreement to increase the presumption against short sentences of up to 12 months, there has been a wide range of support from across the criminal justice sector. Our approach is founded on making sure that we do not get caught up in the false dichotomy of what is tough justice and what is soft justice, but instead take an approach that is informed by smart justice and that is based on evidence, which we know is much more effective in addressing offending, offenders’ behaviour and the underlying causes that can drive that behaviour. On that note, I agree with the Lord Advocate that a proportionate approach that is appropriate in the circumstances will deal with those issues effectively.
The issue of sentencing remains the same and, although it has changed, the presumption is precisely that—a presumption. The option for the court to impose other measures, including custodial sentences, will remain in the hands of the sentencers, who will continue to have the discretion to pass what they see as being the most appropriate sentences.
I assure Clare Adamson that we are determined to make sure that we use an approach that is informed by evidence, and which can help to deliver safer communities by reducing the risk of individuals committing offences again in the future. That is the approach that we are taking to the presumption against short sentences.
Antisocial Behaviour (Helensburgh Central Railway Station)
To ask the Scottish Government what action is being taken by the police to deal with antisocial behaviour at Helensburgh central train station. (S5O-01259)
Police Scotland has been involved in a number of multi-agency meetings with partners, including the British Transport Police, children and families social work departments and the rail unions, to deal with the antisocial behaviour at Helensburgh central train station.
Police Scotland has applied a combination of prevention, education and enforcement measures, including instigating additional high-visibility officer patrols of all train stations in the area, and deploying trained youth engagement officers in an effort to engage with the young people involved and to positively influence their behaviour. When acts of disorder or antisocial behaviour have amounted to contraventions of criminal law, Police Scotland has taken appropriate enforcement actions against the persons involved.
I am sure that the minister will want to join me in thanking all the agencies that are involved in tackling the antisocial behaviour, and in condemning the abuse of the railway staff who have been verbally and physically assaulted, as have passengers.
Will the minister commit to reviewing the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005 to ensure that transport workers are covered by that legislation?
I join Jackie Baillie in thanking all the agencies. Everyone has clearly put in a tremendous effort and I commend all their actions. I also condemn any abuse of rail workers or anyone else.
On extending the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005, I am aware that the member has written to the Minister for Transport and the Islands, Mr Humza Yousaf, about the matter. I understand that Mr Yousaf is in the process of replying to the member to the effect that he has asked his officials in Transport Scotland to review the practicalities of including rail workers in the legislation.
I also understand that Mr Yousaf will meet representatives from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers shortly, and that he hopes to meet Jackie Baillie to discuss these important matters further.
Corrosive Chemicals (Controls and Sentencing)
To ask the Scottish Government what action it will take on sentencing and stronger controls on the sale of corrosive chemicals, to tackle the use of acid as a weapon. (S5O-01260)
Our criminal laws are clear in that anyone using corrosive substances to attack another person can be convicted of assault and can receive up to life imprisonment. Sentencing in any given case is, of course, a matter for the court.
Scottish Government officials have discussed with United Kingdom Government officials the steps that are being proposed in the area following the UK Government’s announcement in July of an action plan to tackle the use of acid or other corrosives in violent attacks. That dialogue will continue and will include an assessment of the steps that are being considered in respect of retailers and how corrosive substances are sold, including the issue of age limits on the sale of such substances.
The minister will be aware of the case of my constituent, Molly Young, who was attacked with acid in school by a fellow pupil. That crime was carried out using drain cleaner that was bought freely online. The product was, in essence, a powerful concentration of sulfuric acid. The sale of some corrosive substances is regulated, but not that one. Does the minister agree that that cannot be right? What will she do to correct the situation, beyond the discussions that she has outlined?
I am not sure whether this case is sub judice. Minister—you should be slightly careful.
I am aware of the case that Iain Gray has raised: indeed, he has raised it in correspondence with me. I say, in general terms, that the fact that we are engaged in dialogue with the UK Government on the matter is important because, in relation to certain of these areas, there might be questions about the legislative competence of this Parliament. Further, even if that were not the case, it might also be considered better—particularly in relation to online sales—to adopt a consistent approach across the nations of the UK so that we can ensure that we avoid potential loopholes being taken advantage of.
Palace of Holyroodhouse (Financial Arrangements)
To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on whether the financial arrangements governing the management and maintenance of the Palace of Holyroodhouse are fair and equitable in terms of public funding. (S5O-01265)
As the member is aware from answers to written questions, there is a long-standing memorandum of understanding, dating from 2000, that governs the management and maintenance of the palace and is now due for review. The financial arrangements will be considered during that review by all parties to the memorandum.
Last year, Historic Environment Scotland incurred £890,000 in staffing costs partly to reimburse the royal household for staff who are employed by the royal household. Will the cabinet secretary explain why funds that are voted by this Parliament are used to pay for members of staff who are employed by the royal household?
Last year, the Royal Collection Trust received all of the £4.2 million in income from visitor charges. Given that that income was historically apportioned between the Secretary of State for Scotland on the one hand and the royal household on the other, will the cabinet secretary explain why her department is now spending public funds on the palace while receiving none of the visitor income that it received historically to offset that expenditure? Why is that not covered in the memorandum of understanding?
It is appropriate for the memorandum to be reviewed now that Historic Environment Scotland, which is a new non-departmental public body, is responsible for the matter.
On the route of financing, the responsibility for providing and maintaining the official residence of the sovereign lies with ministers, and HES carries that out on our behalf.
As has been the case for many years, the income that is generated by the palace is surplus to the income from the Crown estate. It is sent to the United Kingdom Treasury, and reimbursement for the costs is sent back to Scotland via the Scottish block grant. That might not be as transparent a process as Andy Wightman or I would like, but that is the current situation and it has been the situation for a number of years.
On staffing, the staff concerned are primarily industrial staff such as stonemasons, joiners, plumbers and electricians, and there might be issues in relation to security—I am sure that Mr Wightman will understand that I might not want to go into that in detail.
I am sure that the chief executive of Historic Environment Scotland can discuss all those issues with the member; I understand that a meeting has been arranged for 25 September.
On Holyrood palace and other issues that relate to the royal family, why has the Scottish Government gone way beyond what the Scottish Information Commissioner has suggested is appropriate in relation to how freedom of information requests are handled and information is provided to the public?
That is not really a supplementary to a question about the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. The question is important because it relates to issues around the Palace of Holyroodhouse, other palaces and the royal family.
I do not doubt that the question is important, and the comments that you made are on the record. However, it is not a supplementary question.
Repatriation of Bodies
To ask the Scottish Government how it can support people to repatriate the bodies of family members who have died abroad. (S5O-01266)
As consular assistance, including advice to bereaved families who wish to repatriate their loved ones from abroad, is reserved to the United Kingdom Government, the Scottish Government ordinarily refers individuals to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that they can be put in touch with the consular affairs department. That department then advises on matters of repatriation. The Scottish Government cannot offer any repatriation services above and beyond those that are offered through the consular affairs team, as repatriation is a reserved policy area and consular assistance is provided at a UK level through local embassies and consulates.
Following repatriation, several organisations in Scotland are equipped to provide bereavement support for individuals, in addition to the work of community support groups.
My constituent Julie Love and I recently met Colin Bell, who, following the tragic death of his son, established the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust in Ireland. Through using a global network of fundraising groups, the trust pays the repatriation costs for all those from Ireland who die overseas.
Will the minister meet me and Julie Love, whose son tragically died overseas, to discuss how a similar initiative could be supported in Scotland? I am delighted to say that Colin Bell has agreed to attend any such meeting, if it is secured.
I am, of course, willing to meet the member and his constituent about this very sad matter. As I mentioned, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides notification of the death and outlines the opportunities for bereaved individuals to have access to support. I am also aware that charities such as Death Abroad—You’re Not Alone provide valuable support to those who have lost loved ones abroad. I am aware of charities elsewhere, including those in Ireland, such as the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which, in addition to the work just mentioned, also support repatriation costs.
If such an organisation were to establish itself in Scotland, I am sure that it would be welcome in communities across the country. I reiterate that I am willing to meet the member and his constituent.
What has the Scottish Government done to co-operate with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure the safety of Scots who have been caught up in hurricanes Irma and Maria?
The original question was about repatriating the bodies of family members. That is not entirely a supplementary question.
To ask the Scottish Government what efforts it is making to support the winter tourism industry. (S5O-01267)
The Scottish Government is committed to supporting the winter tourism industry in Scotland. In the past five years, the Scottish Government has allocated nearly £11.5 million to the development of winter tourism.
In addition to the Scottish Government’s financial support, our enterprise agencies, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise, provide business advice to and account manage a number of enterprises that operate in the winter tourism sector. VisitScotland has been working with the winter tourism sector to extend the tourism season and encourage visitors to travel to Scotland during the winter months.
In the news this week, we have seen reports that the longest-lasting patch of snow in Scotland, which is known as the sphinx, is about to melt away from a Highland hillside for the first time in more than a decade. That is beyond the Scottish Government’s control, but will the Government bring in specific measures to support the winter tourism industry when snowfall levels are poor?
I note that the member has notified the chamber of his registered interest in relation to the question.
I, too, saw the news report, which is concerning, as climate change impacts can have effects on a number of areas. Snow levels have varied over recent years, so looking at diversification is important, and that is part of our engagement. This year, for the first time, VisitScotland has worked with North American travel agencies in particular to bring forward visits and encourage people to come to Scotland at different times of the year.
Addressing variations and what can be done with artificial snow is a matter for the industry, but I am enthusiastic that we can continue our winter sports. Unfortunately, snow and weather are reserved—I cannot take account of that. However, there has to be active responsibility for what we do on diversification. VisitScotland is working to encourage North American visitors in particular to come not just in the summer months but in the winter months.
Despite the cabinet secretary’s view that the weather is reserved, will she accept that there are opportunities for diversification by promoting alternative outdoor activities in areas that have a strong existing offer in winter sports and by promoting city breaks?
The cabinet secretary may have seen that both Edinburgh and Aberdeen featured among the top 10 city break destinations identified by LateRooms.com in a survey that was published today. Will she tell us what more can be done in the years ahead to promote city breaks in Scotland during the winter months?
City breaks are a great opportunity for Scotland. That is why support for the winter festivals in particular has embraced not just Edinburgh but other cities. That is about extending the season and looking at what we can do from St Andrew’s day through to Burns night.
On what we can do in relation to active sports that are not necessarily snow related, I have visited the 7stanes centre down in the south of Scotland to look at some of the mountain biking opportunities.
As for Scotland’s attractions, we have just been voted the most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guide readers, and our country is beautiful not just in the summer but all year round. The sheer drama of some of our locations, particularly during the winter period, can be promoted, particularly to the many visitors who come because we do not have all-year sun and they are trying to get away from what can be oppressive weather in their countries.
Arts for Young People (Funding) (South Lanarkshire)
To ask the Scottish Government what funding it provides to encourage access to art, drama and music by young people in South Lanarkshire. (S5O-01268)
We are providing opportunities for young people in that area through the Scottish Government’s youth music initiative and our cashback for creativity programme.
There has been more than £400,000 of funding from the youth music initiative in 2017-18, which is supporting seven high-quality music-making projects and ensuring that every primary school pupil in South Lanarkshire will be offered a year of free music tuition. That engagement has reached 6,800 young people in South Lanarkshire so far.
Gael Music, which is based in South Lanarkshire, is a specific example of how we can fund projects that are developed locally. With £24,000 of support, Gael Music has developed new regional folk music academies and ensembles that are dedicated to the collecting, learning and sharing of traditional music.
Art, drama and music are important public services. Does the cabinet secretary support the use of increased taxation to provide greater support to public services?
Debates are about to commence on those issues; there will be a process of engagement and dialogue. They are the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, in particular. However, I can say that we are using the funds that we have available to help to protect public services—in particular, culture.
Despite the fact that culture is not a statutory responsibility of local government, over recent years the spend on culture has been protected by local government. A lot of the responsibility that James Kelly talks about is local government’s. We can try to fund and support that, as we do for our various agencies. I am particularly pleased that in South Lanarkshire young people are benefiting from the current funds that we have available. However, there is time for the debates that the member wants to have.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that access to art, drama and music—I will throw in sport as well—allows opportunities for participation, integration and activity, all of which the Scottish Association for Mental Health suggests will help to tackle poor mental health? Will the she therefore commit to collaborating with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport on the preventative health agenda to ensure that her portfolio spend and the health spend reflect that approach?
Brian Whittle is absolutely right—the sense of health and wellbeing that can be achieved through all those areas is something that I feel very strongly about. He will be pleased to know that that precise point was a key part of our discussions in Paisley yesterday afternoon as part of our consultation on the culture strategy for Scotland, which is about embedding and having relationships with health, justice and education through the medium of culture.
I already work with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport but, as the member knows, we can all do more to ensure that culture is embedded, because a sense of health and wellbeing can be seriously reinforced through the medium of art, music, drama and indeed sport, and can cause real transformation in people’s lives.
To ask the Scottish Government what role sport has in attracting tourism to Scotland. (S5O-01269)
It has a very important role. Scotland has a strong reputation as the perfect stage for major events, and we are proud to have hosted a number of high-profile events. The 2014 Commonwealth games welcomed visitors from across the world, with an estimated 600,000 ticket buyers from outside Scotland. The world gymnastics championships were a great success in 2015, and just last month 17,000 spectators enjoyed the world badminton championships in Glasgow. More than 200,000 tickets for next year’s European championships are on sale, and the event has a potential television audience of more than 1 billion people, who will see what Scotland has to offer from the streets of Glasgow. There will also be three days of road races, the stunning Loch Lomond will be used for the open-water swimming and the renowned Gleneagles will be used for golf. As Scotland is the home of golf, golf tourism is worth £268 million annually, and the Scottish Government supports events such as the Scottish open, the ladies’ Scottish open and the open championship.
I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer and I would like to focus on one aspect of it. The Barclay review of business rates has called for rates relief to be removed from some of Scotland’s golf courses that currently receive it, including ones that attract tourists to Scotland. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution is currently considering that option. Is the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs concerned about the potential effects on tourism to Scotland if business rates are dramatically increased for some of those courses, which could lead to higher green fees and even the closure of golf courses altogether?
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution is sitting next to me. He has responded in part to the Barclay review and will be considering other aspects in relation to golf. People come here for the quality of our golf. High-net-worth travellers come to participate in golf tourism, which, as I said, provides a net value of £268 million. Barclay has clearly assessed that, and Gordon Lindhurst can make representations himself, but we must drive forward our agenda for tourism based on what we have on offer. Gordon Lindhurst must reflect on what the equitable response is when Scotland has challenges on business rates, and on what is fair and appropriate.
Will the cabinet secretary outline what value the Scottish Government places on Scotland’s hosting of major sporting events? What impact has that hosting had on the tourism industry and what other events do we have to look forward to in the coming years?
I have reflected on the economic impact. Looking forward, we have the European championships in 2018, as I mentioned, as well as the world junior curling championships, and in 2019 we will host the Solheim cup and the European indoor athletics championships. A lot of hard work goes into the bids to secure those events, and that work has an impact on tourism.
To ask the Scottish Government how the national tourism strategy will increase the number of visitors to Glasgow and attract investment. (S5O-01270)
Tourism Scotland 2020, which is the industry-led national tourism strategy, and Glasgow Life’s Glasgow tourism and visitor plan to 2023 are wholly aligned. They share ambitions for sustainable growth and for showcasing Scotland and Glasgow. Delivering sustainable growth in the tourism sector will be supported by all the different Government agencies that are involved, and of course by Glasgow Life. I have already had discussions with Glasgow Life and I hope that I will continue to do so on aspects of tourism.
I am sure that the cabinet secretary will want to join me in congratulating Glasgow City Council and local voluntary sector organisations and businesses, which have had the vision and ambition over many years to establish Glasgow as a highly popular tourism destination. I am sure that she also recognises the significant achievements in establishing Glasgow as a business conference venue and—even more successfully, as she has acknowledged—as a global competitor for international sporting events, most recently the world badminton championships. What will the Scottish Government do to ensure that Glasgow is sufficiently resourced to continue with such ambition and vision? Will she recognise the particular role of Glasgow in delivering such a massive change, and ensure that the city is properly resourced, given the impact of such tourism on the economy of Glasgow and of Scotland as a whole?
I join Johann Lamont in congratulating all those who have been involved in transforming Glasgow’s tourism offer. We referred to city breaks earlier. Glasgow’s offer is very strong, particularly around events and business conferences. Glasgow is a gateway to the rest of Scotland, which allows strategic work to be done that is not just to the benefit of hotels in Glasgow.
Some support and investment will come from the Scottish Government, but encouraging private investment, particularly in the hotel infrastructure in Glasgow, will be important in reaping the rewards that I know that Glasgow will have in the years ahead.
NextFinance (Income Tax)