Meeting date: Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Meeting of the Parliament 21 May 2019
Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Portfolio Question Time, Menopause, Business Motion, Decision Time, International Museum Day 2019
- Time for Reflection
- Topical Question Time
- Portfolio Question Time
- Business Motion
- Decision Time
- International Museum Day 2019
Portfolio Question Time
Government Business and Constitutional Relations
We turn to portfolio questions on Government business and constitutional relations. I remind members that questions 1 and 7 are grouped together.
Glasgow City Council (Funding for No-deal Brexit)
To ask the Scottish Government what funding it is making available to Glasgow City Council to support preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit. (S5O-03256)
I am aware that Glasgow City Council and other local authorities have expressed concerns about the possible costs of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has written to the Scottish Government, seeking £1.6 million additional funding for councils to help to meet Brexit-related costs. We will respond in due course, after the European election period.
Given the interest in the Conservative Party around Boris Johnson’s candidacy for leader and therefore, were he to be successful, prime minister, the prospect of the no-deal Brexit that none of us wants is increasing. Therefore, it is unacceptable that none of the £92 million made available to the Scottish Government has been made available to Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, to deal with a potential no-deal Brexit. I urge the cabinet secretary to review the funding allocation and to allocate money fairly to Glasgow, in order that Scotland’s largest city can prepare for a potential no-deal Brexit.
I entirely agree that the issue of funding for no-deal preparations is a live one, which is why I indicated to Mr Kelly in my first answer that COSLA has made a proposal to which we will respond. I also agree with him that the prospect of a no-deal Brexit continues to grow—it is quite obvious that there are individuals in the UK Cabinet who wish that to happen and, as Mr Kelly has indicated, that prospect will also be in the minds of candidates who are bidding for leadership of the Tory party. We are aware of all that and we will continue to work closely with all stakeholders across Scotland, first, to resist a no-deal—or, indeed, any—Brexit and to ensure that we have the maximum preparedness. However, we cannot be prepared for everything.
Glasgow City Council (No-deal Brexit Resilience Planning)
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with Glasgow City Council regarding resilience planning in the event of a no-deal Brexit. (S5O-03262)
The Scottish Government believes that the best future for Scotland is the one that 62 per cent of Scottish voters chose, which is to remain in the European Union. However, as a responsible Government, we are preparing for all EU exit possibilities. As part of that process, we continue to work closely with our partners in local government, including the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, and individual councils, such as Glasgow City Council, to help them to identify and prepare for the potential impacts of EU exit, which include the possible impacts of there being no deal. I am sure that Johann Lamont will be interested to know that I have just come from a meeting with the Scottish cities alliance, which includes Glasgow City Council, at which we discussed a range of issues, including preparing for a no-deal Brexit.
The cabinet secretary should be aware that, in 2016, Glasgow City Council, the Glasgow economic leadership board and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce produced a joint report, which outlined action to deal with Brexit and emphasised joint working between Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government. Will the cabinet secretary outline how that joint work has progressed? Will he explain why, despite the Scottish Government’s having received an extra £92 million to deal specifically with Brexit, none of that money has gone to Glasgow and other local authorities that are at the front line of dealing with its economic consequences? Such consequences will come very shortly and ought to be addressed immediately, rather than at some point in the future, as the cabinet secretary has suggested.
I have just indicated to Mr Kelly, and I am happy to do so again, that we are in discussion with COSLA and the—
There has been no discussion.
I do not know whether the record will show it, but Johann Lamont keeps shouting during my answer to her question. If she were to expend as much of her energy on attacking the Tories over Brexit as she does on attacking the Government, perhaps we would make more progress.
The reality of the situation is that we are in discussion with COSLA and the Scottish cities alliance. I have just had a very positive and constructive meeting with the alliance, which includes Glasgow City Council, at which we looked at a range of issues and agreed to continue to work together. [Interruption.] That should be a matter that has support from members on the Labour benches—not the shrill, continued shouting that is coming from Johann Lamont, in relation to which I again draw attention to the record. Let us try to work together to defeat Brexit [Interruption.]—there it goes again—rather than have such an approach.
The cabinet secretary must be in a very sensitive mood this afternoon: I do not think that Ms Lamont is exactly shouting. However, if members from all parties would take a leaf out of the cabinet secretary’s book and keep their comments to themselves, that would be good.
Will the cabinet secretary confirm whether the consequentials that the Scottish Government has received due to the UK Government’s Brexit spending will come anywhere close to meeting the predicted economic and social costs to Scotland of our being taken out of the EU against our will? Will he also confirm that the best future for Scotland is one that is in Europe?
Ms McAlpine makes a key point. The vast amounts of money, time and resource that have been spent on preparing for a no-deal Brexit will not be compensated for by any of the resources that we have received. We have tried to maintain a broad front against Brexit and to work closely with organisations and individuals, as we have done with COSLA and a range of stakeholders and are doing with the cities. Such work unifies us, so voices—whether they are shouting or not—that contradict that approach are unhelpful, and will not achieve the best for either Glasgow or Scotland.
European Union Law (No-regression Principle)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will integrate the principle of no regression into provisions on keeping pace with EU laws to ensure that no new measures inadvertently lead to a lowering of consumer and environmental standards. (S5O-03257)
I thank the member for his constructive question.
As I outlined in my letter to the Presiding Officer of 5 April, the Scottish Government is determined to respect to the maximum possible extent the choices that the Scottish Parliament made when it passed the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill. Therefore, we plan new legislation to allow devolved law to keep pace with developments in EU law.
I confirmed that the Scottish Government
“is committed to no regression in standards or protections should EU exit take place, and the replacement of regulatory powers lost in consequence of EU exit will be essential to ensure that.”
I also made specific commitments on environmental principles and the charter of fundamental rights.
I am grateful to colleagues across the Parliament for the constructive discussions that all the parties have had on these matters, and we will take the issue forward in that way.
I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer. The Government supports a new legal duty on Scottish ministers to have regard to the four EU environmental principles in developing policies and legislation. I am not sure whether I picked it up correctly, but having regard to the environmental principles is not a substitute for protecting us from backward changes in environmental legislation and practices, even if those happen inadvertently.
Does the cabinet secretary agree with the principle of no regression? If so, will he build that into a statutory duty?
I do. That is why I said in my letter to the Presiding Officer, which the parties have seen, that I am
“committed to no regression in standards or protections”.
That applies to the environment as it applies to other areas.
The issue of the keeping pace power, which includes no regression, was a significant one during the passage of the continuity bill. The Parliament decided to narrow it from the original proposal, but I would be very happy to see it expanded again.
Of course I believe in no regression on all the principles, including the environmental ones, and we will do our very best to make sure that that is achieved. I hope that we will have the support of members on the Labour benches when the legislation comes to the Parliament, because—to be fair—we had that support on the continuity bill.
The keeping pace power was contained in the continuity bill. The cabinet secretary announced—I think during the recess—that there was not going to be an opportunity to reconsider the continuity bill after the Supreme Court’s judgment on it, which held most of it to be unlawful. When, therefore, does the cabinet secretary think that this Parliament will be given a chance to repeal that illegal legislation?
I dispute the characterisation of the Supreme Court’s judgment. It misses out a significant issue, which is the fact that the UK Government changed the law while—
Again, Presiding Officer, I am trying to offer rational input without people trying to interrupt.
The situation is that the UK Government changed the law after the Parliament had passed the bill in the chamber. If people think that that is a good idea, they certainly have a great deal to learn about democracy.
We will take forward the keeping pace power and we will do so in such a way that the Parliament can legislate on the matter. We had the Parliament’s support before, by and large, and I hope that we will have it again. We will also tidy up other matters as we see fit.
Brexit (Immigration Discussions)
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the impact that Brexit could have on immigration to Scotland. (S5O-03258)
I have met the United Kingdom Minister of State for Immigration, Caroline Nokes, twice to discuss the profoundly positive impact that migration has on Scotland’s economy and society, and there have been several other meetings between Scottish Government ministers and UK ministers to emphasise that, including between the First Minister and the Prime Minister.
Migration is crucial to Scotland’s future prosperity, and any reduction would damage our labour market, economic growth, demographic profile and local communities. The independent report from the expert advisory group on migration and population, which was published in February, states that the UK Government’s immigration proposals could lead to a reduction of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent in net migration to Scotland over the next two decades, which would lead to a decline in our working-age population of up to 5 per cent.
Therefore, in all relevant meetings and correspondence, the Scottish Government has emphasised—and will keep on emphasising—the deep concerns that exist across Scotland about the proposals in the UK Government’s white paper on immigration after Brexit.
I do not often join with the Confederation of British Industry, but I do so in criticism of the plans for the immigration system in Scotland. Particularly in respect of people coming to Scotland to work and to contribute economically—in fishing in my constituency, in farming elsewhere, and throughout our economy—is not it important that we have devolved powers so that we can fine tune immigration to meet our specific needs?
Yes. As Stewart Stevenson, the CBI and other business organisations have emphasised, the UK Government’s proposals in its white paper on immigration would be catastrophic for Scotland. They would send our working-age population into decline and would have a significantly negative effect on many sectors, including those that have been mentioned by Stewart Stevenson, as well as social care, tourism, construction, financial services and several others.
In opposing many of the proposals in the UK Government’s white paper on immigration, and considering Scotland’s distinct demographic challenges, we recognise that there is growing support for the Scottish Parliament to obtain additional powers as part of a UK framework, in order to tailor migration policy to meet Scotland’s needs, so that Scotland remains attractive to migrants and so that we can deliver new solutions.
International Treaties (Devolved Matters)
To ask the Scottish Government what role it considers the Scottish Parliament should have in developing and approving international treaties that impact on devolved matters. (S5O-03259)
This is a crucial issue. Scotland’s devolved institutions have an important role to play in the negotiation and ratification of international treaties. The Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament should be recognised as equals to the United Kingdom Government and Parliament in their respective areas of competence, with a presumption of interest and full, formal and early involvement in the process of making international agreements.
Formal mechanisms must be established to ensure that the Parliament can carry out its role in scrutinising the mandate, negotiation and implementation of treaties. The consent of the Scottish Parliament should be secured before international agreements that impact on devolved matters are ratified.
When people cast their votes to elect members of the Scottish Parliament, they have a right to know that the people who will be sitting in the chamber will be able to make decisions on all devolved matters, and will be able to hold the Scottish Government to account for its actions on devolved matters.
Is it not clear, therefore, that three things are required in respect of treaties, such as trade deals that impact on devolved areas? The first is that the negotiating mandate may not proceed without the consent of this Parliament, and that is to be made explicit in a resolution. The second is that the final text may not be adopted in respect of devolved matters without this Parliament’s consent by way of a resolution. The third—which is equally important—is that this Parliament will have the legal ability to change its mind and withdraw consent, if the political balance in the Scottish Parliament changes. If we do not have the latter, we will have a Parliament and a Government that are fettered by their predecessors in respect of matters that the people of Scotland have the right to cast their votes on, in order to change policy.
I do not find anything difficult or objectionable in those definitions; indeed, I agree with them. There are many problems in the UK Government, but there is a particular problem with how it looks at the issue of trade, and trade has changed greatly in the years since the UK joined the European Union.
The lesson that the UK Government is attempting to draw from, for example, the experience of the comprehensive economic and trade agreement and its final ratification is that it should keep the devolved Administrations as far away as possible. The UK Government should take the opposite lesson, because ensuring that representatives of the Canadian provinces were in the room when the CETA treaty was negotiated and were able to negotiate on their areas of competence was absolutely crucial to the successful conclusion of the process. In fact, the UK Government, in trying to exclude the devolved Administrations from such matters, is cutting off its nose to spite its face, which will make it harder to take those issues forward.
That is the practical issue, but the political, democratic and constitutional issues are as Mr Harvie has outlined. I made that point in my previous answer and it is essential that it is recognised by the UK Government. Presently, it appears to wish to ignore it, which will be—and is—utterly unacceptable.
Questions 5 and 8 are grouped together, so we will try to squeeze them both in.
Citizens Assemblies (National Governance)
To ask the Scottish Government what scope it considers citizens assemblies could have in the governance of Scotland. (S5O-03260)
As the First Minister set out in her statement to Parliament on 24 April, the European Union exit experience has shown the weaknesses in the current devolution settlement and the UK’s constitutional arrangements more widely. We must consider the best way forward for Scotland in the light of that experience and, in doing so, we want to avoid the division created over EU exit. That is why the First Minister announced that we would establish a citizens assembly to consider the best way forward for Scotland, and I will update Parliament on further developments shortly.
Last week, I went to Ireland where I met, among others, the chair and secretary of the Constitutional Convention and members of the secretariat of the Citizens’ Assembly. I was impressed with what I learned.
I have invited both secretaries of the Irish models to Scotland in the next few weeks to inform our planning. I hope that parties across the chamber will welcome, and be involved in, the initiative and those discussions in particular. I will be writing to party leaders this afternoon to invite them to do so.
A citizens assembly should represent the demographics of the whole population in a way that the Parliament has, as yet, failed to do. Will the cabinet secretary consider ensuring a diversity in the assembly that can properly consider all perspectives, and help to deliver a meaningful outcome?
The member raises an important issue. The establishment of a citizens assembly should endeavour to create a body for a particular purpose, which must not be too wide. It must also be representative of society. There are a number of ways in which that can be done. It was an issue for the Constitutional Convention and the Citizens’ Assembly in Ireland. How do we do that? It is a hard thing to do because we are trying to balance demography, geography, sectoral interests and a variety of minorities and majorities. It will require us to do a lot of work.
I hope that all the parties will find themselves involved in that task. I am determined that the citizens assembly that we will establish and that, I hope, will meet by autumn this year should represent the country in that way, and there are a number of ways in which it can do so. I am happy to discuss with other parties, Alison Johnstone and others how we are trying to do that, and to seek the input of other parties on how we should do that.
Citizens Assembly (Costs)
To ask the Scottish Government what the costs will be of establishing a citizens assembly. (S5O-03263)
As I have tried to indicate, that will depend on the design of the assembly, which I wish to discuss with party representatives. From the Irish experience, we have learned that it should be an open and transparent process. All details, including costs, will be published in full as the process goes forward.
The Scottish Parliament is already the most expensive Parliament in the United Kingdom per head of population. It is more expensive per head of population than the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Welsh Assembly, according to the recently published report from the Institute for Government, “Devolution at 20”. Given that, what is the justification for any additional expenditure, especially as the Scottish Parliament is already open, transparent and representative of the people of Scotland?
One of the interesting things that we learned in Ireland was that, at the start of the process for the Constitutional Convention and the Citizens’ Assembly, that view was expressed by a number of individuals. They said, “We’ve got a Parliament; why do we need a citizens assembly or a constitutional convention?”
As the process went on, people realised the difference between the two. For example, in considering amendment 8 to the constitution, on the matter of abortion, the Citizens’ Assembly had five separate meetings at which the members heard from experts and advocacy groups, but it was all entirely factually based. That was an important development. It did away with the noise and confusion around politics. People looked at the facts of the matter and tried to reconcile views from across society.
I stand in no way critical of this Parliament or any Parliament, but it is not exactly a place that specialises in reconciling diverse views. By listening to people and creating the circumstances in which there can be a genuine dialogue, we can make progress. That is what we wish to do. The Brexit process has indicated to us why it should happen. During that process, we have seen real division being created by the inability to consider all views and to do it on a factual basis.
I urge Mr Tomkins to come along, to meet the people involved, and have the conversations. Let us see whether we can jointly author something that will take our nation forward.
Heritage Celebration (Support)
To ask the Scottish Government how it supports communities in celebrating their heritage. (S5O-03264)
I recognise the hard work that is carried out by local communities to protect the historic environment and to secure the future of their local heritage. Scottish Government support for heritage is channelled through our various sponsored bodies that work with communities in the area of heritage. The Scottish Government has maintained Historic Environment Scotland’s external grant funding at £14.5 million per year, which is channelled into local heritage projects. For example, Bearsden Baptist church, in the member’s constituency, is working to create interpretation and learning spaces in its gardens on the site of a Roman fort on the Antonine wall world heritage site.
Thomas Muir of Huntershill, who lived in Bishopbriggs in my constituency, is known as the father of Scottish democracy. His memory is kept alive by a local group called the Friends of Thomas Muir. Does the cabinet secretary believe that more could be done by VisitScotland or, perhaps, by the Scottish Government to promote figures of such historical importance?
VisitScotland, which receives around £48 million in grant in aid, promotes various places, events, activities and, indeed, historical figures. In my previous answer, I referred to Historic Environment Scotland, which, the Friends of Thomas Muir may be interested to know, has in recent years introduced a commemorative plaque scheme that celebrates significant people by erecting plaques on the buildings where they lived or worked. Thomas Muir of Huntershill is certainly deserving of that and of wider promotion. People are, of course, interested in places, but they are also interested in the people who have shaped our society. Thomas Muir, in his pursuit of democracy, certainly did that.
I am sure that the cabinet secretary would agree that a hugely important part of Glasgow’s heritage is its international contribution to live music, the live music business and that aspect of the night-time economy. Given the serial disasters that have hit Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow over the past year, what support is the Scottish Government giving to Glasgow to support its live music heritage?
Creative Scotland is the sponsored body that is responsible for promoting contemporary art projects in a number of areas. I believe that, as a UNESCO city of music, Glasgow has to promote its music and look after its venues.
On the question of applications for grants for different sites, a number of things can be done. Creative Scotland has been promoting contemporary music, although in terms of artists more than venues, and, if any specific projects come forward from Glasgow City Council or any promoters, we will provide advice and support about where they can go to ensure that those projects can progress. We should recognise the importance of our music not just for artists but for audiences, but I have yet to see any proposals come forward.
Edinburgh International Festival (Meetings)
To ask the Scottish Government when it last met representatives of Edinburgh International Festival. (S5O-03265)
Scottish Government officials regularly meet representatives of Edinburgh International Festival. The last time they met was earlier this month, on 3 May. On 30 May, I will meet Fergus Linehan, the festival’s director, and Fran Hegyi, its new executive director after the departure of Joanna Baker.
Many cultural organisations, including the fringe and international festivals, are likely to be impacted by the uncertainty of Brexit. Can the cabinet secretary provide an update on how much money has been allocated through the international creative ambition programme, which was announced last September as part of the Scottish Government’s 2018-19 programme and was due to be in place by May this year?
I am not sure where Alex Cole-Hamilton got his information from. The international creative ambition programme looks more widely than at the festivals. We have already extensively supported the festivals to remain competitive by maintaining the Edinburgh festivals expo fund. Alex Cole-Hamilton asked about the Edinburgh International Festival, and it is receiving £190,000 of expo funding for the five-concert series celebrating the achievements of our composer James MacMillan.
He also asked about additional funding, and the place programme, which was funded as part of the discussions around the city deal, has provided additional funding, for this year and on-going, to the various festivals to make sure that they remain competitive. The international creative ambition fund will be used for things other than festivals.
It is vital that we recognise the threat of Brexit to our cultural life in Scotland. We should not have to compensate people—in the festivals or in other areas—for that, and we certainly have to stop it to ensure that we maintain the culturally vibrant international aspects of all our festivals.
The festivals are, indeed, a wonderful time of the year, but staff who work on the festivals are often quite vulnerable to exploitation. What work has the cabinet secretary done in the past 12 months to promote the fair fringe charter?
The festival organisations are independent from the Government, but it is important that we promote fair work. Last week, I met the Scottish Trades Union Congress to discuss fair work in the cultural sector, and we can all be involved in supporting the fringe charter. It is important to recognise that it is a matter for the festivals, their artists and the venues that they use, but fair work during the festival is something that I want to promote.
The cabinet secretary will be aware of the comments that were made last year by the director of the Edinburgh International Festival, who said that a no-deal Brexit would have a “disastrous” and “horrible” impact on Edinburgh’s festival. For 2019, he is having to prepare a scaled-back event, which is a scandal. Can the cabinet secretary confirm the very real threat that a Boris-led no-deal Brexit, especially, would pose to our festivals and cultural events the length and breadth of Scotland?
When those remarks were made, the UK was meant to have left in October and then in March, but it is clear that not just a no-deal Brexit but any Brexit would cause severe difficulties. With regard to immigration, non-European artists currently struggle to get access to our festivals, and quite often there are cancellations at the last minute even when we try to appeal some of the issues. If those difficulties were to be experienced by all EU artists under the UK’s Brexit immigration policy, the disaster that awaits would severely damage our festivals, which is why it has to be resisted.
Tourism (European Union Countries)
To ask the Scottish Government how it sees tourism between Scotland and EU countries developing in the future. (S5O-03266)
The EU will remain a key market for Scotland’s tourism industry. Six of Scotland’s top 10 markets for overseas visitors are in the European Union, accounting for 34 per cent of overseas overnight visitors and 31 per cent of overseas tourist expenditure in 2017. VisitScotland is actively promoting Scotland as an open and welcoming nation in the face of an EU exit. The latest Scotland is now activity for Europe—“Scotland is open”, which launched on 29 March 2019—is our best-performing campaign to date, with record levels of engagement and more than 79 million people reached by adverts.
The cabinet secretary will be aware that the volume of travellers who travel by air from Scotland to Dublin each year is well over 1 million and exceeds by far the numbers who travel to Paris or any of the regional Spanish airports. Does she see an opportunity to support the development of Scotland’s ferry services to and from Dublin to take advantage of a route that seems to be increasingly popular with Scottish and Irish tourists?
Sustainable travel routes will be increasingly important to our tourism sector. I am interested in the increasing travel between Scotland and Dublin, which we are trying to probe particularly with our Scottish innovation investment hub, which is based in Dublin. I understand from transport officials that there have been discussions about European ferry services on possible new routes with a number of operators and business consortiums over the years. They have not yet been able to develop a viable service—of course, any service would need to be commercially viable—but we remain interested in different routes and in maintaining those contacts and promoting sustainable tourism.
Dance School of Scotland (Musical Theatre Course Showcase 2019)
To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting the Dance School of Scotland’s MTC showcase 2019. (S5O-03267)
The Scottish Government welcomes the MTC showcase 2019 by the Dance School of Scotland at the Glasgow royal concert hall from 12 to 15 June. It provides the opportunity for young talent from one of Scotland’s six national centres of excellence to perform to large audiences. Those world-class facilities make a significant contribution to cultural life in Scotland and internationally, and the Scottish Government supports the centres through the local government funding settlement for the five councils that host them.
The Dance School of Scotland is based at Knightswood secondary school, in my Glasgow Anniesland constituency. The school admits pupils through auditions and is completely free. Does the cabinet secretary agree—I think that she does, given her previous answer—that such specialised schooling provides the opportunity for children from any background to reach their full potential and enriches the cultural life of Scotland?
This is a fantastic opportunity to highlight the work of all six of our centres. Douglas academy, Broughton high school and Dyce academy, in Aberdeen, specialise in music; Plockton high school, in the Highlands, specialises in traditional music; Bellahouston academy, in Glasgow, specialises in sport; and there is also Knightswood secondary school, to which Bill Kidd has referred. The centres are open to young people from any background, and they work as a pipeline for identifying talent for our national performance companies. The centres further the careers of young people and are a great asset to the cultural life of Scotland.
Tourism (Impact of Ending Freedom of Movement)
To ask the Scottish Government how it will assist the tourism sector to attract workers in the event of Scotland being impacted by an end to the freedom of movement following Brexit. (S5O-03268)
While continuing to make the case to the United Kingdom Government that moves to limit migration will harm our tourism sector, we are actively engaging with the industry to address the risks.
Our tourism skills investment plan and the potential tourism sector deal will focus on addressing skills gaps and promoting tourism as a career of choice for people joining the industry at whatever stage. Skills Development Scotland is proactively encouraging tourism as a career for the domestic population. We are also working to build the sector’s attractiveness by ensuring that it is underpinned by fair work principles.
According to VisitScotland, the Scottish tourism sector employed 21,000 nationals of other European Union countries last year. The UK Home Office’s white paper, “The UK’s future skills-based immigration system”, says that work visas will be available only to people with salaries of more than £30,000 per annum. Will the cabinet secretary outline how such a system would impact on the number of workers in the tourism industry?
The UK Government’s white paper shows a shocking disregard for the needs of our tourism industry and other sectors in Scotland. Requiring workers in the tourism sector to earn more than £30,000 per annum could result in an 85 per cent reduction in the inflow of long-term workers from European countries to Scotland. A reduction in the number of people coming to work in our tourism and hospitality sectors will result in skills shortages, which will have an impact on quality and experience and will damage our sector. I appeal to members from all parties to get behind the efforts to stop such a system, because it will have a long-lasting detrimental effect on our tourism sector and our economy. The issue is very serious, which is why we need to stop the Brexit process and, certainly, stop the measures in the immigration white paper.
The Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee heard evidence from Stephanie Maurel, who said that agencies such as hers struggle to get people from the EU to come to Scotland to work. However, record numbers of EU nationals—2.38 million—are now living and working in the UK, despite Brexit.
Clearly, the Scottish Government’s role is to make Scotland an attractive place to work; its role is also to support more Scots into the hospitality industry, particularly in remote and rural areas. We have heard—
Can you get to the question, please, Ms Hamilton?
Will the cabinet secretary outline how she can help more young people get into the hospitality industry in rural and remote areas?
As I have said, a lot of the work will come from the tourism skills investment plan. We are working with our network of colleges to supply such skills.
The issue is not only about attracting people to work in remote areas, because other sectors will be competing for the pool of available young people. The issue affects people at all stages of life, too, so we are trying to encourage older people to come back into the workforce to work in tourism.
As part of our wider skills plan, we are heavily promoting the accessibility of networks and the number of apprenticeships in tourism. We are also working with the rest of the UK on promoting those aspects. I will discuss the issue when I meet other tourism ministers shortly.
Tourism and Culture (Resources)
I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests in relation to tourism.
To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to develop resources to support the expansion of tourism and culture. (S5O-03269)
Scotland’s cultural life, economy and international reputation are influenced by the success of our tourism and culture sectors. Against a backdrop of public spending constraints, we remain committed to supporting the growth of both sectors in a sustainable and inclusive way that will benefit all our communities.
Following the original tourism Scotland 2020 strategy, Scotland’s new tourism strategy is being developed. That strategy will help the industry and the Scottish Government to address our current and future challenges, which include pressures on infrastructure, rising costs and European Union exit, and to become a world-class visitor destination. In the 2019-20 budget, we are investing £269.6 million in Scotland’s culture, tourism and heritage sector.
The past four years of published statistics show that all 114 jobs that were advertised by Creative Scotland were in the central belt. Can the cabinet secretary inform me whether any jobs have been advertised in the north-east more recently, given the considerable contribution of the north-east to Scottish culture?
I am not the personnel manager for Creative Scotland. However, Alexander Burnett has made his point in relation to advertising. With regard to recruitment, anybody across—and, indeed, beyond—Scotland is eligible to apply for those posts. The posts tend to be based where the headquarters are located, and Creative Scotland’s headquarters are in Edinburgh, although it also has offices in Glasgow. If Alexander Burnett is suggesting that those offices should be relocated elsewhere, he can make that point to Creative Scotland.
As cabinet secretary, I expect Creative Scotland and all its staff—not just those who are being recruited—to serve all of Scotland geographically. I expect that to apply to the north-east in the same way that I expect it to apply to anywhere else in Scotland.
Waverley Paddle Steamer
To ask the Scottish Government what support it will provide to help the Waverley paddle steamer return to sailing on the Clyde. (S5O-03270)
The Waverley is an iconic part of the Clyde’s history and its trips provide a unique experience for visitors to the area. Although we have not been approached by its operators, the Scottish Government—though its agencies—would be happy to provide appropriate advice and support.
The cabinet secretary will be aware that the cost of repairs to the boiler on the Waverley could be as much as £2 million. Given that we all want to see the iconic Waverley sailing again next year, will she consider providing financial assistance to help it, and will she agree to meet me and representatives of the Waverley to discuss the issue further?
The Waverley’s current situation is clearly of serious concern. Although the issue originally involved repairs to boiler works, I understand from statements made by representatives of the Waverley that the boiler requires full replacement, which explains the extent of the costs.
I am more than happy to arrange appropriate meetings. However, we perhaps have to identify the appropriate bodies that could support the Waverley in any application. As I said, no contact has been made to date.
As someone who celebrated her 21st birthday sailing on the Clyde from Ayr to Largs, I certainly have a great fondness for the Waverley, as does the rest of Scotland. Everyone wishes the save the Waverley campaign well. If the public get behind the campaign and donate, I am sure that we will see the Waverley sailing again.
That the Waverley will not be sailing on the Clyde this year is heartbreaking, not least because it will not be sailing past my office in Largs, where I have regularly seen it.
Does the cabinet secretary think that organisations such as Historic Environment Scotland, which plays a vital role in preserving buildings, castles and settlements, might also have a role to play in helping to preserve our sea vessels?
Jamie Greene makes an important point. As we just heard, maritime vessels are very expensive to support, but they are also a very important part of our heritage.
The Scottish Government supported the Scottish Fisheries Museum in relation to the Reaper, but that was because the Reaper is associated with that museum in particular.
There are challenges. Historic Environment Scotland has responsibility for marine heritage in relation to some maritime planning zones. However, what can be given as a grant is a challenging question. Although I am happy to investigate the possibilities further, I suspect that Mr Greene is hinting at an area where we have to recognise that there is real demand—and, given that I frequently receive letters about maritime heritage, I am not sure that we can meet all the demands that exist. Nonetheless, I am happy to take the matter further.
I apologise to Gordon MacDonald that we are unable to take his question.
Construction Apprenticeships (Access to Funding)
To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to increase access to funding for apprenticeships in the construction sector. (S5O-03272)
We are delivering more apprenticeships than ever before. In 2017-18, the Scottish Government supported 6,104 people into modern apprenticeships in the construction sector, which tends to be the sector with the largest number of apprenticeships: 22.5 per cent of all modern apprenticeship starts are in that sector.
Work is under way to deliver even more apprenticeships this year. We have set the ambitious target of having 29,000 new starts in 2019-20, including up to 1,300 graduate apprenticeships. Construction is a priority sector, and the number of modern apprenticeship starts in the sector has risen by 38 per cent in the past five years.
As part of its inquiry into the construction sector, the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee heard the following evidence from a sector association. It said:
“funding is difficult to access. For example, in relation to the flexible workforce development fund ... the college courses on offer do not ... meet the needs of”—[Official Report, Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, 19 March 2019; c 9.]
employers. Given that evidence, how will the minister ensure that delivery of courses through the apprenticeship levy is better tailored to the construction sector’s needs?
I am always keen to ensure that everything that we offer through our skills system is responsive to industry’s needs. Under the flexible workforce development fund, I expect colleges to respond to individual employer demand. If an employer feels that that has not been the case, I am always willing to hear about that.
I am inclined to be led by the evidence on apprenticeships. As I said, that evidence shows a 38 per cent increase in the number of construction modern apprentices in the past five years. The figure has increased year on year—we have gone from 4,435 modern apprentices in 2013-14 to 6,104 in 2017-18, which is the most recent year for which we have full figures. That suggests that the sector is well able to access the funding that is on offer.
To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that the primary school system is fit for purpose. (S5O-03273)
Our national improvement framework for education contains a wide range of actions to ensure that children leave primary school with the knowledge, skills, attributes and capabilities that are necessary for their next phase of learning. That includes our investment in leadership and professional learning for primary teachers, robust arrangements for inspection and improvement, support for regional improvement collaboratives, investment in the primary school estate and our continued support for Scottish national standardised assessments in the primary sector.
Last September, the Parliament voted by 63 to 61 to halt Scottish national standardised assessments for primary 1 pupils. As a result, an independent review of P1 testing is due to report this month. Is the cabinet secretary committed to implementing that review’s findings? Can the parents of children who are due to start P1 in August expect the evidence-based approach that he promised last October?
I am committed to implementing the review’s conclusions. As Michelle Ballantyne knows, we said that we would listen carefully first to the P1 practitioner forum that I established, which set out a number of recommendations that we are taking forward for implementation.
I expect to receive the report of the independent review of P1 assessments from David Reedy shortly. The Government will reflect carefully on the evidence that that demonstrates. As I have maintained throughout the discussion in which Parliament has been involved, I am interested in the evidence, which I will follow.
Figures that the Government released last week in response to a freedom of information request show that almost 80 per cent of the SNSA tests that primary 1 pupils sat were conducted in a single month—March. Surely that makes a mockery of the cabinet secretary’s claim that the tests are diagnostic and should be taken when the teacher believes that they are right for the child, does it not?
It does not, because the assessment period that Mr Gray referred to is not the only period in which the assessments are carried out. He cited information about a limited time; I would expect further assessments to have been carried out throughout April, May and June. We will judge the assessments’ effectiveness in making an impact on teacher judgment, and in enabling teachers to undertake the diagnostic assessment that is essential in all the analysis, which will ensure that we support young people by enhancing and developing their learning.
Teachers’ Mental Health
To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the recently released National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers’ survey on teachers’ mental health. (S5O-03274)
No teacher should feel that their job adversely affects their mental health. Wellbeing—both mental and physical—affects us all and should rightly be taken seriously. The survey findings are therefore extremely worrying.
Local authorities, as employers, have a duty of care to all their staff, including teachers. The Scottish Government is, with local authorities, already taking action to address conditions that affect wellbeing by putting in place additional support for teachers in order to tackle workload issues and to improve recruitment and retention rates. The recent pay deal provides certainty on pay, and sets a shared agenda on addressing workload, additional support for learning and empowering schools for the next two years, which I hope contributes to strengthening the working environment for teachers.
The survey is full of grim statistics for the Government, so I am grateful to the cabinet secretary for acknowledging that it is “worrying”. The survey reveals that 54 per cent of teachers say that job satisfaction is in decline, and that 55 per cent have considered leaving the profession altogether. How will John Swinney ensure that teachers stay on? What will he do if they leave?
The first thing that I have done is recognise the importance and significance of issues to do with staff’s mental health and wellbeing. I want to work with the professional associations—doing so was the foundation of the pay and workload deal that we have just agreed—to ensure that we enhance the working environment for teachers in order to enable them to concentrate on sharing and leading on learning and teaching, which is what motivated them to enter the teaching profession in the first place.
Part of that effort must involve tackling any unnecessary tasks and work that teachers do. I made it very clear in the pay and workload deal that I will work closely with teachers and the professional associations to identify, by creating a sense of teacher agency and autonomy, the capacity in the teaching profession to make choices about how they spend their time, so that they can spend it on the productive and valuable aspects of learning and teaching, and not on unproductive and unnecessary tasks and bureaucracy.
I cannot mandate that from St Andrews house—I need to engage with the profession to enable it to deliver that, which is exactly what I am concentrating on doing.
Support for Youth Employment (Almond Valley)
To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting youth employment in the Almond Valley constituency. (S5O-03275)
We have seen good progress in supporting youth employment through the delivery of the developing the young workforce scheme in Almond Valley. Collaboration between West Lothian College and the area’s 11 secondary schools ensures that career education is central to the curriculum offer, as a result of joint planning exercises for each academic year. A forum that comprises schools and the college creates a strong focus on the work-readiness and training aspects of education.
In addition, the local developing the young workforce regional group has been working in partnership with schools, colleges, local authorities and employers in the area to develop innovative approaches to education. In West Calder for example, employers have supported the school to develop a six-week employment-ready programme for secondary 4 pupils who face additional barriers to employment.
Will the minister join me in commending Mitsubishi Air Conditioning Systems Europe and West Lothian Chamber of Commerce for hosting the finals of the “Pump it up” schools challenge for the fifth year running. It is a fantastic example of partnership between industry and schools, which helps young people to develop a wide range of skills. Will he meet the DYW West Lothian regional group to discuss what more can be done to connect the worlds of education and work in that area and beyond?
I join Angela Constance in commending the activity that is taking place between Mitsubishi and young people in West Lothian. It is very important for me to engage and interact with the developing the young workforce regional groups across the country. On that basis, I would be very happy to meet the DYW West Lothian regional group. I already know that it is undertaking a range of activities, and I would be delighted to meet it, with Angela Constance, to learn more about what it is doing and what more we can do together.
Additional Support Needs (Co-ordinated Support Plans)
To ask the Scottish Government whether the number of pupils with additional support needs who have a co-ordinated support plan in place is increasing. (S5O-03276)
Education authorities use a range of planning mechanisms to meet the needs of children and young people. Co-ordinated support plans are used where children have complex or multiple needs that require significant support from education and other agencies.
In 2018, 199,065 children and young people were recorded as having additional support needs. Of that number, 1,986 pupils are recorded as having a CSP. That represents 1 per cent of the total number of children recorded as having an additional support need, which is a small decrease from the previous year, when the total stood at 2,182.
We are seeing in Scottish schools record high numbers of pupils who have additional support needs. It seems, therefore, to be obvious that we should also have seen a huge increase in the number who have co-ordinated support plans in place, but that has not happened: unbelievably, that number is falling. The onus should not just be on local authorities. Can the cabinet secretary say whether his Scottish National Party Government is doing enough to help councils to ensure that every young person who needs a plan has one in place?
The first point to make is that it does not follow that because there has been an increase in the number of young people who are defined as having additional support needs, there should have been an increase in the number who have co-ordinated support plans. As Annie Wells knows, there has been a significant broadening of the definition of additional support needs, which reflects the fact that a much wider cohort of young people are affected.
In my original answer, I made it clear that a range of supports are put in place to meet the needs of children and young people. The judgment about co-ordinated support plans involves consideration of whether a young person requires complex or multiple support from a range of agencies. That is the key test.
Annie Wells said that it should not be a matter for local authorities, but the law says that it is. Statute that Parliament passed says that it is for local authorities to determine the appropriateness of an individual child or young person receiving a co-ordinated support plan. Of course, if a family disagrees with a judgment that is made by a local authority, they have recourse to a tribunal to challenge it.
As I made clear in the debate last week, the Government will review the implementation and application of co-ordinated support plans to ensure that the statutory force that Parliament expected to be applied in this respect is being applied. Obviously, I will report to Parliament on that, in due course.
Skills Development Scotland Employability Fund (Stage 4 Qualifications)
To ask the Scottish Government how many people achieved vocational qualifications at stage 4 as part of the Skills Development Scotland employability fund for 2018-19. (S5O-03277)
Skills Development Scotland will publish full-year statistics for the employability fund in 2018-19 next month.
The employability fund has a strong focus on work experience, but its report shows that there were no recipients of vocational qualifications at stage 4 in Dundee city in the first three quarters of 2018-19. That is because most of the fund recipients in that area were aged 16 to 24 and lacked the necessary work experience to get stage 4 reskilling. What is the minister doing to help Dundee people who are now stuck in that bottleneck to employment, and to address a potential skills drought?
We seek to work with a range of organisations in any area to respond to specific demand. If there is a particular “bottleneck”—as the member put it—in Dundee, it is incumbent on us to examine that.
I have heard what Mr Bowman has said, and I will gladly take the issue away to consider what more we might have to do in Dundee. However, we will continue to invest in the employability fund this year, as last year, and it will continue to support many thousands of people across the country, including in Dundee.
As I said, I take on board the issue that the member has raised and will come back to him on it.
Question 7 has been withdrawn.
To ask the Scottish Government how it supports Scotland’s colleges. (S5O-03279)
Since 2007, we have invested more than £7 billion in Scotland’s colleges. In the context of a £2 billion real-terms cut to our resource block grant over the last decade by the United Kingdom Government, we have increased our investment in colleges in real terms to more than £600 million in the 2019-20 budget.
With regard to support for colleges, ministers intervened to resolve the college dispute over pay harmonisation and to ensure that national pay scales were introduced. However, Colleges Scotland’s failure to provide a fair cost of living increase threatens to unravel that agreement even as it is being implemented. Will ministers intervene now to ensure that lecturers are given a fair pay offer in the interests of staff and students?
Like most members, I am sure, I very much regret the current on-going dispute and the fact that there was strike action last week.
As the member is aware, national bargaining was hard won and is a joint voluntary arrangement between the employers and the trade unions. I hope that she will accept that it is, therefore, the responsibility of the employers and the trade unions to resolve the dispute.
I am meeting both sides next week and I will reiterate as hard as I can the absolute urgency of getting an agreement over the line. It is very disappointing that we were so close to having an agreement in the days before the recent strike action. Surely we can now get an agreement over the line. I will be putting as much argument behind that case as possible when I meet both sides next week.
I understand that Rachael Hamilton has something that she would like to say.
I refer members to my register of interests in relation to my supplementary question to question 5 in culture, tourism and external affairs questions.
The minister has spilled her water. I will suspend the meeting briefly to allow her to sort herself out.15:21 Meeting suspended.
15:22 On resuming—