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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament 22 January 2020

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Local Government (Funding), Business Motions, Decision Time, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (350th Anniversary)


Portfolio Question Time

Government Business and Constitutional Relations

The first item of business is portfolio questions, and the first set of questions are on Government business and constitutional relations. Question 1 has not been lodged.

Citizens Assembly (Costs)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the costs for the citizens assembly of Scotland. (S5O-04020)

We announced a budget of £1.37 million for the citizens assembly last October. That remains the estimated budget. Final costs will be published after the citizens assembly has finished its work.

Since announcing the taxpayer-funded citizens assembly, the Scottish National Party Government has done little to allay fears that it is nothing more than a talking shop for another divisive independence referendum. Can the cabinet secretary confirm that if the citizens assembly were to recommend that there should not be another independence referendum, the Scottish Government would respect that decision and take a referendum off the table?

Mr Cameron should talk to his colleague Jamie Halcro Johnston, because he was at the citizens assembly this weekend as part of the politicians panel that is a resource for the assembly. I welcome the constructive engagement from the Tory party with the assembly, and I welcome that that the Scottish Labour Party leader, a Green Party representative and Angela Constance, representing the SNP, were also there. The only party that was not there was the Scottish Liberal Democrats. They are becoming the Free Presbyterians of Scottish politics—they just do not take part.

Why does not Mr Cameron acknowledge that good work is being done by the Conservatives in supporting the citizens assembly, for which we are all pleased and grateful?

Neurodiversity Debate (Proposal)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will consider bringing forward to the Parliamentary Bureau a proposal for a debate on neurodiversity. (S5O-04021)

I thank Daniel Johnson for highlighting the important issue of neurodiversity. The Scottish Government is committed to creating a fair and equal Scotland, where people are treated with dignity and respect.

Proposals for Government business in Parliament are set by the Cabinet prior to consideration by the Parliamentary Bureau. Individual ministers seek debating slots ahead of that, according to a variety of factors and available opportunities.

I advise Daniel Johnson that, between legislative, committee and Opposition business, the upcoming parliamentary calendar is extremely congested.

The Government has received much criticism in recent months for its failure to hold education debates in its own time. In relation to neurodiversity, it is eight years since Parliament had a debate on dyslexia. Such conditions cut across numerous portfolios and acute need is created in people who have neurodevelopmental disorders. Will the minister commit to a proper in-depth debate, so that we can establish consensus and look at how the policy agenda can be taken forward?

I acknowledge entirely the importance of the subject and Mr Johnson’s championing of it, and I know that the Minister for Mental Health, Clare Haughey, would be happy to see the subject being explored in the chamber.

However, I have offered Daniel Johnson a realistic and honest assessment of the pressures on plenary debating time for the foreseeable future. I suggest that a practical and positive way forward would be for him to bring to the chamber a members’ business debate on the topic. That would allow him and other members the chance to contribute, and it would allow the minister the chance to outline the Government’s position.

Brexit Preparation (Local Government)

To ask the Scottish Government what support it is providing to local authorities in preparation for Brexit. (S5O-04022)

The Scottish Government is providing support in a variety of ways. It has worked collaboratively with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, allocating £50,000 to each local authority—a total of £1.6 million—to support planning for European Union exit. It has also fully funded two seconded officials to COSLA as a dedicated resource to support co-ordination and operational readiness across councils.

In addition, the Scottish Government has administered almost £1.4 million of Her Majesty’s Treasury operational contingency funding to local authorities in support of additional costs relating to export health certificates.

I draw the minister’s attention to the particular case of Glasgow City Council, in respect of funding. A 2019 report demonstrated that the cost of Brexit to Glasgow could be up to £2.35 billion and 38,000 jobs. A disorderly Brexit would therefore have a devastating impact on Glasgow. I urge the minister to ensure that appropriate consideration is given to Glasgow City Council’s funding in preparation for Brexit.

The Scottish Government engages closely with COSLA and with local authorities directly on Brexit—which is not of our making, as Mr Kelly well knows—and we will continue to do so. We engage closely on funding and preparation, and we recognise the role that local authorities continue to play in steering Scotland through a Brexit that is not of our making.

Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with victims of crime regarding the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill. (S5O-04023)

The Scottish Government recognises that some victims of crime may oppose giving the right to vote to prisoners, and that has been taken into account in our proposal, which restricts voting to those who are serving sentences of 12 months or less.

During the development of our public consultation on prisoner voting, which was launched in December 2018, officials met representatives from Victim Support Scotland. On its launch, the consultation paper was provided to victims’ groups. A total of 265 responses were received. I extended a personal offer to meet members of the victims organisations collaboration forum Scotland prior to the introduction of the Scottish Elections (Franchise and Representation) Bill, and that invitation remains open. I would be happy to meet victims’ organisations to discuss the issue.

The Scottish National Party’s plan to extend the franchise to prisoners would be a slap in the face for victims of crime, so I am interested to know whether that fact has been taken into account. The extension would be logistically challenging, it would put candidates and prison staff in unnecessary danger, and it is based on a misunderstanding of case law.

Would the cabinet secretary’s time not be better spent on addressing issues such as overcrowding, lack of throughcare and the exhaustion of and dangers to prison officers, rather than, yet again, on putting criminals before victims?

The gross misrepresentation that we have just heard does no credit to Liam Kerr. He is aware that the ruling from the European Court of Human Rights means that we have to make a change in the process. The question is how we do that. We are doing so proportionately and thoughtfully, and we are trying to do it sensitively. As I said, I am keen to talk to victims and their representatives.

What we have just heard is a knee-jerk reaction: it contained no facts and does nothing to take the issue forward. We should all regret that a member chooses to behave in such a way.

Is the cabinet secretary continuing to engage with legal experts on the bill? There are legal experts who remain concerned that the blanket disenfranchisement of prisoners who are serving sentences of more than one year is illegal and could be struck down by the European Court of Human Rights.

Mark Ruskell is aware that I disagree with that opinion and knows that we have thought very carefully about the issue. He also knows, because he is a member of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, that at stage 2 the committee supported the Government’s proposal on one-year sentences. The bill will come to the chamber for stage 3, when members will decide what they wish to do.

I am always happy to debate and discuss, but I think that we have put forward the right proposal at this time and I urge members to support it.

Referendums (Scotland) Bill

Question 6 is from Brian Whittle.

It would help if you were paying attention, Mr Whittle.


To ask the Scottish Government what legal and other advice it has received regarding the implementation of the Referendums (Scotland) Bill. (S5O-04024)

The Scottish Government draws on legal advice as appropriate from its lawyers, counsel, external solicitors and the law officers. Other than in exceptional circumstances, the Government does not comment on the content or source of legal advice, and legal advice remains confidential. That reflects the public interest in the provision of free and frank legal advice, and maintains the right to confidentiality of communications between legal advisers and clients.

I confirm that the Scottish Government has started discussions with the Electoral Commission and the Electoral Management Board for Scotland regarding the creation of guidance that is required under the framework.

I recognise the Scottish Government’s desire and drive for independence. The clue is in the name. What consideration has been given to the majority of Scots who have expressly indicated their objections to even holding another divisive independence referendum?

If Mr Whittle had been paying attention on 12 December, let alone today, he would have discovered that the result of the general election was that, out of 59 Scottish members of the UK Parliament, 47 are SNP—plus one, and we know the details of that.

That means that when people were asked in a first-past-the-post election—because those are the rules that applied—they said that they wanted the right to choose. That is the position of Scotland. It is the duty of the Scottish Government to deliver on that instruction—[Interruption.]—and the antidemocratic position of the Tories, which we can hear from all the shouting, cannot stand on this matter.

It would be far better if the Tories were to accept that that right and that mandate exist, rather than trying to resist them. It makes them look very bad and very negative; it makes them look as if they do not care a jot about for what the people of Scotland think, which is actually true.

Independence Referendum (Section 30 Order)

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the Prime Minister’s decision not to grant a section 30 order in relation to a second independence referendum. (S5O-04025)

The rejection by the United Kingdom Government of the people of Scotland’s right to choose is further demonstration of the need for Scotland’s future to be put in Scotland’s hands. That is an utterly uncontroversial opinion.

We are keeping our options open for how to respond to the UK Government’s refusal to accept the mandate that was given to the Scottish Government by the people who live in Scotland. The First Minister will provide an update on the Government’s next steps shortly.

I am sure that the cabinet secretary will agree with me that the Prime Minister’s undemocratic rejection of Scotland’s right to choose is simply unsustainable. For the avoidance of any doubt, will the cabinet secretary outline what measures the Scottish Government is taking to protect Scotland’s interests ahead of our being dragged out of the European Union next week by a Tory Government that Scotland did not, and is likely never to, vote for?

There will be a range of events and announcements next week that are designed to draw attention to two things. The first is that Scotland did not vote to, and does not wish to, leave the EU. The second is that we wish to remain close to the EU so that we can re-enter it within the shortest period possible.

It is very significant that, from a week on Friday at 11 pm, the only route for regaining our European citizenship will be choosing independence and using that as the means of re-entering the EU. Other routes are blocked. The status quo finishes.

I encourage the people of Scotland to think on that, to continue to support that position—as they are doing in increasing numbers—and to move forward so that they have the right to choose. That is the issue: do they wish to be part of the EU, as they have repeatedly said they do, or do they wish to be part of Boris Johnson’s bonging Brexit?

How long is a generation?

According to the UK Government and the procedures that it has put in place in Northern Ireland, it is four years. That is the time they have in which to decide—or eight years, if there is no cross-community support. That is the UK Government’s definition of a generation. I just wish that it would keep to it.

The member who was to ask question 8 is not here, so we will take a short pause before we move on to the next set of portfolio questions.

Historic Environment (Preservation of Buildings and Landmarks)

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to preserve buildings and landmarks of historic interest. (S5O-04027)

The Scottish Government preserves and protects buildings and landmarks of historic interest through the work of our lead public body, Historic Environment Scotland. That work includes providing £14.5 million annually for grant schemes that enable the repair and revitalisation of the historic environment.

Last year, funding of £180,000 was provided to the internationally celebrated New Lanark world heritage site for its annual maintenance plan. In addition, targeted funding was given for individual local concerns such as the David Livingstone centre in South Lanarkshire, which received over £600,000 for conservation-standard repairs.

The Hamilton mausoleum, which was built as a monument to the 10th Duke of Hamilton, is an iconic landmark of huge cultural and historical interest in Lanarkshire, but it has water damage and needs repair urgently. The save the Hamilton mausoleum trust has been set up, and a local campaign has been launched by the Hamilton Advertiser to raise funds to repair the damage before costs spiral out of control. Will the cabinet secretary add her support to that initiative, and can she suggest any organisation that could match fund or provide any other support to ensure that that essential work is completed as soon as possible?

I am aware of the importance of the Hamilton mausoleum and the campaign that is being run. Indeed, it was the subject of a question from Monica Lennon at my previous portfolio question time. I know that there is cross-party support for the campaign, including among my Scottish National Party colleagues and among the member’s party.

As I said in my answer a few weeks ago, Historic Environment Scotland has not been approached about the building, but it would welcome the opportunity to work with any parties that come forward to identify ways to secure its sustainable future management. I know that the leader of South Lanarkshire Council has acknowledged its commitment to preserving the cultural importance of the building, but I think that everybody has to come together to make sure that there is a sustainable future for what is an important part of Scotland’s and Lanarkshire’s heritage.

Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 (North Ayrshire)

To ask the Scottish Government how it will support residents and community groups in North Ayrshire seeking to take part in the year of coasts and waters 2020. (S5O-04028)

The Scottish Government is providing match funding via EventScotland for a number of events in North Ayrshire to celebrate Scotland’s year of coasts and waters 2020. They include the making waves festival at Irvine’s beach park and harbourside, “Signal at Dusk” by Cryptic on Irvine beach, the Fife yachts regatta off Largs, visits from travelling galleries, participation in the national skiff rowaround and performances by the Nevis Ensemble.

We have also launched the micro local area grants fund, to fulfil our programme for government commitment to offer one-off grants to enable community groups, charities and social enterprises right across Scotland to hold themed events that are related to the year of coasts and waters 2020. Applications may be made via the YouthLink Scotland website until 14 February.

I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer. As she mentioned, a number of events are already planned, including the opera and art on Irvine beach. Will she join me in encouraging local groups to apply for the available funding to put on more events and in encouraging folk from around the country to pay Ayrshire a visit? Would she like to join us at one of the events that are planned?

Having seen the programme that has been put together in North Ayrshire, I would be delighted to try to attend some of the events. As the member points out, the major events have already been organised, but such is the interest and the demand from community groups to do more that we have opened up the small grants scheme.

The year is an opportunity for people across Scotland to celebrate. We have much to tell about our coasts but also about our waters—our canals, lochs and rivers. That is the story of Scotland, and I look forward to hearing those stories when the year gets into full swing. Members who have already seen the giant, 10m-high puppet Storm parading through Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections will know that it really is capturing people’s imaginations in this, the year of Scotland’s coasts and waters.

Christmas and New Year Celebrations (Edinburgh)

To ask the Scottish Government what funding it provides to support the Edinburgh Christmas and new year celebrations, and what criteria are applied. (S5O-04029)

In 2019, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay received a £160,000 award from the EventScotland international programme to support the torchlight procession on 30 December, together with £48,500-worth of international marketing support. The EventScotland winter festivals fund awarded £3,000 to the Edinburgh International Magic Festival’s hogmanay house at Lauriston castle.

Between 2019 and 2021, City of Edinburgh Council will receive £400,000-worth of funding from the platforms for creative excellence—PLACE—fund to present international artists, working in collaboration with Scottish street theatre companies, as part of the street party at hogmanay.

We have started the year of coasts and waters 2020, and Edinburgh’s maritime heritage has been the focus of the latest message from the skies initiative, with a free event of poetry and outdoor light projections running until 25 January, supported by £150,000-worth of funding from the festivals expo fund.

The assessment process for, and the funding of, the festivals expo fund and the PLACE fund are administered by Creative Scotland, while EventScotland administers the winter festivals fund and the international funding programme. Different criteria apply to each funding process, and they are set out on the organisations’ respective websites.

The minister will be well aware of the reported controversies surrounding this year’s celebrations—in particular, the concerns that commercial interests have trumped those of community wellbeing, and wellbeing more generally. We want local people and visitors alike to enjoy celebrating in our capital city, but we must commit to protecting Princes Street gardens’ precious parks, which are a much-loved part of the world heritage site. What can the Scottish Government do to protect our parks and public assets and ensure that our communities have full access to them?

Responsibility for Underbelly’s contract to produce Edinburgh’s Christmas resides solely with City of Edinburgh Council. For clarity, the Scottish Government has never provided any funding support for that festival.

As Alison Johnstone has alluded, City of Edinburgh Council is debating the future of all the winter festivals, including the use of Princes Street gardens for Edinburgh’s Christmas and the hogmanay celebrations. I encourage residents and businesses to engage with the consultation on those matters, which the council will launch soon.

Alison Johnstone’s supplementary question conveyed the important message that such festivals attract people from all around the world as well as visitors from Scotland, including from the city of Edinburgh. As we move forward in our consideration of issues such as the use of public space, we should seek to enhance the celebrations and ensure that we preserve Edinburgh for years to come.

The minister will be aware that Marketing Edinburgh has had 89 per cent of its funding cut because of the Scottish Government’s cuts to council funding. Marketing Edinburgh’s former chief executive, John Donnelly, has expressed his concern that Edinburgh will soon be the only European city left without a marketing organisation.

Does the minister agree that, although we need tourism management to deal with the risk of overtourism in Edinburgh, the Scottish Government should also properly support the council financially, to ensure that we continue to attract new tourism in a sustainable way and provide consideration for local residents?

Questions about City of Edinburgh Council’s provision of marketing are for the council to consider. I reiterate what I said in my initial answer. As part of the award for Edinburgh’s most recent hogmanay celebrations, the Scottish Government provided £48,500-worth of international marketing support through the EventScotland international programme.

Edinburgh Festivals (Summer 2020)

To ask the Scottish Government what organisations it has met to discuss Edinburgh’s preparedness for the festivals in summer 2020. (S5O-04030)

The Scottish Government regularly meets representatives of all the major Edinburgh festivals, and also participates in both the festivals forum and the thundering hooves steering group.

Both forums are key to the planning of the Edinburgh festivals, incorporating lessons learned from previous years to maximise preparedness for forthcoming editions. On both forums are representatives of Festivals Edinburgh, British Council Scotland, City of Edinburgh Council, Creative Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Government. The festivals forum also includes Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, Edinburgh tourism action group, Marketing Edinburgh, the University of Edinburgh and VisitScotland.

As we have heard, the Edinburgh festivals clearly represent a benefit to the economies of both Edinburgh and Scotland. However, in the wake of the 2019 festivals there have been complaints—especially from Lothian Buses and local residents—about the City of Edinburgh Council’s lack of planning. Will the Scottish Government commit to reducing such problems in 2020, by working closely with those affected by the festivals?

In my initial answer I gave a comprehensive list of the organisations with which the Scottish Government works on planning issues. I point out that ministers are frequently told not to interfere in local council affairs, but in the very next week we are often urged to do just that. We have to respect the democratic independence of the City of Edinburgh Council on the majority of the issues that have been raised so far.

I turn to the specific transport issues that have been mentioned, which exist not only in Edinburgh but more widely across Scotland. An Edinburgh events transport summit was staged on 5 December 2019, which involved a number of organisations such as the Scottish Rugby Union. Clearly, some such issues relate to the particular times at which events are happening in various places. Through the working group of the festivals forum, which I mentioned earlier, Transport Scotland has helped to facilitate discussions among festival organisations and events organisers, who met on 20 November 2019. As I also said earlier, an Edinburgh events transport summit was staged on 5 December, precisely to address the issues that the member has raised.

What impact will the Tory Government’s plans to impose further restrictions on European Union workers coming to Scotland have on our internationally acclaimed festivals this year?

There are a number of issues, not least of which is that the people who live and work in Scotland are deeply affected. We have serious concerns and want to reach out: on Monday, at an event in Edinburgh, the First Minister again reiterated our commitment to and support for EU workers.

Issues about artist movement will be discussed, as I previously indicated to Parliament, at the visa summit that we are holding in February 2020.

There is also an issue about visitors, and make no mistake that the UK Government’s attitude towards Europe will affect how people see this country. It is essential that we send out a message that we in Scotland are open and want to welcome visitors to our festivals and also at other times of the year. The Scottish Government will do everything that it can to ensure that tourists still come to Scotland and our festivals, and it will support our fantastic offer to the world when it comes to the arts.

Traditional Culture (North East Scotland)

To ask the Scottish Government how it supports traditional culture in the north-east. (S5O-04031)

Cabinet secretary, I have something to say before you give your answer.

Mr Chapman, I anticipated an apology because you have come in to the chamber late. You have come in just before your question. I know that we are ahead of schedule, but these are follow-on debates. I say that to all members. It would have been better if you had apologised, because I was toying with not calling you, then I felt magnanimous and you have spoiled it.

The Scottish Government is committed to supporting and promoting traditional Scottish culture and the Scots language.

We fund a variety of groups and initiatives that are supporting the Scots language and traditional culture across Scotland and in the north-east—such as the Doric Board, which offers financial awards of between £250 and £1,000 to provide support to projects that promote Doric culture and heritage, and “Scots Radio”, which broadcasts in Scots and engages with the Scots speaking community. Together, they have also successfully established Aberdeenshire’s first ever Doric Film Festival.

Creative Scotland provides regular funding to a variety of arts and cultural groups in the north-east area—such as the Aberdeen Performing Arts, Dance North Scotland, Creative Dundee, Deveron Projects, Dundee Contemporary Arts and the Dundee Repertory Theatre. In addition, the Scots trad music awards took place in Aberdeen last year with funding from Creative Scotland and support from MG Alba.

Presiding Officer, I apologise for coming in late. I hope that that has put me back in the good books.

I thank the cabinet secretary for that full answer. She is right that the Doric language is a big pairt o the culture and heritage of the north-east, and as a member for that region I shall ask the rest of my question in the Doric.

The Doric tongue is the maist important dialect that is spoken in the north east o Scotland and is an important pairt o life across the north-east. Doric is heard iveryday in work and skweels aa across the north-east, an I believe that it should be thocht o as just as important as English an Gaelic.

The Scottish Government his spent a lot on Gaelic, an his seen great success in keepin the language alive and relevant. Will the Scottish Government commit tae the same levels o fundin fir Doric tae prevent it fae deein, an tae preserve an important pairt o wir culture in the north-east?

You have redeemed yourself, Mr Chapman. That was delightful.

The member will be aware—particularly when budget negotiations are taking place—that I cannot commit to anything related to future funding. I take his point, but he will appreciate that there is a journey to go in relation to our support. The setting up of the Doric Board, however, is really important.

The member makes a vital point about Doric being spoken right through families’ lives. It is a normal part of everyday life in every part of the north-east. I commend the many young champions of Doric, not least Iona Fyfe, who got the young speaker of the year award at the Scots language awards.

Those things are developing pace and profile. It is important that we champion Doric. I am happy to do so, and I appreciate the member’s interest in the issue.

Scottish-Irish Relations

To ask the Scottish Government how it promotes Scottish-Irish relations. (S5O-04032)

The bilateral relationship with Ireland is a priority for the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government office in Ireland opened in 2016, and in the past four years a team of five officials have worked to deepen our political, cultural, community and economic links and increase our engagement.

As an expression of our on-going commitment, the Scottish and Irish Governments have recently launched a joint strategic review in which we will take stock of the current relationship and identify priority areas for future collaboration. Following internal and external consultations, it is envisaged that a report will be collated by officials in the second quarter of 2020. It will highlight the value of current Irish-Scottish relations and make recommendations for future co-operation.

My constituency of Renfrewshire South is home to many, including myself, who are of Irish descent, and many of my constituents maintain strong family connections with Ireland. What opportunities will there be for my constituents and the Irish diaspora across Scotland to engage with the strategic review?

Many people across Scotland have family and other relations with Ireland, including, as Mr Arthur said, constituents of his. The warmth of that relationship was testified to by the warm reception that Simon Coveney, the Tánaiste, received from members across the chamber when he came to Parliament.

We want everyone to take part in the strategic review. We know that people have lots of different interests in a variety of areas, including trade and culture. Individuals can take part through the joint questionnaire that has been launched, which seeks the views of individuals and groups of stakeholders. The questionnaire, which is open until 20 March, can be found on the Scottish Government’s website. We are delighted that the Irish Government is also promoting it—in other words, it is a joint initiative. If people want to express their view on the current state of that relationship and what they would like to be done in the future, I would direct them to that questionnaire.

I must admit that, until the question was lodged, I had not been aware of the questionnaire. Could the cabinet secretary say more about what is being done to promote it? Given that the desire is to receive a diversity of responses from all of Scotland’s people, how can we ensure that an inclusive approach is taken to that work?

The questionnaire was launched just before Christmas, and we promoted it again over the weekend in the normal press. I did interviews with the Irish media at the time. There is a social media link to the questionnaire, which I will circulate when I get back to my office later this afternoon. I look forward to Claire Baker and other members communicating that through social media. It has already received hundreds of responses, which is very good for a Scottish Government questionnaire.

Although the response so far has been strong, I would appreciate all members championing the questionnaire throughout their constituencies and using their social media accounts to promote it.

Ironworks Music Venue (Inverness)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress with finding a new location for the Ironworks music venue in Inverness. (S5O-04033)

The member will be aware that I have encouraged public agencies to work constructively on the issue. I am aware that, on 2 December, Mr Stewart met the Ironworks Venue Ltd and other public sector partners to discuss a location for the Ironworks.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise expects to have the review of the business model options and financial forecasts later this month, and a meeting will soon take place between Ironworks Venue Ltd’s property adviser and the developers of the Rose Street hall.

With our partners, we will continue to support the Ironworks in finding another venue.

I am very grateful to the cabinet secretary for her reply and for the helpful meeting that I recently had with her.

The Ironworks has had the threat of homelessness hanging over it for many months, and I have been campaigning vigorously to ensure that a new home is found. The Ironworks has iconic status in the Highlands and is a key element in the Highland capital’s cultural gravitational pull. Will the cabinet secretary ask her officials at Creative Scotland to redouble their efforts to save this jewel in the crown of Highland cultural life?

The member has been persistent in supporting the finding of a new venue for the Ironworks. It is very important that we spread the message that the Ironworks venue is not closed and that it is continuing to hold events. We must make sure that those events are well supported. To ensure that it continues to be a venue for the future, it is important that the business model is sound, that the activity continues and that the concerts continue to flow.

I absolutely recognise that the Ironworks has iconic status. It is extremely popular, and I have been very impressed by the good will that has been shown towards it and by the drive of public agencies to make sure that it can continue, so that it continues to provide fantastic opportunities for music making and concerts in Inverness.

Scheduled Monument Protection (Auchterarder Castle)

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to Historic Environment Scotland’s decision to delist Auchterarder castle from scheduled monument protection. (S5O-04034)

Auchterarder castle was removed from the schedule of monuments on 19 September 2019. Compiling and maintaining the schedule is a legal function of Historic Environment Scotland and ministers do not have a role in that. On the same date, the castle was designated, together with an adjacent farmhouse, as a category C listed building. There is currently an appeal against that listing and it would therefore not be appropriate for ministers to comment further.

I wrote to the member about the issue on 13 January in response to her recent letter, and it was also raised with me by Roseanna Cunningham, who is the local constituency member.

I am very aware of the legal issues and why the cabinet secretary cannot make further comment on them. She will know that the issue has caused considerable concern among the local community, not least because the site has strong historic connections to the Robert Bruce castle and so on. Does the cabinet secretary think that a precedent is being set? Will she review, with Historic Environment Scotland, the criteria that are used when it comes to descheduling such monuments?

Historic Environment Scotland is well aware of the issues and concerns that have been expressed locally. Designations and redesignations happen quite frequently; that is normal practice. However, there must be reference to the criteria.

Quite often, people are concerned about whether changes in designations will affect the future of a building and lead to any threats. I make it clear that the castle is designated and protected through its recently established status as a listed building. Any proposed change to the castle will require listed building consent, and it is a criminal offence to demolish, significantly alter or extend a listed building without consent. I think that people underestimate the issues relating to listed building consent.

Liz Smith raised concerns about the schedule of monuments, which is a different type of designation and listing. Historic Environment Scotland takes such issues extremely seriously and, following correspondence from Liz Smith and Roseanna Cunningham, who is the local MSP, it is alert to the issues relating to what can be designated as being of national importance as opposed to local importance. Liz Smith’s points are well made.