Meeting date: Thursday, November 25, 2021
Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 25 November 2021 [Draft]
Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage, Portfolio Question Time, Violence against Women, Decision Time, Correction
- General Question Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage
- Portfolio Question Time
- Violence against Women
- Decision Time
Portfolio Question Time
Constitution, External Affairs and Culture
Good afternoon. I remind members that Covid-related measures are in place and that face coverings should be worn when moving around the chamber and across the Holyrood campus.
The next item of business is portfolio question time on constitution, external affairs and culture. I ask members who wish to request a supplementary question to press their request-to-speak button or indicate that in the chat function by entering the letter R during the relevant question. As ever, I make a plea for short and succinct questions and answers to get in as many members as possible.
Northern Ireland Protocol
To ask the Scottish Government what representations it has made to the United Kingdom Government in relation to the potential implications for Scotland of the on-going dialogue between the UK Government and the European Union regarding the Northern Ireland protocol. (S6O-00438)
Scottish ministers are concerned about the continuing lack of progress in the talks between the United Kingdom Government and the EU in respect of the Northern Ireland protocol. I, and fellow Scottish Government ministers, have repeatedly urged the UK Government to approach the on-going discussions with the EU seriously and constructively and to meaningfully include devolved Governments in that process.
If the UK Government were to trigger article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, that would have profound and deeply damaging consequences for every part of the UK and could result in a disastrous trade dispute with the EU. It is one of the most irresponsible things that could be done right now in the face of Covid and other Brexit implications.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that the UK Government’s needless and reckless confrontation with the EU has made it even harder to find constructive solutions to the problems that are created by Brexit, such as those experienced by the Scottish agriculture and food sector?
I agree with my colleague. The hard Brexit that the UK Government chose, which removes us from the single European market and from the customs union, is being pursued irresponsibly during a global pandemic. It is causing significant economic damage in Scotland. In the first half of 2021, Scotland’s food exports to the European Union were 14 per cent lower than in the equivalent period in 2019. That compares with a 3 per cent drop in food exports to non-EU countries over the same period. Scottish goods exports fell by 24 per cent in the latest year to June 2021, compared to the equivalent period in 2019.
Last Thursday, the Irish Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said:
“Where there is a will, there is a way, and I think both sides just need to knuckle down and get it resolved.”
Last week’s talks were intensive and constructive and there is continuing momentum in the discussions. Will the cabinet secretary explain why the First Minister’s tone suggests that she wants the talks to fail and why she has downplayed not only the UK but the Republic of Ireland in her recent media commentary?
I do not recognise the Conservative member’s characterisation. In my conversations with Lord Frost, I have repeatedly impressed on him the need for a positive relationship with the European Union. I very much welcome the comments made by An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, about that issue.
The ball is in the UK Government’s court. As the member and her colleagues will remember, it was the UK Government that signed the Northern Ireland protocol and described the deal as “oven-ready”. It is they who are calling it into question. I urge the member to impress on her colleagues the need to find a resolution, because the impact on Scotland’s economy will be devastating if article 16 is triggered.
Tess White has a supplementary question.
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress in relation to—
I think that there is an element of confusion, Ms White. I understood that you were pressing your button for a supplementary to this question. We will get to your question.
We move to question 2.
Covid-19 Recovery (Aberdeen Cultural Sector)
To ask the Scottish Government how it will support the cultural sector in Aberdeen to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. (S6O-00439)
Since the pandemic started, we have provided £4.9 million in emergency funding to the culture, heritage and events sector in Aberdeen. That includes support for grass-roots music and performing arts venues and organisations engaging with local communities and young people through culture and museums. We remain committed to working with the sector to support its recovery, and will continue to engage with the sector to ensure that.
A quick search shows that the following venues received Scottish Government funding towards their refurbishment projects: the Scottish national gallery in Edinburgh, the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine, the Scottish national portrait gallery in Edinburgh and the Burrell collection in Glasgow. However, the Aberdeen art gallery, which was museum of the year last year, did not receive one penny of funding from the Scottish Government. Will the Scottish National Party Government put its hand in its pocket and finally commit to help fund the Aberdeen art gallery?
I very much welcome Aberdeen art gallery’s outstanding achievement as winner of the Art Fund museum of the year award and as one of the winners selected as part of the 2021 Civic Trust award. The Scottish Government is of course always willing to consider new funding requests at the planning or business case stages for significant cultural and community projects. However, I am not aware of a direct approach from Aberdeen City Council to the Government to fund the refurbishment of the gallery during those stages, as would normally have been standard practice for funding requests. I am more than happy to meet Douglas Lumsden to discuss the matter in further detail.
What extra financial support will be given to support small theatres in Aberdeen and in my home city of Edinburgh, which have been devastated during the Covid-19 pandemic?
We are widening it out, but I am sure that the minister can cope with that.
We are somewhat.
In response to Mr Choudhury’s question, which I think focuses on theatres and support for the cultural sector in Edinburgh, I note that further information is forthcoming in relation to that. He will be aware of the substantial support that the Government has announced, which focused earlier this year on support for cultural and performing arts venues. Further funding will be available. We still await outstanding consequentials from the United Kingdom Government from the announcement back in March of this year. We have received £9 million of the £40 million of culture consequentials. That funding would very much help in that endeavour.
I am happy to discuss any detailed projects in which Mr Choudhury may have an interest, with regard to how we further support the sector, because I recognise the continuing challenges that the theatre sector in particular faces at this time.
Beyond Borders Scotland Women in Conflict 1325 Programme
To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to support the Beyond Borders women in conflict 1325 programme. (S6O-00440)
The Scottish Government is providing funding of £300,000 for the 1325 women in conflict fellowship programme in 2021-22. The programme was inspired by United Nations Security Council resolution 1325, which emphasises the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace building, peace keeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction. The programme is delivered by Beyond Borders, a Scottish third sector human rights law organisation with a strong track record of working with the United Nations on international conflict resolution and related issues.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that, if Scotland is to fulfil its aim to be a good global citizen, it must approach international challenges in a holistic and connected way and that, by supporting this programme, the Scottish Government acknowledges how vital gender equality is to conflict resolution and climate justice?
I agree entirely with my colleague. That is why we are committed, through the Scottish Government’s programme for government of this year, to increase our international development fund from £10 million to £15 million, and why the new climate change element is included in the 1325 fellowship programme.
The increase in international development funding will finance a new £500,000 women and girls empowerment fund for partner countries to take forward work to ensure that women and girls are safe, equal and respected. That will be launched next year.
In 2019, I led a debate on resolution 1325 and women, peace and security in which I highlighted the invaluable role of women as conflict negotiators, which is largely because women focus on housing, food and water security instead of solely on military security. Will the cabinet secretary give further detail on any additional plans specifically related to the Scottish Parliament and Government that will support and enable women to become conflict negotiators, particularly in the middle east?
In taking a holistic approach to international challenges, we are committed to policy coherence for sustainable development. Therefore, in the programme for government, we set out that we would reconstitute a ministerial working group on PCSD to lead on our ambition to align domestic policy objectives and activity with our international development objectives when engaging with the global south.
We believe that Scotland has a key role in peace and reconciliation. By the end of 2022, we will establish a peace institute. We have also recently trebled our assistance to climate justice. We will ensure that those initiatives are heavily informed by developing a feminist approach to foreign policy and that gender equality is at the heart of our approach to conflict resolution and climate justice.
Covid-19 Recovery (Arts Sector)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on how it is supporting the arts sector to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. (S6O-00441)
Since the pandemic started, the Scottish Government has provided £175 million to the culture, heritage and events sector. Further rounds of the culture organisations and venues recovery fund and the performing arts venues relief fund provided emergency support to organisations, supporting opportunities for cultural engagement. We remain absolutely committed to supporting the culture sector’s recovery.
With 22 per cent of musicians planning to leave the industry, community organisations such as Uddingston music club, which is in my constituency, are critical to maintaining and nurturing talent by providing local musicians with the chance to perform in front of live audiences. What support can the Scottish Government provide to community organisations such as Uddingston music club?
Community organisations such as Uddingston music club in Stephanie Callaghan’s constituency play a vital role in supporting musicians at grass-roots level and they provide a platform that gives access to music. Critically, as she alluded to, they also support local artists. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting community activity through our culture collective project. We have provided £750,000 to a new Scotland on tour fund, which will bring live music into the heart of communities. I recommend that Uddingston music club contacts Creative Scotland to discuss further potential opportunities for support, such as through Creative Scotland’s open fund.
I was recently contacted by a small mobile cinema business that operates in the Highlands and Islands regarding concerns about Covid vaccination passports. Although it will be relieved by the First Minister’s statement this week, it will still be worried about the future. Given the critical role of the small cinema sector—either mobile or otherwise—in bringing films to rural communities, what engagement has the Scottish Government had with it on vaccination passports and Covid recovery in general?
The cabinet secretary and I have regular conversations with the sector more generally. I meet regularly with the theatre sector.
The member spoke specifically about an issue regarding mobile cinemas. Yesterday, I met the chair of the event industry advisory group, Peter Duthie, at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, and I recognise some of the challenges. If the member has a contact for the individual concerned, I would be more than happy to discuss in detail some of the challenges that the member has spoken about.
What work has the Scottish Government done to assess the viability of and the need for additional support for venues, given the pandemic’s impact on the number of people attending theatres and cultural venues, its impact on reduced incomes and the huge impact that it has had on reserves?
The primary way in which we gather information is, as I alluded to in my response to Mr Cameron, through the event industry advisory group, which tells Government directly what support it requires. I met the group two weeks ago and I will meet it again in two weeks’ time. It is hugely important that the events industry has that direct access to ministers regarding the support that it requires. I am more than happy to work with it, as we continue to do on an on-going basis. The pandemic continues to present real challenges to the sector, as the member spoke to, and it is important that the Government hears those challenges and, critically, acts on them. If there are specific issues that the Government should be aware of, I am more than happy to discuss them with the member in further detail.
At this moment, we have quite a robust process in place with the event industry advisory group, which, I can tell the member, is not exactly shy in coming forward with its views on the Government’s role.
Question 5 comes from Pauline McNeill, who is joining us remotely.
Covid-19 Recovery (Music Industry)
To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to support the music industry to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. (S6O-00442)
Since the pandemic started, we have engaged closely with the music sector, including with the Scottish commercial music industry task force and the Music Venue Trust, to understand the impact of the pandemic on the music industry and to provide tailored support.
We remain committed to working with the music industry to support its revival, including, as I mentioned, through the new £750,000 Scotland on tour fund, which supports opportunities to bring new concerts to venues across Scotland.
The minister will be aware that one in three jobs in the music industry has been lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. According to figures that UK Music released last month, 69,000 jobs across the United Kingdom were wiped as a result of the devastating impact of Covid, with a natural impact on Scotland. The majority of workers are self-employed and many were not eligible for Government support. Thousands have now left the sector—that is a really key point.
Will the minister indicate whether the £40 million that was announced on 11 May has been fully allocated? How will the Scottish Government ensure that financial assistance reaches the freelance musicians who are still in the sector, many of whom could not benefit from the Government schemes?
Pauline McNeill is absolutely right to say that the music sector has been one of the hardest hit by the impact of the pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, the sector worked pretty creatively to overcome that. A number of artists provided virtual concerts, for example, but that is not a replacement for real live music.
Support so far has included £6.2 million to support grass-roots music venues, £17 million to support creative freelancers and more than £21 million to support cultural venues.
On future Government support, I have invited the Scottish commercial music industry task force and the Music Venue Trust to a round-table discussion with the cabinet secretary and me on 15 December, to discuss how the Government can support the music industry in its recovery from the pandemic.
Anecdotally, it would seem that audiences in music and theatre venues are still able to enjoy all the joys of the Scottish cultural sector while adhering to important public health measures such as mask wearing and the vaccination status app. The pandemic is not yet over, but does the minister share my optimism that Scottish artists and audiences are finding their feet again after an incredibly difficult year?
I very much share Marie McNair’s optimism. The cabinet secretary and I have spent a lot of time, in the past few weeks and months, getting out there and meeting the sector in person, and it has been fantastic to see the recovery work. We very much welcome the return of audiences to theatres and music venues, and I applaud the many theatres and music venues that have been complying with the Covid-19 guidance and regulations.
I know that the recovery will take time and that many audiences remain cautious about returning. We need to acknowledge in our recovery work that there is still hesitancy out there. However, I am really keen to work with the cultural sector to encourage the safe return of audiences to theatres and music venues while recognising that, as we have heard, we will continue to face challenges right into the winter months.
Scotland’s screen industry is growing every year—a development that we can all welcome. However, film production is only one aspect; screen-related music production is another. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra is developing plans to become a go-to centre for soundtracks, so my question for the minister is whether the Scottish Government has done any research on the percentage of Scottish musicians and composers whose music features in Scottish film and digital productions. What is being done by the Scottish Government to increase that percentage, and what action is being taken to open up that market to smaller soundtrack producers outside Glasgow and Edinburgh?
Sharon Dowey asks a specific question about our research into the percentage of Scottish composers. I do not have that information in front of me, but I can certainly ask my officials for it.
The member raises an important point, which is essentially how we, in Government, drive the creation and establishment of talent in Scotland. I am really hopeful that the new project from the RSNO is able to do that, but I will come back to the member with a bit more detail.
United Kingdom City of Culture 2025 (Stirling)
To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting Stirling’s bid to become UK city of culture 2025, following its inclusion in the longlist for selection. (S6O-00443)
I send my best wishes to Stirling for reaching this stage of the UK city of culture competition. The competition is run and funded directly by the UK Government, and Stirling is the only Scottish bid to be longlisted.
My officials are currently working with Creative Scotland and VisitScotland to look at options to support the Stirling team, which has a really fantastic story to tell. We will be able to give more information on that in the coming weeks, and I have asked my officials to follow up on that directly with Claire Baker.
I very much welcome the minister’s comments about Stirling. Achieving city of culture status would bring significant benefits to Stirling and the country more broadly, and I hope that we can all get behind the bid.
The minister will be aware that Dunfermline and St Andrews are bidding for city status as part of the Queen’s platinum jubilee, next year. What can the Scottish Government do to support their bids and recognise the history, culture and ambition of those important Fife towns?
On Claire Baker’s original point, Stirling has a really rich cultural offer. I was in Stirling on Tuesday, when I met representatives of Historic Environment Scotland at the Engine Shed. Whether it is the built environment or Scotland’s rich history, there is much to be celebrated in Stirling—and I again wish Stirling the very best of luck.
Claire Baker asked a specific question about Dunfermline and St Andrews and their bid for city status. Let me get back to her on both of those points. She will recognise that, like her, I am a Fife MSP, so I do not want to declare an allegiance to one or the other, but it is hugely important that we support regeneration in those communities and that we recognise the importance that city status could bring to each of them. I will get back to her with a bit more detail regarding what the Government might be able to do by way of support for both those projects.
I welcome Stirling’s inclusion in the United Kingdom city of culture longlist, and I hold high hopes for Stirling’s chances.
Would the minister reflect with me, however, on how regrettable it is that Scottish cities are no longer eligible for the equivalent European Union accolade, the European capital of culture—an initiative that was brilliant in Glasgow in 1990 and that could have given Dundee a similar boost in 2023?
It is deeply regrettable that we can no longer participate in the European capital of culture programme. The programme has cultural, reputational and economic benefits, as Glasgow holding the title in 1990 demonstrated. I think I might have been there in 1990, although I was a very wee girl at the time. Other Scottish cities cannot now grasp that opportunity, as Dundee had hoped to do. In spite of EU exit, the UK Government could have sought to negotiate on-going membership of the scheme, which sits within the EU’s creative Europe programme, but it chose not to, for reasons that remain unclear. That is, of course, deeply regrettable.
Culture Strategy (Progress)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress in relation to “A Culture Strategy for Scotland”. (S6O-00445)
Since the culture strategy was published, in February 2020, we have launched three new innovative programmes: the culture collective, arts alive and creative communities. Together, those programmes are supported by more than £8.3 million of Scottish Government funding, and they are working to empower communities to develop cultural activities, to bring creative residencies to educational settings in areas of multiple deprivation and to use cultural projects as a positive diversion from criminal activity. We have also launched the national partnership for culture, which will be providing recommendations to ministers on the sector’s recovery and renewal by the end of this year.
The indicators for the national outcome for culture are currently using data from two years ago to measure performance, making it very difficult to assess the impact of the culture strategy and the Scottish Government’s interventions to strengthen the sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. Given the importance of the arts and culture sector to the north-east’s economy and economic recovery, can the cabinet secretary suggest when the data is likely to be made available?
The aims and ambitions of the culture strategy remain relevant—I hope that we agree on that. We have discussed that directly with the sector, which continues to support the strategy’s vision and guiding principles. However, we recognise the severe impact that the pandemic has had on the culture sector, and we now need new policies and actions to realise the strategy’s aims and ambitions in a post-Covid world—for example, on health and wellbeing, on education, on economic development and on the net zero economy. My officials are considering that as a key part of their work on sector recovery and renewal, and we will publish an update on that work early in 2022.
Can the cabinet secretary comment on the progress that is being made in embedding culture across portfolio areas to unlock the sector’s full potential?
We are having very positive discussions across Government on ensuring the embedding of culture and the arts right across Government policies. That is proceeding well. What is proceeding less well, however, is the funding that Scotland should be receiving for its cultural expenditure. Unfortunately, I need to confirm to the member that we have still received only £9 million from the United Kingdom Government out of the £40 million of consequentials that were announced for Scotland for this financial year. We are still seeking clarity from the Treasury on why the £40 million has not yet been passed on to us. We will continue to press the UK Government to deliver the remaining £31 million so that it can be passed on to the sector in full.
That concludes portfolio question time. I will allow a short pause to enable front-bench members to take their seats safely before we move on to the next item of business.