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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 30 January 2019

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Education (Presumption to Mainstream), Tackling Antisocial Behaviour, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Equally Safe at Work


Portfolio Question Time

Brexit (Settled Status Fee)

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the United Kingdom Government scrapping the European Union settled status fee. (S5O-02819)

Since the EU referendum in June 2016, the Scottish Government has been consistent in both our words and our actions: we want EU citizens to stay in Scotland. Therefore, I am pleased that the Prime Minister has finally seen sense and listened to the deluge of calls to scrap the unfair settled status fee—including from this Parliament, with the exception of the Scottish Conservatives.

However, dropping the fee does not change the fact that the UK Government is still making EU citizens apply to retain their current rights. Therefore, to assist EU citizens in our communities to apply for settled status, the Scottish Government’s advice service, which is delivered in partnership with Citizens Advice Scotland, will help to ensure that EU citizens feel welcomed, supported and valued.

The Prime Minister’s approach to migration makes it all the more clear why it is time for this Parliament to have powers over immigration so that it can determine a tailor-made policy.

I advise the minister of the position of a constituent, who has lived in Scotland for decades and has not renewed his EU passport. Now, he must do so—at a cost—to prove to the UK Home Office that he is, in fact, an EU national. In order to do that, he must prove to his EU nation that he is not a British citizen—also at a cost—by obtaining a confirmation of non-acquisition of British citizenship from the UK Home Office.

Does the minister agree that that anomalous situation is insulting and concerning to someone who has lived and worked here for more than 30 years and has raised his family, had a national insurance number and paid taxes here? Surely this man and others like him, no doubt, already have a proven right to continue to live in and contribute to Scotland. It is, after all, their home.

I thank Linda Fabiani for raising that specific case. I share her concerns about the situation being insulting and of concern. I am sympathetic towards the many families and individuals who have difficulties navigating the complex and increasingly restrictive UK immigration rules, as illustrated in the case that Linda Fabiani has raised.

It is right that EU citizens who have built their lives here and chosen to make Scotland their home should have all their rights protected. If the UK Government persists in its ambition to remove Scotland from the EU against the will of the Scottish people, it will be vital that those EU citizens who have chosen to make their home here in Scotland are provided through as simple a process as possible with the documentation that they need to evidence their right to continue to live here as they do now.

I would be happy to raise such cases, including the case that Linda Fabiani has raised today, with the UK immigration minister, with the consent of the individuals concerned.

I reassure all MSPs that we in the Scottish Government are pressing the UK Government for a fair and managed immigration system that recognises individual circumstances and provides a welcoming environment for new Scots and their families.

I remind everyone—and I mean everyone—that short questions and crisp answers would be very helpful. In other words, that is what I want.

I welcome the scrapping of the fee for EU citizens. Will the minister now join me in calling for the UK Government to take the next step and end its hostile environment policy and its anti-immigration policies and rhetoric?

Absolutely. I welcome the sentiment of Neil Findlay’s question. I wish that we had seen such a coherent position from Labour in the House of Commons earlier this week on the UK Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill.

The UK Government’s hostile environment policy has been discredited in both practice and principle. It should be noted that, since June 2016, the UK Government should have provided assurances to EU citizens separately from any withdrawal agreement; it could have done that in every month up to the current point, but it did not. It should think about that very carefully.

Brexit (Impact on Life Sciences Sector)

To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the impact of Brexit on the life sciences sector. (S5O-02820)

The Scottish Government has engaged widely across the breadth of the life sciences sector and has also commissioned Ernst & Young to undertake a sectoral impact analysis and Brexit readiness assessment.

That assessment has been shared with the United Kingdom Government as clear evidence of the negative impact that Brexit will have across sectors in Scotland. It also accords with evidence from industry and unions that suggests that Brexit will be damaging to the sector in terms of tariff and non-tariff barriers; supply-chain resilience; legal and regulatory compliance; free movement of people; loss of European Union funding; and disinvestment from foreign investors.

The minister will be well aware that the Highlands and Islands have more than 80 life sciences companies, employing more than 1,800 people. All those companies rely on academic talent from the other 27 nations in the EU.

Does the minister share my view that Brexit is a clear and present danger to the future viability of the life sciences sector in the Highlands and Islands?

David Stewart makes an important point about the detriment from the removal of free movement as a whole—if indeed the UK leaves the EU and Brexit takes place.

To be constructive and in good faith, I encourage David Stewart and colleagues to continue to engage with us, the Scottish Government, so that we can work together to push for flexibility in the UK immigration system by way of a Scottish visa, so that we can support key sectors in our economy, including the life sciences sector.

Innovation and research and development are key to the success of our life sciences sector. As the minister knows, a significant number of EU citizens work in R and D. What assistance can the Scottish Government provide to ensure that our competitiveness in R and D is not seriously compromised by Brexit?

There are two respects in which we can all work together proactively to continue to support R and D in the life sciences sector and elsewhere given the challenges posed by Brexit. First, we should continue to oppose the removal of free movement and the restrictions set out in the UK Government’s white paper on immigration. Secondly, we should all collectively work together to urge the UK Government to continue UK participation—as a third partner country in the event of Brexit—in EU programmes such as horizon 2020. Indeed, that is exactly what I pressed for on behalf of Scotland at the joint ministerial council on Europe in London on Monday.

Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill (Legislative Consent)

To ask the Scottish Government whether the Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans will provide an update regarding the lodging of the legislative consent motion for the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill. (S5O-02821)

The legislative consent motion in question was lodged on Monday 14 January. It was moved by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport on Wednesday 16 January, when it was agreed unanimously by Parliament.

I thank the minister for that answer, but surely finally giving consent, after months of threats not to, just shows up the Scottish Government’s empty bluster and suggests that the right thing to do across all Brexit issues is to work consistently and to dump the grandstanding.

Wow. Through its approach to Brexit-related legislation, the Scottish Government has shown itself to be reasonable and pragmatic, but until and unless we can be assured that the decisions of the Parliament will be respected by the United Kingdom Government, we will not lodge legislative consent motions on Brexit-related provisions except in the most exceptional of circumstances. We will continue to contribute fully to committee and parliamentary consideration and will ensure that the Parliament is able to express its views on Brexit-related provisions in UK bills. Overarching all of this is a simple truth: our role as the Scottish Government is to stand up for the interests of Scotland—something that the Conservatives might want to try some time.

UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill (Supreme Court Judgment)

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions ministers have had with civil servants regarding the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill since the Supreme Court’s judgment on it. (S5O-02822)

Scottish ministers regularly discuss matters within their responsibilities with officials. In addition, the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations has held a meeting with representatives of the parties in the Scottish Parliament to discuss the bill and the options for proceeding with it following the Supreme Court judgment.

The original, largely unlawful, bill was pushed through under emergency procedures, which gave MSPs hardly any time to scrutinise the important legislation, whereas the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill was scrutinised for more than 11 months. Will the minister rule out using emergency procedures in that way again?

As I have indicated, the decision on how to proceed is the subject of on-going discussions between Mr Russell and the other parties in the Parliament. A meeting took place shortly before Christmas—I think that Mr Tomkins was there—and a further meeting is due to take place later this week. An announcement on how we will proceed self-evidently will be informed by those discussions and will be made in the coming weeks.

To be clear, no matter how many times the Conservatives seek to claim otherwise, the Scottish Government’s position on the continuity bill was vindicated by the Supreme Court—no ifs, no buts, no maybes.

Does the minister not think that the answer is to introduce a proper dispute-resolution procedure in areas of common interest? Rather than there being a Scottish or a Westminster veto, surely an acceptance of common endeavour in areas of common interest is the way ahead.

As I have indicated, the matter is being discussed among the parties of the Parliament. Each party can genuinely input to the process, so I encourage Mr Rennie to express those points if he so wishes at the next meeting, which I believe will take place tomorrow.

Brexit (Democratic Participation for European Union Citizens)

To ask the Scottish Government how it will ensure that EU citizens living in Scotland can maintain democratic participation. (S5O-02823)

EU citizens will retain their right to vote and stand in Scottish Parliament and local government elections after Brexit. We previously set out our intent to protect EU citizens’ voting and candidacy rights in Scottish Parliament and local government elections. The programme for government includes a commitment to bring forward an electoral franchise bill, which will extend the franchise to include citizens of all nationalities who are legally resident in Scotland.

Several EU citizens in my constituency have been in touch with my office because they are concerned about the United Kingdom Government’s EU settlement scheme. Does the minister agree that, as well as being grossly unfair, the system is not fit for purpose, given that the UK Government’s settled status scheme app is available only to Android phone users and not to those who use other mobile devices?

Our programme for government for this year has committed to introduce a franchise bill, and we opposed the settled status fee charge. Working with Citizens Advice Scotland, we have set up our advice service to advise and help EU citizens in our communities—who make such a huge contribution—as they go through the settled status scheme.

We are going over and above anything that the UK Government is doing. As Rona Mackay highlighted, there are serious misgivings about the technical and practical delivery of the UK Government’s mechanisms for bringing EU citizens through the settled status scheme. We are going further than the UK Government in our efforts to reach out into communities and assist people who have accessibility issues or who are not comfortable using digital technology. Our advice service will provide face-to-face, telephone and online advice, which we hope will make an important difference.

No-deal Brexit (Preparations)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the preparations being made by it and its agencies for a potential no-deal Brexit. (S5O-02824)

The Scottish Government remains committed to keeping Parliament informed of our contingency planning for the prospect of exiting the European Union without an agreement. We have repeatedly made it clear that the United Kingdom Government can, and should, take immediate steps to exclude the possibility of a no-deal outcome. Until that happens, as a responsible Government, we will continue to intensify our preparations, which includes work at directorate level on identifying risks and potential impacts, as well as mitigating actions, across a wide range of issues.

The Scottish Government resilience committee leads on our preparations for a no-deal Brexit. Officials, key agency leads, ministers and a representative from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities meet each week to assess progress.

The minister will be aware that the potential of a no-deal Brexit cannot be removed other than by securing a deal or by revoking article 50. Given last night’s vote in the UK Parliament, does the minister agree that a no-deal Brexit is now significantly more likely? In that context, and following Mike Russell’s statement in Parliament on 18 December, will the Scottish Government place in the public domain technical notices that cover devolved areas, similar to the 105 notices that were published by the UK Government?

By aligning herself with the hardline Brexiteer wing of her party last night, the Prime Minister has brought a no-deal scenario even closer, as Andy Wightman said. While continuing to press the UK Government to see sense and step back from the brink, it is imperative that we continue to plan for the worst. That is entirely necessary and appropriate.

Mr Russell addressed the issue of no-deal planning in a statement that he made a few weeks ago. The Scottish Government is happy to consider how we can continue to update members, and I will take Mr Wightman’s point away and discuss it with Mr Russell.

A meeting is being chaired by the Prime Minister in London today to discuss preparations for a no-deal Brexit. The First Ministers of Wales and Scotland were both invited to attend that meeting. I understand that the First Minister of Wales is there, but the First Minister of Scotland is not. Why not?

I find it staggering that, with the horrendous situation that we find ourselves in with Brexit, the Conservatives take this opportunity to make such a point. As Mr Tomkins well knows from his exchanges with Mr Russell in the chamber, Mr Russell is a perfectly adequate—indeed, far more than adequate—representative of the Scottish Government at that meeting.

Brexit (Discussions with United Kingdom Government)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its discussions with the United Kingdom Government regarding Brexit. (S5O-02825)

Last week, the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations met the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to discuss Brexit. The Prime Minister has said that she wants to give the devolved Administrations an enhanced role in the next phase of the Brexit process, but the UK Government continues to ignore the views of the Scottish Government, the votes of this Parliament and, indeed, the 62 per cent vote of the people of Scotland to remain in the EU. With the clock ticking down to exit day, the Prime Minister must start listening to people outside the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party, abandon her damaging red lines, seek an extension to the article 50 process and immediately rule out a no-deal outcome. [Interruption.] I hear Mr Tomkins chuntering from a sedentary position, so I will make just a small point: this Government is getting on with the day job alongside Brexit—unlike the UK Government.

Last week, the Prime Minister showed that she was running scared of the verdict of the Scottish people. Is it not the case that the mandate for an alternative path for Scotland is cast iron and that the majority of MSPs and Scottish MPs who were returned at the last two general elections support the holding of an independence referendum, which is an option that was endorsed by this Parliament and was in the manifesto on which this Government was elected? Does the Government agree that the people of Scotland should be in charge of their own future and not live at the whim and under the diktat of a hardline, inflexible and out-of-touch Tory Government?

As Fulton MacGregor has said, the Scottish Government was elected on a clear mandate that this

“Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum ... if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”

On 28 March 2017, this Parliament voted in support of an independence referendum in light of Brexit. It has been the Scottish Government’s consistent position that we will set out our views on the next steps for a future referendum on independence when there is clarity about the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, but sadly, as we all know, there remains no such clarity, even with time running out before March 2019. What is clear, though, is that Brexit changes everything utterly.

Welsh Government (Meetings)

To ask the Scottish Government when it next plans to meet Welsh Government ministers and what matters will be discussed. (S5O-02826)

The Scottish Government routinely engages with counterparts in the Welsh Government on a range of business at both official and ministerial levels. Last week, the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations met Mark Drakeford to discuss Brexit matters. On 28 January, the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations spoke to Julie James AM concerning electoral law issues. Earlier this week, the Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development met the Welsh Government Counsel General, Jeremy Miles, and, tomorrow, the Lord Advocate and I will both meet Mr Miles ahead of the next meeting of the ministerial forum on European Union negotiations, which will take place in Edinburgh.

I am grateful for that comprehensive reply. The minister will be aware that Welsh Cabinet ministers recently provided the National Assembly for Wales with a comprehensive analysis of the devastating consequences of a no-deal Brexit for the economy and people of Wales. Further to his reply to Mr Wightman’s question, will the minister tell us whether Scottish ministers might be minded to follow that example?

We have much in common with our Welsh colleagues. Indeed, I understand that today the Welsh Assembly is uniting behind a motion that considers in detail the impact of a no-deal Brexit—indeed, Brexit itself—and the catastrophe that it would be for Wales. We continue to share much common ground in that respect.

With regard to the point that Lewis Macdonald makes, and as I indicated to Mr Wightman, we are happy to take that request away and consider it. However, it is important that we as a Parliament recognise—as most members do—the catastrophe that a no-deal Brexit would be for Scotland.

I can take a very brief question and supplementary question from Ms Gilruth; we are still within time.

Brexit (Implications)

To ask the Scottish Government what the implications of Brexit are for Scotland, which voted 62 per cent to remain in the European Union. (S5O-02827)

Very briefly, minister.

The implications of Brexit for Scotland are extremely alarming, as the Scottish Government has detailed and as the Parliament understands. All Brexit outcomes will be bad for Scotland, but the Prime Minister is now running down the clock to the most damaging of exits.

Very briefly, Ms Gilruth.

Given that, last night, the Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party voted to reopen the withdrawal agreement and amend the Northern Irish backstop, and that the European Union has categorically stated that the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation, does the minister agree that pursuing the impossible is simply running down the clock and risks no deal at the behest of Tory Brexiteers—

That is fine. That is brief enough.

—which would be a woeful abdication of responsibility—

No, no, no.

—by the United Kingdom Government?

I agree with Ms Gilruth. Last night, a majority of the MPs who represent Scotland voted to extend article 50, to rule out a no-deal Brexit and to respect the overwhelming vote in Scotland to remain in the EU. The UK Government has decided, once again, to ignore Scotland’s democratic voice. The Scottish Government, however, will continue to do all that it can to protect Scotland’s interests. We urge the Prime Minister to extend the article 50 process to avoid the disaster of no deal.

United Kingdom Immigration Policy (Impact on Working Population)

To ask the Scottish Government what impact UK Government immigration policy is having on Scotland’s working population. (S5O-02829)

Migration is vital to Scotland’s population growth. Each year for the next 25 years, all of Scotland’s population growth is projected to come from migration.

The United Kingdom Government’s commitment to cut net migration to the tens of thousands could therefore seriously harm our economy. If that commitment is implemented, Scotland’s working age population is projected to decline by 4.5 per cent, which would mean a reduction of 150,000 people between 2016 and 2041.

A Brexit-driven reduction in migration would see gross domestic product in Scotland drop by an estimated 6.2 per cent by 2040, which would be equivalent to a fall of almost £6.8 billion a year in GDP and £2 billion in Government revenue. That is an unacceptable price for Scotland to pay, which is why we need a migration policy that is tailored to Scotland’s needs and more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

An NHS Grampian survey that was recently presented to the Aberdeen city health and social care partnership states that not only staffing but medical supplies, access to treatment, regulations and cross-border issues are areas of high risk due to Brexit. That is compounded by the Home Office’s stubborn refusal to engage with MSPs and our offices. Does the minister agree that the Home Office should stop treating MSPs and members of other devolved Parliaments like second-class representatives and start engaging with us to resolve immigration cases as soon as possible? Does he agree that it is time that the Westminster Government stopped using European Union nationals and others as pawns in its games?

No, Ms Watt. It was a good point but it was not brief enough. I am getting tetchy.

Brexit could indeed have significant impacts on health and social care in Scotland, with potentially serious consequences for the recruitment and retention of health and social care workers. As Maureen Watt said, Brexit also raises concerns in areas such as medicines, medical devices, clinical trials, access to future EU funding and the rights of Scottish citizens to access state-provided healthcare across the EU.

On correspondence, MSPs are understandably concerned about those issues and the impact that they have on their constituents. I have met the UK Minister of State for Immigration, Caroline Nokes, several times to highlight the Scottish Government’s concerns and reiterate our willingness to work collaboratively to safeguard the interests of EU citizens in Scotland. However, despite committing to meaningful engagement, the Home Office continues to refuse to deal substantively with the concerns of the Scottish ministers and MSPs on immigration cases. That is completely unacceptable.

The UK Government has repeatedly committed—publicly and privately—to the full involvement of the devolved Administrations. Unfortunately, I have thus far been frustrated by the quality of that engagement. Nevertheless, the Scottish Government is clear that it will do all that it can to support EU citizens through this difficult time. As Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development, I am happy to receive correspondence from MSPs and to write to the UK Government, minister to minister, as I have done for MSPs across the chamber.

Willie Rennie, briefly.

I also have concerns about the immigration policy. Sectors such as the fruit and veg farms in my constituency, universities and the tourism industry are already being impacted by a drop in the number of workers in Scotland.

I do not support the devolution of immigration policy, as these problems are not unique to Scotland. What practical steps has the minister taken to influence UK Government policy?

Just under a year ago, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, presented to the Scottish Parliament our substantial paper on how we can take practical steps and seek to influence UK policy. We have written repeatedly to UK Government ministers about our concerns about the Migration Advisory Committee report and the white paper, and we have raised those concerns in person. We will make a submission to the Migration Advisory Committee consultation on the shortage occupation list. We are working across every area of the Government to influence UK Government policy, and we are working with stakeholders across business who are deeply concerned about what is in the white paper, particularly the proposed salary threshold.

I say to Willie Rennie in good faith that we are proposing flexibility in the UK system by taking a solution-focused approach in response to what is being proposed in the UK Government’s white paper. Willie Rennie said that in his constituency—this is the case for many constituencies across Scotland—key sectors will be affected by what the UK Government’s white paper proposes. I ask Willie Rennie to meet me and engage with us as a Government. Together, let us be solution focused for the benefit of his constituents and the common good of Scotland.

Robert Burns (Legacy)

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to maximise the benefits of Robert Burns’s legacy in the South Scotland region. (S5O-02830)

The Scottish Government wants to maximise the social, cultural and economic benefits of Robert Burns’s rich legacy for the whole of Scotland. Through EventScotland, we provided £30,000 to the big Burns supper in Dumfries as part of Scotland’s winter festivals.

As part of that work, we commissioned the centre for Robert Burns studies at the University of Glasgow to produce a report, which will help us to understand the impact of Burns on the Scottish economy and associated prospects for driving inclusive growth. We expect that the report’s findings will help to ensure that Burns’s enduring legacy can help to accrue benefit for Ayrshire, Dumfries, the wider South Scotland region and the country as a whole.

I thank the minister for that answer, and I highly recommend the big Burns supper to all members. It runs until Sunday.

The minister will be familiar with Ellisland farm, the family home that was built by Burns in 1788. The future of Ellisland is at a crossroads and the trustees have developed proposals to save it and transform it into a major attraction. Will the minister take the opportunity to find out more about the exciting proposals and meet the trustees to discuss how the Scottish Government could assist in delivering a viable, long-term future for Ellisland farm?

I understand that representatives of Ellisland have met Historic Environment Scotland officials to discuss the trust’s plans for developing Ellisland. If they have not done so already, I encourage them to continue their dialogue to ensure that such a vital part of Scotland’s history and heritage is preserved for future generations.

I will take supplementaries from Finlay Carson and Joan McAlpine, but they must be brief.

As the Presiding Officer will know, the south-west 300 is a stunning 300-mile drive with awesome coastlines, hills, glens, forests and lochs and abundant history, and it rivals the much-publicised north coast 500. The Burns country run is a 160-mile showcase of the many locations associated with Burns. Those routes have huge tourist potential—

No. That is not brief. Get your question in.

What will the Scottish Government do to quantify that potential and what support will it give to the Burns route?

The Scottish Government is committed to investment in tourism in the south of Scotland. For example, there has been a £0.5 million VisitScotland marketing campaign, £0.5 million south of Scotland capital funding and £2.5 million for the development of facilities in Galashiels, as well as investment in the David Livingstone centre in Blantyre.

I thank Finlay Carson for raising the point about the proposed route and would be happy to receive more detail about that, if he would like to provide it in writing.

Will the minister join me in welcoming the purchase of the historic Globe Inn—one of the bard’s favourite howffs—in Dumfries by Professor David Thomson and his wife Teresa Church, who own Annandale Distillery? I am delighted to report that their investment in the historic inn was apparent during the big Burns supper. I invite the minister and the cabinet secretary to take the opportunity to visit again in the near future.

I welcome the investment that has been made and I congratulate all who are involved. I would be happy to receive an invitation as part of our planning for next year’s winter festivals, and I thank the member for that offer.

External Affairs (Budget Increase)

To ask the Scottish Government for what reason its external affairs budget increased by 52 per cent from 2017-18 to 2019-20. (S5O-02831)

Between 2017-18 and 2018-19, the external affairs budget increased by £1.5 million to support our expanded external presence in Brussels, Canada and Paris.

The increase of £6.7 million in the 2019-20 draft budget is due entirely to a change in the way in which running costs, including staffing costs, are presented across the Scottish Government. Those were previously presented separately, but are now included in ministerial portfolios, at the request of Parliament and its Finance and the Constitution Committee, for transparency. There is therefore no net increase in this year’s—2019-20—resource available for spending on external affairs.

Reserved matters are excluded from the devolved competence of the Scottish ministers. The reservation is

“particularly important in the case of ... international relations”.

So ruled the Supreme Court in its unanimous judgment a month ago in the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill case. What legal advice has the cabinet secretary taken to ensure that the increased budget is lawful?

The Supreme Court judgment does not affect the Scottish Government’s ability, or determination, to prepare for European Union exit or to continue its international work. Indeed, the United Kingdom Government, through a variety of agreements with us, understands and supports our international work. It is extremely small-minded of the Conservatives to think about limiting our ability to help our universities, tourism sector and trade and economic activities by saying that everything has to be done within the confines of Scotland. It is about time that they broadened their horizons, as this Government has done, and will continue to do, in its activities. Adam Tomkins needs to be clear that the Supreme Court judgment does not affect our ability to carry out our duties and functions as good internationalists and good global citizens.

Airbnb (Meetings)

To ask the Scottish Government when it last met Airbnb and what issues were discussed. (S5O-02832)

Scottish Government officials last met Airbnb on 29 November 2018. At the meeting, regulation of short-term lets, including the stage 2 amendment to the Planning (Scotland) Bill regarding short-term holiday lets, was discussed. A note of the meeting, which was redacted to remove personal details, with notes of other meetings with Airbnb, was published recently in response to a freedom of information request, and is available on the Scottish Government website.

Recent evidence that was released by the Scottish Government revealed that there were 2,200 Airbnb listings in Glasgow in July 2017, which was a 45 per cent increase on the previous year. Shelter Scotland has expressed concern that short-term lets might be exacerbating the housing crisis. Does the Scottish Government share that concern? What action is it taking to ensure that Glasgow’s tourism industry is sustainable and delivers for local communities?

Anas Sarwar has raised a very important point. Sustainability for both tourism and the housing market is really important. That is why there is a debate about short-term lets in relation to the Planning (Scotland) Bill and housing legislation. The short-term lets delivery group is engaging with local authorities. I am sure that it is doing that with Glasgow City Council, but I will make sure that the Glasgow situation is brought to its attention so that it can engage.

I understand that Glasgow City Council regulations that were introduced in March 2017 have had an impact. Local authorities already have relevant powers, but there has to be an integrated look at the overall picture and the housing market. It is a matter in which we will all take a keen interest.

Question 5 has not been lodged.

Festivals (Support)

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to support Scotland’s festivals in 2019-20. (S5O-02834)

Scotland is the proud home of a fusion of cultures, arts and creativity that enrich us all with festivals and events. I am sure that everyone will want to join me today in congratulating the Imaginate festival on its 30th anniversary.

Visit Scotland will invest more than £3 million across 109 cultural events and festivals in this financial year, and Creative Scotland provided £485,000 to 18 festivals around Scotland in 2018. The Scottish Government’s expo fund has supported the Edinburgh festivals with more than £21 million since 2008, and current applications are being considered. Between 2018 and 2023, £5 million through the platform for excellence programme will support strategic projects across the internationally acclaimed Edinburgh festivals, as part of the Edinburgh and south-east Scotland city region deal.

I ask Clare Adamson to be brief, please.

Donald Shaw is a leading figure behind Celtic Connections, which is one of Scotland’s foremost music festivals, and he recently warned that the added bureaucracy that will be required to book United Kingdom musicians in European Union member states following Brexit will put Scottish musicians at a disadvantage. He also predicted new problems for musicians coming to Scotland. Does the Scottish Government share my concern about the detrimental impact of Brexit on the Scottish music sector?

Celtic Connections is a hugely and truly international festival. For the first time, it has received £100,000 of festivals expo funding. It is welcoming to musicians—they want to come here. However, the UK’s immigration white paper will drive a coach and horses through our music industry, unless changes can be made to ensure that there is no bureaucracy around visas. There is also an issue in respect of festivals elsewhere wanting to book our musicians. We want to ensure that we remain a welcoming and inclusive country. That extends to everyone, including the many musicians who come here.

When senior and leading figures in our culture sector warn us of the consequences of Brexit, which would be absolutely compounded by a no-deal Brexit—the prospect of which was accelerated by the farcical activity at Westminster last night—we have to take them extremely seriously.

I call Claire Baker. Be very brief, please, Ms Baker.

The cabinet secretary will be aware of recent reports of exploitative working practices in some major festivals. Will she commit to frank discussions with festival organisers and relevant companies to ensure that that is not tolerated in the sector?

Claire Baker has made an important point. I have already been in touch with some festivals. It is important that anyone who is in receipt of public money embraces the fair work agenda. I think that everyone in the sector would want that. We just need to ensure that those who are responsible act in accordance with what I believe is their commitment to address the issue.

Tourism (Ireland and Scotland)

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to support tourism, including business tourism, between Ireland and Scotland. (S5O-02835)

Our national tourism agency, VisitScotland, actively promotes Scotland to visitors from Ireland, which is our sixth-largest tourism market, and undertakes a large range of marketing activities. Business tourism is just one of the many reasons why Irish visitors come to Scotland, with the majority coming to visit family members.

Last week in Dublin I met business and university interests to discuss Scottish and Irish connections and collaborative working, and spoke to several tourism businesses that are interested in Scottish investment. I add that, if those matters were left to Mr Scott’s colleague, Adam Tomkins, none of that would be happening.

The cabinet secretary will be aware that the First Minister announced at a Scottish Chambers of Commerce dinner in December that £2 million of new funding will be given to that organisation over the next three years to promote business tourism and business development through local chambers of commerce. Can the cabinet secretary tell Parliament, my constituents and the Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry when that money might be available? It is keen to strengthen and to grow already established trade—in particular, tourism links with Ireland.

I am delighted that the Scottish Chambers of Commerce is working internally and with the Scottish Government to encourage business tourism. Its links in key sectors and the collaboration work that it does will be great advantages in attracting business conferences and other activity to Scotland.

On spending, I point out that we are facing a budget vote shortly, and that if John Scott wants us to expand investment in chambers of commerce, exports or anything else in the area that he is asking about, supporting the budget will be one way of ensuring that that happens.

Brexit (Impact on Arts and Creative Sector)

To ask the Scottish Government what analysis the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs has carried out regarding the impact of Brexit on the arts and creative sector in Scotland. (S5O-02836)

Leaving the European Union will have significant and wide-ranging negative impacts on Scotland’s culture and creative sectors, including on access to funding, trade, our ability to work internationally and our ability to access skills and talent.

Those impacts have been highlighted consistently in analyses that have been undertaken by sectoral organisations and by the Scottish Government, including a recent Ernst & Young report. Its analysis, which built on previous analysis that has been undertaken across Scottish public bodies in the sector, found that EU funding of at least £59 million was received by Scottish cultural organisations over the period from 2007 to 2016, which demonstrates the importance of EU funding to the sector.

On Saturday, I attended a Celtic Connections event that was organised by BEMIS to celebrate the diversity of culture in Scotland and throughout Europe. The implication in the cabinet secretary’s answer is that we could lose such international cultural events. Does she agree that that would be a great loss to Glasgow and to Scotland, culturally and financially?

A brief answer, please.

BEMIS’s association with Celtic Connections has been a great success in recent years. A lot of the funding comes from the Scottish Government, through our winter festivals funding. However, Donald Shaw, who is the artistic director of Celtic Connections, has made it clear that there are events that would not have taken place had there not been collaboration on EU funding opportunities.

This matters. We must remain an outward-looking country. We have to welcome and celebrate musicians, artists and others. What better way to do so than at the wonderful Celtic Connections? The festival still has a while to go, so I encourage any members who have not done so to buy a ticket and to take part and support our artists.

That concludes portfolio questions. I apologise to Willie Coffey and Mark Griffin for failing to reach their questions, try though I did.