Meeting date: Thursday, February 2, 2017
Meeting of the Parliament 02 February 2017
Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill, Ferry Services, Budget (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Business Motion, Decision Time
- General Question Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- Awards for Valour (Protection) Bill
- Ferry Services
- Budget (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1
- Business Motion
- Decision Time
First Minister’s Question Time
To ask the First Minister what engagements she has planned for the rest of the day. (S5F-00831)
Engagements to take forward the Government’s programme for Scotland.
Does the First Minister believe that having higher rates of tax in Scotland sets a “dangerous precedent” for the prospects of economic growth?
I have been very clear that the Government will not increase income tax rates. At a time of rising inflation and pressure on household incomes—especially low incomes—that would not be the right thing to do. I am equally clear that, given the pressure on public services as a result of Tory austerity, it would be wrong to cut taxes for the top 10 per cent of income earners. We will not do that, either.
I am clear about our priorities and I am also pretty clear about the Tory priorities. The Tories prefer tax cuts for the richest at the expense of our national health service, education and those on low incomes. I cannot believe that Ruth Davidson has come to the chamber today to talk about tax cuts for the rich after the Resolution Foundation said just this week—I hope that she is listening—that Tory tax policy is going to make
“The poorest quarter of ... households”
“15 per cent worse off”
“the highest ... quarter ... 5 per cent”
The Resolution Foundation said that there will be
“the largest increase in inequality”
since the days of Margaret Thatcher. It also said that raising the higher-rate threshold will do nothing to raise living standards for the majority of households.
The Scottish Government is on the side of those on low incomes. It is on the side of public services. I will leave Ruth Davidson—or Harrison, or whatever she is called—to argue the case for tax cuts for the rich.
The First Minister can just call me the protector of Scottish families’ pay packets.
I thank the First Minister for her answer. I have here an admirable document, to which she signed up not so long ago. It is called “Let Scotland Flourish”. In it, the Scottish National Party told us that lower taxes would
“send the message that Scotland is open for business.”
Now, that same SNP wants to put business taxes up. The SNP then told us that higher rates would send
“the wrong message for indigenous businesses and businesses coming to Scotland.”
Now, that wrong message is the SNP’s only message.
The SNP told us that business tax cuts would protect Government revenue because they would drive economic growth. Now it says that the opposite is true. The SNP used to get it—why not now?
I think that Ruth Davidson might have missed something. I believe that competitive business taxes are important, which is why we have the most competitive business rates regime of any country in the United Kingdom and why the budget that will be debated this afternoon will lift 100,000 small businesses across Scotland out of business rates altogether.
Let me go back to the previous issue—that of low-income households. The truth is that the Tories are the destroyers of the living standards of those on low incomes. In case Ruth Davidson did not hear me, I remind her of what the Resolution Foundation had to say about Tory tax policies—that they will make
“The poorest quarter of ... households”
“15 per cent worse off”
“the highest ... quarter ... 5 per cent”
Widening inequality is what the Tories are doing. As we will see in the budget this afternoon, this Government is going to tackle inequality and protect our public services. Those are our priorities.
The Resolution Foundation also acknowledges that Conservative tax policy has reduced inequality by the measurement of the Gini coefficient. [Interruption.] Absolutely—it has done that already. The First Minister just stood there and said that she understands competitive taxation, but she is about to make us the highest-taxed part of the entire UK. I will tell the First Minister who she needs to listen to: our business leaders in Scotland.
My first question quoted directly from Liz Cameron, the chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce. I will quote her more extensively, if the First Minister likes quotes so much today. Liz Cameron said that people paying higher levels of income tax in Scotland than in the rest of the UK would create
“a further barrier to Scottish business competitiveness, threatening jobs, and damaging Scotland’s attractiveness to inward investors ... The sooner our politicians realise that supporting economic growth, rather than hiking up taxes, is the route towards increasing revenues and improving investment in key services, the quicker Scotland will prosper.”
We will vote on the budget in five hours’ time, and we have been well warned what increasing taxes will mean for families and businesses, so why has the First Minister stitched up a tax-grabbing pact with the Greens rather than protected Scottish jobs and Scottish pay packets?
Let us take that step by step. First, I am sure that it will be of great comfort to those across the country who are struggling to make ends meet, and those whose welfare protection is being cut by the Tory Government at Westminster, to know that the Gini coefficient is all right. The truth is that, as far as the Tories are concerned, the genie is out of the bottle. They are presiding over
“the largest increase in inequality”
since the days of Margaret Thatcher. Those are not my words but those of the Resolution Foundation.
I turn to business taxation. I agree with Liz Cameron about the importance of competitive business taxes. That is why I repeat that the Government is delivering the most competitive business tax regime in the whole UK, with 100,000 small businesses lifted out of business taxes altogether.
I turn to the impact on householders. The difference between me and Ruth Davidson is that I do not believe that, at a time of Tory austerity, the priority should be cutting taxes for the top 10 per cent of income earners.
As for our draft budget, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution will outline any changes to Parliament this afternoon. We are asking the highest earners to forgo a tax cut that amounts to £6 per week. That is less than people in England pay for a single prescription. Of course, taxpayers in Scotland get not only free prescriptions but free tuition, free personal care for the elderly, above-inflation increases in the NHS budget and protection of local services. That is the best deal for taxpayers anywhere in the UK and that is what the Government is delivering.
The First Minister seems utterly unconcerned about the impacts that her business policies are having and about the screams of pain from companies across Scotland. Well, we are not. We have been speaking to staff at affected businesses, one of which is the Banff Springs hotel. On 1 April, its rates bill will go up by £50,000. It has been faced with a choice: either it—reluctantly—puts up its charges or it goes bust.
The hotel has been forced to pass on the charges, and it has had its first complaint from a customer that is now having to pay £80 to hire a room. I will read out the complaint:
“The increase in hire fee is excessive to say the least. Should this fee of £80 apply to future meetings I can confirm there will be no further bookings and our business will be taken elsewhere.”
The name of the customer is the Banff branch of the Scottish National Party. If the First Minister’s own party cannot support her policy, is it not time that she did something about it?
Ruth Davidson is talking about an independent revaluation of business rates. As we have outlined two weeks in a row, the final valuations will be issued later this year and all businesses will have the opportunity to appeal if they think that their valuation is wrong.
Let us get back to the core issue. We have the most competitive business rates regime in the whole UK, with 100,000 small businesses having been lifted out of business rates altogether. We have a tourism sector that, thanks to the good work of those in it, is booming, and the employment level is rising much faster than it is in the rest of the UK. We are also the best-performing part of the UK outside south-east England for inward investment. Those are the success stories of the Scottish economy, and we will continue to invest in the success of our economy. We will also protect our public services and those on low incomes. That is what the budget will deliver, and I will be proud to put it to the Parliament later today.
Members seem a little excitable ahead of the budget. I ask members to please show respect to each other and to the proceedings.
To ask the First Minister what engagements she has planned for the rest of the week. (S5F-00825)
Engagements to take forward the Government’s programme for Scotland.
In September, I asked the First Minister about the number of young people who were being referred for mental health treatment only to have that referral rejected. At the time, the First Minister expressed concern and said that she was determined to act. Can she tell us how many more young people with a referral have been rejected for mental health treatment since I last brought the crisis to the chamber?
We continue to invest in improving our mental health services. I have made it very clear to voices across the chamber that we, as a Government, attach priority to that. We have rising demand for mental health services, which, as I have said before, we should welcome because it means that the stigma is reducing and more people are coming forward. We are seeing waiting times reduce, we are seeing more people treated and we are seeing not just rising investment but rising numbers of staff. Nevertheless, I readily accept that we have much more work still to do. We, in Scotland, are not unique in that, as many countries are experiencing the same challenges. We are absolutely determined, through our investment and our new mental health strategy, that we will meet those challenges head on.
Members will have noticed that the First Minister was unable to answer that question. Let me share the reality with her. Since the First Minister promised to act, another 1,600 young people have been rejected for mental health treatment. That takes the total to 10,500 cases overall, which is thousands of children and young adults in crisis who have turned to professionals for help only to be turned away.
We could reduce the number of young people who need clinical treatment in the first place, and school-based counselling is key to that. Five months ago, I came to the chamber with a published plan for every secondary school to have access to a qualified counsellor, and the First Minister said that she would look at it. We were not asking for any new money, just for a fraction of the £150 million that the Government is already spending on mental health.
We have had the warm words, First Minister. When will we get the action?
As Kezia Dugdale knows, the plans that she brought forward are being looked at in the context of developing the mental health strategy. That work is on-going, and I would have thought that Kezia Dugdale would welcome that work and the consideration that is being given to those plans.
I point out to Kezia Dugdale that recent statistics show that the number of patients who have been seen by children and adolescent mental health services has increased by 21 per cent. We have seen long waits reducing, and the number of patients who have been seen within the waiting times targets has improved. That is progress, but it is progress on an issue on which I have readily accepted—and continue to do so—that we need to do more work. That is why the £150 million of extra investment backing the mental health strategy is so important. On an issue that is so important—I think that we all agree about its importance—I hope that all of us in the chamber will get behind it.
The First Minister just said that her Government is looking at the issue and that she is considering it as part of the mental health strategy. That is really interesting, because that is not what Maureen Watt told the Health and Sport Committee back in January. She told the Health and Sport Committee that provision of counsellors in schools was a matter for local authorities. How on earth does the First Minister think that local authorities can do that when they are faced with millions of pounds’ worth of cuts?
The cuts that we are faced with voting on this afternoon will make it all the harder for schools and other local services to provide the help that young people need. Those cuts will punish kids who are already in crisis. It does not have to be that way. Will the First Minister do the right thing—scrap the cuts and invest in Scotland’s public services instead?
Any mental health strategy that is going to be successful has to involve the Scottish Government working not just with the national health service but with local authorities. The fact that provision of counsellors is a matter for local authorities does not mean that it is not something that we will look at in the mental health strategy. I thought that that point would be very obvious.
Kezia Dugdale stands up here and talks about extra funding for mental health services, but she and her colleagues intend to vote against a budget today that includes extra commitment to mental health services. Kezia Dugdale’s approach to this budget has involved her as the leader of the third party coming to the party that won the election and saying that her party will talk to us only if, effectively, we rip up our own manifesto and implement theirs.
That is not so much student politics as the politics of the playground. It is that lack of any constructive approach to the budget that has meant that Labour has rendered itself irrelevant, had no influence and delivered absolutely nothing on behalf of the people whom it is supposed to represent. When it comes to the budget discussions, Labour should be deeply ashamed of itself.
We have two constituency questions.
It is almost two years since Sheku Bayoh died on the streets of Kirkcaldy while in police custody. Despite an investigation by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner and a report sitting with the Lord Advocate since August, the family still does not know the facts of what happened that morning in May 2015. There is now the potential for civil action as the family searches for answers.
Can the First Minister today assure the chamber and Sheku’s family that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service will reach a decision on the report as a matter of urgency, and will the Scottish Government now commit to a wider inquiry into deaths in custody, as is the case in England, to ensure that no other family has to go through the same experience as Sheku’s has for the past two years?
Claire Baker will be aware that this is a live independent investigation, so it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the specific circumstances of the case. It is, however, a complex investigation, and the Crown Office has already indicated that a decision will be made as soon as possible. Indeed, I understand that the Lord Advocate is meeting Sheku Bayoh’s family next week to discuss the case.
The previous Lord Advocate made it clear that, regardless of the PIRC investigation, a fatal accident inquiry will be heard, and that will provide public scrutiny into the circumstances of the incident. I personally made it clear to the family when I met them that I am not ruling anything out in terms of a wider inquiry at an appropriate point in the future, if that is required. I hope that Claire Baker agrees that it is important to allow those processes to take their course and conclude.
The First Minister will be aware of the report from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde that sets out cuts of £333 million and the sweeping centralisation of services. It is clear that talk about shifting the balance of care is being used by that health board as a cover for cuts. Specifically, the report talks about cutting unscheduled care assessment and admission points. On that basis, will the First Minister today guarantee what she promised in the vision for the Vale—that the medical assessment unit will remain in place?
First, Jackie Baillie is being slightly misleading in her question because she refers to a report that was never discussed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde because the chair of the board said that he did not agree with it and did not think that it should go forward for discussion. The health secretary has also made it clear that, had such a report gone forward for discussion, she would not have approved any of its proposals. For Jackie Baillie to stand up here today and try to give the impression that the report somehow represents the policy of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, or of the Scottish Government, is misleading.
This Government will continue to do what it has done since day 1 in 2007 and what the previous Labour Administration failed to do over many years, which is to protect services at the Vale of Leven hospital.
To ask the First Minister when the Cabinet will next meet. (S5F-00826)
We will next meet on Monday. I am delighted to say that we will meet in Pitlochry and that that will be the first of the travelling Cabinets this year.
Everyone in the chamber and—I think—in the country understands the value of local public services to the quality of life of all of us. However, over recent weeks, councils in this country have been forced to contemplate unacceptable cuts to a wide range of services, with the consequences ranging from bigger class sizes to scrapping public transport and active travel; from ignoring complaints about late-night noise and vandalism to scaling back recycling; and from removing librarians and specialist support staff from schools to increasing charges for people burying their relatives. That is not a position that any Government should leave our councils in.
Late last year, under pressure from the Greens and others, the Government gave ground on the centralised control of additional council tax revenue, which will now be available for councils to allocate as they see fit in their local circumstances. However, even if we see a budget concession this afternoon that restores significant funding to protect local services in every part of Scotland, is it not clear that that is not only essential but should mark the beginning of a new approach in which we invest resources in our communities and put local control back into their hands?
As members have heard me say before in the chamber, the draft budget that the finance secretary outlined to members in the chamber at the end of last year involved additional potential funding for local services, if councils used council tax powers, of £240 million. I think that that was a strong draft budget for the protection of local services. However, the finance secretary also said that he wanted to listen to parties across the chamber and to enter into constructive discussion about how we could take forward some of their priorities as well as the priorities that we have already identified. It is fair to say that the Conservatives and Labour refused to take part in any meaningful way whatsoever in that constructive discussion; the Liberal Democrats at least made a pretence of doing so, but I am not sure whether it was serious.
The budget that will be announced this afternoon will outline this Government’s continued priority of protecting local services. It will also make it clear that those in the chamber who are prepared to take part in constructive discussions actually manage to achieve something on behalf of those whom they represent. Perhaps other parties across the chamber could learn something from that.
I am sure that all our colleagues will look forward to hearing the detail of what will be announced this afternoon. [Interruption.] I can hear even now how eager they are to hear that detail.
I have a further point to put to the First Minister. Is it not clear that, despite the progress that we hope to see in the budget announcement this afternoon, tax policy, with the new powers that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, can no longer be based for the long term—the duration of a parliamentary session—on manifestos that were written years previously? That was the approach in the first era of devolution when the Scottish Parliament was just a spending Parliament. To some extent, we now make fiscal policy in Scotland, and it is essential to respond not only to the balance of views across the Parliament but to events. The events that we have seen since the manifestos were written for last year’s election include the Brexit vote, the fall in the value of the pound, a new United Kingdom Government and changes to UK fiscal policy. Is it not clear that tax policy throughout this session of Parliament cannot be based on manifestos that were written in previous years but must be part of a living debate through which we can take new directions going forward, with the new powers that we have available?
I agree that any responsible Government must take account of developments and things that are happening in the economy and in wider society when it comes to make its budget decisions. However, the manifesto on which this Government was elected was not written years ago—it was written less than one year ago, and I think that it is reasonable for this Government to say to the Scottish people that we want to seek to implement the promises that we made to them.
On Patrick Harvie’s quite legitimate comments about the impact of Brexit, such impacts cut both ways. On one hand, one of the implications of the Brexit vote—partly because of the fall in the value of the pound—is rising inflation, which is putting greater pressure on household incomes. That underlines this Government’s commitment not to increase income tax rates in this budget. It also puts pressure on public services, which underlines this Government’s commitment at this time not to give a tax cut to those who earn the most in this country: the top 10 per cent of income earners. The budget that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution will outline this afternoon strikes the right balance.
As I said, it has been demonstrated that, where other parties are willing to come forward with constructive suggestions, they will find a Government that is willing to listen. There will be one Opposition party in the chamber this afternoon that can say to the people whom it represents that it has managed to achieve something. The other Opposition parties—[Interruption.] This is a serious point. The other Opposition parties have achieved not one single brass penny in this budget for the people whom they are supposed to represent. I think that they should be ashamed of that.
To ask the First Minister what issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the Cabinet. (S5F-00832)
Matters of importance to the people of Scotland.
Once upon a time, the First Minister said—[Interruption.] Listen carefully. Once upon a time, the First Minister said that the police were safe in her hands. Now, she says the same about Highlands and Islands Enterprise, but this week we discovered through freedom of information that the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work had to be educated about what HIE does—after he had made the decision to abolish the board. Instead of carrying on regardless, in the dark, can the First Minister announce today that the board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise will not be abolished?
First, I thank Willie Rennie for reminding us at the start of his question that the Liberal Democrats occupy a fairytale world.
The police are an important priority for this Government. The draft budget that was published before Christmas delivered real-terms protection for the police resource budget, which will see an additional £100 million going into front-line policing in the current session of Parliament. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution may have more to say—who knows? I am only speculating—on such matters later this afternoon.
On the question of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the economy secretary and I are on record as praising on many occasions the great work that HIE does and this Government’s determination to support it to continue to do that work. The review that is under way right now is about looking at how we ensure that all our enterprise agencies and all our agencies that work in the area of economic development and skills provision work together in a co-ordinated way to deliver the maximum impact on our economy. We will continue to allow that process to take its course.
Just before First Minister’s questions, the economy secretary was answering questions in the chamber about the work that Lorne Crerar is doing on our behalf in that area, and we will report back to Parliament on those matters in due course.
I think that the First Minister needs a new joke writer.
Another review by one of her quango bosses is no substitute for a vote in this Parliament to reject her plans. The former chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Professor Jim Hunter, denounced the move as “ministerial control freakery” and “centralism run riot”—and he is a member of the Scottish National Party.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise did not ask for the change, local people do not want the change and the democratically elected Parliament of this country voted against the change, yet this Government is hellbent on taking control, running everything from the centre and ignoring the needs of the Highlands and Islands. Why is it that, despite all the experience, she is so determined that she knows better than everybody else?
I am not sure whether Willie Rennie was in the chamber a few moments before First Minister’s questions, when Keith Brown answered questions on that issue. Maybe he was too busy loving himself outside the chamber to have managed to find his way into it. If he had been in the chamber—[Interruption.] If he had been in the chamber, he would have heard Keith Brown quote Jim Hunter and, indeed, some of the representations that have been made not just by Jim Hunter but by council leaders and MSPs on my benches, who are doing a good job on behalf of the people whom they represent.
We will continue to listen to those representations. We are in the second phase of the review and will allow that review to conclude in due course. We will then come back to Parliament and report the review’s findings. That is the appropriate way to go about things. As we do that, we will continue to protect Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s ability to do the fantastic job that it does on behalf of people in the Highlands and Islands of our country.
Does the First Minister agree that, if the Parliament chooses to have a referendum on Scotland’s future, no Westminster Tory should try to stand in the way?
I agree absolutely that, if the Parliament voted to have a referendum on independence, no Westminster Tory should stand in the way of the voice of the Parliament. This Government’s mandate in relation to the matter is unequivocal. It was the Tories, after all, who put us in the position of being taken out of the European Union against our will and with the support of only one of the 59 MPs in the country. Is it not strange that a Tory party that proclaims that it would be confident of winning a referendum on independence now talks about trying to block it? Are the Tories not running a wee bit feart?
To ask the First Minister what representations the Scottish Government has made to the United Kingdom Government regarding the announcement of further jobcentre closures in Scotland. (S5F-00861)
I am very concerned by the announcement that the Department for Work and Pensions will close up to 23 Jobcentre Plus sites in Scotland. The lack of impact assessments and consultation of the communities affected is totally unacceptable. The closures will mean people who rely on jobcentre services travelling further, incurring increased transport costs and facing increased risk of benefit sanctions. Therefore, it is essential that the UK Government reconsider that approach. The Minister for Employability and Training has raised those concerns directly with the UK Government and has sought urgent clarification of the impact on people who use jobcentres and the staff who work in those vital services.
In a recent debate that I brought to Parliament, there was strong cross-party support to save my local jobcentre in Maryhill and others throughout Glasgow. However, the Conservatives refused—I quote them—to “condone” or “condemn” the eight closures. Given the fact that there will now be 23 closures nationwide, with one of them being in Ruth Davidson’s Edinburgh constituency, does the First Minister agree that it is time for all MSPs, including Ruth Davidson, to put their constituents first and demand that the DWP halt the closure of all 23 Jobcentre Plus offices until there is full and meaningful consultation of the communities and staff who will be affected, and ensure that equality impact assessments are carried out? Let us defend our constituents.
Yes—I agree that it is important for all MSPs across the chamber to unite to urge the UK Government to reconsider its approach to the proposed programme of closures, and to consult all the Scottish communities that will be affected by closures of what are essential local services. The Scottish Government is taking a lead on the matter. Bob Doris and others have played key roles in opposing the closures in Glasgow and there is now significant cross-party support against the closures.
It is unfortunate that Tory MSPs are declining to stand up and be counted on the issue, which is important to Glasgow and other parts of Scotland. It is equally unfortunate that Ruth Davidson herself has declined to stand up for vulnerable people in her constituency who might be affected by the closures. It is time for all of us in the chamber to say to the UK Government that the closures are wrong and will harm vulnerable people, and that the proposals must be urgently reconsidered.
To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to the Auditor General’s comments regarding Police Scotland and that the “lack of progress that’s been made in demonstrating financial leadership is unacceptable for any public body.” (S5F-00847)
The Auditor General for Scotland has signed off the Scottish Police Authority’s 2015-16 accounts unqualified. As I set out in December, I agree with the Auditor General’s conclusion on the 2015-16 audit that
“The SPA and Police Scotland have begun to take steps to improve both financial leadership and management and governance arrangements but these have not yet had a chance to have an impact.”
Those steps include appointing a director of corporate services, strategy and change and an interim chief financial officer to provide strategic leadership and direction on all financial matters. That interim post will soon be filled permanently.
Just five months ago, the First Minister said:
“I don’t think the single force is in crisis.”
In response to the Auditor General, seven days ago, senior Scottish National Party MSP Alex Neil said:
“the organisation is in crisis.”—[Official Report, Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee, 26 January 2017; c 11.]
Which SNP politician should we believe?
Our police service is not “in crisis”. On the contrary, it is doing a fantastic job the length and breadth of this country, and it is incumbent on all of us to get behind it.
It is a sign of the importance that this Government attaches to the work of the police that the draft budget protects the police budget in real terms. Over the current session of Parliament, that will mean £100 million more going into front-line services. Derek Mackay will present any changes to that later this afternoon.
We will continue to support the fantastic work of our police officers because they do an essential job in keeping each and every one of us safe.
To ask the First Minister how many refugees the Scottish Government expects to welcome in 2017. (S5F-00844)
Scotland has already received around 1,300 refugees under the Syrian resettlement programme since October 2015, and refugees continue to arrive. The arrival of refugees is dependent on many factors, including assessment and screening by the United Nations refugee agency and the Home Office, the matching of refugees with accommodation and services that meet their needs, and other logistical matters such as the arrangement of flights, travel documents and visas. It is for those reasons that I cannot give a figure for the exact number of people who will arrive this year. However, I can say that Scotland will continue to be a country that welcomes those who are seeking refuge from war and persecution, and we are committed to welcoming as many as we can of those who arrive in the UK in 2017.
In a little under two weeks, President Trump has defended torture, banned US aid to health providers that are providing care for women in developing countries, insulted the Jewish community on Holocaust memorial day, imposed a ban on Muslims from seven countries from entering the US and imposed an outright ban on Syrian refugees. At the same time, he has held hands with Theresa May. Many of those actions are designed to incite hatred and create division.
Will the First Minister join me in saying that, although we cannot be complacent about acts of hatred and prejudice, we should recognise the 1.8 million people across the UK who have signed a petition to withdraw the red carpet from President Trump, and also pay tribute to all the people right across the world, irrespective of their faith, colour or nationality, who have joined together to say, “We reject hatred and support humanity in all its forms”?
Yes—I endorse those comments. I disagree deeply and profoundly with the executive orders that were issued by President Trump last week, banning Syrian refugees and imposing a travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries. Banning people, or even giving the perception that people are being banned on the basis of their faith, religion or origin is profoundly and—in my view—morally wrong, and I think that we should all stand up and say that.
I have already made clear my views about how inappropriate I think it would be to allow a state visit to proceed while those bans are in place, and I hope that the UK Government will think again on that. I had the opportunity to express those views directly to the Prime Minister when I met her in Cardiff on Monday.
People around the world have expressed horror at the policies. On matters that are as fundamentally important as they are, we all have a duty to speak out, to speak up and to oppose, where that is necessary. However, we are under a duty to do more than that; all of us have to lead by example on the kind of world that we want to live in. Scotland is a relatively small country, but through the action that we have already taken in welcoming Syrian refugees and the action that we are determined to continue to take to give refuge to those who are fleeing war or persecution, we can demonstrate the kind of world that we want to live in. So, yes—let us oppose, but let us also lead by example. I want Scotland always to do that.
People with Dementia
To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to support people who have been newly diagnosed with dementia. (S5F-00841)
We will soon publish our new dementia strategy, which will outline a range of actions that we will take to help further improve the planning and delivery of dementia care services. We are also working with health boards to continue to improve access for people with a new diagnosis of dementia to post-diagnostic support from an appropriately qualified link worker.
The First Minister might be aware that recent figures show that, out of all the patients who were newly diagnosed with dementia in 2014-15, only two in five received 12 months of post-diagnostic support. Given that the target as set out in the local delivery plan for 2015-16 stated that all people newly diagnosed with dementia should receive such support, does she accept that her Government has not done nearly enough to ensure that that crucial target has been met?
I agree that we have much more to do. It is important to recognise that, with some of the commitments that we give on dementia—on diagnosis generally but also on post-diagnostic support—we are well ahead of most other countries anywhere in the world. Those who now get guaranteed post-diagnostic support would not have been getting it at all unless we had set a very clear commitment on that. I was health secretary when we set that commitment, so I know exactly how important it is. However, the figures that the member has cited underline the fact that we have more to do. As I said earlier in relation to mental health, we know that, with the changing demographics in our society, more and more people will be living longer. That is a good thing, but it means that more and more people will be living with dementia. The issue has implications for all aspects of our society, and it is absolutely vital that we get our approach right, which is exactly what the Government is determined to do.
Does the First Minister recognise the very particular issues for families where there is a diagnosis of early onset dementia? Sometimes, there are still children in the home or people are of working age and are still working. Are there plans to improve data collection on the issue so that provision can be made? Is there a recognition across all departments of Government that special attention has to be paid to such cases?
Linda Fabiani is absolutely right to raise the issue of early onset dementia. The diagnosis of dementia for anybody at any stage in their life is devastating, but there are particular issues for those who are diagnosed with dementia at a younger age. For example, there are even greater implications for the family. Therefore, data is important. Last year, NHS Health Scotland published “Dementia and equality—meeting the challenge in Scotland”, which made recommendations on improving services for the under-65s. Those included increasing workforce knowledge, improving information for employers and having more age-appropriate services. We will continue to consider the report’s recommendations as part of the next dementia strategy.
We are taking action for people under 65. Post-diagnostic services focus on key areas such as ensuring that social networks are sustained as far as possible, signposting to age-appropriate peer support and helping with some of the financial issues that can impact on that particular care group. All that is important, but Linda Fabiani is right to talk about the importance of having data so that we know exactly the challenge that we are dealing with and how best to do that.
Last week’s figures on post-diagnostic support for those newly diagnosed with dementia show that there is a huge gap between the Scottish Government’s pledge of support and the real experiences of people living with dementia. Given that health and social care partnerships are already struggling to meet the Government’s guarantee and that partnerships will have to make tens of millions of pounds of further cuts if the Government’s draft budget is agreed, where exactly will the additional funding come from to deliver the guarantee that everyone with a new diagnosis of dementia in Scotland will receive a minimum of one year of post-diagnostic support?
As well as the above inflation increase that we are committed to delivering for the national health service, the member will be aware that we are committed to ensuring that money goes from the health service into social care, given the importance of the integrated service that he talks about. Last year that was £250 million; we are adding an additional £107 million to that this year. That is part of the funding commitment that will help to ensure that such services can be delivered.
As I said in a previous answer, the commitment is really important. It does not exist in many other countries. We were one of the first countries to give this commitment to post-diagnostic support. Yes, we have made progress in delivering it, but we have more progress to make.
It is important that we do not shy away from giving such groundbreaking commitments because they might be difficult to deliver. I would rather that we worked towards that, as we are doing, with the funding and strategy that are necessary to deliver it. That is what we will keep very focused on.