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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, September 2, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 02 September 2021 [Draft]

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, McVitie’s Factory Glasgow (Proposed Closure), Point of Order, Portfolio Question Time, Supporting the People of Afghanistan, Decision Time


General Question Time

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

Good morning. I remind members that social distancing measures are in place in the chamber and across the Holyrood campus. I ask members to take care to observe those measures, including when entering and exiting the chamber. Please only use the aisles and walkways to access your seat and when moving around the chamber.

The first item of business is general questions. In order to get as many members in as possible, short and succinct questions, and answers to match, would be helpful. If a member wishes to request a supplementary question, they should press their request-to-speak button or indicate so in the chat function by entering the letter R during the relevant question.

Child Poverty (Impact of Parental Smoking)

1. Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what its assessment is of the impact parental smoking has on child poverty. (S6O-00089)

The Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport (Maree Todd)

Reducing the use of and harm caused by tobacco products is one of Scotland’s public health priorities. Given that smoking is more prevalent in our most deprived communities, where there is a greater risk to children and young people from exposure to second-hand smoke, we have set specific smoking cessation targets for our cessation services that are focused entirely on those communities.

Eradicating child poverty is a national mission for the Government, and we will set out further action to deliver at the pace and scale required as part of our next tackling child poverty delivery plan, which will be published in March 2022.

Kenneth Gibson

Billions of pounds have rightly been invested in protecting people from Covid-19 and yet smoking remains a huge killer year on year, with 9,332 deaths in Scotland being directly attributable to smoking in 2018. Given that smoking disproportionately impacts on the most deprived households, and taking into account the health and financial cost to families, what more will the Scottish Government do to help people to quit smoking, enabling them to improve their health and financial circumstances?

Maree Todd

Mr Gibson makes a good point. Reducing health inequalities and increasing healthy life expectancy are priorities for the Scottish Government, and smoking has been the primary preventable cause of ill health and premature death for many years. In June 2018, the Scottish Government published its five-year strategy “Raising Scotland’s Tobacco-free Generation: our tobacco control action plan 2018”. The action plan sets out interventions and policies to help to reduce the use of, and the associated harms from, tobacco in Scotland. The plan focuses on the inequalities within groups of people who smoke, the prevention and reduction of the uptake of smoking among young people, and providing the best possible support for those people who want to give up.

The Scottish Government has introduced a 2034 tobacco-free target. Our aim is to reduce smoking rates to 5 per cent or below by 2034, creating a generation of people who do not want to smoke and are protected from the harms caused by smoking. The action plan continues our work on protecting children from taking up the habit of smoking and creating a tobacco-free generation by 2034. In addition, anyone who wants to stop smoking can contact the free national health service stop smoking service, quit your way Scotland. That free helpline provides advice and support, and it can direct individuals to local support services to help them to find their own way to stub out the habit.

Drowning Prevention Strategy

2. Clare Adamson (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it has taken to implement the recommendations in Scotland’s drowning prevention strategy. (S6O-00090)

The Minister for Community Safety (Ash Denham)

The Scottish Government takes the issue of water safety very seriously and welcomed the drowning prevention strategy when it was published by Water Safety Scotland in 2018. I thank Clare Adamson for her contribution to the strategy and her continued support for Water Safety Scotland, which has a lynchpin role in this area.

As Clare Adamson will know, the Scottish Government continues to provide funding, via the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, to support the operation of Water Safety Scotland. In addition, this year, the Scottish Government has worked with partners to support a number of water safety activities and campaigns.

We also work closely with Water Safety Scotland and other partners to support the recommendations in its drowning prevention strategy and initiatives that can help to raise awareness of the hazards around water and reduce deaths from accidental drowning. On 11 August, I convened a meeting with a range of key stakeholders to drive further action around delivery of the drowning prevention strategy, and I will convene a follow-up meeting later this month.

Clare Adamson

We were all shocked and saddened at the numerous reports of drowning fatalities in Scotland, including in my constituency, and we send our condolences to everyone who has been affected. It is wonderful to see RoSPA and Water Safety Scotland developing a host of educational resources for schools.

Article 24 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child enshrines the right to access education and information on the prevention of accidents for children and their caregivers. What steps will the Scottish Government take to ensure that article 24 of the UNCRC is realised for children in Scotland and that water safety education is promoted across our constituencies?

Ash Denham

I am grateful to Clare Adamson for highlighting the relevance of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is because we attach such fundamental importance to the rights and wellbeing of our children that we legislated to incorporate the convention, as far as possible, into Scots law.

When the Parliament voted unanimously to approve the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill in March, it was a milestone, not an end point. Work needs to be ramped up to ensure that the convention’s provisions bring real-life benefit to our children. That applies to the provisions of article 24, on health and wellbeing, which include ensuring that

“all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in ... the prevention of accidents”.

Of course, we are not setting off from a standing start. A lot of good work on education around risk assessment and accident prevention is already being undertaken. There is also the underlying contribution of the getting it right for every child programme. We have a very good platform on which to build.

On the prevention of accidental drowning specifically, we will strengthen our work with key organisations, including Water Safety Scotland and RoSPA, to identify and deliver the most effective ways of facilitating access to appropriate education and support.

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab)

The minister will be aware of the tragic drownings that have occurred at Loch Lomond this summer; indeed, there are tragedies every year.

Last year, following the tragic death of Ava Gray, I wrote to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to ask it to site a rescue boat at Balloch. Its boat is currently sited at Knightswood, which, on a good day, is some 25 minutes away. I praise the work of the Luss rescue boat, but it is run by volunteers and Loch Lomond is 39km long, so there is a clear need to do more.

Will the minister ensure that the location of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service boat is reviewed as a matter of urgency?

Ash Denham

As I said in my initial answer, a range of stakeholders were present at the meeting that I convened on 11 August. As you would imagine, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was at the meeting. I specifically asked it to review the location of its assets for exactly the reason that Jackie Baillie mentioned and to look at future arrangements. She was right to raise the situation at Loch Lomond.

However, there is no simple single answer to the challenge of drowning prevention. There is obviously a role for education, signage and life-saving equipment. All water can be dangerous, but Jackie Baillie is right to point out that there are locations where the dangers are more significant, where it is especially important that there is clear warning signage and appropriate life-saving equipment.

I will again speak to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service about the particular incident that Jackie Baillie mentioned and will come back to her.

Antisocial Behaviour (Off-road Vehicles)

3. Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to tackle the antisocial use of quad bikes, trail bikes and other off-road vehicles. (S6O-00091)

The Minister for Community Safety (Ash Denham)

I am well aware of the risk to public safety that is caused by careless, inconsiderate and antisocial driving. That is why I fully support Police Scotland and its partners in dealing with the misuse of vehicles in an appropriate and proportionate way. Local policing teams are ideally placed to engage with members of the local community to identify where the misuse of vehicles is causing distress to the public. That ensures that those areas can be prioritised for proactive action to prevent future instances and identify and deal with those who are engaged in the misuse of vehicles.

Neil Bibby

During the summer, I have taken surgeries to the streets in my community and can tell the minister that there is growing concern about antisocial behaviour and the inappropriate use of quad bikes and other off-road vehicles, which endangers not only the rider but pedestrians and the wider public. Often, the people who are most affected by antisocial behaviour are the least likely to come forward with concerns. Will the minister meet me to discuss how we can help Police Scotland to make our communities safe and reclaim our footpaths, parks and public spaces from the dangerous, antisocial minority who are misusing those vehicles?

Ash Denham

I would be happy to meet the member to discuss that. On 13 March 2020, I asked my officials to write to all local authorities in Scotland to ascertain the extent to which the antisocial use of motorcycles and quad bikes was a problem in their areas and how they were addressing that. All 32 local authorities replied to that request. The antisocial use of motorcycles and quad bikes is not a widespread problem across Scotland, though six local authorities reported on-going problems with antisocial use of motorcycles or quad bikes in their areas and four said that that was a seasonal occurrence. I would be happy to meet the member to discuss that.

Football (Link Between Heading and Dementia)

4. Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to help protect people participating in football activities, particularly children and young people, in light of research suggesting a link between repeated heading of footballs and dementia later in life. (S6O-00092)

The Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport (Maree Todd)

The Scottish Government wants people to take part in sport and physical activity in a safe environment. We are in regular contact with the Scottish Football Association to discuss a range of issues, from developing the game to safety concerns. The Scottish FA produced guidance with Dr John MacLean of the Hampden Sports Clinic, which has provided clubs and coaches with a robust set of guidelines on heading. They are clear that they do not recommend heading practice in primary children’s football and there is a set of graduated guidelines for when children reach secondary school.

Audrey Nicoll

The minister will be aware that the legendary Manchester United footballer, Aberdeen born and bred Denis Law, recently confirmed his diagnosis of mixed dementia. He believes that repeated heading of footballs may have played a part in that. Policies such as Frank’s law are an excellent way to ensure support for people who are affected by dementia. Does the Scottish Government plan to build on that landmark legislation?

Maree Todd

I noted Denis Law’s announcement that he is suffering from dementia. I am obviously very sad about that, but I think that it is great when people who have the status that he has in society are heroic and stand up to say that they are suffering from this illness. It reduces the stigma and fear for everyone else in the population and I am grateful to him for doing that.

Regarding support for people with dementia, we have been clear that, over the course of this session of Parliament, we will substantially increase funding for the national health service and for social care. We plan to increase public investment in social care by 25 per cent during this session so that, by the end of the session, we will have budgeted for an increase of more than £800 million in support for social care, compared to current spending. That is necessary because those aged over 80 in the general population have a one in three risk of dementia. We must, and will, remain focused on that.

Arts Funding (National Planning Framework 4)

5. Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will commit to enshrining a rule in the national planning framework 4, where, for every new building, 1 per cent of the cost is given to the arts. (S6O-00093)

The Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth (Tom Arthur)

The Scottish Government will lodge a draft national planning framework for scrutiny in Parliament this autumn, alongside a comprehensive programme of public consultation. As we set out in our position statement last year, NPF4 will include stronger planning policies to support our creative industries.

Sarah Boyack

Does the minister accept that there is a need for increased investment in our arts and that one way in which we can provide that, which is being used in many countries around the world, is to ensure that a per cent for art regime is in place through the planning system? That will enable local authorities and communities to get the investment that they desperately need not just as they recover from the pandemic but as we see new opportunities across our communities.

Tom Arthur

I absolutely recognise the vital role that the arts and culture play in our communities. Indeed, last week, I visited Dundee waterfront, where we see the transformational impact of the V&A. That is referenced in our position statement, which we published last year, alongside the developments that are taking place in Paisley, which are another example of Scottish Government investment in the arts and culture supporting regeneration.

The Government is committed to taking forward the per cent for art scheme. This is a complex area that will require consideration, but I look forward to Ms Boyack’s engagement on it, just as I look forward to her engagement on the draft national planning framework 4 when it is laid before Parliament in the autumn.

National Health Service Recovery Plan (Mental Health Programme)

6. Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its programme for mental health within the NHS recovery plan. (S6O-00094)

The Minister for Mental Wellbeing and Social Care (Kevin Stewart)

We published our “NHS Recovery Plan 2021-2026” on Wednesday 25 August and we will update on our programme for delivery of those commitments in due course. The plan commits to ensuring that at least 10 per cent of front-line health spending is dedicated to mental health, with at least 1 per cent directed specifically to services for children and young people, by the end of the current parliamentary session. It also commits to 1,000 additional staff in primary care, meaning that every general practice will have access to a mental health and wellbeing service.

Alex Cole-Hamilton

This week, Audit Scotland shared serious concerns about the way in which children and young people’s mental health is being cared for across Scotland. The number waiting more than a year for treatment trebled in the past 12 months, yet the NHS recovery plan says that child and adolescent mental health service waiting lists will be cleared by 2023. Can the minister assure the Parliament that those who are waiting will have access to the best care and that young people will not be parked on medication or referred to online interventions as a means of reaching that target?

Kevin Stewart

So far this year, we have already invested an additional £29.1 million from the recovery and renewal fund in child and adolescent mental health services, in order to help to clear backlogs. Beyond that, one thing that the Government wants to ensure is that folks do not have to access such services in the first place. That is one reason why our investment will look at the wellbeing of children across the board so that no child reaches the crisis point of having to access CAMHS. I am pleased that, as we move forward, there will be a much greater focus on community help in this area, and on using digital sources, including cognitive behavioural therapy online, which can help us to achieve that and prevent children from reaching that crisis point.

Fiona Hyslop (Linlithgow) (SNP)

Does the minister agree that supporting NHS recovery with more community and voluntary sector-based therapies for 18 to 25-year olds will help in preventing escalation of mental health issues for a significant number of young people in future? However, what can be done immediately to cope with the demand now when escalation happens? I am seriously concerned that a lack of beds in Lothian for severe eating disorders is denying my constituents acute life-saving treatments that they need. Will the minister agree to look urgently into in-patient mental health treatment provision?

Kevin Stewart

I thank Ms Hyslop for what is a very important question. We recognise that not all young people need specialist services such as CAMHS, which is why we have provided an additional £15 million of funding to local authorities in order for them to deliver locally-based mental health and wellbeing support for five to 24-year-olds in their communities.

I assure Ms Hyslop that I have been in contact with NHS Lothian about the concerns that her constituents have raised. I also want to share with the chamber that we have already committed an additional £5 million of resource to support the delivery of the recommendations of the national review of eating disorder services, with the majority of that funding going directly to health boards because of an increase in presentations of folk with eating disorder requirements. We expect all boards, including NHS Lothian, to prioritise that spend to get it right for patients.