Meeting date: Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Meeting of the Parliament 07 June 2017
Agenda: First Minister’s Question Time, General Question Time, Portfolio Question Time, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- General Question Time
- Portfolio Question Time
- Business Motions
- Parliamentary Bureau Motions
- Decision Time
Portfolio Question Time
Culture, Tourism and External Affairs
Galloway Viking Hoard (Acquisition and Display)
To ask the Scottish Government what representations it made to the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer and National Museums Scotland regarding the acquisition and display of the Galloway Viking hoard. (S5O-01069)
The allocation of items under the treasure trove code of practice operates entirely independently of ministers and the Scottish Government, and it is inappropriate for ministers to interfere or make representations to the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer on allocations.
I have strongly encouraged both National Museums Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council to reach agreement on a partnership to secure the long-term future of the hoard and access to it for both the public in Galloway on a long-term basis and wider audiences in Scotland. I have proposed a summit for all the parties involved, and I look forward to progressing the significant opportunities for a collection of international significance.
The cabinet secretary will be aware of the deep disappointment in Dumfries and Galloway at the decision to allocate the Viking hoard to National Museums Scotland. Although she has referred to NMS’s proposals to lend a proportion of the hoard to Dumfries and Galloway Council for display at Kirkcudbright art gallery, she will know that, to date, that offer is still very vague. It will mean that the full hoard will be displayed in Dumfries and Galloway only when NMS does not require it in Edinburgh. There are no details of how long and how far apart those loans might be; it is unclear what NMS means by displaying an undefined
“significant and representative proportion of the hoard”
outside those periods; and there does not appear to be any real opportunity for the council to derive additional income from the commercial exploitation of the hoard to offset the costs of transporting valuable items to and from Edinburgh. Will the cabinet secretary ensure that her proposed summit will lead to a proposal that is not dictated by NMS but meets the aspirations of Dumfries and Galloway Council and the local community for a permanent world-class exhibition of the Galloway hoard at Kirkcudbright art gallery?
I understand the local disappointment in Dumfries and Galloway, but I am determined that the Galloway region will have the opportunity to benefit from the display of the hoard. The most immediate challenge is to raise the £2 million to secure the hoard for the public and the £300,000 for conservation.
As we speak, officials from National Museums Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Council are working together to put forward a joint proposal for the display of the hoard that will make the most of the opportunity. I think that the permanent display in Dumfries and Galloway of a significant portion of the hoard can be achieved, but we must also recognise the requirement for the rest of Scotland to have the opportunity to see the hoard as well. There is an opportunity to find a way forward, which is why I moved swiftly to establish a summit. I look forward to hearing the presentation by the council and National Museums Scotland.
The decision to award the Galloway Viking hoard to National Museums Scotland must not mean that the hoard is lost to Edinburgh. It is vital that we see a large proportion of the hoard returned to Galloway. I thank the cabinet secretary for her response to my letter last week in which she set out the details of the summit to discuss a partnership between the council and NMS. I look forward to receiving further details of that. Bringing the hoard back to Galloway on a long-term, secure basis would bring a great amount of excitement, add to tourism levels and boost the economic and cultural prosperity of the region. Can she assure my constituents that she will do all that she can to ensure that the area will enjoy the full range of economic and cultural benefits associated with the significant find of the Viking hoard?
I am very committed to supporting the visitor attraction opportunities in the south of Scotland. That is part of our manifesto commitment and our programme for government. The Viking hoard offers great opportunities but, of course, the preservation and conservation process must take place before it can be determined how the hoard can be displayed. However, I assure the member that I am committed to ensuring that there is an opportunity for the Galloway region in relation to the hoard. He might want to add to the congratulations to us on managing to secure the “Monarch of the Glen” painting for tour to the Kirkcudbright gallery. I hope that that gives the member some understanding of my commitment and my desire to ensure that the national collections of Scotland are exhibited across the nation of Scotland.
Culture and Tourism (Midlothian and East Lothian)
To ask the Scottish Government what recent steps it has taken to promote culture and tourism in Midlothian and East Lothian. (S5O-01070)
The Scottish Government provides on-going financial support for the National Mining Museum Scotland in Midlothian and the national museum of flight, which is part of National Museums Scotland, in East Lothian, both of which are key cultural attractions. As with all areas of Scotland, the fantastic assets of Midlothian and East Lothian are marketed by VisitScotland using marketing campaigns, social media and trade and press familiarisation trips; and through VisitScotland iCentres and VisitScotland information partner programme arrangements with local businesses and community groups.
VisitScotland visitor guides and dedicated regional microsites feature attractions and activities in Midlothian and East Lothian, and wider VisitScotland campaigns feature the area as part of themes around food and drink, for example. Two 2017 year of history, heritage and archaeology partner programme events have taken place in Midlothian to date and two have already taken place in East Lothian, with another two scheduled to follow in September.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that cultural events such as Musselburgh’s riding of the marches, the Midstock music festival in Dalkeith country park and the more recent return of the historic Dalkeith station bell to Dalkeith museum all help to provide substantial financial and cultural benefits to my constituency?
I do indeed. Recent statistics on why people visit the Lothians showed that scenery and landscape account for 60 per cent, and history and culture account for 53 per cent. There are two aspects to consider here, one of which is that we want to ensure that our country is open and welcoming to visitors, which means that anything resulting from Brexit that would mean that visitors had to have visas would be detrimental. Secondly, an issue that is probably as important but more immediate is the future of the European Union nationals who help to support our tourism and culture industries. EU nationals form 10 per cent of those who are employed in the tourism industry in Scotland. It is therefore imperative that the negotiations that are due to start on 19 June establish the importance and recognise the status of EU nationals who live here and contribute to our economy, including the tourism economy, which they also do in the member’s constituency.
Sustainable tourism has been given a huge boost in East Lothian with the announcement of a proposed £5.5 million national marine centre in North Berwick, which is a development that should be commended. What plans does the Scottish Government have to support that project?
I had the pleasure of visiting the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick a few weeks ago. I was shown its extensive and ambitious plans for the marine centre, and strongly evident in the plans was the opportunity for education. There have been no formal approaches yet about taking the project forward. The centre has undertaken ambitious fundraising activity and it obviously wants to establish that before it contacts us on the matter. The centre is a fantastic tourism project. It showed vision at the outset when it was established, and it is a very good example for the rest of Scotland of what vision and ambition can do for visitor attractions.
Culture and Tourism (Inverclyde)
To ask the Scottish Government how National Galleries Scotland helps to promote culture and tourism in Inverclyde. (S5O-01071)
I am advised by National Galleries Scotland that, at present, it has no active partnerships in Inverclyde but that it is always willing to consider proposals and suggestions from any region of Scotland. National Galleries Scotland has partnerships with Dunoon, Clydebank and Paisley in neighbouring areas but not currently with Inverclyde.
On 25 May, the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, of which I am a member, held an evidence session with senior representatives from the various national collections. It was accepted at the meeting that partnership working to take some works to local communities can have positive effects both culturally and for the tourism offering. Would the cabinet secretary welcome that partnership working taking place in Inverclyde? Does she consider cultural tourism to be of great benefit to the local economy in Inverclyde?
Cultural tourism is important to all parts of Scotland and I am keen to see how it can be explored further in Inverclyde. I know that National Museums Scotland already has a relationship with Inverclyde, particularly with the McLean museum and art gallery, and I understand that, when that museum and art gallery opens again after refurbishment, it wants to continue that partnership.
I heard only this morning, when I was in Inverness, about its partnership with National Galleries Scotland. As I said in a previous answer, the Scottish Government has supported the touring of “The Monarch of the Glen”, which is going to four different parts of Scotland, although not to Inverclyde as yet—I think that Paisley is the nearest location for that.
However, opportunities to embrace partnerships between our national collections and different parts of the country should be welcomed, and I will draw the attention of National Galleries Scotland to Stuart McMillan’s interest in his Inverclyde constituency.
I echo Stuart McMillan’s comments. If there are opportunities to bring art to Inverclyde, that would be very welcome.
I note that National Galleries Scotland is digitising its 94,000-piece collection. What is the Scottish Government doing to encourage other galleries and museums to reach the widest possible audience through the use of technology and online?
Only this morning, when I was in Inverness at the XpoNorth festival, I chaired a session that was precisely about how museums and galleries across Scotland can engage with digitisation and other technologies. One of the strong messages was that it is not just a question of delivering predetermined digitisation of collections. The involvement and participation of local communities in the type of technology and the type of digitised materials that are used in the curation of local exhibitions is very important. Local engagement is as important as the facility.
We are very lucky and blessed with the collections that we have, and National Galleries Scotland’s extensive digitisation programme brings a whole new area of opportunity for participation in the national cultural life of Scotland.
To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to strengthen relations between Scotland and Cuba. (S5O-01072)
We have no plans at present to develop further links with Cuba. However, we are always willing to consider opportunities as they arise where they support the Government’s broader priorities.
Is the minister aware that, in Cuba, life expectancy for men is 79 years whereas in Glasgow it is 73 years; that Cuba has one general practitioner for every 884 people whereas Scotland has one for every 1,083 people; that Cuba provides free school meals for all children whereas in Scotland only primary 1 to 3 pupils get free school meals; and that Cuba is recognised as having world-leading education while Scotland has just recorded its worst-ever performance in the programme for international student assessment rankings?
Given Scotland’s increasing crisis in health and falling standards in schools and Cuba’s world-renowned excellence in education and health, will the minister consider what lessons could be learned from Cuba?
Without accepting too many of the many premises behind that question, I can say that the United Kingdom, which has diplomatic relations with the world, has taken some steps forward in its relationship with Cuba in recent years. On 5 July 2011, a formal declaration between the UK and Cuba was signed that has strengthened many of the relationships that we have. Indeed, our relationships with Cuba and other countries mean that we can have full and frank discussions about these and many other issues. However, as I said, at the moment, such formal relations do not exist.
Major Events (Discussions with United Kingdom Government Agencies)
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it is having with United Kingdom Government agencies regarding bringing major events to Scotland. (S5O-01073)
Through bodies including EventScotland and Sportscotland, the Scottish Government works closely with UK Government agencies such as UK Sport, and with the devolved Administrations, to help deliver the ambitions that are set out in “Scotland the Perfect Stage: Scotland’s Events Strategy 2015-2025”. That includes projects such as the forthcoming Total world badminton championships, which are being held at the Emirates arena in Glasgow in August this year; the European gymnastics championships, which are taking place as part of the Glasgow 2018 European championships in August 2018; and European short course swimming at Tollcross pool in 2019.
The cabinet secretary has made reference to a number of successful events hosted in Scotland, and we know that Scotland has a record in successfully delivering major domestic and international events. What role and responsibility does she consider the UK Government to have in helping to promote Scotland on the international stage, and what actions does the Scottish Government undertake regularly to promote Scotland as an attractive place to host major events?
Scotland’s reputation as a welcoming nation and as a country that can competently deliver major events is growing. We want to exploit that and use our experience, so we are continually trying to attract major events. Some of them might be major business conferences or conventions, and some of them might involve sports.
We need to continue to work with the UK Government, given its international reach and its networks, but our reputation as a welcoming nation and a country of first choice to do business with is extremely important. As we go forward, particularly with regard to positioning around Brexit, it is vital that the UK and its networks ensure that they do not undermine that in any way, because Scotland is progressing and advancing with our events strategy. We are ambitious, we are working with partners to do that, and we want that to continue.
Ambassador of Israel to the United Kingdom (Meeting)
To ask the Scottish Government what issues were discussed during its recent meeting with the Ambassador of Israel to the United Kingdom. (S5O-01074)
Our discussions included Scotland’s relationship with Israel, the Israel-Palestine conflict and issues relating to the Jewish community in Scotland.
I expressed the Scottish Government’s concerns about the continued construction of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and the restrictions on Gaza. I also raised a number of issues that have been brought to my attention through ministerial and constituency correspondence, such as the rights of Christians, the restrictions on the gathering of the olive harvest in Palestine and other limitations on freedom of movement and other rights.
The Scottish Government will continue to encourage Israel and Palestine to work together to achieve a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict that respects the rights of all communities.
I thank the cabinet secretary for her response. In view of the Scottish Government’s “Open Government Partnership Scottish National Action Plan”, which notes the First Minister’s claim that she wants an
“outward looking Government which is more open and accessible to Scotland’s people than ever before”,
will the cabinet secretary now publish the agenda and minutes of her meeting with the Ambassador of Israel on 18 May this year, and, for the same reasons of openness and transparency, will she publish any preceding or subsequent related correspondence?
I think that I was fairly open and transparent in my answer regarding what exactly was discussed at that meeting. The member has to reflect on the fact that, in relation to our discussions with ministers and ambassadors from other countries, we must respect the diplomatic space in which they can share their views with us and we can share our views with them. We will respect that.
I know that there is interest in this issue, so I have been quite clear and open about the agenda and the content of that discussion, which I have just relayed to the member.
Business Tourism in Glasgow (Scottish Event Campus)
To ask the Scottish Government how it supports the Scottish Event Campus to increase business tourism in Glasgow. (S5O-01075)
The Scottish Government recognises that business events are an excellent means to showcase Scotland as a place to invest, study, live and work in and to visit. As well as delivering direct economic impact through delegate expenditure, business events give us an excellent platform to work with organisers to demonstrate Scotland’s strength and innovation in our key sectors, especially through linkages to further and higher education.
The VisitScotland business events team continues to encourage at the highest level strategic partnership working with clients that keeps Scotland—and gateway destinations such as Glasgow and Scotland’s largest venue, the Scottish Event Campus—at the heart of the global business events industry. Scottish Enterprise has been working with the SEC since May 2015 on any future support for that development. The Scottish Government supports a number of events, including the VisitScotland expo, which was held in the SEC in 2013, 2014 and 2017. There is a variety of other events that I will not go into at this stage.
Some £411 million is spent in the Glasgow economy every year as a result of the conferences, concerts, exhibitions and events that are held at the SEC. In 2014, the opening of the hydro boosted the SEC’s concert business. Similar investment is now required at the west end of the SEC site to make a comparable contribution to boosting the SEC’s exhibition business. What assistance can the Scottish Government offer to make that investment a reality? The investment would pay for itself in terms of the gross value added that it would trigger in Glasgow’s economy.
I understand that that expansion, which is integral to the development of the tourism opportunities in Glasgow, was not part of the original Glasgow city deal. Adam Tomkins may want to make representations to the United Kingdom Government on that.
I have met the SEC to hear about its plans. Only last week, I met Bridget McConnell, who is the chief executive of Glasgow Life, which now has tourism responsibility for Glasgow. I have a keen interest in the matter. Adam Tomkins will be aware of the restrictions and limitations that exist in our budgets and opportunities. However, we have to think big and ambitiously about what is next for Scotland. We had a question about events. Bearing in mind the fact that we have had the Ryder cup and the Commonwealth games, seeking future events and different conventions to come to the city may mean that we need to look a bit more widely and engage in the long term.
I am actively interested in the project, but cannot give Adam Tomkins any detail at this stage.
Justice and the Law Officers
Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Recourse for Dissatisfied Complainants)
To ask the Scottish Government what recourse there is for people who are dissatisfied with the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner’s response to a complaint. (S5O-01079)
Any complaint about the service that has been provided or about a member of the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner’s staff should initially be directed to the PIRC, as it has its own complaint handling process. If a complainant remains dissatisfied, they can contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, which is responsible for considering complaints about organisations that provide public services in Scotland.
I have concerns, which have come from a couple of constituency cases, that the PIRC service is perhaps not working as well as it should in respect of the relationship between the complainant, the police service about which the complaint has been made and the way in which the PIRC deals with the complaint and follows it up. If I put some of those concerns in writing, will the cabinet secretary consider them and raise them at his next meeting with the commissioner?
If Linda Fabiani writes to me with the details of those matters, I will ensure that the commissioner considers them.
Last week, I visited the PIRC and met a range of staff who are responsible for conducting investigations into complaints that have already been investigated by the police and that the PIRC is reviewing as well as cases that the Crown Office has referred directly to the PIRC. The staff there give a tremendous amount of thought to how the cases are managed as effectively as possible, which includes engaging with the complainants on how they are addressing matters. The commissioner is keen to ensure that the service that individuals receive from the PIRC is of the highest standard.
I am conscious that, in the past couple of years, Linda Fabiani has raised several such issues relating to constituents—for example, one related to the way in which data protection matters were handled. Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary for Scotland picked up on that issue when he carried out an assurance review of the counter-corruption unit.
As a result of that, Police Scotland has worked with the criminal allegations against the police division—the CAAPD—of the Crown Office to introduce a new process for considering data protection cases involving police officers, which expedites the process and makes it much quicker.
If the member sets out more detail of those cases in writing to me, I will ensure that she receives a full response from the commissioner.
I, too, have had several constituents raise concerns with me about aspects of the PIRC’s work. What consideration has the cabinet secretary given to expanding the remit of the PIRC to allow the commissioner to investigate complaints that are made by serving police officers about other police officers?
Within the police service, there is a process for handling complaints that have been made by serving police officers about other serving police officers.
One of the areas of work that was carried out as a result of the assurance review by HMICS relates to the counter-corruption unit, which Police Scotland is now changing. A range of different measures are being used to improve how the unit operates and, in that instance, that may be the appropriate route through which your constituent’s complaint should be considered.
At present, there are no plans to extend the role of the PIRC into investigating complaints that are made by police officers while they are still in service. However, if the member has specific issues that he wishes to raise with me, I would be more than happy to make sure that those issues are appropriately considered by either Police Scotland or the PIRC.
Given that I, too, have been assisting a constituent in a similar situation for many years and have approached chief constables, the PIRC, the Scottish Police Authority, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the professional standards department, the CAAPD, the Justice Committee, the law officers and various cabinet secretaries over the years, will the cabinet secretary agree now to listen to the genuine concerns of officers who have nowhere else to turn, and will he look specifically at my constituent’s case?
I cannot comment directly on individual cases, and operational issues are a matter for the chief constable, as is set out in the police process for dealing with such matters. Ministers do not have a direct role in investigating such issues. However, I am mindful of the fact that the member has raised the case with a range of different parties through the Scottish Parliament and outwith it, and, if she writes to me, setting out the issues, I will be more than happy to refer the case to the appropriate body for consideration of the issues. Nonetheless, ministers do not have a direct responsibility for investigating individual cases.
Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (VAT)
To ask the Scottish Government how much Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have paid in VAT that they have not been able to claim back. (S5O-01080)
The amount of unrecovered VAT paid by the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service between April 2013 and March 2017 is of the order of £140 million. We will continue to press United Kingdom ministers over the disparity, which could see a cost to the Scottish public purse of £280 million by the end of the current parliamentary session in 2020-21.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that, as the UK Government has changed the rules to enable academy schools and Highways England to reclaim VAT, it is reprehensible that it refuses to make the same change for vital emergency services in Scotland, which would bring them into line with emergency services in other parts of the UK?
I whole-heartedly agree with David Torrance on the matter. The UK Government could very easily change the rules to enable Police Scotland and the SFRS to recover VAT. It has shown that, where there is a political will, the Value Added Tax Act 1994 can be amended to permit new bodies to recover VAT. The member referred to a couple of examples of that.
Since Police Scotland and the SFRS were created, a range of bodies have been included in the 1994 act, which allows them to recover VAT. Those bodies include Health Education England, the Health Research Authority, the strategic highways company—Highways England—the London Legacy Development Corporation and academy schools. In my view, if it is good enough for all those organisations, it is good enough for Scotland’s emergency services.
Reported Sexual Offences 2016-17 (Increase)
To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the increase in reported sexual offences in 2016-17. (S5O-01081)
The Scottish Government will publish the validated figures for recorded crime in September. The increase in sexual crime that is implied in Police Scotland’s recent report represents a continuation of a long-term trend, similar to that seen across the rest of the United Kingdom.
The full reasons for the growth in recorded sexual crime are complex, but an increase in historical and online cases is part of the picture. Scottish Government analysts, working with Police Scotland, are undertaking a study of crime recording to gain a better understanding of sexual offending in Scotland. The results, which we will publish in September, will inform the response of the justice system and wider public services to those incidents. For now, we want those who are victims of sexual crimes and offences to be able to come forward and report, in confidence and in the knowledge that a responsive justice system will help to ensure access to justice for them.
We understand that victims need specialist support in addition to the specially trained officers who work in Police Scotland’s national rape task force and the highly trained prosecutors in the national sexual crimes unit, which is why we have invested record levels of funding in third sector organisations.
Police Scotland has reported an increase in the number of 16 to 24-year-old rape victims who met the suspect online. It also pointed to an exponential rise in cyber-enabled sexual crime over the past decade. What is the Scottish Government doing to promote safety online, in particular among children and young people?
Peter Chapman raises a very important issue. The analytical work that I mentioned already indicates that some of the increase that we have seen in sexual offences has been driven by cyber and online-related crime. That is exactly why Police Scotland is taking forward the policing 2026 strategy, which will look at how the police can ensure that the balance of expertise in Police Scotland reflects much more the new and emerging types of crime. For example, Police Scotland needs to ensure that there is expertise in the organisation to support the police to deal with cyber-related crime much more effectively.
Peter Chapman should be aware that there has been a gradual increase in sexual crime over the past decade that is not peculiar to Scotland but is reflected across the UK and to some degree across western Europe. The analysis that we are carrying out will assist us in ensuring that we focus more sharply on where the increases are taking place and that we take forward appropriate measures to try to prevent such crimes from occurring.
Police Scotland is running a programme in partnership with our education authorities to help young people have an understanding and awareness of the risks that are associated with online activity. That work will continue, and once we have received the results of the study, we can look at what further work can be done to ensure that we prevent such crimes from occurring in the first place.
I acknowledge the cabinet secretary’s response that validated figures will be published in September. However, the figures that were published last week also showed that domestic abuse had increased from 57,702 cases to more than 58,500, while the detection rate had fallen from around 81.2 per cent to 74.1 per cent. Can the cabinet secretary outline what he thinks the factors behind those figures are?
We believe that one of the reasons why we are seeing an increase in domestic abuse is that there is an increase in confidence in reporting such incidents and in the way in which incidents are now being investigated by Police Scotland. For example, when an individual makes a complaint, the police look for previous partners of the individual against whom the allegation has been made. In some cases, one individual makes the initial complaint, and two or three other individuals then make complaints against the perpetrator. That has resulted in increasing demand being put on our Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in dealing with such cases. We have put additional investment into the COPFS this year to support it in dealing with domestic violence cases.
That growing confidence and the changing nature of the way in which domestic violence cases are investigated have resulted in an increase in cases being reported and recorded.
We need to ensure that we support the organisations that work with women who experience domestic violence, which is why we are providing record levels of funding to such organisations. At the same time, we must ensure that our law is fit for purpose. We introduced the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill in the Parliament so that we can consider how we can much more effectively deal with all forms of domestic abuse—not just the physical abuse but the psychological abuse that is often associated with it.
Scottish Police Authority (Confidence in Chairperson)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it has confidence in the chairperson of the Scottish Police Authority. (S5O-01082)
As the member is aware from the answer that I gave the Parliament on 30 May, we will give thorough consideration to the issues that are set out in the recent reports of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing and the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee, in coming to a determination.
I recognise that it was the cabinet secretary who appointed Mr Flanagan to his position, so I appreciate his frustration that Mr Flanagan has not been successful in his role as chair of the Scottish Police Authority. I urge the cabinet secretary to take action to restore trust in the SPA. What lessons have been learned about the role and responsibilities of board members? Have they led to any change in approach on the part of the Scottish Government?
The member knows that in evidence to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary set out the improvements that have been made in the SPA over the past two years, for example in how it scrutinises contact, command and control, or C3, in its approach to stop and search and in its ability to engage much more constructively with Police Scotland. It is therefore wrong to characterise the SPA as not having undergone changes and improvements over the past two years.
Notwithstanding that, Andrew Flanagan has set out the areas in which he accepts that he has not met the levels that were expected of him. I assure the member that we will give careful consideration to the findings of the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee and the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing and that in due course we will set out the measures that we will put in place to address matters.
Will the cabinet secretary say when we can expect Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland’s report on the Scottish Police Authority’s governance review?
Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland was asked to bring forward its inspection of SPA and to look specifically at governance, as a result of concerns that the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee expressed. In a letter to me, the committee’s acting convener welcomed that as an appropriate measure, given the concerns that the committee had raised. I welcome the committee’s endorsement of our action. HMICS has indicated that it intends to publish its report by 22 June.
Violent Crime (Prevention)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its work to prevent violent crime. (S5O-01083)
The member will be aware that crime is at a 42-year low, and that the numbers of homicides and crimes of handling an offensive weapon are at their lowest since records began.
However, we recognise that there is still more to do. Violence is a complex issue, and we need to tackle the causes and not just the symptoms. That is why our strategy is focused on tough enforcement, coupled with education and diversion activity. We continue to put significant investment into the national violence reduction unit, which aims to reduce violent crime and behaviour by working with partner agencies to achieve long-term societal and attitudinal change, as well as by focusing on enforcement.
Knife crime is a significant problem in some communities in Glasgow. What update can the Scottish Government give on action that it is taking to educate young people about the dangers of carrying a knife?
We continue to invest in a range of initiatives, such as the excellent “No knives, better lives” initiative, which has now been made available to all local authorities in Scotland. The initiative educates young people about the dangers and consequences that are associated with carrying a knife, and encourages positive life choices, away from violence.
In addition to many others, one initiative that is particularly pertinent to the member’s question is Medics Against Violence’s secondary school programme. The programme involves some 250 volunteer medics from Glasgow, who have pledged their time to help to educate young people by going into schools and talking about the consequences of violence—in particular, knife violence. The programme has been very successful, and I commend all the medics who have given up their time to take part in it.
The minister will be aware that recorded serious-assault crimes increased by almost one third between 2014-15 and 2016-17, and that figures from the Scottish Police Authority show that murders have increased by 30 per cent. What specific action is the Government taking to tackle the rise in those most violent of crimes? Will the Scottish Government invest in more community policing, and can the minister give members further information on the diversionary initiatives that she mentioned in response to Annie Wells’s initial question?
The overall trend with regard to homicide, for example, is downwards, and with regard to non-sexual crimes of violence, there has been a reduction of 51 per cent since 2006-07. I hope that Mary Fee takes heart from that.
In addition to the initiatives that I mentioned in response to the question from Annie Wells, there is the mentors in violence prevention—MVP—programme, which encourages young people to understand various forms of violence, to be leaders in supporting each other, and to understand that any form of violence or abuse toward one another is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. A total of 108 schools across 18 local authorities are currently engaging with the MVP programme, and work is being undertaken with Education Scotland to accelerate the expansion of the programme in order to reach an additional 30,000 young people in a further 93 secondary schools by March 2018.
In addition to the MVP programme and the work of community-based police officers to whom Mary Fee referred, there is the navigator programme, which is a feature of Glasgow royal infirmary’s accident and emergency department that has been extended to the Royal infirmary of Edinburgh’s A and E department. There is the “Ask, support, care” campaign that uses the violence reduction unit and Medics Against Violence to train professionals who interact with women in many aspects of their lives to spot signs of domestic abuse, in particular. We are currently engaged in a range of initiatives. I hope that Mary Fee feels that we are doing everything that we can to tackle violent crime.