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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, November 9, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 09 November 2017

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Global Entrepreneurship Week, Business Motion, Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body Question Time, Writers to the Signet Dependants’ Annuity Fund Amendment (Scotland) Bill: Preliminary Stage, Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill, Decision Time


Contents


Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill. In dealing with the amendments, members should have to hand the bill as amended at stage 2, that is, Scottish Parliament bill 7A; the marshalled list; and the groupings.

For the first division of the afternoon, the division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes. The period of voting for the first division will be 30 seconds; thereafter, I will allow a voting period of one minute for the first division after a debate. Members who wish to speak in the debate on any group of amendments should press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible after I call the group.

Section 3—Meaning of other key terms

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Group 1 is on commencement of section 1 duty. Amendment 1, in the name of Gillian Martin, is grouped with amendment 2.

Gillian Martin (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

The legislative measures in the bill have been arrived at using a partnership approach. The Scottish Government and I have consulted and listened. I am sure that, to all those members who are in the chamber, the term “school transport” appears to be a straightforward phrase that does exactly what it says on the tin. However, as I and, I am sure, the members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, can attest to, this is a deceptively nuanced area with various overlapping factors and delivery bodies.

I will let the Minister for Transport and the Islands outline in more detail the significant engagement that the Scottish Government undertook during the devolution of powers that have allowed the introduction of this bill. Collaboration has been key to ensuring that the legislative proposals are practical and fit for purpose. What we heard loud and clear was that a phased approach to introduction was necessary. It became apparent that it would take longer for councils to adapt and absorb the changes for secondary school transport. In general, secondary schools use more double-decker buses, which are exactly the type of vehicle without seat belts that the bill aims to target. That is why Scottish ministers announced implementation dates of 2018 for primary school transport and 2021 for secondary schools. School authorities have been working towards those timescales and councils have in good faith signed contracts based on them.

At stage 2, we were aware that accelerating implementation dates for secondary provision could lead to contracts having to be broken or renegotiated. Inevitably, that would lead to significant practical, financial and, potentially, legal consequences. We have now canvassed local government and know that five councils find themselves in such a situation: Falkirk Council, Glasgow City Council, West Lothian Council, Stirling Council and Clackmannanshire Council have all signed contracts beyond 2018. Given the lack of precedent of having to renegotiate or to break and retender such contracts, it is not straightforward to forecast the cost implications. However, we are aware that there would be stark and troublesome ramifications for those concerned.

Over the bill's parliamentary passage, we have listened to the views of MSPs that cost forecasts with regard to other elements were too high. The Scottish Government therefore helped to prepare the supplementary financial memorandum, which addresses those concerns and places a formal review period to help mitigate costs. Therefore, to accelerate commencement dates and force such uncertain and problematic consequences does not seem necessary or sensible to me, especially in times of challenging resources for local government. While I absolutely understand the motivation for implementing these safety measures for young people as quickly as possible, it is incumbent on us to be mindful of the wider backdrop. That is why I am moving amendment 2 to allow for a long-stop date for commencement in 2021 for school authorities that have entered into such contracts. The amendment is specifically to address the issues that I have outlined, rather than being intended to offer any sort of catch-all exemption for such school authorities. As such, it has been deliberately drafted as narrowly as possible to allow regulations on commencement to make only a limited exception to the general 2018 commencement that was agreed to at stage 2.

Members may remember that we listened to the views of Parliament on the importance of the legal requirement that covers vehicles that are used for school trips. My amendment on that gained approval at stage 2. Under my amendments today, vehicles that are used for school excursions would still be subject to the 2018 commencement date. The exemption here applies only to home-to-school transport.

Amendment 2 would not allow school authorities to enter into further contracts beyond the date on which the bill receives royal assent that do not meet the new legal requirement in section 1 to have seat belts fitted. There is no possible loophole for school authorities, and the exemption relates only to pre-existing contracts at royal assent. Furthermore, the amendment relates only to transport for secondary school, meaning that provision for primary school transport will not be exempt and will therefore be subject to the accelerated 2018 commencement date. Consequentially, amendment 1 reinstates the term “secondary education” in the list of definitions in the bill taken from the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.

Members may remember that the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s stage 1 report endorsed the commencement dates that were originally committed to for the bill as “reasonable and practicable”. Now that we know the blatant implications of those dates for a number of local authorities, there seems to be an even more compelling case for that approach and for a phased commencement of the bill, but with that phasing being carefully limited, as I described, and with an ultimate deadline of 2021 in order to respect the decision that this Parliament took at stage 2.

I move amendment 1.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

Throughout the first two stages of the bill, when both officials and the Minister for Transport and the Islands appeared before the committee, I and other members of the committee repeatedly asked how many local authorities already had contracts in place to ensure that our schoolchildren travelled to and from school in buses with seat belts. Throughout stages 1 and 2, the necessary detailed information was not forthcoming, and it has not been forthcoming until now.

Now, we find that five local authorities have contracts with transport providers that have not insisted that seat belts are fitted. Those contracts run, we are told, until 31 August 2021. The lack of that detailed information from the Scottish Government led some of us on the committee to believe that the bill might not actually be necessary at all. I certainly could not understand why the Scottish Government could not provide us with that information before now.

As it turns out, the bill is indeed very necessary, as are the two amendments that Gillian Martin has lodged, because five councils out of the 32 have been far too slow to act. The last thing we want is for those five councils to be held liable for what would be illegal contracts if her two amendments are not passed. For that reason, therefore, I can confirm that the Liberal Democrats support Gillian Martin’s amendments, but it is a poor show that that information was not made known to members considering the bill in committee at stage 2.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

We do not live in a perfect world. If we lived in a perfect world, we would not need this legislation, which is pragmatic, as are amendments 1 and 2. As Mike Rumbles has said, they are necessary as a transition. There is nothing to stop operators fitting seat belts, and I hope that they will do so, but the amendments are pragmatic. I note, significantly, the exclusion of primary pupils from the exemption, so the Scottish Green Party will certainly be supporting the amendments.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I am glad that, at stage 2, my amendment to bring forward the date for the requirement of seat belts on secondary school buses was agreed to. However, Gillian Martin’s amendment today falls short of my intentions at stage 2. I think that it is right and proper that all school transport, irrespective of contracts, should have seat belts fitted by the end of 2018. We accept that there may be contracts that are in place before royal assent that run to August 2021 and that they may have to be adjusted, but we believe that there will not be many and that making those adjustments is a small price to pay for schoolchildren’s safety and parents’ peace of mind.

There is £8.9 million set aside in the bill’s financial memorandum, and we believe that that is an ample amount for the additional cost implications of changes to existing contracts with bus companies. We believe that amendment 2 impedes the progress of ensuring that seat belts are compulsory on secondary school transport by the end of 2018, so we will be voting against the amendment for those reasons.

15:15  

Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I find myself in the same place as Peter Chapman in that I am unable to support amendment 2. During the committee’s scrutiny, we heard that the financial costs of the bill had been estimated and that they would be paid to local authorities without being ring fenced or accounted for separately. It appears from the evidence that we have recently received that only five of the 32 councils have not had seat belts fitted on secondary school transport, which means that 27 councils that have gone the whole hog and had seat belts fitted to such transport will be penalised or will not be seen to have done as well as they have done because five councils have not performed. It appeared to me, when questioning Gillian Martin, that we did not know what the costs would be of ensuring that there would be seat belts on school transport for secondary schools. However, as we have heard from Mr Chapman, £8.9 million has been set aside for the costs. I will give way to Gillian Martin if she can explain exactly what the costs will be for each of those five local authorities, so that I can understand that. Can I give way, Presiding Officer?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Yes, it is up to you and Gillian Martin.

Gillian Martin

I am happy to intervene. Mr Mountain asked about the costs, but I am unable to give an answer on that. What I have to clarify, though, is his statement that only five councils do not have contracts for school transport with seat belts, because that is not the case. We are talking about five councils that would have to break their current contracts before 2021. At the moment, 24 councils have contracts in place that have stipulated that school transport must have seat belts. I think that there has been a bit of confusion here. We are talking about five councils that would have to break a contract in order to fulfil what Mr Chapman’s amendment sought at stage 2.

Edward Mountain

I thank the member for that answer, but this is the problem that we have met right the way through the scrutiny process: no exact costs can be given. The member is unable to give me a cost today. If I pushed the member to say how many of those five councils have entered into contracts since the bill was first mooted, could she say? I have to say that I cannot agree to delay the provision of seat belts on secondary school transport for a moment longer than we have to. I do not believe that the people of Scotland will go away after this afternoon’s debate and understand why having seat belts on school transport for secondary schools has to be delayed a moment longer than it needs to be. God forbid that we have an accident involving secondary pupils in 2019 on a bus that does not have seat belts.

Members: Oh!

Edward Mountain

I am sorry—members might sigh, but I feel this personally and I believe that the people of Scotland will feel the same as I do on the matter, so please do not mock me for having an honest opinion. I cannot support amendment 2, because I could not live with myself if any accidents happened because seat belts were not fitted to school transport.

Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

I think that we all agree that the bill is a good thing and that seat belts should be fitted on school buses as soon as possible. However, we are concerned that, if amendment 2 were not passed, there would be financial penalties for councils. I wonder whether the Scottish Government will sit down with the five councils concerned and their contractors to see whether they can have seat belts fitted earlier than the contracts currently allow, if there is good will on both sides. I ask the Scottish Government to take that forward.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

Does the member know, with regard to the current financial memorandum and the numbers that have been given to us in the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, whether the costs include or exclude the potential costs of breaking those contracts? That point is entirely unclear to us.

Rhoda Grant

The evidence that we received in the committee was that the money indicated in the financial memorandum was to be distributed to councils under the normal formula, which meant that those councils that had been proactively ensuring the fitting of seat belts were not going to be unduly penalised compared with councils that had decided not to do that at an early date. I do not think that I could suggest that councils that had not ensured the fitting of seat belts would get financial assistance that councils that had already done so would not get, nor that we could impose further cuts on councils that had already been forced to cut services because of austerity. We will therefore reluctantly support amendment 2, because we think that it is a pragmatic way forward, while pushing for an early resolution to the matter.

The Minister for Transport and the Islands (Humza Yousaf)

As members are aware, there is some history to the measures that we are debating. As Ms Martin said, they came about following the devolution of competence on the issue via a section 30 order. They take forward aspirations that were first presented to the Public Petitions Committee and, in that vein, are a compelling example of how a kernel of an idea has progressed through our democratic system towards legislative change.

The Scottish Government made good use of the time taken to progress the legal and administrative procedures for devolution of competence. We used that time to engage with partners and undertake appropriate groundwork to prepare and shape measures that would be workable on implementation.

As Ms Martin outlined in speaking to the amendments, there is no uniform model for the organisation of dedicated school transport. Indeed, there is not a bespoke model of vehicle such as the iconic yellow school bus in the United States. To a large extent, it is that flexibility that makes the system work. Scotland’s 32 local authorities are a diverse patchwork. By allowing school authorities, particularly councils, to tailor their provision, we ensure that they are best able to meet the needs on the ground in their area.

Mike Rumbles

This is a contentious point. Throughout stage 1 and stage 2, other members of the committee and I asked repeatedly how many councils had contracts in place already, but we were not given that information. For that information to come forward now at this late stage, when we are finishing stage 3, is not satisfactory. Will the minister reflect on that?

Humza Yousaf

Yes, of course I will reflect on that. I get the point that the member is making. We have a good constructive relationship with our partners in local authorities and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, but we cannot force them to give us that information if it is not forthcoming. I will reflect on the member’s point that it would have been better to have had that information at stage 2. That is a valid point, but we are where we are and we now have the information that Ms Martin has provided about the five councils.

The variety of provision on the ground has meant that collaboration has been key to ensuring that the legislative proposals are practical and fit for purpose. That is why, from an early stage, the Scottish Government undertook such close engagement with groups such as local government, the bus industry and parenting and education bodies. The seat belts on dedicated school transport working group was established in 2014 and it enabled such discussions. Through that dialogue, it became clear that a phased introduction period would be a sensible and prudent approach.

When my predecessor Keith Brown announced plans for future legislation in 2014, ministers were clear that implementation dates of 2018 for primary school transport and 2021 for secondary school transport would be in place. We have heard from Ms Martin what the glaring consequences of accelerating those dates could be.

Looking back at the parliamentary passage of the bill, we can see that one of the issues that we have spent most time examining and revisiting in committee sessions and in the chamber is costs. To add a measure that could significantly drive up the financial implications seems at odds with the broad thrust—

Jamie Greene

The minister talked about the glaring consequences of bringing forward the implementation of the legislation, but no one in the chamber has heard the specific costs associated with doing that. A risk has been identified, but no cost has been associated with it. What is the cost?

Humza Yousaf

The costs are in the financial memorandum, but if the member is asking specifically about the cost of breaking contracts, I have to say that, if the contracts have not been broken, it is difficult to quantify a cost. The point that Ms Martin is rightly making is that there clearly would be a cost. I do not know anybody who has ever broken a contract without a cost being attached to that. Mr Greene’s colleagues sitting on his left and his right know, as businessmen in their own right, that if they broke a contract, there would be a financial implication. Mr Greene is absolutely right to ask what the cost might be, but let us not break the contracts unnecessarily to increase the financial burden on those councils, as Rhoda Grant rightly said.

Edward Mountain

Will the minister give way?

Humza Yousaf

Let me make some progress.

I agree with the sentiment that has been expressed by members, including Mr Chapman and Mr Mountain, that all of us in the chamber would like to see the proposals implemented as quickly as is practicable. Indeed, since the bill was introduced I have heard many people question why this was not law already, as John Finnie said. However, we cannot ignore the practical implications on the ground.

I will take forward Rhoda Grant’s suggestion about the Government being involved in facilitating discussions on the basis of good will. We will have to be wary in the sense that obviously the Government cannot renegotiate contracts, although that is not what Rhoda Grant was asking, but if we can facilitate such discussions, I do not see why we cannot look to do so.

As we have heard, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee endorsed the plans for phased commencement dates in its stage 1 report. Since then, we have learned of the potentially stark consequences for the five councils involved. Taking that together with the history of consultation of local government and the industry, I think that there is a compelling case for a limited and narrow exception to the full accelerated commencement of the bill, as Gillian Martin has requested. That is an important point and is why the Scottish Government strongly supports amendment 2.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Gillian Martin to wind up and press or withdraw amendment 1.

Gillian Martin

I move my amendment—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

No. You need to wind up and then tell the chamber whether you are pressing or withdrawing your amendment. I was trying to be helpful, but I obviously confused you.

Gillian Martin

As you will know, Presiding Officer, this is the first time I have done this. I would like to press amendment 1. I do not need to make a winding-up speech.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 1 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

There will be a division and, as this is the first division at stage 3, I will suspend the meeting for five minutes.

15:25 Meeting suspended.  15:31 On resuming—  

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 1 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
FitzPatrick, Joe (Dundee City West) (SNP)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gibson, Kenneth (Cunninghame North) (SNP)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Harper, Emma (South Scotland) (SNP)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Kidd, Bill (Glasgow Anniesland) (SNP)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
Mackay, Rona (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
White, Sandra (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 98, Against 0, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Section 4—Annual compliance statement

The Deputy Presiding Officer

We move to group 2, which is on the promoting and assessing of the wearing of seat belts. I ask members to settle down.

Amendment 3, in the name of Neil Bibby, is grouped with amendments 4 to 8. Mr Bibby knows what he is doing—at last, someone does—and will move amendment 3 and speak to all the amendments in the group.

Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

When Rhoda Grant lodged similar amendments at stage 2, her intention was to make clear who needs to promote the wearing of seat belts by pupils on school transport, given what was thought to be some uncertainty over where that part of a school’s legal duty of care towards pupils should fall.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Wait a wee minute, Mr Bibby. I want to hear what Mr Bibby has to say, even if some members do not, which is very rude of them. Proceed, Mr Bibby.

Neil Bibby

Rhoda Grant was assured that, although there were technical legal difficulties with the amendments that were proposed, the Scottish Government did not object to the proposed changes to the bill in principle. Therefore, we have worked with the Scottish Government and with Gillian Martin to revise the drafting of the amendments to answer their concerns. I will explain the amendments individually.

Amendment 8 would insert a new section after section 4, creating a duty on the Scottish ministers to publish statutory

“guidance about the steps which a school authority may take to promote and to assess the wearing of seat belts by pupils carried by the authority’s dedicated school transport services”

and a corresponding duty on school authorities to

“have regard to such guidance.”

That would leave it to the Government, in consultation with school authorities, to decide how best to encourage the wearing of seat belts and to use the guidance to cite good examples of the procedures that schools should have in place to do so.

As Rhoda Grant said at stage 2, the guidance could recommend that, if the resources are available, there should be monitors on buses

“to ensure that seat belts are worn”.

Alternatively, it might

“ask authorities to engage in an education programme with young people to promote wearing of seat belts.”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 28 June 2017; c 52.]

In the amendment as it was drafted for stage 2, the word “monitor” was used regarding the wearing of seat belts, which was queried as potentially implying the need for bus monitors on each journey. That has been replaced in amendments 6 and 8 with the word “assess”, which, as Rhoda Grant suggested during the stage 2 proceedings, is what was meant by school authorities monitoring the wearing of seat belts by pupils.

The minister’s concerns at stage 2 over the practicality of consulting every school authority have been remedied with a requirement to consult representative bodies before publishing the guidance. That would mean, for instance, the Government consulting the Scottish Council of Independent Schools rather than having to consult every independent school in Scotland.

The added discretion to consult others as appropriate means that the Government has the ability to consult, among others, young people themselves. As the Scottish Youth Parliament made clear to the committee at stage 1, it is far more effective for young people to be proactively involved in promoting and assessing the wearing of seat belts than for them to be forced to wear them by a third party.

Amendments 5 and 6 add an extra requirement to the self-reporting duty in section 4. Section 4 obliges school authorities to publish an annual statement on compliance with section 1—the duty to have seat belts fitted on dedicated school transport services. The extra requirement created by amendments 5 and 6 is that school authorities should also include information in that statement on what they have done to promote and assess the wearing of seat belts by pupils on their dedicated school transport.

Amendments 3, 4 and 7 are consequential amendments that rename the compliance statement a seat belts statement, as it will now cover information broader than just compliance with the bill.

I move amendment 3.

Jamie Greene

I should say from the outset that the Conservatives support the Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill. We welcome the constructive approach to the issue that there has been not just in the chamber but in the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

We considered Neil Bibby’s amendments carefully, and I am pleased to say that we will support them. There were initially some reservations about the wording, particularly of amendment 8, which inserts quite a substantial number of words into the guidance on the wearing of seat belts. Paragraph 2 of the proposed new section says:

“A school authority must have regard to such guidance.”

The wording is perhaps weak in that it does not specify what additional duties would be placed on schools. Are those duties to be on teachers, headteachers, bus drivers, monitors or senior pupils? There is some ambiguity there, and I would welcome it if Mr Bibby were to define how he thinks that might manifest itself in practice.

That said, we have absolutely no problem with the overall concept that Scottish ministers must publish guidance on the steps that schools must take to promote the wearing and use of the seat belts that will have to be fitted as a result of the bill. For the above reasons, we will support all of Mr Bibby’s amendments.

John Finnie

The Scottish Green Party will support all of Neil Bibby’s amendments. I agree with Jamie Greene that there has been very constructive engagement.

Our party’s view is that it is unfortunate that we could not include enforcement in the bill, because we do not have those powers. Education is key to the issue, however, and, for the reasons that Neil Bibby outlined, young people play a significant role.

Humza Yousaf

I thank Neil Bibby for lodging the amendments and for working with the Scottish Government on them. It is clear from Labour’s endeavours that it shares my and Ms Martin’s aspiration that Scotland’s schoolchildren should wear seat belts, and the Parliament has gone to the trouble of ensuring that they will be fitted as a matter of law.

Keeping our young children safe on the journey to and from the classroom and on school excursions is not a partisan issue. I am sure that all of us in the chamber want the best for school pupils on those journeys. The work that was undertaken by Rhoda Grant on her stage 2 amendments, which led to the amendments that are proposed by Neil Bibby today, shows how that consensus can take us forward.

Many times throughout the scrutiny of the bill, the matter was raised that any legal requirement for children between the ages of three and 14 to wear seat belts on larger buses and coaches would be a reserved issue. The Department for Transport previously indicated a desire to transpose relevant elements of a European Union directive that would create such a law. If the UK Government chose to act, there would be such a law. However, going by the most recent correspondence that I have had, the likelihood of that is not particularly high.

We have been clear that the bill represents a great opportunity to raise awareness of the safety benefits of seat belts, and we plan to implement guidance to help to facilitate the wearing of them. Scottish ministers are therefore prepared to accept the explicit requirement for them to publish such guidance that would be created in amendment 8. It is right that there should be a corresponding duty on school authorities to have regard to such guidance, as the issue of pupil safety on transport is something that school authorities treat as a matter of the utmost importance.

We fully intend to engage widely in the creation of the guidance, on which I understand that Ms Martin will give more detail. Therefore, the Scottish Government is willing to accept the consultation requirements in amendment 8.

Amendment 6 requires school authorities to publish details of the steps that they are taking to promote and assess seat belt wearing. We think that the wording is clearer than the wording of the amendment that was lodged at stage 2 in that it avoids the ambiguity that is associated with the word “monitor”.

I welcome all the work that the committee has done in considering the bill. In particular, I commend Rhoda Grant and her Labour colleagues for their willingness to work with us to reach a mutually agreed approach. The Scottish Government will support the amendments in the group.

Gillian Martin

I, too, welcome the sentiments behind Neil Bibby’s amendments and I thank him and others in his party—in particular, Rhoda Grant—for their work in helping to shape the bill.

As the transport minister says, the Scottish Government appears willing to accept the legal duties that the amendments in the group would place on the Scottish ministers. In the context of that consensus, I reiterate the importance of our continuing to work together to ensure that young people wear seat belts on dedicated school transport. Although it is not in the gift of the Parliament to change the law on reserved matters, we should not allow that to lessen our aspirations.

It is often said that the wearing of seat belts in cars has become second nature to youngsters. Indeed, that came through in the Scottish Government’s public consultation on the measures. We know that the habit of wearing seat belts can be further encouraged if schools, parents and carers take an active role in promoting seat belt use from an early age, including in lessons and through road safety education events. That is why I regard the bill as not a narrow legal instrument but a key piece in the wider jigsaw of road safety initiatives in schools. It will act as a catalyst that gets seat belt wearing and the safety benefits that it brings up the agenda.

I am aware of a raft of measures that are being adopted across the country to reduce risk on the school run, such as reduced speed limits around schools, safer routes to school programmes and bicycle safety training for pupils. The measures in the bill and better practice in getting pupils to wear seat belts can make a vital contribution to those efforts.

Extensive dialogue is taking place with local authorities, parenting groups and other stakeholders about guidance, publicity and educational materials. Road Safety Scotland, which produces materials that are available to every school in Scotland, has also been engaged. There is a wealth of good practice and innovation in Scotland, not least in the councils that already require seat belts on all dedicated school transport. The Scottish Government will use that good practice as a basis on which to work with stakeholders and come up with effective materials and approaches.

Councils can and do implement measures such as closed-circuit television monitoring of journeys and codes of conduct for pupils and parents to sign, and the requirement in Neil Bibby’s amendments to consult various school authority sectors and others will be key to exploring such issues. If the options that are open to school authorities are set out, and if good practice that people might want to implement is highlighted, it will be possible to come up with innovative and tailored solutions.

In all of this, there is a group that we must not forget to consult: the young people themselves. I am aware that the Scottish Government intends to undertake such engagement soon, and I welcome the fact that Neil Bibby’s amendments allow for that. I will support the amendments in Neil Bibby’s name.

Neil Bibby

I thank the minister and Gillian Martin, with whom we worked on the amendments in the group.

As Gillian Martin and John Finnie said, we do not have the power of enforcement, but we can take measures to promote the wearing of seat belts on school transport.

On Jamie Greene’s point about the guidance that is provided for in amendment 8, it will be for the Government, in consultation with school authorities and local authorities, to decide how best to encourage the wearing of seat belts and how to use the guidance to cite examples of good practice and procedure in schools.

I press amendment 3.

Amendment 3 agreed to.

Amendments 4 to 7 moved—[Neil Bibby]—and agreed to.

After section 4

Amendment 8 moved—[Neil Bibby]—and agreed to.

Section 5—Commencement

Amendment 2 moved—[Gillian Martin].

15:45  

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The question is, that amendment 2 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members: No.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

There will be a division.

For

Adam, George (Paisley) (SNP)
Adamson, Clare (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
Allan, Alasdair (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)
Arthur, Tom (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)
Baillie, Jackie (Dumbarton) (Lab)
Baker, Claire (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)
Beamish, Claudia (South Scotland) (Lab)
Beattie, Colin (Midlothian North and Musselburgh) (SNP)
Bibby, Neil (West Scotland) (Lab)
Campbell, Aileen (Clydesdale) (SNP)
Coffey, Willie (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)
Constance, Angela (Almond Valley) (SNP)
Crawford, Bruce (Stirling) (SNP)
Cunningham, Roseanna (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)
Denham, Ash (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP)
Dey, Graeme (Angus South) (SNP)
Doris, Bob (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)
Ewing, Annabelle (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)
Ewing, Fergus (Inverness and Nairn) (SNP)
Fabiani, Linda (East Kilbride) (SNP)
Fee, Mary (West Scotland) (Lab)
Finnie, John (Highlands and Islands) (Green)
Forbes, Kate (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)
Freeman, Jeane (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP)
Gougeon, Mairi (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP)
Grant, Rhoda (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Gray, Iain (East Lothian) (Lab)
Greer, Ross (West Scotland) (Green)
Griffin, Mark (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Harvie, Patrick (Glasgow) (Green)
Haughey, Clare (Rutherglen) (SNP)
Hepburn, Jamie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (SNP)
Johnson, Daniel (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)
Johnstone, Alison (Lothian) (Green)
Kelly, James (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lamont, Johann (Glasgow) (Lab)
Lennon, Monica (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Lochhead, Richard (Moray) (SNP)
Lyle, Richard (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)
MacDonald, Angus (Falkirk East) (SNP)
Macdonald, Lewis (North East Scotland) (Lab)
MacGregor, Fulton (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)
Mackay, Derek (Renfrewshire North and West) (SNP)
Macpherson, Ben (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)
Maguire, Ruth (Cunninghame South) (SNP)
Martin, Gillian (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)
Mason, John (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)
McAlpine, Joan (South Scotland) (SNP)
McKee, Ivan (Glasgow Provan) (SNP)
Neil, Alex (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP)
Rennie, Willie (North East Fife) (LD)
Robison, Shona (Dundee City East) (SNP)
Ross, Gail (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)
Rumbles, Mike (North East Scotland) (LD)
Ruskell, Mark (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)
Smith, Elaine (Central Scotland) (Lab)
Smyth, Colin (South Scotland) (Lab)
Somerville, Shirley-Anne (Dunfermline) (SNP)
Stevenson, Stewart (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)
Stewart, David (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)
Stewart, Kevin (Aberdeen Central) (SNP)
Todd, Maree (Highlands and Islands) (SNP)
Torrance, David (Kirkcaldy) (SNP)
Watt, Maureen (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)
Wheelhouse, Paul (South Scotland) (SNP)
Wightman, Andy (Lothian) (Green)
Yousaf, Humza (Glasgow Pollok) (SNP)

Against

Balfour, Jeremy (Lothian) (Con)
Ballantyne, Michelle (South Scotland) (Con)
Bowman, Bill (North East Scotland) (Con)
Briggs, Miles (Lothian) (Con)
Burnett, Alexander (Aberdeenshire West) (Con)
Cameron, Donald (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Carson, Finlay (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)
Chapman, Peter (North East Scotland) (Con)
Corry, Maurice (West Scotland) (Con)
Davidson, Ruth (Edinburgh Central) (Con)
Fraser, Murdo (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Greene, Jamie (West Scotland) (Con)
Halcro Johnston, Jamie (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Hamilton, Rachael (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)
Kerr, Liam (North East Scotland) (Con)
Lindhurst, Gordon (Lothian) (Con)
Lockhart, Dean (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Mitchell, Margaret (Central Scotland) (Con)
Mountain, Edward (Highlands and Islands) (Con)
Scott, John (Ayr) (Con)
Smith, Liz (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Stewart, Alexander (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)
Tomkins, Adam (Glasgow) (Con)
Wells, Annie (Glasgow) (Con)
Whittle, Brian (South Scotland) (Con)

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The result of the division is: For 67, Against 25, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 2 agreed to.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

That ends the consideration of amendments.