Meeting date: Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Meeting of the Parliament 11 January 2017
Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, International Development, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, STEP Physical Literacy Programme
- Portfolio Question Time
- International Development
- Business Motion
- Parliamentary Bureau Motion
- Decision Time
- STEP Physical Literacy Programme
Portfolio Question Time
Justice and the Law Officers
Good afternoon. The first item of business is portfolio question time. Question 1 was not lodged.
Gypsy Travellers (Unauthorised Camping)
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions Police Scotland has had with local authorities regarding the management of unauthorised camping by Gypsy Travellers. (S5O-00520)
The policing of unauthorised camping by Gypsy Travellers is a matter for Police Scotland, as are any discussions between Police Scotland and local authorities regarding that issue. When issues arise that concern the wider policy and legislative framework that ministers are responsible for, the Scottish Government will give due consideration to those issues.
I have raised the issue previously in Parliament and I will continue to do so until Scottish National Party ministers address the problems, rather than dodging the questions. The police and local authorities have made it abundantly clear that they do not have the powers to deal with unauthorised encampments. Will the minister commit to giving the police the powers and giving local authorities the resources to deal with those sites that cause much distress to settled communities?
As regards management issues, the lead responsibility lies with local authorities. As far as policing issues are concerned, it is the case that—further to Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service guidance—there is a presumption against prosecution for unauthorised camping. However, the member should be aware that that presumption can be overridden by public interest considerations, such as, for example, on grounds of road safety or a public health hazard. At the same time, the police will investigate any allegations of criminal offences or antisocial behaviour. That is the position as it stands.
The member might also be aware that draft guidance on managing unauthorised camping has been worked up and the draft is currently with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities for its final consideration. I am sure that the member will be interested to see the guidance when it comes out—I think that that is expected quite soon.
The Gypsy Traveller communities are varied and diverse. They have a long and proud history, and a right to exercise their traditional way of life. That right must be exercised with regard to others, just as for any other citizens.
Given that Gypsy Travellers are one of the most discriminated-against groups in our society, can the minister give us any guidance as to whether local authorities, especially in the north-east, have done anything to provide additional recognised sites, which has long been a recommendation?
Local authorities are required by law to prepare a local housing strategy, which must reflect accommodation needs, including those of Gypsy Travellers, in the relevant local authority area. The decision on whether to provide a particular site is a matter for the local authorities, but I will ensure that the member’s comments are passed to my colleagues in the equalities and local government teams.
Does the minister agree that, instead of prosecution and persecution of the Gypsy Travelling community, we need a much more collaborative approach across all portfolio areas with local authorities and with local communities to ensure not only better site provision for Gypsy Travellers, but a better understanding of their culture and lifestyle, which would help in turn to eradicate the discrimination that they face?
I know that the member has had a very long-standing and honourable involvement in this matter during many years in the Parliament. Many of the issues that she raises fall within the equalities portfolio, but I will ensure that her comments are addressed and passed to my equalities colleagues. Hopefully, the draft guidance that is shortly to be published will answer at least some of the concerns that the member has raised.
Question 3 has been withdrawn.
Domestic Abuse Courts (Highlands)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its consideration of the proposal to introduce travelling domestic abuse courts in the Highlands. (S5O-00522)
Sheriffs principal are responsible for court programmes, including those of the domestic abuse courts. That includes assessing whether the volume of domestic abuse cases in a sheriffdom would support either a specialist court or clustering of domestic abuse cases in other court locations. It is the statutory responsibility of the sheriffs principal to arrange the court programme in their areas and the Scottish Government has no locus or control over decisions relating to court programmes.
More generally, it is recognised that domestic abuse courts can play a valuable role as part of an overall effective court programming approach to dealing with domestic abuse cases. Specialist domestic abuse courts, clustering or fast tracking of that type of case is happening at courts around the country. In Grampian and in the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service is working with justice partners and the sheriffs principal to continually review the arrangements for hearing domestic abuse cases and currently favours and operates a fast-track system, ensuring that such cases are being scheduled within the eight to 10-week target.
Does the Scottish Government agree that having dedicated procurators fiscal and sheriffs who are specifically allocated to domestic abuse would ensure that they had the appropriate expertise and sensitivity to the cases and that there would be consistency in procedures and sentencing?
As I said in my first response to the member, there are several domestic abuse courts in Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are also cluster courts operating in Falkirk, Dunfermline, Livingston and Ayr. In areas where there is not the quantity or throughput of cases, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and sheriffs principal tend to fast track such cases.
As part of the work that is being done under the equally safe strategy, the Scottish Government is developing delivery plans that will look at the medium and long-term improvements that can be made to the justice system for all victims of this type of violence, including domestic abuse victims and their children. The delivery plans are being worked through with partners, such as the SCTS, who are represented on the justice expert group on the violence against women and girls joint strategic board. That work will be progressed in the coming weeks and months with a view to addressing the types of issue that the member has raised. I know that the Crown Office is keen to play its part in ensuring that it has the right expertise to deal with such cases when they are brought before our courts.
Although the cabinet secretary is correct to say that the establishment of domestic abuse courts has been led by the senior judiciary that has responsibility for the court programme in its area, can he confirm that it would be possible for the Scottish Government and Parliament to legislate to establish domestic abuse courts if that was felt to be the best way to make further progress?
During the debate in September, the minister raised the issue of training for sheriffs and summary sheriffs. Can the cabinet secretary confirm that, while it is part of the induction training for new members of the judiciary, domestic abuse education is not compulsory for all sheriffs and summary sheriffs?
The member raises an interesting point around the suggestion that we could legislate to create specialist courts. Although that might technically be the case, I am not entirely sure whether it would achieve the effect that we are looking for, which is the effective use of court time in dealing with these cases. That is why the SCTS, along with the Crown Office, has tried to take a flexible approach to these matters.
Where it can be done, cases are clustered together so that they can be heard when the special sheriff is there, along with the fiscals who can deal with them for that period of time and the necessary support services for the court. Where the individual courts do not have that throughput of cases, they seek to fast track cases as quickly as possible and to make sure that they also have the necessary fiscals and court support services available when the cases are being heard.
It is important that we take an approach that lets us use a flexible model that will work in different parts of the country and which reflects the different demands of individual areas. Sheriffs principal and the SCTS are keen to make sure that they continue to take that approach.
The member will be aware that the training of the judiciary is a matter not for ministers but for the Lord President, who is responsible for the training and support that are provided to members of our judiciary, including summary sheriffs. The Judicial Institute for Scotland, which is headed by the Lord President, is responsible for those training provisions.
The member is correct to say that sheriffs are provided with training on domestic violence as part of their induction training. There are training provisions for other sheriffs, who can opt into those programmes as and when they choose to do so. I am sure that the member is in no doubt that those sheriffs who have a particular interest and specialism in this area are the very ones who are most likely to make use of that flexible training regime, which is there to ensure that they are given the right type of support and advice and can access the information that is necessary to enable them to best discharge their duties.
Scottish Women’s Aid (Meetings)
To ask the Scottish Government when the Cabinet Secretary for Justice last met Scottish Women’s Aid and what issues were discussed. (S5O-00523)
Scottish ministers meet key stakeholders such as the Scottish Women’s Aid and local women’s aid organisations to help to inform thinking around strategies to prevent and eradicate violence against women. Most recently, on 15 September 2016, I met representatives from Edinburgh Women’s Aid, and was given a tour of the services that are offered and spoke to staff and service users.
What steps is the Scottish Government taking to ensure that through the forthcoming domestic abuse bill, children will, as direct victims of coercive control, have equal access to justice? Is that under consideration? It has been raised by Scottish Women’s Aid.
Claudia Beamish has raised an important point. The bill that she mentioned, which we intend to bring before Parliament in the current parliamentary session, is intended to deal with psychological coercive and controlling behaviour that is related to domestic abuse. The bill will give us an opportunity to make additional provision for children, who are often victims of domestic abuse that takes place in the household in which they live. We have engaged with a range of stakeholders, who have expressed a view about making specific provision in the legislation.
I am sure that Claudia Beamish will acknowledge that it would, at this stage, be inappropriate for me to give details on exactly what will be contained in the bill, because it has not yet been introduced to Parliament. However, I assure her that we recognise that it is an issue on which further progress can be made. For example, it might be that an aggravation could be included in the legislation in order to address issues such as she has raised, and to ensure that they are properly recognised by the court when a case is being considered. I assure the member that we are looking to address such issues in the forthcoming legislation.
I hope that the bill will, when it is introduced to Parliament, draw cross-party support, given that it is intended to ensure that the Scottish justice system is one of the leaders in the world in respect of criminalisation of psychological coercive and controlling behaviour related to domestic abuse.
Access to Justice (Victims of Unethical Undercover Policing)
To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that victims in Scotland of unethical undercover policing have access to justice. (S5O-00524)
The options that are available to any individual will depend on the facts and circumstances of their case. Depending on the particular circumstances, individuals may seek redress via the investigatory powers tribunal, which has jurisdiction to consider certain proceedings for actions that concern the use of investigatory powers. Additionally, individuals may seek redress through the courts, subject to the rules that determine the jurisdiction of the courts.
Mr Findlay is aware that I have directed Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary for Scotland to undertake a review of undercover policing in Scotland. The terms of reference were published today. The review will be essential in gathering facts about existing and historical undercover policing activities over the period during which the Scottish Parliament has had responsibility for the area, and will inform any future decisions that we make.
Why will Scottish victims of illegal and unethical undercover policing activity that was carried out in Scotland prior to the year 2000 not have access to any inquiry, yet victims in England and Wales will? The cabinet secretary has the opportunity to remedy that situation by ensuring that the strategic review of undercover policing in Scotland covers the same period as the Pitchford inquiry in England and Wales—that is, back to 1968. Why will the cabinet secretary not to do that, and what advice does he have for people who became victims prior to 2000?
I have considered the issue carefully and I think that the most appropriate way to address undercover policing—in particular, the activities of the Metropolitan Police units that were involved in undercover operations across the UK in Scotland and in Northern Ireland—is the Pitchford inquiry, so I regret that the UK Government has refused to extend its remit. As Neil Findlay will be aware, it is within the gift of the chair of the inquiry to consider evidence that comes from outwith England and Wales, as long as it relates to an undercover operation that was carried out by a police force from England and Wales. However, there are issues that the UK Government should have addressed, but has failed to address.
In establishing the inquiry, I have asked Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland to examine the provisions that have been in place and the arrangements that the police have had in place during the period in which the Scottish Parliament has existed, and to examine operation of the legislation that deals with undercover policing that was passed by the UK and Scottish Parliaments. The terms of reference that the chief inspector has set out today will allow a detailed and thorough investigation to take place.
If individuals believe that they were subject to some form of undercover policing operation that predates that period, I will welcome hearing about it from them. To date, I have not received information beyond what will be covered by the timeframe that has been set and the terms of reference that HMICS published today.
I welcome the limited review that has been announced today, but I am concerned about how the Scottish Government can restore and maintain public confidence in the police. In that light, can the cabinet secretary reassure us that sensitive operational techniques and details will be safeguarded throughout the review process?
I am sure that Gordon Lindhurst accepts that there is significant public confidence in how Police Scotland operates, as all public surveys demonstrate.
It is for the chief inspector to conduct a detailed and thorough inquiry. I am sure that Gordon Lindhurst acknowledges the background of the chief inspector of constabulary, Derek Penman, who has had an extended and very distinguished career at the highest level in policing in Scotland. I have no doubt that he will understand the need to ensure that information in relation to such a sensitive issue is handled appropriately.
I am sure that all members acknowledge that covert and surveillance operations play an important part in tackling serious and organised crime and other serious threats in our society, and that our police service and force should be able to undertake such procedures appropriately.
Equally, it is important that robust measures are in place to ensure that such procedures are appropriately and effectively regulated. We currently have strong regulation in place, and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 will change and, I think, improve provision—not entirely, but in some areas.
It is important that we give the police service the necessary powers. After we have received the chief inspector’s report, we will reflect on his findings. I have no doubt that if there are recommendations for action to provide further safeguards or improvements in relation to how Police Scotland conducts undercover operations, this Government will be determined to take them forward and Police Scotland will be determined to implement them.
Police Scotland (Integration of British Transport Police)
To ask the Scottish Government what response it has received to its consultation on the integration of the British Transport Police in Scotland into Police Scotland. (S5O-00527)
An independent analysis report on the responses to the consultation was carried out by the Research Shop and can be found on the Scottish Government consultation hub website. Responses to the consultation have now been published online.
Railway policing in Scotland is now a devolved matter—a decision that was reached with cross-party agreement, through the Smith commission. That means that we need to put in place a framework to deliver appropriate accountability for railway policing to the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland.
The Scottish Government has set out why it thinks integration is the most effective means of achieving that and of providing operational benefits, through direct access to a range of specialist support within Police Scotland. The approach will deliver much stronger and more effective accountability than could be achieved within a cross-border public body structure.
It is concerning that the consultation did not specifically ask this question: do you support the merger or not? We know from the responses that the Government received that there is significant opposition to and concern about the proposed merger among the rail unions, train companies and police officers. The Minister for Transport and the Islands has claimed that the Government has a manifesto mandate to push through the merger, but it does not. Given the level of opposition among the people who work on our railways and the problems that we have seen with the creation of Police Scotland and other public sector reforms, what confidence can the public possibly have that the merger is a good idea and will be a success?
Neil Bibby may be aware that the Scottish Government’s view about integrating policing by the British Transport Police into Police Scotland is not a new idea; it is an idea that was set out back in 2011, and which my predecessor also pursued. We also set out the policy in our white paper.
Neil Bibby will also recognise that the Smith commission recommendation—reached through cross-party agreement, including his party—was that responsibility for the functions of the British Transport Police in Scotland should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. It is appropriate that we put in place a structure to provide appropriate accountability in order to take that forward and to ensure that there is accountability to the Parliament and the Scottish people.
Given the political interest in the matter, I was struck by the lack of responses from any of the other political parties here to our consultation on the issue—there was no response from Mr Bibby’s party. Given that he believes it to be such an important issue, I am surprised that he did not take the opportunity to make known his view during the consultation process.
This question time is an opportunity for opposition parties to make their views very clear.
The Scottish Government’s own analysis of the consultation responses highlighted the prevailing opposition to full-on integration. Does the cabinet secretary agree that the best way to maintain our high standard of specialist railway policing and to ensure the safety of rail passengers and staff is not to radically alter an established and successful model, and does he agree that that could be achieved under the Smith agreement?
So—here we are again. We have cross-party agreement that we should have the responsibility for railway policing devolved to the Scottish Parliament, but we hear no ideas about how that should be achieved. Yet again, we are hearing from a party that failed even to bother to respond to the consultation exercise. Clearly its members view the matter as a high priority, but they are not able to set out how they believe it should be addressed. That is rather telling about the opposition parties on this issue.
I have no doubt that we can deliver effective and specialist policing on our railways by having it integrated within Police Scotland, as Police Scotland has already set out. It intends to continue to provide specialist railway policing once that function has been integrated into the service. That will allow Police Scotland to access the specialist assets that it has as a national force. In addition, it will provide accountability to the Scottish Parliament, and to all the parties that are represented in the chamber, for how policing on our railways is delivered.
It is disappointing that none of the other parties here bothered to take the time to make known their views during the consultation exercise.
Culture, Tourism and External Affairs
Superfast Broadband (Highlands Tourism)
To ask the Scottish Government how important it considers superfast broadband is to tourism in the Highlands. (S5O-00529)
The Scottish Government considers superfast broadband as very important to businesses in the Highlands and Islands, and to tourism in particular. Commercial coverage provision by the United Kingdom Government would have reached only 21 per cent of the Highlands and Islands. That is why we are investing £400 million in the digital Scotland superfast broadband programme to extend fibre access to at least 95 per cent of premises by the end of 2017. We have committed to delivering 100 per cent coverage by the end of this parliamentary session.
I am constantly asked in the Highlands when broadband will be provided, especially for the last 5 per cent. Will the Government, as part of its R100 programme, let businesses know the likely roll-out dates for superfast broadband? That will allow businesses to commit to alternative broadband provision until the terrestrial broadband that has been promised by the Scottish Government is available.
There is already extensive coverage, but the member is quite right to identify the last 5 per cent. On the communication of the procurement process for that final 5 per cent, which we are embarking on using the additional funding that is part of the budget for 2017-18 and throughout the parliamentary session, it is key that we can plan and respond. That is critical not just for knowing when the service will be available but also for skills and training, as the use of digital marketing is a vital part of the tourism offer.
I welcome the cabinet secretary’s comments on the final 5 per cent. However, even those businesses that currently have a broadband service can be adversely affected by weather disruption at this time of year, and it can take many weeks—if not months, in my part of the world—to get those faults fixed. That has a huge impact on tourism and other businesses, not to mention the impact on households.
Will the cabinet secretary undertake to have the Scottish Government make representations to British Telecom to make sure that it has the resources that it requires to ensure that such faults are dealt with far more speedily than appears to be the case to date?
I am afraid that I am not responsible for the weather, but Mr McArthur is right to identify the disruption that it can cause, in particular to connectivity. Although connectivity is not my direct responsibility, I will make sure that Fergus Ewing, who is the cabinet secretary responsible, ensures that business needs and opportunities, and the losses that can accrue because of such disruption, are brought to the attention of BT in particular. As the tourism secretary, I will also ensure that those points are raised in my discussions with BT.
Culture (Promotion in Towns and Cities)
To ask the Scottish Government how it is promoting culture in towns and cities. (S5O-00530)
The Scottish Government promotes culture in a wide variety of ways across many portfolios, not just my own—for example, in education. We promote culture through our support and guidance to national cultural bodies in letters of grant and guidance, which they deliver in towns and cities—for example, through Creative Scotland’s place partnerships or the outreach work from our national performing companies and collections. The cultural strategy that we are preparing will provide more opportunity to explore that, and the cultural conveners in local government meetings that I have initiated, which are jointly chaired with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, will help to identify other opportunities for our towns and cities.
Would the cabinet secretary agree with me that cultural activities can be a key factor in town centre and city regeneration, in particular for a town such as Paisley, with its vast iconic cultural background? Even Edinburgh’s world-famed Hogmanay party was taken over by Paisley acts last year. Is that yet another example of why Paisley should be the UK city of culture in 2021?
The member is a great champion for Paisley’s case to be UK city of culture. As he will know, I strongly believe in the regenerative powers of culture, not only in a social and individual sense but economically. We are seeing that in towns and cities throughout Scotland, not least in Dundee.
I point out to the member, as he is part of the campaign for Paisley, that on Monday night I spoke at a Creative Industries Federation event where I met the award-winning fashion icon Pam Hogg, who was advocating Paisley’s case to the many hundreds of people who were there.
I join Mr Adam in his support for Paisley’s bid to become UK city of culture; we on this side of the chamber share that aim—at least, I do.
A big part of the culture of our towns and cities in Scotland consists of our historic castles and ancient monuments. What is the cabinet secretary’s response to this week’s analysis by Historic Environment Scotland, which shows that up to £65 million will be required to maintain those sites in satisfactory condition? Given that there is a 4.5 per cent cut for our country’s national collections in this year’s budget, how confident can members be that this Government will protect our historic sites?
I welcome the report, which I commissioned, because it is the first time in hundreds of years that we have had a proper survey of the demands and requirements. The member will be aware that, on Monday this week, I announced £6.6 million of capital investment for Historic Environment Scotland precisely to invest in work to restore and conserve our properties in care. That will help with skills and training, and it will also help local contractors, as Historic Environment Scotland spends around £3 million a year with local contractors on such work.
On the member’s point about investment, Historic Environment Scotland has had an increase precisely because of the £2.4 million of additional capital investment, and its position is much better than it has been for many years. I strongly and firmly believe that, if we are going to put tourism at the heart of our economy, and as our historic environment, including buildings and castles, consists of places that people want to visit, we have to invest in it. That is why I made the announcement this week, and why I commissioned the report to which the member referred.
Tourism (Highlands and Islands)
To ask the Scottish Government what recent assessment it has made of the tourism sector in the Highlands and Islands. (S5O-00531)
Tourism, as one of our key growth sectors, is vital to all of Scotland’s economy. The latest Scottish Government statistics for the Highlands and Islands show an increase in tourism employment and gross value added, together with an increase in visitor numbers and spend. Figures from the Office for National Statistics that were published on VisitScotland’s website on 10 January show that, between 2014 and 2015, the number of people employed in the sector across Scotland grew to 217,000. The 11 per cent increase in Scotland is above the 4 per cent rise in Great Britain as a whole. The 217,000 employees in the Scottish tourism industry represent 9 per cent of the country’s total employment, which is the highest tourism level since the business register and employment survey records began in 2009. The 15,700 tourism workers in the Highlands make up 14 per cent of the region’s total number of workers.
The cabinet secretary will be aware that today, 11 January, is the day of the burning of the clavie at Burghead, which attracts thousands of tourists and local people to the village. As clavie king Dan Ralph and his crew prepare to carry the flaming wooden clavie barrel filled with tar on their backs round the village, stopping at several doorways to hand out the burning embers before it is finally wedged on Doorie Hill, will the cabinet secretary join me in praising the tradition and the interest that it generates locally and from further afield? Will she also join me in praising the enthusiasm of younger members of the clavie team, such as Jamie Davidson, Scott Crawford and Keir Irwine, who are following in the footsteps of their ancestors in being part of the clavie crew?
I congratulate the clavie king and all those who are involved in what I understand is a vibrant and inclusive event that pays tribute to the long-standing heritage of that place and of Scotland. We are now in 2017, which is the year of history, heritage and archaeology, and it is not just our built environment that we want to celebrate; we also want to celebrate the intangible heritage of our country, which includes the traditions that the member has just referred to. Those are very much part of Scotland’s heritage as well.
The number of tourists going to the Isle of Skye is growing exponentially year on year, which is contributing to Scotland’s national economy but putting huge pressure on our infrastructure. Will the cabinet secretary meet me to discuss ways to ensure that our services and infrastructure can meet that rapidly growing demand?
Clearly, tourism is growing. I have talked about the employee numbers, and Rough Guides has pointed out that Scotland is the number 2 place in the world to visit this year, although we have to make it the number 1 place. However, that demand creates tensions relating to infrastructure in a number of places. Particularly in the Highlands and Islands, including on Skye and in other areas, that is creating real challenges. I am more than happy to meet the member to discuss the issues in her constituency, as I have offered to do with other members in relation to the north coast 500.
“Scotland’s Place in Europe” (Communication with United Kingdom Government)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on any communication it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the publication of “Scotland’s Place in Europe”. (S5O-00532)
The First Minister spoke to the Prime Minister upon publication of the document, when Theresa May repeated her pledge made in July that the UK Government would give full and fair consideration to our proposals, which are designed to mitigate the risks for Scotland of being taken out of the European Union. In addition our Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe spoke with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and the Secretary of State for Scotland and highlighted the need for full and constructive debate of our proposition.
The Scottish Government will formally table our proposals at the joint ministerial committee (EU negotiations) next week and I hope that discussions take place in the spirit of agreeing a UK approach. The UK Government has emphasised the need for Scotland’s full engagement and an agreed UK-wide approach before the triggering of article 50, and we welcome that commitment.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that, at those discussions, there is a need to emphasise the deep concerns of not just me but people in my constituency and across Scotland that, as well as clarity on the position on the paper, we need clarity for the EU nationals in our community on their rights and ability to stay in Scotland, as they still have not had any clarity from the UK Government on that?
I absolutely agree. The Scottish Government has been clear from day 1 that the position of EU nationals who live and work in Scotland and contribute to our economy and society has to be secured. It is essential that we do that sooner rather than later, and I am concerned that the United Kingdom Government has not chosen to do it, not least because it will be required to do it at some point. As the UK Government goes into negotiations with other EU countries and the EU itself, it is important that those people are not used as pawns. Good will, good faith, confidence and respect for each other’s citizens must lie at the heart of whatever solution can be realised in the overall negotiations. Having confidence, faith and trust in the people who are working here will give other EU countries great confidence in approaching the negotiations in good faith and with good will.
On behalf of the Scottish Conservatives I thank again the Scottish Government for the publication of “Scotland’s Place in Europe”. I acknowledge that it is a substantial document and I note that certain recommendations in it enjoy all-party support.
Does the cabinet secretary share the disappointment of some at the fact that the document has been dismissed out of hand by the Governments in certain European capitals? In the face of that, given that the unanimous support of all the capitals of Europe would be needed for the provisions to proceed, how would she advocate that the UK Government takes things forward?
I will gently correct Jackson Carlaw. The document has not been dismissed out of hand by certain capitals and countries. I have spoken to a number of Governments, at either ministerial or ambassadorial level. Jackson Carlaw may be referring to remarks that the Spanish European minister made. They are the same comments that he made three months ago, in which he recognised that the UK would be the negotiator and that he would expect that the position that is put forward will be put forward by the UK as a whole.
If he listened to my first answer, Jackson Carlaw would have heard that I was quite clear, as the Government has been, that it is as part of a UK negotiation that we are putting forward the proposals in the paper, which he said has been well regarded and which has a number of substantive points that can get cross-party support.
We must be very careful not to put words in the mouths of other Governments, as that is undiplomatic and does not help Scotland’s case. Let us try and identify the areas that we can agree on and take them forward as part of the new negotiation. That is the spirit in which we published the document. We will take forward the proposals in discussions with the UK Government.
The cabinet secretary said that she intended that the proposals will be tabled at the joint ministerial committee meeting next week. In that context, will she tell us what discussions she or colleagues have had with other devolved Administrations such as the Welsh Government to ensure that the proposition of a joint UK approach has broad support?
I say to Lewis Macdonald that the reason why Michael Russell is not answering these questions himself is that he is engaged in discussions on this issue with other Governments.
We have had bilateral discussions in Scotland with other jurisdictions and discussions at the British-Irish Council. In both formal and informal contexts at the British-Irish Council I spoke to the Welsh Government. I spoke to the First Minister, Carwyn Jones, and the other ministers who attended.
We are very conscious that at a lot of the discussions there will be common interests and different approaches. We are now getting on to something that is essential, which is the importance and centrality of the single market in whatever proposition the UK negotiation puts forward. How we express that collectively, across the jurisdictions and in this chamber, will be very important in influencing the final result that we get.
“Tourism Scotland 2020”
To ask the Scottish Government how it is implementing the strategy, “Tourism Scotland 2020”. (S5O-00533)
The Government economic strategy identifies tourism as a key growth sector. The Scottish Government is therefore assisting public bodies to support the tourism sector right across Scotland, via the industry-led Scottish Tourism Alliance strategy, “Tourism Strategy 2020”. That is taking place collectively across the public agencies, especially VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Development International and the relevant local authorities.
Given that tourism is one of the Government’s key growth areas and, with increasing tourist numbers last year, is an increasing contributor to the Scottish economy, and given all the opportunities that the cabinet secretary highlighted, why, at such an important stage in implementing the strategy, has the Scottish Government decided to cut resources for tourism by 10 per cent in the draft budget, and why have critical agencies such as VisitScotland faced a 20 per cent real-terms reduction in funding over the past eight years?
I will correct the member’s understanding. If he refers to last year’s budget and this year’s budget, he will see that there is a flat-cash settlement for VisitScotland. Indeed, if he had paid attention to the evidence that was given by the chief executive of VisitScotland at the budget session, he would know that he specifically said that VisitScotland welcomed the flat-cash funding that was available for it to spend.
If the member looks at last year’s budget, he will see that VisitScotland’s contribution to the strategic forum was identified in last year’s budget; this year, we have made it clear, up front, what the resources are, so the flat-cash settlement for VisitScotland has been very much welcomed not only by the organisation but by others in the tourism sector, which he would hear if he had the opportunity of speaking to them.
European Referendum Result (Implications for Creative Europe-funded Projects)
To ask the Scottish Government what the implications are for creative Europe-funded projects in light of the European Union referendum result. (S5O-00534)
The creative Europe programme has been of significant value to the Scottish cultural sector. Following the EU referendum result, the Scottish Government was concerned about the future of that programme. I am very conscious of the time, so I simply indicate that, since its foundation in 2014, there have been 33 projects, with funding of more than €11.5 million.
Several projects in my constituency—YDance, in particular—have received support from creative Europe. Does the cabinet secretary agree that it is very important that projects such as YDance and creative Europe funding continue? Does she agree that it would be one of the worst things to come out of Brexit if that funding were not to be continued?
Absolutely. So much of the value of the creative industries and culture is in the exchange of ideas and experience, and creative Europe certainly does that and facilitates that. Being able to develop a practice with international connections is as important as the grants and skills themselves. As part of our on-going work on the EU, first, we will be encouraging people still to work with the creative Europe desk—they certainly have the opportunity still to do so—and, secondly, we want to make it clear that that is one of the organisations that we expect that the funding streams in the UK will either replace or, preferably, continue after the EU referendum result, because some of those relationships are vital to the heartbeat of our cultural sector.