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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, September 12, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 12 September 2019

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Drug Deaths, Portfolio Question Time, Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 (Post-legislative Scrutiny Reports), Decision Time


Portfolio Question Time

Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

Good afternoon. We continue business with portfolio questions.

Maurice Corry does not appear to be here to ask question 1, which is unfortunate. Question 2 was withdrawn, so we move to question 3, from Bruce Crawford. I am delighted to see you, Mr Crawford.

Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal (Benefits for Tourism)

3. Bruce Crawford (Stirling) (SNP)

Cheery as usual, Presiding Officer.

To ask the Scottish Government how tourism in the area could benefit from the Stirling and Clackmannanshire city region deal. (S5O-03517)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

Through the Stirling and Clackmannanshire city region deal, the Scottish Government is investing up to £15 million of capital investment to develop and augment key assets in culture, heritage and tourism in the region. That will support a programme of investments that is based around the potential for projects to grow the regional economy and deliver inclusive growth. It is a perfect opportunity not only to enhance the visitor experience but to attract new visitors, new businesses and new investment, delivering jobs and building a reputation for strong and effective partnership.

Bruce Crawford

It is no wonder that I keep cheery, Presiding Officer. It is great news that £15 million of Scottish Government funding has been allocated to culture, tourism and heritage investment through the deal.

Will the cabinet secretary say what progress has been made in identifying the projects that will benefit from the funding? Does she agree that a successful future for our high streets will, in part, be about appealing to local and tourism markets, and that the new creative hub that Creative Stirling has established in the city centre, which she visited recently, is a great demonstration of that?

Fiona Hyslop

The key projects are being developed in partnership between the national agencies and local business partners and will be set out when the final deal is signed and in delivery. Regional partners will prioritise projects, to reflect local priorities and raise the standard of provision for tourists.

A key part of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire city region deal is about ensuring that high streets are thriving and successful. Indeed, it says in the heads of terms agreement that the partners’ vision is

“a highly desirable place to live, work and visit: an attractive place in which to invest”.

I was delighted to visit Stirling. I was impressed with the new creative hub and Creative Stirling’s reach into the community. That is a good example of sustainable inclusive growth.

Given that we are talking about Stirling, and given that we did not have questions 1 and 2, with your indulgence, Presiding Officer, I will just say that the Wallace monument is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and commend the people behind the Wallace wha hae! celebrations this weekend.

Dean Lockhart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

As part of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire city region deal and as a result of the hard work of my good friend Stephen Kerr MP, the United Kingdom Government has agreed to invest £10 million for the establishment of a national tartan centre in Stirling, which will showcase the unique and long history of tartan in Scotland. Does the cabinet secretary agree that that will be a significant boost for tourism and the local economy in the Stirling area?

Fiona Hyslop

In addition to the funding that the Scottish Government is providing to culture, tourism and heritage investments, I am pleased that the UK Government is contributing to the area, with a proposal for a tartan centre, at a cost of £10 million. I very much look forward to seeing the plans for the centre. I am sure that anything that can help to promote our history and heritage will be welcomed.

Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I welcome the announcement from both Governments about the city region deal and the £15 million for culture and tourism that the cabinet secretary referred to.

The cabinet secretary will appreciate that tourism in Scotland relies heavily on European Union workers and that we will face challenges in that area in future years. Can she outline the work that is being done to promote tourism as a career choice and tell us how we can raise employment standards across the tourism and hospitality sector? She knows that I have raised that issue before.

Fiona Hyslop

On that last point, we are working with the Poverty Alliance to ensure that good working practices, and indeed good pay, are provided. We have identified funding to help the development of tourism as a career choice. We are also working with the UK Government on the tourism sector deal.

EU workers are absolutely essential. More than 11 per cent of our workers in the tourism and hospitality sector are EU citizens. They are very welcome here, which is why we have stepped up our support for the stay in Scotland campaign. Only this week, I spoke with both the Scottish Tourism Alliance and the British Hospitality Association about those very issues concerning EU workers. We are clear that addressing them will be key.

The idea that one can mess around with people’s plans for themselves and their families by flip-flopping on the date for the ending of freedom of movement is absolutely disgraceful, and I am glad to see that the UK Government has now realised that that is problematic. It has set out a number of other additional immigration rules only this week. We will look at them and, once we understand what it is proposing, will report to Parliament and the relevant committees.

Media Freedom

4. Monica Lennon (Central Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to support the freedom of the media. (S5O-03518)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

A free, independent and strong press is the bedrock of a well-functioning democracy. The Scottish Government is committed to doing what we can to ensure that it is maintained. That includes modernising the law of defamation, as well as considering the recommendations made in the Cairncross review of the future sustainability of journalism, and ensuring that freedom of the media remains at the heart of our considerations.

Monica Lennon

Recently, the Scottish Prison Service and Scottish ministers raised an interdict against the Sunday Mail, which has brought up issues concerning freedom of the press in Scotland. Can the cabinet secretary advise whether Scottish ministers have the power to veto such actions, and if so, can she advise why that power was not exercised by ministers in relation to an attempt to stop the newspaper reporting details of Allan Marshall’s death in custody?

Fiona Hyslop

Clearly, our condolences remain with the family and friends of Allan Marshall. The issue that the member is addressing was discussed extensively at last week’s First Minister’s question time, which she attended. I am aware that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice wrote to the Justice Committee on 30 August, and I refer to his update to Parliament on 3 September. I reiterate the issues at the heart of that matter, which are that the Scottish Prison Service, acting as employer—like any employer—can take the action that that it did. The other issues have been fully reflected in the correspondence from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to the relevant committee.

Kashmir Conflict

5. Anas Sarwar (Glasgow) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what recent representations it has received from community representatives in Scotland regarding the conflict in Kashmir. (S5O-03519)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

The Scottish Government has received written correspondence from two community organisations and four individuals concerned about the situation in Kashmir. In addition, ministers have met members of the community at events, and those people have passed on their concerns.

Anas Sarwar

There is huge concern among Scotland’s Kashmiri, Pakistani and Indian community about the on-going issue in Kashmir, particularly about the drum beat towards war. The answer to the situation is not violence, but rather a political solution. Will the Scottish Government make representations to all whom they can to ask India to reverse the revocation of article 370, which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir; immediately end human rights violations; allow the entry of humanitarian organisations, and finally deliver the international community’s promise that the people of Jammu and Kashmir will have self-determination?

Fiona Hyslop

I will set out the Scottish Government’s position. We are seriously concerned about the situation in Kashmir, and about reports of excessive use of force, large-scale detention restrictions and the application of restrictions on communications and freedom of movement, particularly at the early stages of the crisis. We are following developments closely, and we support calls for the situation to remain calm. It is clear that peace and democracy are the way forward.

It is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution to the situation in Kashmir, taking into account the wishes of Kashmiri people and respecting their human rights. We encourage the international community, through the United Nations, to support diplomatic efforts to pursue that political resolution. We also value Scotland’s Indian and Pakistani communities and the important role that they play in enriching our life here.

We encourage Pakistan and India to engage in dialogue and find diplomatic solutions. Scottish Government officials have been in regular contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the rapidly moving and changing situation with regard to Kashmir, and I wrote to the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, about the issue on 10 August.

VisitScotland (Meetings with V&A Dundee and Dundee City Council)

6. Jenny Marra (North East Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government how many meetings VisitScotland has had with V&A Dundee and Dundee City Council in the last three years. (S5O-03520)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

The total number of meetings that VisitScotland has had with V&A Dundee and Dundee City Council since 2016 is not recorded. However, since starting in post in April, VisitScotland’s newly appointed regional director covering Dundee has had six meetings with V&A Dundee and has had meetings with Dundee City Council quarterly.

Jenny Marra

We recently celebrated the anniversary of the V&A’s opening in Dundee—I know that the cabinet secretary attended that—and there has been a 14 per cent increase in train journeys to the city since the V&A opened. How much investment from VisitScotland and how much time are being concentrated on trying to keep as many visitors as possible in the city to appreciate the whole of it and other attractions in it in order for the V&A to have a beneficial effect on the city’s economy?

Fiona Hyslop

It is clear that the V&A has been a great success, and I am glad of the support of everybody who stood behind it. Jenny Marra was conspicuous in being very critical in respect of whether the V&A would be opened. However, I join her in celebrating its opening and the year’s experience. There have been 750,000 visitors to the V&A to date, and Time magazine has said that it is one of the places in the world to visit in 2019.

Jenny Marra has failed to acknowledge the launch only yesterday of the Tay cities region tourism strategy, which was launched to promote the wider Tay cities region deal. I am more than happy to ask the relevant local authority areas of Dundee city, Perth and Kinross, Angus and Fife to inform Jenny Marra of the details of that strategy. It is clear that VisitScotland’s role in supporting it is very important, and everyone needs to get behind it. I am disappointed that Jenny Marra is not aware of the significant tourism strategy launch that took place only yesterday in her region.

Rachael Hamilton (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

There was no mention of the cultural youth experience fund in this year’s programme for government. That fund was first announced back in 2017 and was to offer the opportunity for primary schools to visit Scotland’s theatres, museums such as the V&A, and galleries. It has been promised three times, but it is nowhere to be found. Where is that crucial funding? Why has the Scottish Government promised the cultural youth experience fund but failed to deliver it three times?

Fiona Hyslop

It is clear that that commitment still stands, but we have had very tight financial settlement budgets, not least because of the United Kingdom Government’s impact on our overall finances. We are working with relevant authorities, including Education Scotland, to identify the best way to support that provision. The V&A specifically and other galleries and museums work extremely hard in providing access for primary school pupils to visit them and in helping to promote that.

Rachael Hamilton might not be aware that one of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee’s concerns in looking at the matter was that access for those in secondary 1 and 2 rather than primary schools perhaps should be concentrated on. We are looking at what might be the best provision in very tight financial circumstances. We want to have that access, but I will be realistic because we face financial pressures.

Live Music (Inverness)

7. David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to protect the live music scene in Inverness, in light of the anticipated closure of the Ironworks. (S5O-03521)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

Ironworks Music Venue Ltd, which leases the Ironworks building venue, is exploring alternative locations in the interest of continuing its business. That business and the live music scene in Inverness and the Highlands and Islands are supported by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which provides general business support as well as specialist support to the sector. The majority of specialist support for the sector is delivered through the successful XpoNorth support programme, and that support will continue to be available to businesses that need it.

David Stewart

The cabinet secretary will be well aware that the Ironworks is a phenomenal venue for the Highlands and beyond, and there are strong cultural, economic and social reasons for ensuring its survival. More than 2,000 people have signed my online petition calling for the venue’s survival. Will the cabinet secretary make specific representations to Creative Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to provide help in terms of financial support, advice and guidance?

Fiona Hyslop

I have taken a personal interest in the issue and have agreed to meet the member. I know that many elected representatives are interested in the issue. David Stewart is absolutely right to say that the issue is not just about a business concern, because it is also about the cultural provision of live music in Inverness and the Highlands more generally.

I have had discussions with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and I know that my officials have had conversations with Highland Council. Obviously, there are issues to do with planning in relation to the current site, and they will be resolved by Highland Council itself. However, we are keen to support the opportunity to find different venues or ensure that live music provision can be established. I have therefore asked officials at Highlands and Islands Enterprise and in the Scottish Government to work with the owner of that individual business and to think more generally about how we can maintain live music provision in Inverness. I will liaise with Creative Scotland in that regard, too.

As the member will be well aware, there are issues to do with the site that we are talking about, but that does not mean that we cannot work together to come up with some kind of creative solution that ensures that concerts as popular as the ones that we have seen in the Ironworks in recent years can continue.

The Presiding Officer

Question 8 has not been lodged, so that concludes questions on culture, tourism and external affairs.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I came here on time in order to ask a supplementary question to Maurice Corry’s question. However, because he did not arrive in time, that question was skipped and I was unable to ask my question. I believe that, if members do not turn up on time, it is a discourtesy not only to the wider chamber but to members who have put some effort into preparing supplementary questions and have come along in time to ask them. Could you remind the chamber that members should turn up on time if they have questions to ask?

Rachael Hamilton (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

The Presiding Officer

Is it on the same issue?

Rachael Hamilton

It is in a similar vein—[Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer

Could Rachael Hamilton’s microphone be switched on?

Rachael Hamilton

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

My point of order is in a similar vein to Mr Gibson’s. Claudia Beamish withdrew her question, and I had a supplementary question to it. However, I think that we can be fluid in such situations, and I decided to change my question to enable it to be asked after another question. What I am saying is that we can be flexible.

The Presiding Officer

I appreciate both points of order. I recognise the frustration on the part of some members. In this case, Mr Gibson had a particularly regional question, and there were no other opportunities to ask it.

It is unfortunate when such circumstances affect individual members. I can notify all members that Mr Corry sent a note of apology and an explanation of why he was late. Two other members also withdrew questions. Alison Harris gave plenty of notice, and Claudia Beamish also gave notice. It is unfortunate that that has had an impact on members who wanted to ask supplementary questions, but such is the nature of the busy lives that all MSPs lead.

I would add one other point. Although the next item of business is not due to start until 10 to 3, it is follow-on business. That means that, although question time has collapsed slightly early, all the members who should be here for the opening speeches of the next item of business should have been here at the end of that item of business. I noticed that some of them were not, but I see that, thanks to the points of order from Kenneth Gibson and Rachael Hamilton, they have now been able to arrive in time. I remind all members to note that follow-on business might start early.