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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, December 14, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 14 December 2017

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Bank Branch Closures, Draft Spending and Tax Plans 2018-19, Race Equality, Writers to the Signet Dependants’ Annuity Fund Amendment (Scotland) Bill: Final Stage, Decision Time


General Question Time

Out-of-hospital Cardiac Arrest

1. Johann Lamont (Glasgow) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government for its response to figures published in the Scottish out-of-hospital cardiac arrest data linkage project, which suggest that people living in the most deprived areas are 43 per cent less likely to survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest than those living in more affluent areas. (S5O-01574)

The Minister for Public Health and Sport (Aileen Campbell)

Reducing inequalities in survival is a priority aim of the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest strategy for Scotland. We know that encouraging bystanders to give cardiopulmonary resuscitation is how maximum impact on survival will be achieved. That is why the save a life for Scotland campaign was launched in 2015 to encourage people to learn CPR and raise awareness of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

Save a life for Scotland partners are working with multiply deprived communities across Scotland. The OHCA data linkage project, which is supported by the Scottish Government, is integral to monitoring the impact of the strategy. It will improve the understanding of the links between deprivation and survival to provide robust evidence for effective action.

Johann Lamont

The minister may be aware that, according to St Andrew’s First Aid, survival rates for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest sit at 6 to 8 per cent, which is lower than the European average of around 10 per cent. That must demand action. Someone who lives in a disadvantaged community is already more likely to have a heart attack. The fact that someone who has a heart attack in a disadvantaged community is far more likely to die, because they have been unable to get the first aid that might save their lives, is a scandal. What steps will the minister take to address that ultimate example of a postcode lottery? Will she meet me to discuss how we might draw on the expertise of St Andrew’s First Aid and other groups that are committed to giving people first aid skills to ensure that people in our deprived communities have a better chance of survival?

Aileen Campbell

I will be happy to meet Johann Lamont. I know that she takes a keen interest in this area and has publicly talked about it many times. She is right that we need to reduce inequalities, which is why this information is important. It allows us to concentrate on where we can have an effective impact with our future actions. The strategy looks specifically at equalities throughout, and we continue to move forward with our strategy to increase the number of people who are able to give CPR. Those bystanders can help to prevent loss of life, and we will continue to focus our efforts in that area. We have a target of 500,000 people who are able to give CPR by 2020, and we are pleased that we already have 200,000 people who are able to do that. We are taking lots of actions forward. Information is critical to enable us to work out where we need to help to reduce those inequalities. I will be happy to meet Johann Lamont to see what more we can do; her keen interest will help to inform our way forward.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Will the minister confirm whether one reason for lower survival rates in the most deprived communities is that people are generally in poorer health than people in the less deprived areas, not least because of higher consumption of alcohol and tobacco and poorer diets. The way to improve survival rates is to focus primarily on improving the general health of people in deprived communities, to reduce the likelihood of cardiac arrest in the first place. Can she confirm that anyone who is treated by the national health service, regardless of where they come from, receives exactly the same level of care?

Aileen Campbell

Some of the issues around inequalities are absolutely linked to poor health, which is a symptom of wider income inequalities. That is why we are taking action on a wide number of fronts: we are looking to end poverty, we are creating better support for families, we are providing affordable housing and we are providing free school meals—a whole host of areas to help to improve health. It is also why we are refreshing our alcohol strategy, reducing smoking rates and encouraging active lives and healthier eating. Those are all ways to tackle ingrained inequalities and ensure that people do not suffer from a postcode lottery in their health and wellbeing conditions. We will continue to work to mitigate the impact of United Kingdom Government welfare cuts, which also have an impact on people’s health and wellbeing, and we will continue to focus on using the information from the data linkage project to work out how we can reduce inequalities even further in the roll-out of CPR.

Energy Efficiency (Existing Homes)

2. Andy Wightman (Lothian) (Green)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes. (S5O-01575)

The Minister for Local Government and Housing (Kevin Stewart)

Over the next 15 to 20 years, we will transform the energy efficiency of the nation’s homes through Scotland’s energy efficiency programme, building on the significant progress that we have made to date. We are currently making available £0.5 billion over four years and, by the end of 2021, we will have allocated more than £1 billion since 2009 for tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency.

Registered social landlords are making good progress in meeting the energy efficiency standard for social housing by 2020, and we are working with them to consider long-term milestones. We remain committed to introducing energy efficiency standards in the private rented sector, following the consultation on that earlier this year. Next year we will publish a route map for Scotland’s energy efficiency programme, setting out our long-term ambition for the programme and the steps that we will take to achieve it. In the route map we will set out our approach to energy efficiency standards in all homes.

Andy Wightman

It is now two years since the Scottish Government designated energy efficiency as a national infrastructure priority. Why has energy efficiency spending gone down since then? Why do last week’s fuel poverty statistics show that there are still over 1 million homes that fall short of the energy performance certificate rating C that is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence? What practical measures will be in the upcoming warm homes bill that will make energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority in relation to existing homes, both rented and owned?

Kevin Stewart

The warm homes bill and the route map for Scotland’s energy efficiency programme will set out in depth our ambitions for energy efficiency across all tenures. I am sure that Mr Wightman will be happy about certain aspects of last week’s figures, particularly the ones that show that there are 100,000 fewer households in Scotland in fuel poverty. That is a good start, and we have ambitions to ensure that even more of Scotland’s people are taken out of fuel poverty. Our ambition, of course, is to eradicate fuel poverty in the future. Some of those conditions are outwith our control. Fuel prices still remain in the control of the Westminster Government, which I hope will take action. However, I can assure Mr Wightman that the warm homes bill and our route map for Scotland’s energy efficiency programme will do much to improve energy efficiency across all tenures.

Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

Last week, we heard that 26.5 per cent of households are now in fuel poverty. That is a welcome reduction of 4 per cent from the previous year, but the Scottish Government was supposed to have eradicated fuel poverty by November last year. Now, the consultation on a new fuel poverty strategy suggests that the Government intends to set a target to have fewer than 10 per cent of households in fuel poverty by 2014. How many more winters will people have to endure before the Government eradicates fuel poverty?

Kevin Stewart

If we did not have to endure a Tory Government, with its policies of austerity, we would be doing much better. The fact that social security has been cut to many households, including households in work, adds to the woes. Beyond that, the United Kingdom Government said that it would take action on fuel prices and has failed to do so. Maybe Mr Simpson would be best placed to talk to his colleagues south of the border to get them to act in a reasonable manner, to get rid of austerity and to put a cap on fuel prices, and then we might be in a better position in Scotland.

Nursing (Training)

3. Clare Haughey (Rutherglen) (SNP)

I refer members to my entry in the register of interests as a registered mental health nurse who holds an honorary contract with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to attract more people to train as nurses. (S5O-01576)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Shona Robison)

Last week, the chief nursing officer for Scotland published a report on widening participation in nursing and midwifery education and careers. The report recommends a range of measures to attract people into nursing, including a national campaign to recruit a more diverse workforce, tackle negative stereotypes and provide more flexible routes into education. The report was launched in the same week that we saw the highest ever number of acceptances to nursing and midwifery courses at our universities. The actions set out will allow us to build on that, maximising the number of opportunities available and the number of people who can benefit from them.

Clare Haughey

Last year, the United Kingdom Government scrapped bursaries for student nurses and introduced fees. Since then there has been an 18 per cent reduction in the number of applications from nursing students. Both the Royal College of Nursing and the president of Universities UK attribute that, in part, to the withdrawal of bursary funding. In contrast, recent Universities and Colleges Admissions Service statistics show an increase of 8 per cent in the number of students enrolling at Scottish universities to train as nurses. Can the cabinet secretary reassure people in Scotland who want to train as nurses that this Government will continue to support them in this essential profession and will not withdraw bursary funding?

Shona Robison

I absolutely can. The UCAS statistics tell a very interesting story of the position here in Scotland compared with that south of the border. We continue to protect the non-means-tested non-repayable nursing and midwifery student bursary and, of course, free tuition. That is in stark contrast to the UK Government, which has scrapped both in England, resulting in the dire consequences that Clare Haughey described.

We have also increased support for students most in need or facing financial hardship, and we will continue to review the support package to ensure that nursing and midwifery students receive the support that they need. In particular, we will consider whether additional support is needed for students in remote or rural areas or from low-income households.

A92 (Road Safety Improvements)

4. Jenny Gilruth (Mid Fife and Glenrothes) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on Transport Scotland’s plans for road safety improvements to the A92. (S5O-01577)

The Minister for Transport and the Islands (Humza Yousaf)

We are committed to improving safety on our trunk roads, including the A92, where we have been working closely with the communities and local elected members. Since 2007, we have invested more than £35.1 million in the A92, to ensure that it continues to operate safely and efficiently.

A number of studies are under way and planned, and they will identify further improvements that can be made. That will build on the investment that has already been undertaken in recent years, which includes works at a number of junctions, as well as providing better pedestrian facilities at Glenrothes and between Forgan and the Tay bridge.

Jenny Gilruth

The minister will be aware that tomorrow I will be leading a walk along the five hazards of the A92. Earlier this year, he agreed with campaigners that he would visit the road himself. Is it still his intention to do so, and can he provide me, as the constituency MSP, with reassurance that improving road safety on the A92 is of paramount importance to the Government?

Humza Yousaf

I wish the member well for the walk that she is doing along the five hazards of the A92, as it is called. I look forward to hearing an update and some feedback from her. As she rightly said in her question, we have met the community councils, other community stakeholders and elected members. I thank her for the pressure that she has exerted on the important issue of the A92.

As I said in my previous answer, there are a number of studies under way. Transport Scotland last met the community council in August. It promised, on the back of all the conflict and traffic studies that have been done and the various other pieces of work, that it will report back early next year. It is absolutely my intention to visit the A92, which I will do in conjunction with the member’s office.

Restorative Justice

5. Maurice Corry (West Scotland) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to develop restorative justice. (S5O-01578)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson)

Following the publication of “Guidance for the Delivery of Restorative Justice in Scotland” on 13 October 2017, we will consult on an order under section 5(2) of the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014, to prescribe who must have regard to the guidance. We will also work closely with justice and third sector partners to ensure access to existing services and to develop further provision to meet the needs of victims.

Maurice Corry

Experts are clear that restorative justice empowers victims and cuts reoffending. I welcome the guidance that has been published, but the fact is that there are simply not enough practitioners out there to use it. Victims deserve the chance to get an explanation from the person who commits the harm. When will the Scottish Government make that the norm, rather than the exception?

Michael Matheson

I agree that, in the right circumstances, restorative justice can be an effective tool. We are doing some work with Community Justice Scotland to identify where in Scotland restorative justice is provided—a number of local authorities already deliver restorative justice programmes—and where there are gaps. We want to consider what measures can be taken to support those local authorities that do not presently provide restorative justice to deliver such programmes.

I recognise the value of restorative justice for those who have caused harm and those who are victims of crime, and I want to make sure that a more consistent approach is taken across the country. The guidance will assist us in achieving that, and the work that we are doing with Community Justice Scotland will assist us in identifying the areas where we need to make further progress.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

Does the cabinet secretary agree that it must be up to the victim of a crime to decide whether they want to engage in restorative justice practices, and that the necessary support must be in place for them throughout the process?

Michael Matheson

I do. It is extremely important that the victim and the person who has caused harm participate in the programme on a voluntary basis. That is a key driver of the system. The new guidance that we have issued highlights that that is a key aspect of how we want restorative justice to be delivered.

In addition, people who participate in restorative justice must be assisted by people who are appropriately trained to deliver restorative justice programmes so that the appropriate support and assistance can be provided.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I, too, welcome the publication of the guidance in October, which followed the commitment that the Liberal Democrats secured in 2013.

Can the cabinet secretary provide a little more detail on the steps that will be taken to support community safety groups such as Sacro and others to act as facilitators in the restorative justice process?

Michael Matheson

As the member might be aware, Sacro is one of the organisations on the restorative justice forum that helped to draft the guidance that we issued in October.

Before we decide what our future approach to restorative justice should be, it is important that we identify the good practice that already exists in a number of local authority areas and the areas where there are gaps. At that point, we can consider what would be the most appropriate approach in pursuing further restorative justice programmes. That might take the form of a national strategy to inform work at a local level, but before we consider what would be the most appropriate mechanism for taking forward further restorative justice programmes, we want to identify where the gaps are.

HMP Dumfries (Older Prisoners)

6. Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what action is being taken to improve facilities at HMP Dumfries to meet the needs of older prisoners. (S5O-01579)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson)

The Scottish Prison Service has been actively considering its approach to population management, and older people are one of the population groups that are being looked at.

If an older person with specific needs is admitted to prison, an individual care plan and care package and accommodation adjustments will be put in place, following consultation with the necessary multi-agency partners. Older people with mobility issues are located in a specific area of HMP Dumfries. Disabled access ramps have been put in place in that area to aid accessibility, and additional minor modifications are carried out to meet the needs of individual prisoners when that is required.

Colin Smyth

The need to improve facilities for older prisoners in HMP Dumfries was highlighted in the report, “Who Cares? The Lived Experience of Older Prisoners in Scotland’s Prisons”, by Her Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons. Given that need, why was Dumfries not included in the most recent estate development programme? The fact that it was not has raised understandable concerns among staff about the future of the prison.

Will the cabinet secretary give an assurance that bringing the prison up to a reasonable standard will definitely be included in the next phase of the estate development programme? Given the integration of health and social care that is taking place more widely in Scotland, does he intend to revisit the lack of health and social care integration in prisons, where health boards are responsible for healthcare but the Prison Service remains responsible for social care?

Michael Matheson

The member might misunderstand. The approach of the Scottish Prison Service in meeting the needs of older prisoners within the prison estate is being taken forward as part of the prisoner population management programme rather than by a prisoner segment group of older prisoners. That means that the evidence that has come from HM inspectorate of prisons and the “Who Cares?” report has been taken into account and a dispersal model is being used. Access to all the facilities across the prison estate is being provided, rather than just to a specific establishment. That includes HMP Dumfries.

The member referred to the capital investment programme that is being taken forward by the Scottish Prison Service. The programme is being taken forward on a phased basis that has seen significant capital investment in the creation of new establishments and the upgrading of existing establishments. At present, that programme is looking at HMP Inverness, HMP Barlinnie and HMP Greenock to see how they will be developed in the future. The next phase will be for HMP Dumfries and HMP Castle Huntly open estate, and they will look at how to phase that programme going forward.

Prisoner healthcare is an area that has now been progressed with the partnership that has been developed between the Scottish Prison Service and individual health boards in each prison area. In order to support that at the national level, we have established the health and justice collaboration improvement board to make sure that prisoner healthcare is driven forward right across the prison estate and in health boards that have that responsibility. One of the improvement board’s key priorities is to make sure that we improve prisoner healthcare overall, and that workstream will be taken forward in the coming months.

The Presiding Officer

Thank you for that very detailed answer.