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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 15 June 2021 [Draft]

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Point of Order, Topical Question Time, Covid-19, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Statistics 2019, Women’s Health, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Dr Gray’s Maternity Unit


Topical Question Time

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

There are three topical questions today. There is a great deal of interest in them, so I would be grateful for short questions and succinct responses.

Automated External Defibrillators (Amateur Sports Grounds)

1. Sandesh Gulhane (Glasgow) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the disturbing events at Euro 2020, with a player experiencing a cardiac arrest on the pitch, whether it will consider subsidising automated external defibrillator purchases for amateur sports grounds. (S6T-00085)

The Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport (Maree Todd)

The incident at Euro 2020 is a stark reminder of the importance of prompt cardiopulmonary resuscitation and access to defibrillation to improving a person’s chances of surviving an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Our thoughts go out to Christian Eriksen and to his family and teammates. I am sure that I speak for everyone in the chamber and throughout Scotland when I say that we are very relieved that the prompt action that was taken saved his life and that he is now recovering well.

In 2015, the Scottish Government, working with our partners in the Save a Life for Scotland partnership, launched an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest strategy. Since then, more than 640,000 people in Scotland have been trained in the skills that are needed to perform CPR. In 2015, only one in 20 people survived a cardiac arrest; the rate has now increased to one in 10.

In March this year, our Save a Life for Scotland partnership published an updated out-of-hospital cardiac arrest strategy, which sets out a number of actions across the chain of survival, including actions to improve bystander CPR and defibrillation rates. Part of that programme is to ensure mapping, maintenance and accessibility of defibrillators. The provision of life-saving equipment such as defibrillators is the responsibility of individual sporting governing bodies. Sportscotland is working closely with Save a Life for Scotland to share the life-saving skill of CPR throughout community hubs.

Sandesh Gulhane

I join the minister and everyone else in wishing Christian Eriksen and his family a speedy recovery, in my prayers. CPR saved his life. Knowing how to perform CPR saves lives. The more people in Scotland who know how to do CPR the better. I note that the British Heart Foundation has an excellent hands-only CPR resource on the internet.

Although we already heard something about it in the minister’s response, how will the Scottish Government encourage more people to learn CPR and ensure that school leavers who miss training due to Covid receive it? Can we also ensure that it is a course that is put on universally and by public employers?

Maree Todd

I agree with Sandesh Gulhane that we need to improve people’s awareness of CPR and their confidence in performing it. As I stated, we have by some way surpassed the target that we had; we thought that we would manage to train 500,000 people but, to date, more than 640,790 people have been equipped with CPR skills by the Save a Life for Scotland partners. Our collective aim is to increase that number to 1 million people by 2026.

Sandesh Gulhane will also be aware that, in 2019, all 32 local authorities committed to a systematic and sustainable model of CPR learning that would result in every secondary school pupil leaving school with CPR skills. I have absolutely no doubt that Covid will have impacted on that for children in the final years leaving school, but I also have great confidence that the particular incident that we are discussing will remind people of, and focus their attention on, the need for absolutely every single one of us to learn CPR, so that if somebody has a cardiac arrest near us, we know to call for help, dial 999 and perform CPR.

Sandesh Gulhane

I will press the minister a little bit on whether we could look to subsidise automatic defibrillators for amateur sports grounds, because their cost is the reason why grounds are not able to provide them. That would help so much, because two in 100,000 competitive athletes between the ages of 14 and 35 per year suffer from such events.

Maree Todd

Policies on having equipment such as defibrillators are managed by sports’ individual governing bodies, and are likely to be linked to advice from their own medical practitioners. Similarly to governing bodies, Sportscotland does not give local authorities or leisure trusts advice on or provision for life-saving equipment, which would be determined by the individual organisation. It is a slightly complex landscape out there; many clubs use community facilities or schools.

As an excellent first step, which will bear fruit, we have worked with the University of Edinburgh resuscitation research group. It undertook a public-access defibrillator modelling analysis project in 2018, which was funded by the Scottish Government. There will be a data-led analysis of where defibrillators should be located, including consideration of high-risk neighbourhoods.

It is important that there will be a training package alongside distribution of defibrillators to help people to use them. Sandesh Gulhane and I know that they are very straightforward to use and that the defibrillator tells the user what to do, but the training will raise confidence and competence in using defibrillators in the community.

Jenni Minto (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Will the Scottish Government consider supporting rural communities by providing centralised purchasing of defibrillators and on-going materials in order to reduce the need for communities to raise funds to cover value added tax?

Maree Todd

I thank Jenni Minto for that question, which leads on nicely from the question from Dr Gulhane. The recently refreshed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest strategy makes a clear commitment to addressing the inequalities in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest outcomes, including the inequalities that face rural communities. To do that, the Save a Life for Scotland partnership continues to work closely with communities on co-creating solutions to improve outcomes in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests across Scotland.

Lots of existing charity schemes subsidise the cost of buying defibrillators for communities and organisations. Those schemes often provide training—which is important, as I said—on use and upkeep of defibrillators, and on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. We also have existing infrastructure and local knowledge to assist communities in effective placement and management of defibrillators. VAT on defibrillators is a matter that is reserved to the United Kingdom Government.

Racism in Schools

2. Alexander Stewart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to a recent survey, which records that more than 2,000 incidents of racism have been reported in schools over the last three years. (S6T-00075)

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (Shirley-Anne Somerville)

The Scottish Government is clear that there is no place for racism in our schools and is committed to addressing and tackling all forms of bullying, including on the grounds of race. In 2019, in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, local authorities and teaching unions, we developed and implemented a national approach to the recording and monitoring of bullying in Scottish schools.

That national approach enables schools and local authorities to monitor all reported incidents of racist bullying and take all appropriate actions. Diversity and equality are at the heart of the policies that underpin education in Scotland and we are working with key anti-racist organisations to address how schools can be further supported.

The race equality and anti-racism in education programme is leading work to strengthen support for schools in tackling racist incidents and racist bullying while enhancing professional learning and leadership, diversifying the education workforce and reforming the curriculum.

Alexander Stewart

Data from Show Racism the Red Card’s consultation shows that 48 per cent of teachers are aware of a pupil or pupils expressing negative attitudes relating to skin colour, 38 per cent relating to religion and 37 per cent relating to nationality. Although 61 per cent of teachers expressed a lack of confidence about educating pupils on anti-racism, only 24 per cent have received training on the subject.

Those are serious and worrying statistics. Given that 85 per cent of respondents said that tailored anti-racism workshops would be beneficial for all concerned, what urgent action can the Government take to ensure that that happens?

Shirley-Anne Somerville

That is a very important issue, and the Government takes it very seriously. As I mentioned, the race equality and anti-racism in education programme is leading that work, which includes school leadership and professional learning as one of its four strands. It aims to ensure that Scotland’s professional educators are confident and empowered to promote equality and foster good relations and, importantly, to identify, prevent and proactively deal with racism if they see examples of it.

It is important that we ensure that school leadership and professional learning is further developed and that we also increase the diversity in the teaching profession so that it further reflects the Scottish population, just as we wish to see in the Parliament.

Alexander Stewart

Show Racism the Red Card’s chair wrote to the Scottish Government to call for anti-racism to be included in the national curriculum following announcements about a similar move in Wales earlier this year. Given that 93 per cent of respondents to Show Racism the Red Card’s consultation said that

“anti-racism must be included within the curriculum”,

will the cabinet secretary confirm that the Scottish Government will seriously consider that request in order to further protect children from harm?

Shirley-Anne Somerville

I go back to the work of the race equality and anti-racism in education programme, because one of its other strands is curriculum reform. That is being looked at very closely to ensure that the curriculum is inclusive, that it recognises, for example, Scotland’s colonial past, and that it respects the identities of young people and supports them on their journey through school. Work is on-going to ensure that our curriculum gives confidence to our learners—in my original answer I spoke about giving confidence to teachers—so that they can discuss the issue and tackle it when they see it, and so that everyone in our schools can reach their potential without being blighted by any racist activity towards them or anyone else in their classroom settings.

Pam Duncan-Glancy (Glasgow) (Lab)

The Government has previously backed and agreed to implement the incredible work of the Time for Inclusive Education initiative, which aims to combat homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusive education. In addition to what the cabinet secretary has already outlined, will the Scottish Government back a similar programme to tackle racism and disablism in schools?

Shirley-Anne Somerville

The Government is looking closely at racism and all forms of bullying in schools. Importantly, it is working with young people as it considers how to tackle the problems and what the solutions might be. That is why I will be meeting young people to follow up on meetings that took place with the Deputy First Minister when he was education secretary and with the Minister for Equalities and Older People, particularly on the racism issue, to ensure that we are learning from their experiences and that they are part of our work to develop the right solutions. We take that approach with any type of bullying or harassment in schools.

Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd

3. Paul Sweeney (Glasgow) (Lab)

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests, which shows that I am a member of the GMB union.

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the allegation made by Jim McColl in The Herald on Sunday that £25 million of public money was wasted on the “forced” nationalisation of Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd. (S6T-00069)

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy (Kate Forbes)

In the absence of a workable commercial solution, the administrators of Ferguson’s concluded that bringing the yard into public ownership was the best option. By taking control of the business, we were able to save Ferguson’s from the risk of administration, lift the threat of redundancy that was hanging over the staff and protect the local economy. I am sure that Paul Sweeney supports those objectives.

Paul Sweeney

I share the objectives of saving and preserving industrial growth on the Clyde and the skilled jobs that go with that.

On 31 May 2017, Ferguson Marine’s chairman met the First Minister at Bute House and, on 5 June 2018, he met the former Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution to beg the Government to force its public body, Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd, to take part in a dispute resolution process for the failing ferry contract. On 9 November 2017, the Scottish Government appointed Commodore Luke van Beek to find a solution. The Government was given a report by Burness Corlett Three Quays in January 2018. A further report, by consultants HKA, was put to ministers in January 2019. All three independent expert consultants were highly critical of CMAL’s management of the ferry contract, so why did ministers ignore their independent advisers and refuse to intervene at any stage of that long process to oblige CMAL to participate in a dispute resolution process? That failure has led directly to the disastrous outcome that we see at Ferguson’s today.

Kate Forbes

Throughout the whole process, our commitment has been to ensure that the vessels are delivered. The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee has completed its detailed scrutiny of the issues, and ministers have considered and responded to the committee’s findings. We remain committed to transparency and co-operated at every stage of the parliamentary inquiry. We proactively published large volumes of information on our website and, as and when requested, we provided evidence to the inquiry on the details that have been touched on by Paul Sweeney. Right now, our intention—we stand firm on this—is to ensure that the vessels are completed, the workforce is saved and the yard has a viable future.

Paul Sweeney

We all share the cabinet secretary’s commitment to financial transparency and transparency of the decision-making processes.

When Ferguson Marine fell into administration in August 2019, as a direct result of ministers’ negligence in instructing CMAL to undertake arbitration, CMAL had the contractual right to claim a £25 million cash refund guarantee in the form of an insurance bond from specialist marine insurers, HCC International, which would have seen the insurance company take control of the shipyard. Instead, the Scottish ministers chose to forfeit the £25 million and to buy the shipyard outright at a further cost of £7.5 million. If the £32 million forced acquisition was not the alleged misuse of public funds and an attempt to cover up for the failures of CMAL and ministers that caused the collapse of the shipyard, as asserted by the previous management of Ferguson Marine, will the Government agree to release all correspondence between the Government, HCCI and CMAL?

Kate Forbes

Paul Sweeney has, in effect, rewritten history on two occasions in his question. It is totally incorrect to assert, as in some media reporting, that the £25 million that he has referred to has been lost from the public purse.

A judgment was made in the Scottish courts on 21 May 2021. The claim is on-going so I am restricted in what I can say, but, as is already widely known, because ministers proactively published extensive information to aid the parliamentary inquiry, an agreement was reached with HCCI to release it from a performance bond that it had provided for Ferguson’s.

Having seen the parliamentary inquiry proceed with extensive, transparent and proactive provision of information by ministers, the commitment is to ensure that vessels are delivered for the communities that rely on them, that the workforce is protected and that a viable future exists for the yard. I hope that all members will join me in trying to secure those objectives.

Stuart McMillan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)

In addition to the challenges that remain, the cabinet secretary will be aware of the progress that has been made in the yard. Does she accept that taking the yard into public ownership was the only decision that would have saved it and the jobs in my constituency, as well as providing it with an opportunity to build ships for many years to come?

Kate Forbes

As the member has said, challenges exist, but our efforts saved FMEL from closure without a shadow of a doubt. Our actions rescued more than 300 jobs, ensured that the two vessels that are under construction will be completed, and secured a future for the yard. The work there includes the continuation of an apprentice programme that is crucial to the yard’s future and that of the shipbuilding industry in Scotland, and support for the local economy, which Stuart McMillan represents.

Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

The catastrophic mismanagement of the ferries contract that the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee identified seems to continue to grow arms and legs. Tim Hare, whom the Scottish Government appointed, is paid in excess of £790,000 per annum, which is more than two and a half times the combined annual salaries of the Prime Minister and the First Minister. Who authorised that contract and why?

Kate Forbes

Edward Mountain knows more about FMEL than many do, because of the inquiry that the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee conducted—an inquiry to which we submitted extensive and transparent information.

Our investment in the yard is indicative of the importance that we place on it and on the communities that rely on lifeline ferry vessels.

With regard to the turnaround director specifically, a benchmarking exercise was conducted as part of the recruitment process to identify market rates. The turnaround director’s agreed fee was well within the benchmark and consistent with market rates that reflect the highly specialised nature of a role that requires senior level experience.

I come back to the point that our investment in the yard is indicative of the importance that we place on FMEL and of our commitment to the delivery of those two vessels.

The Presiding Officer

That concludes topical questions.