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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, November 17, 2016

Meeting of the Parliament 17 November 2016

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Flexible Working Practices, Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, Innovation, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time


First Minister’s Question Time


1. Ruth Davidson (Edinburgh Central) (Con)

To ask the First Minister what engagements she has planned for the rest of the day. (S5F-00485)

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon)

Engagements to take forward the Government’s programme for Scotland.

Ruth Davidson

This week we mark an auspicious occasion. It is two years since the First Minister took office. I congratulate her on doing so. I wonder whether I could raise a few individual cases that have been sitting in her in-box for much of that time.

First, on apprenticeships, this week the United Kingdom Government confirmed the sum that the Scottish Government will get to spend thanks to the new apprenticeship levy. It is £220 million. We have said what the Conservatives would do—we would ring fence those funds for training and apprenticeships. However, we and most importantly Scottish employers still do not know what the Scottish Government will do. Why the delay?

The First Minister

There is no delay whatever. The UK Government decided to introduce the apprenticeship levy without consulting the Scottish Government in any way, shape or form. We have been waiting to find out its plans. We have—as Ruth Davidson is aware—been consulting employers and others about how we best use the apprenticeship levy, and of course the detail of that will be made clear when we publish the budget in a few weeks’ time.

There are two points that are worth making to Ruth Davidson. First, she stood up today and crowed about the fact that the Scottish Government will get £221 million—that is indeed true. However, it is only two weeks ago that Ruth Davidson told us that we were actually getting £300 million, so the amount has reduced since Ruth Davidson last spoke about the issue.

The second point is more fundamental. It is important that all members understand this. While it is important that we use that money—and we will use that money to support skills and training and employment in Scotland—it is not additional money. The apprenticeship levy is substituting for money that the UK Government was previously using to support apprenticeships. It is not additional money; it comes through the block grant and it will be replacing money that was previously coming through the block grant.

That said, we will make sure that we use the money to support training and skills in Scotland. That is exactly what people will expect us to do.

Ruth Davidson

If it is all Westminster’s fault, why are Scottish trade bodies accusing the First Minister personally of a leadership vacuum on this issue. Why, just this week, have both the construction industry and the oil and gas industry said that they have no idea from the First Minister what is going on.

Secondly, on education, back in February 2015—that is 21 months ago—I challenged the First Minister about giving more autonomy to schools. She replied:

“I am very happy to discuss the issue with ... the parents.”—[Official Report, 19 February 2015; c 15.]

We were talking specifically about the parents of St Joseph’s primary in Milngavie, who want to run their own school. Nearly two years on, they are still waiting for an answer. I ask again: why the delay?

The First Minister

Before we do the “Let’s move on from the first subject I raised”, let me remind Ruth Davidson—I am not sure whether she is aware of this—that the Scottish Government has carried out and recently concluded a consultation specifically on how we use the apprenticeship levy funds. We will come forward with the detail of that when we publish the budget in a few weeks’ time. Let it not be allowed to slip away that Ruth Davidson previously claimed that the figure would be £300 million and it is now £221 million, but it is not additional money; it is substitute funds.

Let us move on to education and St Joseph’s primary school. Again, let us not ignore one important fact that I know Ruth Davidson will not want to share with the chamber. The reason that we have been talking about St Joseph’s is that Conservative councillors on that council voted to close St Joseph’s. So, let me get this right—Ruth Davidson’s approach is that Conservative councillors vote to close schools and then she looks to the Scottish Government to clear up their mess. That clearly is Ruth Davidson’s approach to politics.

On the specific question of autonomy for schools, although Ruth Davidson does not appear to have been aware of the consultation on the apprenticeship levy, I should not take it for granted but I presume that she is aware of the consultation that is under way right now, which will conclude on 6 January, into the governance review. We are specifically looking at how we change the balance of responsibility in education to move to a presumption of decisions being taken in schools. A decision on St Joseph’s will be taken in the context of that governance review.

That is the right and proper way to do things, not what Ruth Davidson is appearing to do today in turning a blind eye to what her Conservative councillors are doing and asking the Scottish Government to clear up their mess.

Ruth Davidson

There is your modern SNP—need a complaint about the size of a chocolate bar and they are right on it, but we wait two years for a decision on a school.

Thirdly, on welfare, just after the Smith agreement was signed—again, two years ago—the First Minister stood there and demanded of me, of Labour and of the Liberal Democrats that Westminster transfer welfare powers as soon as possible. The SNP would be outraged if they were not delivered immediately. Those welfare powers are ready to go but now we learn that the SNP is nowhere near ready to take them, and it has pleaded with Westminster to hold on to them for another three years. The SNP is good at demanding but it is not very good at governing. I ask again, for a third time, on welfare, why the delay?

The First Minister

Again, before Ruth Davidson gets away with moving on from St Joseph’s, I remind her that there would not be a decision to be taken on St Joseph’s if Conservative councillors had not voted to close the school. Yet again, this week, the hypocrisy is really breathtaking.

Let us turn to welfare. There is no delay on transferring welfare powers. We have to build a system to ensure that we can safely and securely deliver welfare. That is what we will do and we will do it on the timetable that we have always said. When we have a Scottish social security agency delivering 15 per cent of welfare—only 15 per cent, but that is better than nothing—we will take better decisions on welfare than the Government in London that Ruth Davidson supports.

Interestingly, on welfare, Jeane Freeman laid out the detail to the relevant committee on 29 September. Anybody who is interested in welfare—I hope that that is everybody in the chamber—should read the Official Report. When Jeane Freeman set out the process, Adam Tomkins said that he welcomed what she had said, particularly her remarks about not using the issue as a political football. Perhaps Ruth Davidson should listen to Adam Tomkins once in a while.

Ruth Davidson

The timetable “we have always said”? Read the Official Report? All right, I will read the Official Report. On 27 November 2014, Nicola Sturgeon said:

“I say genuinely to all parties let us, as a Parliament, ask the Westminster Government to transfer the powers as soon as possible”.—[Official Report, 27 November 2014; c 16.]

Today’s Official Report will show a massive, screeching U-turn—“Wait three more years.”

Here is the First Minister’s record: on apprenticeships, it is no clear plan to tell employers; on education reform, it is wait and see; on welfare, it is a three-year delay; on Frank’s law, it is clear as mud; on national health service reform, it is coming soon; on an investment deal with China, it is a Scottish shambles; and on the decision on fracking, we will get back to you.

The SNP is dithering, not delivering. Two years ago, when the First Minister accepted the role of First Minister for all of Scotland that was bestowed on her by this Parliament, she stood up and said:

“I intend to lead a Government with purpose, a Government that is bold, imaginative and adventurous.”—[Official Report, 19 November 2014; c 36.]

First Minister, what happened?

The First Minister

The only real question that has to be asked about today’s First Minister’s questions so far is, how many own goals is Ruth Davidson going to score?

Ruth Davidson has just stood up and, on the apprenticeship levy, wrongly accused me—I think that this is a direct quote—of having “no clear plan”. Imagine a Tory having the nerve to get up and accuse anybody right now of having no clear plan. That sums up Theresa May’s Government in its entirety right now.

On welfare, Ruth Davidson is apparently saying that we should take responsibility for delivering disability benefits, carers allowance and other important benefits before we have a system in place to ensure that those benefits can be put in people’s hands or bank accounts. She may want to act irresponsibly in that respect, but I will act responsibly so that we can have in Scotland—not for welfare in its entirety, unfortunately, but for those benefits that are going to be devolved—a fair, humane and dignified welfare system. How different that will be from the system over which the Conservatives are presiding in London right now.

Auditor General for Scotland (Meetings)

2. Kezia Dugdale (Lothian) (Lab)

To ask the First Minister when she will next meet the Auditor General for Scotland. (S5F-00487)

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon)

I have no current plans to do so, but the permanent secretary meets the Auditor General for Scotland regularly, and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution last met the Auditor General on 30 August.

Kezia Dugdale

This morning, Scotland’s rail network was thrown into chaos. A broken-down train disrupted the travel plans of tens of thousands of commuters across the central belt. It has been yet another shambolic day that has caused misery for passengers. The Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf, who crosses the country in his ministerial car, took to Twitter this morning to admit that ScotRail’s performance is not good enough. Does the First Minister really understand just how angry Scotland’s commuters are today?

The First Minister

Yes, I do. Earlier this morning, Humza Yousaf and I took part in a conference call with ScotRail—I know that it is extremely sorry for the disruption that passengers have experienced today, and I share that sentiment.

The problem this morning to which Kezia Dugdale alluded was caused by a train breaking down between Waverley and Haymarket stations at Princes Street gardens. All the lines into Edinburgh were blocked by the train that had broken down. ScotRail described it to me this morning as probably the worst location in the country for a breakdown like that to happen because there were no other ways for the trains to get into Waverley station. The train was removed at around 8.30 this morning, and since then a restricted train service has been running on many routes while the network has returned to normal. I was advised by ScotRail just before I came to the chamber that the service has more or less returned to normal right now, but the problem has caused significant disruption.

I say this seriously: there are wider performance issues around ScotRail right now. We have discussed those issues in the chamber previously, which is why there is in place an improvement plan that Humza Yousaf is monitoring very closely.

I hope that all members would accept that, on occasion, however regrettable it is—and it is deeply regrettable—trains will break down, whatever party is in government. The priority when that happens is to get services back to normal as quickly as possible, which is what ScotRail has focused on this morning.

Kezia Dugdale

We can accept that today’s disruption might be a one-off, but yesterday was considered to be just a normal day on Scotland’s rail network—and you can bet that there are wider performance issues, First Minister. Scottish Labour can reveal that the performance figure for yesterday was 79 per cent. That means that, on a normal day, more than one in five trains failed to arrive on time. In rural areas, yesterday’s performance figure was 60 per cent against a target of 91 per cent—that is not even close. Passengers deserve better and it is this Government's responsibility to fix it.

When I challenged the First Minister on this issue six weeks ago, she said that the Government had an improvement plan. Humza Yousaf said that he had confidence in that improvement plan. Well, passengers are fast losing confidence in him. How bad does it have to get before the First Minister steps in and sorts out the mess?

The First Minister

First, the Government accepts its responsibility in this matter, and we are working with ScotRail to make sure that train services are of a standard that the travelling public has a right to expect. I repeat the apology that ScotRail expressed for the disruption this morning, which was caused by an extraordinary set of circumstances.

On the wider issues, as I have said in the chamber before, the target that ScotRail is expected to meet is 91 per cent against punctuality standards. Generally at the moment performance is at about 89 per cent although, as Kezia Dugdale has just narrated, there will be variations to that. That is not good enough and that is why the improvement plan is in place and why Humza Yousaf continues to work with ScotRail to improve performance. Just this week, we heard about plans for additional trains coming into service and about ScotRail rightly ceasing the practice at peak times of trains missing stops when they are running late. These are serious issues that affect the travelling public on a daily basis, and we are absolutely determined to make sure that we work with ScotRail to rectify them.

In the wider sense, as I have said in the chamber previously, there is the option for the contract to be broken early and we will keep that option under review. Thanks to pressure from the Government, in future we will also have the option of having a public sector organisation bid for the rail franchise. That is a step forward after Labour, for its 13 years in government, refused to give us that power.

These are serious issues and I take my and the Government’s responsibility seriously to make sure that we will get on top of those issues, as I have said we will.

Kezia Dugdale

We have had an apology from ScotRail, but I think that commuters would like to hear an apology from the First Minister. Rail passengers do not feel as if they have seen any sort of improvement over that six-week period. Last week, ScotRail cancelled trains because it expected the rails to be slippery due to excessive moisture. Rain in Scotland—who could have predicted that? However, for Scotland’s rail passengers, this is not a laughing matter any more. Overcrowded trains, delayed trains and cancelled trains—that is the Scottish National Party’s idea of a world-leading deal for passengers. Is it not clear, more than ever, that Labour’s policy for a people’s ScotRail run for passengers not profit is the best solution for Scotland?

The First Minister

First, people watching this will have heard me say that I am sorry for the disruption that was caused this morning and sorry for the disruption that any passenger faces on any day of the week. That is ScotRail’s position and it is also mine.

With regard to some of the decisions that Kezia Dugdale alluded to, ScotRail has a responsibility to ensure the safe running of trains. It is easy to make jokes about “moisture”, but it is important that ScotRail discharges that responsibility.

On the wider issues, I absolutely accept that things are not good enough. That is why the improvement plan is in place and why we will stick with it until things are running to a standard that the public have a right to expect.

On the wider issue of a people’s railway, I point out again that the reason why it was not possible for a public sector organisation to bid for the rail franchise when Abellio bid for and won that contract was that we did not have the power to allow that. We had asked the previous Labour Government at Westminster to change the law or to give us the power to change the law here, and it refused point-blank to do that. Kezia Dugdale can shake her head, but that is the reality of the situation. Now we are going to have that power and we have made it clear that, by the time the contract comes up for renewal, whether it is on schedule or early, a public sector organisation will be able to bid for it. That is the progress that we have made after progress was impeded by Labour for a long, long time.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

There are two constituency questions. The first is from Sandra White.

Sandra White (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

The First Minister will be aware of the announcement by Shell that it will close its finance operations at Bothwell Street in Glasgow in my constituency, with the loss of 380 jobs. I have phoned Shell and asked to have an urgent meeting. What support will the Scottish Government give to those 380 workers at this difficult time?

The First Minister

I was disappointed yesterday to learn of the closure of Shell’s finance operations office in Glasgow. I know that this will be a difficult time for the employees who are affected, for their families and for Glasgow as a whole.

Scottish Enterprise is engaging with Shell to offer its full support. The Scottish Government’s partnership action for continuing employment initiative stands ready to help those who are affected, through the provision of skills development and employability support. Further, the transition training fund, which we set up specifically to help to respond to the downturn in the oil and gas sector, is available to support individuals who wish to retrain and secure new opportunities in the oil and gas or wider energy and manufacturing sectors.

Sandra White has said that she has sought a meeting with Shell. The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work will also be happy to meet her and keep her updated on developments in the case.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

Mr Randall is 78 years of age and lives on the Isle of Arran. In May this year, he was diagnosed with a heart condition. He received a letter saying that the next available appointment to see a cardiac consultant is in December 2017—unfortunately, that was not a typo. He wrote to the health minister to complain about the waiting time. She said that, although she could not intervene in the case, that was

“not because we are uninterested”.

What does the First Minister have to say to people such as Mr Randall who have to wait up to 19 months to see a consultant, because I am very interested?

The First Minister

Not surprisingly, so am I. I am happy to look into the particular circumstances of the case. I say that not to avoid answering the question in the chamber but because it is important in these cases that we get the opportunity to consider the details. Last week, Anas Sarwar raised a case that, on the face of it, appeared to be completely unacceptable but which, when we looked into it, turned out to have very particular circumstances attached to it. I am not saying that that is the case in this situation, but I will look into the matter, and the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport will liaise with the member once we have had the opportunity to look into the matter. On the face of it, that waiting time is completely unacceptable and is one that I would expect the health board to rectify.

Cabinet (Meetings)

3. Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green)

To ask the First Minister when the Cabinet will next meet. (S5F-00492)

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon)


Patrick Harvie

Around the world, the vast majority of developed countries and health organisations recognise that access to safe, legal abortion is critically important to the health of a great many women and that, when that is not available, women’s lives and health suffer. However, tragically, there are women in the United Kingdom who do not have access to that important right.

Many women in Northern Ireland find themselves with no option but to travel elsewhere in the UK to access legal and safe abortion. The time that that takes and the stress that it causes are bad enough, but there are also often significant financial barriers. Some organisations who support those women estimate that, at the low end, the process costs about £400 and, in many other cases, it costs more than £2,000.

Does the First Minister agree that the national health service in Scotland should be exploring what can be done to ensure that those women are able to access abortion in Scotland, if that is where they choose to travel to, without facing that kind of unacceptable financial barrier?

The First Minister

I am happy to explore with the NHS what the situation is now in terms of the ability of women from Northern Ireland to access safe and legal abortion in NHS Scotland and whether any improvements can be made. Like Patrick Harvie, I believe that women should have the right to choose, within the limits that are currently set down in law, and that that right should be defended. When a woman opts to have an abortion—I stress that that is never, ever an easy decision for any woman—the procedure should be available in a safe and legal way. That is my view. Patrick Harvie asked me to explore a particular issue for NHS Scotland and I am happy to do so.

Patrick Harvie

I am grateful for that answer and I look forward to receiving an update once the issue has been explored.

Does the First Minister agree that abortion should be regarded as part of the normal range of healthcare that is provided and should not be stigmatised or treated as something exceptional? In that context, is there any other part of the normal range of healthcare provision in relation to which the NHS in Scotland would turn someone away simply because of where they happened to live, if they were in Scotland and were seeking to access that service? Should we not regard abortion as a normal part of the range of healthcare, rather than stigmatise it?

The First Minister

I certainly agree that no woman should ever be stigmatised for having an abortion. No woman ever wants to have an abortion; there will be a variety of circumstances in which a woman finds herself in that position, and I absolutely agree that safe abortion is of paramount importance. I also agree that abortion should never be seen in isolation—it is a part of healthcare, and delivering abortion safely is a fundamental part of healthcare.

As I said, I am happy to explore the particular issues to do with how NHS Scotland deals with women who come from other parts of the UK and to write to Patrick Harvie when I have had the opportunity to do so.

Cabinet (Meetings)

4. Willie Rennie (North East Fife) (LD)

To ask the First Minister what issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the Cabinet. (S5F-00472)

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon)

Matters of importance to the people of Scotland.

Willie Rennie

During the election campaign, just a few months ago, the First Minister agreed with me that big changes were required in mental health services. Now, leading health campaigners have serious concerns about the new draft mental health strategy. Children in Scotland said that there is “widespread concern” that the proposals are

“too narrow in their focus”.

The Royal College of Nursing Scotland said that the strategy is not “aspirational”, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland said that the proposals

“do not ... amount to ‘transformation’.”

Support in Mind said:

“this strategy is neither visionary nor ambitious.”

Does the First Minister accept that the draft strategy is just not good enough?

The First Minister

I do not accept that, but it is a draft strategy, and if respected organisations such as those that Willie Rennie cited are expressing views, we should take those views seriously and work with the organisations to make such improvements as they think should be made. I give an undertaking that we will do that.

Despite the disagreements that we have on this and a range of other issues, I think that we have managed to achieve a degree of consensus across the Parliament about the importance of mental health and improving mental health treatment, prevention measures and care in this country. The Government is serious about doing that, and the mental health strategy is an important part of that. We will work with organisations, on the basis of the draft strategy, to look at ways in which we can strengthen the strategy.

Willie Rennie

The First Minister said that there is a degree of consensus. There will never be consensus while the health organisations that I quoted say the things that they are saying. The signs are not good enough. The Government failed to renew the mental health strategy on time, there has been no strategy for almost a year and health campaigners are unhappy.

The use of mental health drugs has reached a 10-year high. New figures show that almost a million prescriptions were issued last year—prescribing is up 50 per cent. A majority of health boards do not meet the 18-week target for non-drug, psychological therapies.

The Government let the strategy lapse. The use of drugs is up and alternatives are not available for everyone. Charities say that there is no community focus. That is a serious set of concerns. What chance does the Government have of getting the services right if it cannot even get the strategy right? What will the First Minister do differently to meet the aspirations that she set out during the election campaign just a few months ago?

The First Minister

I agree with Willie Rennie that we need to make a great deal of improvement in mental health services. Scotland is not unique in some of what he narrated, such as the increase in drug prescriptions. That is true and is partly down to the fact that more people are coming forward with mental health difficulties. Although that puts a responsibility on us to ensure that services are there, we should welcome the fact that the stigma is reducing and that more people are coming forward.

That is also why there is pressure on waiting times—waiting times for child and adolescent mental health services are improving, but there is still significant work to do. The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland published a report this week in which, albeit that it said that there is work to do, it welcomed the sharp reduction in the number of children receiving mental health treatment in non-specialist wards. Progress is being made, but I readily accept that there is much work still to do.

We publish strategies in draft form because we want to engage with experts on the front line so that we can strengthen the strategy and publish a final strategy that is in as good a shape as it possibly can be. At the draft stage of any strategy, it is not unusual for organisations to push us to go further. That is why we publish drafts and why we engage with those organisations. We will engage with them. If Willie Rennie wants to submit specific suggestions on how we could change the draft strategy, we will be happy to listen to suggestions from him or from anyone else.

Kate Forbes (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP)

Tory back benchers at Westminster have supported Scottish National Party calls to halt cuts to the employment and support allowance and universal credit. Will the First Minister join me in extending an open invitation to reasonable Tories in this chamber who recognise the worrying impact of those cuts and wish to add their voices to demands for the chancellor to postpone changes until alternative support for sick and disabled people is in place?

The First Minister

I struggled with the term

“reasonable Tories in this chamber”,

but I got over that.

The issue is really serious. The autumn statement will be made next week, and the cuts to ESA will impact on many people. The new Prime Minister has said that she is anxious to help people who are just managing. In many respects, the group of people we are talking about are not even just managing, so I hope that the chancellor will suspend the changes and that he will hear the Scottish Parliament’s views when he makes the decisions on the autumn statement.

Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I know that the First Minister takes the issue of domestic abuse seriously and that she welcomes the positive work that has been done by Police Scotland and the Procurator Fiscal Service in recent years to tackle such crime. Does she agree that the way in which Calum Steele of the Scottish Police Federation has expressed his concerns in describing court cases as a “rigmarole” and a “charade” and saying that the police

“hoover up everything in the hope we miss nothing”

is deeply unhelpful and risks undermining the progress that is being made? Will she join me in supporting the approach that is being followed, which has resulted in a conviction rate for domestic abuse that is upwards of 80 per cent?

The First Minister

I agree with that. Of course police officers must have discretion in the action that they take when they are called to any incident, but we should have a zero tolerance approach to domestic abuse. The police and the Crown Office are to be commended for the fact that more perpetrators of domestic abuse are being brought to justice and convicted. We should all welcome that.

We are investing more resources in tackling domestic abuse and, as a Parliament, we are about to look at new legislation on it. It is really important that a united message goes from the Parliament that domestic abuse is never, ever acceptable and that it should always be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

In 2011, the Government decided to remove business-related travel from air discount scheme support. That decision, which was taken without any consultation, pushed up transport costs for businesses and the public sector in our islands, including Orkney. Highlands and Islands transport partnership has now made a compelling case for reversing that decision and allowing island businesses to compete on a more level playing field. Does the First Minister accept that case? Will she agree to overturn the earlier, wrong-headed decision?

The First Minister

I am happy to ask the Minister for Transport and the Islands to look at the case that HITRANS has put forward and to correspond with the member. We want our islands to be as accessible as possible for business travellers as well as for others, so we will look at the case that HITRANS has put forward, and the minister will respond in due course.

Alcohol (Minimum Unit Pricing)

5. Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to the recent survey by Nielsen that indicates that 69 per cent of spirits sold in Scotland fall below a minimum unit price of 50p. (S5F-00498)

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon)

One of the reasons why we have pursued a policy of minimum unit pricing is that we have been well aware for some time of how much alcohol is sold very cheaply relative to its strength. Minimum unit pricing is designed precisely to target that issue. Very cheap, very high-strength alcohol does real damage to individuals and our communities. That is why I look forward to the implementation of that life-saving policy as soon as possible.

Kenneth Gibson

Minimum unit pricing is clearly the most effective and proportionate way to reduce the harm that is caused by cheap, high-strength alcohol. Now that the Court of Session has ruled in favour of the Scottish Government following the Scotch Whisky Association’s legal action on the issue, and assuming that there is no appeal by tomorrow’s deadline, can the First Minister advise members when she envisages the policy being delivered, as agreed by the Parliament?

The First Minister

As Kenny Gibson correctly identified, the main—indeed, the only—stumbling block to introducing minimum unit pricing is whether the Scotch Whisky Association and its co-litigants in the case seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. As he said, the deadline for an application seeking leave to appeal is tomorrow, although it is important to say that, even if such an application were to be put forward, that would not make it inevitable that the appeal would proceed all the way to the Supreme Court.

The SWA can, even at this late stage, choose not to apply for leave to appeal, and I very much hope that it chooses that course of action. I also hope that it and others reflect on the fact that minimum unit pricing was passed with the overwhelming support of the Parliament; that it has been tested in Europe; and that it has been approved twice now in the Scottish courts. I think that the industry itself will receive widespread and very justified approval and respect if it accepts that the time has now come to implement a measure that will save lives across Scotland.


6. Annie Wells (Glasgow) (Con)

To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to tackle cyberbullying. (S5F-00477)

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon)

As we mark anti-bullying week, I make it clear that all types of bullying, no matter where it takes place, are unacceptable. We need to protect young people from harm and ensure that practitioners have the skills to prevent and respond to online and offline bullying. We already have an internet safety action plan; work is under way to update it, and the refreshed plan will recognise the impact of online bullying and how it can be addressed and prevented in schools and at home. At the same time, respect me, Scotland’s anti-bullying service, continues to provide advice and training on bullying and internet safety for local authorities, parents, carers and all those who work with children and young people.

Annie Wells

Given Police Scotland’s front-line role in the reporting of cybercrime, what specific conversations has the Scottish Government had with the police about how they are dealing with the issue?

The First Minister

The Scottish Government will have discussions with Police Scotland on a whole range of matters, and I am happy to write to the member to set out any specific interactions that we have had with it on cyberbullying. Of course, with cybercrime as with any other crime, it is down to the police’s discretion how they investigate and take forward allegations of criminal activity, and it is then down to the Crown Office to decide what crime is prosecuted.

However, there is absolutely no doubt that cybercrime is an important issue; it is on the increase and we all have to take it seriously. I know that the Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee has shown great interest in the refreshed strategy that the Scottish Government is working on, and we look forward to working with that committee and others to ensure that we have the right policies in place for tackling this growing problem.

Gillian Martin (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

Tory Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to reveal a £100 billion Brexit hole in his budget. What representations has the Scottish Government made to ensure that Scotland’s finances are protected and that we do not pay the price for the Tories’ Brexit mess?

The Presiding Officer

If you do not mind, First Minister, we will not take that question. I remind members that supplementaries must be on the same topic outlined in the written question.

Diabetes (Monitoring)

7. Donald Cameron (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to ensure that people with diabetes receive regular monitoring of their condition. (S5F-00496)

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon)

This week marked world diabetes day, which reminds us all of the need to ensure that everyone who lives with diabetes receives the vital healthcare checks that are essential in reducing the risk of complications. New quarterly monitoring processes were introduced at the start of the year as part of our diabetes improvement plan. That monitoring ensures that we continue to increase the number of people who have regular checks, including checks on blood sugar levels and weight, checks for foot ulceration, and diabetic retinopathy screening.

Donald Cameron

Two years ago, the Scottish Government released its diabetes improvement plan, which stated that monitoring was a clear objective. However, as the First Minister might be aware, the recently published NHS Scotland Scottish diabetes survey highlighted that in 2015 fewer than 40 per cent of type 1 diabetes patients, and only around half of those with type 2 diabetes, received the full number of check-ups. Does she accept that, two years on, the Scottish Government’s current strategy for monitoring diabetes is just not working?

The First Minister

No, I do not accept that. As I said in my original answer, the quarterly monitoring processes were introduced at the start of this year, as part of the diabetes improvement plan. The quarterly monitoring looks at measures for, among other things, the number of people receiving the nine care processes and the number receiving structured education.

The member is, of course, right to underline the importance of people getting all the checks that they should be getting, and the monitoring has been introduced to ensure that that happens. There are other important actions that we are taking around diabetes. For example, we are increasing access to insulin pumps.

We will continue to take all that action to try to prevent diabetes and make sure that people with diabetes have access to good services and, in particular, services that reduce the risk of complications.