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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament 19 February 2020

Agenda: Smoking Ban (Play Parks and Outdoor Sports Facilities), Portfolio Question Time, National Health Service, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Prehistoric Rock Art


Contents


Smoking Ban (Play Parks and Outdoor Sports Facilities)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

Good afternoon. The first item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-20554, in the name of Rachael Hamilton, on a smoking ban for play parks and outdoor sports facilities. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the view that Scotland should ban smoking in play parks, outdoor sports facilities and other similar outdoor areas; understands that section 4 of the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 does not provide powers to do so; acknowledges that the Welsh Government introduced the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017, which imposes a ban there on smoking in these types of places; believes that such a ban in Scotland would improve public health, especially in helping to alleviate the effects of passive smoking on children in the Borders and across the country, and notes the calls for the Scottish Government to legislate accordingly.

13:15  

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

I thank all the members who signed my motion and those who will contribute to today’s debate. I also thank Alison Johnstone, who has sent her apologies—she is convening a cross-party group meeting. She supported my motion and is sorry not to be here.

We are all too aware of the effects of smoking and passive smoking. Smoking damages the lungs of the smoker and the smoke that is inhaled by people near the smoker causes passive smoking damage. Today, I want to focus on the damage that smoking causes to children and young people in particular.

There is a strong evidence base that suggests that the implementation of smoke-free environments can contribute to a reduction in smoking rates across populations. As maintaining smoke-free areas in certain outdoor and indoor places can discourage smoking behaviour in general, making more places smoke free could have a positive impact on adult smoking figures.

On 26 March 2006, Scotland became the first place in the United Kingdom to make it an offence to smoke in any wholly or substantially enclosed public space. Fourteen years have passed since the ban was implemented and the prevalence of smoking has decreased. However, the Scottish schools adolescent lifestyle and substance use survey shows that smoking prevalence rates among 13 and 15-year-olds have flatlined since 2015, with 12 per cent of 15-year-olds and 4 per cent of 13-year-olds smoking regularly or occasionally.

That was the starting point for my desire to bring about positive change and for us in this Parliament to take additional steps. I saw the excellent work that was done in my Welsh homeland in 2016, which inspired me to think about implementing the same changes in Scotland.

I want to recap on where we are today. Through parliamentary questions, I established that the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 does not cover play parks or outdoor sports facilities. I was given assurances by the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, Joe FitzPatrick, that, as part of its 2018 action plan, the Scottish Government would monitor the smoking ban in Wales before taking additional action.

I was advised by the Scottish Parliament information centre that it could be possible to add a category to the list of no-smoking premises in the 2005 act. However, in the previous parliamentary session, when Jim Hume introduced a member’s bill to prohibit smoking in vehicles in which children were present, the approach was taken of creating a standalone piece of legislation that did not amend the 2005 act in any way—it simply created a new offence. As we are fast approaching 2021, I regret that there is simply not enough time for me to introduce a member’s bill and take that approach.

I then looked at section 4 of the 2005 act, which allows the Scottish ministers to define by regulations what is covered by the term “no-smoking premises”. Such premises must be “wholly or substantially enclosed”. They must also meet one or more other criteria, one of which is that the public or a section of the public has access to the premises; others are that the premises are a place of work, are used by a club or informal association, or are used for education or health or care services.

Accordingly, ministers can, through regulations under section 4 of the 2005 act, ban smoking in any workplace, public place, school or hospital, but only if the place in question is “wholly or substantially enclosed”. The regulations can further define what is meant by “wholly or substantially enclosed”. It is our understanding that, so far, that has been defined to mean closed in by walls and a roof, which means that entirely outdoor areas could not be classed as “no-smoking premises”. However, it might be possible for ministers to make regulations that ban smoking in play parks based on a revised definition of “wholly or substantially enclosed”, which could, for example, include an area of grass that is enclosed by a fence.

After that long-winded explanation of how I got to this point, I look forward to hearing from the Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans about the calls on the Scottish Government to consider changing the definition of “wholly or substantially enclosed” in order to enact change.

When we change the definition, it is right that we look at Wales, where that has been done successfully. In part 3 of the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017, an entire section—section 12—relates directly to the banning of smoking in play parks and playgrounds. I have a copy of the bill with me. There are clear definitions of what play parks, playgrounds and school grounds are. In Wales, it is illegal for people to smoke on hospital grounds, school grounds and playgrounds, with those who flout the law facing fines.

Turning closer to home, I note that there has already been positive action to stop smoking in play parks and in other outdoor areas in Scotland. The measures, which have been successful, are voluntary in nature. Many local authorities have embraced smoke-free play parks, albeit without there being enforcement powers in legislation. Do not get me wrong: that is a good place to start. Dundee City Council, for example, created a code under which the public complies voluntarily with a smoking ban, with a request not to smoke in particular areas. The code does not ban smoking outright, but it sets best practice. Children and young people have already engaged positively with the voluntary bans. Creating smoke-free zones and encouraging more local authorities to campaign accordingly would be a positive initial step.

In my constituency, I have the support of the Scottish Borders Council, and I will work with councillors and local schools later this year to create a competition to design signs that can be displayed in play parks to discourage people from smoking and to encourage them to adhere to a voluntary ban.

I believe there to be substantial cross-party support on the issue. I very much thank ASH Scotland and other organisations that have supported me for today’s debate. I want to be clear: I do not want to stigmatise smokers, nor do I want the state to deny people the right to smoke. To simply call it a ban would throw up negative connotations. It is about sending the right message—a positive message—to our children. Politicians should bring people along with us on the journey to a smoke-free Scotland.

A simple change to a definition in the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005 would ensure that play parks, playgrounds and outdoor sports facilities are brought into line and made smoke free. A simple consultation with the relevant stakeholders could be carried out, after which the relevant definition change could be made. As I have said, when defining such public places, it is right that we turn to the successful 2017 Welsh act.

The motivation behind my call today aligns with the broader aims of the Scottish Government to have a smoke-free generation by 2034 and to prevent the harmful effects of passive smoking. I hope that the public will understand my motivations for restricting smoking in particular areas and that they will respect playgrounds as much as they would places that are covered by no-smoking legislation. We know that making play parks and outdoor sports facilities smoke free would help to de-normalise smoking for children and young people, as the environment in which children grow up strongly influences whether they are likely to smoke when they are older.

I could go on, but I have no time left.

13:23  

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

I congratulate Rachael Hamilton on bringing this important issue to the chamber.

As members might be aware, since I first became an MSP more than 20 years ago, I have taken a keen interest in reducing the harm that smoking causes. In July 2001, I proposed a regulation of smoking bill, with strong support from colleagues across the chamber—notably, from Labour’s Dr Richard Simpson, the Conservative’s Bill Aitken and the Liberal Democrat’s Robert Brown. After 2003, my proposal was progressed by Stewart Maxwell and, ultimately, by the Scottish Executive, which led to the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005.

Unfortunately, about 1.1 million people in Scotland still smoke. In 2017—the last year for which figures are available—there were 9,332 smoking-related deaths compared with 1,136 alcohol-specific deaths and 1,187 drug-related deaths in 2018. Although the number of smoking-related deaths has declined by about 30 per cent over the past two decades, tobacco still kills about one in six Scots, which is shocking. Furthermore, there are 128,000 smoking-related hospital admissions a year in Scotland—that is 2,500 a week, 250 a day or 15 an hour.

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,500 compounds, including: acetaldehyde, which is a carcinogen; acetone, which damages the liver and kidneys; and ammonia, which is a cause of asthma and high blood pressure.

Smoke-free spaces bring many benefits to children and adults, particularly because other people’s smoke is much more than a nuisance—it has serious health risks.

Living with a smoker increases a non-smoker’s chance of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 per cent. Children are more vulnerable to second-hand smoke, because their lungs are still growing and their immune systems are not fully developed; they are also at greater risk from toxins in cigarette smoke. Tragically, it is estimated that second-hand smoke exposure in Scottish children causes, among other problems, at least 2,000 new cases of wheeze and asthma a year and one in five of all cot deaths.

I am proud of the Scottish National Party Government’s track record and the action that it has taken to stub out smoking, but we must do more.

Scotland is among the first countries in the world to set a target of being tobacco free by 2034. For years, the SNP Government has taken important steps to protect young people from the harm of smoking—notably, in 2007, milestone legislation raised the minimum age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18. Tobacco sports sponsorship was banned 15 years ago, and it is now unthinkable for any high-profile team to be brand ambassadors for tobacco.

Places where children play should be free from the stain of tobacco. For years, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health has said that smoking should be banned in all parks and anywhere that children play, in order to reduce the chances of them growing up thinking that using cigarettes is normal.

A YouGov poll, which the institute commissioned in 2016, found that 89 per cent of 4,300 adults who were surveyed backed a ban on smoking in children’s play areas and that 57 per cent wanted an end to smoking in public parks.

I am delighted that, this year, as the latest in a long line of progressive and bold policies to protect people from the harm that it causes, smoking will no longer be permitted around hospital buildings. There is always more that we can do to protect people, particularly children and young adults, from smoking.

Two thirds of adult smokers in the UK say that they started smoking regularly before the age of 18 and two fifths say they started before the age of 16. In fact, so few adults start smoking that 99 per cent of first cigarettes are smoked before the age of 26.

Despite its vehement denials, the tobacco industry targets young people. It is vital that, wherever possible, cigarettes and smoking should be out of sight and out of mind for our children.

I hope that we can all commit to help raise Scotland’s tobacco-free generation and to ensure that children’s play areas and outdoor sports facilities are free of the scourge of tobacco. Again, I thank Rachael Hamilton for bringing this important matter to the Parliament.

13:27  

Brian Whittle (South Scotland) (Con)

I thank my colleague Rachael Hamilton for bringing this debate before Parliament. As she said, there is support across all political divides for what she is trying to do. This Parliament is rightly proud of the work that it has led on the workplace smoking ban. As Kenny Gibson said, that ban is being extended into hospital grounds, which is long overdue.

However, when we quote the overall reduction in smoking, we need to look behind the figures. I was alarmed by recent statistics that indicate that, for the first time since the ban, there might be a small increase in smoking. When we look behind the reduction that there has been since the smoking ban was introduced, it is worth noting that, in the highest Scottish index of multiple deprivation quintile, only 9 per cent of people smoke, but in the lowest SIMD quintile, the figure sits at 34 per cent.

I looked over the notes that I took a while ago, when I was working with ASH on a report. As Kenny Gibson said, around 1 million Scots still smoke. My figures showed that, annually, around 10,000 people die of smoke-related diseases. If we could tackle that and make inroads into that figure, it would save the Scottish national health service an estimated £100 million. The biggest stat for me is that it would also save the poorest 20 per cent £100 million. It is worth mentioning that, because we are always discussing the sustainability of funding our NHS, the preventable health agenda and the steps that we could take to lift people out of poverty.

The statistics that I was looking at say that such a measure would save 1 million sick days that are lost to business because of ill health related to smoking conditions. It would also save 1 million working hours lost in productivity due to smoking breaks, and if those hours were then offered for participation in physical activity, the health of the nation would greatly improve, and productivity would skyrocket. It is not necessarily about reclaiming the time that people use for smoking breaks; it is about reallocating it to something that would be more beneficial.

We recognise where the next piece of work needs to take place. Rachael Hamilton focused on the practical legislative requirements that need to be met before we can get to the next stage. We all recognise that passive smoking has a bad effect on children’s health.

That brings me to Rachael Hamilton’s motion. Much work has been done on curtailing tobacco sponsorship and advertising, so I have been thinking about marketing and what the main influences are. For children, one of the main influences on smoking uptake will be seeing their parents or peers smoking. That is the inadvertent marketing tool that is working to the benefit of the tobacco companies. It is therefore entirely logical to extend the smoking ban to places where we are promoting a healthy lifestyle and opportunities for family interaction—play parks, outdoor sports facilities and activity sites. I cannot see how there can be any resistance to such a suggestion. It comes down to the practicalities and how we would legislate, so I am interested to hear the Scottish Government’s position on that. Is it an extension to the legislation that we have not quite got around to yet? If there is no resistance, why do we not just get it done?

13:32  

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

I congratulate Rachael Hamilton on securing this important debate. As the member has already acknowledged, there is clearly broad support across this chamber for a change in the law and for increasing the protection from the damaging effects of smoking that is afforded to Scotland’s young people.

The Scottish Parliament has a strong record of taking action on smoking and seeking to improve public health outcomes. The previous Scottish Labour-led Administration introduced the Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005, which established that, from 26 March 2006, it would be an offence to smoke in any wholly or substantially enclosed public space in Scotland, with a small number of exceptions. I acknowledge Kenneth Gibson’s contribution to the origins and creation of that legislation.

That was groundbreaking legislation. Scotland became the first part of the United Kingdom to legislate for a smoking ban, with England and Wales following our lead the following year. It is worth remembering that, when that vote took place here in 2005, it passed by 83 to 15, with only the Scottish Conservatives opposing the legislation. However, I believe in sinners repenting. I am pleased that they brought the motion to Parliament today, and I am pleased to see Rachael Hamilton now acknowledging the health and social inequalities caused by smoking and her desire to see further improvements.

In 2016, the Scottish Parliament took further steps, by banning smoking in a car if a child is present. That was another welcome move, and evidence from England and Wales, where the legislation was first introduced, and from Scotland shows that the ban has worked and has led to fewer children being exposed to cigarette smoke.

In Wales, the Welsh Government has now legislated to expand the smoking ban to play parks, playgrounds and outdoor sports facilities where children might be playing or participating in sport. I believe that that is the next stop in delivering a smoke-free Scotland.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Vaping has not been mentioned today. Does the member think that it should be treated differently from how smoking is treated?

David Stewart

It is certainly worth having a look at it. There has been long debate about vaping. Some critics have argued that it should also be banned because it can cause serious health issues. As a member of the Health and Sport Committee, I would certainly welcome any thoughts that Mr Mason might have on such an important subject.

Despite those very positive steps, smoking remains a significant public health issue in Scotland and it is a leading cause of preventable ill health, premature death and disability. All the evidence shows that tobacco use has clear links with inequality, and therefore with health inequalities, which the Parliament must work to tackle if we are serious about improving public health outcomes.

We heard from Brian Whittle that smoking rates are still the highest in the most disadvantaged areas: 35 per cent of people living in the most deprived areas of Scotland smoke, compared to 10 per cent of those living in the least deprived areas. In my region, the Highlands and Islands, recent Scottish index of multiple deprivation statistics ranked parts of Merkinch in Inverness as being among the most deprived communities in Scotland. I have a certain affinity with Merkinch, because I grew up and went to school there.

That means increased ill health and reduced life expectancy for far too many people. Part of the route to reducing inequalities is cutting smoking rates and encouraging active living and significant lifestyle changes. The link between poverty and smoking is stark and we should note the work that organisations such as the Poverty Alliance are doing in conjunction with ASH Scotland to better support the collaboration between public health and antipoverty interests.

Although compliance with the current smoking restrictions in Scotland is high, policing the introduction of a smoking ban in areas such as play parks would be considerably more challenging. Any changes in the law would require a comprehensive compliance strategy and a public education programme to be put in place.

The World Health Organization has described clean air as a basic human right and has said:

“Scientific evidence has unequivocally established that exposure to tobacco smoke causes death, disease and disability.”

Just 30 minutes of exposure to tobacco smoke changes the way that blood flows and clots, which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Second-hand smoke kills more than 600,000 people globally every year and, in many countries, it causes more than 10 per cent of all tobacco-related deaths.

Despite the progress and the increase in public awareness of the damages of smoking that have been made over the past decade, the challenge remains as real and as stark as ever. The motion is welcome and it offers an opportunity for the Parliament to demonstrate that we are willing to build on the work that has already been done to prevent the damage that smoking causes society and to take further and bolder action to improve public health, protect our young people and, ultimately, move towards a smokeless society. I congratulate Rachael Hamilton for the excellent motion and the debate.

13:37  

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

I thank Rachael Hamilton for bringing this important debate to the chamber.

Children have a right to play, as enshrined in article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We all know that play teaches our children social skills: how to compromise, be tolerant and be resilient. Play is the universal language of childhood. I believe that children must be able to play safely, and that means without the risk of being affected by passive smoking. We know that passive smoking is especially harmful to children, because they have less well-developed airways, lungs and immune systems. Children who live in a household where at least one person smokes are more likely to develop asthma and chest infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis. The bottom line is that smoking is dangerous—we know that. It is dangerous for those who smoke and for those who inhale other people’s smoke on a regular basis, particularly children.

As Rachael Hamilton mentioned, a law making it illegal to smoke in a car with anyone under the age of 18 came into force in Scotland in 2016, and people caught breaking the new law face a fine of up to £1,000. Public awareness of the dangers of smoking has greatly reduced the risk to children, with fewer parents smoking in the home and around non-smokers. I suspect that any right-thinking parent who smokes would have the sense not to smoke around children, and I would be interested to see whether there has been any research on that.

However, despite the hugely successful Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005, which we have heard about and which prohibited smoking in enclosed public spaces, smoking remains the most significant cause of ill health in Scotland. There are up to 100,000 hospitalisations per year and more than 9,000 premature deaths as a result of smoking. We must protect our children from the effects of passive smoking and the perceived normality that it is okay for adults to smoke around children in their play areas, which is why I support Rachael Hamilton’s motion.

As has been mentioned, last month saw the closure of a consultation on smoking outside hospital buildings. The Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016, which amended sections of 2005 act, introduced offences in that area. Although the guidelines that have been issued to hospitals to stop smoking in and around hospital buildings are partially effective, they are not being strictly adhered to, so the consultation asked whether legislation should be brought in to create a legally enforceable offence.

As I understand it, the 2005 act gives the Scottish ministers the power to introduce secondary legislation to prevent smoking in play parks and outdoor sports facilities. Rachael Hamilton outlined suggestions as to how that could be done. I would support that, subject to scrutiny of the effectiveness of the measure south of the border and how it is policed. As Rachael Hamilton’s motion states, the Welsh Government introduced the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017, which imposes a ban on smoking outdoors in areas where children play or participate in sport. That is a good model to look at.

We want Scotland to be the best place in the world for children to grow up. The Scottish Government has introduced groundbreaking initiatives such as the baby box, the best start grant and much more. Any future legislation would be a natural extension of our intention to promote healthy lifestyles and wellbeing in future generations by protecting them from the harmful effects of passive smoking. Scotland’s children have the right to be able to play without endangering their health.

13:41  

The Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans (Graeme Dey)

I thank Rachael Hamilton for securing the debate and so allowing us to hear members’ thoughts on an important issue on which there is largely consensus.

As a society, we have made considerable progress on smoking prevention. Figures from 2018 showed that 19 per cent of adults in Scotland were smokers, which of course is still too high, but it is a big improvement on the figures of 28 per cent in 2003 and almost 34 per cent in 1998. Among youngsters, the number of 15-year-olds who smoke regularly has dropped by more than two thirds in the past decade.

People are getting the message, but we are not letting up. Annually, health boards are provided with around £10 million in funding to deliver local stop-smoking services. We continue to work tirelessly towards our target of reducing smoking prevalence to 5 per cent or less by 2034, to tackle inequalities and to address the risks around the use of e-cigarettes. We have worked with our partners in local government and others to develop a set of jointly agreed and owned public health priorities for Scotland, which focus the whole system on the things that have the greatest potential to improve healthy life expectancy.

One of our key priorities is focused on reducing the use of, and harm from, tobacco and other drugs. The public health priorities, which are informed by the best available evidence, are based on partnership working and engagement with the wider public and the third sector, and of course local authorities. It is important that we work together in partnership as part of a whole-system approach that delivers real improvements in the nation’s health and wellbeing.

Although much has been achieved, we cannot be complacent or lose sight of the fact that smoking remains one of the most damaging contributors to Scotland’s poor health record. If we are to succeed and achieve our ultimate goal of a non-smoking Scotland, we need to keep moving the agenda forward on all fronts. We need to find new ways to engage with harder-to-reach groups and to step up efforts to prevent children and young people from starting in the first place. The tobacco control action plan is aimed at doing just that. The measures that are set out in the plan leave no one in any doubt that we are determined to continue to be a world leader in tobacco control.

Sadly, health inequalities between Scots in affluent areas and those in deprived areas are widening, which Brian Whittle touched on. It is clear that we need to be innovative if we are to drive down smoking rates across the board in order to reach the 2034 target. I am pleased that our laws are soon to be extended to include a smoke-free perimeter around NHS hospital buildings. It is logical that we should go further and target smoking in and around play parks and outdoor sporting facilities. The main reason for play park restrictions and hospital building legislation is to remove the visibility of smoking. The restrictions do not focus on harm, because smoke quickly dissipates in open air, which minimises the risk. They are actually about reducing the normalisation of the activity.

That said, the Scottish Government has no immediate proposals to legislate further on smoking outdoors, not least because many local authorities already have restrictions on smoking around playgrounds in parks and other areas. In particular, Scotland’s two biggest cities—Edinburgh and Glasgow—have policies in place. In Edinburgh, the smoke-free policy has resulted in smoking restrictions being extended from the workplace and vehicles to surrounding areas, for council properties. The rules include entrances, car parks and play areas.

Brian Whittle

Graeme Dey says, quite rightly, that there are councils that are leading the way. However, does he agree that it should be for the Scottish Government to lead from the top, or the front, and to deliver such policies around the whole of Scotland?

Graeme Dey

I will continue to expand on my explanation, but, in general, what Brian Whittle referred to is the direction of travel that we need to be heading in. However, there are some complications, which I will come to in a minute.

Glasgow City Council has a policy to ban smoking in children’s playgrounds, where notices are displayed to prohibit smoking. Such restrictions are replicated in most local authority areas.

In response to what I have been asked today, my initial reaction is that separate primary legislation would be required to address the matter. Rachael Hamilton suggested changing the definition of “enclosed” to provide a means to get around the problem. However—I am sure that members will recognise what I am about to say—lawyers would undoubtedly tell us that the definition of “enclosed” is commonly recognised and is drawn from other relevant pieces of legislation. If we were to move to change the definition, that would have to be proportionate, for legal reasons. For example, saying that “enclosed” was the same as “fenced off” would be disproportionate, as it could capture vast areas. I say all that not to provide reasons not to act, but to offer a degree of perspective.

Our focus in the current tobacco control action plan is to address health inequalities and cut smoking rates in the communities where people find it most difficult to quit. We are committed to conducting a public information campaign on that subject.

Since 2006, the Scottish Government has been encouraging local government to restrict smoking, wherever possible, around schools, playgrounds, outdoor sports facilities and play parks. Smoke-free local authority implementation guidance was published in 2017 to support councils to implement their policies for publicly owned sites, which means delivering smoke-free buildings and grounds and outlining the responsibilities of partner organisations. To be clear, the guidance covers schools, playgrounds, nurseries, day centres, parks, local authority premises and other grounds.

As Rachael Hamilton pointed out, my colleague Joe FitzPatrick, the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, has said publicly that we are supportive of the Welsh approach and that we will monitor it. However, to be clear, as I understand it, the terms of the Welsh act are still to be fully implemented. Partly because of Brexit pressures, there is no definitive timetable in place for bringing the regulations forward. Therefore, we have not yet been able to take the Welsh experience into account. Again, I offer that not as an excuse, but as a recognition of the facts.

Our action plan states that we will monitor the implementation of smoking bans in Wales and the implementation of guidance that is produced by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and NHS Health Scotland to assess whether legislation is needed here. As parliamentary business minister, I note in passing how incredibly well populated the legislative landscape is between now and dissolution. It is populated by not only Scottish Government bills but a large number of members’ bills and committee bills, so it is unlikely that we will be in a position to legislate in this parliamentary session.

Rachael Hamilton

I understand what Graeme Dey says about the restrictions to changing the definition of “enclosed” and possibly having to introduce primary legislation. However, the issue goes back to 2017. Joe FitzPatrick stated that he would look at monitoring the implementation of the guidelines that were issued to local authorities in 2017, so it has been rumbling on for quite a long time. I have received no indication of how that implementation has been going.

Graeme Dey

As I touched on in my speech, yes, there was a commitment, but it sat in tandem with a commitment to look at what was happening in practice in Wales. Bringing those two things together has not yet been possible. I stress again that I say that not to deflect or ignore what is an important issue. Those were the commitments that were given. We need to look at both aspects and also recognise, as I said a moment ago, that it is highly unlikely that there will be capacity to legislate in the current parliamentary session. However, it is a direction of travel that needs to be looked at.

On taking account of the Welsh experience and the success of the guidance, any decisions that we take as a Parliament on the introduction of any new approaches or legislation should always be taken on the basis of robust evidence. We should also look at appropriateness and effectiveness.

It is quite clear that, in principle, not a great deal separates any of us on the issue. I thank Rachael Hamilton for securing the debate. I suspect that it is a topic to which we will return.

13:50 Meeting suspended.  14:00 On resuming—