Meeting date: Thursday, May 25, 2017
Meeting of the Parliament 25 May 2017
Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Celtic’s European Cup Win (50th Anniversary), Contract (Third Party Rights) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time
- General Question Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- Celtic’s European Cup Win (50th Anniversary)
- Contract (Third Party Rights) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1
- Parliamentary Bureau Motions
- Decision Time
First Minister’s Question Time
To ask the First Minister what engagements she has planned for the rest of the day. (S5F-01301)
Members will be aware of the heartbreaking news today that 14-year-old Eilidh MacLeod from Barra was among those who were killed in the Manchester Arena on Monday night. I know that we will all want to send our love and thoughts to Eilidh’s mum and dad and to all her family and friends at this dreadful time for them. Our thoughts are also with Eilidh’s friend Laura MacIntyre, who remains in hospital.
Later today, I have engagements to take forward the Government’s programme for Scotland.
I associate myself with the words of the First Minister. The thoughts and prayers of those on the Conservative benches are with the families of those who lost loved ones on Monday and, today, particularly with the family of Eilidh MacLeod, her friends and the whole Barra community. It is a tragedy that will be felt by everyone on the island, which is a close-knit community that is grieving today.
In my judgment, it would not be right to use today to indulge in the knockabout of an election campaign. However, I believe that we best show our contempt for the tactics of terror by going about our business of practising the very democratic values that bombers seek to destroy, so I would like to use First Minister’s question time today to do just that.
With the welfare of young people forefront in our minds, we spoke to the Scottish Youth Parliament yesterday to ask whether there were any issues that it wanted to raise. It is currently campaigning on the issue of young people’s mental health and the need to ensure high-quality mental health service provision for all Scotland’s young people. What action is the First Minister’s Government taking to improve the mental health of young people around Scotland?
I thank Ruth Davidson for the approach that she is taking today. Above all, our young people, their interest and their wellbeing are in our hearts. The Youth Parliament has raised many issues over the years that not only have been of importance to young people in Scotland but have resulted in action by this Parliament, which is to the Youth Parliament’s credit.
As members are aware, the mental health of young people—children and adolescents—and ensuring that we meet the demand for services and have high-quality services are at the heart of our mental health strategy. Among many actions, we have given a particular commitment to a national review of personal and social education, of the role of pastoral guidance in schools and of school counselling services to make sure that every child has appropriate access to the right support in school.
Those actions have long been important but, given the events of the past few days, making sure that we have appropriate support for young people who, for a whole variety of reasons, experience stress, trauma and difficulty in their lives is hugely important. The Government is committed to making sure that we do the right things in that regard.
Along with the concerns that were raised by the Scottish Youth Parliament, the Scottish Association for Mental Health launched a campaign this week that highlights the mental health needs of young people. The “Going to Be” campaign points out that three children in every classroom in Scotland will have experienced a mental health difficulty by the time they are 16 years old. It also points out that nearly 7,000 young people were turned away from child and adolescent mental health services last year and warns that, without help, their issues might worsen.
Does the First Minister share the concerns that SAMH has raised? Can she assure SAMH that the concerns that have been raised in that campaign are being taken seriously and are being taken forward?
Yes, I share SAMH’s concerns. However, SAMH is a key partner of the Scottish Government in making sure that we take action to address some of these issues.
As I have said in the chamber many times before, many more young people are coming forward for mental health services. I know that that point is accepted and acknowledged across the chamber. We should encourage that, as it demonstrates that the stigma that is associated with mental health is reducing, but it puts an obligation on the Government, our national health service and other agencies to meet that demand.
There are two particular issues in Ruth Davidson’s question that I want to respond to briefly. First, on people whose referrals for child and adolescent mental health services are rejected, we have, as members will be aware, given a commitment in our mental health strategy to review rejected CAMHS referrals and a commitment to use that review as a foundation for further improvements. It is important to point out that there will be a number of reasons for rejecting referrals. Ultimately, that is and always should be a clinical decision—for example, another intervention before CAMHS treatment might be needed—but we want to make sure that our child and adolescent mental health services are working well and are properly joined up with other services so that young people get the care that they need.
The second point is more general. In my first answer, I mentioned the review of personal and social education that we are commissioning. We should all also attach importance to mental health first aid. Mental health first aid training to support staff and young people in educational establishments is being funded by the Scottish Government and rolled out across Scotland by Education Scotland. Its aim is to train staff in secondary schools to increase their confidence in approaching pupils who think that they might be struggling with a mental health problem. That training is very much about complementing other, more formal services.
We are taking a whole range of actions, and I hope that members can unite behind that approach. We know that there is work to do, but we are absolutely determined to get on and do it.
When we discuss such issues, we often talk about money and resources, of course, but it is often about other factors that are not within Government control, too. For example, there is the fabulous work that the scouts, the guides, the Boys Brigade and other youth organisations do, all of which has been shown to have a hugely beneficial impact on young people’s mental health. Such organisations change the lives of young people for the better in countless unseen ways and steer them to better choices and happier lives. Does the First Minister agree that, as well as celebrating their work, we should do more to support youth organisations and aim to ensure that, as far as possible, every young person in Scotland has the chance to join one?
Yes, I do. We should pay tribute to the work of organisations such as the Boys Brigade, the scouts, the brownies and the girl guides. I think that we have had the Boys Brigade in the Parliament this week to talk about its work to encourage young people to take part in sport. It does fantastic work. I am aware that I am sitting next to a former member of the Boys Brigade, John Swinney, and I am sure that there are many other former members of the Boys Brigade in the chamber.
It is important to point to the work that such organisations do for a wider reason. It is understandable that, this week, we are talking about unbelievable horror and trauma that young people have suffered—principally those who were in the Manchester Arena on Monday night. Over the past couple of days, we have commented in the chamber on the fact that children across our country who were nowhere near Manchester will have been impacted by the scenes that they have seen on their televisions.
We should never forget that youth is a time of great joy. It should be a time of great happiness in which young people get to explore. I have read many things this week, including many beautiful and poignant things about young people experiencing the rite of passage of going to their first concert. We must always remember that our principal obligation is to support in every way that we can young people to be young people and to get the most out of life. Organisations such as those that Ruth Davidson mentioned certainly play a very important part in that.
The First Minister touched on this issue earlier. This week, SAMH raised the issue of a lack of counselling services in secondary schools and pointed out that children in Wales and Northern Ireland have guaranteed access to schools-based counselling. Notwithstanding the mental health strategy that the Scottish Government has put in place, SAMH says that children in Scotland are missing out. Earlier this year, we published a paper on mental health that supported the idea of school champions and counsellors being appointed in schools, colleges and universities. In her first answer, the First Minister also referred to moves to improve counselling in schools. Will she give us an assurance today that the Scottish Government will take that forward in good time, so that young people in Scotland will have the same counselling services available to them as young people elsewhere in the UK have?
Counselling in schools is hugely important. In a wider sense, it is also important to recognise that health and wellbeing is one of the core aspects of the curriculum for excellence, so it is embedded in the very curriculum of our schools. However, it is important that we make sure that schools have access to the resources that allow them to support the health and wellbeing of children and young people in a very practical and meaningful way. The review that I spoke about will look particularly at school counselling. I have also mentioned the role of mental health first aid training.
It is important to say that a mental health link person is available to every school. That is achieved in a variety of ways, using different models that meet local needs, so the link worker might be a CAMHS clinician or someone from another specialty such as a primary care worker. The named link person will be able to contact specialist services for advice if they need to do so.
The review that I have spoken about, which is an important aspect of the mental health strategy, will allow us to determine what further action we need to take so that schools have access to the right resources to give the best possible support to all young people.
To ask the First Minister what engagements she has planned for the rest of the week. (S5F-01299)
Engagements to take forward the Government’s programme for Scotland.
Barra is one of Scotland’s most beautiful and peaceful places. That peace has been shattered by the actions of Salman Abedi. The family of Eilidh MacLeod is grieving and the family of Laura MacIntyre is just hoping and praying that their daughter will get better. A death like that shatters most communities, but it hits particularly hard in an island community such as Barra. Will the First Minister tell us what extra support the Scottish Government can offer to the people of Barra at this difficult time?
Kezia Dugdale makes a very powerful point. The death of a young person—in any circumstances, but particularly in tragic and horrific ones such as those we have witnessed this week—is very difficult for any community anywhere to deal with. Barra is a small and very close-knit island community, so the impact of Eilidh’s death and Laura’s horrific injuries will be felt there in a way that is much more intense than would be the case in a bigger community. We must be mindful of that. My colleague Angus Brendan MacNeil is a resident of Barra, and I know from him just how that impact is being felt.
On the support that is being offered, Scottish Government officials have already engaged with the local council to ascertain what support is being made available and to consider whether there are ways in which we can support that. I understand that the director of education, who is himself an educational psychologist, is on Barra, and that a further educational psychologist and an NHS clinical psychologist are travelling there today. Between them, they will focus on the support that the families of, and those who were closest to, the two girls will need. Of course—people will understand and agree with this—their aim will be to keep things as normal as possible for the school that the girls attended, but to make sure that support is in place for the young people who are going need it.
The last point that I will make—as is often relevant in any tragic incident such as this—is that we all think of people in such circumstances in the immediate aftermath, because the media are full of images. However, it is often in the days, weeks and months after such an event that the impact on those closest to people who have died will be felt. I am very conscious that the Government, working with the council, which will be in the lead, needs to make sure that that support will be in place—not just today, next week or next month, but for as long as it is needed.
I very much welcome that answer, and I thank the First Minister for it.
After attacks such as that in Manchester, political leaders talk about how we cannot let terrorists change our way of life. We can do that by carrying on with the business in this chamber and by holding the Government to account as normal, and that is what I want to do now.
Earlier this week, Target Ovarian Cancer published its pathfinder report, which is the first of its kind in Scotland. It found that 36 per cent of general practitioners wrongly believe that there are no detectable symptoms of ovarian cancer. That is costing lives. Will the First Minister tell us what steps she will take to improve the expertise on and awareness of ovarian cancer among Scotland’s GPs?
We will pay very close attention to that report in the first instance. Obviously our focus is on prevention and early detection as much as it is on treatment and it is extremely important, particularly with cancer, to make sure that clinicians, particularly primary care clinicians, have the guidance and the information that they need to spot symptoms. I know that GPs and others working in primary care want to be in the best possible position to do that.
Work is regularly done—not simply for ovarian cancer but for other conditions—to look at and review guidance for clinicians. I give an undertaking today that we will do that as far as the ovarian cancer report is concerned because we know—this runs strongly through our detect cancer early programme—that the earlier cancer is detected, the better the outcomes for the patients who have it.
Thank you for that. Of course, it is not just GPs who lack awareness of the early signs of ovarian cancer. The report shows that 83 per cent of women do not know the main signs or the main symptoms of ovarian cancer.
The First Minister just mentioned the detect cancer early programme, which has been very successful at raising awareness about cancer of the breast, lung and bowel. Given the startling findings of the report and the prevalence of ovarian cancer, does the First Minister think that it is time to extend that detect cancer early programme to cover ovarian cancer, which it currently does not?
We keep that programme under review. I was health secretary when the detect cancer early programme was first established and a lot of careful thought went into deciding on the particular cancers to focus on in the first period of that campaign. Lung, breast and bowel cancer were selected because of the significant number of people who suffer from those cancers in Scotland.
However, groups representing patients with other cancers regularly make representations for inclusion in that programme and we are happy to consider such representations. Given the report from Target Ovarian Cancer that has been referred to, we certainly welcome the opportunity to discuss with Target Ovarian Cancer how we as a Government can support greater efforts to raise awareness among the public at large and, in particular, among clinicians working in primary care. I would be happy to make sure that the health secretary includes in that discussion the possible future inclusion of ovarian cancer in the detect cancer early programme.
To ask the First Minister when the Cabinet will next meet. (S5F-01303)
I add my condolences and those of my party to the family, friends and community of Eilidh MacLeod and our most sincere hopes for the recovery of the great many others who may still be fighting for their lives or who are recovering from serious injuries, including Eilidh’s friend Laura MacIntyre. As the faces of those who have been lost or injured are seen and as we learn the names and something of the life stories of those who have been affected, tears will be shed in communities such as Barra across the United Kingdom and around the world, too.
Election campaigning is due to recommence later. We all have a responsibility to carry out that campaigning in an appropriate tone and, in particular, to reject the division that terrorists and the far right in this country seek to create along the lines of race and religion.
Keeping people safe at home must never prevent us from valuing all life equally. Is the First Minister aware of the tragic deaths of at least 34 people—many were children, including toddlers and even babies—when crossing the Mediterranean on Wednesday from Libya to Italy? Can I seek a continued commitment from the First Minister—and, I hope, from all political leaders—to resist the voices of hostility and xenophobia; to ensure that we look after those who need safe routes to this country and others; and to give such people safety and security as asylum seekers here? Is this an appropriate time to press the UK Government to reverse its decision to scrap the Dubs amendment to protect child refugees?
I am aware of the dreadful tragedy to which Patrick Harvie referred. Anybody else who has read accounts of that event will, like me, have been distressed and upset to read of children—mainly toddlers—being drowned and killed.
It is important for all of us—I know that we all, as human beings, take this view—to understand that the loss of a child’s life is a tragedy, no matter where that child comes from or what the circumstances in which they grew up were. We should mourn and grieve for any child’s life.
When a child loses their life—whether it is in an attack such as the one in Manchester or in crossing the Mediterranean with their family while fleeing circumstances that we can scarcely imagine in the hope of a better life somewhere else—we should always dedicate ourselves to learning the lessons and doing everything that we can to make the world a better place for our children to grow up in.
The only person who was responsible for what happened in Manchester on Monday night was the man who did what he did and carried out the attack. However, we must all work to resolve the conflicts in the world that people like that individual try to use as an excuse—that is completely without justification, but nevertheless they try—for the heinous acts that they carry out.
There is a lot of injustice in our world right now, and we can sometimes feel helpless in the face of it, but we all have a role to play in addressing that injustice and making our world a better place. One way in which we can do that is by offering a hand of friendship to those who are fleeing conditions elsewhere that we can scarcely imagine. I am proud of the work that local authorities and other agencies across Scotland have done to welcome Syrian refugees and to make them feel at home here in Scotland.
Today is not a day to make party-political statements, but I think that the UK can and should do more in the years ahead. Honouring the Dubs amendment would be one way to give a helping hand to some of the most vulnerable children anywhere on our planet.
I am grateful for those words. All our hearts are hurting for those whose names and faces we are learning, but it is important to remember the equal value of every life, including those of people whose faces we will probably never see and whose life stories we will probably never learn about.
I will ask the First Minister about the UK Government’s decision, which I support, to suspend the sharing of intelligence information with the United States following a series of leaks to the media of information that is particularly sensitive and potentially relevant to inquiries. It has been reported that UK officials have expressed anger, disbelief and astonishment at the actions of the US intelligence services in leaking that information.
Does the First Minister share that reaction? Does she agree with the UK Government’s decision to suspend the sharing of such information? What are the implications for the security measures for which the Scottish Government and Police Scotland are responsible if, in the future, we cannot trust the intelligence services of an ally?
On the first part of Patrick Harvie’s question, as I said earlier, every child is valued and we should mourn the death of every child. I will not be the only person in the chamber, in Scotland or in the UK who finds it difficult to look at the photograph of the wee eight-year-old girl who was killed in Manchester without feeling tearful. We will never see the photographs of many of the children who die in other circumstances, but that does not mean that their lives are any less valuable or that we do not have a responsibility, in working with others, to try to make things better for other children.
The ability of countries to share intelligence confidentially and securely is one of the things that help to keep us safe. The importance of that, and of having trusted arrangements in place such as the five eyes system, cannot be overestimated. I share the UK Government’s anger and disbelief that very sensitive details from an on-going live investigation have been leaked to the media in America. That is completely unacceptable and I think that all of us should make it clear that it is unacceptable and cannot be defended in any way, shape or form.
I know that the UK Government will have taken its decision with regret, but it is right to stop sharing—for a short period, I hope—such intelligence information with the American Government. I know that the UK Government will want to do that for as short a period as possible and that the Prime Minister has said that she will raise the issue with President Trump. I very much hope that the American Government will give assurances that allow a speedy return to the sharing of intelligence, which is such an important part of keeping safe not just the population in the UK but populations around the world.
Let us be in no doubt that what we have read and seen in American newspapers over the past couple of days is completely unacceptable and potentially compromises the investigation that is under way into the atrocity that we saw in Manchester on Monday night.
If we keep the questions and answers relatively succinct, we will get through a number of supplementary questions.
In this sad week, people have many concerns and, of course, safety and security are among them. Will the First Minister confirm that the chief constable has the proper resources to deal with the security situation in Scotland as it stands?
I have had that assurance from the chief constable. We discussed the matter in Parliament yesterday, when I made a statement on the security situation. After that statement, I visited the multi-agency co-ordination centre in Govan police station and spoke again to the chief constable there. As is his responsibility, he has reviewed the security arrangement in Scotland, given the increase in the threat level, and he has made judgments about the level of policing, including armed policing, that is necessary. His judgment at this stage, which he will keep under review, is that the police have the resources within their own resources to provide that level of policing across Scotland, so he does not require at this stage to call on military personnel to help to police the streets or public places in Scotland.
I publicly record my gratitude to the military for their offers of support and for the support that they are providing in other parts of the UK. I spoke yesterday to the brigadier who has responsibility in Scotland and I recorded my gratitude for his offers of support. However, the police here in Scotland have the resources from within Police Scotland to provide the appropriate level of security, and we should be grateful to them for that. The chief constable has the operational responsibility to make such decisions and he will keep the matter under review for as long as the heightened security situation exists.
This morning, Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee considered the role that Scotland’s libraries, museums and galleries play in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Does the First Minister understand that in this post-Manchester world people of all ages keep asking why this atrocity happened? Will she undertake to co-ordinate the work of the national collections on the understanding and study of Islam and the diversity of religious tolerance and understanding and to co-ordinate the work that goes on across all our agencies to that end?
I am happy to take that forward and to ask Fiona Hyslop to look at what we can do to support our national galleries, our libraries and others in contributing to the mutual understanding of different cultures and faiths, because that is so important and is at the heart of the issue today. Many conflicts and disputes around the world come from ignorance and misunderstanding—it has to be said that some of that is deliberate misunderstanding and ignorance. The more we encourage people to learn and understand about different faiths and cultures, the more chance we will have of ensuring that people not just in this country but around the world can live together in harmony. Culture, books and art have a hugely important role to play in that, so Tavish Scott’s suggestion is good and I am happy to ask Fiona Hyslop to take it forward and report back to him in due course.
I met the head of the student association at Glasgow Kelvin College in Springburn recently and I understand that, following strike action, colleges’ terms might need to be extended to allow students to achieve course credits. Will the Scottish Government work with colleges to ensure that they are in a position to alleviate any additional student hardship that is caused by that extension, such as hardship from additional childcare or travel costs?
Shirley-Anne Somerville met Colleges Scotland’s employers association on Tuesday this week to seek reassurance on the contingencies that colleges have in place to minimise any impact on students as a consequence of the recent strike action. A firm assurance was given that contingency measures are in place. However, I am happy to ask her to speak to Colleges Scotland to raise those specific issues. More generally, I am pleased that agreement was reached last Friday between the unions and the employers to enable further strike action to be called off.
Foreign Direct Investment
To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to attract foreign direct investment. (S5F-01316)
The 2017 Ernst & Young attractiveness survey on inward investment to the United Kingdom, which was published on Tuesday of this week, reported that, with 122 projects being successfully secured during 2016 and three Scottish cities—Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen—being in the top 10, Scotland has continued to be the most attractive location for foreign direct investment outside London in every one of the past five years.
We continue to work with Scottish Development International to engage with potential investors across the globe to ensure that they are fully aware of the many strengths of the Scottish economy and the range of support that is available to help them to grow their businesses here.
I agree that the EY Scotland attractiveness survey is a very positive sign for the Scottish economy. Does the First Minister agree that a further positive sign is the number of high-value projects, particularly research and development projects, that Scotland now attracts and that, although they may not bring as many jobs in their first phase, they are the basis for a high-value, knowledge-based economy that will lead to more and better-paid jobs in the future?
Yes, I agree very much with that. The attraction of high-value jobs to Scotland is a very positive sign. The EY survey says:
“Scotland was the clear leader for R&D ... in the UK, attracting more projects than any other UK region in 2016”.
R and D projects attract high-skilled, high-value jobs, and our excellent performance in the face of what we see as reductions in R and D investment elsewhere is testament to the strength, among other things, of our academic excellence.
However, we must not be complacent, and we remain very focused on ensuring that Scotland continues to be seen as a highly attractive place to invest.
Although growth in foreign direct investment is absolutely to be welcomed, the increase was 2.5 per cent last year compared with 51 per cent in the previous year. Our growth was less than that of the UK as a whole and the total number of jobs secured fell by almost 50 per cent. The EY survey also says that Scotland’s perceived attractiveness to investors has decreased for a number of reasons, which I will not rehearse. Can the First Minister offer an explanation as to why there is that difference in FDI growth and say what action she is taking to close the gap?
I think that it is very difficult for anybody to read the EY report from Tuesday fairly and come to the conclusion that it is anything other than positive for Scotland. If we look at the comparisons with last year, we see that in 2015, which is the year that the previous report was based on, we recorded our highest percentage share of UK projects of the past 10 years. It was a particularly strong year, so the improvement this year on last year was always likely to be slightly less than that.
However, the 2016 result is still excellent. The fact that 10.7 per cent of all projects came to Scotland still places Scotland significantly above our population share in what is an extremely competitive inward investment environment. We should not be complacent about that, but we should all absolutely celebrate it.
The point about jobs goes back to the question that Kate Forbes just asked me—Kate Forbes absolutely put her finger on this. A number of the projects that are reported through the EY study did not have figures for jobs. That obviously reduces the number, because we do not know how many jobs there are for some of the projects.
One of the other issues with numbers of jobs is that so many of the projects that we attracted last year were high-value projects, particularly in R and D, and, as most people know from their own experience, those kinds of projects do not necessarily bring the large numbers of jobs that others do, but they do bring huge value to the Scottish economy.
The future success of our economy is based on attracting high-skilled roles in areas such as R and D and software, which deliver that higher value. Actually, we should see the success of R and D not as a negative, because it perhaps brings fewer jobs, but as a positive, because of the value that it adds to our economy over the longer term.
Foreign direct investment is absolutely essential to Scotland, but before the Scottish Government invests any money in companies that are based abroad, will it carry out checks to ensure two things: that those companies pay their proper taxes; and, as important, that they have a level of pay for their workforce that is legal and appropriate?
Scottish Enterprise carries out robust due diligence on companies before it invests. It carefully assesses the companies that it invests in, not least so that we can ensure that we get the greatest value for taxpayers’ money.
On the two particular points that Mike Rumbles raises, the Scottish Government’s position could not be clearer. It is absolutely the responsibility of all companies to pay the tax that they are due to pay. Responsibility for this is not for the Scottish Government, as it is not within our powers, but I believe that there should be in place much more robust rules and regulations on tax avoidance by companies.
We are absolutely crystal clear about the importance that we attach to payment of the living wage. We are now in a situation in which a higher percentage of people are paid the real living wage in Scotland than in any other nation in the United Kingdom, but we still have work to do, so we will continue to use all the levers at our disposal to ensure that we encourage companies to pay the living wage or set out plans by which they can move towards paying the living wage.
Business Leaders (Meetings)
To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Government will provide details of the meeting it held with business leaders on 21 March 2017. (S5F-01304)
Ministers regularly engage with the business community and proactively publish details of those meetings on the Scottish Government website. On 21 March, I, with the Deputy First Minister, the economy secretary and the finance secretary, met 12 key business leaders at Bute house, to continue our engagement with industry on Scottish Government activities, and to allow them the opportunity to raise any issues with us in return.
I am very pleased that the Scottish Government spends a proportion of its time speaking with business leaders. We can all learn from Scotland’s businesses, large and small, about how we can grow and stimulate the Scottish economy.
Given that young people are, rightly and understandably, a theme of today’s First Minister’s question time, let me ask this: what advice have Scotland’s business leaders given the First Minister on how Scotland’s economy can be stimulated for our young people who are entering the jobs market for the first time, and how is the Scottish Government acting on that advice?
There are a range of ways in which we are working to ensure that our economy offers the opportunities that our young people need and want. The work that many of our universities and colleges do with business to ensure that they are providing the courses and opportunities that employers need to grow their businesses is part of that, and the work that we are doing to encourage high-value investment into Scotland is another part.
One of the business leaders who were engaged in discussion with us on 21 March was Sir Ian Wood, who led for the Scottish Government the work on developing the young workforce, to make much more close and productive links between our schools, our academic institutions and the world of work. The work on developing the young workforce is now being taken forward across Scotland, and chambers of commerce, for example, have a leading role to play in that.
Although our economic strategy and economic initiatives have a range of purposes in growing the economy, they should all be furthering our young people’s opportunities to succeed and prosper.
National Health Service Pay Cap
To ask the First Minister, in light of her expressing the view that the NHS pay cap is “unsustainable”, whether the Scottish Government will provide details of the submission it made to the pay review body. (S5F-01306)
In the most recent pay review, the Scottish Government submission included a commitment to paying the real living wage, a guarantee of a minimum increase of £400 for staff earning £22,000 or less, the continuation of our policy of no compulsory redundancies—all three of those policies are different from those elsewhere in the UK—and a 1 per cent pay increase for staff earning more than £22,000, which is similar to the position in Wales.
That was our most recent submission. I have made it clear that, as we have now entered a period in which inflation is rising, the pay restraint that we have seen in recent times is unsustainable. That is why, in advance of our next submission, we have asked staff representatives, including unions, to gather evidence to submit to the pay review body.
The First Minister will be aware that our NHS staff have endured seven years of pay restraint, which for some nurses has meant a 14 per cent real-terms cut worth £3,400. As the First Minister has just said, her submission to the pay review body was to keep the 1 per cent pay cap. Does she accept that our fantastic NHS staff deserve better pay, and will she commit to scrapping the pay cap?
As I said, we have had pay restraint for the last number of years, and I know how difficult that has been for staff. Of course, the purpose of that has been to protect jobs in our NHS and our wider public service at a time when our budgets have been getting reduced year on year. The Scottish Government has taken a range of actions to try to give targeted support, particularly to the lowest paid. The initiatives that I outlined—the real living wage, the guaranteed increase for low-paid staff and the continuation of the no compulsory redundancies policy—are all policies that are not in place elsewhere in the United Kingdom. That is an indication of how seriously we take fair treatment of those who work in our NHS.
On the future, I have made it clear that, when inflation is rising, pay restraint of that nature cannot be sustainable. For the NHS, we have given a commitment to making a submission, with staff representatives, that takes account of inflation and through which, moving forward, we can secure fair outcomes for staff in the NHS and the wider public service that take account of affordability but also the cost of living and the pressures that people live with daily.