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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 26 April 2017

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Carers and Social Care, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motion, Decision Time, Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week 2017, Correction


Contents


Portfolio Question Time


Justice and the Law Officers


Cashback for Communities (West Dunbartonshire)

1. Gil Paterson (Clydebank and Milngavie) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government how much West Dunbartonshire has received as a result of the cashback for communities scheme. (S5O-00889)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson)

Young people from West Dunbartonshire directly benefited from over £890,000 of cashback investment from 2008 to 2016. That investment delivered almost 33,000 activities and opportunities up to March 2016.

Phase 4 of cashback started on 1 April 2017, and it will run until 31 March 2020. We are investing £17 million across 17 exciting new programmes that are even more focused on disadvantaged young people in every local authority area across Scotland. That will build on the success of the cashback programme to date.

Gil Paterson

How many activities has the scheme funded in West Dunbartonshire and across Scotland as a whole, and what are the priorities for the cashback for communities initiative?

Michael Matheson

As I mentioned, between 2008 and 2016 we delivered almost 33,000 activities and opportunities in West Dunbartonshire. Across Scotland, we have delivered nearly 2 million free, positive and healthy opportunities and activities for young people to participate in.

The £17 million phase 4 cashback programme started on 1 April this year, and it involves 17 partner organisations delivering for young people throughout the country. The phase 4 cashback programme has an even stronger focus on areas of deprivation and disadvantaged young people. The strong focus on disadvantaged young people will contribute towards reaching our aim of tackling inequality by raising their attainment, ambition and aspiration.

I very much agree with Gil Paterson that cashback gives young people the chance to get creative and broaden their horizons by taking part in a range of different activities and opportunities. We are providing opportunities to young people to get involved and improve their confidence and sense of achievement. Investment in our young people and their communities through cashback is money well spent.

Maurice Corry (West Scotland) (Con)

I note that a large proportion of the cashback for communities scheme money in West Dunbartonshire goes to sports-related projects. Will the cabinet secretary consider a more even spread to other community schemes that are very worth while in West Dunbartonshire?

Michael Matheson

Maurice Corry will recognise that sport is a key component of the cashback programme, but we also have the creative programme and the 17 different programmes that we will take forward with a range of national organisations. We will tailor and deliver programmes that are specific to local areas. Some of them will involve outdoor activities that are not sport related as such; those activities will involve participation in other types of programme.

This week, the first of the experience in going sailing events through the youth ocean-going training programme is taking place. Young people from the Borders are participating in that. A range of different programmes will be delivered in West Dunbartonshire and other parts of Scotland, in which young people from West Dunbartonshire will be able to participate. The 17 organisations that we have given funding to will be responsible for considering how things will be delivered at local level and ensuring that, if the programmes are national, people from areas such as West Dunbartonshire will get the opportunity to participate in them.


Police Stations (Support for People with Mental Health Problems)

2. Tom Arthur (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)

I remind members that I am the parliamentary liaison officer for the Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that police stations are resourced to support people with mental health problems. (S5O-00890)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson)

There is increasing recognition of the key role that the police play in supporting people who are vulnerable or in distress, including people with mental health conditions. The draft “Policing 2026” strategy, which was recently published for consultation by Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority, emphasises the importance of a partnership approach in providing effective support to people with mental health conditions. There are already very good examples of collaboration between Police Scotland and national health service partners to improve the response and service to people who are in distress or suffering from mental health difficulties. For example, community triage services, which provide officers with out-of-hours access to community psychiatric nurses, are operating in the Glasgow area and in Edinburgh, and several other areas across Scotland are developing similar services.

The Scottish Government’s mental health strategy contains an action to increase the mental health workforce to give access to dedicated mental health professionals in a number of key settings, including the police service. To meet that commitment, the Scottish Government will increase the additional investment to £35 million over the next five years, which will pay for 800 additional mental health workers in those settings.

Tom Arthur

Given that as many as 80 per cent of incidents that are attended by Police Scotland are non-criminal call-outs, including responding to vulnerable individuals and individuals with mental health conditions, does the cabinet secretary agree that the provision of dedicated mental health professionals in police stations across Scotland will be an invaluable addition to local policing?

Michael Matheson

It is important that vulnerable individuals, particularly those who are in distress or experiencing mental ill health, get the right support at the appropriate time when they contact one of our emergency services, including the police service. The additional investment that we are putting into the mental health workforce will help to increase capacity to assist the police in addressing issues relating to mental ill-health.

It is worth noting the significant work that Police Scotland is taking forward. Last week, I had the privilege of visiting Police Scotland’s Fife divisional headquarters in Glenrothes, where I saw at first hand the excellent work that is being undertaken to equip officers and staff with the skills required to support people who have mental ill-health or who are experiencing distress. Police Scotland is leading the way on the issue, with the training of all its officers up to the rank of inspector. That training of around 17,500 officers will be completed by May this year, when they will all have been trained and equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to work with individuals who are experiencing mental ill-health and distress and to respond to that appropriately and effectively.


Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (Levy)

3. Elaine Smith (Central Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission regarding the 12.5 per cent increase in the solicitor levy. (S5O-00891)

The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs (Annabelle Ewing)

I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests, where they will find that I am a solicitor by profession and hold a current practising certificate, albeit that I do not practise.

Officials met the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission on 9 March to discuss the background to its proposed budget. The commission is an independent statutory body and operates independently of the Scottish Government and the legal profession. It is for the commission to determine the annual levy to be paid by the legal profession, in accordance with legislation. The Scottish ministers have no statutory powers regarding the commission and hence have no statutory role in operational matters.

Elaine Smith

I thank the minister for that response, but it will be rather disappointing to the many constituents who have approached me and, no doubt, other members, hoping that the matter can be raised in Parliament and that some action might be taken. It might be rather confusing for them to hear that answer since, in 2010, the then Minister for Community Safety, Fergus Ewing, wrote to the SLCC expressing strong views on a proposed increase in the solicitor levy. Why can the Scottish Government not do so now, particularly given that the Law Society of Scotland has remarked that the increase is “unacceptable” and given that, at that time, Fergus Ewing said that ministers would review the situation and see whether changes in the respective power of ministers and the commission were desirable?

Annabelle Ewing

Scottish Government officials have in fact written to the chief executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to raise the concerns that have been raised recently by members of the profession concerning, among other things, governance, the approach to efficiencies and the extent of non-core activities. That letter has been sent to the chief executive of the SLCC and we await his response.

On the wider issue of looking at the system as a whole and how it can be made to function better and with wider acceptance, the member might be aware that yesterday we announced the launch of an independent review of the regulation of legal services, which reflected our manifesto commitment to review the regulation of the legal profession. The complaints system is made up of a number of processes and actors, one of which is the SLCC and, further to the independent review, reviewers will be able to investigate what changes will be required to strengthen public trust in the system, and to modernise and simplify the system and the regulatory structure that underpins it.

Gordon Lindhurst (Lothian) (Con)

I remind members of my register of interests and the fact that I am a practising advocate subject to the SLCC levy.

As part of the independent review, will the question arise of some mechanism whereby the SLCC levy setting should itself be subject to independent review? It seems somewhat ironic that a body that is meant to look independently and objectively at complaints against members of the legal profession should be able to set such a levy without reference to independent consideration of what the appropriate levy should be.

Annabelle Ewing

I remind the member that the statutory framework that we are talking about was introduced further to the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007—passed in this Parliament on 14 December 2006—and that the act provided for the Scottish ministers having no statutory role in the operation of the commission.

Looking to the future and the independent review of the regulation of legal services, it will be a matter for the chair of the review, Esther Roberton, and her panel to consider all the issues that they feel are relevant within the terms of reference that are set. For full details of the review, I refer the member to the inspired parliamentary question that was answered yesterday.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP)

Given that setting the SLCC levy is not a matter in which the Scottish Government has a role, does the minister agree that the attendance of both parties at a meeting last week was a positive step and that it enabled further discussion and an opportunity for the SLCC and the Law Society of Scotland to present their concerns directly to one another?

Annabelle Ewing

I was aware of Rona Mackay’s excellent initiative and I commend the action that she took in seeking to facilitate dialogue between the SLCC and, in particular, the Law Society of Scotland. As the member will have heard, there have been a number of initiatives over the past few days that have sought to move the issue forward and to look to the future with regard to how we improve our statutory regulatory framework in the years ahead. I commend the action that the member took, at her own initiative, to move the issue forward.


Emergency Control Rooms (Coverage of Islands)

4. Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands) (LD)

To ask the Scottish Government how effective emergency control rooms are in recognising island geography. (S5O-00892)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson)

The emergency services use a number of different tools to support them in the identification of incident locations. It is those tools, alongside extensive training and the utilisation of local knowledge that is held by response units, that support the delivery of a prompt and effective service to members of the public across the country, including in our island communities.

Tavish Scott

The cabinet secretary will be aware that, of late, the Scottish Ambulance Service sent a plane to Shetland rather than to Orkney, and that there have been a number of incidents with regard to fire control emergency response systems, including the fire service being called out to the island of Bressay when it should have been on the island of Yell. Would he be prepared at least to undertake an examination of the merits of a joint control emergency system for the islands to avoid them having to encounter such problems?

Michael Matheson

As the member will be aware, significant preparatory work has gone into the changes to the operational control arrangements for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. In recent times, the member has met the chief fire officer, Alasdair Hay, to discuss some of his concerns regarding the incident that he made reference to.

It is worth keeping in mind the fact that there has always been an element within the provision of operational control by some of our emergency services that means that the geographical location of the contact centre is not the key issue. It is the knowledge of the staff and the tools and equipment that they have in that particular facility that are important in making sure that resources are deployed to the appropriate area.

By way of illustration, before the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service control centre in Johnstone took in the Dumfries area when we moved to a single fire service, that centre covered almost 50 per cent of the calls that came into the fire service in Scotland, which were primarily for the Strathclyde fire service. It also covered approximately 29 island communities around our coasts. There was not so much of an issue with the centre in Johnstone being able to discharge its role effectively; we had to make sure that the staff were properly trained and had the necessary equipment to deploy resources appropriately.

That is the approach that is being taken by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and by Police Scotland. I have no doubt that those organisations will continue to look at what further improvements can be made to the way in which the contact centres and the operational control centres are working.

Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I will give two examples and limit it to that. The Lairg crew was called out to attend an incident in Skye, which is a two-hour journey and more than 100 miles away. On 22 December, the Raasay crew was called off island to attend a road traffic accident on Skye after the ferry had closed because it was deemed to be the closest station. The Raasay crew informed the Dundee control room that the call was inappropriate and the crew from Kyle was then called out.

Surely those examples support my contention that we should have a control centre in the Highlands that has the relevant and intrinsic knowledge of the Highlands to sort out the emergency incidents that happen there.

Michael Matheson

The member will recognise that the Inverness control centre has already moved to Dundee and that the chief inspector of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will carry out an inspection in the coming weeks to assure us that all the measures are in place that should be in place to ensure that the operational control centre responds to calls effectively.

The chief fire officer has responded to some of the specific incidents and explained how some of them came about and the way in which the fire service has addressed them. It would be fair to say that the chief fire officer has also disputed some of the media interpretations of the incidents.

I assure the member that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland do a significant amount of work to reassure us about the way in which their contact command and control centres are operating. That work will continue. Part of that is also about recognising notable incidents of things going wrong and making sure that they are properly identified and that the services learn from them so that they minimise the risk of them happening again. That work will continue to be taken forward by Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

Question 5 was not lodged.


Scottish Police Authority

6. Monica Lennon (Central Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government when the Cabinet Secretary for Justice last met the chair of the Scottish Police Authority. (S5O-00894)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson)

I last met the chair of the Scottish Police Authority on 18 January 2017. [Michael Matheson has corrected this contribution. See end of report].

Monica Lennon

The cabinet secretary will be well aware of the SPA’s terrible performance at last week’s Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee’s evidence session on Audit Scotland’s damning report on the governance and financial management of our vital police services. There was a succession of secret meetings and a letter from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland that was hidden from members of the SPA. A board member was driven out in a despicable manner because she dared to scrutinise and carry out her duties. The reputation of the Scottish Police Authority is in crisis but the chair of the SPA says that he has no regrets. Is Andrew Flanagan capable of turning things around? He has already faced calls for his resignation. I ask the cabinet secretary: should he stay or should he go?

Michael Matheson

There is no doubt that the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee will want to consider the evidence that it received at last week’s meeting and which it will receive at future meetings.

I am clear about the need for the Scottish Police Authority, like any public body, to be open and transparent about the way in which it discharges its responsibilities. I have made that clear to the chair and to the Scottish Police Authority that the body needs to ensure that the processes and mechanisms that it has in place are open and transparent.

The member will also be aware that I have asked Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary in Scotland to bring forward a specific element—its statutory inspection, which was planned for the Scottish Police Authority this year—and to bring forward the governance aspect of that in order to ensure that we can have further assurance around the way in which the SPA is taking these matters forward. Once we have the HMICS report on the matter, we can consider any recommendations or findings that it contains.

I expect the SPA, like all public bodies, to make sure that it is open and transparent in the way in which it conducts its business and to address in an open manner any issues of concern that have been raised with it, so that people can see that it is learning lessons in relation to approaches that it has taken in the past and which are not the approaches that should be taken in the future.


Legislative Competence (Role of Lord Advocate)

7. Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

To ask the Scottish Government what role the Lord Advocate has in determining the competency of legislation. (S5O-00895)

The Lord Advocate (James Wolffe)

I thank Mr Rumbles for giving me my first opportunity to exercise the privilege of speaking in the chamber since I was appointed last year.

By law and under the standing orders of this Parliament, the member who is in charge of a bill has to make a statement to the effect that, in his or her view, the provisions of the bill are within the legislative competence of this Parliament. In the case of a Government bill, the minister will give that statement.

Paragraph 3.4 of the Scottish ministerial code confirms that that statement will have been cleared with the law officers. The law officers consider the terms of every Government bill that is to be introduced in the Parliament and provide ministers with advice that enables them to make the statement that is required of them by law.

Law officers also consider legislation after it has been passed by this Parliament. I have the power, should I consider it appropriate to do so, to refer a bill to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom at that stage.

Mike Rumbles

Does the Lord Advocate also believe that it would be his duty to refer to the Court of Session a Scottish Government bill that had, perhaps against his advice, been laid before the Scottish Parliament without having received a certificate from the Presiding Officer confirming that it is within the remit of the Scottish Parliament?

The Lord Advocate

The ministerial code makes it clear that a statement by a minister that a bill that is presented is within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament will have been cleared with law officers. The powers that I have to make references in relation to legislation are those that are set out in the Scotland Act 2016.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

I am glad that I made time for one extra question. I apologise to members who wished to ask supplementary questions, but we must move on.


Culture, Tourism and External Affairs

The Presiding Officer

Question 1 is from Richard Lochhead—I am sorry, I mean Richard Leonard.


Tourism

1. Richard Leonard (Central Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government when it will next meet representatives of the tourism sector. (S5O-00899)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

I will be chairing the tourism working group on 18 May. That high-level group has a strategic focus on the future development of tourism, and includes industry representation through the Scottish Tourism Alliance, as well as public bodies with a role in the development of tourism, such as VisitScotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise. This morning, I visited the VisitScotland expo in Glasgow.

Richard Leonard

This week, at the Scottish Trades Union Congress’s 120th annual congress in Aviemore, the Labour and trade union movement has been promoting a charter of rights for a key group of workers in Scotland’s tourism industry: those who work in hospitality. As part of the “better than zero” campaign, Unite the union has organised a formal launch later this month of the charter of rights that has been drawn up by hospitality workers themselves, and the parliamentary launch of the charter is planned to take place here next month. Will the cabinet secretary join me in welcoming that, and will she commit her Government to supporting the fair hospitality charter, which includes payment of a real living wage, minimum-hour contracts, proper rest breaks, equal pay for young workers and the right for trade union access in order to organise all workers in Scotland’s hospitality and tourism industry?

Fiona Hyslop

I listened to Richard Leonard’s question with interest. I have not read the charter, but would be interested to see it. One of the big challenges is to ensure that we tackle low pay so that we can encourage more people into the sector, which has great career opportunities. We ought to ensure that the sector is a good place to work for everyone involved so, in that spirit, I would be interested in finding out a bit more about the charter.

On trade union work, Richard Leonard will be aware that the Scottish Government has committed £0.25 million to a trade union modernisation and fair work fund to help trade unions to embed the fair work framework in workplaces across Scotland. I intend to take forward that important agenda in relation to fair work in the hospitality and tourism sector. We want to see the sector grow, but everybody has to share in that growth.

Stuart McMillan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP)

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the themed years are a tremendous example of the Scottish Government and its agencies working together imaginatively to help not just the country but local communities, and that the year of coast and waters in 2020 can aid our marine tourism strategy?

Fiona Hyslop

Yes, I agree. Themed years have been a great opportunity for partnership working. I commend the cross-party group on recreational boating and marine tourism, and Stuart McMillan, for their work on marine tourism. The work that was done on the “Awakening the Giant” strategy has helped us come to the decision to designate 2020 as the year of coast and waters. The marine industry and the marine tourism industry have a great opportunity to exploit that and ensure that our wonderful coast and extensive waters—lochs, rivers or whatever—can be seen by the many visitors who come not only from within Scotland and the UK, but from further afield.


UNESCO World Heritage Sites

2. John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

To ask the Scottish Government what value it places on locations in Scotland holding UNESCO world heritage site status. (S5O-00900)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

The Scottish Government attaches great value to UNESCO world heritage site status. We are in the year of history, heritage and archaeology. On world heritage day, I took part in an event that celebrated the importance of one of our six world heritage sites—the Antonine wall, at which Picts and Romans were in evidence. There was even a great Roman bake-off. Using innovative and creative ways not just to preserve and conserve our heritage sites but to make them inviting places for people to visit is very important.

John Finnie

The cabinet secretary may be aware that north-west Highlands geopark is involved in a crowdfunding project, on which I asked for an update. I was told:

“We are weeks away from having no staff so the crowdfunder is our urgent attempt to stay afloat. Without staff, we will almost definitely lose our UNESCO status.”

The decision on Lochaber geopark has been deferred until such time as funding for staff can be secured.

The “Wider Value of UNESCO to the UK” report showed that geoparks each provide £3 million on average to the economy. In comparison, world heritage sites each contribute £2.2 million. Given the on-going challenges that the north-west Highlands geopark faces, will the cabinet secretary agree to meet me and Dr Laura Hamlet, the geoarchaeologist there, to discuss how we can resolve the issue for the longer term?

Fiona Hyslop

The basic fact of which John Finnie should be aware is that the geopark is not one of our world heritage sites, which are the subject of his first question. I have responsibility for world heritage sites; the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform has responsibility for the geopark in question. There has been extensive investment in the geopark over many years, although I understand that there are currently problems. I will ask the minister who has the appropriate responsibility to respond to John Finnie. Geoparks are not the subject of his first question.

Gordon Lindhurst (Lothian) (Con)

Will the cabinet secretary provide an update on the setting up, as part of the historic environment strategy for Scotland, of the skills and expertise group to resolve shortages in the traditional building sector? The sector carries out vital work on historic buildings in Edinburgh’s world heritage site.

Fiona Hyslop

Scotland’s first historic environment strategy, “Our Place in Time”, has been warmly welcomed across the sector, including not just Historic Environment Scotland—which is responsible for properties that are in the care of ministers—but the National Trust and private properties.

There is a skills group that has been established for some time. The work that we have embarked on in Scotland is very extensive. Gordon Lindhurst may not have visited Forth Valley College—he should visit it, if he has not—which is one place where we have invested in increasing the number of apprentices who are learning building skills. I think that Scotland is leading the UK in making sure that we are training people in those skills.

I also encourage the member to visit the Engine Shed in Stirling when it opens soon. It will be a beacon. Its development has involved work with the construction skills sector, on which Historic Environment Scotland has led, to ensure that we have a place that people can visit so that we can encourage people to take up building skills. The age profile of the people who have traditional building skills is such that we need to bring new people into the sector. I commend all those who have been involved in that project.


Tourism (Impact of Rise in Business Rates)

3. Rachael Hamilton (South Scotland) (Con)

I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests; I am involved in a hospitality business.

To ask the Scottish Government what the impact on the tourism industry will be of the rise in business rates. (S5O-00901)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

Recognising the value of tourism within the Scottish economy, we acted to cap non-domestic rates increases in the light of the revaluation. Specifically, we have targeted £37 million of additional rates relief within the hospitality sector this year. Hotels were facing an average 37 per cent rates increase after this year’s revaluation. That has now been reduced to around 12 per cent. That has, understandably, been widely welcomed by the sector, and we continue to engage with it regarding our longer-term approach.

Rachael Hamilton

I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer. Parliament was told by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution that there would be a cap on a business rates increase of 12.5 per cent. Now we learn that the real increase will be 14.75 per cent and that it will take 105 days for a decision to be made on any appeal. Why was the industry misled on rates and why does the Scottish Government continue to increase financial anxiety within the sector?

Fiona Hyslop

We have not increased financial anxiety. We have worked very swiftly to respond to requests. Rachael Hamilton should know, given that she declared her interest in the matter, that it was an independent rates revaluation. The response by the Scottish Government has been warmly welcomed. The member will also know that in establishing and setting the rate at which the relief would apply, we were consistent with what the UK Government does in making the announcement in real terms rather than in cash terms. That is consistent with the approach of the UK Treasury.

Clare Haughey (Rutherglen) (SNP)

Does the cabinet secretary agree that it is a bit rich for Rachael Hamilton to come to the chamber and play politics over business rates when organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses called the measures that were announced in February “sensible”—which should provide some comfort for Scotland’s vital tourism and hospitality industries—especially given that her own business will save more than £5,000 this year? Is it not about time that Rachael Hamilton stopped asking self-serving questions and started standing up for her constituents?

The Presiding Officer

I ask the cabinet secretary to keep her reply relatively brief. I ask members not to personally attack other members in the chamber. Every member has the right to ask a question in this chamber.

Fiona Hyslop

Clare Haughey set out her point very well. The point is that the industry has accepted and supports what we have provided. There is also an issue about the self-interest of parties and individuals in the chamber; it is up to them to declare their interests.

The Presiding Officer

I note that Rachael Hamilton declared her interest before asking her question.


Cruise Ships (Newhaven)

4. Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what impact cruise ships at Newhaven have had on tourism in the area and on Edinburgh as a whole. (S5O-00902)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

The Scottish Government welcomes the investment that Forth Ports has made at Newhaven, which has enabled the harbour to play a growing role in the success of Edinburgh as a key cruise ship destination.

With the installation of new facilities this year to allow passengers to disembark more easily, a larger number of cruise passengers will be able to enjoy the numerous attractions that the city has to offer. The number of vessels is going up—there were six in 2016 and 12 vessels are due to call in 2017. Scottish Enterprise has recently awarded £79,000 to Cruise Forth as part of its tourism destination development fund. Cruise Forth works with Forth Ports and other partners to further the development of business opportunities from the cruise market.

Ben Macpherson

What is the Scottish Government doing to support enhanced cruise ship docking facilities and related commerce at both Newhaven and Leith?

Fiona Hyslop

I set out in my initial answer some of the investment that has been made. Obviously, the opportunity to develop the pontoon to make sure that more people can come ashore is one thing.

It is also important to think about the investments that we have had, such as that in the dazzle ship, which marked the battle of Jutland and which was in that area previously. The Britannia has provided an opportunity to attract visitors for many years. There is also Trinity House, as well as other opportunities such as Leith Links and other places.

Whether it is the Clan Tartan Centre at Leith Mills or the Scottish Design Exchange, we are seeing a shift and a movement whereby Leith is reclaiming its heritage and also promoting itself as a visitor destination, not just a gateway to the city of Edinburgh.

Jeremy Balfour (Lothian) (Con)

I remind the chamber that I am a councillor in the City of Edinburgh Council. Clearly, people who arrive on cruise ships will want to visit Leith, but they might also want to visit other parts of the city. Is the Scottish Government committed to seeing the tram extended from where it ends at the moment down to Newhaven and, if so, is it willing to provide finance and help to such a project in the next five years?

Fiona Hyslop

First I was asked about geoparks and now I am being asked about trams. I understand that transport infrastructure is quite often an integral part of making sure that tourists can visit all parts of the city and beyond. I hear the plea from the member and I will be sure to refer it to the Minister for Transport and the Islands.


Jacobite Trail

5. Iain Gray (East Lothian) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with VisitScotland regarding the Jacobite trail. (S5O-00903)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

The Scottish Government has not been directly involved in discussions with VisitScotland about the Jacobite trail, although this morning I attended the VisitScotland expo in Glasgow and had a chance to see the national museum of Scotland’s stall on its exhibition about Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, which accompanies the trail that the member is interested in.

I have been informed about the trail through the year of history, heritage and archaeology. The trail is primarily a marketing campaign that has been developed and funded by a partnership involving National Museums Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland and the Royal Collection Trust, as part of their contribution to the year. The focus of the trail is on the properties and collections that are held by those organisations, such as Doune castle, the Glenfinnan monument and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It has been supported by the VisitScotland growth fund. If Mr Gray would like additional information or to discuss the matter further, that would best be done with VisitScotland and the trail partners.

Iain Gray

I appreciate that the Jacobite trail is a promotion of the partners that the cabinet secretary describes, but I have to say that, for those of us in East Lothian, it seems ludicrous that the site of the battle of Prestonpans is entirely omitted from the trail. I am no Jacobite—then or now—but even I think that the site of Charles Edward Stuart’s most famous victory should be a centrepiece of any Jacobite trail.

More to the point, the cabinet secretary must surely agree with me that that omission is a kick in the teeth for both the Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust and the tourist industry in East Lothian. In her discussions with those partners, will she take the chance to make that point?

Fiona Hyslop

The member’s point is well made. As I said, the partnership is concentrated on the properties, owned by those partners, that have a relationship with the Jacobite story.

The Battle of Prestonpans (1745) Heritage Trust submitted an expression of interest in the growth fund on 15 March and put in an application for the creation of virtual reality resources that could be used around Prestonpans. Unfortunately a meeting in March was cancelled by the trust itself. I encourage the meeting to take place to see whether there are any opportunities to involve the Prestonpans experience as part of the trail.

As I have said repeatedly, it is not for me, as cabinet secretary, to tell individual institutions what they should exhibit or curate or what they should not. However, in the spirit in which the member has made his request, I will make sure that the partners are alerted to the concerns that he raised today.

The Presiding Officer

Question 6.


International Development Organisations (Sri Lanka)

6. Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

My apologies, Presiding Officer; I was caught on the hop.

To ask the Scottish Government what links it has established with international development organisations working in Sri Lanka. (S5O-00904)

The Minister for International Development and Europe (Dr Alasdair Allan)

The Scottish Government is engaged with a wide cross-section of international development organisations working across the world, many of which are undertaking vital work in Sri Lanka. We fund the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland, which in turn supports the Scottish international development organisations that work in Sri Lanka, which include Challenges Worldwide, Save the Children and the HALO Trust.

Between 2010 and 2013, the Scottish Government provided more than £1 million for our international development fund for several such projects in Sri Lanka through a number of Scottish organisations, including Police Scotland and Sightsavers. We published our new international development strategy in December 2016, which focused our partner country approach on Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan. Although Sri Lanka is not one of our development partner countries, we are building on the work that we supported in Sri Lanka in our new partner countries.

Bob Doris

I am delighted that we reached question 6.

I commend the Sri Lankan diaspora community group Glasgow Integrated Community Empowerment and International Support and its chairperson David Nalaratnam. GICEIS raises funds to deliver action to tackle child hunger and boost child education in three rural communities in Sri Lanka. The positive role of the Sri Lankan diaspora in my constituency of Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn and across Scotland is to be encouraged.

I invite the minister to meet Mr Nalaratnam and representatives of GICEIS, which is based in Royston, to find out more about their excellent work and how we can encourage more use to be made of that model in supporting the communities that they left behind in their country of origin.

Dr Allan

I am very happy to commend the work of the Sri Lankan community in Scotland. As part of our consultation on the new international development policy, the Scottish Government held a specific round-table event to meet diaspora groups. I am following up on those meetings and I will be happy to include in them representatives of the Sri Lankan diaspora community, along with representatives of our partner countries. I look forward to organising such an opportunity to meet in the near future.

Richard Leonard (Central Scotland) (Lab)

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Before asking my question, I failed to direct members to my entry in the register of members’ interests, which includes my membership of Unite the union. I apologise for that omission.

The Presiding Officer

Thank you—and I apologise for the misidentification. I wondered why Mr Lochhead was not in the chamber to ask his question.