Meeting date: Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Meeting of the Parliament 28 November 2018
Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Public Health Crisis (Drugs and Alcohol), Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Bank of Scotland (Branch Closures)
- Portfolio Question Time
- Public Health Crisis (Drugs and Alcohol)
- Business Motions
- Parliamentary Bureau Motions
- Decision Time
- Bank of Scotland (Branch Closures)
Portfolio Question Time
Culture, Tourism and External Affairs
Glasgow School of Art
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the situation at the Glasgow School of Art. (S5O-02609)
Following the tragic fire in June, the Mackintosh building has been stabilised, and residents displaced by the fire have been able to return home. The Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council have provided funding to local residents and businesses in recognition of the significant impact that the fire has had on them. I understand that some local street closures remain in place while further work is completed. Investigations into the cause of the fire are on-going. Those investigations will be thorough and comprehensive and it will take time to complete that complex task.
It is evident that the Glasgow School of Art has cultural, social and economic significance far beyond Glasgow. It is also evident that the fire at the school of art has had a very direct and very serious impact on the local community and local businesses, and I believe that there are significant implications for the economy of Glasgow and the west of Scotland. The challenge goes beyond the city itself.
Is the minister aware whether the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, who indicated that she wished to hear directly from businesses about their concerns, has met them and, if so, what the outcomes of those discussions were? If she has not met local businesses and residents, does the minister believe that the cabinet secretary will commit to doing that, to ensure that the Scottish Government’s financial response is commensurate with the scale of the challenge that the community and local businesses now face as a consequence of the very serious fire at the GSA?
I thank Johann Lamont for that question and agree with her comments on the significance of the building as an institution and the wider impact of the fire.
The member will be aware that, in July, the Scottish Government announced that it would establish a recovery fund of up to £5 million to assist businesses that had been impacted by the Glasgow fires. To date, Glasgow City Council has paid out more than £2.9 million from that fund to 195 businesses.
With regard to Ms Lamont’s request for a meeting, I request that she write to me and the cabinet secretary with details of the businesses that she is in correspondence with, so that we can consider that proposal.
Three members would like to ask supplementaries.
At the November meeting of Blythswood and Broomielaw community council, concerns were raised about the lack of an update on, and the lack of information pertaining to, the recovery operation and the investigation into the fire at the Glasgow School of Art. Can the minister provide an update on those matters, as the lack of a timescale and the absence of information are having a significant impact on the community and local businesses and, indeed, on the future of the Sauchiehall Street area?
The investigation into the origin, cause and circumstances of the fire is a high priority for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and its specialist fire investigation teams. The SFRS is working closely with Police Scotland and the Health and Safety Executive. Significant investigation work has already been concluded. The dangerous condition of the structure significantly restricted site access, including for the SFRS fire investigation teams, but they are now on site and aim to conclude their investigations early in the new year.
I advise Sandra White to follow up any further correspondence with the SFRS and, if there are barriers that prevent her from doing so, to get back to the Government.
The Glasgow School of Art says that the fire was nothing to do with it because the building was under other people’s control at the time that it broke out in June; at the same time, it says that taking decisions about rebuilding the school of art is a question exclusively for it.
As Johann Lamont said in her questions—I completely agree with her—the impact on local businesses, the local community and residents in and around Sauchiehall Street has been massive and continues to be significant. Does the minister agree that decisions about the future of the Glasgow School of Art should be taken not by the school of art alone but in full consultation with local residents and businesses?
As Adam Tomkins stated, whether the Mackintosh building should be rebuilt is a decision for the Glasgow School of Art. As the Mackintosh building is owned by the GSA, which is an independent body, its future is a matter for the GSA board, and the board has made clear its intention to rebuild the Mackintosh as a fully functional art school.
The wider, important point is about engagement with the community and, potentially, there is a question about whether a GSA trust should be established to oversee the rebuild of the Mackintosh building. The Mack belongs to the Glasgow School of Art and decisions about the future of the building rest with the school. We expect the GSA to make governance arrangements that allow the board to give proper attention to the school’s core function of delivering high-quality education in that consideration. Adam Tomkins might wish to engage with my colleagues in the education and skills portfolio on the institution’s functionality in delivering that.
I noted that the minister mentioned the idea of a trust. Given the significance of the cultural legacy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh to the city of Glasgow, and in the light of two fires having taken place, has the Government considered how the legacy of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in any future building—if the Glasgow School of Art goes ahead with a rebuild as it intends—will be protected for the city and nation, and not just for the art school?
As I said to Adam Tomkins, questions on the trust are for the Glasgow School of Art, because the Mack belongs to the GSA and any decisions on its future rest with the school.
Wider governance questions are of pertinence to how the board takes things forward. I give cognisance to the fact that the issue is currently before the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, and I look forward to seeing the outcome of its inquiry. We all have an interest in ensuring that the school fulfils its function as a higher education institution as well as it has done over the decades and, as Claire Baker said, continues to be an important aspect of Scotland’s cultural legacy.
Tourism (Industrial Heritage Sites)
To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to boost tourism in rural areas through the promotion of industrial heritage sites. (S5O-02610)
Action to promote tourism is a function of VisitScotland that is undertaken in partnership with a wide range of other public bodies that are directly funded by the Scottish Government. Many of those bodies, including Historic Environment Scotland, the National Museums of Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland, the national industrial museums and Transport Scotland, contribute to the promotion of our fascinating industrial heritage.
The Scottish industrial railway centre in Dunaskin, near Patna, is home to a number of industrial steam and diesel locomotives, including the country’s only working fireless locomotive. I am struck by the role that places such as that have in Scotland’s industrial heritage. The centre is run entirely by dedicated volunteers and, although it is open only for limited times, attracts a steady stream of visitors. It has big ambitions, including bringing more of its old locomotives into service. What is the Scottish Government doing to support organisations such as the SIRC to grow, allowing more tourists to discover that important part of our industrial heritage?
As I mentioned in my answer to Brian Whittle’s first question, Museums Galleries Scotland is the national development body for museums and galleries in Scotland. It is funded by the Scottish Government to support more than 400 accredited institutions around the country, whether by strategic investment, advice or other means. MGS aims to unite the sector and allow the institutions to develop and thrive. To date in 2018, 32 organisations in 17 local authorities have received grant funding totalling more than £100 million. We have also engaged in the go industrial brand of Industrial Museums Scotland, which represents 12 accredited museums and galleries around Scotland.
I am grateful to Brian Whittle for raising the Scottish industrial railway centre. I pay tribute to the work of the Ayrshire Railway Preservation Group and its engagement in the centre. The wider support that I mentioned, for provision through Museums Galleries Scotland, is the appropriate means for such groups to bid for and engage with potential support.
How will Scotland’s most iconic rural tourism sites benefit from the first round of the rural tourism infrastructure fund—the RTIF—to help meet the demand from growing visitor numbers to, for example, the Otter pool in bonnie Dumfries and Galloway?
As Ms Hyslop announced on 5 October at Glenfinnan, through our rural tourism infrastructure fund we are funding more than £3 million worth of much-needed infrastructure improvements across 18 projects from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway, including at the Otter pool. Spread across six local authorities and both national park authorities, that support will deliver a range of improvements—from camper-van facilities to toilets, parking and pathway improvement—that will benefit both visitors who come to enjoy our stunning scenery and locals alike.
Tourist Attractions (Promotion)
To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that all major tourist attractions receive sufficient levels of promotion. (S5O-02611)
The Scottish Government supports VisitScotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise to promote Scotland as a whole, in order to maximise the economic benefit of tourism to Scotland.
In February this year, it was revealed that although most of the top 20 tourist attractions in Scotland enjoyed an annual increase in their visitor numbers, the Falkirk wheel was one of two that saw a decrease. I believe that Edinburgh zoo was the other. The number of visitors to the wheel fell by 3.7 per cent, while other attractions that have similar annual numbers had increases of about 25 per cent. Does the minister know why that happened? What reassurances can he give that the Falkirk wheel will receive its fair share of promotion?
Alison Harris will be aware of the initiatives that are taking place in her constituency related to the Kelpies and Scottish Canals in order to boost them and the canal as the remarkable attractions that they are, and to continue their success and broaden their attraction. A new selfie trail that encourages families to get out and discover the genius of the Forth and Clyde canal has been launched between the Falkirk wheel and the Kelpies. It was created by Scottish Canals as part of its “canal encounters” campaign. The wheel2Kelpies selfie trail runs between two of Scotland’s biggest landmarks—the Falkirk wheel and the Kelpies—along Scotland’s oldest canal, which is the Forth and Clyde. I encourage people to support that campaign. The Scottish Government treasures and recognises the importance of those two tourist attractions.
The minister might be aware of the Jarlshof archaeological site at the south end of Shetland at Sumburgh. The site is under some pressure from tour buses that are there because of growth in the cruise industry. A car park for coaches and toilet facilities are needed at the site. I have been seeking to broker a meeting with Historic Environment Scotland and all the relevant parties. Would the minister undertake to make that happen through his good offices? There is a desperate need for the facilities, but we have not been able to confirm a date with Historic Environment Scotland, which is the only organisation that we need to make the meeting happen.
Tavish Scott will understand that it would not be appropriate for Government ministers to engage in operational matters. However, if he will write to me with further details, we can consider how we can assist him in securing the meeting.
Music Sector (International Promotion)
I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests and membership of the Musicians’ Union.
To ask the Scottish Government how it supports the promotion of the Scottish music sector internationally. (S5O-02612)
We fund Creative Scotland to support musicians across all genres of music. Since 2008, we have invested more than £21 million in the festivals expo fund, which is providing a global platform for Scottish musicians and other artists, and opening up opportunities for onward touring. In addition, the platform for creative excellence—PLACE—fund, which will provide £15 million over the next five years, will help the Edinburgh festivals to develop their international work.
We invest £350,000 annually to support the national performing companies, through the international touring fund, to tour internationally, and our programme for government commitments include an international creative ambition programme that is to be launched by May 2019.
I thank the minister for that detailed answer. As he might be aware, I am convener of the cross-party group on music, and at every meeting that we have had since the group was established a key concern of members representing a range of stakeholders across music in Scotland has been the threat that is posed by Brexit. The withdrawal agreement makes it absolutely clear that the overriding priority of the United Kingdom Government is to end freedom of movement, which would be devastating for our music sector in Scotland. Does the minister agree that any member of the UK Parliament and, for that matter, of the Scottish Parliament, who backs the withdrawal agreement is no friend of musicians in Scotland?
Tom Arthur is absolutely right to point out that there is a distinct danger that removal of access to freedom of movement would result in additional bureaucracy and border checks on touring artists, and would diminishing the whole UK’s and Scotland’s music industry. Indeed, in UK Music’s recent survey on the economic impact on the music industry, half the respondents thought that Brexit would have a negative impact on the industry, compared with only 2 per cent who thought that it would be positive.
The opportunity for Scottish young people to tour internationally is hugely important, and not only promotes Scottish music but enriches their lives. However, cuts to music tuition in schools because of the Scottish Government are failing Scottish pupils and leading to lower levels of music uptake. Does the minister believe that that will help or hinder promotion of the Scottish music sector abroad?
Rachael Hamilton will have noted from my first answer the support that the Scottish Government gives to our music industry. With regard to the proportion of music funding that is available for education, she would better direct the question to the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills.
Archaeological Projects (Support)
To ask the Scottish Government what help and support it offers to archaeological projects. (S5O-02613)
I and the Scottish Government recognise the importance of our historical environment and the wealth of historical structures across the country. Many are at the heart of the communities that have worked hardest to secure their future.
Scottish Government funding for archaeology is channelled via Historic Environment Scotland grant schemes. Despite recent financial constraints, we have maintained Historic Environment Scotland external grants at £14.5 million per year, with £4.1 million being allocated for archaeology. A great deal of information about the schemes is available on the Historic Environment Scotland website, and staff offer potential applicants comprehensive pre-application advice, and support and advice through to completion.
Caithness Broch Project in my constituency is doing some fantastic work in bringing the county’s broch history to life. At this point, I would like to draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests, as a patron of the organisation. It plans to build a full-size broch and is undertaking various projects with schools and in the community. Will the minister or the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs agree to meet representatives of Caithness Broch Project to hear about all the work that it is currently doing and its plans for the future?
I am aware of Caithness Broch Project and am particularly impressed by its efforts to use and engage with local communities, particularly children. The Scottish Government appreciates the work that is being undertaken by the project to promote Caithness’s rich archaeological history, and its proposal to build a full-scale broch as a visitor attraction. Engagement in a project of this nature is best undertaken as an operational issue with Historic Environment Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, other Government agencies and the local council, at this stage in the development of the proposals, so it would not be appropriate for ministers to be involved.
However, if we can be of assistance in encouraging and facilitating such engagement, I would be happy to consider that. I wish Gail Ross and the project well in their on-going endeavours.
To ask the Scottish Government how it supports communities in achieving Fairtrade accreditation. (S5O-02614)
The Scottish Government has provided £1.6 million in core funding to the Scottish Fair Trade Forum since its inception in 2007, to take forward our policy on fair trade. That includes having realised 2013 our ambition to achieve fair trade nation status, which was reconfirmed in 2017, and demonstrating Scotland’s on-going progress in supporting and purchasing fair trade.
Scotland currently has 97 Fairtrade communities, including all its cities and 27 of the 32 local authority areas. With our support, the forum continues to support active fair trade groups through the accreditation process in villages, towns and cities up and down the country.
Queensferry fair trade group worked very hard to achieve Fairtrade accreditation for the town of South Queensferry. The town got that accreditation in January this year and was, understandably, very keen to demonstrate it by erecting signage at the town’s markers, only to discover that Transport Scotland has a fast policy to stop communities from erecting such signage because Fairtrade is a commercial brand. Does the minister agree that that is a miserly decision that is in danger of disincentivising towns’ achieving Fairtrade status?
I thank Alex Cole-Hamilton for raising that point. I am aware of the Queensferry fair trade group and I congratulate it on its work in achieving Fairtrade royal burgh status. I am aware that Alex Cole-Hamilton has previously asked parliamentary questions about the matter, and that he corresponded with the then transport minister, Humza Yousaf. I offer him a meeting with me and, potentially, the Scottish Fair Trade Forum following this meeting to discuss the matter in more detail.
Government Business and Constitutional Relations
Question 1 has been withdrawn.
Brexit (Business Group Views)
To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the views of business groups regarding its position on Brexit and wider constitutional affairs. (S5O-02620)
The Scottish Government—[Interruption.]
The old mistakes are the best ones. I shall start again, Presiding Officer, now that my microphone is on. As Professor Tomkins pointed out, even debaters of the year can get their debating skills wrong.
The Scottish Government’s position on Brexit and the economy was, and is now, framed by the joint statement issued on 7 July 2016 by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses, Scottish Financial Enterprise, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors.
When the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work last met those organisations to discuss Brexit, in September, their focus remained on trade, free movement and the support and clarity that businesses need to plan, invest and grow.
I have spoken to several of those organisations in recent weeks about the current situation and the deal that the United Kingdom Government has agreed with the European Union, which we regard as worse than the current position within the EU. It provides for the UK, and Scotland within it, to leave the single market, which would damage Scotland’s economy, jobs and living standards.
On that point, I want to press the minister on something that he said last week, which is that the current withdrawal agreement is better than no deal. Can he therefore, here and now, confirm unequivocally that, if and when it comes to it, the Scottish National Party will confront reality and vote to avoid no deal?
The member’s version of reality is, as ever, an unusual one. The reality of this situation is that there is no need to make that choice. The House of Commons can and, I am sure, will rule out a no-deal scenario. Certainly, the deal that has been offered by the Prime Minister is a very bad deal indeed, and it needs to be rejected because of the damage that it would do to Scotland and to the member’s region, which he should recognise. The region that the member represents would be particularly hard hit by the deal, and there would be severe economic damage to the businesses and business organisations that he mentioned in his question. It would be far better if he faced the reality of Brexit instead of whistling in the wind.
Given that we are talking about the views of business groups, does the cabinet secretary agree that it is instructive that the CBI’s head of EU negotiations suggested in an email that there is
“no need to give credit to the negotiators ... I think, because it’s not a good deal”?
There is no doubt that it is not a good deal. It is also not the only deal. For the Prime Minister to present it as being the only option is completely and utterly wrong. The deal is as it is because of the red lines that the Prime Minister set herself at the start of the negotiations. She set those red lines to try to keep together a fractious Tory party and paper over the 40-year civil war. What has come out of the process is exactly what was expected when those red lines went into the process.
We should draw attention to Scotland’s uniquely difficult situation in relation to freedom of movement. Freedom of movement is essential to the Scottish economy. Without freedom of movement, there will be a substantial decline in economic performance and a substantial shortage of labour, particularly in rural areas. That is already becoming apparent.
Those are the realities of this question, and we should say that loud and clear. We should say to businesses that we understand that they want this situation to be over—we all want it to be over. However, the Conservatives started it, and they are making an incredible mess of it.
Brexit (Economic Cost)
To ask the Scottish Government what impact assessment it has undertaken regarding the potential economic cost to Scotland of additional customs arrangements and border regulations resulting from Brexit. (S5O-02621)
Scottish Government analysis, which was published earlier this year in “Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment”, assessed the implications for Scotland’s economy if the United Kingdom exited the European Union. The modelling used a range of Brexit shocks, including estimates of the trade costs that are associated with customs arrangements and border regulations. Results from the analysis indicate that a scenario in which the UK pursued a free trade agreement could lead to a loss of up to 6.1 per cent of gross domestic product—£9 billion in 2016 terms—in Scotland by 2030. That is equivalent to £1,600 per person in Scotland. Likewise, a hard Brexit could lead to a loss of up to 8.5 per cent of GDP—£12.7 billion in 2016 terms—in Scotland by 2030. That is equivalent to £2,300 per individual.
I agree with much of the cabinet secretary’s analysis. It has become clear that the costs of Brexit will come from additional customs arrangements and market regulations that do not currently exist. However, surely those arrangements and regulations would exist if there was a differential deal between different parts of the United Kingdom. Could the economic assessment that the cabinet secretary has given in relation to Brexit and Scotland’s trade with the rest of Europe also apply to any differential deal within the UK?
Considerable issues would arise out of differentiation. Such issues reflect the advantages that areas with a differentiated outcome would have. In Northern Ireland, there is a very strong view that there would be considerable advantages. For example, in relation to inward investment, investing in Northern Ireland would give access to the single market.
There are issues to be addressed. In presenting the paper “Scotland’s Place in Europe: An Assessment of The UK Government’s Proposed Future Relationship with The EU”, the First Minister indicated that further work needs to be done to quantify the advantages. However, those advantages clearly would exist.
I note that the figures that I have given are broadly borne out by the figures that the UK Government has published today and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s admission that every Brexit scenario will make people and the country worse off. Nobody would have thought that it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s job to bring forward policies that would make people poorer.
Brexit (Economic Migration to Scotland)
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union to ensure that Scotland is promoted as a destination for economic migration. (S5O-02622)
Migration is crucial to the development of Scotland as a thriving nation. I recently met the UK Minister of State for Immigration and, again, sought her commitment to meaningful engagement, given the profound impact that migration has on Scotland’s economy, public services and demography.
We submitted compelling evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee. Disappointingly, the proposals that the Prime Minister’s Cabinet has accepted ignore sectors that are integral to Scotland. The UK Government’s discredited hostile environment policies damage our ability to attract the people whom we need, and recommendations in the MAC’s recent reports would harm our prosperity. That is why the Scottish Government will continue to argue for a tailored and more flexible migration system that meets our distinct needs.
What progress has the Scottish Government made in making the case that Scotland has a specific need for more powers over migration and immigration policies to be devolved to Scotland? Does the minister agree that the Government needs to do more work to promote the benefits of migration to the wider Scottish public?
With the aim of achieving more devolution of powers to build a more flexible and tailored migration system, I and the rest of the Government are working constantly with stakeholders, who are raising with us concerns about the MAC’s recommendations, the effect of Brexit and the hostile environment policy. We are going through a constructive awareness-raising process with business and other stakeholders on the opportunity to devolve powers so that we can do things differently here in Scotland. By “devolution of powers”, I mean the devolution of powers in the current UK system in order to build flexibility and deliver on our needs.
On raising awareness, absolutely all of us in the chamber have a responsibility to champion the positive benefits of migration, especially in the current environment and given the absolutely awful things that are being said, such as the reference to EU nationals skipping the queue that the Prime Minister recently made. Those are shocking remarks. I point the member to the Scottish Government’s we are Scotland campaign. It has been very successful in highlighting and championing the positive benefits of migration, which we should all celebrate.
Brexit (Migration Policy)
To ask the Scottish Government what involvement it currently has with the United Kingdom Government’s Migration Advisory Committee in relation to advice on migration policy post Brexit. (S5O-02623)
The Scottish Government has made it clear to the UK Government and the Migration Advisory Committee that Scotland’s needs in relation to migration policy are distinct and significant. The Scottish Government also provided a detailed response to each of the MAC’s calls for evidence, but that evidence has largely been ignored.
We have highlighted to the UK Government that the MAC’s recommendations in its reports are disappointing to employers, local authorities, third sector organisations and universities across Scotland. The Scottish Government has met and heard evidence from a range of stakeholders to discuss the impact of the MAC’s recommendations and to hear their concerns. The Scottish Government shares those concerns, and we are committed to listening to and promoting the interests of individuals and organisations across Scotland. I have personally met Professor Alan Manning, the chair of the MAC, and the UK immigration minister to discuss Scotland’s needs, and I have reiterated our concerns in relation to the MAC’s recommendations.
I am pleased that the minister mentioned Professor Manning, the chair of the Migration Advisory Committee. Is he aware that, when Professor Manning gave evidence to a committee of this Parliament earlier this month, he admitted that no specific modelling regarding the situation in Scotland in relation to migration had ever been done? There is now a consultation on the shortage occupation list, in which Scotland has very specific interests. What strong and firm representations are being made with regard to those interests?
Linda Fabiani is right to say that the MAC report took little cognisance of Scotland, with only page 123 and a little bit of page 124 being allocated to it.
The member is also right to ask about our engagement with the MAC and, indeed, the UK Government on the shortage occupation list. In August—and again this week, when I met her for a second time—the UK Minister for Immigration gave me an undertaking that Scottish interests and Scottish Government input with regard to the shortage occupation list would be respected and constructively considered. The Scottish Government will, of course, respond robustly to the MAC’s call for evidence in its consultation on the Scottish shortage occupation list.
Legislative Consent (United Kingdom Legislation)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to meet its commitment in its programme for government to oppose legislative consent to all United Kingdom legislation relating to European Union withdrawal. (S5O-02624)
The Scottish Government remains committed to working with the UK Government to ensure a functioning statute book in the event of EU exit. We are working closely together on the secondary legislation programme required and are in active discussions about primary legislation, for example on the Agriculture Bill, the Fisheries Bill and the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill. Our position on EU exit notwithstanding, the Scottish Government is not therefore opposed to legislative consent to UK legislation relating to Brexit.
However, in relation to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the UK Government made it clear that it intended to proceed regardless of the fact that this Parliament did not consent to the bill. I have pressed the UK Government to make it clear whether it intends to proceed without the Parliament’s consent to such legislation in the future. Until and unless we can be assured that the decisions of the Parliament will be respected, we will not lodge any legislative consent motions on Brexit-related provisions, except in the most exceptional of circumstances.
It is of course important that the Parliament can scrutinise Brexit-related legislation. We are lodging legislative consent memoranda in line with standing orders, setting out our views on the substance of the UK proposals, and we will of course contribute fully to committee consideration and ensure that the Parliament is able to express its views on Brexit-related provisions in UK bills.
Last week, the cabinet secretary gave my colleague, Adam Tomkins, an assurance that he would speak to the relevant minister with regard to legislative consent to the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill, which is literally a vital bill. Can he confirm whether that meeting has taken place?
I have spoken to the relevant cabinet secretary and I am studying the bill and its implications to see whether it would be possible or necessary for us to make an exception. I do not yet know the position, and I will not know it until we are closer to the passage of the bill. We were given virtually no notice of the bill—it was a matter of hours—so the practice of the UK Government has not made the situation easier.
However, there is an easier way to take the issue forward, which would be for David Lidington—who will be in this building tomorrow—to accept the offer that we have made on changes to the legislative consent process that would ensure that it could be relied on as an arrangement between two Parliaments that was respected. If Gordon Lindhurst were to bring his good offices to bear—should he have any influence over members of the UK Cabinet—we could resolve the matter very quickly in those circumstances.
European Union Withdrawal (Draft Agreement)
To ask the Scottish Government to what extent the United Kingdom Government has consulted with it regarding the draft agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. (S5O-02625)
Devolved Administrations did not see the draft agreement before it was published on 14 November, despite a joint ministerial committee having taken place the evening before.
Throughout the Brexit process, the UK Government has not engaged the Scottish Government in any meaningful way, and there has been little or no opportunity to scrutinise—let alone make any changes to—agreements that will have a major impact on Scotland and devolved responsibilities. Any reasonable person would consider that to be completely unacceptable.
Over much of the past couple of years, I sat on joint ministerial committees with the UK Government, and I know that the minister has taken part in ministerial forums with the UK Government. Given what the minister said, is it his impression that those committees, in their current form, allow Scotland to input meaningfully into the UK’s decisions on Brexit?
It is no secret that we have been frustrated by the quality of engagement with the UK Government. We have been disappointed that the discussions of the joint ministerial committee that the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations attends have fallen short of the committee’s original aim. Similar frustrations exist with regard to the joint ministerial forum, despite the best intentions of this Government and our Welsh colleagues.
Engagement in both has fallen far short of the Prime Minister’s commitment to the full involvement of the devolved Administrations. The UK Government has not meaningfully engaged with the devolved Administrations to agree the details of negotiating positions and to ensure that Scotland’s interests are protected in workable proposals.
It cannot be right that decisions on the future relationship with the EU have been taken without due regard for consultation across the four Governments of the UK. We need to see a dramatic change in attitude and practice.
Brexit (Port Authorities)
To ask the Scottish Government what engagement the Cabinet Secretary for Government Business and Constitutional Relations has undertaken with port authorities regarding the implications of Brexit. (S5O-02626)
Along with ministerial colleagues, I have visited a number of ports to understand their interests as well as their concerns about leaving the European Union. I have also met with the British Ports Association, which represents most ports in Scotland, the UK Chamber of Shipping and the United Kingdom Major Ports Group.
The cabinet secretary will be aware that my constituency is home to the Greenock ocean terminal, one of Scotland’s busiest ports. Given that, in addition to the normal port activity that takes place there, more than 90 cruise ships are already booked for the port of Greenock next year, can he confirm that the Scottish Government is working to ensure that Brexit does not affect the cruise ship market and the tourism boost that it provides to my constituency and its local economy?
In so far as we can ensure such a thing, we would endeavour to do so. The cruise ship market is an important and growing market; it is of great importance in my Argyll and Bute constituency.
The cruise ship market depends not just on ports but on sentiment. It depends on people wishing to visit Scotland and coming here. We hope that people will continue to wish to visit Scotland. It is important that Scotland is seen as a welcoming place. However, Brexit has not been a welcoming activity; it has been an activity that has said to the rest of the world that the UK is not necessarily a warm and inviting place. I hope that we can overcome that, and the best way to do so would be to remain in the EU.
Constitutional Relations (Scotland and United Kingdom)
To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the implications of the draft withdrawal agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union for constitutional relations between the Scottish and UK Governments. (S5O-02627)
The main lesson for constitutional relations from the whole Brexit process, and now the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, is that the United Kingdom Government will ignore the views of the people of Scotland as expressed in both the European Union referendum and in the Scottish Parliament. The UK Government has consistently rejected any possibility of a closer and different relationship for Scotland with the EU while seeking—rightly and properly—such a relationship for Northern Ireland. The views of the people, Parliament and Government of Scotland have not been reflected or respected in the UK Government’s objectives or in its approach to the negotiations. That calls into question any claim that the UK is a partnership of nations or any claim of respect for Scotland within the union.
The cabinet secretary has said that there would be a second Scottish referendum if the Prime Minister’s deal were passed. Pete Wishart has said that there would be one if there were no deal, and Ian Blackford has said that there would be one if single market and customs union membership were ruled out, such membership being something that the cabinet secretary once said is
“clearly not going to happen”.
Is there any situation in which the Scottish Government will do the right thing by the Scottish people and businesses and end its referendum obsession? [Interruption.]
That has animated Tory members like nothing else this afternoon. They might like to reflect on why we are in this difficulty at present, why we are facing the economic calamity that we face, and why we are facing the dislocations that we face. The answer to those questions is the Conservatives, their 40-year-long civil war in Europe and their referendum. Indeed, it is the Conservatives who should withdraw their obsession with the referendum, because it is the referendum that got them into this mess.
I am glad that Mr Bowman is such a close student of everything that Pete Wishart, Ian Blackford and I say. Actually, he misquoted all of us, but I forgive him because I know that it is difficult to listen to such careful and thoughtful arguments and make sense of them all. Therefore, I will put it very simply to him: I believe in democracy and the people of Scotland. [Interruption.] There are the howls of the anti-democrats who have got us into the position that we are in. The reality is that I am a democrat. I believe that, at the end of the day, the people of Scotland will have—[Interruption.] I will not be shouted down in the chamber or anywhere else, and Scotland will not be shouted down by the Tories in any way.
When the moment comes, the people of Scotland will have the right to choose between the Brexit that is being foisted on them—[Interruption.] The Tories can shout at Scotland all they like. The engagement that those Tories are having with Scotland today is considerably greater than the engagement that their Prime Minister will have when she skulks and hides away from the people of Scotland in Glasgow.
As far as the Scottish Government is concerned, we will give the people of Scotland the right to choose because they deserve that right. They do not deserve to be dragged out of Europe against their will. [Applause.]
On that note, we end portfolio questions.