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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament 29 January 2020

Agenda: Recognising Scotland in Europe, Portfolio Question Time, Scotland’s Future, Points of Order, Business Motions, Decision Time, Right to Full Care to Die at Home


Contents


Portfolio Question Time


Health and Sport


Naloxone Kits (Scottish Ambulance Service)

1. Ruth Maguire (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government how many take-home naloxone kits have been supplied by the Scottish Ambulance Service since 2011. (S5O-04053)

The Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing (Joe FitzPatrick)

The Scottish Ambulance Service responds to many potentially fatal opioid overdoses by directly administering naloxone to reverse the overdose and save a life.

I am pleased to announce that the drug deaths task force will support a three-month trial, providing 500 naloxone kits to the Scottish Ambulance Service, which will enable its paramedics to issue patients at risk of an overdose with that potentially life-saving medication to take home. I visited the Scottish Ambulance Service station in Springburn this morning. I am pleased to report that training is almost complete and the trial is expected to start next week.

Ruth Maguire

I thank the minister for that welcome announcement. Those accidental deaths are preventable. The actions that he mentioned will save lives. The lives are worth saving.

Some 514 naloxone kits were handed out in North Ayrshire in 2019, and it was reported that 45 lives have been saved. North Ayrshire is training additional community development staff to administer the life-saving drug. Will the minister join me in commending that action and encourage others to follow suit with urgency?

Joe FitzPatrick

I add my commendation to that action. That work is replicated across Scotland. Improving provision of naloxone has been a key focus of the early work of the drug deaths task force. In order to improve provision of naloxone to the most vulnerable people—for example, through the winter shelters—we work with the Scottish Ambulance Service and other people who come into direct contact with those vulnerable people. That is a clear way that we could save lives.

Monica Lennon (Central Scotland) (Lab)

It is right that the Scottish Ambulance Service personnel are equipped to administer naloxone. However, the minister is aware that the Scottish Police Federation has resisted calls for officers to carry naloxone. I would like his response to that.

The Government’s national funding for the naloxone programme ended in 2015-16. Can the minister confirm how much is currently available in order to fund naloxone kit provision and training across the country?

Joe FitzPatrick

On the member’s final point, naloxone use is embedded in budgets and should be part of normal business, for all who require it. The Ambulance Service programme is a new service, which is why it is being funded directly by the Scottish Government at this stage. Given that naloxone is almost a miracle drug, in that one injection can reverse a potential overdose and save a life, it is absolutely appropriate that its use should be embedded in normal business.

Dialogue between the Scottish Government and Police Scotland is on-going, and Police Scotland has established a short-life working group, with partners, to address police access to and carrying of naloxone. Previously, naloxone had to be injected, which was initially a big challenge and a concern that the Scottish Police Federation raised; there is now nasal application, which I hope removes that barrier. I hope that the short-life working group’s work will mean that police officers who are most likely to come into contact with someone who has overdosed will be able to carry naloxone in the very near future.


Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Waiting Times)

2. Alison Harris (Central Scotland) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to reduce child and adolescent mental health services waiting times. (S5O-04054)

The Minister for Mental Health (Clare Haughey)

I have been absolutely clear that long waits for children and young people to access mental health treatment are unacceptable.

There is no simple solution in the face of increased demand for children and young people’s mental health services. That is why we are undertaking an ambitious programme of work to drive forward performance in mental health waiting times across Scotland, while supporting early intervention in community settings and across the third sector, local government and the national health service.

The work will build on the superb work of CAMHS teams across Scotland, who are supporting thousands of young people all year round. Only today, a report in The Courier highlighted the increase in the number of young people who are being supported in Perth and Kinross. That response is replicated elsewhere in Scotland.

Through the children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing programme board, which is jointly chaired by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, we are implementing the key recommendations of the Coia children and young people’s mental health task force, the youth commission on mental health services and the Scottish Association for Mental Health’s audit of rejected referrals.

Alison Harris

In NHS Forth Valley, in the most recent quarter, fewer than two thirds of children and young people with mental health problems were treated within 18 weeks of referral. Is there something more specific that the minister can do to help those children in the NHS Forth Valley area?

Clare Haughey

Officials are working closely with boards to monitor performance regularly, acknowledging that some boards face particular challenges. We are adopting an approach that will involve enhanced engagement over the coming months, with a series of site visits and meetings with national health service chief executives, integration authority chief officers and senior clinicians, to review the trajectories and support the development of local improvement plans.


Community-led Sport (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine)

3. Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what funding it is providing for community-led sports in the Aberdeen South and North Kincardine constituency. (S5O-04055)

The Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing (Joe FitzPatrick)

As the member will be aware, the Scottish Government routes our funding for sport through our national agency, sportscotland. In Aberdeen South and North Kincardine, sportscotland invests in community-led sport through its direct club investment and sport facilities funds, and provides investment for its local delivery partners for the active schools and community sport hub programmes.

Maureen Watt

In November, I was delighted to attend the opening of the Neale Cooper Cruyff court in Tullos, in my constituency, which is the second Cruyff court to open in Aberdeen. I am aware of the fantastic work of the streetsport programme in encouraging young people to get involved in sport—indeed, I will hold an event in the Parliament on Tuesday to highlight that work.

How is the Scottish Government working with such organisations to ensure that sporting activities are accessible, especially to people from deprived communities?

Joe FitzPatrick

I welcome the new facility in Tullos and the work that the streetsport programme continues to undertake in the area. Through our changing lives through sport and physical activity programme, the Scottish Government and sportscotland work with third sector organisations to identify and deliver sporting opportunities all over Scotland, with a focus on deprived communities.


Out-of-hospital Cardiac Arrests

4. Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the findings of the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest data linkage project report. (S5O-04056)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Jeane Freeman)

The report shows that Scotland’s out-of-hospital cardiac arrest strategy is delivering real results: 64 per cent of people who suffered a cardiac arrest outside of hospital in 2018-19 received cardiopulmonary resuscitation from bystanders, compared to 41 per cent before the strategy was launched in 2015. One in 10 people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive and leave hospital, compared to one in 20 when the strategy was launched.

Those results are a real testament to the hard work of the save a life for Scotland partnership, which has equipped more than 519,000 people in Scotland with life-saving CPR skills since 2015, and especially to the work of all those who have been involved and have been willing to learn the skills that could—and do—save a life.

Angus MacDonald

The cabinet secretary will be aware that all Scotland’s local authorities have signed up to the British Heart Foundation’s project to build a nation of life-savers by providing CPR training in schools. Can she advise what more the Scottish Government is doing to provide training to adults as well as children, in order to increase the number of people who have those life-saving skills, and to increase the chances of survival of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients in Scotland?

Jeane Freeman

The 32 local authorities have made a very welcome commitment to a systematic and sustainable approach that will see every secondary pupil leaving school with CPR skills. The strategy that we have just reported on was a five-year strategy and it ends this year. Although the target for the number of individuals who have those skills has been overshot, we will now look at what more we want to do, as we want to not only maintain the work, but see where we can build on that success. In particular, we will want to look at increasing skills in our most deprived communities.

Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Con)

Although very welcome progress has been made in some areas, today’s report still shows that people living in the most deprived communities in Scotland continue to have around twice as many out-of-hospital cardiac arrests as those in the least deprived communities. What assessments have ministers made of the cardiac rapid response team, which was piloted in NHS Lothian, and are there plans to roll that out into deprived communities?

Jeane Freeman

The assessment of the pilot and how we would roll it out; what more we need to do, having seen the success of the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest strategy; and the focus on those more deprived communities are all part of the work that we are doing to understand exactly how we should target the resource in order to ensure that we close that inequality gap.


Emergency Departments (Delays)

5. James Kelly (Glasgow) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to reduce delays at accident and emergency departments. (S5O-04057)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Jeane Freeman)

Our emergency departments have been experiencing sustained high levels of attendance, which are more than 11 per cent higher than they were four years ago. To ensure that immediate improvements are made, and that they are sustainable, we have invested £20 million to strengthen capacity, reduce delayed discharge and ensure quality of care and access to services over the winter.

We continue to support improved processes through external support to our health boards and our health and social care partnerships that face the greatest pressures, in order to minimise delays for patients, no matter where they are in the system.

We have also invested £30 million over the past four years to take forward the recommendations that were made in Sir Lewis Ritchie’s review of out-of-hours care.

James Kelly

The latest statistics for University hospital Hairmyres in the NHS Lanarkshire area are deeply concerning, with 95 people having had to wait more than 12 hours in the A and E department. It is difficult enough having to wait in an A and E department, but to wait for such a length of time is completely unacceptable. Is not the cabinet secretary embarrassed to be part of a Government that is so out of touch that it is more interested in bringing to Parliament a debate about flying flags than it is in dealing with the concerns of constituents who are having to lie sick, on trolleys, waiting for treatment in A and E departments?

Jeane Freeman

I am interested in focusing on improved patient care—not in making cheap political points out of such situations.

James Kelly

What did you just spend half an hour doing?

Jeane Freeman

Shouting at me will not take Mr Kelly very far.

I am concerned, as Mr Kelly appears to be, about the number of 12-hour and eight-hour delays. However, I am pleased to be able to tell Mr Kelly that the levels are coming down, in part because of the actions that I have just outlined, but primarily because of the efforts of NHS staff. Our overall focus is on ensuring that we continue to drive up performance to meet the targets. That includes reducing the number of 12-hour and eight-hour waits.

However, in recognition of the work of our NHS staff in emergency departments, and across our health and social care system, I point out that we continue to be the best-performing country in the United Kingdom, as we have been for four and a half years, in terms of meeting our accident and emergency targets.

Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine will confirm that the extended delays in A and E are largely a result not of performance in A and E departments but of the fact that, in many cases, patients cannot be admitted to the wider hospital because of the absence of beds, which is caused by people staying for too many nights in hospital after they have been declared fit to go home. Does the cabinet secretary recognise that the interruption in flow that is caused by inadequate provision in social care in our communities is leading to delays in A and E?

Jeane Freeman

Mr Cole-Hamilton is, in part, right. The reason for the challenges that are faced in A and E is partly that flow through hospitals is being disrupted by delayed discharge. It is also about the quality and sustainability of out-of-hours care. By and large, that care operates robustly across the country—although there are two exceptions, one of which is NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, As Alex Cole-Hamilton knows, I have taken action on that.

We have invested £711 million in health and social care and we know what needs to be done to improve delayed discharge. I could take Mr Cole-Hamilton to a health and social care partnership that operates in a particular health board, That partnership has no delayed discharges, whereas its neighbouring health and social care partnership, which operates within the same health board, has delayed discharges. Both partnerships receive, proportionally, the same levels of funds and support from the Government.

The question is about what we need to do to improve performance in a way that is scalable and sustainable across the country. That is what we are focused on with our partners in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Through the specific actions from the ministerial strategic group for health and community care, we aim to ensure that all our health and social care partnerships in Scotland reach the level of excellence that we see in some.


Organ Donation

6. Mark Griffin (Central Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what progress it is making on delivering a soft opt-out organ donation system, following the passing of the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019. (S5O-04058)

The Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing (Joe FitzPatrick)

The Scottish Government is working in collaboration with NHS Blood and Transplant and the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service to implement the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019. Work is under way on a number of workstreams, including the development of guidance, training, updating of information technology systems, secondary legislation, awareness raising and public information. We are confident that all the necessary steps will be taken in time for autumn of this year.

Mark Griffin

The minister has commenced provisions in relation to further consultation on the act. What plans are in place to boost awareness of the change to an opt-out system of donation, and when is the public awareness campaign likely to start? Will the minister expand on the action that has been taken to train NHS staff so that they are ready to deliver the opt-out system as soon as possible?

Joe FitzPatrick

It is absolutely essential that we get the work on public awareness right to ensure that people continue to have confidence in the system. Part of the safeguarding that underpins the system is about making sure that people understand it. It is aimed at ensuring that people do not become donors if they do not want to be, which is important.

Awareness raising began last year and will continue. It includes a campaign that will peak at various points and that uses different media outputs to reach the whole population. Importantly, it will include a mail drop to all households, supported by a high-profile awareness-raising campaign on TV and radio and in the press, in the lead-up to introduction later this year.

On Mark Griffin’s point about training, it is very important that our staff are appropriately trained. Delivery of training to NHS staff who will be involved in donation and transplantation is scheduled to begin at the end of March, or in April, in order to meet the autumn implementation date. We have worked closely with NHS stakeholders on guidance to support the training, and to provide clarity on how the changes in law will work in practice.


Social Prescribing (Rural South Scotland)

7. Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what support it provides to third sector organisations that offer social prescribing solutions in rural South Scotland. (S5O-04059)

The Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing (Joe FitzPatrick)

We recognise that social prescribing is a valuable approach that enables people and communities to take more control of their health and wellbeing.

We are working together with partners to realise the benefits of social prescribing and to develop effective links between local wellbeing initiatives and the healthcare professionals who can connect people to those initiatives.

For example, in South Scotland, we are contributing funding as part of the €8.7 million European Union mPower programme that is working with third sector organisations in NHS Dumfries and Galloway and NHS Ayrshire and Arran to support the health and wellbeing of older people. Social prescribing and technology-enabled care are key components of the programme, and we are developing our approach as it progresses.

Claudia Beamish

In 2016, the Royal College of General Practitioners identified that 30 per cent to 40 per cent of GP consultation time was spent with patients who would have benefited from community groups and services. Given the increased reliance on, and the recognised value of, such non-medical routes, will the Scottish Government consider how future investment might be made directly to local communities in order to create a more community asset-based approach, such as is taken by Healthy Valleys in Lanark, where I stay?

Joe FitzPatrick

Claudia Beamish has made a good point. We are committed to helping the third sector to build and maintain the national third sector infrastructure that supports charities, social enterprises, community groups and volunteers. The 2019-20 Scottish budget included a dedicated third sector budget of almost £24 million.

However, I am certain that we need to look at how to take that further. The Health and Sport Committee has taken a considerable amount of evidence on the issue and we will have a debate on how to take it to the next level to ensure that everyone in primary care realises the potential benefit of social prescribing to individuals and the wider health service.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

That concludes questions on health and sport. I am sorry that we did not reach Alex Cole-Hamilton’s question. We are a bit over time. We only heard three supplementary questions, so I ask members to think about the length of questions and answers in the future.


Communities and Local Government

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Question 1 was not lodged.


Green Space

2. Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a committee member of Fields in Trust Scotland.

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to record the loss of green space in Scotland. (S5O-04062)

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning (Kevin Stewart)

The Scottish Government contributes to the funding of the Ordnance Survey, which maintains the green space map that is updated every six months. We also funded the “Third State of Scotland’s Greenspace Report”, which provides data on the amount and types of green space, as well as a baseline for measuring change in urban Scotland.

Alison Johnstone

The Scottish National Party previously announced a moratorium on the sale of playing fields, but instead there appears to have been a moratorium on the report that helped us understand a little about what was being lost. Will the minister confirm why the publication of the annual report entitled “Planning applications affecting playing fields” ceased? Will he commit to publishing an annual update that is more specific than the examples that he has previously given?

Kevin Stewart

I do not have that information to hand. I am unaware of the document that Ms Johnstone refers to, but I am more than willing to write to her on that.

In general, the Government’s national planning framework 3 aims to significantly enhance green infrastructure networks, particularly in and around our cities and towns. We designate the central Scotland green network as a national development. It is Europe’s largest green space project and stretches across the central belt.

Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

In light of the climate emergency, does the minister agree that it would be entirely wrong for councils to give the go-ahead to large scale developments on green belt land?

Kevin Stewart

Those matters are for local authorities. We all have to look at the climate emergency in how we develop policy for the future. As Mr Simpson is aware, the new Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 makes it a statutory duty for planning authorities to prepare open space strategies, including an audit of existing open space provision. Open space should be part of all local development plans and regional spatial strategies. My expectation is that local authorities use their logic and local knowledge to get the approach right and ensure that we do all that we can to combat the climate emergency.


Children in Temporary Accommodation (Edinburgh)

3. Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to reduce the number of children across Edinburgh who are living in temporary accommodation. (S5O-04063) [Interruption.]

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning (Kevin Stewart)

I do not want to see any children living in temporary accommodation, so I am disappointed to see that the numbers continue to rise in Edinburgh. I met with the chief executive and housing convener of the City of Edinburgh Council on 21 January and discussed the progress that it is making in transforming its homelessness system to ensure that children do not live in unsuitable accommodation such as bed and breakfast.

Our transition to a rapid rehousing approach will ensure that homeless households, including those with children, spend as short a time as possible in temporary accommodation before moving to a permanent settled home. To support that, we are investing £32.5 million in rapid rehousing and housing first, in partnership with all our local authorities.

Miles Briggs

I thank the minister for that thorough answer, but he will be aware of the statistics that indicate that both the City of Edinburgh Council and Glasgow City Council have pretty much cancelled out all the progress that has been made across other councils in Scotland. Given that the figures show that those councils are not meeting their statutory duties, and given the specific issues that families are experiencing in both Edinburgh and Glasgow—legal action is being taken against Glasgow City Council—what other actions do ministers look to take specifically in Glasgow and Edinburgh where there are increases in the number of children in temporary accommodation rather than decreases, as in the rest of the country?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Kevin Stewart.

Kevin Stewart

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I apologise for coming in before you called me last time.

Mr Briggs will be aware that I continue to discuss those matters with local authorities on a regular basis. It is fair to say that I am not particularly happy with some of what has gone on in the local authorities that Mr Briggs mentioned. The legal action that he talked about in Glasgow is suspended: the Scottish Housing Regulator is going in to look at practice there. I will look very carefully at how it reports back on progress on improvement.

To be fair to both local authorities, they are embarking on a significant amount of change. Here in Edinburgh, last week or the week before, I went to a supported accommodation household that is quite exceptional and is the kind of initiative that needs to be replicated in other places. Beyond that, the Government will continue to try to ensure that the best practice that is happening in some places is rolled out everywhere.

Having read some reports today, I praise Perth and Kinross Council for its efforts, which have dramatically reduced the number of folks applying as homeless. There are lessons to be learned from what it has done.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Minister, I ask you to be a wee bit shorter with your answers. You are disadvantaging members in the chamber.


Unaccompanied Child Refugees (Withdrawal Agreement)

4. Annabelle Ewing (Cowdenbeath) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on an amendment to the United Kingdom Government’s withdrawal agreement that would allow unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with their families in the UK. (S5O-04064)

The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government (Aileen Campbell)

I was shocked and saddened by—and totally disagree with—the UK Government’s decision, backed by the Conservative party, to vote to defeat an amendment by Lord Dubs that would have reinstated a guarantee that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children could continue to join relatives in the UK after Brexit. Those children, many of whom have fled war and persecution, will either remain in migrant camps, where they are susceptible to further harm and exploitation, or take desperate measures to rejoin their families that are living in the UK, often taking dangerous routes that involve extreme risks to their lives.

Annabelle Ewing

I share the cabinet secretary’s sadness at the regrettable fact that the Dubs amendment in the Lords was rejected by the UK Government. Given that that happened, what can the Scottish Government to do to ensure that we in Scotland, unlike the callous UK Tory Government, do not turn our backs on vulnerable children who have families here?

Aileen Campbell

I heard some laughter from the Conservative benches at that serious question. It is sad that, following yesterday’s consensual debate marking Holocaust memorial day, we are still seeing failures to step up and help those facing persecution.

Scotland has a long and proud history of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees from all over the world. We believe that that welcome should most obviously extend to unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Scotland. Those children are among the most vulnerable in the world. They have faced extraordinary levels of adversity to get here and they deserve to be supported and protected.

We will continue to press the UK Government to outline its plans for those most vulnerable children as soon as possible following the passing of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. The UK Government made a commitment to rehome 480 children from migrant camps in Europe, but it seems to have turned its back on the world and those vulnerable children.


Regeneration (Renfrewshire South)

5. Tom Arthur (Renfrewshire South) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government how it supports regeneration in communities in the Renfrewshire South constituency. (S5O-04065)

The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government (Aileen Campbell)

The Scottish Government works closely with local authorities and other partners to support regeneration through a combination of funding and investment. Our support includes local delivery of the town centre fund, the regeneration capital grant fund, the empowering communities programme and business improvement districts.

I know that the communities in Johnston and Linwood in the member’s constituency are active in their efforts to revitalise their town centres and have accessed funding through, respectively, the town centre fund and the regeneration capital grant fund to deliver regeneration projects in their towns.

Tom Arthur

What role does the cabinet secretary think that regeneration can play in supporting town centres to adapt to the changing retail environment that has been brought about by out-of-town shopping centres and the growth of online shopping?

Aileen Campbell

Our approach to regeneration in Scotland, which empowers and supports communities to inform and shape local place-based plans, is integral to supporting our towns to adapt to become more diverse, successful and sustainable. Government is most effective when it empowers our communities and local authorities and when it acts with them—when it does not do things to communities but lets them become the solutions themselves, and removes barriers that stand in the way of their progress. The collective impact of what our communities can then achieve is massive.

Tom Arthur and I attended the Paisley is open exhibition, which set out the long-term vision for Paisley’s town centre. I think that that will serve as a blueprint that will show other towns what Paisley and its partners have done and will help us to deliver successful, vibrant towns in the future.


Local Government (Review)

6. Gail Ross (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government when the last review of local government was carried out. (S5O-04066)

The Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government (Aileen Campbell)

The last major review of Scottish Local Government took place around the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994, which took effect in 1996 and created the 32 unitary local authorities we have today.

Gail Ross

Highland Council covers a huge and diverse geographical area, with 74 councillors covering a third of the land area of Scotland—9,996 square miles—including 14 island communities and areas that are classed as “remote rural” and “very remote rural”. Is it not time that Inverness had its own local authority, which would allow remote rural areas to receive representation that would better suit their unique needs?

Aileen Campbell

I recognise much of what Gail Ross says. I also acknowledge the challenges that the geography of the Highland Council area brings. However, to separate Inverness would still leave about 80 per cent of Highland Council’s population remaining in that one authority, and might not address the wider geographical issues. Any changes to Highland Council would be part of a wider review of all local authority areas in Scotland, and we have no current plan to carry out such a wider review.

Nonetheless, the local governance review looks to rebalance democracy and empower our people and our communities. Given the issues that Gail Ross has raised, I am happy to meet her to ensure that we get thorough responses from the communities that she represents in the Highlands, in order to help to shape and mould that work as it goes forward.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the current structures of the national health service, local government and governmental agencies, together with integration joint boards, growth deals and community planning partnerships, are understood by only a fraction of the population and that work to declutter the public sector in order to focus more effectively and transparently on service delivery is therefore essential?

Aileen Campbell

That question flows from what I said about our local governance review, which is about ensuring that we have appropriate levels of governance and accountability in our country. That is why, as part of the joint local governance review, the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities have recently invited Scotland’s public sector leaders, including all councils, to submit their proposals for alternative governance arrangements that can improve people’s lives. That includes proposals that are tailored to local circumstances and which aim to improve effectiveness, efficiency and transparency as much as possible so that some of the clutter that Kenny Gibson mentioned could be looked at.


Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership

7. Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the decision by Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership to enter into partnership with the Wheatley Group. (S5O-04067)

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning (Kevin Stewart)

The decision was a matter for the board of Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership, which, following a ballot of its tenants, decided to protect tenants’ interests and deliver on the opportunities and the commitments made by the Wheatley Group. It will benefit Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership’s customers, staff and communities while retaining local accountability. [Interruption.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I ask members not to have what I am picking up as shouted conversations across empty seats, please, and to have a bit of respect for the chamber.

Colin Smyth

I thank the minister for that answer. Given the extent to which DGHP had lost its way on building new homes and refurbishing existing properties, I welcome the positive investment plans in the new partnership with the Wheatley Group, which the minister mentioned.

However, figures that the Government published yesterday reveal that the number of homelessness applications in Dumfries and Galloway is not falling, with 864 last year alone. Will the minister give an assurance that there will be no reduction in next year’s budget for grants for new social housing so that the new partnership in Dumfries and Galloway can play a full part in building the homes that we desperately need to end the shame of homelessness in the region?

Kevin Stewart

On the affordable housing programme, I note that the planning assumptions were laid out some time ago. New build is being delivered in Dumfries and Galloway by Cunninghame Housing Association. Unfortunately, given the troubles that Dumfries and Galloway Housing Partnership experienced, it did not invest as much as it should have in new homes. With the Wheatley Group moving into the area, there is a huge opportunity.

As I said, the decision protects existing tenants and addresses the financial and capacity risks that the organisation was facing. The partnership arrangement includes some very positive things, such as a 2 per cent rent cap, detailed plans for additional investment in existing housing stock, the first new-build houses programme, a new handyperson service and recruitment of DGHP’s first modern apprentices. That is good news for Dumfries and Galloway.


Thermal Electricity Generating Capacity (Planning Policy)

8. Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

To ask the Scottish Government how its planning policy is guiding the siting of thermal electricity generating capacity under 50MW. (S5O-04068)

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning (Kevin Stewart)

Current Scottish planning policy does not contain specific policies to guide the siting of thermal electricity generating capacity under 50MW. However, it sets out a range of considerations that are to be taken into account, including environmental and community impacts, when local development plans are prepared and applications for energy infrastructure projects are determined. We are reviewing all national planning policies to inform the preparation of national planning framework 4.

Mark Ruskell

The minister will be aware of the situation in Fife, where there is a free-for-all of planning applications for polluting gas peaking plants and waste incinerators. As part of that review into planning policy, can he commit to updating guidance to councils so that they can take into consideration the climate emergency and the cumulative impact of such developments being sited very close together, as was proposed this week in Inverkeithing?

Kevin Stewart

As Mark Ruskell is well aware, I cannot comment on individual planning applications, and I know that there are lives ones in Fife.

When it comes to that area of planning, as well as others, I encourage folk to get involved in the shaping of NPF4 and the review of Scottish planning policy. We have a new website that breaks down the separate areas of business that we will look at. I encourage Mr Ruskell and other members to look at the web site and to encourage their constituents to look at it, too.