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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2019

Agenda: European Union Exit, Portfolio Question Time, Glasgow School of Art Fire, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Charities, Scotland and Holyrood


Contents


Portfolio Question Time


Health and Sport


“MHA monitoring report 2018-19”

1. Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the findings of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland publication, “MHA monitoring report 2018-19”. (S5O-03669)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Jeane Freeman)

We are carefully considering the commission’s findings, which will inform the independent review of mental health legislation that we announced earlier this year. The review is chaired by John Scott QC and will focus, in part, on compulsion. It is currently considering how best to seek and evaluate evidence about the way persons who are subject to compulsion under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 currently receive care and treatment. That includes issues such as how the application of compulsion has developed since the act came into force. The review will aim to produce an interim report in May 2020. Work will continue with stakeholders to ensure that compulsory treatment orders are used correctly and continue to promote patients’ rights.

Alex Cole-Hamilton

The report shows that since 2009, there has been a 122 per cent increase in short-term detentions among women under the age of 25. The number of times that people have needed compulsory mental health treatment in Scotland has reached a record high—in the past year alone, there have been more than 6,000 detentions under the 2003 act.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

What is your question?

Alex Cole-Hamilton

Those shocking statistics show that people are not getting help fast enough, so their needs are getting more acute. What is the cabinet secretary doing to reduce mental health treatment waiting times? When does she expect the last of the 800 key workers in general practice surgeries to be deployed?

Jeane Freeman

There are many reasons why there can be a rise in the number of short-term orders. Rates of detention have complex causes, which is why it is important that we look at the findings of the report and that the review undertakes the work that I have outlined.

Mr Alex Cole-Hamilton is well aware of the number of actions that we are taking to improve mental health waiting times and services, so I shall not rehearse those again. We have already published information on our progress in relation to the 800 additional mental health workers who will be in place in this parliamentary session. I am happy to refresh his memory on that in writing, if he wishes.

Monica Lennon (Central Scotland) (Lab)

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the sharp increase in the number of teenagers being the subject of forced detention is worrying and can she advise how many specialist national health service mental health beds are available for children and young people in Scotland?

Jeane Freeman

I agree with Monica Lennon that that number is a concern and it needs to be looked at in detail to find out why that might be the case. On the specific question about the number of beds, I do not have that information with me but I am happy to send it to Ms Lennon immediately after portfolio question time.

Annie Wells (Glasgow) (Con)

Significantly, the report highlights that rates of emergency detention vary considerably across Scotland, with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde having the highest rate at 84 per 100,000 of the population. When it comes to compulsory treatment orders, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has had a higher rate than the whole of Scotland for the past 10 years. What action will the cabinet secretary take to address the stark differences across the country?

Jeane Freeman

As Annie Wells knows, I am always concerned about variation in the delivery of our health services and in outcomes across a whole range of issues. I want to understand why there is that variation. That will be part of how we consider the report’s recommendations and part of the work that Mr Scott is undertaking in our review. As progress is made on that, we will ensure that members are advised.


National Health Service Workforce Planning (European Union Exit)

2. Gillian Martin (Aberdeenshire East) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what national health service workforce planning is taking place to account for any loss of European Union membership and freedom of movement. (S5O-03670)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Jeane Freeman)

Any loss of freedom of movement between Scotland and the rest of the EU will have a detrimental impact on our ability to recruit for our health and social care services in the future, and on our ability to retain valuable EU workers in those services. We are actively attempting to mitigate those impacts through our targeted international recruitment efforts and through increased investment in growing our own talent across health and social care. However, the damage to our NHS from losing freedom of movement will be tangible and we must make every effort to stop Brexit and protect our health service.

Gillian Martin

Turning to another potential area of damage, I ask for the cabinet secretary’s response to the revelations in Channel 4’s “Dispatches” programme on Monday, which reported on five secret meetings between senior United Kingdom Government civil servants and the US pharmaceutical industry. Was the Scottish Government aware of those meetings? What are the implications for the NHS in Scotland of a UK-US trade deal that includes supply deals on our medication?

Jeane Freeman

I am sure that many members were as concerned as I was by the reports in the “Dispatches” programme. We are not in any way reassured by the most recent performance by the UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. I say, for the benefit of members in this chamber, that the first I knew about the matter was from that television programme and, indeed, that in all my term as Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport in Scotland, Mr Hancock has not personally responded to any of the letters that I have sent him. That entire disregard for the value of this Parliament and our devolved Administration gives the absolute lie to any claims that we are in a partnership of equals in any respect.

It is critical to our NHS that we do all that we can to keep tight control over the cost of medicines. The recent Audit Scotland report showed the essential role that less expensive generic and biosimilar products play in keeping costs under control. All that will be put at risk if the UK Government trades away our ability to get the best-value prices for our NHS. If the NHS is forced to accept the list prices of US drug companies, the implications for the sustainability of our health service will be immediate and severe, which is all the more reason why we need to take every opportunity to prevent that from happening.

David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

One key aspect of NHS workforce planning post-Brexit will be the creation of a new medical school. Does the cabinet secretary share my view that there is a strong case to be made for the new school to be located in the Highlands and Islands as part of the University of the Highlands and Islands network?

Jeane Freeman

I give Mr Stewart all credit for being the first member to take the opportunity of arguing that point in the chamber on behalf of his area. Many others have come forward to make cases about the Government’s commitment to establishing a new medical school. I think that such a school is needed in any case, because we need to increase the numbers of our young people to whom we offer such opportunities.

As I have said to Mr Stewart and other members, I am waiting to see the offers and options that might come forward—including those from our existing medical schools, which have also been considering what it is possible for them to do. We will consider all such propositions carefully, but we will aim to ensure equity of access and the maximum opportunity for our young people and others to train to be doctors and then to be employed as such in our health service in Scotland.


Human Papillomavirus Vaccine

3. Anas Sarwar (Glasgow) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to review the eligibility criteria for the human papillomavirus vaccine. (S5O-03671)

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

The Scottish Government is advised on vaccination policy by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. The JCVI is an independent, expert group that considers a full range of available clinical and cost benefit evidence before providing advice on all aspects of vaccination, including eligibility, to each of the United Kingdom health departments.

The JCVI keeps its recommendations on all vaccination programmes under review. If it should update its recommendation on HPV vaccination at any time, the Scottish Government will give that due consideration.

Anas Sarwar

Up to 100,000 boys aged from 14 to 18 will not be able to get a free catch-up vaccination when the new HPV vaccination programme, which aims to reduce cancer incidence, is rolled out in January. Instead, it might be recommended that they buy doses privately. I am aware of one parent who has paid £800 to vaccinate their two 16-year-old boys. Will the Government urgently consider extending the programme to all boys, so that no parent is forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying to protect their children from cancer?

Joe FitzPatrick

I will always look at any advice that comes to me. Mr Sarwar will be aware that I was very sympathetic to the concept of a catch-up programme, but I have to look at the advice that comes to me from the JCVI. I understand that its advice in that regard was made on the basis that the successful 10-year programme for girls had established good levels of herd protection, which means that limited additional benefit would be gained from a catch-up programme for boys. Clearly, there are sections of boys and young men who would not benefit from such herd protection—such as men who have sex with men—and they are able to seek vaccination. However, let me be absolutely clear: if advice should come from the JCVI to suggest that a catch-up programme would be the right thing to do, I would be very sympathetic to that.


Emergency Departments (Use of Physiotherapists)

4. John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what the effectiveness has been of the trialling of placing physiotherapists in the emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth university hospital. (S5O-03672)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Jeane Freeman)

Between January and April 2019, 99.8 per cent of patients who benefited from the specialty pathway as a result of the trial at the Queen Elizabeth were seen within four hours. The trial resulted in enhanced discharge, fewer patients being admitted and a higher quality of care for those who were seen, as well as members of the healthcare team being freed up to treat other patients more quickly.

The trial has now been extended to providing seven-day, 52-week cover at the Queen Elizabeth, with plans to extend the clinical competencies to further accident and emergency departments. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s winter plan would extend it to Glasgow royal infirmary for the winter period.

John Mason

Does the cabinet secretary think that it might also be helpful if other specialties were put into A and E?

Jeane Freeman

The unscheduled care national programme works with hospitals to consider how patients can access the most appropriate healthcare professionals and obtain the right care without delay. Many hospitals are already working with multidisciplinary teams that include general practitioners, paramedics, pharmacists, allied health professionals and other healthcare workers to support appropriate care pathways. The national programme will look very closely at the impact of the trial at the Queen Elizabeth, and its extension, to see what more could be done to roll out that approach and replicate it across Scotland.


Breast Cancer Screening

5. Pauline McNeill (Glasgow) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what progress it is making on encouraging the uptake of breast cancer screening. (S5O-03673)

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

We are committed to further increasing our work and focus on the importance of breast screening. The Scottish breast screening programme needs to be as effective as possible and to adapt in order to keep pace with the increasing population and changes in technology and lifestyles. That is why we have approved a review of the programme to ensure that it continues to support early diagnosis of breast cancer. The review, which will be carried out by the national services division, will look at everything from invitation processes, advances in technology and future requirements to ways to increase participation and address health inequalities. A systematic approach is needed to the introduction of changes in technology, such as text or electronic reminders and artificial intelligence, so that changes can be implemented quickly and effectively to benefit women.

We know that the earlier a cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat, which is why we launched our £42 million detect cancer early programme in 2012.

Pauline McNeill

A quarter of cases are diagnosed in women aged 75 and over, but women over 70 are not routinely asked to attend mammograms every three years and are instead expected to self-refer. I wonder why that is. Given that life expectancy is increasing in Scotland—the average is 81 for women—can the minister provide an explanation for that? As a review of the breast screening programme is under way, will the minister commit to changing the policy and including invitations to older women as part of the review?

Joe FitzPatrick

As I said in my first answer, the review will be wide ranging, and I will make sure that the issue that the member raises is one of the things that is looked at.


Mesh Removal

6. Neil Findlay (Lothian) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking in response to reports that some women are having “total” or “full” mesh removal recorded on their medical records following surgery at centres of excellence only to later learn they still have mesh in their body. (S5O-03674)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Jeane Freeman)

As the First Minister has said, it is important that we give further consideration to those reports. This is a serious issue and the proper process requires careful review of selected patient cases. We therefore need to establish which cases require review and, importantly, to identify individuals with the required knowledge, authority, standing and independence to carry that out. Health board accountable officers discussed the matter at their meeting last week.

Taking account of what I have just said, I have asked NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to propose by the end of this week a means, scope and timeline for that review to be conducted, with assurance from the accountable officers group and the chief medical officer that that is the required level of response to determine the basis of the reports. Once I have that information and that assurance, I will, of course, make sure that the member is advised.

Neil Findlay

I welcome what the cabinet secretary has said. These are extremely important issues and the allegations that have been made are very serious. Before we take another step forward, will the cabinet secretary ensure that she consults the women involved? We do not want to replicate a situation where people who have a vested interest in the issue are the people who do the investigating. Would it not be better to ask the General Medical Council to be involved?

Jeane Freeman

Mr Findlay’s point about assurance that those who review cases are independent is well made, and that is why I made that point in my first answer. I am very clear that the review of cases needs to have credibility, particularly in the eyes of the women making the reports that he mentioned. Once I have the proposition from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the view of the accountable officers group, which covers all our health boards, and the view of our chief medical officer, I will be very happy to also take a view from the women concerned as to whether what is proposed appears to them to meet their requirement for independence. I will then take the issue further, based on all the views that come to me. However, I am keen to ensure that we do not overly delay the matter because, as Mr Findlay rightly says, these very important assertions need to be investigated, and we need to get to the truth of the matter in the cases concerned.


People with Dementia

7. Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government how it supports people with dementia, particularly those under 65, and how all people with dementia and their families can access the care and support they require. (S5O-03675)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Jeane Freeman)

Everyone who is newly diagnosed with dementia, at any age, is automatically entitled to be offered post-diagnostic support, and we are clear in our expectation that integration joint boards should ensure that it is delivered.

A new step of support this year has been our extension of free personal care to all age groups who are assessed as requiring it, including those who have dementia. We have backed that with investment and changes to the necessary legislation to enshrine the right.

In addition, our programme for government sets out our plans to consult on and develop a new national dementia strategy, which will include a further focus on the issues for and support needs of people under 65 with the illness.

Willie Coffey

In local cases that I am helping with, there seems to be a marked difference in the care experience of those under 65 who have early onset dementia when compared with that of older people. On general support for families with a relative who has dementia, can the cabinet secretary reassure my constituents that their care and support needs are paramount and on an equal footing with those who live with other progressive or terminal illnesses?

Jeane Freeman

That should absolutely be the case for the care and support that is offered. I accept that there are areas in which it appears that that is not happening. We are actively looking at that and at what more might be done in the immediate period and in the longer term through the additional review that I outlined in my earlier answer.

I am keen that we make significant progress with that work and begin to develop further our dementia services, backed by the required resources.


St Brendan’s Hospital and Care Home (Replacement)

8. Dr Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the replacement of St Brendan’s hospital and care home on the Isle of Barra. (S5O-03676)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Jeane Freeman)

Work is under way between the health board, the council and the integration joint board to determine the best approach for delivery of the hospital project and the Castlebay community hub. That joint work must ensure that public infrastructure best meets the needs of the local population and provides an effective and sustainable health and education resource for the future.

The feasibility study was recently completed and a decision on the preferred way forward is expected to be taken very soon. Along with the health board and the council, we remain committed to delivering the St Brendan’s re-provision at the earliest opportunity.

Dr Allan

Next week, the local authority is due to meet to consider the options outlined by the feasibility study into an integrated project. Does the cabinet secretary agree that, if the commitment to have a new hospital under construction by 2021 is to be met, it is important that the community is kept fully informed and is involved as closely as possible during the project’s development?

Jeane Freeman

We can agree on two important points in relation to the project. First, it is vital that a decision is taken quickly and that the health board and the council take the appropriate steps to implement the recommendation as quickly as possible. Secondly, the local community absolutely needs to be fully involved and engaged with the whole process, including the design of any new build. The Scottish Government remains fully committed to the project and I expect senior leadership at the health board and the council to move it forward and to deliver against the agreed timescales.


Communities and Local Government


Local Authority Procurement

1. Clare Adamson (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to ensure a consistent approach to procurement across all local authorities. (S5O-03677)

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

Public procurement in Scotland is governed by our national procurement legislation, which ensures a consistent approach to how contracts are competed for, while recognising that local authorities are independent corporate bodies and, in the same way as other public bodies, are largely responsible for their own procurement processes and decisions. The Scottish Government engages with the local government sector through the public procurement group, which sets the strategic direction for public procurement for Scotland.

Clare Adamson

According to the Health and Safety Executive, the waste and resource management industry is the second worst-performing industry in the United Kingdom in terms of workplace fatalities. Does the cabinet secretary share my view that safety scoring must be an important and valued part of the procurement process, and that waste contracts across Scotland must be assessed consistently?


Local Authority Procurement

Aileen Campbell

I recognise the work that the member does on issues around safety more generally. It is already a requirement of all public procurement exercises that suppliers comply with all health and safety law and declare any breaches. Bidders that have breached health and safety law must demonstrate that they have taken appropriate self-cleansing measures to remedy any breaches or face being excluded from the procurement exercise.

Alexander Stewart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

What role does the cabinet secretary expect procurement plans to have in helping councils to balance struggling budgets?

Aileen Campbell

I am not sure what that has to do with procurement. I would say, though, that if we had followed the Conservative tax plans, which would have taken more money out of local authorities, they would have had £500 million less. However, if the member wants to come back on issues to do with procurement, which I do not think featured in his question—

Alexander Stewart

It was about procurement plans.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I thought that the question was relevant. It was about procurement across local authorities and comparing that to financial challenges.

Aileen Campbell

Sorry. I misunderstood or misheard, as I thought that the member was talking about the budget.

Alexander Stewart

It was about procurement plans.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You are not having a discussion about it.

Aileen Campbell

I reiterate, however, that the Conservatives’ tax plans would have taken more money out of the budget for local authorities. However, we will continue to engage on that issue at another time.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

We will just call all that a bit of a guddle and have a look at the Official Report afterwards. I am not wasting any more time on it.


Investing in Communities Fund (Rural Communities)

2. Maurice Corry (West Scotland) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what efforts it has made to deliver the investing in communities fund, particularly with regard to channelling resources for rural communities. (S5O-03678)

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

The Scottish Government launched the new £11.5 million per year investing in communities fund in 2019-20. The fund has been developed to support communities to design, develop and deliver solutions that address local priorities and challenges on their own terms. It will support our national performance framework by contributing to achieving many of our national outcomes through targeting investment towards addressing poverty, inequality and rural disadvantage. The fund was advertised widely across community and third sector networks in Scotland, including those supporting rural areas. The fund was highly competitive, attracting over 750 applications from all local authority areas in Scotland and with rural and remote places well represented.

Maurice Corry

Rural communities can often face distinct challenges, such as locations that are more difficult to reach and isolation. Can the cabinet secretary provide details on how the funding grants under the investing in communities initiative have so far targeted the problems of isolation and inequality of opportunity, specifically for those in rural areas across West Scotland?

Aileen Campbell

Rural disadvantage was specifically included in the fund criteria, in line with the national performance framework. There is recognition of the challenges that rural communities face, as the member outlined, such as migration from rural areas, age demographic issues, dispersed populations and infrastructure. Those were taken into consideration in that funding.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

My signal to make it short was for Mr MacGregor on the back benches and not for you, cabinet secretary—there was a bit of confusion there. Mr MacGregor has a supplementary question.

Fulton MacGregor (Coatbridge and Chryston) (SNP)

Given that the fund provides flexibility for those who require resources to make meaningful changes in their communities, can the cabinet secretary outline the uptake of the multiyear awards, which can reach £250,000, compared to the uptake of the six-month and year-long awards?

Aileen Campbell

It was recognised that a lot of community groups required much more flexibility in the approach to support the work that they do in their communities. That issue is often raised with me by communities, which is why we approached the issue in a way that would enable communities to have longer-term funding. More than 90 per cent of applications to the fund requested grant awards extending beyond the 2019-20 financial year.


Falling Masonry

3. Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government what information it has on how many times masonry falls from housing have been reported in the past year. (S5O-03679)

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

The Scottish Government does not collect or hold information centrally on masonry falls from housing. Local authorities may be able to assist with the request as part of their responsibility for dealing with substandard housing in their area.

Daniel Johnson

In Edinburgh alone, there were 179 masonry falls in 2018, which represents a four-fold increase in just four years. That underscores not only the seriousness of the situation and the need to record it but the need for an adequate maintenance regime for our built environment. When and how will the Scottish Government respond to the recommendations of the cross-party working group on the maintenance of tenement property?

Kevin Stewart

I agree with Mr Johnson that the maintenance of common property is an important issue, especially when it becomes a matter of public safety. Home owners and landlords in tenements need to fully accept their shared responsibilities for the upkeep of their properties, ensuring that everybody who lives in a tenement can enjoy a quality, safe and sustainable home.

As Mr Johnson will be aware, the Scottish Government held a debate on the issue in June. I welcomed the report of the working group on the maintenance of tenement property, and I have committed to making a substantive response in the autumn to the final recommendations report. The issues are serious and require serious consideration. We intend to make our response in due course.

Graham Simpson (Central Scotland) (Con)

Autumn ends on 22 December. Will the minister guarantee that he gives his response before then? Will he commit to giving a response in the chamber?

Kevin Stewart

I am not a man who makes guarantees, unless I have something written in blood. However, I have committed to making my substantive response in the autumn—Mr Simpson can be assured that that will happen.


Accessible Housing Targets

4. Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what targets it has set local authorities to deliver accessible housing. (S5O-03680)

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

The Scottish Government does not set local targets for accessible housing. Specific requirements are best identified locally, informed by the needs of communities. However, our fairer Scotland for disabled people delivery plan includes a commitment to ensure that each local authority sets a realistic target in its local housing strategy for the delivery of wheelchair-accessible housing across all tenures and that each local authority reports annually on progress. Additionally, guidance that was published in March requires local authorities to have wheelchair-accessible housing targets in place for all tenures by the end of this year. Increasing the supply of wheelchair-accessible housing will provide more choice and flexibility for disabled people.

Murdo Fraser

The minister will be aware that there is a desperate need for more accessible housing right around the country. Will he give members an update on how many councils have provided new strategic housing investment plans? Is he satisfied that the plans adequately address the demand for accessible housing?

Kevin Stewart

As far as I am aware, all 32 local authorities submitted their strategic housing investment plans last December or January. I will confirm that in writing to Mr Fraser, because I do not have the details in front of me now.

As I have previously related in the chamber, I expect local authorities not only to look at the issue in terms of their local housing strategies but to take cognisance of housing lists in their areas.

We are investing heavily in housing in Scotland at the moment. Although I have said that we are unwilling to look at the amount of subsidy that we give as a whole, I have made it clear that we are extremely flexible about subsidies for the local authorities and housing associations that want to deliver wheelchair-accessible housing.

Can I say to members—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Just very briefly, minister. I am trying to get other members in.

Kevin Stewart

In 2018-19, 96 per cent of our new-build homes were of the housing for varying needs standard, which is extremely important.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Will the minister advise members how many accessible and affordable homes are currently being built in Scotland per 100,000 people compared with the number that are being built in England, where Mr Fraser’s party is in government?

Kevin Stewart

Between 2007 and 2018, the supply of affordable homes per head of population has been a third higher in Scotland than in England. That is 131 homes per 100,000 people in Scotland compared with 96 homes per 100,000 people in England. In the four years to 2018, we delivered 50 per cent more affordable homes per head of population in Scotland than were delivered in England.

In the social rented housing sector, in particular, in the four years to 2018, we delivered five times more homes per head of population in Scotland than in England, delivering 84 social homes per 100,000 people in Scotland compared with just 13 social homes per 100,000 in England.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I was a wee bit tolerant there. The question was about accessible housing, not affordable homes. Be warned.


Business Improvement Districts

5. Dean Lockhart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what support it is giving to business improvement districts. (S5O-03681)

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

The Scottish Government is supporting Scotland’s Towns Partnership to develop a new and more expansive model for BIDs, which will deliver more inclusive and energetic partnerships, improve resources and impact, and bring greater sustainable growth to areas all over Scotland. The Scottish Government also provides seedcorn funding to emerging BIDs to enable them to develop their proposals.

Dean Lockhart

During a recent business summit that I hosted in Stirling, concern was expressed by local businesses about the impact of increasing business rates including the large business supplement, which more than 400 firms in Stirling have to pay. That is forcing many firms to close or to cut back on staffing. Does the cabinet secretary recognise the damage that the Scottish National Party’s business rates are causing to high streets and communities across Scotland?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The first question was about business districts and support for them. I remind members again that supplementaries should attach themselves to the primary question. That is a useful principle.

Aileen Campbell

I acknowledge that Dean Lockhart will have done work in Stirling and I am happy to hear about the outcomes for businesses there.

However, I remind the member that the Scottish Government provides the most generous package of non-domestic rates anywhere in the United Kingdom, which was worth a record £750 million in 2019-20. That includes transitional relief and the small businesses bonus scheme. That scheme is crucial for small businesses in maintaining our high streets and ensuring that they remain lively and energetic. BIDs support that work and continue to support our towns across the country

We will continue to ensure that we provide support for our businesses with the generous package of relief that we currently offer.


Non-domestic Rates (Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council)

6. Tom Mason (North East Scotland) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what correspondence it has had with Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire councils regarding the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill. (S5O-03682)

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

Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council both responded to the Scottish Government’s public consultation on the implementation of the Barclay review of non-domestic rates. We are committed to maintaining the consultative and collaborative approach that has been a key feature of our work on the Barclay review, including the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, so should either council have specific issues that it would like to raise with me or my cabinet colleagues, I would be more than happy to speak to it.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Mr Mason, I know that your supplementary will be pertinent.

Tom Mason

I hope so. I declare an interest as a councillor on Aberdeen City Council.

The 2017 rates revaluation failed to reflect the downturn in the oil and gas industry and has, as a result, proved to be devastating, with many businesses in the Aberdeen area closing, and the demolition of perfectly viable office blocks in the past two years. In addition, Aberdeen City Council has had to generate—

The Deputy Presiding Officer

No, no, no. You are breaching another of my little golden rules, which is that I like to hear a question.

Tom Mason

In that case, will the Government take the opportunity that is provided by the bill and the upcoming budget to ensure a truly fair settlement to our third-largest city?

Aileen Campbell

We continue to treat local authorities fairly. Had the Government followed the Conservative Party’s budget proposals, that would have meant £17 million less for services for Aberdeen City Council and £24 million less for Aberdeenshire Council. In contrast, we have supported local authorities and we continue to offer support through our small business bonus scheme, which has 2,300 recipients in Aberdeen and 7,300 in Aberdeenshire. That has saved much money for businesses in north-east local authority areas, and will continue to support the crucial work that happens across Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. It is important to ensure that local authorities are supported and that businesses are supported, as well.

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

Will the cabinet secretary set out how the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill will build on the transitional relief that is received by offices and by all but the largest hospitality businesses in Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire, and how the bill will ensure a fair rates deal for all businesses in the north-east by moving to three-yearly revaluation, which will mean that the rating system can respond better to economic change?

Aileen Campbell

Absolutely. That is part and parcel of why the bill is so critical, and why my colleague Kate Forbes continues to take that work through the Parliament. We will continue to ensure that we do as the Barclay review set out. We will continue to be consultative, and we will continue to collaborate with our local authority colleagues and others in order to move the system forward in a more agile way that responds to need in particular areas across the country.


Park of Keir Development

7. Keith Brown (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the negotiations between Stirling Council and the agents of the Park of Keir development. (S5O-03683)

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

Negotiations between Stirling Council and the developer over the planning obligation are on-going. The Scottish Government has recently agreed to allow until 31 January 2020 for the obligation to be concluded between the parties.

Keith Brown

The minister will be aware that it is now two years since permission was granted for the development, subject to a number of conditions being met. Despite a number of extensions having been granted, the developer and Stirling Council have failed to reach agreement on terms to allow the development to proceed. Will he consider the view of my constituents that local people have faced a prolonged period of uncertainty over the development, and that if agreement cannot be reached, approval for the development should be withdrawn?

Kevin Stewart

I note Mr Brown’s constituents’ concerns. However, as it is about a live planning application, it is not appropriate for me to comment on the merits of the case.

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

In the minister’s notice of intent letter from 2017, he agreed with the reporter’s findings that the

“financial implications of developing the sports facilities have not been the subject of an assessment”.

Is it now the minister’s view that such an assessment needs to be produced before he can make a decision?

Kevin Stewart

As members are very well aware, I am extremely restricted in what I can say. There is, in the Scottish ministerial code, a special place for me when it comes to live planning applications. As Mr Ruskell obviously has a copy of the letter of intent with him, I suggest that he look at it, because in it is my judgment on the application.


Affordable Homes

8. Michelle Ballantyne (South Scotland) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that families and communities have access to affordable homes. (S5O-03684)

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

The Government is committed to ensuring that families and communities across Scotland have access to safe, warm and affordable homes that meet their needs.

We have transformed access to affordable housing, with record investment of more than £3.3 billion to deliver our 50,000 affordable homes target, which includes 35,000 homes for social rent, by 2021. That is a 94 per cent increase on our previous five-year investment, and it is the single biggest investment in, and delivery of, affordable housing since devolution. The Government can be very proud of its record on affordable housing, having now delivered more than 87,000 affordable homes since 2007.

Michelle Ballantyne

I thank the minister for that answer. I am just looking for clarification. Shortly after the last election, the Scottish Government changed its terminology, stating that it would “deliver” 50,000 homes by the end of 2021, as the minister has just said in his initial answer, as opposed to “build” 50,000 homes, as is still stated in his manifesto pledge online. Could you clarify what percentage of the 50,000 homes will be new builds, as opposed to refurbishments?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Just a wee minute, Ms Ballantyne: I am sorry, but you keep using the word “you”. One of these days, you will not do that. Let us hope that it is before the end of this five-year session.

Kevin Stewart

As I have said in the chamber previously, the Government will deliver 50,000 affordable homes during the course of this parliamentary session, and 35,000 of those will be for social rent. That is the biggest affordable housing programme for decades. There are members who I wish would celebrate that.

I refer Ms Ballantyne to my previous answer to Mr Gibson. If her colleagues south of the border were doing as well as we are, that would be something that she could applaud. We are delivering for the people of Scotland.

James Dornan (Glasgow Cathcart) (SNP)

Does the minister agree with the national director of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland, who said in written evidence to the Local Government and Communities Committee that

“The end of right to buy and the financial security provided by a Scottish Government target to deliver 50,000 affordable homes backed by £3 billion funding has created the opportunity for many local authorities to start building homes again”?

Kevin Stewart

Mr Dornan and the director of the Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland are absolutely right. The financial security that is provided by the Scottish Government target to deliver 50,000 affordable homes, backed by record investment, and the ending of the right to buy have created the opportunity for many local authorities to start building homes again. The number of affordable new-build completions increased from zero in 2005 to 1,280 in 2018.