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24 February 2011

S3M-7992 Regeneration

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7992, in the name of Johann Lamont, on regeneration.

09:16
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10:02

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): ...

I wish John Park every success in the recovery of his lip. Indeed, I wish him every success in the coming election. I hope that Labour sets new records—for second places. The contest to come will be interesting.

Regeneration is a subject that is timely and important to communities not only in central Scotland but right across Scotland. In my remarks, I will make some comments about areas outwith central Scotland.

John Park highlighted an important issue when he said that it is not correct to focus only on people. When we look at regeneration, I agree that we also have to consider the physical, social and economic environments. In fact, a complex set of interlocking issues make up the single issue that is regeneration. The need for regeneration has run through the generations in far too many of our communities.

That is precisely why the Conservatives absolutely miss the point when they focus on the idea of workers relocating to find new work. Indeed, Norman Tebbit has been on the campaign trail in Wales this week. He gave an interview in which he suggested, once again, that the “get on your bike” phrase that he used years ago still has a resonance. That focus is simplistic, inadequate and inappropriate.

It is good to hear members on Labour’s front bench—if not members on Labour’s back benches—reinforcing the importance of the Forth replacement crossing, which is not only a transport investment but one that creates significant jobs. I hope that Lord Foulkes remains a sole voice.

Regeneration is a key part of our economy. It is needed just as much in rural villages and towns as it is in urban city centres. Just as we have seen significant change in the industrial structure of Scotland in many communities in the central belt, so we have seen the structure of our traditional industries of fishing and farming change significantly. Those industries have reduced the number of people who are employed within them and that has caused suffering for a number of associated engineering industries, too.

The Coalfields Regeneration Trust does excellent work for the communities that it supports. I do not think that during today’s debate we will hear criticism of its efforts, although we may focus on differences.

However, there is a Scotland beyond the central belt. Just yesterday, on 23 February, Portsoy in my constituency was granted £500,000 from Historic Scotland’s conservation area regeneration scheme to repair historic buildings in the harbour and to give people training in traditional skills. That is the kind of initiative that the Government is taking. It will make the area more attractive to visitors, but it will also boost the local economy. Building on traditional skills and renovation work will create for young people, in particular, key opportunities to engage in new activities.

Elsewhere in my constituency, there have been successful regeneration schemes in Peterhead, and £3 million has been spent on a townscape heritage project in Banff. In August, Aberdeenshire Council allocated slightly more than a third of £1 million from Scottish Enterprise to regeneration projects in Banff and Buchan.

Regeneration is important throughout Scotland. That is why I welcome the document that the Government has just published on the subject, which recognises that many of the traditional models are less viable. For too many companies, reliance on debt finance simply is not possible. Together with difficulties in accessing land and property in the current climate, that is making it more difficult overall to attract investment. We need community-led regeneration, rather than a top-down approach. We need to empower our communities so that, through the Scottish Government’s concordat with local authorities in particular, we can find ways of doing the things that are required in our local communities. Regeneration works when each community has a stake in it.

I think in particular of Maud, a small village in my constituency, where over a long period—regeneration is not a quick fix—the community has engaged in redeveloping an area that 50 years ago was the biggest, most active cattle market in the whole of Scotland. Today, the area is thriving, with many different activities in a new centre that has been developed in close co-operation with the community, through a planning for real project that engaged the very young and the very old.

Like others, I welcomed the 2007 debate on coalfield regeneration. After waiting for four years for another debate, we find that two have come along on the same day—not, I must say, miraculous scheduling on the part of the Labour business manager.

In comparison with the minister, I must go back one more generation to reach my mining ancestors. My great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were miners in Bannockburn. They were among more than 300 Stevensons who were miners in that community 150 years ago. Business changes, and we must respond. Regeneration will be important. I will support the Government tonight.

10:08

10 February 2011

S3M-7923 Early Intervention

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7923, in the name of Murdo Fraser, on early intervention in health and education.

09:04
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09:59

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

The tone of the debate suggests that we are heading towards a broad consensus on the issue and a recognition that all members might have lost opportunities to address it. A saying that I have held dear—particularly in recent times—is that someone who never made a mistake never made anything. If we are able to look forward, that is an excellent way in which to go, and I thank Murdo Fraser and his colleagues for giving us the opportunity to debate this important subject.

It is clearly a long-run issue in the sense that we have been engaged in it for decades without having identified everything that we need to do. More fundamentally, it is a long-run issue for our youngsters. Neglect in the early years will result in issues that remain all the way to the end of one’s life. Ross Finnie, in particular, captured that when he said:

“there is no liberty in poverty and no liberty in ignorance.”

When I was a minister, I had the great pleasure of attending a GIRFEC event on behalf of Adam Ingram on 12 March 2010 in Aberdeen. The room was full of several hundred very enthusiastic people who were very switched on. If they are representative of the professionals in the field, our confidence level ought to be seriously high. The presentation that preceded mine was an interesting one about the role of music and how kids interact with music. We were shown videos of children who, in their first day of life, were beating along with a musical beat, showing a degree of interaction. I have no insight into that; I only report what I saw. However, that illustrates that it is never too early to engage a newly born infant with the world and that learning starts, if not in the womb—although who knows?—certainly from the moment that we leave the womb. We must create an environment in which that learning enables people to develop into well-rounded and capable adults.

The multi-agency approach is important. My father was a general practitioner from the 1940s onward, and even at that time he had to work with other practitioners. That not only made a difference to his ability to support his patients; more fundamentally, he was able to bring professionals to the table, although we must accept that the world was much simpler then than the one in which we live today.

The sort of things from which children benefit are diverse. I was lucky enough to be brought up in a house that was chock-a-block with books. Ironically, my ill health in the first decade of my life—I am an asthmatic—helped me because I spent most of my time at home picking up books and reading them. These days, too many children live in houses with no books. The minister’s comments about the provision of books highlighted an important part of what we must do.

Liz Smith talked about literacy and numeracy. We often talk ourselves into thinking that we are innumerate. Many people say that they do not understand numbers; yet, in any bookie’s, we find mathematics that I, a mathematics graduate, am incapable of doing. The guys with the wee pencils behind their ears, working out complex odds on five-way accumulators, can tell one instantly whether to pay the tax in front or behind and how much it will be. People do not realise how numerate they are. I also have a small personal obsession with our failure to utilise the Trachtenberg speed system of basic mathematics, which is a wonderful system for engaging children in mathematics.

We must always support the next generation. I am now almost certainly in the last quarter of my life, and I am conscious—as others should be—of the fact that it is the younger people in our society who will choose the care home in which I will live. If I do not look after them now, there will not be a very good outcome for me. The question that has always engaged us all is that of nature versus nurture. In parts of Scotland, there are generations of people who have not been brought up in a nurturing environment, and there is a clear need to address that.

We have seen that the early years of children’s lives are crucial and that successive Governments have sought to engage on the issue. I very much welcome the contributions that have been made to the debate. There has been unexpected humility, so far, and welcome consensus.

In closing, I make the observation to the Labour Party that I am not entirely sure that four-day weeks in school and the mooted proposal that I heard last week to delay entry to school until the age of six will necessarily help, but I am interested to hear what proposals will be made, by Labour and others, in the coming election.

I am happy to support the amendment in Shona Robison’s name.

10:05

9 February 2011

S3M-7630 Scotland’s Science Centres

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S3M-7630, in the name of Joe FitzPatrick, on Scotland’s science centres. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates what it sees as the excellent work of Scotland’s science centres in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen; welcomes in particular the official launch of the Dundee Science Centre Science Learning Institute in support of the Curriculum for Excellence and lifelong learning, through which the science centre has formed what is considered a unique partnership with the University of Dundee and Dundee College; considers that this initiative, which will offer interprofessional science communication training for cross-sector audiences, will bring more science to the people of Tayside, promoting public engagement with scientific research and discovery and supporting science-sector skills development, and wishes all four centres and their partners every success in such ventures in the future.

17:03
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17:09

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

I congratulate Joe FitzPatrick on providing us with the opportunity to discuss science. Science is often thought of as a minority interest, but almost everybody depends on and engages in it. It is important that we acknowledge the role that the science centres—in my case, Satrosphere in the north-east of Scotland—play in bringing science to people’s attention.

Curiosity, which Joe FitzPatrick highlighted, is something that I retain. A day when I do not learn something new, however quirky or unusual it is, is an unusual day. I suspect that all members present have a similar attitude.

The gateways in our major cities can spark a lifetime’s interest in scientific discovery. It might start with a wee boy watching the development of a tadpole in a jam jar in the kitchen and go on to that person making major scientific advances, which many Scots have done in their contributions to the world.

However, it is matter of concern that knowledge of what our science centres can do is declining. I hope that tonight’s debate is an opportunity to spread the word and to increase the number of adults who are aware of science centres and, hence, are more likely to take their children along.

In Aberdeen, the Satrosphere has had a hugely positive impact since it opened in 1988. It has some 50 interactive exhibits and it has helped schoolchildren—and accompanying adults, I guess—in the north-east into pursuing careers in science. It has also developed an important partnership with my former university, the University of Aberdeen. Aberdeen is famous in mathematics—my particular subject—and in a wide range of engineering and scientific endeavours. It is vital that we generate interest in science and discovery among young people, and I am sure that science centres can play a very important part in that.

There have been a number of joint initiatives between Aberdeen university and Aberdeen College on the back of the partnership initiative. Aberdeen College’s planetarium will, after almost a decade, reopen in the coming months and a new discovery dinner hour will be launched to bring university researchers together with the public in a themed social event in the college’s training restaurant. Those initiatives, together with the Aberdeen public engagement partnership, are exactly the sort of things for which our science centres can be very much a focal point.

MSPs have one of the centres on our doorstep, just across the park. We regularly visit it as MSPs, but we go there, have our meetings and leave. Next time we go to our local science centre, we should ensure that we look at what is on offer and try to learn something. We can then proselytise to the youngsters and their parents in our respective areas.

I very much support the work of the science centres, and I commend their activities to every member in the chamber.

17:13

3 February 2011

S3M-7436 Further Education Colleges

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S3M-7436, in the name of Andrew Welsh, on Scotland’s further education colleges. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates the staff and students of Angus College on what it considers another successful year in providing high-quality training and resources in its continuing exceptional contribution to building Scotland’s skills base for the future and also acknowledges the wider role of Scotland’s further education colleges in upskilling and retraining across the range of professional and practical skills considered essential in overcoming the challenges of the current economic situation.

17:03
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17:16

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

First, I congratulate, in the conventional way, Andrew Welsh on securing this debate. Of course, my congratulations are tinged with sadness, because there is every chance that this is the last motion that will be debated in Andrew Welsh’s name in a distinguished parliamentary career that extends back more than 37 years. Another opportunity might come along, but I suspect not. Presiding Officer, I must also apologise to you, the minister and colleagues as I will be leaving the debate early. I have been in the chamber almost all day and have one or two other things to do.

As it is the Chinese new year, it is particularly appropriate that the debate centres on Angus College, which has been developing links with Yantai Vocational College in China. Moreover, I know that the member sponsoring the debate has great interests in China and, indeed, is one of the few members who can speak some sensible words in Chinese. That link reflects enthusiastic work that has been carried out by organisations right across Angus and illustrates that successful colleges not only have deep roots in their own communities, but will work with others. I am sure that such a relationship, with the college at its centre, will benefit the local area.

Of course, when the economy is in a less-than-ideal condition, it becomes ever more important that we have a range of opportunities to allow people to upgrade and change their skill sets. Indeed, many people go to college not because it is second best—a phrase that Johann Lamont did not want us to use and which I certainly do not wish to—but because it often provides a second chance to acquire the skills that they require. It is also a good starting point that allows people to take things to whatever level they are capable of reaching. A sufficient and capable further education sector is a central part of the Government’s programme.

Offshore energy is a very important industry in Angus and, indeed, in my constituency, where Banff and Buchan College has a long engineering tradition, thanks to its proximity to the offshore industries that will continue to be important. Now that Peterhead has been designated as a key hub of Scotland’s offshore renewables industry, the local college in my constituency will play an important role in ensuring that we have the necessary skills to support the economic benefits that will come from that industry.

Colleges play an important role in allowing people to retrain or to gain more skills throughout their lives and are, of course, a vital destination for many school leavers: last year, 27 per cent of school leavers attended FE colleges.

There are, of course, specific challenges in rural or relatively sparsely populated areas. I think that we all welcome the announcement that was made yesterday that the University of the Highlands and Islands has finally become a university formally. It reflects the specific needs of the very different area within which it operates. Exactly the same point can often be made about our colleges.

In my previous role, I was engaged with Montrose harbour, which is an important place where people from Angus College may go. It is slightly amusing that Montrose was, of course, the base of an important American engineering company called Stewart & Stevenson.

17:20

S3M-7821 Certification of Death (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7821, in the name of Shona Robison, on the Certification of Death (Scotland) Bill.

14:56
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15:47

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

I find myself at both an advantage and a disadvantage in this debate, as I am a doctor’s son and therefore have much of the language of the medical profession but almost none of the understanding. As my father once said, that is a perfect fit for politics, because one is a plausible ignoramus.

The registration system that we have today came into operation in 1855. For many years after, it was not uncommon, in situations in which a doctor was not reasonably to hand, for the cause of death to be shown on the certificate as “Doctor not present” or something similar. As a person who has pursued genealogical studies for 50 years, I have come across many instances of that, almost invariably on the islands. It is interesting that, 150 years on, we are still confronting the issues that are associated with population sparsity and remoteness.

We have come a long way from the situation in 1855. In particular, cremation is now a significant option that is chosen by families. Even when my father became a GP in the 1940s, it was pretty much the exception. Of course, there were practical reasons for that. For example, where my father practised, in Cupar, there was no crematorium to hand. In my constituency, where the crematoria are some distance away, it is a less significant part of funeral arrangements than it might be elsewhere.

I hope to be cremated about a year after my death because, like others in my family, I have recorded my wish to be sent for medical research, and the arrangements are that the various bits come together a year later and are cremated. If I get my wish—it is increasingly difficult for the wish to be delivered, I have to say—I will be most thoroughly examined post mortem. Of course, for me, as for one or two others here who are perhaps, arguably, in the last quarter of our lives, this is not a matter of philosophical debate but a matter of practical concern.

The proposed measures will make more systematic and robust the system of checks and balances that oversees our system of registration. Of course, the bill is not simply about implementing a new process. It is about what that process has to deliver, and about detecting statistically significant variations from the norm and, crucially, the factors of personnel or treatment with which they are associated. In that sense, like others, I believe that we will have to move sooner rather than later to a process that, however it is achieved, allows the analysis of robustly captured data on computer systems. As a genealogist, however, I hope that we will continue to see the signature of the person who registers the death in the electronic record, because it is fascinating to see one’s ancestors’ signatures. Indeed, in one case, the signature showed me, to my surprise, that my father registered the death of someone I had not previously realised he was in contact with at that stage in his life, and that was before he was a doctor.

In one of its variants—I recognise that there are many—the Hippocratic oath includes the phrase:

“I will neither prescribe nor administer a lethal dose of medicine to any patient even if asked nor counsel any such thing”.

Not all doctors take the Hippocratic oath, which is perhaps diminishing in importance, but, after a period of 2000-plus years, it does still capture something important about the relationship between doctors and their patients. Above all, the ignoramus that is the general public in relation to medical matters places an immense trust in doctors and, if the bill can further build confidence in doctors and other health professionals, it will serve a good purpose indeed. What we do in the bill must address that issue.

When I was a trainee nurse some 47 years ago now—it is quite alarming how long ago it was—ours was essentially the ward that people came to if they were expected to die. When someone died, we did not necessarily wait for a doctor before laying out and moving the remains to the mortuary. I believe that practices such as that have been much refined and there is now clear involvement of doctors or other qualified health professionals. The fact that they are masters of the fact of death is important.

Let me talk about statistics and inspection. The issue of cover, be it 25 per cent, 50 per cent, 4 per cent or 100 per cent, is not a trivial one. Superficially, the higher the figure, the better it sounds, but a higher figure does not necessarily deliver better outcomes. What is equally important is what is examined and the depth of the examination. In many areas and different professions, if a large number of examinations are conducted for little return and there is little resulting intervention, the psychological phenomenon of ennui comes in, and when a case comes along that requires attention, people are more likely to miss it because there is less time to devote to each individual activity that is undertaken. I do not come up with any answer to that. I merely say that we have to be careful.

Returning to electronic recording, I point out that there is a system that is operated by the registrars of births, marriages and deaths, and that is the system into which the data go. I wonder—without having any answers myself—whether it would be an idea to roll the system out more widely with mild adaptations to allow conditional registration by health practitioners and to capture data relatively early. However, I know that it can often be quite difficult to adapt computer systems.

It is remarkably easy to make errors. When, in 1984, I registered my mother’s death, I forgot her father’s name and put her grandfather’s name on the death certificate by accident. I had not known those grandparents; they were not familiar to me. There is plenty of scope at all levels for getting things wrong.

Ian McKee said that we will all die. Arguably, we will all die from heart attacks. It is not at all clear that there is no room for judgment and debate about what should go on a death certificate. Indeed, in these days of mechanical apparatus that keep the body functioning, if not alive, it is not always entirely clear when death might happen.

I hope that we respect the rites and practices of a wide range of religions—in fact, I am sure that we will—and I very much support the bill.

15:56

S3M-7819 Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7819, in the name of Kenny MacAskill, on the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill. We have a fair amount of time in hand, so I will not be stopping members unless we are in extreme circumstances. I call Kenny MacAskill to speak to and move the motion.

09:15
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10:37

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

I welcomed the Cabinet Secretary for Justice’s referral of this issue to the Scottish Law Commission in 2007. That was an important step in taking forward a matter that we have debated and engaged with in this place for some time.

Of course, the principle of ne bis in idem or, in French, autrefois convict has been in Scots law for some 800 years. It is worth thinking of the kind of world that existed at that time. The English had been conquered by the Normans, but Scotland had yet to face down the substantial challenge that Edward I would bring 100-plus years later. That was a very different world, with a very different approach to legal matters. The fact that the principle has endured over such a lengthy period should put us substantially on notice that it is not a matter to be treated trivially, but one of the utmost seriousness. It has been at the centre point of Scots law—and the law of many other countries—for a very long time.

For me—and, I suspect, for other members—one of the most chilling speeches that has been made to the Parliament was the speech by the Lord Advocate on the World’s End murder case. It was a lengthy speech that left the chamber as quiet as I have ever heard it. There was no fidgeting—there was a stillness among us as we heard the Lord Advocate lay out matters before us in a judicial manner to which we are not used. Those who listened to that statement—some members found it sufficiently disturbing not to stay for the whole of it—will understand the issue that is before us.

Cathie Craigie was absolutely right to focus on issues relating to the victims of crime; I think that she was the first speaker in the debate to do so. The point is not simply to identify someone’s crimes and to ensure that an appropriate punishment is put in place, but to serve the interests of those who have been affected by crime. When considering whether, after 800 years, we should look at the matter again, there are very substantial issues that we must consider.

Having served on two justice committees of the Parliament and having spoken on the subject previously, I see today’s debate as a welcome opportunity to revisit it. Of course, revisitation is the whole point of the bill. It could be argued that it is somewhat strange that trials can be restarted for a variety of reasons up to the point of decision but that cases cannot be revisited thereafter, as decisions are absolute and inviolate. We have now moved beyond the point of accepting that. Equally, we have accepted that it is no small thing to do so. The English example shows us that the criminal justice system and the interests of justice do not collapse when such a measure is introduced. That can give us substantial confidence that it is worth our while proceeding in this way.

Clearly, there are other ways in which the ends of justice can be served. We have observed with varying degrees of interest and engagement the use following a civil trial of the law of perjury for one of the former tenants of these premises. Let us not forget that people are found not guilty—they are not found innocent at any stage, although the presumption is that they are innocent. If someone has been prosecuted and has not been found guilty, there are other ways, one of which is the law of perjury, of serving the ends of justice. Of course, that is not an easy matter with which to deal.

What tests are we putting in place? Are they sufficient and adequate? The hearing that must precede any reprosecution is a very important part of the changes that we are contemplating. For example, all of us recognise that not all confessions are sincerely made. I suspect that there will be instances of people who are clearly engaged in criminality and may already have substantial criminal records embellishing a tale to the point of confessing to crimes that they may or may not have committed, because they are publishing a book or have the opportunity to be paid large sums of money by one of the tabloid newspapers. For that reason—and many others—the hearing process is important, as it will allow us to test whether a reprosecution should be contemplated in the interests of justice. It is equally important that the person who may be subject to a new prosecution has the right to appear and to be represented in it. Those are important provisions in the bill.

We have had some exchanges on the scope of reprosecution; I suspect that we will continue to have such exchanges as the bill proceeds through Parliament. Should it be limited to original prosecutions on indictment, or should it be extended to summary prosecutions? Perfectly properly, Robert Brown said that it was pretty unlikely that evidence would come forward following a summary trial that would have caused the case to be taken on indictment in the first instance, but we cannot exclude that possibility. If we are thinking of the victims, we need to think very carefully about where we strike the balance.

There are some things that are not in the bill that could not, sensibly, be in it, but which it is worth having a think about. For example, should we be able to reprosecute people who have died? That might seem a slightly amusing idea, but the reality is that holding a court case to prosecute someone who is dead—which can be done in other jurisdictions—does, in certain instances, serve the interests of justice and of the victims. However, that is an extremely difficult thing to contemplate and the size of the bill, which at present is relatively modest, would be substantially greater if we were to do so. I mention that just to point out that we should not imagine that we are solving every issue that surrounds double jeopardy.

Robert Brown: I am not quite clear what Mr Stevenson has in mind, but I wonder whether he is thinking of the Megrahi case and the situation whereby the reported death of Mr Megrahi, in due course, would have interrupted the re-review of proceedings. Does he think that that would have given rise to an issue whereby the victims would have been deprived of the opportunity to test the issues before the appeal court, following on from a decision by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission?

Stewart Stevenson: The member cites a perfectly reasonable example; there would, of course, be others.

There are other ways in which the issue can be dealt with, besides having a retrial in a criminal court, but it is clear that victims often do not regard such alternatives as being equivalent to prosecution in a criminal court. Prosecuting someone after they have died is not dealt with in the bill, and I would not wish the Presiding Officer to draw me up too tightly for speaking on a matter that is not strictly before us.

Turning to things that are in the bill, an issue that has been raised relates to acquittals when there has been interference with the jury. Section 2(5) says:

“But the acquittal is not to be set aside if, in the course of the trial, the interference (being interference with a juror and not with the trial judge) became known to the trial judge, who then allowed the trial to proceed to its conclusion.”

Superficially, that looks okay, but the reality is that the effects of that interference might have been greater than the trial judge was aware of at the time at which they allowed the trial to proceed to its conclusion. Those who will take the bill forward might wish to look at that again, if that part of the bill is to be retained. If one juror was nobbled, they may have contaminated other jurors or put other jurors in a state of fear and alarm before they were removed from the trial. The judge may not have been in sufficient possession of the facts to have realised that that had happened. As almost everything that a judge decides can be reviewed elsewhere, to exclude a review of a judicial decision to allow a trial to continue after a juror has been nobbled may be an exclusion too far.

I am conscious that we have a certain amount of time so, if I am permitted, I will proceed to deal with the committee’s report. Paragraph 33 mentions the concerns of the SHRC and the Law Society about what the standard of proof should be. They thought that beyond reasonable doubt should be the standard of proof at the hearing but, of course, that would not necessarily have been the case in the original prosecution. It is important to bear in mind that the procurator fiscal could have considered a lower test—the existence of a reasonable prospect of a conviction.

Paragraph 48 mentions that the SHRC, and John Scott talked about the range of serious offences. As the bill proceeds, it will be important to test that we can combine the trial of new charges with the retrial of old charges in a way that will serve the interests of justice, and I hope that the members concerned will do that.

The committee considered at great length the retrospective application of the bill, which, instinctively—like others—I am not comfortable with. However, in this particular case, I think that it would leave a huge gap in our ability to deliver justice for many people if we were not to have the opportunity to revisit trials that took place in the past.

Earlier, I intervened on Bill Aitken on the subject of extradition, and I think that there remains a substantial issue there. People may be extradited to other jurisdictions in the European Union and to the United States in a variety of circumstances, without there being any necessity to show that there is a case to answer—that is a matter for the jurisdiction to which the extradition takes place. In a case in which someone who has already been found not guilty in a Scottish court is extradited, there is an enduring potential for injustice but, of course, responsibility for the law in respect of extradition lies elsewhere and it is not at our hand to change it.

Section 10(3) relates to article 54 of the Schengen convention, which touches on some of that. I had been aware of the Schengen convention only to the extent that the UK is outside the common travel area that it created, much to travellers’ inconvenience. I will go away and read it to discover what other delights it contains.

I congratulate the Government and all who have pressed for such provisions on the introduction of an excellent bill that will serve the interests of justice and of victims, and which will be a source of great fascination to those of us who are interested in the minutiae of legal legislation.

10:52

2 February 2011

S3M-7667 Supporting Local Forums’ Involvement in Delivering Community Care

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S3M-7667, in the name of Rhoda Grant, on supporting local forums’ involvement in delivering community care. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the value of supporting local forums’ involvement in delivering community care; notes the research undertaken by the Inverness and Highland community care forums that highlights the vital role that lunch and social clubs play in supporting older people in the Inverness area; believes that these forums provide a vital service in creating and maintaining social networks and alleviating the effects of social isolation; considers that, when funding for the Highland Community Care Forum ceases in June, local forums will be left without any independent support and will not survive, and would therefore welcome an extension to Highland Community Care Forum’s present contract to cover the gap between the old contract and the new and a continuation of support for local forums through the new contract so that they continue to have a part to play in the delivery of future localised community care services and are able to undertake consultations on service provision independent of funders.

17:08
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17:15

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

I congratulate Rhoda Grant on giving us the opportunity to debate what is a very important subject for an increasing number of people across Scotland.

I represent a constituency in Aberdeenshire, which is less remote than the Highlands but where a higher proportion of the population live in a rural setting than is the case in the Highlands. Therefore, many of the issues that Rhoda Grant has delineated are familiar to people who live in Aberdeenshire.

It is important that we have in place mechanisms and structures that allow people to make a contribution to those in need. Voluntary arrangements whereby voluntary bodies deliver community care and are involved in its planning are an important part of ensuring that we have a focus on the needs of people in local communities. It is important that people in those communities are involved in the process.

I am not sure that I share some of Rhoda Grant’s concerns about how the council may choose to restructure things. I am not speaking about a council that is a political ally of mine, so I am entirely neutral from that point of view. It is certainly the case that we must ensure that we have arrangements in place that deliver the best value for the money that is available.

We should remind ourselves that the current budget, on which we will make a decision next week, includes some £70 million for a change fund in health and social care, so everyone who chooses to vote against the budget next week will be voting against the provision of money to ensure the appropriate kind of change.

It is important that there is a voice for older people. I am not the only member whose years are marching on more rapidly than they used to and who has seen parents in the system—albeit that, in my case, that was some distance back. It is important that we reduce red tape and improve joint working. Today’s announcement of £2 million for a system of lead commissioning is part of how we can tackle the issue.

There is no question that the care budget is enormous. Because the pressure on it from the rising proportion of our society who are aged will continue to increase, it is important that we leverage voluntary action into caring for our people, but we should not imagine that that is particularly new. I was involved in voluntary action many decades ago and I know that the same is true of other members. Today, however, we expect a great deal of the voluntary sector, which is why it is important that we support it by ensuring that lunch clubs and social events for older people are supported and that there are links between older people and younger people so that we do not simply create an environment in which people who are already close to those in need provide additional care.

I very much agree that we are debating an extremely important subject and I look forward to hearing what the minister has to say on it.

I see that Richard Simpson is likely to speak in the debate and I encourage him to speak to his colleagues about the proposed national care service, which kind of runs against the proposals that we have heard discussed today. Such a service is essentially centralising, which is one reason why it would not have my support. Nonetheless, considerable discussion is to be had between now and the May election; tonight’s debate will be a little part of that.

17:20

Stewart Stevenson
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