19 December 2017

S5M-08404 Street Pastors Scotland (10th Anniversary)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-08404, in the name of Murdo Fraser, on the 10th anniversary of Street Pastors Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the 10th anniversary of Street Pastors Scotland; notes that the initiative was pioneered in London in 2003 by Les Isaac and that, since then, over 14,000 street pastors have been trained, with over 20,000 volunteers now associated with the organisation; understands that, in 2010, the Ascension Trust (Scotland) was launched in the Parliament to take responsibility for the street pastor teams across Scotland; notes that there are around 600 street pastors in 23 Scottish communities, major cities and large and small towns in the Mid Scotland and Fife parliamentary region, as well as in Orkney and Lewis; believes that Street Pastors Scotland puts its Christian faith to good use in order to improve community relations and the safety of the night-time economy, and wishes the movement and the street pastors all the best.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I thank Murdo Fraser for the opportunity to highlight an important initiative that has been going for 10 years, and to say that we wish it to continue for many years.

Like other members, I have street pastors in my constituency. Earlier this year, I attended the induction of new pastors in Peterhead. I have not been out on the street with street pastors, but I have certainly been out on a Saturday night with the police on three occasions for approximately five hours, so I know the environment into which street pastors go.

One of the interesting things that I have heard from those street pastors is that their mere presence changes the character of what is going on. In a place like Peterhead, we might wonder why that should be so. Peterhead has a population of 19,000, but the odds are that the street pastor knows your mum. Being able to walk up to somebody who is just a little bit off the proper behaviour and asking, “Will I call your mum? You are obviously needing a wee bit of help” is sometimes enough to nudge people back to proper behaviour. It is a very practical thing. We are talking about practical, polite, pastoral support. Getting support is the very meaning of the word “pastoral”.

Last Saturday, the Peterhead street pastors Facebook page, which has a huge following, had a simple thing on it:

“Remember to wrap up warm the temperature is going to be 1-2 deg. Remember to have a plan for getting home. ie taxi, getting picked up. Please take note that the pavements around the town centre are very slippery.”

Nothing in that is anything other than quite obvious, but it is precisely the sort of thing that those who are focused on having a good night out might sometimes neglect. The pastors give practical advice and help that will make a real difference to people in places like Peterhead.

Peterhead is a diverse community. The academy has 28 languages spoken in it. There are therefore plenty of opportunities for confusion and misunderstandings between different parts of the community. The presence of street pastors can help to deal with that. They can help to identify vulnerable people and connect them to support and sources of help.

It is interesting to read what some other people say about street pastors. The Spectator put it rather well when it described street pastors as having “weirdly effective unworldliness”. In other words, it was saying, “This is pretty good stuff, but we don’t quite know how it works. It is not quite within our normal experience.”

Street pastors are a return to the roots of much of what Christian faith is about: supporting other people and being non-judgmental. My grandfather was probably one of the judgmental ones—he was a member of the Independent Order of Rechabites and definitely would not have approved of the carousing and the consumption of alcohol on a Saturday night. I know that he persuaded his nephew, who was in Lloyd George’s Government, to nationalise the one drinking den in Cromarty so that it would be brought under control. That approach does not really work in the modern world. What the street pastors are doing is highly personal, highly effective and deserving of our continuing support.


S5M-09629 Social Security (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item is a debate on motion S5M-09629, in the name of Jeane Freeman, on the Social Security (Scotland) Bill at stage 1.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

Some people have suggested that the social security system stems from Beveridge. We might reasonably argue that it stems from the Old Age Pensions Act 1908, which was introduced by the Liberal Government that paid the first pensions in 1909. The first political book that I read was a biography of Lloyd George, which I read when I was seven years old.

The important thing about the reference that I am making is that, 100-plus years ago, The Times, which was then known as “The Thunderer”, definitely thundered against the iniquity of paying people without their having put something into a fund—the national insurance provision did not come along until 1911. However, we now have a consensus that we will support the bill, which is, of course, much more wide ranging than the 1908 act. That is a good and proper measure of how far we have travelled in the regard that we have for people in our society. The bill will apply to all of us, because, at different stages of our lives, we have different needs and will, in one way or another, depend on a social security payment.

Johann Lamont mentioned the need for rights to be in legislation, but I am not sure that they need to be. We can exercise rights that are not in legislation. In particular, the modern concept of human rights stems from the work of Eleanor Roosevelt in the aftermath of the founding of the United Nations. In 1948, she wrote:

“while words, ideas and ideals may mean little by themselves, they hold great power when properly disseminated and embraced”

I hope that the debate spreads the word about what we want to do.

I will pick up one or two particular points. I was not on the committee but I read with interest the excellent report that it produced. In particular, where the bill says “role”, in section 1(d), the report suggests that it should instead say “duty”. We need to be slightly careful when we change a single word, and we must weigh that word. If we say that the Scottish ministers have a duty, we might lock the Scottish social security system out from topping up somebody else’s social security provision financially without our creating a new social security provision. I say “might” because I have not examined the matter in detail, but I hope that others will look closely at that.

Adam Tomkins is, without question, the most experienced constitutional lawyer in the Parliament. I do not think that there would be much debate about that. But—and it is quite a big “but”—he may have inadvertently failed to understand the practical application of our constitutional position. If, as he suggests, we should incorporate into primary legislation more than is currently intended, that would end discussion of the matters introduced in the primary legislation at the end of stage 3. However, debating and discussing those matters in the context of secondary legislation will extend the consideration that the Parliament is able to give them into the committee stages that follow as secondary legislation is introduced. It is particularly apposite that I make that point in relation to Adam Tomkins’s remarks, because—

Adam Tomkins suggests that the Government is behind the curve in its preparations for what has to follow while insisting that that incomplete and imperfect preparation should be incorporated into the primary legislation. Those two positions are pretty inconsistent.

Legislators—which includes every one of us here—are perfectly capable of making mistakes. In secondary legislation, we have an opportunity to more readily correct those mistakes. I—mea culpa—provide an example from my experience. On 23 April 2012, I signed the Snares (Training) (Scotland) Order 2012. It turned out not to be quite as good as I thought it was when I signed it. Therefore, on 22 May, less than a month later, I lodged the Snares (Training) (Scotland) (No 2) Order 2012, which was a better presentation of the legislation that was required.

Finally—I leave this as a little mystery for colleagues to pursue—I turn to the very first order that I signed as a minister. It was the Port of Cairnryan Harbour Empowerment Order 2007, which I signed on 25 May 2007. I will let members discover why the order is entirely invalid. The good news is that it was never used or required.

This excellent bill is a big and important step forward for the Parliament. Having flexibility in how we deal with the legislation in the future is not about giving the Government flexibility but about giving Parliament flexibility. I welcome the indications that a superaffirmative procedure will be introduced at stage 2, because that will give us an opportunity to have extended consideration of the secondary legislation. It is a proven technique that works very well.


14 December 2017

S5M-09362 Bank Branch Closures

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-09362, in the name of Kate Forbes, on bank branch closures in Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament is deeply concerned by the successive waves of bank branch closures across Scotland in 2017, including the recent announcement that RBS plans to close 62 branches; recognises that, while many customers choose to bank online, not every person or business can access all services in this manner and might have to travel over an hour to their nearest branch; believes that these closures will have the greatest impact on older and vulnerable customers who depend on staff and services in their local branch, cash-based businesses that need to make deposits and withdrawals as locally as possible and rural communities, such as those in Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, which it believes have been almost abandoned by the banks in recent years, and notes the calls on the banks responsible to improve their customer service to loyal and dependent customers.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of interests. I remind banks that they do not stand apart from wider society—they exist to serve it, and they depend on its support for their continued existence and their special privileges.

The Bank of Scotland opened its doors in 1695 and drew opprobrium in 1715 when its board backed a Jacobite rebellion. That led to the foundation of the Hanoverian Royal Bank of Scotland and nearly closed the Bank of Scotland. Today, with RBS and others removing branch-based services from communities across Scotland, particularly in Banff in my constituency, there is a significant risk to some banks’ future success.

Banks should set aside short-term financial targets to ensure their long-term survival. They can do so by re-earning the trust and support of local people by being part of communities through having a meaningful physical presence in them. In 1826, the Bank of Scotland manager in Kirkcaldy angered his customer, David Landale, was challenged to a duel, accepted the challenge and lost. The bank lost a manager and could not even take possession of the gun that killed him. Fall out with your customers at your peril! Today’s gun levelled at the banks may merely be metaphorical, but it could be just as deadly.


12 December 2017

S5M-09498 Year of Young People

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-09498, in the name of Maree Todd, on celebrating our future: Scotland’s year of young people.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

It is one of the great paradoxes of life that, when people are youngsters, they cannot wait to grow up, but when they get to my age, they wish they were youngsters.

I am a member of SNP youth. Admittedly, I am an honorary member, but I hope that I still think like a young person. Therefore, I am stepping up to the plate to thoroughly enjoy the year of young people. It is a wonderful initiative for people such as me and, for that matter, the ever-young Iain Gray, who was doing himself far too far down by referring to his bus pass—I have had four so far.

My serious point is that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and Ross Greer, Alex Cole-Hamilton and other members around the chamber said that, too. The campaign that we are embarking on for 2018 is an opportunity for young people throughout Scotland to be heard and for their achievements to be recognised. The events will be in all parts of our country and will provide opportunities for people such as me—adults, if we revert to type—and youngsters.

We will see ingenuity of a character that we often do not suspect is there; Brian Whittle referred to the idea of using giraffes as police aids or police animals. When I visited King Edward school—like other members, I love visiting schools, particularly primary schools—the whole school was sat in one gymnasium. The headteacher of that small school said, “Mr Stevenson is here to answer all your questions”. I said, “I know all the answers”, so what immediately happened? Somebody at the back put up their hand and said, “What’s my brother’s name?”

The youngsters always beat the oldsters at every opportunity, and Stewart Stevenson is put back in his box, where he deserves to be. [Interruption.] I love it when the Tories applaud something that I have said. Could the parties on the other benches please do it, too? [Interruption.] Thank you, Mr Cole-Hamilton. Our young people are a tremendous investment that we are making in our future, and with good reason.

I want to say a few words about the annual Aberdeen international youth festival, which is one of the north-east’s superb cultural events. The festival brings together young people from around the world to perform, showcase their talents and build bridges between nations, and includes dance, theatre, musical and other performances. It has been going since 1973, so it is not something that has just appeared. The minister appears to be suggesting that it started before she was born, and I believe her. The festival has hosted more than 30,000 young people from across the globe. This year’s festival included performers from Italy, Jamaica, Ukraine, Morocco, Spain, Cuba, Russia, the Ivory Coast, Iceland, India, China, Norway, Brazil, Zimbabwe and even that distant outpost of civilisation the United States of America. It will, of course, have been attended by a few locals from the north-east and the rest of Scotland, too.

Besides pure entertainment, the festival provides educational opportunities, classes and workshops to allow people to learn. It has been a vibrant part of north-east life for a very long time. It lasts nine days, so it is a substantial event. Historically, the festival has been funded in large part by Aberdeen City Council, and it has been supported throughout its history by the former Conservative member of this Parliament Dr Nanette Milne, and properly so. In the present circumstances, I hope that she will speak to her colleagues in Aberdeen City Council who are looking at withdrawing the finance from the festival. I am disappointed that Oliver Mundell is not here, because he could take real action by talking to his colleagues in Aberdeen. With his complaints, he gave us no action whatsoever. I am sure that we will get to the right place—perhaps what we are saying here will encourage the council to have another think. It has not formally made a decision yet, although I understand that it has made it in private.

There is a survey that shows that what us wrinklies think of young people is not that favourable—25 per cent are considered lazy, a third are considered irresponsible and 40 per cent are seen as poor communicators. I do not agree. When I was at primary school, my communication skills were almost zero compared to those of this generation, who can speak and engage with us in a tremendous way. Young people have skills with modern technologies that us older people lack. That can be quite scary and almost threatening, but it is absolutely necessary for the modern world. The young have the power to lead. In schools across Scotland, the climate change challenge is being picked up by youngsters, who go home and persuade their parents and other adults who they meet. That is an inspiration that we should acknowledge.

I love spending time with young people. I will be having lunch with my six-year-old goddaughter Darcey on Friday. On Tuesday, the Danish part of my family—my great-niece Selma and her brother Scott—will be here in Parliament to brief me on what goes on in Danish politics and show that we can probably do things better.

Jenny Gilruth is half my age and has twice my brains. She is young, not old, and she, like all young people, is the future.


7 December 2017

S5M-09406 Sea Fisheries and End-year Negotiations

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-09406, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on sea fisheries and end-year negotiations.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

Not every MSP attends the fishing debates. My first speech in Parliament in June 2001 was on the subject of fishing, just as my 716th today is on the subject. However, fishing and its products touch us all. Only yesterday, the lead item on the menu in the Scottish Parliament canteen was Peterhead smoked haddock fish cake—I see the Presiding Officer nodding—and absolutely delicious it was. This is not an abstract issue; it touches our palate, our stomach and our very being. It sustains and supports our population and our health.

Speaking of health, I think that the fishing industry is in pretty good heart. It is looking forward to the sea of opportunity, which is the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation catchphrase for the opportunities to come from leaving the common fisheries policy. For my part, I have always been opposed to the CFP. From the outset of the UK joining the European Economic Community until he demitted office, my political colleague, Donald Stewart MP, the member for the Western Isles, made speeches that are testament to his long-standing opposition to the CFP. Some 20 years ago, before his early death in office, Allan Macartney, that wonderful member of the European Parliament, wrote an excellent paper on what should be a successor plan to the CFP. It is worth getting that out and having another read, because we are now thinking in terms of what next.

This year’s negotiation is for the very last complete year before Brexit. We must keep our eye on the prize—fishermen expect that to come in 2019. I understand in tactical terms why Mr Gove has been speaking to the Danes and the Dutch but, given some of the comments that Mr Chapman made today, we are seeing the Tories give away the prize that exists with the sea of opportunity, for no obvious benefit that we are hearing about.

In his response to my intervention on the subject, Mr Chapman provided no meaningful answer.

We have to get 100 per cent control over our waters out to 200 miles. I welcome the hint—or perhaps it was more than a hint—that the London convention will be abandoned, because that will help us between six and 12 miles, although I am not absolutely sure that that is nailed down. Unless and until we get that control, we will not have the opportunity to map a way forward.

In that context, we are looking at what Westminster is doing on the leaving the EU bill, or the great reform bill, or whatever one chooses to call it. The SFF is absolutely clear that the powers in relation to fishing must come straight to Holyrood, because it fears—quite reasonably—that it might not get the kind of solutions that will meet its needs if we rely simply on London. There is a reason for that; I do not criticise, but English fishing interests are mostly in controlling how much we catch by restriction of effort rather than by quota, whereas the Scottish fishing industry wishes to take a quota-based approach. Under the CFP, we went through a period when we had both and it was absolutely horrendous. We would have clarity if we made the decisions in Scotland: we would set the strategic objectives and take control of our waters. That is a simple understanding of where the SFF wants to be.

How optimistic is the fishing industry? New boats are being built all over the place. The new fish market in Peterhead, to which Peter Chapman referred, will open next year—I met the harbour authority on Friday and got an update on that. This very week we had the European maritime and fisheries fund and the Scottish Government providing funding for a factory to take over a facility in Fraserburgh that was previously occupied by Young’s Seafood. There truly is a sea of opportunity out there.

Science is important to how we take decisions on fishing—there is no division among any of us on that. ICES is the key place from which scientific opinion and understanding come. It is, of course, unaffected by Brexit, because it has been around for more than 100 years telling us about the fishing industry—it is really the arch conservationist at heart, even if not every individual in it necessarily is—and we will continue to participate in it. However, will the Scottish contribution to the scientific work be damaged by Brexit, given that quite a lot of people who are working on our science might not readily have a long-term right of residency here?

Peter Chapman said that he speaks on behalf of the industry, but the industry speaks on behalf of the industry—we are all here to support it. I do not know whether Peter has been elected as a representative of any particular part of the industry, but the important thing is that we are all united—I think that we will be at decision time—around a shared position that promotes the interests of our industry, ensures that we can exploit the sea of opportunity and sees success in fishing communities across Scotland.


S5M-07776 Parcel Delivery Charges

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-07776, in the name of Richard Lochhead, on unfair parcel delivery charges. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament understands that, compared with other parts of the UK, people in Moray, the north of Scotland and other rural areas are often charged excessive rates for parcel deliveries; understands that recent examples of this practice include Halfords charging £50 to send towels, which cost only £5.99, to Speyside, and LloydsPharmacy charging £50 to send a mobility scooter to a terminally-ill woman in Keith, despite advertising free UK delivery online; recognises what it sees as the frustration of consumers living in postcodes such as IV and AB, who have to pay these charges, which it considers unfair; welcomes both Halfords and LloydsPharmacy reported decision to review their charging policies in response to public concern; acknowledges the importance of challenging companies over such policies, and notes the view that there is a need for the relevant authorities to address this issue, which it believes affects many thousands of households and businesses.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I thank Richard Lochhead for bringing the debate to Parliament.

In 1812, my great-great-great-grandfather, David Berry, who had served in the British Royal Navy between 1780 and 1782, required a duplicate copy of his service record so that he could claim his pension from a predecessor to the current Ministry of Defence. That letter cost him £1 and 10 shillings to be delivered. When Rowland Hill introduced the penny post in 1840, he transformed the whole nation—the whole island—by creating a uniform delivery charge of a single penny, which was fundamentally different from what my great-great-great—three greats—grandfather had to pay for his letter. Interestingly, the uniform delivery charge saved money, because it turned out that the cost of calculating how much individual letters cost exceeded the amount of the higher-rate charges that were foregone. Uniform charges can therefore have economic benefits in some circumstances—we just need to get computers out of the equation.

We would think that we are particularly disadvantaged in Scotland by our delivery system, but the reality is that Edinburgh airport is one of the three airports in the United Kingdom that is a huge—I mean really huge—transport hub, together with London Stansted and East Midlands airports. Edinburgh airport transports huge amounts around the UK every night, and it is not terribly far away from Inverness, Aberdeen, my constituents and the constituents of many of the members in the chamber. The infrastructure is therefore present.

It can be done slightly differently elsewhere. I like a particular kind of shoe for leisure wear that comes from Australia. Historically, I have ordered them from Australia; they arrive in 48 hours and the delivery charge is £15. The shoes are not expensive—they are about £40, so the company is not making a profit in other ways. If the company delivers those shoes to Great Barrier Island, off the coast of North Island in New Zealand, the charge is £8.50. That island is five miles further from Auckland than Stornoway is from Ullapool—compare and contrast. The shoes that go from Australia to New Zealand have a three to four hour flight and then they go on to Great Barrier Island. We know that it can be done differently elsewhere.

Like other members, my constituents have told me about their problems. A garden centre website advertises free delivery for orders over £50—unless the order is for Aberdeenshire, where delivery costs £20. Apparently, “free delivery” means only to England and Wales. Wayfair says:

“FREE Delivery within Great Britain (excluding extended areas)”.

For some of my constituents, the delivery charge was £25 instead of free.

Every member here has contributed in a cross-party and consensual way, and everyone has told the same kind of stories. My wife, in an attempt to please me, ordered gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes to plant next year in the garden. An extra charge was levied and her teeth are still grinding. It is time that we did something about it, if only to stop my wife’s teeth from grinding.


29 November 2017

S5M-07806 Small Business Saturday 2017

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-07806, in the name of Ash Denham, on small business Saturday 2017. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises that 2 December 2017 will mark the fifth Small Business Saturday, which is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign that aims to highlight small business success and to encourage consumers to “shop local”; understands that, in 2016, customers in Edinburgh and across the country spent £717 million with small businesses on the awareness day, which was a 15% increase on 2015; understands that over 80% of local authorities across the UK actively support the campaign in a variety of ways, from networking events to offering free parking, which means that, for everyone, Small Business Saturday will be happening nearby, and notes the calls on Members to share their support for the campaign on social media, visit small businesses in their area, with media engagement to help raise local consumer awareness, and for them to encourage small businesses to get involved and register on the website,

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

First, I thank Ash Denham for the opportunity to talk about small businesses. I was immediately jealous of her access to a sweetie shop. I was six years old before I could go to the sweetie shop without my ration card. [Laughter.] There are four of us in the Parliament for whom that would be true.

As other members do, I use small businesses. On my journey down here this week, I travelled from the station at Inverurie in Gillian Martin’s constituency and dropped in at the Coco Works cafe to have my lunch. I had a lovely toastie with salad and a latte: it was absolutely excellent. It is a tiny little business that serves a real local need—if only in terms of my digestion.

There are other wonderful examples in the north-east of Scotland. I have in my constituency a relatively small fish processing business that smokes salmon. There is nothing uncommon about that, but it buys old whisky barrels from the distilleries and uses the wood from them to smoke the salmon. It is actually possible to tell what brand of whisky the barrels contained on tasting the smoked salmon. That is an excellent initiative.

On Monday, I also visited Granny Bakes on Straight Path in Banff, which has opened only in the past few weeks, to buy éclairs for Gary who works for me in my office in Peterhead. The éclairs will be on his desk tomorrow for his birthday. Those are just some examples. Every one of us will have examples of wonderful entrepreneurship and innovation.

Of course, small business Saturday is not just a one-off: this is the fifth year of the initiative. It is the culmination of efforts by the FSB and others to promote small businesses around the UK. Another part of the programme is the small biz 100—a list of 100 small businesses, one of which is featured in each of the 100 days leading up to the main event. There are many examples of such businesses. My assistant has identified a haberdashery and fabric store in Fochabers in Richard Lochhead’s constituency that is participating.

As we have heard, running a small business is a challenge; it is not an easy thing to do, and it is not something that I have ever done or even contemplated. When I meet small businesspeople, I find that their experience is not such that I would be sucked in. However, small businesses are a vital part of the social and economic infrastructure of many of our communities in the north-east and across Scotland. They are vital cogs in supporting local commerce. The people who work in them are committed to customer service, because if they ain’t, it ain’t gonna work. In the modern world, where so much of our interaction with businesses is relatively abstract or online—there is no human involved—that commitment to customer service makes a real difference.

That said, small businesses, too, are going online. Granny Bakes might have been started only a few weeks ago, but it will go online in the new year. I wish it every success, just as I wish everyone who participates in small business Saturday every success.


16 November 2017

S5M-08218 Incontinence

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-08218, in the name of Alex Cole-Hamilton, on incontinence in Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament understands that incontinence has the potential to affect everyone at some point and that the condition can arise as a symptom of a range of varied medical conditions, such as obesity, traumatic childbirth and muscle weakness; believes that 20% of women between 17 and 30 will experience so-called giggle incontinence, which has the potential to lead to greater complications in later life, in particular the need for surgical interventions, including transvaginal mesh implants; understands that the only country to have calculated the costs associated with this is Australia, which estimates these to be around $43 billion (£25 billion) per year as they go beyond the provision of sanitary wear, medication and surgery, and include the cost of dealing with the depression and anxiety that can arise; recognises what it sees as the importance of physiotherapy in alleviating the symptoms, and notes that, when provided early, this has reportedly proved effective in 80% of cases; understands that there is no formal training around basic incontinence prevention in Scotland for the midwifery, health visitor or physiotherapist workforce; acknowledges the taboo around the subject, which, it believes, suppresses an open discussion about it and often prevents people experiencing the condition from seeking help, and notes the view that the case for a national incontinence strategy is compelling, as it would be important to improving the life quality of hundreds of thousands of people in Edinburgh and across the country and would be of benefit to the public purse.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

In essence, this debate is about the competition and tension between social embarrassment about talking about the functions of our bowels and bladders and the underlying medical urgency that might be associated with dysfunction in that regard. If social embarrassment wins, there is a risk that we delay engagement with the medical assistance and advice that might well be necessary to protect us from the severe impacts of underlying conditions that need urgent attention.

I often learn things in members’ business debates that I had not previously been aware of. It had never occurred to me that the issue that we are considering had a gender aspect to it. Members might forgive me, given my age, for being a little fixated on the future operation of the older gentleman’s prostate and for neglecting to understand issues that are associated with pregnancy and incontinence in females. We have heard that the problem is bigger for the female than it is for the male. I have learned something.

I am grateful to Alex Cole-Hamilton for securing this debate, which I hope will, more broadly, enable people to feel a little more comfortable about talking about issues that are rarely discussed at the dinner table.

The issue is important. Glasgow Caledonian University reports that 30 to 40 per cent of people over 65 who live in their own homes and 70 per cent of frail older people who live in care homes struggle with incontinence—so it is not a trivial matter.

Despite what Alison Johnstone said—I will look out some of the references that she cited—I had not previously thought that incontinence was a matter of humour. However, if humour can be used as a vehicle that allows us to talk about and recognise the condition, that is very much to be welcomed.

A lot is expected of healthcare professionals. I hope that practice nurses, who will often be the ones to be consulted on the condition rather than general practitioners, have the appropriate training and the sensitivity to raise with patients something that may be of considerable embarrassment to them. Patients often go to their primary health provider for a reason other than incontinence, and the condition may emerge as a secondary issue, or it may simply be that questions about general health reveal an incontinence problem that is part of their deterioration in health.

I hope that midwives, health visitors, physiotherapists, practice nurses and GPs are, in future, better equipped for, and more comfortable with, raising difficult issues about incontinence. As the Australian numbers illustrate, the key point is that if we tackle incontinence early, there is an economic saving in addition to the benefit to the quality of life of sufferers. Sustained and regular exercise is important and helpful, with the caveats that I have just heard about from Alison Johnstone.

We have the potential to alleviate unnecessary pain, anxiety and aggravation, and to improve the quality of mental health of incontinence sufferers. The topic has been neglected for too long. This debate is a contribution, but not the end of the story in improving matters for incontinence sufferers.


9 November 2017

S5M-08706 Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-08706, in the name of Gillian Martin, on stage 3 of the Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill. I call Gillian Martin, the member in charge of the bill, to speak to and move the motion.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

As Neil Bibby did, I congratulate Gillian Martin on introducing the bill and getting it to this stage—at which we may now reasonably anticipate that it will be passed later today. It is no small matter to promote a bill. I have taken five bills through Parliament thus far, but none of them was a member’s bill. With a member’s bill, the member has to do much of the work: for the four bills that I took forward in my capacity as a Government minister, I had a vast team to do all the heavy lifting for me, and when I introduced a committee bill in the previous session of Parliament, the team of clerks did the work. However, for a member introducing a member’s bill, the burden is substantially greater, and greater understanding and attention to detail are required. Therefore, Gillian Martin deserves very substantial thanks.

One part of the system that has not been mentioned so far, but that it is proper to mention, is the Public Petitions Committee. Over a long period, a considerable number of petitions on matters in the general area that we are dealing with today have been submitted and then considered in great detail. UK Government ministers have appeared at the Public Petitions Committee on such matters. That committee has played a significant part in digging the soil and putting in the manure where the crop that we have today has grown.

Travelling in a vehicle that is fitted with a seat belt but not using it is rather like jumping out of a plane without a parachute—it is briefly exciting, but ultimately disastrous. The one thing that we are unable to do is enforce the wearing of seat belts. Like others, I travel on buses—I am of that age: I think that I am now on my fourth bus pass, which shows how old I have got—but I do not recall ever being on a bus on which anyone bar me was wearing a seat belt.

I acknowledge and thank colleagues at Westminster for providing us with the powers to do what we are doing today. That is very welcome and it is good cross-parliamentary working. It would be affa nice if they found the time and the method to create enforcement. It is not a Scottish issue. If enforcement was created such that people would be required to wear a seat belt if the vehicle on which they are travelling has seat belts—it is that simple; that is all we need to say—that would be of equal benefit to people throughout the whole United Kingdom. I encourage colleagues of whatever political persuasion or Government to consider whether they might support such legislation being dealt with at Westminster. That would mean that it would catch up with what Wales has done and with what we expect to do this afternoon.

Briefly and finally, I note that we have had a wee bit of a debate about costs. That is so trivial that I am not prepared to join it. In matters of safety, we just do it. I will be delighted to press my button at decision time today to just do it. I say, “Well done” to Gillian Martin.


7 November 2017

S5M-07924 Respect for Shopworkers Week

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-07924, in the name of Daniel Johnson, on respect for shopworkers week, 13 to 19 November. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that Respect for Shopworkers Week, which is organised by USDAW’s Freedom From Fear campaign, runs from 13 to 19 November 2017; further notes that the week highlights the violence and abuse faced by shopworkers; recognises that the Retail Crime Survey, published in February 2017, concluded that “retail staff continue to suffer unacceptable levels of violence and abuse”, rising by 40% since 2015-16; is concerned that alcohol sales and the legal requirement of the Challenge 25 scheme can often act as a trigger-point for the outbreak of violence or abuse against workers, and considers that the abuse experienced by simply doing their job is of continued distress to shopworkers; celebrates the week’s vital role in raising awareness of the violence and abuse faced by shopworkers, and notes calls on both the Scottish and UK governments to act so that all public-facing workers can benefit from further protection from violence, abuse, and threats when at work.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I thank Daniel Johnson for the opportunity to discuss this subject tonight. He has referred to the bill that he proposes to introduce, and a members’ debate is often a useful way of introducing the subject of a prospective member’s bill to Parliament and to ramp up discussion about it. I shall look with interest at the proposals that he seeks to introduce. I certainly support the principles that he has described, although I do not yet know whether I will ultimately be able to support the detailed implementation of his bill.

That is noises off; what is important and central to the debate is those who are on the front line of retail, who meet the public in all their diverse forms, from the old man—the regular—who goes to the convenience shop on the corner and builds a personal relationship with the shop staff at one end of the spectrum to those who cause serious incidents at the other.

This morning, as I travelled to Edinburgh by train, I read in the Metro a timely but unfortunate article about a shopworker who was attacked on Sunday in East Ayrshire and who is now, the paper reports, critically ill in hospital. That illustrates precisely the problems that Daniel Johnson asks us to engage with today, and which USDAW is making a more general point about on behalf of all retail workers. In the most stark way, that story illustrates the nature of the problem. It is too common and it has to be dealt with. We will assess whether legal protections of the nature of those that are to be proposed will help.

Respect for shopworkers week is an easy and proper thing to support. Without retail, we would be impoverished in many ways. It is important as one of our biggest industries, but it is also a personal industry that delivers to us. Too often, the police are called to incidents that happen in shops, particularly in relatively small shops. In larger shops, it is perhaps easier for those who are of ill intent to be observed, and they know it, so it is the little corner shop that is open at 10 o’clock at night or at 6 o’clock in the morning that is most commonly on the front line.

USDAW forms an important backstop to support people who have been subjected to unacceptable behaviour, and shopworkers deserve our support for what they do. It is not part of the job spec of someone who stands behind a counter that they should take whatever comes in their direction. They should have respect from all those who visit shops, and good citizens should look out for shopworkers and should be part of a society that protects them from those who do not show the right attitude. I certainly hope that the person who was attacked in East Ayrshire recovers and is able to resume her work, if she wishes to do so.

There are many parts of society where people face the public in all its multifarious forms. Shopworkers are important. On another occasion, we might think about others who have to engage with the public in sometimes difficult circumstances.

I am happy to support the motion.


S5M-08677 Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-08677, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on stage 1 of the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

The cabinet secretary took us back to the origins of the Forestry Commission in the 1919 bill, but I want to take us 400 years further back because, of course, the product of forestry is a strategic material. When James IV built the Great Michael, with its 10-foot-thick Scottish oak hull, that required that all the trees of Fife be cleared. Also, then, as now, we had to import wood from France and the Baltic states, and to use wood from forests across Scotland. Wood has been a strategic material for a long time. Indeed, when Henry VIII saw what James IV had done, he decided that he would build a boat that was even bigger than the Great Michael, and which, at 1,000 tons, was the biggest boat in the world. Flodden cut short the ambitions for use of the Great Michael, of course.

In 1919, we were responding to the strategic imperative to have wood for the trenches of the first world war, but it was clear that there was insufficient wood. Wood was recognised as an important strategic part of military operations.

However, as Peter Chapman reminded us, forestry is also of economic value. It might constitute but 1 per cent of our gross domestic product, but where that 1 per cent lies, it is very important to the communities that plant and sustain our forests, and to the sawmills that depend on predictable long-term access to wood. As it was in the 1500s, so it is in the 2000s.

Indeed, forestry is a very personal thing for many people. One of my late councillor colleagues—my good friend, Councillor Mitchell Burnett—who knew he was dying from a carcinoma, held on long enough to ensure that he got permission from Aberdeenshire Council for his grave to be on the edge of the forest that he was bequeathing to his daughter.

Forestry is the kind of long-term business whose interests we have to protect. The issue of sustainable forest management has come up several times already in the debate: it is important that what we do with land is sustainable. The debate around the meaning of “sustainable” is such that it will mean slightly different things in slightly different contexts. That is why it is proper that the meaning is not defined in the bill but is expressed clearly and unambiguously elsewhere so that we can discuss and challenge it.

The committee divided on the matter of compulsory purchase. Indeed, it is worth reminding members that the committees of this Parliament are rather freer from the strictures of the whip system than other parts of our operation perhaps are. When committees are working well, they seek to look objectively at the evidence that is before them so that individual committee members can come to their conclusions. The committee’s Scottish National Party group, because it is not a group, divided such that two were on one side of the argument and two were on the other side.

Edward Mountain: Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I will, in a minute.

Fulton MacGregor and I joined Rhoda Grant and John Finnie in suggesting that extension of the compulsory purchase orders, which might never be used, would take people to decisions a bit faster. Mr Mountain might have come to a different view.

Edward Mountain: No—this is not a political point, but just a point. I think that there might be a member of the committee within the SNP group that Mr Stevenson has ignored. I think that there are five people in his group, not four. However, as Mr Stevenson was at the meeting concerned, I am sure that he will be able to comment on that, on reflection.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: It is unlike Stewart Stevenson to make a factual error.

Stewart Stevenson: No, Presiding Officer—I am constantly told by colleagues and even by friends that I am a larger-than-life character, so I count as one and a half and thus, when I add Fulton MacGregor to me, that is two and a half out of five. I jest. Edward Mountain, our ever-diligent convener, is of course correct. As a mere mathematician, I am arithmetically challenged by his intervention, which I accept because it is entirely correct.

I welcome the attention to the definition of “felling” in the bill, because it is important that we get that right. It is worth reminding ourselves that nature fells woods, as well. Where my wife and I have stayed for the past 14 years, we are surrounded on three sides by about 40 hectares of forest that appears to have been all but abandoned, and nature is busily felling what appears to me to be a mature forest. It is important that some aspects of that are addressed as we progress the bill.

I was delighted to hear the cabinet secretary referring to Abriachan, of which I have fond memories. I visited there when I was about three or four years old, as we went up in an old American ex-army jeep to Claude McLennan’s croft at the top of Abriachan, which at that time was a very primitive place indeed. The community there having the opportunity to take some control of its own destiny will be a way in which Abriachan will have fundamentally changed since I visited it in—I think—the late 1940s.

The important thing in the bill that I welcome, but which others have mixed views on, is what is essentially the separation between policy and operation. That will lead us to a clearer way in which to take matters forward.

It was my delight previously to be the minister who was responsible for the Forestry Commission Scotland and, in particular, to see the highly automated sawmill at Nairn, in the cabinet secretary’s constituency, which illustrates how the forestry industry is a high-tech industry of economic and environmental importance to Scotland. I support what is proposed in the bill.


31 October 2017

S5M-08226 VAT Charges (Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-08226, in the name of Ben Macpherson, on unfair Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue Service VAT charges. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament understands that Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue continue to be the only territorial forces in the UK unable to reclaim VAT; believes that this costs £35 million annually, and has totalled £140 million since 2013; notes what it sees as the detrimental impact that paying this VAT has on frontline services in communities in Edinburgh Northern and Leith and across Scotland; acknowledges the view that the UK Government should change its rules to allow this VAT to be reclaimed, similar to the action that it took to enable Highways England and academy schools to reclaim VAT, and further notes the argument that the UK Government should fully reimburse the reported £140 million taken away from Scotland's frontline emergency services since 2013.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

My speech will draw on a number of sources, one of which is the House of Commons paper on police funding that was published in February 2016 and discusses all the police forces. However, I will start with a letter of 26 February 2016 from David Gauke, the UK minister at HM Treasury, to the convener of the Justice Committee. It specifically says:

“As you may be aware eligibility for VAT refunds for public bodies is subject to strict criteria, as set out in UK legislation, for the two main VAT refund schemes.”

This is the bit that cuts to the heart of the matter:

“The first, under Section 33 of the VAT Act 1994”

referred to by Murdo Fraser and others—

“allows local authorities and bodies whose funding is reliant on local taxation to reclaim irrecoverable VAT.”

That is the relevant scheme; the second one does not apply in this instance.

The first and obvious exemption is the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which was established in 2001 as the successor to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It is almost wholly funded by the UK Treasury, with a top-up of £22 million a year at the current rate from the Northern Ireland Assembly, and it is permitted to reclaim its VAT.

If we look at page 12 of the Justice Committee’s report on the draft budget 2015-16, we see that 329 Police Scotland officers are funded by subventions from local authorities. Therefore, local authority funding is involved in the provision of Police Scotland services.

Let us go on a bit further. We have heard a little bit about section 33 of the 1994 act. Let us have a look at it. It is maybe just as well to point out that the original act—including section 33, which is the one that matters—was amended in 2012 by paragraph 217 of part 3 of schedule 16 to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. There are some very interesting and odd things in section 33 of the 1994 act. It has two lists: one for England and Wales and one for Northern Ireland and Scotland. I will give members a flavour of some of the things that are on the Northern Ireland and Scotland list. It includes

“a police and crime commissioner, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and a police authority and the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District”.

They are on the Scottish list, yet Police Scotland is not. The British Broadcasting Corporation, which is based in London, is also on the Scottish list.

I do not need to go on. The whole thing is a legal and practical guddle that is unsustainable politically and, in the light of David Gauke’s letter, almost certainly unsustainable in legal terms.

In bringing this debate to the chamber, Ben Macpherson has given us the opportunity to visit some of the detail that is before us. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is the clear example that shows us why we should get our VAT back.

In four minutes, one can touch on a few things, Presiding Officer, but there are a few things that need to be looked at again.


S5M-08497 Promoting Active Travel

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-08497, in the name of Humza Yousaf, on the promotion of active travel in Scotland. We are a bit pushed for time. I call on Humza Yousaf to speak to and move the motion.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I will focus on walking, just as I did the last time I spoke in a debate on active travel. The motion and the amendments make only two references to walking, while there are nine references to cycling, although walking is substantially more accessible than cycling. I suggest to colleagues in Parliament that the best way of improving active travel is to encourage people to walk.

Let us have a wee think about some numbers. The “Prescribing & Medicines: Prescription Cost Analysis” report for 2015-16, which is the last year for which I have been able to find numbers, shows that of the top five drugs, by number of items dispensed, the combined total of prescriptions for numbers 1, 3 and 5 totals 8.78 million. Those drugs are all for use by people who have respiratory conditions, who would benefit greatly from taking quite gentle exercise—or more serious exercise, if they are capable of it.

How much do those prescriptions cost? I do not quite know, but the average cost of a prescription is £10, and those drugs are at the top end; they are among the more expensive drugs. We are therefore considering a figure for annual prescriptions of those three drugs alone that exceeds the active travel budget.

What is the cost of a pair of trainers? One can get a decent pair of trainers—although not a classy pair—for about 30 quid. Add a pair of thick socks and a pair of thin socks, and you are ready to go. Let us put our doctors in a position in which they can prescribe walking and the equipment to do it, in order that we can improve the health of the nation and promote active travel.

I also have a few words to say to colleagues in the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, because it is not only the Government that can do things. Paragraph 11.18 of the Scottish Parliament members’ expenses scheme guidance states that members are required to provide a letter of justification if they take a taxi journey that costs more than £20. I suggest that we add to that a requirement for members to provide a letter of justification if their taxi journey does not exceed 1 mile, because it is the short taxi journeys that we should be replacing.

From the outset, we have been paying members of the Scottish Parliament 45p a mile if they use a car, but only 20p a mile if they use a cycle. How about turning that around so that we pay them 45p if they use a cycle and 20p if they use a car? I know that that sounds a little bit whimsical, but the reality is—

John Finnie: Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I will give way if the member is brief.

John Finnie: Thank you. I will be brief. Would Stewart Stevenson like to explain to me how—much as I would like to do so—I can cover on a push bike the area between the north of Shetland and the Mull of Kintyre, where there is a dearth of public transport?

Stewart Stevenson: The bottom line is that we have to challenge the existing norms and have a debate on the subject. I have a similar problem, albeit that it is on a smaller scale.

I am glad that I now have as my greatest fan in Parliament Mike Rumbles, who mentioned me three times in the first minute of his speech. In 2009, I said that it would be challenging to reach a 20 per cent target for cycling—I think that it is fair to say that I got that one right. However, we can, in general, be ambitious on walking. I have done 4km today, which is 5,650 steps—I prefer counting distances in kilometres, because they sound bigger than they do in miles—and others should be doing something at least as big as that.

Liam Kerr told us that he cycles, which is good. My last bicycle cost me a fiver, and I am not going to pay more than £25 for my next one, because I will get it when I next go to a rural roup.

I conclude, Presiding Officer, in my very few remaining seconds, by saying that we all have, in our own feet, the tools to promote the agenda. We, as MSPs, should be seen walking and should encourage others to walk. It delivers health, wealth and community benefit.


27 October 2017

S5M-08378 Hydro Nation

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-08378, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on the hydro nation: maximising the abundant benefits of our water resources.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

In our living room at home, a large paraffin lamp sits to the right of the fireplace. The lamp is relevant to the debate because it is the lamp by which my wife used to do her school homework until the hydro delivered electricity to 14 Lochend, just outside Inverness. The history of Scotland is interwoven with the history of our use of water.

We in Scotland are fortunate. When we go out of this building at night and the rain is coming down, we curse gently and reach for our brollies or waterproof caps; in the Sahara, people would be dashing around to collect and preserve the precious resource. For many people in the world, access to water, and in particular to potable water, is increasingly difficult. It is undoubtedly the case that water is so precious that it has been the cause of wars and battles—and it might be again in the future.

Water is a naturally occurring chemical; H2O is probably the most highly recognised chemical formula in the world. It is known universally, even to people with no particular knowledge of chemistry.

Those of us who are fortunate owe a duty to those who are less fortunate. The distribution is maladroit; where there are huge communities of people around the world, there is often little water. We have the potential to show the way on technologies to do with water. We can show leadership.

Bruce Crawford talked about how our Victorian predecessors created the infrastructure on which we continue to depend. In those days there were great debates—particularly in Glasgow when waste water infrastructure was being put in—about whether it was economically or socially desirable to do that. I do not imagine there being any interest in having such a debate today.

Water delivers a public good in Scotland and around the world; it must also be delivered for the public good. Scottish Water is an exemplar of how Scottish Governments of all hues can use our resources in a way that benefits our communities. We can use our natural resources to generate power, and the excess of resource enables us to support others around the world.

Redundant assets in our infrastructure, such as disused sewage treatment works, could become modern recycling plants. There is the hint of a desire to recycle phosphorus—I am waiting to hear from Maurice Golden on that. Phosphorus was first discovered in human waste water in 1669. I do not know whether Maurice Golden will encourage us in that regard.

Climate change is causing an even bigger skew in the availability of water to people around the world. The Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice, which I am always happy to support, has made that a central plank of its campaign.

In Scotland, one of our most important exports is whisky, or uisge-beatha—the minister will no doubt criticise my pronunciation. “Uisge” means water; it is the essential ingredient of our national drink.


25 October 2017

S5M-08352 Withdrawal from the European Union (Negotiations)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): Time is tight. The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-08352, in the name of Michael Russell, on Scotland and the negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom on EU exit.



Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I want to pick up on Mairi Gougeon’s speech and look at the issues from the perspective of UK citizens who are living in the EU. They are not relying on specious promises coming from the Prime Minister or other members of the Westminster Administration. They are applying in considerable numbers for passports from other countries in the EU where they are available. Indeed, we have seen the rather unexpected sight of Ian Paisley Jr of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland handing out Irish passport application forms to his constituents and others. That tells us precisely how difficult the situation is perceived to be for many.

Members of my family and close friends fall into this category. I have a niece in Sweden. She is now a Swedish citizen and the holder of a Swedish passport because she cannot plan her life on vague promises that cannot be banked. She has to assure her future. Incidentally, it is interesting to compare and contrast her experience of becoming a Swedish citizen with the boorach that we heard Mairi Gougeon describe. It took my niece five days to get her Swedish citizenship. I accept that she has been resident there for more than a decade, but I thought that five days was a pretty impressive administrative deal.

My nephew, who lives in Denmark, has yet to submit his Danish passport application but is actively contemplating doing so, and four close friends who have the necessary Irish grandparents are looking to apply for Irish passports.

All across Europe, we have uncertainty for UK citizens, who are not reassured in any way, shape or form by what is coming from Westminster. It is an important matter for EU citizens who live here, but it is equally a significant problem for UK citizens who live elsewhere.

I came to this Parliament and was sworn in on 13 June 2001, and the following day I spoke in my first debate, which was on the European Committee’s report on the common fisheries policy. I was pitched right into debating on behalf of my constituents some of the substantial shortcomings of many of the things that come from Europe. Indeed, the European Committee, as its first headline conclusion from its deliberations, said:

“We believe that the current situation is untenable.”

It was talking about the common fisheries policy.

Given that it comes from an environment in which the EU was funding the building of new Spanish boats while simultaneously ensuring that the Scottish fleet was substantially reduced, the bitterness that people in the north-east of Scotland and other fishing communities have towards the EU is perfectly understandable. However, even there things are changing, because the expectations of fishing communities look increasingly less likely to be delivered.

Yesterday, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation was advocating in the strongest possible terms that decision making on fishing policy and practice must remain in Scotland. That takes us directly to clause 11(1) of what might be termed the great repeal bill, although Mr Tomkins has given us another title for it that we might adopt if we wish.

The bottom line is that even the most Eurosceptic people are realising the limitations in what is happening. Michael Gove appears to have promised continuing “relative stability” to the Danes and the Dutch, which is absolutely at odds with what fishing communities expected. The negotiations, thus far, are nothing short of a muddle. The EU, with 27 countries that had to agree a common line, was able to do that pretty rapidly. After a substantially longer period, the UK cabinet, with 23 members, has not been able to come to any meaningful agreement as to where we are going.

Let me give a few hints as to how negotiation might be done. One of the leading training companies in negotiation is based in Glasgow and its services are used all over the place. It is a company called Scotwork UK and it has a simple system called LIM-IT. It involves making three lists: things that we would like to get, things that we intend to get and things that we must get. The way you use it is to sit down and work out what is on your lists.

You do not disclose your lists publicly, but bit by bit through the negotiation process. There is not the slightest sign that anything professional is happening in the negotiating of withdrawal. I will end by welcoming the fact that, of the seven clauses of their amendment, the Tories have included four that I can agree with. That is a welcome move forward. It is in everybody’s interest that the negotiations succeed; we all want “progress ... to be accelerated”; we all welcome “the reconvening of the Joint Ministerial Committee”; and, fundamentally, we are all looking to see the great repeal bill amended, because until it is, no meaningful progress will be possible.


3 October 2017

S5M-06241 Garbh Allt Community Initiative

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-06241, in the name of Maree Todd, on Garbh Allt Community Initiative reaching its funding target. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament celebrates the Garbh Allt Community Initiative achieving its funding target for a community buy-out of the Sutherland Estate land at Portgower, Gartymore, West Helmsdale and Marrel, as well as the hill land; believes that this is of historic significance as these townships only came into existence following people being cleared from the Strath of Kildonan; congratulates the Countess of Sutherland and the members of the community initiative on getting funding from both the Scottish Land Fund and the Beatrice Partnership Fund for the buy-out, and looks forward to a bright future in Scotland in which all communities can harness their assets and flourish.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I thank Maree Todd for giving voice to this very important issue. Members may have noted that I have been relatively silent for the past three weeks, as I have been suffering from laryngitis. Maree Todd has arranged for me to be temporarily given back my voice to allow me to speak in the debate this evening. Let us hope—as I do—that it lasts for four minutes.

The history of the area of which we speak continues to be writ. Those of us who have been there will have seen, on the hill and in the distance, the statue of the Duke of Sutherland. There are those who would wish to take down that statue, and there have been many unofficial attempts to do so. I would leave it there, as a constant reminder of the iniquities of the past.

“The Emigrants”, which Dennis MacLeod was one of the moving spirits behind and which now stands adjacent to the A9 at Helmsdale, is one of the most moving, poignant and relevant memorials that there are in Scotland. It depicts a mother and father walking out of the glen, with their child, holding his parent’s hand; the child is looking back, never to see the glen again. It speaks to what has happened in such areas around Helmsdale.

For my personal part, as a family, we spent more than a decade holidaying at Achmelvich, just north of Lochinver, on the west coast of Sutherland. There, of course, we had the blight of ownership by the Vestey family. Not only did they own and control vast swathes of Sutherland and bits of Caithness and, I think, Ross-shire, but they paid not a penny in tax to the UK Exchequer, retaining their Argentinian domicile as a way of avoiding making proper contributions fiscally, just as they were inhibiting the operation of the community in the area that they owned and controlled.

The time for that model of land ownership is past. The Labour-Liberal Administration that we previously had in this place took the first excellent, widely welcomed step to ensure that land ownership was placed on a more formal basis and available to people. Previously, buyouts had been much more difficult to achieve, and we know much of the history of that.

I am delighted that the motion refers to the Countess of Sutherland and I am delighted that the family has taken a different attitude to working with the community from that which was taken in previous centuries.

The buyout is a very important move for the people of Helmsdale and it is a very important example of the benefits that can accrue and start to undo the injustices of a pattern of land ownership that came about not because landowners put out money to buy land, but because they seized it and used it as private fiefdom. We should no longer accept that pattern of land ownership in the 21st century. I very much congratulate the people in the Helmsdale area on their effort in raising the money and I wish them every success in their future management. The challenge of raising the money was substantial; the long-term challenge of sustaining the area may be even greater. I wish them well.


12 September 2017

S5M-07149 Serve Scotland

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-07149, in the name of Kate Forbes, on Serve Scotland.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the establishment of the Serve Scotland coalition of church-based community groups; recognises the positive work undertaken by these groups, providing services such as foodbanks, debt advice, night shelters and refugee support work in communities across Scotland, including in Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch; pays tribute to the many thousands of volunteers who provide these services, and believes that such community work undertaken by churches and other faith groups is a mark of a healthy civil society and is to be welcomed as part of a modern, plural Scotland.

... ... ...

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I now call—I cannot remember who came next. I call Stewart Stevenson.


Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I thought I was nearly as memorable as Kate Forbes, whom I congratulate for providing the time for the debate.

Serve Scotland aims to empower the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised. It unites local churches and community organisations. It facilitates communication among those organisations. It documents what has been done so that churches and organisations generally can learn from those experiences.

The beauty of Serve Scotland is that it is a nationwide organisation but it facilitates local actions. For example, in my constituency of Banffshire and Buchan Coast, the River Church has been a presence in Banff since 2001. It houses a thriving food bank, which is stocked both by donations from local people and through a partnership with Tesco supermarket in Banff. It also has a Well Café that offers a weekly hot meal and company for those in need. Services like that, in Banff as elsewhere, require the local power of volunteers—people who sacrifice time and bring their talents to make the efforts possible.

Another example—as in Inverness, as referred to by David Stewart—is the Peterhead street pastors, an organisation that began in 2003. I was privileged to attend the induction of some new street pastors recently. It is a living, expanding, terrific organisation. They walk the streets of Peterhead during the wee small hours of the night. I have been out with the police several times on a Saturday night in the environment in which the street pastors work, and I know the challenges that they are inevitably meeting. Without any side and without any bias, they care for, listen to and help those who may be out and about and in difficulty of any kind.

True to the goal of Serve Scotland, these groups are a light that shines

“in the darkest places of society”.

These particular groups help to secure the basic needs of food and safety for people who are on the margins. Other groups provide shelter, education or addiction recovery support, to name a few services. Among them, again in Peterhead, is the Salvation Army that I visited recently at the weekly lunch that it provides for precisely such disadvantaged people. I must say that the soup and pudding were first class. The group works with others to get the raw materials that it prepares for those who need them.

Groups do much more than simply address people’s basic needs. By reaching out in love, they anchor themselves and the people whom they serve to their communities. They create ties that strengthen the civil fabric of our towns and of Scotland as a whole.

Serve Scotland assists local organisations by exchanging information. It links groups together to share experiences. It helps churches and voluntary bodies to get the word out about projects so that they get the help and support they need. We are in uncertain times, and it is heartening to see that effort: to see engagement and education, not elitism; to see generosity and altruism, not greed; to see service and tolerance in place of self-interest.

In our contributions, we all gratefully acknowledge the local volunteers and organisations for their time and efforts to reach out in their communities. We commend the wider coalition of Serve Scotland for its bold vision of a tolerant, contemporary and co-operative Scotland.


6 September 2017

S5M-06963 Generations Working Together

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): Our final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-06963, in the name of Christine Grahame, on Generations Working Together. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the innovative collaboration between Newbyres Village and Newbyres Nursery in Gorebridge, where children visit older residents on a weekly basis; considers that this is to the mutual benefit of the children and the older residents; understands that, on these visits, the children paint with the residents, are told stories, plant sunflowers, are taught nursery rhymes and play hilarious games, which assist hand and eye co-ordination of both young and old; congratulates the charity, Generations Working Together, and Newbyres Village and Newbyres Nursery, on supporting this initiative, and notes the recommendations for similar projects elsewhere in Scotland.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I am one of the three people here who have served of the time that God has allocated to us three score years and 10; I am one of the three septuagenarians who are members of this Parliament. I am delighted to see that the minister who will respond to tonight’s debate was half my age three years ago. He is, of course, in statistical terms catching up, with each passing year.

The issue that Christine Grahame brings to Parliament today, which relates to Newbyres Village and Newbyres Nursery, is important not simply to people in Gorebridge but to people right across Scotland. As people get older, it is inevitable that many of their friends will no longer be with them, for a variety of reasons, and it becomes more difficult for them to make new friendships to replace those that no longer exist because of the death of the friends that they had in their youth. Connecting older people to younger people is a brilliant way of maintaining the social skills and the social interactions that might otherwise diminish in older people’s lives.

For my part, I think that talking to older people is an excellent bridge back into the history of our country and communities. I remember having a chat with my sister-in-law’s father-in-law, Bob Munro, who was a wonderful fellow who stopped driving and got his first pair of glasses only when he was 96. He remembered the soldiers coming back from the Boer war in Victorian times. It was fascinating for me to talk to him about that experience as a comparatively young person—even younger than the minister—and it stimulated new thoughts. Whenever we bring the old and the young together, we have the opportunity to do that.

Kids of nursery age have questions that are of breathtaking naivety when they are viewed from the lofty heights of a 70-year-old like myself. “How did you live without television?” “How did you live without a telephone?” “What happened in the world before there were iPads?” Those are excellent questions to which people of a certain age have an interesting and well-developed answer.

Therefore, we are not only, as the motion says, looking at assisting the

“hand and eye co-ordination of both young and old”;

but at the opportunities for mental stimulation that are created by interaction between young and old. As our memories become less certain with age—that does not affect everyone, but it affects a substantial number of people—the parts of our memory that still work well are generally those that are associated with our youth and infancy. Therefore, having kids come and ask, “What was it like when you were my age?” is a terrific way of re-energising the brain cells of older people.

The motion notes

“the recommendations for similar projects elsewhere”.

I hope that we will see this sort of thing in the north-east of Scotland, which I represent, and elsewhere, because it is remarkable how little time and how few people connect us to distant things. My grandfather was three years old when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on 15 April 1865. That is the kind of link that makes history real for us and that stimulates thinking, physical activity and social skills. It is very much to be commended.


Programme for Government 2017-18

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh):

Resumed debate.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

Let me start my remarks by directing through you, Presiding Officer, some comments on Dean Lockhart’s speech. He referred to Scotland as the most highly taxed place in the UK. Of course, with a 25 per cent difference between Scotland and England in local taxation on premises, we would do well to remind ourselves which is the higher—it is not Scotland; it is England. It is Scotland that has taken 100,000 businesses out of local taxation altogether. We find different solutions in a different environment, but we certainly are not the highest-taxed part of the UK.

Dean Lockhart might also consider talking to his colleagues at Westminster about the plans that have been revealed, inadvertently it seems, to exclude, in particular in my constituency, thousands of workers in the fish-processing industry from future employment simply because of their nationality—because they are not UK citizens. If he genuinely thinks that it is a contribution to the Scottish economy to shut down that industry in the north-east of Scotland—and other industries elsewhere—I am afraid that he is deluded in the extreme.

I want to talk primarily about the environment. I particularly welcome making the A9 an electric road, as an addition to our existing electric road—I refer, of course, to the A719, or the electric brae, which is in Ayrshire. The second electric road in Scotland will be a true piece of innovation and it is connected to the ambition to have all-electric, or all-renewable, transport by 2032. That is a bold ambition to set, because we are not in control of everything that has to happen to make it happen.

Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green): Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I will come back, if I may.

It is a bold ambition simply because, at the moment, it would be very difficult to drive from Edinburgh to Inverness, however many charging points there are, because most electric cars have to stop and recharge.

I will take an intervention from Patrick Harvie now.

Patrick Harvie: I am grateful to the member.

Perhaps the member would be so helpful as to clarify. He said that the ambition was for Scotland to be wholly electric on transport by 2032. My recollection from yesterday’s statement was that new cars and vans that run on petrol and diesel would not be available for sale after that point. That is very different from saying that we will not use them.

Stewart Stevenson: I accept what the member says. If there was an imprecision, I am happy to be corrected.

Let us be quite clear that it is an ambitious thing for us to do, but we should not shy away from ambition. Those of us who were here in 2009 will recall that, when we discussed the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill, we did so in cross-party consensus, with every party represented in the Parliament making a contribution to the resulting Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. That is the sort of consensus that I hope we will continue to sustain on climate change.

It is interesting that, in the United States, where the President has withdrawn from the Paris accord, The Washington Post reports this very morning that the advice that he received that caused him to do that was from a right-wing think tank that has looked at the scientific consensus that climate change exists and is anthropogenic in its origins and which has concluded that the very existence of the consensus demonstrates that there is a scientific conspiracy to delude the public. Anyone who believes that believes in the tooth fairy and a wide range of other things.

The US approach is quite the most disappointing thing that has happened in the world of climate change in recent years, and it reinforces the need for climate change leaders such as Scotland to continue to apply themselves to the issue. The rest of the world will find it very hard to compensate for the excess emissions that come from the United States, but that should not stop us trying to do something.

In relation to my constituency, we heard about the acorn project at St Fergus and the welcome investment in that regard. It is also worth looking at the Hywind project. That is a floating wind farm, which the Norwegian oil company Statoil is installing off the coast of Peterhead. The project is reusing engineering skills that we have here, and the fundamental point, which goes to the heart of the long-term failure of the UK Government, is that it demonstrates how it is possible, with the proper regime, to recycle moneys from the oil industry into renewables.

Statoil is the state oil company, which was founded in 1972 on the back of the oil wealth of Norway. In the UK, Scottish oil resources were—frankly—flushed away in current account spending and were not invested in the future. That is the most shameful long-running failure of the UK Government in relation to Scotland and Scotland’s economy. It is a failure with which we live today and about which we have limited opportunity to do much.

Hurricane Harvey is a wake-up call about climate change. It has impacted on the price of oil world wide, with a quarter of United States refineries currently shut down, and Houston and the surrounding areas are awash with pollution and disease. Climate change is an issue for the whole world. Albeit that the issue is most critical for the parts of the world that are least able to respond to it, such as Africa and the middle east, it is the biggest challenge for all of us.

I hope that in Scotland we will continue to enjoy a broad consensus on the need to engage with climate change and support measures in that regard. We will continue to have vigorous debate about the detail, as is entirely proper, but I hope that we will sustain the consensus that led to the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. We had high ambition then and are stepping up action now. This Government has a record that is second to none on climate change, the environment and the economy.


27 June 2017

S5M-05389 Online Exploitation and Abuse of Children

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-05389, in the name of Gillian Martin, on not on my screen. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the concerns raised by people in Aberdeenshire East and around Scotland regarding the online exploitation and abuse of children; commends the efforts of the International Justice Mission (IJM) in highlighting child slavery and exploitation overseas; understands that this abuse is supported and enabled by online purchasers in western countries, including Scotland; commends Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency on their work with the IJM to identify and prosecute the buyers and enablers of online child abuse and cybersex trafficking, and further commends them for raising awareness of the problem at a national and international level in order to stop this abuse of children.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I congratulate Gillian Martin on bringing this important topic to us today.

I thank the people who helped to brief me. Barrister Annabelle Turner came to see me yesterday and briefed me on behalf of the International Justice Mission. It is worth having a wee think about what the IJM is about. Ms Turner is one of many professionally qualified people who work for the organisation and provide services to it entirely pro bono—without any financial benefit accruing to them. It is indicative of a caring society that people are prepared to do that, but the subject is one that properly motivates people to do their very best to deal with it.

Cybersex trafficking is not an easy subject to discuss. The people who are involved are very nasty people indeed. Until comparatively recent times, I had in my constituency Peterhead prison, which was Scotland’s serious sex offenders prison. Sex offenders who were sentenced to four years or more in prison were sent there. There were 300 or so of them and they were, in essence, cut off from friends, family and people elsewhere.

It is worth having a little think about the people who are in that prison. They are quite a different kind of criminal from the one that we would meet if we went to Saughton or Barlinnie. They are much cleverer, much more socially competent and much more convincing. They are able to use their social skills, knowledge and expertise to perpetrate their foul crimes. They are able to suck in other people to protect them and to create a cocoon around their offending behaviours. I know of one sex offender who was in Peterhead prison whose parents were so convinced of their son’s innocence that, before the police arrived at a particular locus, they were cleaning the blood off the walls and repainting rooms. We would have thought of those parents as being the most upright members of society, but they had been caught by the duplicity of a criminal who was involved in sexual abuse—albeit that it was not online in that particular case.

We have heard references, most recently from Finlay Carson, to technical measures that we might take, such as getting ISPs—all our traffic goes through internet service providers—to look at the traffic that is going through and to detect what is happening. The honest and unfortunate truth, however, is that that would simply not work. If someone encrypts what is going through, we do not know what is in the encrypted package. Yet encryption is an important part of protecting certain kinds of data on the internet, so we cannot ban it on the internet. That is simply not possible.

I suspect that we will go back to the Al Capone approach. Al Capone was a gangster in Chicago, which was a very corrupt city, for some seven years until, in 1931, it was concluded that the only way to get him was through the fact that he had not been paying his tax bills on his ill-gotten gains. The one way in which we might be able to make some progress is by tracking the money and where it is going, because it is difficult to transmit money without a mechanism for doing so. There is not time to go into the issue of bitcoin and the chains that go with it, but, even there, it should be possible.

I, too, very much respect what is being done by the Internet Watch Foundation in taking down sites, but we must go right back to the genesis of the sites and make it economically unviable for people to run them. Last week, I met Kristof Claesen from the IWF, as did others, and I was very interested in what he had to say.

I have no magic solution. None of us here does. However, having a debate such as this at least alerts us to the problem, and that is a good start. I commend Gillian Martin for bringing the issue to our attention and allowing us to explore this important topic.


S5M-06356 Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-06356, in the name of Humza Yousaf, on the Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I was disappointed to hear Oliver Mundell attacking many of my constituents who work for the Ministry of Defence police and look after the St Fergus oil and gas terminal. They are effective, as policing across Scotland in all our forces is effective. The police are part of the reason why offending in Scotland is at a 42-year low.

Let us talk about borders. Claire Baker raised the issue of cross-border policing. We might have slightly forgotten that the British Transport Police is not a UK-wide force but a Great Britain police force. The Police Service Northern Ireland shares responsibility with An Garda Síochána for the policing of the railway system in Ireland. That involves a border between two states and the performance of policing there is no worse, being broadly similar to the performance of policing here. There are organisational models that we can choose and, when we look at that as an example, there is absolutely no reason to believe that we will have any difficulty.

Claire Baker also reminded us of the Smith commission, which was the genesis of the discussion that we are having today, and the unanimity of the view that the powers should be transferred to Scotland.

If a member of the public sees someone in a police uniform, they do not ask what police service they work for; indeed, they will not be aware of which service they work for. They simply recognise that they are a policeman or a policewoman and they will go to them for succour, information or assistance or to report problems, regardless of which police force they are with. A unified system that looks after Scotland has significant advantages, removing difficulties at interfaces.

There is not a huge amount of crime on the railway. The British Transport Police deal with about 10 offences a day in Scotland, which equates to 5.5 crimes a day—I am not sure why the figures are different.

The point has been made that, if we are to take on responsibility for railway policing, we should not do it now. However, I am reminded of the old saying that one should repair the roof of one’s house when the sun is out. In other words, we would be under the most immense criticism if we were to look at reorganising this facet of our policing in response to a crisis. Frankly, it is far better that we do it in a measured way that has taken place over several years.

Railway policing is not new. The Metropolitan Police opened for business on 29 September 1829 and the railway police started three years earlier. They have been around for a long time indeed.

I congratulate Neil Bibby on what has been a positive engagement. He has done something that Opposition members do not always get to do: he has managed to amend a Government bill. It took me about four years to succeed in doing that, despite my considerable efforts. He has done a good and useful thing.

We have had a great debate about personal track safety certificates. Whenever a police officer is close to an operational railway, it is important that they have the proper training. I have complete confidence that the chief constable will ensure that such training is provided to officers who have to be close to operational railways.

The bill is an excellent step forward, and I will be happy to support the Government come decision time tonight.


Stewart Stevenson
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