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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.

17:17
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The Deputy Presiding Officer: I now call—I cannot remember who came next. I call Stewart Stevenson.

17:50

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 CafĂ© 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.

17:55

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.

17:03
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17:10

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.

17:14

Programme for Government 2017-18

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh):

Resumed debate.

14:43
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15:10

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.

15:17

Stewart Stevenson
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