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8 October 2019

S5M-19287 Supporting Innovation

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): I remind members that there is absolutely no spare time this afternoon, so I will have to be quite strict on timings for the next item of business, which is a debate on motion S5M-19287, in the name of Ivan McKee, on supporting innovation.

15:45
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16:37

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

In our modern context, innovation plays a critical part in our economic wellbeing. The process is a kind of creative destruction, to echo what Mr Whittle has just said, and it is about replacing the obsolete with the cutting edge and developing the previously unimagined. It is a catalyst to growth, which is why it is critical to every economy on the planet. However, innovation does not happen in isolation. It requires a rich soil for growth and a foundation upon which to build.

The debate has illustrated the danger of focusing on Government and private sector spend on research and development, because it is the outputs from that research and development and from spontaneous thinking that are more important. In other words, how many patents do we produce? How many registered designs and product names do we come up with? How many start-up companies go beyond “me too” enterprise?

It is interesting that Brian Whittle referred to Apple because, of course, the iPod, its first music kit, depended entirely on a chip that came from the Wolfson institute here in Edinburgh. We are still doing innovation—we have been doing it for a long time indeed.

Scotland wants to be a leader in innovation and we put our money where our mouth is. Product and process innovation has a clear link to employment growth but it does not happen in isolation; it generally relies on the quality of the business environment. The weaker the business environment, the less likely innovation will have a positive impact on jobs.

It is worth noting that when full employment is reached, productivity falls, because then the people who are being employed often work part time and do jobs that are not inherently productive. However, even the least productive jobs can respond to innovation.

It is certainly important that we have inclusive growth that matches our innovation ambition. That means investing in public infrastructure. The Forth crossing—now the Queensferry crossing—had an original budget of £3.4 billion, but we built it for less than £1.4 billion. If that ain’t innovation in Government and stepping up to ambition, I do not know what is. We innovate in housing, healthcare, energy, education and digital connectivity.

One thing is clearly missing from the debate—this relates to a feminist issue. The Intellectual Property Office says that only one in eight patents world wide is in a woman’s name. Therefore, our Government’s focus on STEM for women is vital, because there is a huge untapped source of potential innovation in this country, as there will be in countries across the world. All the women whom I meet say that they are can-do people, and I believe that all the women in my life are can-do people. That is not the only issue; attitudes, culture and self-belief are also important factors.

The Scottish Government is working with partners to support Scotland Can Do, which is good. We must also ensure that people have somewhere where they can innovate. We need people to take risks, and we need to be prepared to see failure.

Historically, Scotland has been an innovating nation. Alexander Burnett seemed to think that innovation started in 1707. Napier’s bones and the slide rule were developed in the 100 years before that point, and the decimal point came from John Napier, too. The first coal mining on artificial islands was done in Scotland in 1575. However, there were inventions after 1707. We bequeathed to the world the overdraft, which was invented in 1728 by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Relevant to 1707, Alexander Cumming invented the first flush toilet in 1775. Scotland invents; the world benefits.

16:43

1 October 2019

S5M-19160 Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 (Post-legislative Scrutiny)

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee debate on motion S5M-19160, in the name of Jenny Marra, on post-legislative scrutiny of the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010.

14:32
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16:08

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

I congratulate the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee on its substantial work in producing its report.

Our having a committee with “Post-legislative Scrutiny” in its title is a welcome move forward. Historically, members on the back benches, the front benches and quite generally have mumped and moaned about a lack of scrutiny of legislation. The report that we debate today sets a pretty high benchmark for what we might see in the future.

I am reminded by this process of how things change, and of how they do not. The post-legislative scrutiny report stands in a very important place. All but one of the members who spoke on the bill at stage 3 have departed this Parliament. Only the member who was in charge of the bill is left: well done to Christine Grahame, who is truly the last person standing. I congratulate her.

When the bill was introduced, it was well intentioned and widely supported, albeit that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, when referring to the power of the database in section 8, showed a marked lack of enthusiasm in his contribution on 22 April 2010.

However, the report has put things in a different place. The intention that there was in 2010 is clearly as important today as it was then; its implementation has been hobbled by our not seeing bits of it picked up. The report shows—in painful detail—that that lacuna exists. It proffers no real insight into why so little action flowed from three years’ hard work by Ms Grahame and others to get the bill over the finishing line and on to the statute book. In the debate at the time, the cabinet secretary said

“We ... have an enabling power”

he was talking about section 8—but

“we are not persuaded that a database is either needed or wanted—nor is the committee.”—[Official Report, 22 April 2010; c 25672.]

However, things move on and, despite that being the view in 2010, we must now regard that as unfinished business with regard to what we are talking about today. The eight years since the bill came into force in 2011 have been perhaps too long.

My experience of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee—otherwise known as the DPLR Committee, on which I served for 1,283 days until March 2016—may illustrate some of the ways by which we might better implement the Parliament’s acts. A regular feature of the DPLR Committee was to say to the Government that there were errors in secondary legislation—they might be small errors or rather bigger ones—and, frequently, the Government would say that they would remedy those defects at the earliest opportunity. However, in the real world, the earliest opportunity often proved to be elusively distant or even non-existent, so the committee agreed with my suggestion that we should record those commitments and publish a list of them on a regular basis—it was quarterly, if I recall correctly.

That list shone a light into a dusty corner of our legislative process. Suddenly, the amendments that had been promised started to happen. The committee was publishing the list of those that were outstanding, and it was in the Government’s interest to see the list shrink rather than continue to grow. Perhaps in relation to legislation, it might be useful if we had a list of all the bits of legislation that have not yet been commenced—on this bill, it has all been commenced, but in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which I was responsible for, there is a section that has not yet been commenced. There is a good and proper reason why that is so, but nonetheless, that was not in the public domain until I discovered it this morning. If we were to take that approach, it might be less likely that those important bits of legislation that we make would simply disappear.

The bill that we are discussing has not been forgotten. It has been amended in three places, twice by the Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 and by the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012. It has not been forgotten, but it has not been fully implemented.

As have others, I have been engaged by dogs when I would rather that they had not done so. Indeed, throughout the debate, I have been sitting on four fang marks from a leafleting escapade—I cannot exhibit them to members for a rather obvious reason. In the Falkirk West by-election in 2000, I shoved a leaflet through a door in Falkirk, and a dog collected it and my hand as part of the process. I have a scar, here, from six stitches. The householders, Mr and Mrs Reid, kindly let me wash the wound. It turned out that the dog was called Oliver, so I am the only politician to have a scar from being bitten by Oliver Reid.

Finally, there is a question whether the dogs or the humans are out of control. Dog fighting is a big issue in the United States and, once, they routinely destroyed hundreds of dogs that were involved in it. Now, people take those dog-fighting dogs, rehabilitate them—in most cases, successfully—and put them into homes where they have happy lives. If that does not prove that the problem is the owners and not the dogs, I do not know what does.

16:15

25 September 2019

S5M-17805 Product Recall Database

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-17805, in the name of John Mason, on the need for a product recall database. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that the UK Government has served Whirlpool, which manufactures domestic appliances, with a notice to recall faulty tumble dryers; understands that this comes four years after the company issued a safety warning regarding some of its Creda, Hotpoint and Indesit devices; believes that research by the consumer charity, Electrical Safety First, suggests that only 10 to 20% of recalled products are actually returned or repaired, largely due to consumers being unaware of the recalls, and notes calls for the creation of a centrally-managed product recall database, which could allow consumers in Shettleston and across the country to check that their appliances are safe.

18:16
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18:33

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

The subject in hand is a substantial issue. I am trying to work out whether I am one of the 37 per cent of MSPs who register their appliances. The answer is, “Sometimes I does and sometimes I doesn’t.” I suspect that that is true of most people, because it depends on all sorts of random things. Without question, there is difficulty in tracking down white goods that are in consumers’ premises or being carried around with them—there have been recalls of mobile phones—that require to be recalled.

I will address some of the practical issues, which might be helpful for what happens in future. It is all very well publishing lists of serial numbers, but it is not very obvious where the serial number is on a lot of white goods. If it is anywhere, it is probably at the back, covered in three to five years’ of grime. A person has to haul out the equipment to find the number and they then find that there are four or five labels saying different things with different numbers on them. Which one is the serial number? I have a little suggestion: it would be very helpful for the serial number to be on the front of a device and in a font size such that someone of my age can read it.

We also have an issue with finding people. We could require—I am not trying to identify whether the responsibility lies with Westminster or us; that is neither here nor there—the recording of all but the last digit of a postcode of the person buying a white good. Why would that be useful? First, by excluding the last digit, there would be a big enough cohort so that individuals could not be identified. A full postcode is between one and 100 people—well, one and 99, strictly speaking. Typically, recording all but the last digit would give a cohort of 750. If we know that X number are in that cohort, we can find them. Also, if we know that, overall, we have managed to find 10 per cent of the sales, we do not know about nine of them, and we can then go and do something about that.

Statistically, there are ways in which we can use information to home in on where the people that we do not know about are likely to be. Advertising to everybody in the population is very expensive and ineffective, and there would be difficulties if only a tiny percentage—the number may be right at the decimal point—of people have the goods. There is work that statisticians and others could do on the issue.

Having a database would certainly be useful. Many people would simply not use electronic databases. However, it would be useful to the citizens advice bureaux, retailers and service engineers and to MSPs when they are answering their constituents’ queries, or even taking the unsolicited opportunity to make comments to people.

It is disappointing that goods have to be recalled, but it is inevitable that that will happen. When engineering is involved, a proportion of a product will inevitably fail at some point in its life for reasons that are unexpected. I have been contacted in relation to my car. The manufacturers knew where I was, so they could write to me. When it comes to white goods, the situation is much more difficult.

18:37

S5M-19025 Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is the stage 3 debate on motion S5M-19025, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill.

17:10
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17:38

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

I start by wishing John Scott well. I hope that he will be sitting beside me when we look at the climate change plan update, because his wise counsel—which is not to say that I agree unequivocally with everything that he says—will be important at that stage.

Farming has been an important part of the discussion, and John Scott has contributed to that debate, as have others across the political parties. I very much welcome the fact that we have, as a result of agreement to a Maurice Golden amendment, incorporated nitrogen accounting. That will help us to get a proper understanding of farming emissions.

We have had a bit of talk about the role of young activists in relation to climate change, which is entirely proper, but I want to take us back to something that I have not heard mentioned this afternoon, even though it is of equal and immediate importance. It is that this is a feminist issue as well as a youth issue.

In parts of the world, particularly in Africa, where aridification is taking place because of the diminution of rainfall and the drying up of wells, it is generally the women who are the farmers and who do the hard labour. They now have to walk many times the distances that they previously had to walk to get water or kindling. It is a feminist issue and it affects women across the world.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green): I agree, but does Stewart Stevenson think that maintaining the existing road-building programme will be a positive or negative contribution to women in sub-Saharan Africa?

Stewart Stevenson:If sub-Saharan Africa had better roads, I suspect that climate change would be less of a feminist issue, but I expect that that is not really the point that John Finnie was trying to make.

Patrick Harvie correctly said that the Greens advocate a 50 per cent target for 2030. However, we also need to think about the fact that there have been several changes to the baseline, which has added to the inventory of CO2. We therefore need to translate the targets that were set in 2009 to what they would be against today’s baseline: they would be rather different. In 2015, we added another greenhouse gas—nitrogen trifluoride—to the inventory. There have been various changes that affect how the numbers work, so the situation is a bit more complex than we sometimes like to pretend.

I also want to talk briefly about unanimity. I strongly believe that we must be driven by scientific consensus and not by individual scientists who are at one edge or the other of the argument. That is not because those scientists are wrong—they might be correct, within their areas of research. However, the consensus that comes through the IPCC—I welcome the report that came out today—will drive further change, as it must. If we start to pick scientists who take extreme positions, valid though they are, we will allow others to choose scientists who disagree with the whole agenda altogether. That is why we should always go with the consensus.

There is nothing to stop us exceeding scientists’ recommendations, so I encourage my Green Party colleagues to think carefully about withholding their support for the bill while continuing to campaign for more.

I will conclude by saying that, like others, I have been inspired by Greta Thunberg and the millions of young activists around the world. When I cast my vote shortly, I will be thinking of her and her young companions. I will be deid before it all matters: they have to inherit a world that is worth inheriting.

17:42

24 September 2019

SM5-18951 Common Frameworks

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a Finance and Constitution Committee debate on motion SM5-18951, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on the committee’s report on common frameworks. I invite members who wish to speak to press their request-to-speak buttons now, and I call Bruce Crawford to speak to and move the motion.

15:01
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16:13

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

It is a shame that Willie Rennie is temporarily out of the chamber. On 24 May 1916, Herbert Asquith appointed the Welsh wizard, Lloyd George, to solve the problem of home rule in Ireland. That went well. The Liberals might have been on the case for 100 years, but we have not seen very much delivered on it.

If my time as a minister 10 years and more ago taught me anything, it was that the jurisdictions in these islands can work together very well when they require to do so. Arrangements existed in my ministerial responsibilities whereby I had the right of veto. That was exercised responsibly on one occasion, and members never heard about it in Parliament because they did not need to. I found myself signing off the sale of land in Birmingham on one occasion because the British Waterways Board was a cross-border authority. Therefore, we can work together perfectly well. As a minister, I also represented the UK at the Polish Government economic conference. There are plenty of case histories and opportunities for working together. We sometimes hear rather more about the difficulties.

The report’s committee is excellent and I commend it, as others have. I want to go into one or two areas regarding paragraphs 42 and 43, which are on different possible approaches to the environment. Those differences are perfectly reasonable, because the different geography and climate north and south of the border might need different solutions. In the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee this morning, we talked about invasive species. The nature of that problem in Scotland is perhaps different from that in England or Wales. Therefore, it is not too surprising that there might be rather different solutions.

We have heard a lot from colleagues of all political persuasions in the Parliament about the role for Parliament, and I broadly agree with the way that Murdo Fraser characterised the need for that role. The committee dealt with that area in particular. Its report has six paragraphs of recommendations, which end by saying:

“We recommend that Parliament should have a formal role in relation to the process”.

I am quite content to support that.

Paragraph 172 refers to the need to involve external stakeholders in the development of common frameworks, and the report also refers to the need to involve them in the compliance mechanisms that relate to common frameworks. I would go a little bit further and say that we should look at the requirements of stakeholders. My constituency and parliamentary committee interests lead me to look at both fisheries and agricultural support.

On agricultural support, it is not surprising that we need different implementations of the EU common framework, and we would expect to have different implementations of a UK-wide common framework, because in Scotland, 85 per cent of our farming is in less favoured areas, whereas in England, only 15 per cent is, and 85 per cent is not. Therefore, the geography and the nature of the land that is farmed necessitate different solutions, not only in legislative, administrative and regulatory terms, but in the financial structures of support for industries in the agriculture sector.

On fisheries, we have the sea of opportunity—I led the debate on that subject not long after the 2016 referendum. If we depart from the common fisheries policy, we are clearly going to have the opportunity of controlling the area out to 200 miles from our coast. However, we cannot forget that Scotland-registered fishing boats will fish in other nations’ waters—England’s, Norway’s and those elsewhere. Therefore, we need a set of rules that apply to our interests, which may be somewhat different from those south of the border, where shellfish are one of the most important catches.

There is nothing unusual in requiring different solutions for different jurisdictions, while agreeing what we need to do within a common framework.

One of the important things about common frameworks is not just the rules but the funding streams. The common agricultural policy gives us a view of the funding for five, six or seven years ahead. We need a similar degree of certainty in the policy areas that I have spoken about, and I hope that we will find a way to achieve that.

16:18

11 September 2019

S5M-18571 Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-18571, in the name of Alasdair Allan, on the 10th anniversary of Scottish food and drink fortnight. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament celebrates the 10th anniversary of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, which this year runs from 31 August to 15 September 2019; welcomes the aims of the fortnight to encourage more people to buy, eat and promote Scottish food and drink, and have as many people as possible taking part in the nation’s biggest food and drink celebration, with events taking place throughout the country; acknowledges the growth in Scotland’s food and drink sector and the contribution it makes to the economy, with a record £14.8 billion turnover and £6.3 billion in exports; acknowledges the ambition of the national food and drink strategy, Ambition 2030, to double the value of the industry by 2030, and believes that Scotland has some of the most popular protected food name products in Europe, including Stornoway Black Pudding PGI, which make a unique contribution to what it considers its food and drink success story.

17:04
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17:22

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

I congratulate Alasdair Allan on securing the debate. I add to his litany of constituency interests, as I first had spoots at Northton. They were harvested within a mile of where I was eating them—that is cutting down food miles. My constituency also has unusual and interesting things in it; it is where extra virgin rapeseed oil came to the fore, because of one of the farmers in my area.

I, too, offer congratulations on the 10th anniversary of Scottish food and drink fortnight. Of course, Scotland has wonderful seafood, Scotch whisky and much more. My constituency has multiple fishing ports and farms, and it even has four whisky distilleries: Knockdhu, Inchgower, Glenglassaugh and Macduff, which provide high-quality products and high-quality jobs.

Scotland has four of the largest fishing ports in the UK, and we account for almost all of the UK’s aquaculture production. Nearly 5,000 people work on Scotland-registered fishing vessels and 8,000 work in seafood processing—in both cases, many of those jobs are in rural areas. The Scotch whisky industry employs 10,000 people in Scotland, including 7,000 people in rural areas. Those are big numbers, and continued growth could make them even bigger. The efforts of ambition 2030 stand to be recognised, because the contributions that the food and drink industries make to our economy are heading in a most positive direction. When we eat and drink their products, we are eating and drinking the most healthy food on earth.

Our food exports have increased by 111 per cent since 2007, to £1.5 billion, with salmon and seafood leading the way. Capital investment is also going up. Across Scotland, there are improved distilleries, new distilleries, refettled distilleries and new visitor attractions. Farmed salmon is up by 16 per cent and Scotch whisky has increased in value by £153 million, to more than £4 billion. Its export value has grown by 7.8 per cent, with 40 bottles of whisky exported every second—that will be 9,600 bottles during this speech.

Our food and drink sector deserves to be toasted and celebrated. Scottish food and drink fortnight is an ideal expression of that, and I encourage the public to join in. I listened with interest to what Finlay Carson said. He mentioned the Stranraer oyster festival, which I was going to cite as an example of what is done in the south. The spirit of Speyside festival, in the north, is among the events that take place in my area.

It is important that we continue to support local food and drink. The sector is a massive success story for Scotland. It is diverse and omnipresent, and I am looking forward to tucking into some Scottish products later this evening, to augment the Scotland-sourced tacos that I had at lunch time.

17:25

S5M-18778 Citizens Assembly of Scotland

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-18778, in the name of Michael Russell, on the citizens assembly of Scotland.

15:11
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16:01

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

We have heard interesting contributions from Conservative members. Adam Tomkins said that we in Parliament do not have all the answers, and I agree with him. However, Rachael Hamilton said that Parliament is the citizens assembly. Those are fundamentally different points of view, so there are obviously differences among views in the Tory party. We in the SNP have robust debates and ways of dealing with different points of view.

I want to start with the character and experience of one of the conveners of the assembly. I know one of them, but not the other. When David Martin was first elected as an MEP in the 1980s, he came to the Bank of Scotland to meet senior executives. I remember sitting round the lunch table—we were hospitable to him—to hear his questions and his responses, and the issues that he was raising with the bank. That was more than 30 years ago. The first thing that David Martin brings to the table is objectivity. The second is experience and the third is honesty in his political opinions—which are not my political opinions, but come from a different tradition.

If we attack the citizens assembly, we attack David Martin and his substantial record of public service, his preparedness to serve the public good and his preparedness to tackle the democratic deficit, or emergency, that undoubtedly exists in these islands. Today’s court judgment is just one part of the continuing failure of the UK’s democratic systems to solve major problems.

I absolutely support the Green Party proposal, which has been supported by Conservative members, to involve citizens more on the issue of climate change. I progressed the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill in 2009, for which we had unanimous support: I hope that we will get such support again. In an era of post-truth politics, in which climate change is an issue and globalisation is a matter of debate, our citizens must be part of deciding the future.

Who is taking a risk by establishing the citizens assembly? In Parliament, we have a majority in favour of independence. Those who support that objective—which is part of a wider agenda and does not stand on its own—are taking the risk that the citizens assembly, which is independent of Government and is chaired by a lifelong opponent of the political philosophy that I espouse, could come up with a conclusion that will make us desperately uncomfortable.

I believe that we will have convincing evidence and arguments that will lead the assembly to a different place. However, those of us who support Scotland’s independence are taking the risk. The fact that the Tories and the Liberal Democrats will not take such risks is very revealing.

We have an opportunity to recalibrate how our democracy works. What is before the assembly lays out the way in which to address issues, but the assembly is the master of its own destiny. The Liberal Democrat amendment does not disagree with the assembly’s remit, so I invite Liberal Democrats to endorse the motion in their concluding remarks. The word “independence” appears nowhere in it.

The UK’s general relationship with the devolved nations is changing; in England, there are huge tensions across geography and people’s different experiences in different parts. Citizens assemblies can be important in allowing countries to consider how they take themselves forward.

In Ireland, the removal of the eighth amendment to the constitution was a suitable subject for a citizens assembly to contribute to the subsequent referendum debate—and it was very successful. The referendum followed closely the recommendations of the assembly but—more to the point—participants said that it made them consider the impact of a proposal in ways that they never would have done before. It is important to rely on the deep reflections of fellow citizens who come without the baggage that every party politician here inevitably has. That brings honesty and openness to the deliberative process, so I congratulate our friends in Ireland for showing us the way to re-ignite thoughtful dialogue.

It is worth considering Brexit. If, three years ago, we had taken forward the post-2016 referendum deliberations via a citizens assembly, we would not have got ourselves tied up in the cul-de-sac that was created by the Prime Minister in January 2017, which has contributed to the failure of the political system to come to a meaningful conclusion.

This is not really a debate about the proposals from the Government for an assembly; it is about the credibility of David Martin—a man with whom I have often disagreed but whom I continue to respect.

16:07

5 September 2019

S5M-18695 European Union Exit (No Deal)

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-18695, in the name of Michael Russell, on avoiding a no-deal exit from the European Union.

14:53
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16:09

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

The Independent newspaper reports that

“some loud bloke who stunk of booze yelling at us”

is a description of how number 10 attempted to persuade 21 former Tory MPs to vote for Prime-Minister-in-name-only Johnson’s plans. The New York Times today describes this week as “a sobering week” for the Prime Minister—if only.

The cabinet secretary and others have confirmed that the EU has seen nothing by way of proposals from the UK Government.

Our colleague Donald Cameron is a serious man, with a demonstrated ability to think through complicated issues and break them down into solvable bite-size chunks—the attributes of the Scottish advocate down the ages. However, today’s amendment in his name falls substantially short of what his pupil master would have required of him in his days of training as an advocate.

Proper parliamentary procedures continue in the Scottish Parliament—they have been abandoned by a Prime Minister who is yet to win any vote in the house of which he should remember that he is a servant. Here, our duty is to offer sober-minded dissection of even the most obtuse proposal, so I will consider the three planks of Mr Cameron’s amendment.

First, we are asked to respect the referendum result. There has always been a fundamental conflict between the 2014 and 2016 referendums. A key reason why the argument for Scottish independence was lost in 2014 was the Scottish people’s attachment—later proved, in the 2016 vote—to our membership of the EU. The no campaign asserted that Scotland could remain in the EU only if it rejected independence. My side of the argument then lacked the ammunition that would convincingly rebut that—now provably implausible—argument.

In passing, I note that many of my constituents see opportunity—even a sea of opportunity—in leaving the common fisheries policy, which is a policy that only the SNP has always opposed. [Interruption.] The Tories had better keep listening. However, many of my constituents also see the ruin that awaits our fish processors as a result of Theresa May’s choice of the method of exit.

At 8.58 this morning, I received an email from the largest fish processing firm, which I am able to quote on the record. I will read out exactly what it says:

“The Scottish Conservatives today in Edinburgh Parliament will hit their normal drum of stating that the Conservatives are ‘champions’ of the Scottish Fishing Industry ... From my end I am very clear: leaving the EU without a deal will cause long term damage to the fishing industry, both the catching and onshore sector and will result in a considerable economic loss to our coastal communities. A ‘no deal Exit’ has to be avoided at all cost.”

It goes on:

“I wish you well in the debate ... all sectors of the Scottish economy will be adversely affected and damaged through the actions of a Conservative group of UK Ministers driven by a right wing ideology. It has to be stopped.”

That is from the fishing industry—the one area in Scotland that might have been expected to benefit from a proper exit. The industry clearly sees that what the Tories are progressing will not benefit it.

The conflict between the two referendums defeats the argument behind the first plank of the Tory amendment. The second plank is the call for a “negotiated exit”. We know that there is no negotiation, so no negotiated exit is in prospect. Mr Johnson is not negotiating. No proposals have been tabled. My long history of business negotiation has persuaded me that going into a negotiation with a blank sheet of paper and waving that paper under the noses of the people at the other side of the table does not progress the negotiation.

It is clear that Johnson has spent too much time with Trump and is adopting Trump’s relationship with truth, rationality and clarity.

On the third plank of the Tory amendment, I do not know how one reaches a deal when one refuses to allow civil servants to engage meaningfully with the EU and politicians carry blank sheets of paper to Brussels.

As Yogi Berra said:

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.”

As a lawyer, Donald Cameron will be familiar with the saying:

“A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.”

It is perhaps time to update that old saying: a man who journeys without a map will never know his destination.

The Tories: clueless; leaderless; mapless. The Tories: beyond reason; beyond parody; beyond hope.

16:15

13 June 2019

S5M-17660 Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame):
The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-17660, in the name of Mark Ruskell, on the Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill.

15:01
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15:54

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

I rise to speak as someone who signed in support of the proposed bill, but who, having heard the evidence, has come to a disappointing conclusion—it is as disappointing for me as it will be for others.

Let us start with the fundamental thesis, which is a matter on which we will undoubtedly agree. There is European Union research that says that a human-car collision at 20mph has a 10 per cent probability of fatality. At 30mph, the probability of fatality rises to 40 per cent, and at 50mph, the probability is 100 per cent. We can draw the line on a chart: increasing speed in a collision causes deaths.

Those figures are for an adult being hit by a vehicle. I do not have equivalent figures for a child being hit by a vehicle. However, we should not think for a second that the effects would be substantially less severe. I think that we have a shared view—I am sure that Mike Rumbles would agree with this—that speed kills. The question is not so much whether there is a problem waiting to be solved and to which we should turn our attention as how we should solve that problem.

I have some numbers from other research. A 1 per cent increase in speed results in a 4 per cent increase in fatal accidents. The relationship between speed and the outcome of accidents is clear and unambiguous. The work of the committee absolutely recognised that.

We must be careful about what the bill does. There is a danger that we mislead ourselves on that. I confess that I have not looked at the detail of what the Welsh are proposing to do. I heard Mark Ruskell—whose every effort on the bill I utterly commend, without reservation—say that the Welsh are changing the national speed limit. However, the bill before us does not do that—it addresses only restricted roads.

Despite previously having been transport minister, I had never heard of restricted roads or knew what they were—it was not a distinction of which I was aware. Mike Rumbles referred to a restricted road as being a road that is not an A road or a B road and has lampposts no more than 185m apart. That properly covers most of the roads in most of our towns and villages where pedestrians, and young pedestrians in particular, are likely to be found.

John Finnie: I am very grateful to the member for taking a brief intervention. Given what he has just said, does he agree that it is astonishing that people, including the cabinet secretary, say that they do not know the total length of such roads?

Stewart Stevenson: Paragraph 140 of the committee’s report notes that the committee heard that

“21 per cent of local authorities have ... identified the roads that they would wish to switch to a 20mph limit and those on which they would retain a 30mph limit. Another 29 per cent say that they have the asset data to allow roads to be identified.”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 6 March 2019; c34.]

There is certainly a lot of ignorance out there about the state of our roads and I accept that that is a driver to do something about it. That is unambiguous. It is disappointing that the percentages are as low as reported at paragraph 140 of the committee report, because ignorance is not a good basis for policy making and action on the ground. I congratulate urban areas, such as Edinburgh, that have invested the time and effort in making the difference.

It is worth reminding ourselves of the evidence we heard that the introduction of a 20mph zone where the limit had previously been 30mph appears to result in only a 1mph reduction in average speeds. However, averages are not the whole story. I have to say that the real problem is what those who break the law do on a 20mph road compared to a 30mph road. I do not think that we took evidence that answered that question, but we probably instinctively believe—I instinctively believe—that someone who is going to break the law will break the law anyway. We should not therefore simply put the question of enforcement to one side.

Jamie Greene: I am listening with careful interest to my committee colleague. He started off by saying that he was a proposer and a proponent of the concept behind the bill. I am interested to learn what was the primary thing that made him change his mind and take the position that he now takes. It would be helpful to know that.

Stewart Stevenson: I was just about to come to that. It is a perfectly proper question that I should be asked, given my starting and ending points in the debate. It is also worth saying, in the interests of balance, that political colleagues who will speak from the SNP benches will give different views of the subject.

Ultimately, I was driven by the evidence to the conclusion that the bill is not the most straightforward way of achieving the objectives that it sets for itself. It might be easier to do that by changing the speed limit.

First, many villages have streets that do not have street lighting so, strictly speaking, they are not caught by the restricted road requirement. Mr Chapman and I could probably identify one or two.

Mark Ruskell: Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: Yes.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The member is in his final minute.

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry; I wanted to be helpful to Mr Ruskell.

Equally, many A or B roads go through many towns or villages and it would be appropriate to consider them for a 20mph limit.

The bill is a worthy attempt to address the issue, but it falls short in terms of capability of implementation and cost of implementation. I went through a little village close to me recently, and I counted that it would need 80 signs.

We must not take the pressure off the Government and the cabinet secretary to find a way forward, but I am not persuaded by the evidence that the bill is the way forward. I say that with grave disappointment, because I support the member’s objectives.

16:01

12 June 2019

S5M-16487 Housing Co-operatives

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-16487, in the name of Johann Lamont, on a new report calling for more housing co-operatives in Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Co-operatives UK report, Shared space—how Scottish housing co-ops build communities; notes that the report identifies significant benefits delivered by co-ops through the key themes of affordability, empowerment, community and stronger social housing; recognises that the report states that Scotland has just 11 registered housing co-ops, compared to 685 across the UK, at a time when 150,000 people are on council house waiting lists; agrees with the report’s findings that the decline of social housing stock in Scotland and parallel rise of the private rented sector has created a major challenge for those looking for affordable homes in the social rented sector; understands that the report highlights the excellent work of West Whitlawburn Housing Co-op, based in the Glasgow region, as an example of a housing co-op creating “a safer estate with warmer, more attractive homes”; notes that the report has recommended an eight-point policy plan to help deliver more housing co-ops, and notes calls for the Scottish Government to encourage more housing co-ops in Scotland in order to create safer and stronger communities that offer affordable rents and more power to tenants.

17:03
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17:10

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

I congratulate Johann Lamont on securing the debate. Unusually—because these are not words that I often say—I also congratulate James Kelly, who I see is the author of the foreword to the report. The report is excellent, and it is a considerable credit to Parliament that a cross-party group can produce such a substantial contribution to a very important debate.

Johann Lamont referred to the imbalance between the number of housing co-ops in Scotland and the number south of the border. I am never afraid to pick up good ideas from wherever they come, including from south of the border, so I immediately turned to section 08 of the report to look at what it says. In my brief speech, I will not explore it in any great detail, but there are a considerable number of things to say.

The co-operative movement in housing is an important part of creating housing for people across Scotland. It can contribute a great deal to filling the gap that Scotland has suffered from—as the rest of the UK has—since the right to buy was introduced in 1980, which resulted in 2.6 million houses across the UK being sold out of public housing stock. Co-operative housing associations can play their substantial part in creating housing for people who otherwise find it difficult to get housing outside the private sector, in which housing is often very expensive and is not always of good quality, and in providing the living space that is essential for people who want a good standard of life.

Rent prices are going up, and people are being encouraged to invest in buy-to-let properties. The primary focus with such properties is the landlord’s interest in making a profit. In co-operative housing, the people who live in it are at the centre of decision making. That is right and proper, and it unlocks the potential of many people who have, in too much of their lives, little opportunity for their voices to influence the important things in their lives. Co-operatives in general, and housing co-operatives specifically, can make a particular difference to people’s quality of life. It is a neighbourly and collaborative way of making decisions that can encourage social bonds and collective responsibility, which strengthens society as a whole. When people in co-operative housing collectively decide what their priorities are for their area, the whole area gets something that is an example right across communities.

I was particularly interested in the example of West Whitlawburn Housing Co-operative, which has been mentioned. Its work extends far beyond provision of housing. Johann Lamont referred to power bills being frozen, which comes from addressing fuel poverty—which has, of course, been before us in Parliament this week.

There is a challenge for young people, in particular. The number of young people who live in rented accommodation has risen and is higher than it was in my generation and in others that followed. It is important that we strike the appropriate balance between privately owned and social housing. Co-operatives can play a very important part in that strategy.

I think that Johann Lamont and I were both members of the Communities Committee—she was the convener and I was a humble back-bench member. I remember that time occasionally, with fondness. I remember her robust engagement on issues that came before the committee: she has always done that. I congratulate her again on bringing an important topic to Parliament and giving us the opportunity to discuss it. I also congratulate all the co-operatives and their members.

17:14

21 May 2019

S5M-17347 Menopause

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-17347, in the name of Christina McKelvie, on ending the stigma of the menopause.

15:22
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16:17

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

I will say just a quick word to Monica Lennon. I have sat around the boardroom table at the Bank of England on a number of occasions. Of course, I left banking after 30 years to come into politics to improve my reputation.

I will also make a little point about something that Elaine Smith perhaps illustrated, on the topic of the advice that we all sometimes receive about things. The last thing that a woman wishes to do if they have a hot flush or are sweating, or if their temperature has risen, is take a cold drink. The reason for that is that a cold drink will actually boost their system and turn the temperature up, because when the cold drink hits the stomach, it is very close to blood vessels, and the body’s temperature rises. That is why, in the middle east, people drink masala chai, which is warm tea, because putting something warm in the stomach lowers the body temperature—it also reduces the flush. Medical advice often does not cover such very simple things.

Of course, the menopause is not simply a medical or physical issue; it is a social and employment issue. It is also not just an issue for women but an issue for we men. I am glad that—I think—four of us will speak in today’s debate. It is an issue for us perhaps simply because we are there to provide support to those who are close to us and who are affected by the issue. We may also find ourselves employed by, or employing, women who are affected by it. We will also meet, both casually and formally, women who are affected by it.

Elaine Smith very effectively concealed the use of the fan in a previous session, on which I congratulate her. However, she deserves every support.

We will meet premenopausal and perimenopausal women who are worried about how we men might react to menopausal symptoms. We have a duty to be part of an environment in which women feel comfortable about the menopause, because it will happen to all our female friends and relatives and to others we meet.

Men need to learn to deal with their hormone issues, which largely lead us to respond more aggressively to circumstances that we find uncomfortable. We must learn to be much more supportive in our relationships with people we love, people we meet and people we bump into. Neither the male nor the female should be placed in a superior or inferior position to the other; we should simply recognise that differences arise from gender.

Professor Mary Minkin of Yale medical school has done interesting research on the effects of the menopause. She found that Swedish, Danish and Norwegian women were most likely to report that going through the menopause was better than they expected, whereas women in the US, the UK and Canada were most likely to say that their experience was worse than expected. That tells us that the effect relates not simply to a physical and hormonal change but to the information that people have and how society reacts to them.

We have heard references to diet, exercise and attitudes to getting older. As the only septuagenarian to speak in the debate, I would like people to like older people a bit better. In Japan, the old are revered; here, we are more likely to be pitied.

Members have talked a bit about employment. Engender tells us that the Department for Work and Pensions has reported that the largest increases in employment rates recently have been in the 60 to 64 age group and the 55 to 59 age group.

I very much welcome the debate and the opportunity to participate in it. I hope that I leave members a little better informed and a little better prepared to deal with the effects—in men and women—of the menopause.

16:22

16 May 2019

S5M-17304 Brexit (Impact on Food and Drink)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-17304, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on the impact of Brexit on Scotland’s food and drink.

14:53
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15:55

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

I declare that I have a share in a very small registered agricultural holding for sheep.

A number of points have been put before us about the UK’s planned departure from the EU—Brexit. Donald Cameron said that we must vote for the deal that is available because it is the only deal. There is a reason why it is the only deal—it is because it is the only deal that Theresa May asked for. In her Mansion House speech in 2017, she drew the red lines that constrained the ultimate deal to the deal that is before us.

The deal is rather opaque, because the proposed withdrawal agreement bill has not been shown even to the UK Cabinet yet. I predict that it will not be published until after 23 May; Theresa May is trying to keep publication until as late as possible in the debate, because the bill will cause internal chaos in the Tory party and she knows that she does not command her party’s support. In those circumstances, it is hard to work out why anyone else should support the bill. The only on-the-record reference that I have is from Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 committee.

Until we see what the withdrawal agreement bill says, some of the impacts on food and drink will definitely not be clear. However, it is clear that being out of the single market and the customs union will have severe impacts on food and drink. Proposals were made on that in December 2016, which was a month before the Mansion House speech. Our food and drink sector’s future success will be determined largely by what happens in the UK’s departure from the EU.

In every constituency—be it urban or rural—we all have important food and drink interests. Summerhouse Drinks is a small company in my constituency that is a particular favourite of my wife, who loves its lemonade. That touches on something, because we do not grow terribly many lemons. A lot of the company’s drinks are entirely local products—it uses lavender and mint that are grown locally—but the lemons are imported. Who knows what will be the condition of the lemons that Claire Rennie from the Rennie family farm can import and what price she will have to pay for them?

It is worth saying that a lot of preparation is associated with Brexit. We in the Parliament have done a great deal. The prepareforbrexit.scot website that has been established to help Scottish businesses talks about a number of issues for food and drink businesses and others. Exporters and importers might face huge increases in costs; 53 per cent of goods in the UK are imported, and they include many materials that the food and drink industry requires.

On recruitment, we have heard that the fruit industry cannot get people into the country. Yesterday, Michael Gove gave us no meaningful assurance that people will be able to travel to the UK and particularly Scotland to harvest our excellent fruit and continue to support our excellent fish-processing industry.

I brought the debate on the sea of opportunity to the Parliament, because leaving the CFP—into which the Tories took us—will certainly benefit the fish-catching industry, in so far as it can catch more fish. However, we will be denied the economic benefit if our processing industry is unable to process the extra fish that are caught. If we catch 50 per cent more fish and earn half the value of that, we will actually be worse off. We have to get our processing industry in a good place.

As for my three whisky distilleries, if—as the Americans want to negotiate—we abandon our three-years-in-a-warehouse position, the quality product that earns so much for our food and drink industry will be devastated.

16:00

30 April 2019

S5M-17059 Music Tuition in Schools

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is an Education and Skills Committee debate on motion S5M-17059, in the name of Clare Adamson, on the committee’s report “A note of concern: The future of instrumental music tuition in schools”.

14:24
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16:25

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

When I was the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, I recall attending a getting it right for every child event at 11:30 on 12 March 2010 on behalf of one of my fellow ministers, Adam Ingram, who could not go. It was at the Pittodrie stadium in Aberdeen and we arrived a little early. A psychologist gave a presentation that included a bit of film showing a one-hour-old child. The child was, not surprisingly, lying on its back. Music was being played to the baby and it was beating its arms in syncopation with the music. When the music was switched off, the baby stopped moving; when it was switched back on, the baby started moving again. I found that immensely moving. It was absolutely fascinating that the effect of music on somebody who was one hour out of the womb was so significant.

I happen to be surrounded by a number of female friends who are pregnant. They say that playing classical music diminishes the palpitations in the womb—their child, even in the womb, is responding to music.

There should be no doubt whatsoever about the beneficial effects of music on us all, on both our psychology and our physiology, but it was the GIRFEC event that led me to that understanding.

I am with Ross Greer and Tavish Scott: my musical competence could barely be described as limited. At primary school, there was an attempt to teach me the violin that utterly failed. My only competence in musical instruments is in using a spoon on my teeth. By flexing my cheeks, I can change the note that comes out. To describe that as music would be gross exaggeration.

I wanted to intervene on Tavish Scott when he was talking about Shetland fiddle achievements, to make an important point. I very much love fiddle music from Shetland and, although there has been talk of postcode provision of instrumental music tuition, we must ensure that variation is possible so that we can preserve, enhance and develop local variations in the instruments being used. In the case of Shetland, that would apply to how the bow is used on the fiddle, which is quite different from elsewhere.

I think that I have a love of music, and I suppose that it has been a significant part of my life. For my very first date with the person who this year will have been married to me for 50 years, I suggested that we go to the Dubliners concert at the music hall in Aberdeen in 1966. That may have been the first time that she heard “Seven Drunken Nights”, but it was not the first time that I had been exposed to the same as a student.

Today, I find myself greatly enamoured by three Québécois groups—Soldat Louis, Salomé Leclerc and Le Vent du Nord, which all play a range of instruments. Le Vent du Nord plays one instrument that I could just about deal with—the jaw harp. To play it, a person sticks it in their mouth and pings the metal. That might be something that I could do. I think, too, if one examines with a powerful magnifying glass the photograph on the cover of one of the 12” LPs by the Corries that we have at home, one will see that, among the approximately 1,000 people who are pictured, there we are, in the front row. Music has been an important part of my life.

Incidentally, one of the reasons why the Dubliners came to fame involved a guy named Ronan O’Rahily, who was the founder and owner of the immensely popular pirate station Radio Caroline, which played an enormous number of songs by the group.

I very much enjoyed reading the committee’s report. I have two music teachers in my family. My late brother-in-law was a guitar teacher, and one of my nieces is a music teacher in Kent. She is finding it rather sterile territory at the moment, so, on Thursday, she is standing for the local cooncil to try to do something about it. Obviously, she is not standing for the SNP, so I am uncertain whether I should wish her all the best, but I do.

I will close by saying that my favourite piece of classical music is Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”, which is absolutely apposite to the debate. When I think of the people who have spoken in the debate, perhaps Rachael Hamilton is “Mars, the Bringer of War” and Jenny Gilruth is “Venus, the Bringer of Peace.” For my part, I am clearly “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age”. Of course, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills has to be “Uranus, the Magician”.

16:31

25 April 2019

S5M-16708 Hutchesons’ Hospital Transfer and Dissolution (Scotland) Bill: Final Stage

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-16708, in the name of Kezia Dugdale, on the final stage of the Hutchesons’ Hospital Transfer and Dissolution (Scotland) Bill.

Before the debate begins, the Presiding Officer is required under the standing orders to decide whether, in his view, any provision of the bill relates to a protected subject matter—whether any provision will modify the electoral system and franchise for Scottish parliamentary elections. In this case, the Presiding Officer’s view is that no provision of the Hutchesons’ Hospital Transfer and Dissolution (Scotland) Bill relates to a protected subject matter. Therefore, the bill does not require a supermajority for it to be passed at the final stage.

15:23
... ... ...
15:36

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

As we have heard, George Hutcheson’s deed of mortification of 1639 is the genesis of what we are engaging with today. The charity’s history is long and interesting. In her intervention, Elaine Smith was right to point out the educational aspect, but it is worth saying that nothing that we will do today appears to change the status of anything in that regard.

The charity provides grants, which it describes as pensions, to 20 to 30 people, so its size is comparatively modest. That means that having a complex and long parliamentary act for its oversight is no longer consistent with how we wish to do things. The promoter explained to the committee that the charity employs a part-time social worker, who visits the grantees.

The committee looked carefully at what was proposed. In particular, we looked at any impacts on those who receive support, and we accepted the promoter’s assurance that no one who currently receives benefits will lose out as a result of the proposed changes.

The promoter’s memorandum says:

“The charitable purposes of the SCIO”

the new form that the charity will take—

“seek to respect the spirit and underlying intention of the Incorporation’s purposes, but in a manner that more satisfactorily and effectively allows the charitable funds held by the Incorporation to be applied in the 21st century.”

The SCIO that will take over has been established and is waiting to take responsibility. That is a modern form of organisation for charities that was provided for by the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and is regulated by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. The structure will be more effective and will remove the need for parliamentary scrutiny of the charity’s activities.

In our evidence session, the committee heard that the charity will have greater flexibility in how it carries out its purposes—for example, in how it invests. As a SCIO, the charity will be able to invest in anything that furthers its purposes, provided that the trustees believe that that is right for the charity.

The committee thought that the proposed approach would make the whole operation much more future proof. Other members have referred to the complexity of multiple deeds of mortification and similar deeds, almost all of which are in old Scots—perhaps we should relearn the old Scots. The documents include a deed of ratification by Janet, Bessie and Helen Hutcheson; deeds of mortification by James Blair in 1713 and Daniel Baxter in 1776; and settlements by William Scott in 1818 and Mary Hood in 1817. There is a complex picture and history behind the charity.

Mr Donald Reid, whose firm has acted as chamberlains to the charity for some 200 years, explained that he had gone through all the tin boxes that they have and found nothing further that is relevant. It is worth saying that this opportunity that a lawyer has presented to the Parliament is unusual—at his request, we are going to reduce that lawyer’s income. I therefore commend the bill as something that the Parliament should absolutely support. In the event that something arises that is not in the tin boxes, the SCIO will be the body that will deal with it.

Like others, I thank my colleagues on the committee and, in particular, the non-Government bills unit, which has, as promised, smoothed the path and made it straightforward for the committee to deal with the bill. I hope that the vote at 5 o’clock reflects the Parliament’s belief that that is the case.

15:41

23 April 2019

S5M-16671 The Open University at 50

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-16671, in the name of Claire Baker, on the Open University at 50. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises that 23 April 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of The Open University (OU); notes that the Royal Charter that it received in 1969 required it to “promote the educational wellbeing of the community generally”; acknowledges the OU’s mission to be “open to people, places, methods and ideas”; considers that its open access policy, which requires no entrance qualifications for most courses, is as radical today as it was 50 years ago; notes what it sees as its contribution to social justice and accessible higher education across Scotland and the transformational impact that it has had on lives and communities, with more than 200,000 Scots from all backgrounds having studied with the institution, and wishes it well for the next 50 years and beyond.

17:08
... ... ...
17:46

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

I congratulate Claire Baker on securing the debate—I congratulate her relative, too—and I wish the Open University all the best on its 50th birthday. It is a significant milestone, and I congratulate it on its work. The Labour Party has achievements that I can respect, and the Open University is certainly one of them.

In the days of the launch of the Open University, we had a 12-inch black and white television at home. It had one channel. It had been purchased to view the coronation, in 1953, and it had still not been replaced when I left home. The technology that we were using then is a world away from the technology that every one of us now has in our mobile phone to make broadcastable material—in technical terms, if not in content.

The mission of the Open University is important and underpins its academic strategy. It is

“to be open to people, places, methods and ideas”.

That is the very exemplification of inclusion and possibility: being open to opportunity and open to inspiration.

In 1972, I did a short, focused OU course on systems behaviour. The coursebook is still sitting on my shelf among my other academic books, although I admit that it has been a little while since I took it off the shelf and revisited it. The coursebook was of value to me then and contains many truths that still matter to me.

John F Kennedy said:

“the educated citizen ... knows that ‘knowledge is power’ more so today than ever before. He knows that only an educated and informed people will be a free people, that the ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all”.

The Open University plays an important part in helping people to learn about society, about a wide range of subjects and—perhaps more critical—about how to keep learning throughout their lives. The ability to weave the learning process into one’s working life, through the Open University, is important.

In its briefing for the debate on where it is after 50 years, the Open University highlights a couple of things that are right up to the minute. The free learning website OpenLearn, which has had 60 million visits so far, and the massive open online course—MOOC—platform are very effective ways of drawing people into the world of learning through the internet. That is important and of huge value.

There are people who have yet to find the Open University. I hope that tonight’s debate will play a part in spreading the word to people whose talents and skills are as yet undiscovered and whom the traditional methods of learning will simply not reach. The Open University has been transformational for many people and it will be transformational for many more. In Scotland, we recognise the value of education being open to all by providing free education. The Open University is important in delivering education to society as a whole.

Like Iain Gray, I struggled with the self-discipline of full-time study, although perhaps I did not struggle as hard as Iain Gray did. When I finally graduated, my mother was so relieved that she bought my girlfriend a present, because she knew that she had pushed me over the line.

Education must remain open to all, regardless of what road we take, and the Open University is a vital part of our learning infrastructure that supports that.

17:51

4 April 2019

S5M-16747 Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-16747, in the name of Michael Matheson, on stage 1 of the Transport (Scotland) Bill.

14:54
... ... ...
15:45

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

I declare my honorary presidency of the Scottish Association for Public Transport, which has a keen interest in the topic before us.

I will start with the Labour Party’s desire for perhaps every council in Scotland to take over the running of bus services and some of the financial implications of such a move. I have previously talked about the financial implications of Labour’’s proposals for bus passes for the under-25s, and these proposals are equally improbable. The general principle is that, if a franchise is taken away from a business, that business must be compensated not with one year’s profit but with one year’s revenue. That is £700 million or £800 million straight away.

Next, we should take a look at the accounts of Lothian Buses—which is, I should immediately say, an excellent company. Indeed, 100 years ago, my great-uncle Alex was the cabinet member of Edinburgh council with responsibility for it, so it is all probably down to him. What is the capitalisation for Lothian Buses, which covers about 10 per cent of Scotland’s population? The answer, which can be found in the accounts as at 31 December 2017, is £147 million. If I factor that up—which I accept is a very crude way of working and is open to being criticised, but I have nothing better—we get a figure of £1.5 billion. If we then add the £700 million, we are talking about £2.2 billion.

I accept that that is the ceiling, which we certainly would not reach and could not exceed, but it illustrates the general point that, although there are a lot of numbers to look at, there has been almost no talk about those numbers. There is, of course, profit—the dividend comes back—but we need the capitalisation in the first place. It is also worth saying that a local authority would need to buy vehicles either from existing bus companies or from elsewhere, and I suspect that the existing bus companies would not give it a huge discount, given that it would be, in effect, a forced sale. The Labour Party is perfectly entitled to pursue its proposals, but I urge it to produce some numbers based on something more than my—to be blunt—20 minutes of research using the accounts of Lothian Buses—which, I repeat, is an excellent company that I use from time to time with my bus pass.

Colin Smyth: The member has, in effect, slated the idea of local authorities being able to set up bus companies in an unrestricted way, but does he support the Government’s plan to allow them to set up such companies only to meet unmet need? If so, exactly how many local authorities does he think are going to do that?

Stewart Stevenson: I am very clear that the Government’s proposals are good and worthy of support, and there are other proposals from the Labour Party to which I must say to the member that I am not closing my mind. Nevertheless, I must point out to him that, to gain support from across the Parliament, he will have to provide some numbers for the investment and the capitalisation that would be required as well as for the liabilities that would be taken on, particularly in relation to pensions as people were brought across from commercial companies under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981. I simply urge the member to produce some numbers, because he might then persuade more of us who have yet to be persuaded.

On the bus improvement partnerships, it is fair to say that the previous voluntary and compulsory partnerships have not delivered as I think we had all hoped when we passed the previous legislation. However, I know that the bus companies are cautiously supportive of the new proposals, which is only reasonable, and I am certainly prepared to be cautiously supportive of them, too.

I think that we can do more on bus lanes. It should be compulsory for all bus lanes to operate 24 hours a day. We should also enforce them better. Once we do that, bus journey times will be consistent and people would rely on them more.

On parking, it is important that we respect the needs of those with reduced mobility, particularly those who are blind, who may walk into vehicles that are parked on pavements because they simply do not see them. Dropped kerbs are an issue for blind people, too, because they need a clear delineation between pavement and road.

On loading and unloading, I make a rather obvious suggestion: someone should be able to load and unload only if they have an indicator on their windscreen that is adjusted to show at what time they parked the vehicle. That is done in other countries, by the way—there is nothing particularly novel about that.

In conclusion, I will mention the workplace parking levy. Like others, I have not seen the proposed amendment, and the whips have not yet approached me to tell me what I have to say or do on the subject. However, I will say this: there are different ways of introducing such a levy. I encourage John Finnie to consider that I am reluctant to support any measure that puts a cost on individual citizens but I might be prepared to support a measure that puts the cost on those who provide the parking. In other words, if the charge is on companies, that is fair enough, but if the charge is on individuals, that is a much more difficult ask for me.

I have no hesitation in saying that I will support this excellent bill come decision time tonight.

15:51

2 April 2019

S5M-16697 Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): Our next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-16697, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, at stage 1.

14:30
... ... ...
15:24

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

With the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, we showed leadership in tackling the scourge of climate change, and we can and will do so again with our Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill. I deliberately say that it is “our” bill rather than the Government’s bill because in a Parliament of minorities, the Government is merely the midwife; we must all be the bill’s parents.

In 2009, the Parliament united to support our bill, and as we consider whether to support the general principles of the new bill, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has shown the way by unanimously agreeing its report. That does not mean that any of us has resiled from the detailed differences that we will explore as the bill proceeds, but we have to put some of our differences on hold in order to agree the next steps, and that will continue to be true throughout the bill’s passage.

For my part, I have already written two stage 2 amendments—I saw the cabinet secretary flinch when I said that. One is to put into the bill the zero carbon target that is implicit within it, and the other is to add to the long title a reference to the world’s need to restrict global temperature rise to 1.5°C. I cannot see any way that we could make it legally enforceable in those terms, but others may do so.

It is vital that we continue to challenge one another and ourselves on every proposal, including the ones that I have just described, but in the end we must return to agreement if we are to succeed in moving our fellow citizens with us to protect our planet and all life that depends on it. That means that we must be prepared for compromise, but it does not require us to advertise what compromises we might contemplate before we actually make them.

In essence, we are writing a corporate plan for our country’s future—a model process, actions and method for other countries to follow. We are but a small speck on the globe’s surface, but that small speck can be the fulcrum over which we leverage others’ actions. However, a corporate plan is mere hot air if it is just a piece of paper. It has to lead to individual change. For that reason, I want to talk about some of the things that we in the Parliament can do—the practical things that we can do on the ground to contribute to reductions.

I will illustrate that. In my first full year in the Parliament, I claimed for 19,391 miles in a car at a rate of £49.03 per mile. [Laughter.]

Stewart Stevenson: It was 49.3p per mile. Did I say something different?

Members: You said “pounds”.

Stewart Stevenson: If only. Presiding Officer, are you not glad that everyone is listening to my every word? [Laughter.]

I also claimed what would have been £369.67 had I been able to use a senior railcard, as I now do. Therefore, 96 per cent of my travel costs were for car miles. In the year that has just ended, I claimed for 6,387 miles at 45p per mile and £2,707 for public transport. Only 51.5 per cent of my costs are for car miles now, and my mileage is less than a third of what it was in 2002-03.

Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con): I wonder what costs the member puts on democracy given the lack of representation that people in very rural constituencies who do not have the luxury of a train station might experience if their members were unable to visit them by car in order to represent them properly in Parliament.

Stewart Stevenson: My personal activity rate, measured by the number of surgeries and the number of entries in my diaries, was broadly the same in the year that has just ended as it was in 2002-03. If I can do it, others can. We also have modern technology. Why do we not do online video surgeries with our constituents so that they can engage with us without leaving home? That idea was just made up on the spur of the moment. I am talking about what we can do to set an example. I am not saying that everyone can do it.

Elaine Smith: Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I ask the member to forgive me. I will make a little more progress on cars, if I may.

The marginal cost of a car mile is falling steeply as hybrid propulsion becomes more pervasive, and for all-electric vehicles the fuel cost is now down to 3p per mile. I am going to write to the Presiding Officer at the end of this debate to suggest that we reduce our expenses per mile, initially from 45p per mile to 30p per mile, and that we commit to tapering it to zero by 2032, which coincides with our going electric, because the marginal cost of driving becomes almost zero.

We should also keep our cars for longer; I plan to keep mine for 10 years. I have a paperless office in the Parliament, which saves money. Other people can do that as well. [Interruption.] Okay, my speech is on paper—I have a 99.5 per cent paperless office. [Laughter.]

Neil Findlay: Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I will. I will regret it, but I will.

Neil Findlay: Would the member care to hazard a guess how many of the people who access the electric vehicles grant are from the lowest socioeconomic groups? I have tried to find that out from the Government, but I cannot get the information.

Stewart Stevenson: I will not hazard a guess. However, I know that there are a lot of electric vehicles out there, because there are 6,500 charging points in Scotland and, as time goes on, more vehicles will be available at cheaper prices. Let us hope that that happens sooner rather than later.

We are also encouraging active travel for our citizens. I propose that we stop allowing MSPs to claim for short taxi journeys—initially journeys of less than a mile, less than 1.5 miles by 2021 and less than 2 miles by 2026. I am going to write to the Presiding Officer about that, too.

I walked 81.3 miles in March. It is not very much—only 2.6 miles a day—but how far did everyone else in the chamber walk?

If we, as individuals, do some of those quite simple things, we can have credibility and a dialogue with the citizens of Scotland. I have given only a couple of examples. If I had another hour to speak, Presiding Officer—

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Which you do not have, thank you.

Stewart Stevenson: —I could give another 100 examples.

15:31

28 March 2019

S5M-16231 Misogyny, Racism, Harassment and Sexism Against Women

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-16231, in the name of Rhoda Grant, on condemnation of misogyny, racism, harassment and sexism. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament condemns misogyny, racism, harassment and sexism against women, especially in the working environment; considers that decades of policies to eradicate this have failed in some quarters, and notes calls for more to be done in public agencies to tackle the problem and to eradicate such damaging mistreatment once and for all across Scotland, in the Highlands and Islands, and beyond.

... ... ...
13:18

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

None of the behaviours that Rhoda Grant has described will ever, in any context, place or time, in public or private domains, be acceptable. In signing Rhoda Grant’s motion, I found myself agreeing with every single word of it. However, I do not think that it is a matter only for public agencies; there are a great deal of issues in the private sector as well, and I will make some reference to that.

I am not as well prepared as I would like to be with regard to the specifics of Rhoda Grant’s contribution, because I was not aware that that was to be her focus. It might have been helpful to have let me know that she was going to focus on that case, because I would have wished to respond in that regard. There is no discourtesy in my failing to engage directly with the detail. I am not wholly familiar with the case, and my shorthand did not enable me to take enough of it down. Do forgive me.

More than 30 years ago, a simple little thing illustrated to me attitudes in other people that I had not quite twigged. I recruited a systems analyst—a lady—who had been out of the job market for some time while she raised her family. I recruited her as a part-time member of staff. I assessed her as being highly competent, with good previous experience. In the computer industry, things move fast, so I agreed with her that I would pay for her to go on a full-time course for her first week, and I sent her on that course. My boss discovered that I had done that and I got quite severely criticised for spending money on a course for a part-time woman employee. I was absolutely shocked. It had never occurred to me to think in those terms and it was shocking to me that my boss did.

Let me take that example further. That person continued in her employment for several decades and then retired. On the day that she retired, she would not leave the office until 8 o’clock at night, because she wanted to complete the work that was in her in-tray. She was a dedicated, committed person, who, in her part-time employment, delivered much more than many male colleagues did in their full-time employment.

That is the sort of situation that we have had historically. It is a great shame that, to this day, we are in a position where the natural behaviour of too many of my gender in particular—Anas Sarwar is absolutely correct on that point—has not moved. That is a huge gender issue.

Until 1975, my wife, a highly paid professional lady, was not allowed to join her company’s pension scheme—something for which she continues to suffer today as she is in receipt of pension. This is a long-running issue.

On race and ethnicity, in my constituency we have a very diverse population. In Peterhead academy, 24 languages are spoken. When many of the people in the area initially came there from elsewhere, that created genuine difficulties—there was resistance and abuse of people. I commend Aberdeenshire Council—my party is not in the administration there, so I do so entirely honestly—which organised ways of getting the community to realise the value of that diversity and what people were contributing economically, socially and in every possible way. Today, I see the benefit of that.

Have we eradicated misogyny, racism, harassment and sexism? No—alas, no. However, the situation is dramatically different from where we were.

The word “eradicate” is used twice in the motion. I think that we must all work to eradicate these things. I have to say that I am a wee bit pessimistic that we will ever succeed, but we must never stop trying.

13:22

27 March 2019

S5M-16555 Climate Emergency

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-16555, in the name of Mark Ruskell, on climate emergency.

15:50
... ... ...
16:36

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

This 70-minute debate and the number of people who are here in the chamber mean that we, as human beings, will have emitted approximately 1,000 litres of carbon dioxide. All human activity has a price in climate terms, so it is important that we unite in seeking to deal with it.

Opinions on the subject are pretty uniform in saying that there is a problem. Taking the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 through Parliament as Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change 10 years ago fundamentally changed my attitude to life and everything.

Greta Thunberg is the flag bearer for the young generation, but she does not stand alone. Even an unlikely suspect, the United States Central Intelligence Agency, in its “Statement for the Record: 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community”, makes it clear that

“Climate hazards such as extreme weather ... are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security. Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.”

There is, therefore, the broadest possible spectrum of people who are for tackling the agenda, and we should respect that.

However, it also important that we do not imagine that all seven greenhouse gases must come down to zero. The economics and prioritisation that we must bring to the agenda are important. We must tackle the easy-to-reach low-hanging fruit first, and ensure that every pound that we spend delivers the maximum possible benefit.

Farming suffers in particular because of the way that the emissions inventory works. Farming gets no numerical benefit for its activity in forestry, for example, or for the substantial renewable energy that comes from wind farms on farmers’ fields. That is elsewhere in the inventory and that is fair enough. Peter Chapman is correct that farmers are part of the solution, so we should not talk ourselves into thinking that there is a major crisis in farming.

However, the IPCC made it clear in its report in October that there is a real and pressing crisis. It talked about the Arctic having no ice whatsoever: if all the ice in the world were to melt, the world’s seas would rise by 60 metres. Every single coastal town and city on the planet would be inundated. It is that serious.

However, lesser inundations come from lesser changes in the climate. 10 per cent of the ice melting is within practical consideration and would raise the seas by between 6m and 8m, which would cause many cities around the world to suffer. That is an economic problem, for sure, but it is also a real human problem. That is why it is right and proper that the Greens have brought the debate for us today.

Liam Kirkaldy in Holyrood magazine highlights some of the practical effects by talking about the effect of cyclone Idai on Beira, which is a city of half a million people. Every building in the city has been affected by the cyclone. That is not in and of itself part of the climate change problem, but it is the sort of thing that is happening with increasing frequency as the climate changes.

As we progress the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, it is important that we have vigorous debates such as today’s, but that we also decide unanimously, at the end of the day, on a programme for action. We might have to compromise to get to that, but if we unite we can deal with the issue.

16:41

26 March 2019

S5M-16542 South of Scotland Enterprise Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a stage 1 debate on motion S5M-16542, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill.

14:29
... ... ...
16:05

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

As the committee proceeded with its scrutiny of the bill, it was an absolute delight to have the opportunity to visit the south of Scotland.

My personal connections with the area are extremely limited. My grandfather was married in Eyemouth on 2 May 1890, but he came from West Lothian and his wife came from Northumberland, so I have no idea how that happened. My first visit was on 20 January 1952; I was five, and my father was preaching at the church in Leitholm. Maureen Watt might be interested to know that, in the late 1960s, I had the first yoghurt of my entire life, on the harbour at Kippford, while participating in the Scottish OK dinghy sailing championships. I did not do too well in the championships but I enjoyed the yoghurt.

A number of issues have come up in the debate. Alex Neil properly identified that the border area that the new agency will cover is not a single, cohesive, homogenous area. When the committee went to Galashiels, we got a different response to what is going on to that which we got when we went to Dumfries.

I say immediately that Gala was substantially easier to get to. We got on the train to Galashiels and then walked and got a taxi to the venue, and we were able to return on the train, on a midweek evening. As for Dumfries, if the committee had not previously realised the important need for infrastructure investment in the area, the journey to Dumfries—for me, at least, coming from the north of Scotland—perfectly illustrated that need. I was not persuaded that I could get back from Dumfries to Linlithgow—where I have a house in which I live during the parliamentary week—in the evening, so I had to drive from the north of Scotland all the way down to Dumfries and then back to Edinburgh.

That was a minor inconvenience for me, on a single occasion, but it perfectly illustrates the need for investment for the people who live and work in the area. Transport is an important issue, and I think that there is a consensus on the need to do something about it. The new agency can take a lead in promoting the issue, working with the regional transport partnership.

We have talked a lot about Highlands and Islands Enterprise. I think that Kenny Gibson and I are the only constituency members in the chamber whose constituencies cross the boundary between the Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise areas. Some 15 per cent of my electors are in the Highlands and Islands Enterprise area. As a constituency MSP who is exposed to both agencies, I see how markedly different the two agencies’ priorities and modes of operation are.

We are right to consider Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s way of operating as the model for the south of Scotland agency. It is clear, for example, that there is an important emphasis on social responsibility and social enterprise. HIE’s documentation talks about its being aim to

“Support social enterprise and community-led development through our Community Account Management programme”
.

I am not suggesting that that programme should be lifted, unchanged, to the Borders, but it is worth having a look at, especially given that the new agency is likely to be dealing with similar problems to those that were present at the time of the creation of the Highlands and Islands Development Board and, subsequently, HIE.

The Highlands area now has Inverness, which has been fundamentally transformed in the 50 or so years since my wife left her home territory. It is now a very significant regional conurbation with a strong economy, but that still leaves a lot of the Highlands needing support. Dumfries has no equivalent of Inverness, but we might hope that the intervention of the new body might get us there.

The way in which Highlands and Islands Enterprise works is fundamentally different from Scottish Enterprise. It has a different account management structure whose focus reaches much closer to community bodies and small enterprises in a way that Scottish Enterprise does not.

The fact that incomes are lower in the border areas is a key indicator of the need to do what is proposed. It is important, too, that we look at helping communities to make their own decisions. Highlands and Islands Enterprise allows community account management to help

“communities to ... identify and realise their aspirations”.

In other words, it is not centralised decision making—the Highlands telling them what to do. We do not want that model in the border counties either.

It is very important that the constitution of the board and the way in which it works ensure strong lines of accountability from the board back to its communities and strong channels for input from communities, to allow the board to be demonstrably responsive to them. That is quite different from the idea of a board that is representative. I want people with the greatest skills and people who understand and, preferably, live in the area concerned. I want people to be there not simply as representatives but because of their skills and to sustain accountability and responsiveness.

I will be happy to support the motion at decision time.

16:12

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