19 December 2001

Committee Debate: Budget Process 2002-03: Stage 2

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 19 December 2001

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

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Budget Process 2002-03: Stage 2

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): We now proceed to the Finance Committee debate. Des McNulty, the convener, is introducing the committee's report on stage 2 of the budget process.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I was entertained by John Young's description of finance in local government. It reminded that me that someone once said that there are three kinds of people in local government—those who can count and those who cannot.

Following Alasdair Morgan's remarks about Des McNulty, I shall be watching the latter's future with interest—although, right at the moment, it is elsewhere. Clearly an interest in money is the route to preferment. On the other hand, Mr Davidson suggested that we should take less interest in money. I suppose that a Tory can afford to say that. I wish David well on the back benches, and perhaps even further back at a later date.

I want to bring a seasonal note to the debate and to wish all members here, and all those who may be watching on the monitors, a very merry Christmas. Something quite important in relation to Christmas has just happened: I have made an exciting discovery. Previously, we had accountancy and economics; now we have brand-new spanking Liddellomics. It will be a popular event at children's parties everywhere this Christmas as it is one very impressive trick. We have heard Helen Liddell talking about how she can make £1 million disappear from our pockets, apparently without effort. Read GERS, see the show. However, as in magicians' performances everywhere, we will not see how the trick is done unless we stop looking where the performer wants us to look and instead see the hidden hand behind her back. It is Gordon Brown's.

I have a few things to say that are a little less frivolous. First, on capital, it is not at all clear from the Executive's figures how capital is deployed in the service of the Scottish Executive. When the Rural Development Committee was looking at its numbers, I found a mysterious £56 million, of which £42 million was cost of capital. No explanation was given as to what that was or where it had come from. I speculated that it represented an asset of perhaps half a billion pounds. Three weeks later, lo and behold, I was told that that was true. The point is that no assets and liabilities were expressed as they would have been on a public company's balance sheet. There was nothing to enable me to see from what assets and liabilities the capital charge that was expressed in the revenue part of the budget had come. That is not universal throughout the numbers that are presented to us, but it is all too common.

Public-private partnerships and private finance initiatives are another way of avoiding expressing what has happened to the figures and the way in which accounts are translated from capital into revenue. That is hard to track, harder to understand and impossible to justify. It goes slightly against the grain for me to praise the Scottish Prison Service, whose report came to hand today. However, the SPS is at least open and honest in relation to the PFI at Kilmarnock. Unfortunately, the running costs are expressed as £12,363,000, whereas in another part of the budget the same costs are some £40,000 less. The SPS maintains its record of being unable to provide accurate information, but at least the layout and expression of information in its report is useful.

I want to say a little about indirect taxation. The Scottish Parliament has no direct influence on indirect taxation. Nonetheless, the effects of the many indirect taxes introduced by Westminster are pervasive in the Scottish economy.

Iain Smith: Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry, but I am in my final minute.

Those effects are also pervasive in the budget. For example, the aggregates tax will increase the cost of building projects by 5 per cent, yet there is nothing in the budget that mentions that effect in the future. The document is already incomplete. The increase will come into effect in April if it is implemented. Fuel tax is another example. It fluctuates and rises, and there is no mention of it in the budget.

At the core of the debate is the fact that although we do not have direct influence on matters such as indirect or Westminster-led direct taxation, it is possible to influence those matters. The Northern Ireland Assembly unanimously agreed to make representations to Westminster on that subject and was successful in obtaining a derogation for Northern Ireland for the aggregates tax. Some people in some devolved administrations can stand up for the people. It is time that Labour and the Liberal Democrats stood up for the people of Scotland.


13 December 2001

S1M-2545 Scottish Prison Service

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 13 December 2001

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

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Scottish Prison Service

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a Scottish National Party debate on motion S1M-2545, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on the Scottish Prison Service, and on two amendments to that motion.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): It would be remiss of me not to welcome the support that Lord James Douglas Hamilton offered for Peterhead prison and the kind remarks that Maureen Macmillan made. I would also like to mention Richard Simpson, who will be a valuable addition to the front bench with his knowledge and experience; I know that he has a track record of supporting the work of Peterhead prison.

Continuing in that vein, I would like to welcome something, if not everything, in the minister's amendment. At the end of the amendment, the minister says:

"work to upgrade the estate must deliver prisons capable of providing sufficient humane and secure accommodation while delivering value for money."

Great stuff. Clearly and unambiguously, that gives paramouncy to what prisons do over what prisons cost. After the prevarication, distortions and errors—I use that word out of charity—in the evidence given by the head of the Scottish Prison Service to the Justice 1 Committee on 23 October, it is clear that ministers are not going to heed Cameron's single-minded focus on cost and are going to take a broader and more balanced view.

Running a public service like a business, as Tony Cameron has often said that he wishes to do, is to fail to understand that the dividends that we want from the service are societal, rather than fiscal. We want protection for society, punishment for the offender and reform of their future behaviour.

When, earlier this year, prison staff struck for the first time in 61 years, it reflected their lack of morale in the present circumstances. The Prison Service—I use that word advisedly—is in a state of some disarray because of the delays in taking essential decisions. Is there other evidence of morale problems? Yes. Ian Gunn, the governor of Peterhead prison, in answer to a committee question on 13 November on the delay in the estates review, said:

"The lack of a decision is draining for staff"—[Official Report, Justice 1 Committee, 13 November 2001; c 2753.]

To be fair, he went on to say that he did not think that it had affected morale.

However, the conversations that I have had with prison officers tell a very different story. When officers see a world-class facility kept in a state of uncertainty for an extended period and when the special skills that they have built up over seven years are devalued by their chief executive, who has made a statement to a parliamentary committee that was subsequently shown to have no basis in fact, it is no wonder that morale has plummeted.

I will provide a little illustration of the numbers that Lord James gave us—of the 162 graduates of Peterhead prison's rehabilitation programme, only six have returned. Tony Cameron should think on this: given that it costs £26,000 per year to keep someone in prison, that represents a saving of £2.5 million every year from Peterhead prison's success in reducing recidivism.

I support the SNP motion.


S1M-2546 Sea Fisheries

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 13 December 2001

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

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Sea Fisheries

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-2546, in the name of Ross Finnie, on sea fisheries, and on the two amendments to that motion.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I hope that Elaine Thomson did not suggest—as I thought that she did—that we will not get good fish stocks until we solve the problem of global warming. That would mean that we would have to wait a wee while.

I am sure that Rhona Brankin remembers the first speech that I made in Parliament on 14 June. [MEMBERS: "No."] She will remember it, because I will remind her. I spoke about fishing and the excellent work of my predecessor as member for Banff and Buchan. I note that he and many others spoke in the debate in the Palace of Westminster last Thursday, which started at 2.13 pm and finished at 7 pm. It is a matter of regret that our debate will be a mere 90 minutes—in fact, it will be less than that—when the industry is much more important in Scotland than it is down there.

There was good news in the Westminster debate. Elliot Morley said that he has "close and friendly contacts with the Scottish Executive".—[Official Report, House of Commons, 6 December 2001; Vol 376, c 561.]

I hope that Mr Morley will put flesh on those sentiments and that our minister gains leadership in the forthcoming negotiations. I say to Elaine Thomson that I am sure that Mr Morley would trust Mr Finnie with all UK votes. If not, why should Scotland and Mr Finnie trust Mr Morley with ours? There is a strong case.

Rhona Brankin: Does the member accept that if the SNP had its way and Scotland left the rest of the UK, Scotland would have less influence on fishing matters than even land-locked Austria, which has 10 votes?

Stewart Stevenson: I thank the former minister for that. I am aware—as she is—that an independent Scotland would have more votes in the European Union than it currently has as part of the delegation. Furthermore, those votes would always be cast in the Scottish interest. Many small countries in Europe are in a similar position.

Before I turn to my main point, I would like to mention an important matter to which the minister will be happy to respond—the west coast herring fishery. Since 1997, the quota has shrunk by 56.5 per cent and proposals for this year would mean a further year-on-year reduction of 17.5 per cent. That, like a number of other issues that have been raised in the debate, is apparently unjustified by the published science.

Will the minister give an assurance that he will fight that cut on the grounds of weak science? If it proves necessary, will he invoke the Hague preference? The skippers are unanimous that the stock is in good condition.

It would be a sorry occasion if I did not say something about the decommissioning scheme. There has been a 100 per cent over-subscription of the scheme—197 boats. Of those, 108 will get their money. There will be a lot of disappointment. That tells us a lot about morale in the industry.

Distributing the available quota over fewer boats will help—that must be given a modest welcome—but it is certainly not a conservation measure, despite what Mrs Winterton, the Tory spokeswoman in Westminster, thought. It is critical to long-term sustainability that we address conservation. Juvenile haddocks are out there in great numbers and if we do not have a fleet to catch them, we will not have a viable industry.

Elaine Thomson: Will the member give way?

The Deputy Presiding Officer: The member is closing.

Stewart Stevenson: I am out of time. The EU is indicating increased support for compensated tie-up schemes. We must have scientific results so that we can consult fishermen, argue the case here and elsewhere and bid for funds. Conservation is about conserving communities and fishermen as much as it is about conserving fish. I ask the ministers to go for it, to take the lead in Europe and to stand up for Scotland.


29 November 2001

S1M-2487 Local Government Elections (Proportional Representation)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 29 November 2001

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

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Local Government Elections
(Proportional Representation)

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The first item of business is an SNP debate on motion S1M-2487, in the name of Tricia Marwick, on proportional representation in local government elections, and one amendment to that motion.


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The Deputy Presiding Officer: The last speaker in the open debate is Stewart Stevenson.


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Last, but I hope not least, Presiding Officer.

The Lib Dems have set themselves an ambitious target, which is to deliver PR in a longer time scale than the 100 years it took the Labour party to deliver a Scottish Parliament. How goes that project so far?

Ian Jenkins (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: A wee bit later.

Any project has three parts: a beginning, a middle and an end. The end is the most important. Perhaps we have seen the beginning. The Liberals say that they support PR. Mike Rumbles even says that it is a principle. Well, fancy that. They are probably in the middle—or perhaps it is a muddle—because they will not seize the initiative and build a coalition that will deliver at the end of this project.

The philosopher Joubert said:

"It is better to debate an issue without deciding it than to decide an issue without debating it."

We know which part of that the Liberals adhere to. Their aim is clearly to debate, to debate, to debate. Perhaps Mike Rumbles gave the game away when he preferred to use the word wait, which he did three times.

We may have seen a Liberal idea whose time has come and, surprisingly enough, it is PR. John McAllion referred to Asquith, and I shall refer to Lloyd George, who succeeded Asquith in power. Lloyd George started to sell peerages in the 1920s. I have a confession to make: my father's cousin bought a peerage from Lloyd George. [MEMBERS: "Shame."] Absolutely disgraceful.

Dennis Canavan (Falkirk West): What did he pay for it?

Stewart Stevenson: He paid £25,000. That was PR in the Liberal party: patronage rewarded, an idea adopted wholesale by new Labour. Let us hope that we have success in the modern PR that is being adopted by new Labour.

The PR of patronage rewarded is corruption in politics. It is time to remember why we are all here. I think that we are all democrats. It is not for riches, nor for glory, nor for personal self-aggrandisement that we should be here, but to represent a population who believe in a democracy that can deliver for them and that they can influence. That population has a fading confidence in us, to judge by the turnout at elections. We can rebuild confidence only by giving people the opportunity to elect into power the people that they vote for.

Let us remember what the word democracy means. It derives from the Greek word demos, which means the people. If we do not look to the people, trust the people and empower the people, we will lose the people.


S1M-2436 Audiology Services

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 29 November 2001

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

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Audiology Services

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The members' business debate is on motion S1M-2436, in the name of Mike Rumbles, on digital hearing aids and a review of audiology services.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that the Scottish Executive is conducting an audiology services review; recognises that many hard of hearing and profoundly deaf people are still provided with out-dated analogue hearing aids; is aware that new digital hearing aids can improve the quality of life for those who need them; realises that digital hearing aids are not widely available on the NHS in Scotland and are expensive to purchase privately; understands that the cost can be dramatically reduced by a system of bulk-buying; further notes that such a scheme has been introduced into 20 NHS hospitals in England, and considers that the Scottish Executive should make a commitment to provide digital hearing aids on the NHS in Scotland.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate Mike Rumbles on securing the debate and I congratulate Robert Brown on reminding us that the debate is not really about digital hearing aids, but about people and how the lack of appropriate available and affordable technology affects their lives. We should remember that nearly 750,000 people in Scotland are hard of hearing and that perhaps 500,000 might benefit from the technology that is the subject of the debate.

In my business career, blind people and deaf people worked for me. They were highly skilled graduates who worked in computer technology. The blind people coped very well, but the deaf people—who had the burden of not having a visible disability—found it much harder to deal with the world in which they had to operate. Therefore, deaf people and people who are hard of hearing require our support and encouragement.

Digital hearing aids have been available on the NHS for many years; many people would benefit from them, but only two health boards in Scotland prescribe them. As Mike Rumbles said, one of those health boards is Highland Health Board, which has a budget of £100,000 for audiology. I understand that that board prescribes such aids only for children and that it has yet to extend its support to the adult population, but provision for children is good practice. Fife Health Board is piloting a scheme and focusing on audiologists.

Disparity of provision puts many people at a severe disadvantage. A constituent of mine attended a clinic in Elgin—part of Grampian Health Board's area. She could not obtain a digital hearing aid, although her condition was assessed as being such that she would benefit from one. Other people at the same clinic, who were from Inverness, were in a different position, even though they had a similar condition. That represents postcode prescribing at its worst and we should do something about it. The pilot schemes that have been established south of the border show that such aids can improve people's hearing and quality of life.

I am lucky; my hearing is tested every two years as part of the renewal of my pilot's licence, and I can see the deterioration in my hearing every two years. Fortunately, I am not yet hard of hearing, although my wife suggests that I am hard of heeding from time to time. We hope that the Executive—which is clearly not hard of hearing—will not be hard of heeding.


21 November 2001

S1M-2459 Sexual Offences (Procedure and Evidence) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 21 November 2001

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

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Sexual Offences (Procedure and Evidence) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The main business today is a stage 1 debate on motion S1M-2459, in the name of Jim Wallace, on the general principles of the Sexual Offences (Procedure and Evidence) (Scotland) Bill.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I start by thanking the convener of the Justice 2 Committee for her welcome when I joined the committee. I was not just joining her committee; I was joining a committee for the first time. She has been a model and I have followed her example on every possible occasion—

Members: Sook.

Christine Grahame (South of Scotland) (SNP): Sit down now.

Stewart Stevenson:—so all my faults are Pauline McNeill's as well.

I want to talk about the climate of fear among potential complainers—those who have been victims of rape. Bill Aitken gently suggested that the perception in society is not really part of the problem that should be solved by legislation. However, he later acknowledged that there is a perception that the legal system lets down complainers. That point is entirely valid.

We heard in evidence that there appeared to be ambiguities about whether judges or prosecutors should protect the way in which vulnerable witnesses are dealt with. Those ambiguities remain unresolved, but they give adequate justification for changing not only the law but the implementation of the law.

We heard evidence of improper cross-examination. In one example, a forensic witness was asked to hold up the garment that the complainer had been wearing so that forensic evidence could be seen in the court. The nature of the garment was thus shown to the jury and the cross-examiner sought to imply that the wearer was not a reliable witness.

Roseanna Cunningham laid out some of the difficulties for the legal profession of court-appointed solicitors. No injustice is inflicted on an accused who is denied the right to represent himself. Bill Aitken put it aptly: an accused who is his own solicitor has a fool for a solicitor. Familiarity with court procedure and language means that a professional can represent the accused better than anyone else can. The fact that John Anderson had success in court in representing himself does not exclude the fact that he may well have been better off with a professional solicitor.

Much has been made of the situation in which an accused refuses to co-operate with a solicitor. However, we should acknowledge that a failure of that kind is the accused's choice. If he is disadvantaged, it is because he has chosen to be disadvantaged. If he is disadvantaged by being incompatible with the solicitor who has been allocated to his case, again, that is his choice—he has chosen not to select a solicitor with whom he would be compatible. We are not removing the right of the accused to be defended; we are allowing him to make choices about his defence. One of those choices is that he can allow the court to appoint his solicitor.

Would an amicus curiae be an alternative, as George Lyon thinks? If that person is simply present to intervene when a complainer is examined in court, will that not change the way in which juries view the evidence of that complainer? Will it not give credence to the idea that the complainer has a justified complaint?

George Lyon: May I clarify what I said? I did not state that an amicus curiae was an alternative. I suggested that, before introducing any more measures, the minister might look into how the idea might work.

Stewart Stevenson: I thank George Lyon for that clarification, which I am prepared to accept. I was merely making the point that he would leave the option open, whereas I would close it now.

Let me give an example. If we protect only the complainer, the defendant could cross-examine a young daughter—perhaps of 16—of that complainer. That would be a surrogate for interviewing and impressing power on the complainer.

The existence of an amicus curiae changes the nature of the trial. It gives support to the complaint. We do not know in what way a jury is influenced, because no research has considered that. However, we can, I think, conclude that the jury's view of the evidence would be changed by the amicus curiae. We should not pursue the idea.


15 November 2001

S1M-2260 Rural Economy

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 15 November 2001

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

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Rural Economy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The final item of business today is a member's business debate on motion S1M-2260, in the name of Annabel Goldie, on the rural economy. The debate will conclude without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the economic challenges confronting the rural and more remote parts of Scotland and recognises the specific implications of the Aggregates Tax for the quarrying industry in those areas.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate Annabel Goldie on securing this debate.

As Elaine Murray declined to explain how the environment will benefit from the tax, allow me to do so. The answer is simple: quarries will close in rural areas of Scotland, which will remove the inconvenience of having people work in them. If we clear people off the land, we will not damage the environment in those areas. That is not a helpful way of protecting the environment.

I turn to a matter that affects my constituency, Banff and Buchan. The Peterhead Bay Authority has a project, which is in the late stages of planning, to construct a breakwater for the harbour. We are talking about 1 million tonnes of new aggregates. We cannot reuse the aggregates that are already in circulation, as we require a particular specification for the breakwater, which will dissipate the energy of the waves in a particular way. A solid wall will simply reflect the energy into the harbour and do more damage than good. As a result of the tax, my constituents will pay £1.6 million plus VAT of additional tax. The national insurance reduction is 0.1 per cent of the employers' national insurance contributions, so in my constituency we will receive in return—thank you very much—£50,000 to £60,000 per annum.

The effect of the tax is to transfer £1.6 million from the Banff and Buchan constituency. The constituency is not overburdened with advantages. Peterhead and Fraserburgh are, respectively, the largest and second largest towns in Scotland that have no railway station—we have no railways. With the closure of quarries, we will have even more traffic on our inadequate roads as aggregates are brought to the breakwater project. That is if the project goes ahead at all, because the £1.6 million in tax has to be paid upfront and may destroy the whole rate of return.

If the project does not go ahead in Peterhead bay, we will lose a further £25 million project that the local authority is likely to sponsor in the area. The economic effect of the tax in one constituency is dramatic and totally adverse. I am confident that that situation will be repeated throughout Scotland. Money is being transferred from a rural area simply to pay for bankers to create new jobs in Edinburgh and other cities.

What of the sustainability fund? The House of Commons library tells me that it will be £35 million—less than 10 per cent of what is raised. There will not even be the opportunity to transfer back into rural areas a reasonable amount of the money that is raised by the new tax.

To put it simply, we have to follow the Northern Ireland model. Politicians should stand up for Scotland and look for a derogation that will not damage the economy. Let us encourage the Executive to talk to its colleagues in Westminster and to get the same for Scotland.


14 November 2001

S1M-2438 Mental Health Law

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 14 November 2001


[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

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Mental Health Law

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-2438, in the name of Susan Deacon, on renewing mental health law, together with an amendment to that motion.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Presiding Officer, thank you for chopping off the last page of my speech.

I join the prevailing consensus in the chamber and welcome the Millan report and the Executive's response to it. I cannot bring the kind of experience that Margaret Jamieson brought as a psychiatric nurse when she made her speech, but I have a bit of family history. My mother chaired the local mental health committee in Cupar in Fife for between 15 and 18 years. My father was a general practitioner and a physician in the local psychiatric hospital. According to my father's express wishes, the very house in which I was brought up was sold to the health board in Fife and is now a psychiatric day unit. My best pal's father was the medical superintendent at the local psychiatric hospital, and by some strange coincidence, when I met my future wife at university, her father was a psychiatric nurse at Craig Dunain, as was her sister.

For my part, as a bored school student at the age of 17, I left school early to work in the local psychiatric hospital as a nurse in one of the last locked wards. We had in that ward schizophrenics; people suffering from manic depression, general paralysis of the insane from alcohol abuse, and tertiary syphilis with GPI; an accident victim who was unable to communicate with anyone; and Willie. I will protect his identity by describing him simply as Willie. I will come back to him in a minute.

My experience of that ward underpinned many of my attitudes to social issues subsequently. We had 32 beds. We were working 108 hours each fortnight, and we were paid £6 10/- a week, less stoppages. On one particular occasion, I remember working the double shifts that we worked on Saturday and Sunday—a full weekend—with just two nurses, one of whom was me with the barest of bare experience; the other had 18 months' experience. We were the medical ward in the psychiatric hospital, and that weekend we had three deaths. It was not an unusual occurrence.

The key point that struck me about being in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s was the social isolation of the people in the ward. During the period of just under a year when I worked there, we had one single visit, from relatives of a patient who was seriously ill and expected to die. It is on that basis that I return to Willie. Willie was what in some ways we could only describe as our trusty. He went for our cigarettes. He helped us to clean the ward. He sometimes made our tea. He did not have a mental illness, nor a personality disorder. He certainly had a learning difficulty, and perhaps a learning disability.

The continued inclusion of learning disability in the proposed legislation causes me the most concern. I recognise the difficulty in taking that term out but, in her consideration of the proposed bill, I urge the minister to consider that issue. It is a social issue at least as much as a psychiatric issue.

Along with Robin Harper, I feel that the role of advocacy is of great importance, particularly in the area of learning disability. As Richard Simpson mentioned in his well-informed and thoughtful contribution, reciprocity is one of the jewels in the crown of the proposed legislation.

In conclusion, let us give the bill any name we like, but let us include the word "care" because that is what the bill is about.


08 November 2001

S1M-2409 Foot-and-mouth Disease (Public Inquiry)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 8 November 2001

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

Foot-and-mouth Disease
(Public Inquiry)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): Good morning. The first item of business is a Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party debate on motion S1M-2409, in the name of Alex Fergusson, on a public inquiry into foot-and-mouth disease, and two amendments to that motion.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): The SNP amendment calls, properly, for a focus on the regions that were most affected by the outbreak. However, as Rhoda Grant said, the financial impact spreads far beyond the areas where sheep and cattle had to be slaughtered as a result of infection or proximity to it.

I will make one or two points about Scotland north of the Forth-Clyde axis. In a sense, we were comparatively fortunate that the outbreak happened in spring when the flow of beasts and sheep was north to south. In the autumn, a move to the north would have been in full flood and the effects on the economy of the north could have been considerably worse.

We had some narrow squeaks. What turned out to be frostbitten feet on sheep at Fyvie had us on tenterhooks for several weeks. Travel by a farmer in the far north to infected farms in the south was punished, properly, by slaughter of his animals.

However, freedom from infection does not mean freedom from impact. Our marts were shut. Sheep that were over-wintering could not be moved or sold and the beasts could not move on to the parks that were occupied by those sheep. Winter feed became exhausted while the beasts remained isolated in the barns from the new grass, which was being eaten by the hoggets. The spring export market, which would usually take 70 per cent of the crop, was closed.

When movement became possible, the restrictions to lifts from a single location meant that the small number of over-wintering sheep on a typical farm represented a transport cost per head that was far in excess of the market value of those sheep. We moved from vets destroying stock on disease grounds to farmers destroying stock on economic grounds. All this was happening hundreds of miles from the nearest infection.

Ross Finnie: Will Stewart Stevenson be gracious enough to concede that, at all stages, the movement controls that were imposed and the extent to which they were unfolded was done consistently on veterinary advice in relation to the risk associated with foot-and-mouth disease?

Stewart Stevenson: I am happy to accept that. I acknowledge that it was entirely proper that those restrictions were in place. I am not disagreeing with Ross Finnie; I am highlighting the fact that the impact in areas far from the disease was severe, just as it was in the areas that were directly affected. I thank the minister for that intervention.

Alex Fergusson referred to consequential compensation. Transport company vehicles, already suffering from exceptionally high fuel prices, lay idle in their yards. When relaxation came at last, the burden of disinfection was another problem for the hauliers; it was a double whammy for them.

Tourists, encouraged to do so, properly, by Government campaigns, stayed away from rural areas in droves. Some unscrupulous landowners in the Highlands even printed off official-looking signs from the Highlands Council website and used them to instruct people to keep off their land. Only the individual action of a council employee, in the past month, has seen many of those signs removed.

In my constituency, day visits to the area are a staple of our tourist industry. Already hard hit by the closure of toilets throughout Aberdeenshire, which nudged older visitors to other areas, tourist attractions such as the excellent lighthouse museum at Fraserburgh, which celebrates the work of the Stevenson family, have had to lay off staff.

The effects of the crisis will last for years. That is not to say that there are easy solutions—we do not pretend that there are—but that we must work together to win fairness and justice for those who are affected across a range of industries and throughout Scotland. Politicians, industry and the general public must work together to learn the lessons, minimise the chance of recurrence and improve our response to the disease. We can do that only by working in public.

Elaine Murray says that a public inquiry would take too long.

Dr Murray rose—

Stewart Stevenson: At least, Margaret Beckett says that it would take too long. If it takes too long, that is because there is a big problem and we must learn big lessons. We need a proper, rigorous interchange, in public, between investigators and those giving evidence. That is why we seek a public inquiry—convened in Scotland, for Scotland—to discover the facts in partnership, to develop solutions together and to rebuild public trust.


07 November 2001

S1M-2406 Chhokar Inquiries

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 7 November 2001


[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

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Chhokar Inquiries

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): Our main item of business today is a debate on motion S1M-2406, in the name of Jim Wallace, on the report into the investigation, legal proceedings and family liaison arrangements in the case of the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar, and two amendments to that motion.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Today's debate has focused on resources—on their quantity and quality and how we deploy them. Value for money is the Government watchword these days. That means balancing efficiency against effectiveness.

In this sorry tale we have seen neither efficiency nor effectiveness. The Chhokar family's loss remains unrequited. It is not for nothing that members of the Sikh religion proudly carry the name Singh, meaning lion-hearted. This family has indeed had to have a lion heart.

Some good things are going on, but—alas—only for criminals. Kenny Gibson raised the issue of the number of cases that are marked for no proceedings. I have examined the numbers. I am sorry that Jack McConnell is not in the chamber to verify my figures, as he is the only Labour member who can count. I will pass them across if the minister wishes to see them.

Can members believe that, if current trends are maintained, in 15 years' time—although I suggest it is unlikely—100 per cent of cases that are referred to the Crown Office will be dealt with either by non-court disposals or by no proceedings? Is that good for justice or for families such as the Chhokars, who have been let down by justice? No. Given Labour's stewardship of the legal system in the past four years, however, that is the stark reality.

If my numbers are projected, by 2016, 72 per cent of cases will receive a non-court disposal and 28 per cent will be subject to no proceedings. Furthermore, by 2011, the district courts will receive no referrals at all. Those are the trends against which we are dealing with these problems.

We hear that there is more money; perhaps that is true. Let me strip back new Labour's clothes. By coincidence, on 17 July 1998, Jim Wallace asked Donald Dewar for information about Scottish Office expenditure. In 1993, the Crown Office received £50 million, an amount that descended gently on a real-terms basis to a projected £46 million in 2001-02.

In evidence to a meeting of the Justice 1 Committee and the Justice 2 Committee, the Lord Advocate said that he wants a service that is

"professional, independent, efficient, well resourced, well managed and has the confidence of the community."—[Official Report, Justice 1 Committee and Justice 2 Committee, 19 September 2001, c 104.]

In a thoughtful and well-informed speech, Gordon Jackson said that we should front-load the system. However, the numbers suggest that the service is not yet well resourced and that we do not have a grip on it.

In light of the events surrounding the Chhokar case, we can be sure that some important segments of our community have little confidence in our justice system. The irony of Jim Wallace's question to Donald Dewar was that it was asked in the context of the document "Serving Scotland's Needs". In the context of the Chhokar case, we have not served Scotland's needs well or the needs of the Sikh community and our other minority communities.

We have talked about the 110-day rule, which is a genuine metric target against which our justice system should be measured. We have heard about the pressures that exist in the justice system and that are created by that target. We should use it positively to ensure that the system gets resources. Today, the Executive should tell us that the 110-day rule is not under threat and that there are no plans to change it.

When our legal system is good, it is very good. When it is bad, it is very bad. In this case, it has been very bad.


01 November 2001

S1M-2142 Inverness Airport

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 1 November 2001

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

... ... ...

Inverness Airport

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): Members' business today is a debate on motion S1M-2142, in the name of Margaret Ewing, on Inverness airport and links with hub airports.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the huge significance of direct links between Inverness Airport and London hub airports to the economic and social well-being of the Highlands and Islands, particularly in relation to tourism, exports, the business economy and employment; expresses its grave concern at the possible loss of landing slots at Gatwick; seeks not only to have such links preserved but also to have similar slots at Heathrow restored, and believes that the Scottish Executive should pursue these matters vigorously with the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the European Commission.


... ... ...


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

I am once again the meat in the sandwich of the Ewing family. I recall an occasion, immediately after a general election in the 1990s, when I was the pilot who was sent to collect Winnie and Margaret from Inverness airport to get them to a press conference in Edinburgh. I enjoyed the experience, but I regretted not being at the party; I had to be sober to fly the plane.

Inverness currently needs a PSO. I regret that. I look forward to the day when Inverness is so successful and vibrant that there will be no question but that the facilities required to operate services to it will automatically be made available commercially, but that is not the case today.

There have been a number of threats to air transport in Scotland over the years. They have not all been the responsibility of Governments—far from it. Some 0.1 per cent or less of the air transport capacity in the United Kingdom is controlled in Scotland. We are therefore entirely peripheral to decision making on that front. Inverness airport has an excellent piece of tarmac and it is located far enough away from the surrounding towns to be environmentally friendly. It has lots of good things going for it, but climate is not one of them.

One of the problems that Inverness suffers from is that it is one of the very few airfields of its capacity that does not have an instrument landing system, or ILS. It suffers an undue degree of diversions, mainly to RAF Kinloss. Channel Express, which operates a nightly freight service to Inverness, flies to RAF Kinloss—not to Inverness airport—to maintain reliability. Lest we think that an ILS is the prerogative of big airfields, the Civil Aviation Authority website shows that Exeter, Dundee, Norwich and Londonderry all have an ILS. Instead of building wonderful new terminal buildings, which are great for the passengers on a transient basis, we should invest the small amount of money that is required to improve the facilities for airlines. The tower was relocated so that the airport terminal building could be rebuilt. The facilities for approaching Inverness are comparable technically to those at Barra. That might surprise members.

The PSO is the subject of the debate today; it is important that we preserve it. I will illustrate what matters. The most extreme airfield into which I have flown—as a passenger in a 100-seat jet—is the airfield at Juliaca, in southern Peru, which is at an altitude of 11,500ft. It is a gravel strip. There is no terminal building; there are just taxis along the edge of the field. The core is providing the facilities to get the aircraft in.

I am very fond of Inverness airport. It was the second airport that I ever flew into. That was on 31 December 1969, when I was returning to celebrate the new year. Let us hope that the people in Inverness can once again celebrate—I will be happy to join them—when they get the PSO that is vital to the airport.


25 October 2001

S1M-2279 Ocean Recovery

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 25 October 2001

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

... ... ...

Ocean Recovery

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S1M-2279, in the name of Tavish Scott, on the Edinburgh declaration for ocean recovery.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the Edinburgh Declaration for Ocean Recovery to be put to WWF's Oceans Recovery Campaign conference on 23 October 2001; agrees that our seas are in urgent need of sensible and sensitive management if they are to support abundant fish stocks, viable populations of marine wildlife and thriving coastal communities, and calls on the Scottish Executive to work with Her Majesty's Government, devolved bodies and all stakeholders to develop a co-ordinated stewardship strategy for our seas.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate Tavish Scott on initiating the debate.

Newton's third law says that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. If only the complex ecology of the oceans were so simple and we could see that one action had an identifiable side effect. Of course, the matter is not simple.

I share Tavish Scott's view that conservation of our coastal communities is an important objective, but paramount and underpinning a future for our planet is conservation of the oceans. For many years, we have heard our forests referred to as the earth's lungs. I suggest that our oceans have been used by the human race as the earth's kidneys and by industry as the earth's bowels, much to the oceans' disbenefit.

Bruce Crawford referred to Sellafield and the MOX plant. By coincidence, I brought a group of seven Norwegian teachers to the Parliament today. They sat in the VIP gallery during question time this afternoon. The first question that they asked me was on my reaction to the new Norwegian Government's intention, stated in today's press, to sue the UK Government over contamination of the North sea from Sellafield. I suspect that we in the Scottish public are playing catch-up with our Norwegian friends over our concerns for the ocean.

Occasionally, a bit of serendipity comes into play. During the recess, I had a pleasant visit to my local distillery—yes, it was very pleasant, Winnie. I discovered some interesting information. Whisky is the basis of an important rural industry—that I knew. Malt mash is a by-product of the brewing process that leads to the distillation of whisky—that I also knew. However, I did not know that malt mash is increasingly being converted into fish food. About 20 per cent of farmed salmon eats the waste product of Scotland's other excellent product, whisky. That is displacing the primary source of feeding for salmon in farms—fish-meal that is prepared from industrial fishing in the North sea, mainly for pout and sand eel. They are the food stocks on which cod depend.

Mr McGrigor rose—

Stewart Stevenson: I am running out of time; I would love to give way.

The whisky industry is helping to save the cod. I say to Jamie McGrigor that I have been told that 5 tonnes of industrial fish yield only 1 tonne of salmon, so it is good that whisky by-products are being used. In the whole food chain, the malt that we grow for whisky helps to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. Whisky and cod are helping each other.


03 October 2001

S1M-2278 A Forward Strategy for Scottish Agriculture

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 3 October 2001


[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...

"A Forward Strategy for Scottish Agriculture"

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): Our next item of business is the debate on motion S1M-2278, in the name of Ross Finnie, on "A Forward Strategy for Scottish Agriculture", and two amendments to the motion.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): "A Forward Strategy for Scottish Agriculture" is a rattling good read: light, frothy and unchallenging. It might have come from the Mills & Boon school of strategy. As the minister highlighted, the report outlines 54 action points, although he asks us to read it as a whole. I suspect that I know why he does not want us to focus on the detail.

I have been responsible for strategy in a major company and I would apply a number of tests to assess the value of any strategy. Those tests are very simple. Will the strategy change anything? Does it give a timetable over which any change will take place? Does it provide resources for change? Does it allocate responsibility to the parties who must make the changes? Does it have agreement to action? On all those tests, the Executive's forward strategy, in so far as it may be described as a strategy at all, fails. The minister described it as a vision. Perhaps wisely, he avoided using the word "strategy" in many of his remarks.

The strategy reminds me of the reply that a hot-air balloon pilot got when, on descending through cloud, he asked a farmer in the field below, "Where am I?" The farmer replied, "You're 100ft above my field." In other words, it is accurate, but not much use. If only the Executive strategy was a mere 100ft away from the answer. We need less hot air, more action, a great deal more urgency and more relevance.

Let us consider some of the detail underpinning the Executive's strategy—the 54 action points. Five of them address beasts, four address sheep but none addresses pigs, fowl or crops. In fact, pigs are not mentioned until an annexe at page 49 of the 60 pages. Fourteen of the action points are for farmers to take, 15 indicate further reviews and 21 tell us that people and organisations other than the Executive will be taking action.

Most frightening, there are eight action points that I can categorise only as motherhood and apple pie. Let me give members an example. Action point 45 states:

"The farming, food and environment sectors must work together to identify new ways of protecting and enhancing our environment while ensuring the competitiveness of our farming businesses."

Even the SNP cannot disagree with that. However, the document contains no action, no resources and no timetable. It is motherhood, plain and simple. Those who are agin it should stand up now.

I concede that there is one action point with a date. Action point 41 would establish another working group, to report six months after having been set up. I am delighted by the minister's announcement that the group has now been set up and I expect its report to be delivered to us by the end of March.

Ross Finnie said that we must not merely focus on immediate problems. I agree. However, unless we can travel round the current problems we will not reach the future—there will be nae farms for the future. A vision for the future—which the document might just be, sometimes—provides only a context for a strategy. It does not deliver one.

In answer to Alex Fergusson, the minister stated that the Executive still had to develop detail on land management contracts. That is typical of the way in which the document deals with things.

I am delighted to hear that the minister will meet local enterprise companies tomorrow. In that area, at least, we are moving ahead.

We share the minister's objective of delivering a viable farming sector. I do not doubt his good faith, but I doubt that this document represents a strategy. I doubt that we know when it will deliver. The document does not suggest that action will be taken with the sense of urgency that the industry requires. To be kind—a word that the minister used—I wish that I could share the minister's optimism, but I cannot. Many people in the industry remain dispirited and downhearted.


26 September 2001

S1M-2245 Voluntary Sector

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 26 September 2001


[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...

Voluntary Sector

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-2245, in the name of Jackie Baillie, on Executive support for the voluntary sector, and two amendments to the motion.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): There is clearly a wide welcome in the chamber for the initiatives to set up councils for volunteering and for volunteering development. The key question remains: are volunteers merely the cannon fodder for salaried staff in the voluntary sector? I was encouraged to hear Jackie Baillie say that there is £39 million for the voluntary sector; that tells us just how important it is.

I found much to agree with in Annabel Goldie's comments, as she pled for diversity through the voluntary sector. We should not be afraid of voluntary agencies taking approaches that diverge not only from one another's but perhaps from those of Government and local authority agencies. We can test other approaches and provide different doors for people with different needs or different attitudes to authority to walk through, if that is what they require.

I will focus on the problems faced by unpaid agencies and their workers and I will give some specific examples from the north-east of Scotland. The Grampian Addiction Problem Service—GAPS—was originally created to respond to a perceived local need and a desire to serve the local community. Highly qualified people work for the service, but they are unpaid. The ethos is therefore to serve the local community and to put local interests first. However, such agencies find it increasingly difficult to deliver their services, because of numerous problems. A voluntary agency with no salaried staff is not an agency with no financial overheads; it will have premises, phones and computers to maintain, and a whole series of activities and expenditures that continue between projects.

There has been a reduction in local government funding. GAPS and the Buchan Alcohol Service Information Centre had funding from Aberdeenshire Council withdrawn a couple of years ago. However, the council has still found £80,000—much more than either of those services got—to create its own in-house service, which has yet to prove that it can deliver anything of particular value.

At local level, there is competition between the professionals, who want to keep control of what is going on, and the volunteers, who work in the front line to respond to people's needs. The lack of core funding is making morale drop in the voluntary sector. It is becoming increasingly difficult for voluntary agencies to sustain themselves between projects. Indeed, agencies can be diverted from providing a service to their clients because they are having to create bids for funding. That is not terribly helpful.

It is great that the Executive has lifted the direct expenditure on the voluntary sector from £23 million to £39 million but, as has been said, £10 million might have to be taken off that total for water and sewerage charges, although the introduction of those charges has been postponed.

Robert Brown made a plea for direct funding from the Executive to many local agencies. I am in two minds about that. It may or may not work, but many voluntary agencies certainly believe that it is the way forward. However, if we cannot find a way of providing core funding to ensure continuity of service, many in the voluntary sector will simply be unable to deliver services and their clients will suffer.


20 September 2001

S1M-2236 Schools (Assessment)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 September 2001

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

... ... ...

Schools (Assessment)

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-2236, in the name of Jack McConnell, on effective assessment in Scotland's schools.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): In his speech, I heard Jack McConnell say "count" at least six times in the last three sentences, so he is clearly counting on something. This is an education debate, and it is appropriate that we go away this afternoon having learned something, so I want to tell members that 240 is 1,099,511,627,776. Members can check that if they wish. That number is also 1,048,5762 and 1,048,576 is in turn 1,0242. That is very interesting, but is the square root of next to nothing of use to anybody, except as a party piece?

Mr Frank McAveety (Glasgow Shettleston) (Lab): That bad!

Stewart Stevenson: At least I can count on Mr McAveety's support and at least my party piece is factual and correct. Much of the measurement that we have been talking about has, to be frank, been of no use. Brian Monteith brought the spectre of Michael Forsyth to the party so, if he does not mind, I shall read a quotation about Michael Forsyth from The Scotsman of 5 June 1996. This is what George Robertson, who really knew how to do arithmetic and went to another place for much more money, had to say about Michael Forsyth. He said:

"You are going to get another bloody nose. You came back with the same old idea and you are going to get the same message from the Scottish people: 'We don't want these failed ideas'."

What was George talking about? He was talking about plans for testing in primary schools. We continue to feel that that is not going to be helpful.

Dr Sylvia Jackson (Stirling) (Lab): Will Stewart Stevenson give exact details about what he understands was meant by that testing in private schools, which the Labour party was so against?

Stewart Stevenson: Testing is testing. I am a little uncertain about exactly what Sylvia Jackson's question is. I was talking about primary schools and the introduction of testing in S1 and S2. That is what was proposed in 1996 and that is what George Robertson was commenting on at the time.

I have undertaken a little bit of teaching over the past year, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. However, it was in a university environment. I wondered why I was enjoying it so much, so I talked to some people who teach in the secondary school system. I discovered that their time is overwhelmed by administration, much of which concerns testing. They find much of it confusing, and the speeches of members who were directly involved in secondary school teaching have been interesting in that regard.

National testing carries a risk in any event. I cite another educational metaphor. The first law of genetics is that the more highly optimised a species is for an environment, the more adversely it is affected by another environment. A national scheme, rather than one that is based on the skills and talents of teachers in their own areas, taking into account their own needs, is liable to produce unsatisfactory results.

My final point for Jack McConnell is on information technology. I spent 30 years working in information technology, so the minister might be surprised when I say that we should be cautious about automating processes by using IT in schools. However, I urge him to consider piloting very carefully any new systems that are introduced, because ill thought out, underdeveloped or under-researched IT systems can increase the work load rather than save effort.


S1M-2207 Patient Care

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 September 2001

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

... ... ...

Patient Care

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Patricia Ferguson): The next item of business is a debate on Conservative motion S1M-2207, in the name of David McLetchie, on improving patient care, and on two amendments to the motion.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I remind members of the voluntary declarations that I have made in the register of members' interests with regard to my pension from the Bank of Scotland and my shareholdings there. I do that because I have been one of the happy beneficiaries of PFI. Bankers everywhere love PFI and, when we come to the nub of the matter, this Tory debate is about money. In fact, I am holding a bank note that depicts one of the most famous Tories of the 19th century, Sir Walter Scott, who is immortalised on our money even today.

Mr Monteith: Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: We are very short of time. Perhaps Brian Monteith and I can discuss his point privately.

Let me give credit to the Tories. In their 160-word motion—quite the longest sentence that I have seen for a long time—the 15th word is "PFI". At least they are honest about PFI being their policy. In a 10-minute speech, the minister got to 10 minutes and 38 seconds before she mentioned PFI, and yet that is at the core of the policy that the Government is pursuing.

It has been said that there are three kinds of bankers: those who can count and those who cannot. Well, even a former banker like me—[Laughter.] They got it. Good. The Tories are awake. Well done. Even a banker who cannot count can see that this debate is about money. The Tory motion is about money, not health.

Richard Simpson made some interesting remarks about community hospitals, building on what Murdo Fraser said. The minister referred to the Arbuthnott formula. In Grampian, 10 per cent of Scotland's population now receives 9 per cent of health funding, and community hospitals are under threat as a result. In my constituency, the Chalmers hospital in Banff, which has been promised redevelopment for 10 years, is now under serious threat. Community hospitals are a cost-effective way of delivering health care.

Competition has been mentioned, but I have to ask whether it really drives up standards. Supermarkets, which are at the forefront of competition in this country, deliver cheap food rather than quality food by and large, and the Labour party is the McDonald's party rather than the new party. However, what concerns me most about PFI is much more long term. PFI locks us into long-term commitments—typically for 30 years—and that is a big threat to community health care. We cannot get out of paying for those large facilities that are being developed in many places through PFI.

Mary Scanlon: Will Stewart Stevenson give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry, but I am in my final minute.

If we are going to have to focus the expenditure when it is reduced by the Arbuthnott formula, as it has been in Grampian, we will be at serious risk of not delivering the health service that people want.

I shall conclude with a personal recollection of how patients feel. In the 1970s, when I was doing some parachuting, I came out of a plane, looked up and saw that my parachute had not opened.

Mary Scanlon: Had the member packed it himself?

Stewart Stevenson: Yes, I had packed it myself. I plummeted towards the ground, but the reserve parachute saved me.

David McLetchie: Aw.

Stewart Stevenson: Well, that is why I am here today.

These days, many of the people who are on NHS waiting lists feel exactly as I felt 25 years ago as I plummeted towards the ground. PFI is taking money out of the health service that we should be spending on health, not on bankers' profits.


S1M-2205 Juvenile Justice

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 September 2001

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]

Juvenile Justice

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The first item of business is a debate on Conservative motion S1M-2205, in the name of Bill Aitken, on juvenile justice, and two amendments to that motion.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I have been fascinated by the speeches made by members on the SNP benches—I found much to agree with. Karen Whitefield also has my full support for much of what she said in her speech.

However, I am extremely puzzled. I have come to the conclusion that the Tory party has become dangerously left-wing. The two Tory motions for debate this morning appear to call for increases in spending. Bill Aitken may correct me if I am wrong, but I am sure that I heard him say that he wants more resources for the children's panel system and, in the next motion for debate, the Tories are looking for more resources for health.

It is all right, though—I soon recovered and the Tory party reverted to type. Bill Aitken wants to send the right signals to his new master in London, Mr Duncan Smith. Bill Aitken is a moderate man and would never physically abuse one of his children, or any other child in his house, but he would, on behalf of the Tories, permit others to do precisely that.

Phil Gallie: Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: Come on, then.

Phil Gallie: I am grateful to the member for giving way. He referred to the fact that implementation of the Tory party's motion could add costs. Those costs are linked to an increase in the number of places in which to remove and confine the small minority of offenders who create a lot of mayhem in society. Does Stewart Stevenson acknowledge that the cost of those young offenders' crimes is quite considerable and that, overall, there would be a saving to society if young offenders were confined?

Stewart Stevenson: I am obliged to Mr Gallie for confirming that the Tories want an increase in resources. It is already well known that incarceration is the least cost-effective solution to the problems caused to society by our youngsters. That view is shared across the chamber.

That is all a bit of a sideshow. We come to the meat of the 50 or so words of Bill Aitken's motion and the bit at the end, where he talks about disposals. We heard from him and from other Tories about restitution and incarceration. Phil Gallie just confirmed that more secure accommodation is at the core of his demands. That is a move in a totally different direction from the child-centred system that was put in place originally.

It is curious to note that the Tory motion also includes a plea for yet another review. Audit Scotland is conducting such a review and will publish its findings in late 2002. In the Executive's response to the youth crime review, it mentioned that six reviews were on-going. That is why Irene McGugan, who drew up the SNP amendment, focused on taking action now. Reviews are fine, but when I was in business, I once helped to set up a bank in 12 weeks. We should take action much more quickly.

I was slightly surprised that no one referred to the Protection from Abuse (Scotland) Bill, which is being considered by the Justice 2 Committee. I am sure that we will come back to the bill, because it may well affect how young people are dealt with, as it will affect them in the same way as it will affect adults. We will need to watch the effects of the bill carefully.

We have all been felons at one time. Those who disagree with that assertion should indicate so now.

Brian Fitzpatrick indicated disagreement.

Stewart Stevenson: Well done, Brian. The First Minister was well advised.

We have been the lucky ones. We had loving, caring parents and a domestic infrastructure of support. We must focus on the unlucky ones, for whom the system must provide the support that they lack.


06 September 2001

S1M-2133 New Economy

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 6 September 2001

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 9:30]

... ... ...

New Economy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Patricia Ferguson): The next item is a debate on motion S1M-2133, in the name of Alex Neil, on behalf of the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Committee, on the report on the inquiry into the impact of the new economy. I ask members who are leaving the chamber to do so quickly and quietly.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I do not know whether it is a coincidence that the Presiding Officer has given me the privilege of speaking immediately after Murdo Fraser, thus enabling me to congratulate him on an excellent maiden speech. I welcome his presence in the chamber for two reasons in particular: with his elevation, I cease to be the most junior member of the Parliament; and, unlike myself, who raised the average age of the SNP group by three months, he has achieved the impossible by reducing the average age of the Tory activists in the Parliament by an amount so large that I can barely compute it. I am sure that the Tories welcome that.

I saw my first computer in 1969, which was the year that I started programming computers. In 1975, two friends and I built the first home computer in Scotland. By coincidence, that is the same year as Tim Berners-Lee—the English founder of the worldwide web—developed and built his first home computer. In 1979, I gave a keynote speech at the Microsystems conference on the then emerging technology of microcomputers. Let me tell the minister that I got some things wrong, from which we can draw parallels. I suggested at that time that people would shortly need 64 kilobytes of memory in their computers and that, within the next five years, most people would need a hard disk. Time telescoped rapidly. In a few months, my predictions were overtaken by events. In 1980, I started to use e-mail and, in 1995, I created my first website.

Despite all that background, I nonetheless say that there is no such thing as e-business. There is only business. Business needs to use the e-world to reach and offer services to customers by internet, by mobile phones, by interactive television and by other means that are yet to emerge.

Tavish Scott mentioned Caesar. It is interesting that the Romans succeeded where the Greeks had failed precisely because the Romans had a superior communications network. They could send a message by hilltop signalling from Londinium to Roma in six hours. The Greeks had to send ships, so they lost out.

In the modern world, it is no good having clusters that live on e-development. Bangalore in southern India has a modern infrastructure that supports, with hundreds of technicians, at least half a dozen companies here in Edinburgh. However, one has to walk for only 10 minutes down the road from Bangalore to return to the third world where people queue to use the community telephone.

Women have played an important part in the development of modern technology. Ada Lovelace was Charles Babbage's programmer—the first programmer—in the 19th century, and rear admiral Grace Hopper invented COBOL when she was in the United States navy. Indeed, Grace Hopper was still in harness as a consultant with a technology company when she died in her eighties. If the Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning wants to go down in the history of technology and its exploitation, she will have to work a great deal harder. She sets no targets for supporting business, seeking thereby to avoid having her future failure measured. She avoids underwriting private sector provision of the infrastructures that we need. In the past few days, she offends the very private partners on whom she will depend to make a start in public provision. Aggregation of demand is her panacea. However, what our businesses really need is access to markets now. For that, they will need broadband communications. In my short period as a member of this Parliament, I have already had three separate people at my surgeries in Banff and Buchan to ask about that subject. We are not in the Highlands and Islands or the Borders.

Let us suggest an immediate audit of the existing infrastructure. Even BT Scotland cannot tell us how many telephone exchanges there are in Scotland. Until we have done such an audit, we will not be able to do anything about costing what we will need. However, we can cost a failure to respond to the new world—we will pay a very heavy price. Try something new, minister. Listen to the experts, some of whom I can see in the gallery. Otherwise we will fall behind.


05 September 2001

S1M-2101 Education Curriculum (1820 Martyrs)

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 5 September 2001


[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...

Education Curriculum (1820 Martyrs)

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): Members' business today is motion S1M-2101, in the name of Mr Gil Paterson, on James Wilson, John Baird and Andrew Hardie.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the sacrifice of the three 1820 martyrs, James Wilson from Strathaven and John Baird and Andrew Hardie from Glasgow, who were hanged and beheaded in the 1820 rising which fought for social and economic justice, workers' rights and an independent Scottish parliament and believes that the history of their struggle should be included in the education curriculum in order to mark the anniversaries, on 30 August and 3 September, of their sacrifice for Scottish rights 181 years ago.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I congratulate Gil Paterson on bringing to light a little bit of Scotland's hidden history. The congratulations are personal because he has brought to light a little of my family's hidden history. There was always a legend that somebody in my family had been hung for sheep stealing. The initial investigations led me to my great-great-grandfather John Stevenson, a mining serf who was killed in a mining accident in Fallin in 1833. No, that was not the family's hidden secret. The secret was that John Baird's sister was one of my ancestors. So, for me, the motion has a personal resonance.

Since learning the secret, I have of course read all the books and I am particularly struck—in the light of Brian Monteith's contribution—by the parallels with today. As the marchers went to Bonnymuir, Government spies were working against them in their midst. I see Brian Monteith in that role today, but today we will not let him achieve the objectives that the spies achieved in August and September 1820, when the three martyrs were despatched to meet their maker.

A little bit of contemporary evidence is still available. I say to John McAllion that I do not think that the banner is still around, but the axe that dispatched Hardie and Baird is in the museum in Stirling.

It is worth reflecting on what being hung, drawn and quartered meant. It meant that those who were to be thus dispatched were put on the gallows and gently lowered down until they lost consciousness, but before they died, they were cut down and restored to consciousness. The axe was then run from sternum to scrotum and from left to right. The bowels were then drawn while the person was still alive from within the abdominal cavity.

The agonies that our martyrs were put through are unimaginable to today's generation. I thank Gil Paterson for bringing that to our attention. I feel the emotion conveyed down the centuries from my ancestor.


27 June 2001

S1M-2041 Serious Violent and Sexual Offenders

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 27 June 2001


[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...

Serious Violent and Sexual Offenders

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The next item of business is the debate on motion S1M-2041, in the name of Mr Jim Wallace, on serious violent and sexual offenders, and an amendment to that motion.

... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Like Kay Ullrich, I bring personal experience to the debate, as I am a former psychiatric nurse who worked in a locked ward. I was 17 years old at the time; it was quite an experience. We had murderers and sex offenders among our patients.

I also speak as the member with a world-class sex offenders unit—at Peterhead prison—in his constituency. Members will recall Alex Salmond's motion in January congratulating Peterhead prison on its success; 67 members, representing all seven political opinions in the Parliament, signed the motion in support—that is a majority of the Parliament.

I welcome the fact that risk assessment is being moved to centre stage. It is especially important that that will be research-based. The empirical approach of the past has been discredited. The white paper addresses that issue.

Sex offenders present a particular challenge.

Paedophiles are especially plausible and devious and are often seen as being model prisoners. Disconnected from the object of their attentions, they might present a misleading picture to parole boards and others.

Gordon Jackson says that we might not always be doing it best. I have some good news for him and for Pauline McNeill, who had kind words for Peterhead. At a recent site accreditation carried out by an external panel of academics, the chairman remarked:

"Peterhead is now the benchmark against which all other prisons will be measured."

The case histories cited by Kay Ullrich indicate why working with sex offenders is not the first option for many in the Prison Service. However, the holistic approach taken at Peterhead is impressive to read about and even more impressive to see, as I have done. Every member of staff—from cleaner to prison officer—whom one meets can explain their mission and articulate their role within the sexual offenders unit; they stand comparison with what happens under the very best professional change management programmes in industry and commerce. I regret saying that, because the staff might take that other option if we do not remove the unhelpful uncertainty about Peterhead's future. The institution is already well placed to respond to the white paper's requirements and it has almost everything that it needs to work with an external risk assessment process.

I thank Richard Simpson for his kind words about Peterhead, as I could thank so many other members. I commend the efforts of Peterhead staff and management and take this opportunity to urge the minister to reward their success by assuring their future.


14 June 2001

S1M-2006 Common Fisheries Policy

Common Fisheries Policy

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): The next item of business is the European Committee debate on motion S1M-2006, in the name of Hugh Henry, on reform of the common fisheries policy.

... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

Presiding Officer, and my new colleagues in all parties, thank you very much for the warmth of your welcome. It is much appreciated. I am sure that Brian Fitzpatrick will feel exactly the same. It has been a particular pleasure to see a number of familiar faces round the chamber. I thank, especially, Richard Lochhead for paving the way for me by bringing my home village of Whitehills into his opening remarks.

Let me turn to fishing and the common fisheries policy. I pay tribute to my predecessor, Alex Salmond, whose success in raising fishing to the top of two Parliaments' agendas for the first time in a generation is something of which we should take note. One of the key achievements of the Scottish Parliament has been to provide a platform for precisely such important Scottish issues, which have previously been neglected by Westminster. It is my job to ensure that the fishing industry, in all its diversity, feels as well supported by me as it was by Alex Salmond.

I see another parliamentarian's work today in the European Committee's report. It was some time ago that Allan Macartney, the much-missed member of the European Parliament, proposed locality management of our natural fishing stock. There could be no finer tribute to him than the adoption of zonal management as a key part of the reform of the common fisheries policy. He would have been very proud of this Parliament's support in the committee's report.

What does the fishing industry think of the report? The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association told me yesterday that there is wide agreement in the industry that the common fisheries policy has fallen well short of its objectives in many areas. Looking forward to zonal management, the association said that bringing fishermen to the table, along with fisheries managers and scientists, should result in better-informed, realistic and pragmatic management measures. I say to Tavish Scott that that will allow Mike Park to sit at the top table. I did not hear Tavish Scott say that Scotland's minister with responsibility for fisheries should sit at the top table in Europe, representing Britain, but I look forward to hearing him say that in future.

I am happy to agree with Jamie McGrigor, who spoke yesterday of the need for more local control. We have advocated that for many years. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation's focus is on the need to maintain relative stability; it believes that that should be embedded in European law. Roddy McColl of the Fishermen's Association Ltd—and, of course, the ever-combative Tom Hay—gave evidence to the European Committee. Roddy McColl said:

"It is extremely difficult to get"


"to agree and to speak with one voice ... There are tensions that should be buried for the common good."—[Official Report, European Committee, 30 January 2001; c 946.]

I have every reason to believe that the European Committee's report presents the best opportunity for many years to bring the fishing industry together to be of one mind.

I note that the Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development is looking rather lonely—I hope that she is not isolated in the debate. I make a plea to her and to the Executive that, in responding to consultations on the £27 million that is being made available, they give due regard to the need to have a strong fleet available to catch the class of haddocks that are currently swimming in the sea and that we should be catching in 2003. Taking too many boats out of the industry now will benefit only other countries' fishing industries. We have to ensure that we do not fish out the young haddock before then. Against that background, I ask that the door be left open to compensated tie-ups. Keep listening to the fishermen.

To end on a sombre note, we forget sometimes that fishing is not just another industry. It is a way of life and a staple for many communities, and it is a cruel mistress for many of those who put to sea. Today's news that the wreck of the Peterhead-based Trident has been found after 27 years is a poignant reminder of the price that can be paid. All in the industry should be assured that I and my SNP colleagues will fight just as hard as Alex Salmond has always done to represent the fishermen's interests.


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