28 November 2013

S4M-08422 Independent Expert Review of Opioid Replacement Therapies

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-08422, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on the independent expert review of opioid replacement therapies in Scotland. I invite members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons now, or as soon as possible, and to locate their microphones effectively, remembering that they are directional microphones. I call the minister—when she is ready—to speak to and move the motion in her name. You have 14 minutes, minister—as soon as you are ready to proceed.

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

I am very glad that Graeme Pearson has had the opportunity to contribute to the debate. When I was a member of the former Justice 1 Committee, which Pauline McNeill convened, I first met Graeme Pearson over dinner in Glasgow to discuss drug problems. The dinner was excellent, but the message was compellingly disturbing.

I recall that on that occasion Graeme Pearson told us of a drug dealer in Glasgow who had gone into a showroom with cash and bought a brand new Bentley. He told us that that same individual had bought a fleet of cars for his private hire taxi company. He told us that this is a social problem as well as an economic problem, costing perhaps 1.5 to 5 per cent of our gross domestic product. If we were to look at it just in economic terms, that is a loss of tax take of between £0.5 billion and £1.5 billion for Scotland alone.

The reality is that the finance is not really the issue. I first spoke in the Parliament in a drugs debate on 27 October 2004. At that point I said:

“Addiction is a feature of human behaviour and, realistically, it cannot be eliminated.”—[Official Report, 27 October 2004; c 11150.]

In “A Counter-blaste to Tobacco”, which was written 400 years ago, James VI said that the smoker

“by custome is piece and piece allured.”

The whole issue of addiction is very far from new.

It is perhaps worth saying that in the 1890s, Sears and Roebuck, a well-known American retailer, had in the catalogue that it distributed to millions of homes across the United States a syringe and cocaine that could be bought for $1.50.

Attitudes have changed and the impact of addiction has changed. However, it was recognised 100 years ago that it was a major issue. The first international drug control treaty was the international opium convention of 1912, which came out of a conference that was held in Shanghai.

From the 1950s, of course, we started to see a relatively small group of morphine addicts being looked after by general practitioners. My father, who was a GP, looked after a tiny handful. Even then, the impact of criminality could be seen. In 1951, a single drug addict broke into a dispensary on the outskirts of London; a decade later, it was discovered that, from that single criminal act, 60 addicts had been created, who suffered problems. It is all too easy for little acts to have huge consequences in the area.

In the 1960s, it was, of course, thought that there were relatively few addicts. In fact, in 1964, the Home Office reported that there were 753 addicts in the UK as a whole. I think that that was questioned at the time; it was also questionable. It certainly led, with greater understanding, to the dangerous drugs legislation. However, it was thought at that time that the problem was so limited in Scotland that no provision whatsoever was made for Scotland. By the late 1970s, boy we knew that we had a problem.

We now have an excellent report that shows what we are doing to deal with that problem. We certainly cannot undo our position simply by reversing the actions that got us here. We must be proactive.

Originally, we sought simply to support the addicts and deal with their addiction medically. Now, of course, addiction has a huge reach into criminality. It is also a public health and infection issue that has to be dealt with.

Let us not forget, either, that opioid addiction, which is the subject of the debate, is part of a whole series of addictions. We have in our society alcohol, gambling and nicotine addictions. A member of staff who worked for me—among the hundreds who did so—was even addicted to a proprietary nasal spray. He consumed 20 bottles of it a day, although it did not seem to affect his life.

The illegal drugs that we are talking about and the issues with which we have to deal in that context are in part related to the free cigarettes that were dispensed to servicemen during the second world war. That desensitised us to the idea that addiction should be avoided.

In closing, it is worth welcoming very much the consensual nature of this debate. It has brought together different points of view, experiences and inputs, but they all point in the same direction. I think that Willie Rennie referred to that.

Two examples of how things can be mishandled are perhaps worth going back to.

Derek Hatton, who was the Labour deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, wanted to attack Margaret Thatcher. I might be up for that, but he did so by designating Liverpool as “smack city”. We are still living on the back of that.

In my constituency, a now-deceased GP, Sandy Wisely, quite unnecessarily and unjustifiably talked up a drug problem in Fraserburgh. We are still dealing with that today in reputational terms.

We have had a good, balanced debate. Let us hope that that continues.

I very much support the essence of what Labour’s amendment says, but very much support the Government’s motion.


20 November 2013

S4M-08348 Defence Industry

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-08348, in the name of Johann Lamont, on the future of the defence industry in Scotland.

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

Members might be rather sceptical about the idea, but there has been substantial consensus on some important things in the debate. The Labour motion mentions the skills of people in Scotland who are employed in the defence industries, and that aspect has attracted unanimity across the chamber. We have spoken about the need to consider diversification, and a recognition has been shared in speeches from across the chamber that relying simply and forever on defence alone is unlikely to be good enough.

Many of the issues that we are debating today are very far from new. I refer in particular to a decision that the UK Cabinet made on 19 May 1920 in relation to diversification in the defence industry. The Cabinet gave the Government’s own Woolwich arsenal permission to take on private work, because the defence industry was no longer sufficient to keep employment there at its previous level. The Government paid off 1,500 workers—which might sound familiar—and it sought to diversify the factories concerned.

We have heard references to sovereign capability, specifically by Willie Rennie and indirectly, albeit without using those words, by Murdo Fraser, as well as by Michael McMahon. Let us examine the reality of the record. I start with the Fairey Rotodyne, which was an innovative UK project to build new vertical take-off bulk-carrying transport. Ultimately, that project was cancelled in 1962 by the UK Government. What did it buy instead? It bought Boeing Chinooks.

Willie Rennie rose—

Stewart Stevenson: I have lots more. I might come to Willie Rennie later.

Those Chinooks were to be deployed on the front line. Willie Rennie spoke about fixed-wing aircraft, and I will come to those as well, so he need not worry.

The Blue Streak missile was to be the missile to carry the independent nuclear deterrent for the UK. That proved to be unsupported by the Government of the day, and we now buy the missiles—rather, we lease them—from the United States, and we are not allowed to launch them against anyone without getting the codes enabling us to do so on each specific occasion. Sovereign capability? I doubt it.

Let me also mention the TSR-2, a fixed-wing aircraft that led the way in technology and capability. Once again, it was cancelled in the 1960s by the UK Government, which sought to buy American F-111s instead—although ultimately, of course, that is not what it bought. Incidentally, until it fell out of use 10 years ago, the F-111 had the unenviable nickname of “The Widowmaker”, which it had been given by the Luftwaffe and the United States air force. That was the aircraft that the UK Government wished to operate.

Finally, of course, there is the Harrier jump-jet, which was a gem and a piece of leading edge technology. It is no longer manufactured here but is bought from elsewhere by the UK Government.

Willie Rennie: Mr Stevenson might be educating us about various items of equipment, but I have to point out that no one has ever said that all equipment must be bought in-country. The Labour Government’s defence industry strategy and the defence and security policy that has been developed under the current UK Government have determined what the sovereign capability is, and it is the four areas that I identified in my speech.

Does the member not recognise that no British complex warships have been built outside the UK since the second world war?

Stewart Stevenson: I invite the member to examine the Official Report after the debate because he will find that he very specifically linked sovereign capability to fixed-wing aircraft such as the TSR-2, the Harrier GR5A and so on. It is absolutely clear that sovereign capability does not determine the purchasing decisions of the MOD and the UK Government; it all comes down to the best place to get the best equipment, and Scotland will remain the best place to get much of the equipment that the UK Government and indeed Scotland will require in future.

The Scottish defence industry is a feisty industry full of feisty people. We have heard quotes from a wide range of them, including the MOD itself and the workers whose voices must be heard in this debate. Those people have skills; indeed, I find it interesting that Michael McMahon chose to talk about Motherwell Bridge and how in a short space of time after it was closed down the same skills dissipated and could not be reconstituted. My friends in Portsmouth know that all too well in advance of the same fate being visited upon them. They certainly will not be in the same place that Scotland will be, whether under independence or not, to support the orders that there are.

Whatever the result of the referendum, I will support everyone on the Clyde—and everyone else must do likewise.


07 November 2013

S4M-08145 Tribunals (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-08145, in the name of Roseanna Cunningham, on the Tribunals (Scotland) Bill.

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

Some of us had forgotten that political debates are over not when everything has been said but when everyone has said it, the most recent of whom was Gordon MacDonald. However, I hope to avoid that particular trap.

It is worth going way back to where tribunals came from—the tribuni plebis. Following a battle in 494 BC, the legionaries refused to go out and fight for Rome. To buy them off, the plebs were given the right to elect plebeian tribunes, who were made sacrosanct while they held office. The tribune was the principal and guarantor of the civil liberties of the Roman citizens against arbitrary state power. That is a pretty good basis for what tribunals are.

Willie Coffey talked about the rights of the public. Let us zoom forward a couple of thousand years to the College of Justice Act 1532, which reads:

“And thir persounes to be sworne to minister Justice equaly to all persouns in sic causis as sall happin tocum before thaim with sic vther rewlis and statutis as sall pleise the kingis grace”.

That is how the constitution worked in those days, so a lot of what we are discussing today just ain’t new—we have looked at it many times over hundreds of years.

In the 1600s, there was considerable debate about the divine right of kings versus the power of the people. In an attempt to reassert the divine right of kings, the Crown Appointments Act 1661 declared:

“That it is an inherent Priveledge of the Croun ... to have the sole choise and appointment of the Officers of Estate”—


“and privy Councellors and the nomination of the Lords of the Session”.

Fortunately, we have moved on from that.

Christine Grahame: Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I want to try to fill my six minutes.

Christine Grahame: It is to challenge your history.

Stewart Stevenson: Briefly, then.

Christine Grahame: I may blunder, but I was not aware that the divine right of kings pertained to the Scottish kings. I thought that it was an English concept and that Scottish kings were appointed by leave of the Scottish people following the declaration of Arbroath. Lewis Macdonald is nodding, so I have an ally.

Stewart Stevenson: I simply remind the member that the Crown Appointments Act 1661 was the sixth act of 1661 by the estates of the Scots Parliament, so things were probably not quite as clear-cut as she suggests. That approach was certainly tried, but whether it succeeded is a debate for another day.

The briefing from the Scottish Parliament information centre draws our attention to concerns about whether tribunals’ lack of independence from Government—whether perceived or otherwise—is in contravention of article 6 of the European convention on human rights. The bill that we are considering today, and which we will continue to consider in times to come, will be an opportunity to provide a pretty rigid statement that our tribunals are independent.

I will turn to the provisions in the bill. I have already made reference, on the back of Rod Campbell’s comments, to the duties that the bill will place on members of the Scottish Parliament to uphold the independence of the members of Scottish tribunals. That is quite an interesting issue, because the bill does not directly prescribe what would happen if a member, or members collectively, of the Scottish Parliament failed to uphold that independence. I suspect that the matter may be covered by the “Code of Conduct for Members of the Scottish Parliament”, paragraph 3.1.3 of which requires that

“Members should uphold the law”.

However, I suspect that there may be some ambiguity there, which the committee and the Parliament may want to look at.

Of course, we have not entirely failed to look at the issue of tribunals before. Willie Coffey referred to David McLetchie, who in March 2004 led a debate on the Fraser inquiry. One issue that that inquiry faced was that it was unable to have access to powers that would have been available to a Westminster inquiry held under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. Under that act, a tribunal can be given the power to command witnesses to appear before it and to produce the necessary evidence. We have therefore been here before, but we have perhaps overlooked the fact that there are some significant potential effects from our not having all the powers that we might seek.

When, as a minister, I took the Long Leases (Scotland) Act 2012 through Parliament, I had to refer to tribunals in the stage 1 debate because tribunals play an important part in judging the value of land, which is a central issue in such matters.

As the time when I should wind up is approaching, I will say just a little about the Mental Health Tribunal. As a tribunal, the Mental Health Tribunal is special and different in the distinct sense that it is about deciding on the deprivation of liberty of a citizen. That is quite an unusual function for a tribunal, albeit that it is in the interests of the citizen that the decision is taken. I certainly want to ensure that we protect the rights of the citizen.

For me, this is an interesting speech because it is the 500th speech that I have made here—

Christine Grahame: It feels like it, too.

Stewart Stevenson: And 500 is a special round number. However, it may feel like more than 500, if that is what the convener of the committee is saying.

Let me close by quoting from the College of Justice Act 1532, which says that the Scots Parliament intends

“to Institute ane college of cunning and wise men”.

That might be the kind of people that we want involved in our tribunals—

Roseanna Cunningham: Although the majority on the front bench today are women.

Stewart Stevenson: The 1532 act goes on to require

“thir persounes to be sworne to minister Justice equaly to all persouns in sic causis as sall happin tocum before thaim”.

Let us extend that to women, in this modern age, as the minister has urged me to do.


S4M-07731 Best Buildings in Scotland

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-07731, in the name of Mike MacKenzie, on the best buildings in Scotland.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates the 12 winners of the 2013 Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) awards who make up the shortlist for the RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award, which will be presented on 7 November 2013 at the Parliament; understands that there were 75 submissions for the RIAS awards, ranging from £0 to over £30 million in contract value; commends the quality, ingenuity and innovation of the projects on the shortlist for the award throughout Scotland; recognises the contribution that both Scottish and international architects make to the quality of the built environment in the Highlands and Islands and across the country and the international contribution that Scotland’s architects make, and considers that RIAS and the architectural profession stand ready to help design and build a better and more prosperous future for Scotland, ensuring a higher quality built and natural environment.

... ... ...

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

I thank Mike MacKenzie the builder—Mike the builder, not Bob the builder—for the opportunity to debate this important subject. In describing himself as a builder, perhaps he underrates his profession’s contribution to the fine buildings that we have around Scotland. Somebody has to design them, yes, but at the end of the day, it is the builders of Scotland who deliver them.

The history of our buildings progressed for a very long time without the emergence of a separately identified profession of architecture. Yet architects’ skills are clearly present when you look at many buildings around Scotland. I was privileged to attend the University of Aberdeen and went to both Marischal and King’s colleges there, which are quite distinct from each other. Centuries apart, they represent the epitome of good design—of architecture—of their times.

It is, as Jean Urquhart said, an absolute privilege for us to be here, not simply because we achieved the support of a necessary part of the electorate, but more fundamentally because we work in one of the iconic buildings of modern Scotland, created by architects and delivered by builders, which is important.

A number of different things make a good building: its material, its locality and its function, all of which are drawn together by the skills of the architect to create something that is appropriate to its environment, that is distinctive and effective and which will endure.

The skills of our architects in Scotland stem from our historical alignment with the need for education. Builders must be able to do calculations in order to work out the number of bricks or stones they will need to get the proportions correct, and an architect takes all that to another level. We need think only of the number of places around the world that we remember for not just the people we meet there, but the buildings that we see.

I congratulate Annabel Goldie on her forthcoming elevation to the fellowship of the RIAS to add to the lustre of her deputy lieutenancy. At this stage, I have yet to be invited to be anything, if we do not include the far less distinguished award that Alan Cochrane wanted to give me in his low abuse of me last month.

I will be invidious and single out the Sir Duncan Rice library, which, in the context of Old Aberdeen, is a quite stunning building. Turning the corner from King’s college in Old Aberdeen, one suddenly looks up a slight rise at a narrowing vista and is surprised by the sight of a wonderful building glistening in the sun—facing, as it does, to the south-east. Inside, the space and grace that it provides to the students studying there some 50 years after me exemplifies all that is good in modern architecture. I certainly know that it is too late to have any influence on the judges, given that the awards are tonight—indeed, I am sure that the name has already been engraved on the trophy—but if there is a chance for a late change of mind, should it be necessary, I encourage it to take place.

Architects show ambition and it is a time for ambition in Scotland. I wish every one of the 12 finalists all the very best. Whoever wins, the building will be an exemplar for modern Scotland.


06 November 2013

S4M-08173 Glasgow Airport Rail Link

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-08173, in the name of James Kelly, on transport.

... ... ...

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

It was an American President who once said that, when he came into office, all the things that he had been saying were bad turned out to be much worse. That, perhaps, was the case with the GARL project.

The Labour Party motion rather unwisely invites Parliament to agree to an “audit of all transactions”. The word “transaction” is, of course, defined in “Webster’s Dictionary” as “a business deal”. It is not just about finance, so let us look at some of the transactions and delve deep into the Official Report of the Parliament.

We will look first at 3 October 2006, when the Glasgow Airport Rail Link Bill Committee was meeting and John Halliday, the assistant chief executive of SPT, was before the committee. He made the position clear:

“SPT was the architect of the agreements and we negotiated the terms.”—[Official Report, Glasgow Airport Rail Link Bill Committee, 3 October 2006; c 300.]

We know where it started: with SPT.

We heard from a number of members that there was “a strong economic case” for GARL. James Kelly said it in his opening speech, and Mary Fee said that

“the viability of the project was never questioned”.

However, in paragraph 32 of the committee’s preliminary stage report, Glasgow Airport Ltd is reported as saying:

“As the bill stands, we think that it is as likely to have an adverse effect on the airport as it is to have a positive effect”.—[Official Report, Glasgow Airport Rail Link Bill Committee, 8 May 2006; c 57.]

Right at the outset, even the airport operator was unconvinced.

Patricia Ferguson said that the rail link would take “cars off the road”. Well, at paragraph 38 of the report, we read about

“reductions of 0.5% and 0.8% in total M8 traffic flows by 2030.”

We are talking about single-figure numbers of cars being taken off the motorway. At paragraph 40, we read that the bus operators expected the number of people who would use the bus to double. Therefore, GARL would hardly be displacing anything.

The committee recorded its slight scepticism about the claimed economic benefits at paragraph 26. In paragraph 17, it said:

“patronage figures are low.”

Looking further, according to paragraph 221 of the consideration stage report, it was certainly possible that the project could cost as much as £210 million.

From paragraph 34 of the consideration stage report, it is clear that not all the evidence was available to Parliament. Commercial confidentiality prevented negotiations with the airport from being fully revealed to Parliament, so we made the decision in some ignorance. Paragraph 36 of the report says that

“The Committee remains extremely disappointed”

by that.

The costs on the airport campus were to be £5 million but ended up at £70 million. In the detailed costings that were brought to Parliament, not a single line item approaches the figure of £70 million.

I supported the project initially, but it was ill conceived in its detail. The reason for that lies at the door of parliamentary colleagues in the Labour Party and their allies in SPT.


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