30 January 2014

S4M-08516 Melbourne Declaration on Diabetes

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-08516, in the name of David Stewart, on the Melbourne declaration. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that the first meeting of the global Parliamentary Champions for Diabetes Forum was held in Melbourne from 30 November to 2 December 2013; understands that there are an estimated 382 million people with diabetes, including in the Highlands and Islands, and that this number is expected to rise to 592 million by 2035, that 80% of people with diabetes live in low and middle-income countries, that diabetes will cause 5.1 million deaths in 2013, one every six seconds, that the 66th World Health Assembly held in May 2013 has adopted nine global targets and 25 indicators to help address the non-communicable diseases (NCD) pandemic and that diabetes is the only one of the four major NCDs with its own global target, to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity by 2025; congratulates the 90 nations that have signed the Melbourne Declaration on Diabetes, and acknowledges what it considers the pivotal role of the International Diabetes Federation as the unique global voice for people with diabetes.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I congratulate David Stewart on securing this important debate. I join others in congratulating the International Diabetes Federation on organising the global parliamentary champions for diabetes forum, which was held in Melbourne last year. I understand that parliamentarians from 90 countries have signed a commitment to establish a parliamentarians for diabetes global network.

Diabetes is, of course, a global crisis as well as a crisis here in Scotland. There are 382 million people around the world with diabetes. That number is expected to rise to perhaps 600 million by 2035. Diabetes will have caused 5.1 million deaths in 2013—that is one every six seconds.

It is an economic issue as well as a social issue and a health issue, with 80 per cent of people who have diabetes living in low and middle-income countries. The annual world cost is about £330 billion. It is a very significant issue on a whole series of different levels.

More fundamentally, the number of diabetics who have been diagnosed continues to rise in Scotland. Of course, that is partly due to better diagnosis and screening procedures but the number of cases is rising by between 4 to 5 per cent per annum.

The Melbourne declaration identifies three specific areas where action could be taken: in prevention, in increasing early diagnosis, and in increasing access to diabetes care and to therapies.

In Scotland, we have the diabetes action plan, which is an excellent way of focusing on some of the issues. In particular, the plan seeks to reduce obesity, which is a primary cause of type 2 diabetes, because as we have heard—and I have some limited personal experience in this regard—diabetes carries with it a whole series of secondary consequences such as amputations and blindness.

The Scottish Government has provided substantial support to diabetes research organisations—it has provided £10,000 to Diabetes UK Scotland in the current year.

I myself am lucky because I have an annual medical so at least in the last 12 months I know that I am not subject to diabetes. The simple urine test that comes as part of that medical is a kind of reassurance that I hope more and more people across Scotland can have.

I have some direct interest in this issue through a member of my own family, who is in Australia. My nephew, Alan Baxter, is a professor at James Cook University—in Townsville, Queensland—who specialises in diabetes. He established a facility there and he is one of a range of scientists around the world who have come up with some remedies. He has come up with one variant of an inoculation for one of the variants of type 1 diabetes. Many of the variants are genetically driven by a series of different triggers. The inoculation is designed to switch off one trigger. I hope that he and the many other doctors and researchers who are working to address the causes and effects of the disease continue to undertake that good work, while our policymakers must continue to support them.

The Melbourne declaration on diabetes has put diabetes on the world stage. I hope that we in this Parliament will add our parliamentary weight to this worldwide parliamentary initiative.


29 January 2014

S4M-08795 National Tree

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-08795, in the name of Angus MacDonald, on a national tree for Scotland. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes the news that the Scots pine is to be designated the National Tree of Scotland; understands that this follows a public consultation by Forestry Commission Scotland, which ran from 3 September to 3 December 2013, to determine whether there is support for a national tree; acknowledges that this followed an approach to the Public Petitions Committee by a member of the public who suggested that the Scots pine be adopted as the national tree; recognises the importance of designating a national tree of Scotland as an important symbol of the country’s commitment to woodlands, biodiversity and reforestation, and understands that the Scots pine is the most widely distributed conifer in the world, with a natural range that stretches from West Scotland to the Okhotsk Sea in eastern Siberia, and from north of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia to southern Spain.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): It is not often that my spouse participates in and seeks to influence parliamentary business, but today I received an urgent email from Sandra, with her vote on the national tree. I am delighted to say that she said that, for her, number 1 was the Scots pine, number 2 was the silver birch and number 3 was the rowan.

That may of course say a little about my wife. She is quite close to the silver birch as Cairn o’ Mohr, one of our local non-vine-based wineries, produces a wonderful silver birch wine that is lightly pĂ©tillant and—for those who have a vivid imagination—reminiscent of the finest French fizzy wine.

Of course, the rowans, of which we have six at the bottom of the garden, are the traditional Scots guard against the witches coming in, so I perfectly understand why Sandra had them on the list. I am delighted that she was able, from afar, by email, to support tonight’s motion.

Jamie McGrigor compared the Scots pine to the Sitka spruce. Where I live in Banffshire, I am surrounded on three sides by Sitka spruce, and it is almost a biodiversity no-go zone because the forest floor is so impacted by the lack of sunlight. Badgers and deer come through the trees and a fox lives in them, but comparatively, in plant life terms, there is not very much.

The Scots pine, by contrast, encourages huge diversity. Among the diversity that is associated with it—perhaps it is no accident—is Felis sylvestris grampia, or the Scots wildcat. The word “sylvestris”, meaning “forest”, is an important part of the name. I was slightly surprised that Jamie McGrigor, in referring to the wildcat, did not remind us of the MacGregor clan motto, which is “touch not the cat but with a glove”. That is a good thing to say about the Scots wildcat.

Of course, there are lots of other species that have “sylvestris” in their title as well. Besides Pinus sylvestris, which is the Scots pine, there is Anthricus sylvestris, or cow parsley, which can be found on the margins of our woodland; Malva sylvestris, or the common mallow, which again is found on the margins of forests—not in Scotland, perhaps, but elsewhere; Malus sylvestris, or the European crabapple, which is of course itself a tree; Angelica sylvestris, or wild Angelica, which lives in forest margins; Anemone sylvestris, or the snowdrop anemone, although that does not live much in forests; and finally Thymelicus sylvestris, which is a small skipper butterfly. Alas, the latter is not present in Scotland at all.

Diversity comes in many forms across the environment that we have in Europe. I would love to have the Scots pine in my garden but, growing as it does to 35m or 40m, I think that there is a remote chance of that. I am told that, in parts of Scandinavia, it can exceed 50m. It is a very substantial tree indeed and it can live for hundreds of years.

We may not have followed Canada and put the outline of a leaf as the main motif on our flag—in its case, it is the maple leaf—but I am delighted that we now have a national tree in Scotland and I very much welcome the fact that it is the Scots pine. Thank you, Presiding Officer.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Thank you. That was a vintage performance.


S4M-08833 Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officer Elections

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is consideration of motion S4M-08833, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on Presiding Officer and Deputy Presiding Officer elections. I call Stewart Stevenson to move the motion on behalf of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.


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

Thank you, Presiding Officer—I know that this will be a matter of considerable interest to the Presiding Officer and to other members.

The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee is proposing some changes to the rules on Presiding Officer elections.

The Scotland Act 1998 places a number of requirements on Parliament in relation to the election of its Presiding Officers—rightly so, given the importance of the role. However, in our first few years of operation, it became clear that the rules are rather too restrictive and some real operational difficulties have arisen. For example, when our first Presiding Officer, Sir David Steel, had to undergo an operation, his two deputies had to carry his workload between them—there was no scope to appoint a temporary Deputy Presiding Officer to fill the gap.

A different difficulty arose at the start of session 3, when we had our first experience of minority government. Given the importance of every seat in the parliamentary arithmetic of that session, it took some time for possible candidates for Presiding Officer to emerge, yet Parliament was required to elect a Presiding Officer at its first meeting. A procedural fix was devised and we were able to elect Alex Fergusson on our second meeting day, but that situation was unsatisfactory—[Laughter.]—and could arise again in the future. I see that Alex Fergusson is volunteering again already.

The Scotland Act 2012 addressed both those problems. The changes that I am proposing on behalf of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee will translate those changes into the standing orders.

The first change will allow the Presiding Officer elections to take place at any time within 14 days of the general election, counting from the day after the poll. The oath taking must be completed first, and no other business can take place until the Presiding Officer and the Deputy Presiding Officers have been elected, but we are no longer restricted to the first meeting.

The committee took the view that some flexibility is desirable. In general, Parliament will want to elect the Presiding Officer as soon as possible so that it can get down to business, but that may not always be possible. Therefore, the rules that we have drafted will allow the elections to take place on the first meeting day, or at a later meeting, or for the Presiding Officer to be elected on one day and the deputies on a subsequent day.

The committee took the chance to review all the rules on Presiding Officer elections, and concluded that they generally work well. We did not detect any appetite for significant changes, but we agreed that the timetable was a little tight. We therefore propose that, for both elections, there should be an hour between the close of nominations and the start of voting, rather than 15 minutes, as is the case at present. That would provide a short space to allow members to reflect on and discuss the nominations before they have to vote. We also propose that there should be an hour, rather than 15 minutes, to submit nominations for Deputy Presiding Officers.

The rule changes will allow additional deputies to be appointed. The most likely reason for that is illness, but there could be other reasons. We have therefore left it to the Presiding Officer and the Parliamentary Bureau to decide when and for how long an additional deputy would be needed, with the safeguard that any proposal must be agreed by Parliament. The overall political balance of the Presiding Officer team is also protected by the new rules.

As with the previous motion, Parliament is invited to agree that the changes to standing orders will come into effect from 3 February.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s 9th Report 2013 (Session 4), Presiding Officer & Deputy Presiding Officer Elections (SP Paper 433), and agrees that the changes to Standing Orders set out in annexe A of the report be made with effect from 3 February 2014.

S4M-08832 Committee Substitutes

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is consideration of motion S4M-08832, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on committee substitutes. I call Stewart Stevenson to move and speak to the motion on behalf of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.


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

Before I come to the substance of the motion that is before us, it is right and proper that I draw to Parliament’s attention the two reports that I will be speaking to today—Scottish Parliament papers 402 and 433—and to the role that two of our late members, Brian Adam and Helen Eadie, played in their preparation. My old boss once said that on the day after one leaves office the tide has come in and one’s footprints have gone from the beach, but we should acknowledge the efforts of those two much-missed members in contributing to what I shall be speaking about this afternoon. [Applause.]

The Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee is recommending some minor changes to standing orders. The first change clarifies that should a member of the Public Audit Committee become a minister, he or she will cease to be a member of that committee. In practice, that has always been the case, but there was previously some ambiguity in the rules, which we now seek to correct.

The second change relates to the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee itself. On occasion, the committee may have to consider a complaint about an MSP, but what happens if that MSP is a member of the committee? It is possible that the member may not wish to attend committee meetings at which the complaint is being considered. However, the current rules do not allow that member to send a substitute in his or her place. The committee would therefore have to meet with one fewer member, which could impact on its work.

The committee has agreed to seek Parliament’s approval to amend standing orders so that a member of the committee can send a substitute in his or her place if they decide not to attend a meeting because the committee is considering a complaint against them. The new rules will not, however, affect the right of a member of the committee to attend a meeting at which they are the subject of a complaint, if they wish to do so.

Parliament is invited to agree that those standing orders changes will come into effect from 3 February.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s 7th Report 2013 (Session 4), Committee Substitutes (SP Paper 402), and agrees that the changes to Standing Orders set out in annexe B of the report be made with effect from 3 February 2014.

S4M-08857 Common Agricultural Policy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-08857, in the name of Richard Lochhead, on the common agricultural policy.

... ... ...

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

I remind members of my registered agricultural holding, although it covers 3 acres and I receive no money—public or private—as a result of owning it, so it probably does not matter very much.

The Bank of Scotland carries out an annual survey of agriculture, the most recent of which it published at 11 o’clock yesterday morning. The survey contains a number of interesting points. The number of responses rating the Scottish Government as “good” or “very good” has risen, as has been mentioned, but, more critically for this debate, it shows that 89 per cent of farmers are against single farm payments going to inactive farmers. That view commands pretty broad support in the chamber in principle, if we acknowledge the diverse views on the different ways of moving from the current position to one that is more appropriate.

As I said in my intervention on Elaine Murray, only about a third of farms report that they would be profitable without single farm payments. However, with regard to the Government’s proposals, two thirds of respondents to the survey said that they were in favour of calf subsidy payments.

It is interesting to turn to that indispensable guide to all things farming, Private Eye. This week’s issue praises our Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment to the skies, stating:

“At least in Scotland politicians seem determined to ... extract some food production from farmers in exchange for taxpayer cash.”

It goes on to say:

“If Lochhead’s initiative succeeds in starting to revive Scottish beef farming, maybe Paterson will have to consider a similar scheme for England? For that to happen he would first have to brave the howls of well-orchestrated protest from English farmers ... used to being paid £3bn a year without having to produce a thing.”

Alex Fergusson: Will Stewart Stevenson acknowledge, for those who do not know, that Private Eye is essentially a satirical magazine?

Stewart Stevenson: I will bear that in mind next time it makes reference to my perorations here and elsewhere. However, I think that Bio-Waste Spreader—for that is the pseudonym under which “The Agri Brigade” column is written—is someone who writes with genuine and informed views on the agricultural sector. One can play it both ways, but I think that he has at least captured the essence of the debate.

On pillar 2, the Government proposes quite a lot of interesting things. They include £459 million for less favoured areas support; £355 million for the agri-environment climate scheme; £252 million for forestry; and £20 million for new entrants—an area in which there is a fairly widespread view that we need to do more—covering farmers up to the age of 40, which is an EU constraint. There is also £20 million for crofting and small farms, and £10 million for co-operative ventures.

The stakeholders have responded in a variety of ways. The NFUS focuses on the theme that is running through this debate in contributions from members on all sides of the chamber, which is the imbalance between the EU’s objectives in providing money to the UK and where the UK has delivered that money.

As the Scottish Parliament information centre briefing tells us, the NFUS says that it would, in essence, be inequitable for arable farmers in Berwickshire to receive a different amount from farmers in Norfolk, and for hill farmers in the Highlands to receive a different amount from those in the lake district. It is quite easy to agree with that observation.

Claire Baker referred to Finland, saying how much better it was doing on environmental issues. Let us examine the numbers. In 2019, Finland will get €230 in direct payments per hectare while Scotland will get €120—just over half. Further, rural development funding per hectare in Finland will be €148 while in Scotland it will be €12. It is easier to do better if you have more to do better with. That is the fundamental failure of the present arrangements whereby our interests are represented by ministers not from this Parliament but from elsewhere.

Claire Baker: Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I no longer have time. Please forgive me; I am in my last 45 seconds.

The amendments before us are well and good. I can certainly agree that the cross-party representations were useful, but I think that, in aiming for 9.5 per cent, the cabinet secretary has got it just about right.

Roderick Campbell, like me, focused on the number of areas that we should consider. Farmers are, essentially, saying that it has got to be two, three or four, with the option of three aggregating as much support as two and four. We ought to consider that again, because that is where farmers are coming from.

Let us not throw out forestry. It is an important contributor to our efforts to deal with climate change, and I cannot help but notice that this evening’s members’ business debate is on Scotland’s national tree.


28 January 2014

S4M-08600 Holocaust Memorial Day 2014

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-08600, in the name of Stewart Maxwell, on Holocaust memorial day 2014. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that 27 January 2014 marks Holocaust Memorial Day, the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and an opportunity for schools, colleges, faith groups and communities across Scotland to remember the six million men, women and children murdered by the Nazi regime in occupied Europe; further notes that the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 is “journeys”; values the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Lessons from Auschwitz Project, which gives two post-16 students from every school and college in Scotland the opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau; applauds Ruth Laird and William Seaborne, two students from Queen Anne High School in Dunfermline, who took part in the project and who will deliver the Parliament’s Time for Reflection message on 21 January 2014; celebrates the Holocaust survivors who have enriched Scotland as a nation, and recommits to ensuring that racism, sectarianism and bigotry are never allowed to go unchallenged in Scotland.

... ... ...

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

I also congratulate Stewart Maxwell on securing the debate. I join others in recognising Holocaust memorial day and the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

My family, of course, was fortunate enough not to experience the trauma of the Holocaust, and I am grateful for that. However, it is at this time that we honour and remember the 6 million men, women and children who were less fortunate than ourselves and paid the price of Nazi oppression.

Ken Gibson mentioned some people affected beyond the Jews—the Gypsies and the disabled—but there were also mentally ill or mentally disabled people, and gays. A wide range of people in that last 10 per cent suffered the ultimate fate of the hatred that the Nazis had for them.

The Holocaust has touched Scotland in many ways, and it continues to have a lasting impact on our young people. Last week, Ruth Laird and William Seaborne spoke to Parliament, and that was an appropriate thing for them to do. They come from Queen Anne high school, where my mother taught 80-plus years ago. I am sure that she would have very much admired the spirit in which they spoke to Parliament. They tried to put themselves in others’ shoes and to live some of the experience of people in the concentration camp. William spoke of his great uncle, who was a survivor. He had never met him, but that is an important link to the past for youngsters today.

I read my first political book, a biography of Lloyd George, when I was seven. On the back of that and having watched “The Brains Trust” on the BBC on a Sunday afternoon—Jakob Bronowski used to refer, in that forum, to his family’s experience at Auschwitz—I thought that I should try and read some of the political books that had affected the 20th century. I started with “Das Kapital”—in English, I hasten to add—which I found it very difficult to read. I got “Mein Kampf” from the library and managed to read three chapters, before my utter disgust at its content—it got worse as it went on—made it unreadable for me. My sensibilities found it intolerable.

Jakob Bronowski was a very intellectual man, and covered a wide range of different subjects. He came to these islands in the 1920s and was not personally involved in the Holocaust, but many of his relatives were. When he recorded “The Ascent of Man”, a great history of the human race from its origins to its present situation, he visited Auschwitz. One of the most moving things that I have ever seen on television was Jakob Bronowski at the camp, speaking off the cuff. He did not use a script in the series at all, and wrote the book afterwards, based on what he had said. He looked at the camera, and said nothing. He stooped down, put his hand in a puddle and lifted up some mud. He looked at the mud in his hand and said, “This is my family.” That is the most moving thing that I have ever seen on television. It resonates with me to this day.

Something else that means something to me involves a survivor of the concentration camps—a Russian Jew who left Russia at the time of the revolution because he had criticised the new regime. He came to Germany for safety, ironically, and then criticised the Nazis and got put in a concentration camp. That was Jakow Trachtenberg. To keep himself sane, he used his time in the concentration camp to develop new mathematical algorithms for training young people how to do arithmetic—some good has come.

We must protect the memory of the evil that happened in the Holocaust. The end of the motion before us talks about

“the Holocaust survivors who have enriched Scotland as a nation”,

and recommitting the Parliament

“to ensuring that racism, sectarianism and bigotry are never allowed to go unchallenged in Scotland.”

I look forward to hearing what the minister has to say—I am sure that it will be of interest.


14 January 2014

S4M-08651 The CEDAR Network

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The final item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-08651, in the name of James Dornan, on the CEDAR—children experiencing domestic abuse recovery—network. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. Since James Dornan cannot be with us for the debate, for very understandable reasons, I call on Sandra White to open the debate.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament commends the work of the Cedar Network and other third sector organisations in assisting women and young people who are affected by domestic abuse; notes that a branch of the Cedar Network has been established in Glasgow, which adds to the rest of its network across Scotland; considers its work, which it carries out through group work and support, to be hugely important in aiding recovery from domestic abuse; notes what it sees as the Cedar Network’s close working relationship with a number of third sector and statutory organisations, such as the Castlemilk Domestic Abuse Project; considers that the inclusion of trained facilitators from a wide range of statutory and voluntary agencies helps to foster a multiagency support network that is crucial to the success of the project; highlights research conducted by Nancy Lombard, who is a lecturer in social policy at Glasgow Caledonian University, on young people’s attitudes toward violence, which suggests that engaging them in discussions on the subject will help challenge gendered perceptions of this, and considers education on violence and support for women and children to be key in helping to break cycles of domestic abuse.

... ... ...

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

I join others in congratulating James on securing the debate and Sandra for stepping in to ensure that it got off to a good start.

The focus of tonight’s debate is the CEDAR network’s branch in Glasgow, but the motion refers to the fact that we are talking about a branch of a wider network. I have met some of the partners of the CEDAR network in Glasgow, such as Glasgow Women’s Aid and Children 1st, which works right across Scotland. It is important that the CEDAR network and others have the opportunity to create links with other organisations that can help.

I represent a part of the Moray region, in which the CEDAR network has been active for some time, and there are important parallels between what is happening in Glasgow and what is happening across the rest of Scotland, particularly in Moray. I will start with some general remarks.

We need to think about the sources of violence that affect children, and there are a few that we might focus on in particular. Mental ill-health in adults who are close to children can be a source of violence, as can addictions, particularly to drink and severe, mind-distorting drugs such as crack cocaine. Relationships can come under stress, particularly through what I might describe as gratuitous promiscuity on the part of one partner, which can lead to violence that involves the children. Some sociopathic conditions mean that some parents are not naturally fitted to the role in which they find themselves, and those parents need support as much as their children do.

I am one of the fortunate majority who has not been exposed to such things. That said, I remember at some indeterminate point listening from some distance to the only argument that I remember between my parents. I have no idea what it was about. There were no raised voices; it was quite quiet, but it was sufficiently impressive that I remember it to this day. When we are talking about parents and adults making much more severe interventions on children, I can see through that very tiny example in my own life that the effects on youngsters might last a lifetime.

The work of the CEDAR network is very important in tackling the effects of domestic abuse on children. In Moray, the CEDAR network has funding from the Big Lottery to work with Children 1st, and is a partner agency of the Moray domestic abuse partnership. It also does excellent work through a 12-week therapeutic group work programme for children and young people who have been exposed to domestic abuse. Mothers also have the opportunity to attend a group to support their children. Whatever we might think generally, the remedy often lies at the mother’s door. I hope that more men will step up to the mark in relation to their parental responsibilities, but the reality is that we deliver a lot if we support the mothers.

The group work model is adapted from work that came from Canada. I hope that, in her summing up, the minister will acknowledge that it is well worth pursuing. We think that perhaps as many as 100,000 children in Scotland live under the shadow of domestic abuse. That tells us how important tonight’s debate is and, more fundamentally, how significantly the Parliament should tak tent of the issue and the work of the CEDAR network in Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland. [Applause.]


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