30 October 2014

S4M-11332 Supported Business

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): Good afternoon. The first item of business is a debate on motion S4M-11332, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on supported businesses.

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

The word “very” is duly noted, Presiding Officer.

It is clear from the debate thus far that there is a pretty broad consensus—it may stop at the aisle to my right, beyond which the Conservatives sit—that the issue of supported business is important and is one on which we have shared objectives. If we differ, I think that we do so on means, not objectives.

Let me commend two speeches, which have best illustrated that consensus and the nature of the challenge. One is the most recent speech by Siobhan McMahon, who has taken a close interest in the subject over a period. Although I do not necessarily agree with everything that she said, no one who listened to her could doubt her commitment. Mike MacKenzie made an outstanding speech from the Scottish National Party benches that captured the essence of the debate.

The Government’s motion quite properly talks about

“enhancing commercial viability through business support and action to increase public and private sector procurement”.

We have talked about the quality of the products that supported businesses can produce, and what has been said is correct. Very early in my married life—I have been married for 45 years—the first bed that we bought was from Blindcraft. It was an excellent product at an excellent price, and it was delivered to us. I am sure that many of us have had very good interactions with supported businesses at various stages in our lives.

Why did I go to Blindcraft? I did so first because I knew about the business and wanted to support it, but also because it made sense economically and I would buy a good product. It is disappointing to hear, as we have done, that comparatively little money is available to help supported businesses to market themselves, which we might all want to ponder from here on in.

Let us talk about what profit actually is. In its briefing for the debate, Inclusion Scotland highlights that, for every £1 that the Treasury spends on the DWP’s access to work scheme, it receives £1.60 in additional tax, so the intervention makes a profit. That leads us from the particular to the general. When we support people who require a supported environment in which to work, the odds are that the economics of that will make sense, but if we have people who have dropped out of the system and who, because of a lack of social contact, a lack of income and a lack of integration into the wider community, require more economic and social support, the cost rises. In other words, a profit is involved in supporting supported businesses. We do not have to be moral about it, as it almost certainly makes economic sense.

The trouble is that the position of people who work for supported businesses is being conflated with the position of all people who require any money from the state, who are being portrayed as leeches on the state for whom funding must be cut to the bone. The reality is that a proper economic examination of the issue would come up with a very different view.

Some interesting activities go on in supported industries. I looked into supported industries around the world and found that some of them are keeping old crafts alive. For example, in the town of Sorède in France, there is what is thought to be the last manufacturer of whips—I know that we could all think of uses for whips in this debate and many others—which is a supported business that uses local materials. We often find that supported businesses operate in little niches that are of value and interest. Such activities are going on all around the world.

An article from the New Statesman in 2013 made a few interesting observations on the subject. The first point to note is that we need to be slightly careful about when the reduction in the number of people employed in the supported business sector started. The first round of closures started under the Labour Government in 2008, when 1,600 workers were given the boot. Five years later, the DWP found that only 200 of those 1,600 people had been successful in finding jobs. Therefore, it is a long-run problem, and we should not point at any single individual or any single Government, although what is being done now will certainly not be helpful.

On 4 March 2013, Jim Sheridan asked a question in the House of Commons about the £8 million that was supposed to be made available to former Remploy people to find work or access benefits. It appears from Esther McVey’s answer and, more fundamentally, from the work of Private Eye—a print publication for which I have the highest regard—that it is unclear whether anyone got anything out of that. Most of the money seems to have been spent on unpaid volunteering, work experience or coffee mornings. On that basis, even the money that has been made available to support people in that position seems not to have been wisely deployed.

We meet people with disabilities in our everyday lives. I regularly go to a local cafe where the majority of the staff are people with disabilities; they do not work in a supported enterprise but in a supported environment within an enterprise. There are many models that will suit many people.

The Government and its companies and agencies do very well. I remember meeting Eric Ruthven on a visit that I made as a minister to the CalMac Ferries office in Gourock. He started working there in the 1990s after coming out of a supported environment. He is now a valued member of staff—he is probably the best-known member of staff to people who get the ferry at Gourock—and he received an MBE for the charitable work that he has done locally. We should never underestimate people with disabilities.

I close by thinking about big and small private companies—public companies. There is increasing pressure on them in a number of ways to behave morally. There is increasing adoption of the living wage without legislative requirements. That is good news. Corporate social responsibility is debated in many boardrooms across these islands. We should ensure that this is the next subject that is debated there. We could do what the Danes have just done in legislation on the environment—companies in Denmark now have to give an environmental statement as part of their annual reporting. Such a move could prove useful here.

Finally, I address the 118 public authorities that the Labour amendment mentions. I have looked at the list of the 20 supported businesses and racked my brains to see what exactly the Water Industry Commission for Scotland would be able to buy from any of them. I am sure that the commission is eager to use them, but it has a good complement of furniture that is relatively modern.

Jenny Marra (North East Scotland) (Lab): I think that I made it clear to the minister that I was suggesting a mandate of at least one public contract on local authorities and health boards, which we know buy uniforms and beds that are made by sheltered workplaces. If the minister would like to exclude quangos such as Scottish Water that he knows do not buy anything that supported businesses make, that would be a decision for the Government.

Stewart Stevenson: I am not sure whether I have been reinstated to a previous position, because I appear to have been addressed as the minister, but I will reply anyway. The Labour amendment says 118; I merely suggest in the kindest way that my colleagues in the chamber must proofread their amendments more carefully before lodging them, because the 118 certainly includes the Water Industry Commission for Scotland. I am not saying that it is impossible for it to purchase from a supported business at some future date but, if we were to make that a legal requirement, that would be a substantial difficulty.

Thank you for the extra time, Presiding Officer.


29 October 2014

S4M-11304 Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-11304, in the name of Liz Smith, on addressing the attainment gap in Scottish schools.

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

The Conservatives say in their motion that they believe in “greater diversity in schools”. The Collins dictionary defines diversity as

“the relation ... between ... entities when ... numerically distinct”.

In other words, there must be a multiplicity of entities. In my constituency, in the Moray Council area, the future of schools in Findochty, Portknockie, Portessie, Cullen and Rothiemay, of Crossroads and Cluny schools and of schools nearby at Portgordon and Newmill is under review. Milne’s high school, which covers Fochabers and Mosstodloch, is under threat of closure.

The Tories also say in the motion that they believe in maximum choice. Are schools in Moray with good educational attainment being supported by what is proposed? No. They are threatened by proposals to merge, to close and to reduce the number of schools, thus reducing diversity and choice. The proposals will deliver not maximum choice but quite the opposite. They will not deliver greater diversity through reduced numbers.

Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con): Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I may come to Mary Scanlon later, because I will say things of considerable interest to her.

No educational case has been made for the changes that are proposed in Moray. Nor does the economic case stand any scrutiny. Many of the schools are below the 70 pupils level at which additional funding trips in. If the schools whose closure is proposed do close, Moray Council will sacrifice a seven-figure sum. The decision is not justified by diversity or by choice; it is highly unlikely to be justified on economic grounds.

More fundamentally, there is not a squeak, not a sound and not a word from the community in favour of such change. How do we know what the community thinks? On Saturday, the communities in Fochabers and Mosstodloch in my colleague Richard Lochhead’s constituency were on the march to save their local high school—Milne’s high school. It is an excellent high school, as are many of the schools that I have referred to, with good marks. We are not looking at closing failing schools; we are looking at schools with good education records.

Mary Scanlon rose—

Stewart Stevenson: Just wait, please.

We had a community energised in defence of its school—not quite unanimously, though. The local Conservative councillor, who is well known to Mary Scanlon, was not with the team in Fochabers and Mosstodloch. He was not standing shoulder to shoulder with his constituents; he was standing on the touchline at Easter Road as an assistant referee in the match between Hearts and Hibs. That is an important job and it is important that he gives support in that capacity, but on that day of all days, he should have been standing shoulder to shoulder with his constituents. I hope that in future he will do so. Does Mary Scanlon wish to comment?

Mary Scanlon: It is inappropriate to talk about a member of my staff who has a contract with the Scottish Football Association. I ask Stewart Stevenson, as the convener of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, to reflect on his comments.

My granddaughter is a pupil at Mosstodloch school—I declare that interest.

The only proposals to close Milne’s are from Caledonia Consulting. I am sure that, as an SNP member, Stewart Stevenson will be aware that all the councillors in Moray Council will vote on Monday to determine whether that school is up for closure.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Hurry along, please.

Mary Scanlon: I am on the same page on attainment levels. I have a paragraph in my closing speech on Milne’s high and I agree very much with Stewart Stevenson on the attainment level there.

Stewart Stevenson: I am perhaps encouraged by what I have just heard, but it sounds as if we may be hearing an attempt to outsource the blame for something that the council initiated. However, if on Monday we get the result that the communities have been marching for, I will make common cause with anyone in any part of the chamber to express gratitude for it. I am glad to have given the issue an airing today in the hope that we may see progress on behalf of our communities.

In my remaining 50 seconds I will say a little about disadvantage and where it comes from. It comes from economic circumstances; it certainly does not come from children’s genetic circumstances when they are born. As a minister, I attended an event in Aberdeen in 2009 or 2010 at which I saw a film of a one-year-old child beating with music. From birth, children are affected by the environment, so having an economic environment in which we deny children the range of opportunities that they would get in wealthier environments is not a way forward. I ask the Tories to reflect on that and consider the effects on future generations of economic policies that are coming from Westminster.

I am happy to support the cabinet secretary’s amendment.


28 October 2014

S4M-11065 World Mental Health Day

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-11065, in the name of Linda Fabiani, on world mental health day. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes that 10 October 2014 is World Mental Health Day; welcomes this day of global mental health education, awareness and advocacy; understands that World Mental Health Day 2014 shines the spotlight on schizophrenia and that one in 100 people have schizophrenia; welcomes the work of Support in Mind Scotland, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and its upcoming 1 in 100 campaign, which is to be launched in October; understands that this work takes place 10 years on from the first Scottish review of schizophrenia care and treatment; is concerned that nine out of 10 people with schizophrenia cannot get employment and experience discrimination and stigma; is further concerned that people with schizophrenia face shorter life expectancies by 15 to 20 years on average compared with the general population; understands that early intervention boosts the life chances of people with schizophrenia and welcomes the work of charities and other stakeholders right across Scotland in supporting the one in 100 Scots living with schizophrenia, including Support in Mind Scotland, and congratulates the volunteers in its East Kilbride support group, which has been working locally for 36 years.

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

I, too, thank Linda Fabiani. Let us make the debate personal: statistically, every one of us here has a 50:50 chance that at some time in their life someone with whom they have a direct one-to-one familial relationship will suffer mental ill health. That relates to two parents, a partner and a single offspring, which is statistically what we have as relationships, so the issues will be close to home.

I have discovered only in the past year, for example, that one of my mother’s aunts lived most of her life locked away in the asylum in Lochgilphead. She was never spoken about; I never knew that she existed until I did family research. That was the past and that was the stigma—it happened and it simply was not talked about.

In 1964, as a 17-year-old and before going to university, I very much enjoyed working for six or seven months as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital. That was a time when the treatment of one who was seriously mentally ill was to be locked in a ward and forgotten about. Staffing levels were appallingly poor. The world today is very different; let us hope that that is a good thing.

I will talk about a few matters. The first is awareness. What does mental illness mean for the sufferer? Not all people who suffer from mental ill health are self-aware that they have a problem. We cannot do much about that, but what we—the family and everyone else—can do by being aware of that person’s needs is be there to support them when they need that, catch them when they fall and lift them back up.

We need health treatment for people with mental ill health. We are increasing investment in mental health, which is welcome, albeit—as Mary Scanlon correctly highlighted—that it is the poor relation financially and, more critically, as a chosen specialism for people with medical training. That is more critical than money because, if we do not have the people with the skills, we cannot spend the money to help the people who need help.

We all have to be careful about the social interactions that we have with people who have different degrees of mental ill health. However, let us put a positive spin on the issue. Having a different mental approach, although it creates a huge burden for people, can deliver benefit. I will highlight the careers of three famous schizophrenics. Vincent van Gogh died at the age of 37. It is thought that he died because he shot himself. This is not the time to explore why there is doubt about that, but he produced the most wonderful impressionistic art. There is little doubt that how his brain and mind worked contributed to that. He paid a huge price for that, but he delivered a great deal for us, which we remember to this day.

Clara Bow—the it girl and one of the first stars in the silent cinema, who continued into the era of the talkies—suffered from schizophrenia for her entire life but contributed enormously to the experience and enjoyment of others. Nijinsky, the great dancer, was schizophrenic and, as with Clara Bow, he died relatively early at the age of 60. Many of those famous sufferers were in the artistic rather than the scientific or other domains, but one could speak about many others. Let us remember that people with mental illness can make a huge contribution, which is sometimes aided by the fact of their illness.

We talk about stress in modern society. Stress is good in pushing us forward, as long as we can deal with it but, in the complex world in which we live, too many people are overloaded, so that stress becomes distress and leads to mental ill health. Each and every one of us should be watching for that to happen.

An outcome of mental ill health for some people is suicide. Unfortunately, I have been close to three people who committed suicide. One did so—at the age of 18, I may say—because of a chemical imbalance arising from a physical condition. Another threw herself off a high building while suffering from post-natal depression. As for the third person, to this day we do not know why the suicide took place. There was no sign of it coming—it is a mystery, wrapped in an enigma.

As individuals, we all have a duty to help people with mental ill health and guide them to treatment. As parliamentarians, we must ensure that we provide the resources to help them.


09 October 2014

S4M-11078 Register of Interests for Members of Scotland’s Judiciary

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-111078, in the name of David Stewart, on petition PE1458, which is on a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

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

I congratulate Peter Cherbi on his petition. Whatever position we take on its substance, it is opportune to debate the issues around it because, far from being trivial matters of process, they go to the very heart of trust in the justice system. For the record, I am speaking in the debate not, in any sense, as the convener of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee but as an individual member of the Parliament.

It was with grave misgivings that I heard Jackson Carlaw introduce his speech by saying that he really had nothing to say. I wondered whether the debate was going to turn out to be one of those real political debates that are over not when everything has been said but when everybody has said it. However, so far, every member has made an individual contribution, which is very good.

I intervened on Graeme Pearson for a particular reason. I tried to consider when my entry in the members’ register of interests has come into play. I put many things into it voluntarily, as many of us do, because I think that even though I am not required to mention them, they are things that might matter. For example, I have declared a shareholding in a major bank voluntarily, although it is below the level that requires to be registered, as that touches on lots of things.

When we talk about the interests and connections that a judge might have that would cause recusal, I suspect—but cannot prove at this stage—that finance would be the least of them. I would guess that such interests will almost certainly be relationships, membership of clubs and attendance at events.

David Stewart: As always, the member is correct. The 14 recusals so far have been, by and large, about relationships—in other words, a sheriff knows a witness. The member is right to suggest that there have been very few financial issues involved in those 14 recusals.

Stewart Stevenson: I am obliged for that. I did not know that, but the committee convener has put flesh on the bones of my assumption. We will see how it pans out when there are more recusals.

Of necessity, we cannot anticipate and put in a register everything of that character that will come up, or our whole lives would have to be on the register. I have been pursuing genealogical research into my family tree for more than 50 years and have 4,600 people in my family tree. How could I put them all on the register meaningfully? We must be careful, therefore, not to imagine that this is the silver bullet.

John Wilson: Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I want to cover one or two things. If possible, I will come back to Mr Wilson.

The issue in respect of judges is not new. Clause 19 of the Union with England Act 1707, which is one of the bigger clauses in the act, is about the appointment of judges, and it states:

“That no Writer to the Signet be capable to be admitted a Lord of the Session unless he undergo a private and publick Tryal on the Civil Law before the Faculty of Advocats and be found by them qualified for the said Office”.

Worrying about whom we appoint as judges is not new.

That takes us to the heart of the matter. The Romans had a saying: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”—who will guard the guards? If judges misbehave or do not come up to the required standard, how do we deal with that? Inevitably, there must be a judicial process exercised by whomsoever grips that one.

We have to appoint the right people, because I do not think that we can prescribe and describe all the circumstances that may touch on their ability to make decisions. That is not to say that having a register of financial interests would be without value; I just do not want colleagues to imagine that it would really do much more than scratch the surface of the issue.

We all have interests. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth set out a budget today. Will he buy a house in the future and, therefore, be affected by the decisions that he has brought to Parliament on taxing transactions on housing? The answer is, of course, yes. The real test is whether he is doing anything that does other than affect the generality of people—he must not instead do things that affect him or a particular group of which he is a member. That is the kind of test that judges must have in their mind at all times.

I close, Presiding Officer, by saying—I encourage Lord Gill and his successors to think about recalibrating their relationship with Parliament. However, when my colleague Joan McAlpine talked about being a journalist, I immediately reflected that journalists are entitled to, and properly do—keep their sources secret. Therefore, not everything can be in the public domain. Ultimately, we have to choose the right people. We have to trust them, and we have to treat them extremely harshly if that trust is not fulfilled.


02 October 2014

S4M-11048 Food (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The first item of business is a debate on motion S4M-11048, in the name of Michael Matheson, on the Food (Scotland) Bill.

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

It is a great privilege to represent the people of the north-east of Scotland, and of course it allows me to indulge my palate and pamper my digestion.

As I look across my constituency, I can eat smoked salmon from Portsoy that has been smoked using redundant whisky barrels from the local whisky industry with a variety of flavours. Is that not wonderful? I can go to my supermarket—I can go to any supermarket in these islands—and buy a ready meal that has been produced in Fraserburgh to high standards. I can eat haddocks that have come from Peterhead, and I can eat excellent beef, lamb and other meats—and increasingly the greengrocer has been supplanted by the butcher across my constituency.

Perhaps what I particularly enjoy is to go to Whitehills and buy, for a pound, the Cullen skink Scotch pie, which, popped in the microwave, under the grill or in the oven, is the most delicious Scotch pie people will ever have in their lives. If, perchance, the shop there is shut, I can go to the chip shop where Billy Gatt serves excellent fish and chips. I know that it is excellent because he also has a fishing boat that provides the fish. In the north-east of Scotland, we can do extremely well.

Bob Doris: I know that we have some time in hand, Presiding Officer, so I hope that you do not mind me making this intervention: does the member ever bring some of that produce to the Scottish Parliament?

Stewart Stevenson: I will take orders later. Downies of Whitehills will be delighted. I will say to members that they can go online and Downies will send orders to them. I genuinely encourage members to do that. The pie is superb.

For tonight’s tea, I will have a boiled egg from a chicken that is kept in an Edinburgh garden. A friend gave me the egg two nights ago.

Not all outcomes of consuming our excellent Scottish produce are entirely predictable. Once, as a very young lad, I was so attracted to the Victoria plums growing in our garden that the doctor had to be called because I had turned a rather delicate shade of purple—the plums were found to be the cause.

Richard Simpson talked about the demise of porridge. It has revived. I was brought up in Cupar in Fife, and Scott’s Porage Oats were produced on the doorstep in Cupar. Scott’s now produces excellent microwave porridge—it takes two minutes in the microwave and it has a little bit of soya in it to stop it boiling over. It is well worth trying. There are other suppliers; I do not focus just on that one—I hope that I have not cawed the feet from under my colleague who represents North East Fife—but porridge is still there and it is excellent. I have it every single day of my life, often with fruit, particularly Scottish berries.

We have talked about how difficult it is to cook. I was in the boy scouts—I will not be alone in that regard—and I started my cooking career there without a single implement of any kind: I threw an onion into a fire. I waited until it was really charred, then fished it out, peeled off all the burnt bits and was left with a semi-cooked onion that I could chew on. That was really very good for you, if not very good for your love life, but there we are. I can see looks of horror from members around the chamber. We moved on to wrapping potatoes in tin foil and throwing them in the fire; we could make baked potatoes without any implements.

Seriously, though, colleagues, let us show our youngsters that they can make a start in the business of cooking with the simplest of resources by just using what is to hand. What I described sounds funny, but it got the idea into me that I could cook. I hope that the FSS will do some work in that area, and I say to Jayne Baxter that people do not necessarily require any equipment in order to cook.

Let us have a wee think about some of the things that happen in our communities, particularly in rural areas. There is a lot of home-made produce—for example, jams and scones—found at coffee mornings, and home-made soup and sweets are a particular feature of life in the north-east. When we set up a regulatory regime, it is very important that we do not end up in a position whereby the sale of home-made food products becomes difficult. The vote in the recent referendum and in all elections in my area takes place in the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute hall at Hilltown, in the middle of nowhere, but the WRI has wonderful strawberry teas and so on there. Let us be careful that we do not do anything that might compromise that kind of voluntary activity.

There have been quite a lot of references to the quality of the Scottish food product. Unintended side-effects sometimes come from certain actions, and I refer particularly to the Immature Spirits (Restriction) Act 1915. That act was brought forward at the behest of Lloyd George to restrict the supply of spirits. They were kept in bonds for three years so that those in military towns and factories would have less spirits available and that sobriety would rule and productivity would rise.

That is neither here nor there, though, because the reality is that the 1915 act eliminated cheap rotgut whisky from the offering and laid the foundations for the export industry that is an important part of our economy to this day. Indeed, some brands of whisky still have the information on their label that they are

“bottled ... under British Government supervision.”

That all stems from the 1915 act. Therefore, although it drove up the cost of whisky and created a certain set of problems, it ended up creating an industry with a worldwide reputation. As my intervention on Bob Doris illustrated, that industry is much copied, so we need to protect it very hard indeed. Claire Baker in particular raised that issue.

I suggest that the new FSS—food standards Scotland—has a role to play that I am not sure that I have seen clearly articulated in the work that has been done on the subject so far: it is how the FSS will respond to innovation in the food sector. We will not stand still in that regard, because if we do not move forward and continue to innovate, others will outcompete us.

I therefore think that the FSS must have more than simply a duty to regulate; it must also have an element of a duty to help and assist. In other words, as with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency now, it cannot just knock on someone’s door and tell them that they have a problem; it must work with people in the industry to help them develop a solution to the problem and take it away and share it with others in order to help them. That is one little point that the minister and others who are involved in the work on the FSS might care to think about.

I must say that I envy the minister because I have a suspicion that he will find himself visiting food producers in the course of his work, as I did when I was a minister. Perhaps he has done so already. When I was a minister, I got taken to a community garden in Monimail, which is in my colleague’s North East Fife constituency, where I was presented with a basket of fresh organic vegetables that had been harvested that day. The taste of that when I took it home was such that my wife said, “Where did you get this? Can you get some more?”

I regret that, as is usual, MSPs are not allowed to be appointed to the board of the new body, because I foresee the position of board member being greatly sought as they will be so close to the wonderful food that we produce in Scotland.

Like others, I am happy to see the bill brought to Parliament. I look forward to the debate here on in, and I will support the bill every inch and every bite of the way.


01 October 2014

S4M-11029 United Nations Climate Summit 2014

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-11029, in the name of Paul Wheelhouse, on the United Nations climate summit 2014.

... ... ...

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

I do not want to dwell on this at great length, but it would be helpful if the Labour Party read the Government’s motion, which merely refers to

“devolved powers to give Scotland a ... voice on the international stage”.

We are almost unique, because the Catalans have a constitutional right to be part of the Spanish delegation, the Flemings have a constitutional right to be part of the Belgian delegation, the Italian provinces have a constitutional right to be part of the Italian delegation—and I can keep going. However, when the Labour Government was in power at Westminster, Gordon Brown expressly forbade the Scottish ministers and their delegation from being inside the conference hall. Thanks to the Maldives, we were able to get a temporary seat in the hall and network with the appropriate people. All we ask for is parity with other substates around the world, and that is all the motion says.

However, let us talk about the substantive issue before us, because I hope and believe that there is continuing consensus on the need to tackle climate change. I want to rely on a definition of the environment that does not limit it to the natural world but includes the surroundings and conditions in which a person lives or operates. The ethics of the effect on individuals around the world is a very important part of the debate on climate change. Developing countries in particular pay the price for our climate profligacy. When I say our climate profligacy, I encompass all the developed world in that description, including Scotland, but it is by no means limited to Scotland.

We have heard reference to Mary Robinson, a good friend to action on climate change and a good friend to Scotland. She has said that there is substantial agreement among Governments that climate change is undermining human rights. I look in particular at what happens in Africa in that regard, particularly the gender effect of climate change. In Africa, 70 to 80 per cent of the farmers are females. Mary Robinson has said:

“Women on the whole don’t get agriculture training. And they’re having to learn now to diversify their crops, to have seeds that can survive in drought or survive in waterlogged [conditions], and so there’s a disconnect between even the donor community for this agricultural training, mainly focusing on men, and who’s [actually doing the farming].”

That is the price that is being paid by people in poverty in many countries in Africa. I hope that in our international engagement, whatever its character and whatever opportunities exist for it, we will be able to pursue that gender inequality in particular, because the effects of that gap between men and women are very substantial.

I wish the minister extremely well in Lima. I have not been there since 1980, when conditions in Lima were far from ideal for an international conference. There were burning barricades round the outside of the city, and the taxi that we were travelling in at one point actually picked up a bullet—I survived by two feet. I hope that the minister has a more satisfactory visit to Lima and that we can continue to tell the message of building on the 29.9 per cent reduction in our emissions over the past 14 years and that we continue to lead by example and articulate the reality of the economic opportunities from tackling what is a moral problem.


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