28 March 2019

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

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

Motion debated,

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

... ... ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


27 March 2019

S5M-16555 Climate Emergency

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

... ... ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


26 March 2019

S5M-16542 South of Scotland Enterprise Bill: Stage 1

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

... ... ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


20 March 2019

S5M-16408 Free Bus Travel (Under-25s)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is the debate on motion S5M-16408, in the name of Colin Smyth, on free bus travel for under-25s.

... ... ...

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

I draw members’ attention to the fact that I am honorary president of the Scottish Association for Public Transport. Indeed, it is the annual general meeting of the SAPT a week on Friday in Perth. Should any colleagues wish to join me, I can tell them that Tom Harris will be an excellent speaker, albeit that he will be speaking about trains, not buses.

Let me say at the outset—as I have said before—that I do not criticise everything that Labour and the Liberal Democrats did in their period in office from 1999 to 2007. The work that Jack McConnell led on smoking was visionary, successful and to be applauded, and I applaud it again. Equally, the bus pass scheme was a great achievement of that period.

I, too, am a bus pass holder. I just looked up the details on my mobile phone and it says that it never expires. That is certainly true under this Government, despite some of the myths that have been peddled at various points. I am also a user of my bus pass, but I am among the 46 per cent of people who use their pass at least once a month, rather than weekly or daily, simply due to my travel pattern. Therefore, I have an interest in supporting the bus pass scheme that we have.

Let us look at what the Labour Party proposes. People aged 25 or under make up 19 per cent of our population, or slightly more than 1 million people. There are 1.3 million bus passes, which cost us £200 million. What will it cost to provide bus passes to a similar number of people? It will cost £13 million, if we are to believe Richard Leonard when he was interviewed by Peter MacMahon on “Representing Border”. That requires an interesting piece of arithmetic. How we get the cost down to just over 5 per cent of the current cost, I do not quite know.

The issue will run and run. Work with the Scottish Youth Parliament to ensure that we understand the costs is the basis on which we can proceed. I am in favour of extending the bus pass scheme. When I was a minister, I extended it in a relatively modest way, for disabled ex-servicemen, so in principle I am up for that and very much hope that we find ways of doing it.

However, I say gently to my Labour colleagues that where Labour is in power rather than merely talking about power, performance and behaviour are quite at odds with what I hear from members on the Labour benches. Despite the power to do so existing in Cardiff, we have seen no move there to take public ownership of the buses. We have seen no extension of the concessionary schemes to anything other than local services—and not to a national scheme. We have not seen Labour in government do anything that approximates to what the Labour Party did here before 2007 or what it seeks to do now.

I close with an international comparison. My current intern, Bella, comes from California. She has a wee house on the other side of Edinburgh and travels in daily by bus. She is astonished and delighted by the quality of the bus service that gets her to the Parliament every day. Her view accords with those of the 91 per cent of people who, according to the most recent survey, say that our bus services are very good. That is a number that is going up.


14 March 2019

S5M-16312 Space Nation

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-16312, in the name of Ivan McKee, on building on Scotland’s strengths in technology and engineering to become Europe’s leading space nation.

... ... ...

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

For this debate, two obvious questions come to mind. First, why Scotland? And secondly, why space? The answers are really quite obvious.

Why space? In Scotland, we have a long tradition of engineering and invention, and many of the technologies that we use today are possible because of that history. David Stewart referred to James Watt, who introduced the steam engine to our industries. John Logie Baird invented the television; indeed, he demonstrated the first colour television in the late 1920s, not long after the first black and white television. Ken Gibson referred to Montgomery Scott of Star Trek but failed to provide the quotation from the actor, James Doohan, who played Scotty and who, when asked by the director of the film what nationality he thought the engineer should be, simply replied

“all the world’s best engineers have been Scottish.”

That is why Star Trek had a Scottish engineer.

Scotland continues to punch above its weight—we all know that. Members have referred to many of the companies in the west of Scotland such as Spire, which has been blown away by the first-class employees that it can attract in Scotland; that is why Glasgow houses its European headquarters.

Now, why space? Well, space represents an infinite—or near infinite—possibility. In financial terms, we have heard about the value of the industry now and the expectations that it will triple in the lifetime of many of the people who are here today. Capturing just a little bit of that cake would be extremely valuable for our economy, for growth, for the creation of well-paid jobs and, indeed, for the development of new technologies and ownership of the intellectual property here, in order to provide enduring income streams. The public sector has its role in providing the consents and the infrastructure at both UK and Scottish level.

Of course, there is a bit more to it than that. Space has soft power, which we need to recognise. Sputnik 1 went up on 4 October 1957, as a demonstration of Soviet power, and Sputnik 2, with the first mammal, a dog called Laika, on board, went up to align with the 50th anniversary of the Russian revolution—in what was, according to the old calendar, October 1917—on 3 November 1957. Therefore, it is about soft as well as hard power.

We need to look beyond ourselves, at what we can be rather than what we are. I simply love the Shan Jahan quotation that is on the side of the Taj Mahal, which says:

“happy are those who dream dreams and are prepared to make the sacrifice to make them come true.”

Well, we have dreams for space and we have the means to make them come true—they do not even need great sacrifice.

Tavish Scott made an important point when he said that we should be the first, and the history of space illustrates that. Who was the second woman in space? The answer is Kondakova. We remember Valentina Tereshkova, who was the first, but we do not remember who was second. Who was the second American to orbit the earth? We remember John Glenn, who was the first, but Gus Grimmon we might not remember. And who was the second Soviet? He was Titov; Gargarin, of course, we remember.


06 March 2019

S5M-16123 Supporting Scottish Agriculture

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-16123, in the name of Donald Cameron, on supporting Scottish agriculture.

... ... ...

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

I will respond to a couple of issues that have come up in the debate. I share John Scott’s concern about the Tayside beavers. There are now 550 of them, descended from what we must remind ourselves were illegally released, or perhaps escaped, beavers. The Government is picking up the tab for someone else’s illegal activity and I wish that we did not need to do that.

I want to pursue Mark Ruskell’s point on climate change. To a certain extent, John Scott and I will make common cause on the issue. Mark Ruskell asked for a net zero farming sector. Moving the whole of our environment to net zero could damage the climate change agenda. It would be perfectly easy to move the human race to net zero emissions: remove all humans from the surface of the planet and it would be achieved overnight. Of course, that is not what we will do, but people who ask for net zero in farming are making a similar suggestion.

Mark Ruskell
: Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: Forgive me, but I do not have time. I am watching the clock.

The point is that we want to have net zero as measured across all our sectors, but not in every sector. We should spend the pounds that will get us to net zero where they will be most effective.

We must remember that farmers do not get enough credit for the efforts that they are making. For example, the work that is done in forestry is not attributed to the farming sector. There are now days when all of our electricity comes from wind farms. Where are the wind farms? By and large, they are on agricultural farms, but, in the numbers that we have, not a single part of the climate change benefit is attributed to farmers.

The bottom line is that we need to spend the money on climate change mitigation and reduction in the most cost-effective way. If putting the money into farming will lead to the greatest reduction in emissions for every pound spent, we should do that. However, if, as is more likely, greater reductions will come from putting the money into insulating houses and decarbonising our transport sector, that is where we should put it.

If, for doctrinaire reasons, we decide to put it into farming, where it may not give us the greatest bang for our buck, we would damage our ability to reach net zero overall. We need to be very cautious about those—forgive me, Mr Ruskell—simplistic views of a complex issue.

Mark Ruskell rose—

Stewart Stevenson
: I have one minute to go, so forgive me, Mr Ruskell—we will have a chat afterwards. [Laughter.]

I come back to the core issue of farming and support for it, which is at the heart of the motion that we are debating. I found Mr Cameron’s, and indeed Mr Mountain’s, remarks baffling, considering what the NFUS briefing to us says.

“It is the view of NFUS that ‘Stability and Simplicity’ ”

—the Government document—

“effectively captured the recommendations from various expert groups appointed by ... Government in recent years.”

It is saying that “Stability and Simplicity” has been a pretty good thing. It is not giving uncritical and absolute support, and I would never expect that from farmers. It also says:

“It is the view of NFUS that if the ‘Steps to Change’ approach were to be adopted,”

much of what

“is required by way of future support for Scottish agriculture could be delivered with greater efficiency—in terms of funding, process and outcomes.”

The farmers have got the message; they know where we need to go and I look forward to continuing to engage with farmers in my constituency and across Scotland on the many occasions that present themselves. Indeed, I hope that at this year’s Turriff show I will once again sit next to Mr Gove. I hope that he will be able to account for what the UK Government will have done in the period from 29 March—but I am not holding my breath.


05 March 2019

S5M-16107 European Union Withdrawal Negotiations

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-16107, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on European Union withdrawal negotiations.

... ... ...

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

In all of this there is one person for whom I have briefly felt a very small degree of sympathy, and that is Theresa May. I have a quotation from Sophocles from 2,400 years ago, which is especially for her:

“The keenest sorrow is to recognise ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.”

I say that because—at the outset, before getting anything in return, and in invoking article 50—she chose to give away one of the most important negotiating tools that she had at her disposal, which was time. It is the one thing that we all get equal amounts of, but when we give away time we give away the debate.

I have some other interesting quotations. I want to spend a little time talking about how fishing has been dealt with in many of the relevant documents. The First Minister referred to the American negotiating document, to which I will come back in a minute or two. In any negotiation process that ends up with a printed document, it is as well to remember what the American singer-songwriter Tom Waits said:

“the large print giveth and the small print taketh away.”

As far as the large print is concerned, fishing figured in Theresa May’s speech at the Mansion house in January 2017—there was a single mention in a very substantial speech. In essence, she said that we should deliver equity in fishing to foreign countries. There was not a single word about our fishermen in the UK, whether Scottish, English, Welsh or Irish—it was all about the foreigners. Mrs May realised her mistake and, in Florence, she said that there should be equity between our fishermen and those of other countries. In other words, she was teeing us up for her to sell out our fishermen again.

Today, we have practical problems: we are now into the small print. We will need export health certificates if we are to land fish from Scotland in other countries. How is the crew of a vessel that is fishing off Greenland to decide where it will land—decisions on whether to land in Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Scotland or England are made while the boat is at sea—when they do not have the certificate that enables them to make that choice? Obtaining a certificate carries a cost, but it also involves a delay and so costs time, too.

Let us have a look at other small print from the American negotiating document. I will read one paragraph, which is on sanitary and phytosanitary measures:

“Include strong provisions on transparency and public consultation that require the UK”

remember that it is the Americans who are saying this—

“to publish drafts of regulations, allow stakeholders in other countries to provide comments on those drafts, and require authorities to address significant issues raised by stakeholders and explain how the final measure achieves the stated objectives.”

In other words, other countries have to sign off the drafts. The requirement is repeated in relation to technical barriers to trade. It is quite clear that if the UK thinks that it is getting independence, it is mistaken. The last big country with which we might wish to have a trade deal has negotiating terms that tell us precisely how it wants to control how the UK operates in that regard. Of course, we have nothing much to give.

Let us also think about the role of the NHS. The American negotiating term that deals with trade in services says that the rules

“apply to all service sectors”

and that

“Discrimination against foreign services suppliers”

is not allowed. It goes on to say that the UK should

“Retain flexibility for U.S. non-conforming measures”.

In other words, the Americans are allowed non-conforming measures, but the UK must conform.

The term on “State-Owned and Controlled Enterprises”—which would include the NHS—says:

“Ensure that SOEs act in accordance with commercial considerations with respect to the purchase ... of goods and services.”

In other words, activities cannot be run without being opened up to commercial competition. That is what the Americans want.

A long-term issue between the United States and the European Union has been the privacy and use of data that is collected. Under “Financial Services”, the negotiating document refers to

“commitments to ensure that the UK refrains from imposing measures ... that restrict cross-border data flows”.

In other words, our data should be able to be lifted from the UK and taken to the regime in the United States, where personal data is not protected in the way that we are used to expecting and requiring.

The document also says that non-tariff barriers against US agricultural goods must go—in other words, we must accept chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef. That is all in there.

Here is another one—it is a cracker. Under “Labor”, the document says:

“Require the UK to ensure that foreign workers are protected under labor laws.”

That is not for the US—that disnae really matter; the US can keep people out for as long as it wants to.

I return to the small print that goes with the withdrawal agreement. The debate has been all about the agreement, and there has been little discussion of the political declaration. Paragraph 75 of the declaration says:

“Within the context of the overall economic partnership the Parties should establish a new fisheries agreement on, inter alia, access to waters and quota shares.”

In other words, we will not get the sea of opportunity that we have been promised and we will not get control over our fishing waters in our own right.

I conclude with a quote from 1862, in another age of great difficulties—the American civil war. I am reading the latest biography of Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave who, interestingly, visited Scotland in 1843. I direct the attention of our Conservative friends—I have Conservative friends—to what he wrote:

“He is the best friend of this country, who, at this tremendous crisis, dares tell his countrymen the truth”.

It is time for the Tories to start telling the truth to themselves and not to spread falsehoods about others.


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