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20 June 2018

(S5O-02241) Ageing Population (Oral Health)

3. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to meet the oral health needs of an ageing population. (S5O-02241)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Shona Robison): In January, we published Scotland’s “Oral Health Improvement Plan”, which includes actions to ensure that older people receive appropriate oral health care. One of our priorities is to introduce a new domiciliary care service. For adults, including older patients, the plan also introduces an oral health risk assessment, which will ensure that dentists can offer tailored advice to older people on how to look after their oral health and minimise any risk of dental disease, including oral cancer.

Stewart Stevenson: What discussions has the Scottish Government had with the United Kingdom Government on including dentists in the proposed visa cap scheme, particularly given the large number of European Union nationals who operate as dentists in the north-east of Scotland, whose future in the service might be at threat?

Shona Robison: The member is right to point to the number of EU nationals who are working as dentists in the north-east of Scotland—that is also the case in Dumfries and Galloway—as a result of previous successful recruitment campaigns. I would be very concerned to lose any of them from Scotland.

An announcement last week confirmed that, from 6 July, doctors and nurses are to be excluded from the cap on skilled worker visas under tier 2 of the immigration rules. Although that is welcome, we need to see the detail of the policy, which may increase capacity for other applications from outside the health professions. Obviously, dentists are not directly covered, so we want to take the matter up with the UK Government, and we will seek further detail on that in the coming weeks.

14 June 2018

Statement: National Council of Rural Advisers

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I draw members’ attention to my agricultural holding and the fact that I will be a R100 beneficiary.

In connection to that, I wonder whether, when looking at the contracts for R100, preference will be given to those with future proofing so that, when the backhaul is eventually upgraded, we can have 300 megabits per second and 1 gigabit per second delivery to rural locations, thus enabling us to have an advantage over urban areas where presently we have a disadvantage.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): Mr Stevenson makes a good point. The answer is yes. The way in which the contract is being taken forward in the procurement stage is to anticipate the future need and desire to move from superfast to ultrafast broadband. My understanding is that the use of fibre enables that process to take place; therefore, that forms part of our thinking. Although we cannot mandate one technology over another because of state aid rules, encouraging bids for the tender that reference the extent to which achievements will be reached by provision of fibre rather than other methodologies—precisely because of the point that Mr Stevenson makes—and scoring the tender accordingly will empower those in rural Scotland, perhaps in some cases to an even greater extent than urban dwellers, as it means that they will have ultrafast broadband in years to come.

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