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31 October 2012

(S4O-01409) Entrepreneurial Businesses

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):
14. To ask the Scottish Government what benefits arise from investment in entrepreneurial businesses. (S4O-01409)

The Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism (Fergus Ewing): Such investment benefits the economy, businesses and society.

Stewart Stevenson: Is the minister aware that the cabinet secretary’s announcement of the encouraging dynamic growth entrepreneurs—or EDGE—fund has been widely welcomed? Will the fund focus in particular on proposals with the greatest prospects of creating new jobs and wealth in Scotland?

Fergus Ewing: I thank Stewart Stevenson for his question, to which the answer is yes, it will. We are delighted at the very warm welcome that the EDGE fund has received across the business and public sector. For example, Sir Tom Hunter said:

“This is a huge boost for entrepreneurs in Scotland”.

Sir Willie Haughey has said:

“This scheme is something that Scotland has been crying out for. I have no doubt that this support for start-up businesses will increase the success rate.”

In response to Mr Stevenson’s question, the fund will indeed make awards to businesses judged most capable of delivering jobs and growth.

24 October 2012

(S4O-01378) Mental Arithmetic Skills (Assessment of School Pupils)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):
13. To ask the Scottish Government what research is being undertaken into the acquisition of mental arithmetic skills by school students.(S4O-01378)

The Presiding Officer: That was not the exact question in the Business Bulletin, but I ask the minister, Alasdair Allan, to respond.

The Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages (Dr Alasdair Allan): All pupils’ mental arithmetic skills are assessed as part of on-going learning and teaching. Education Scotland supports teachers in that in a variety of ways, including through the recent publication of a professional learning resource on numeracy. Mental arithmetic skills are assessed at primary 4, primary 7 and secondary 2 as part of the Scottish survey of literacy and numeracy in order to provide a picture of national performance. The first numeracy survey report was published on 28 March this year. In the senior phase, mental arithmetic skills are assessed as part of national qualifications.

Stewart Stevenson: I apologise, Presiding Officer. That was the question that I submitted. I forgot that the wording had been amended.

Is the minister aware of the Trachtenberg system or the 16 sutras of Vedic mathematics, both of which offer ways of extending mental arithmetic skills? Will he consider commissioning a report on the benefits of those systems in schools elsewhere with the objective of improving numeracy in Scotland?

Members: Hear, hear.

Dr Allan: Mr Stevenson rarely disappoints. I heard members saying, “Hear, hear.” I hope that they understood what they were agreeing with.

I am aware of the member’s interest in the area. I have established that the Trachtenberg system was invented during world war 2, not by a young Mr Stevenson but by a Russian Jew called Jakow Trachtenberg. I understand that it is sold as a software package and a range of books on the internet. The methods are quite detailed and, once learned, they are meant to enable learners to multiply any combination of numbers. The 16 sutras of Vedic mathematics, which were presented by a Hindu scholar and mathematician during the early part of the 20th century, do likewise.

I am sure that local authorities and Education Scotland will grapple with these issues, but I will not pretend to understand them any further.

Stewart Stevenson
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