25 April 2013

(S4O-02039) Cod Recovery Plan

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

To ask the Scottish Government what recent representations it has made to the European Commission regarding the cod recovery plan. (S4O-02039)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (Richard Lochhead): The Scottish Government met the European Commission as recently as 15 April to press our case for changes to the cod recovery plan and, in particular, for Scottish vessels that catch very little cod to be made exempt from limits on their days at sea. My officials will continue to discuss that issue with the Commission at every opportunity. I hope to discuss it with the commissioner when I attend the next Council of Ministers meeting in May.

Stewart Stevenson: Is the minister aware that, once again, we are likely to see the unnecessary and early closure of a number of valuable fisheries, which will threaten livelihoods in communities across Scotland? Can the minister tell the chamber what action might stem from the European Commission, in particular in delivering greater control that we might exercise over our fisheries stocks?

Richard Lochhead: The Scottish Government’s intention is to ensure that our fisheries remain open for as long as possible throughout the next year—indeed, we achieved that in 2012. However, the cod recovery plan is dysfunctional; it is made in Brussels and it is inappropriate for Scottish circumstances and Scottish waters. That is why more of these decisions have to be taken closer to home. In the meantime, we are arguing for the cod recovery plan to be much more appropriate for our circumstances and for it to be flexible. At the moment, it encourages vessels to target cod, not to avoid cod, which is counterproductive to the aims of the plan.

Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands) (LD): The cabinet secretary will be aware that the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea scientific figures for 2012 show that the spawning stock biomass of cod in the North Sea is two and a half times larger now than it was in 2006. In the light of that, is he prepared to say that the cod recovery plan has come to the end of its useful life and that it should be abolished?

Also, when will regional management take over in the North Sea?

Richard Lochhead: I have just said that the cod recovery plan is not fit for purpose; the huge sacrifices that have been made by the Scottish fleet over the past decade or so are paying dividends, as illustrated by the statistics that Tavish Scott just read out. We have to have conservation policies in place, but the cod recovery plan is not fit for purpose. The sooner we have regionalisation, which I hope will happen as soon as possible, the sooner we will be able to have appropriate policies in place in Scottish waters.

17 April 2013

(S4O-01991) Education Systems

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

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with other Administrations regarding their education systems and the lessons that can be learned. (S4O-01991)

The Minister for Children and Young People (Aileen Campbell): We are always pleased to learn from other countries’ experience in delivering education services. Stewart Stevenson may recall that in May of last year Dr Pasi Sahlberg, the director general for the Centre for International Mobility and Co-operation in Helsinki, spoke to the Scottish Parliament on lessons from Finland on its approach to education. In December of last year, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning met Leighton Andrews, the Welsh education minister, and discussed delivery of education services in Wales. That was followed by a meeting between officials to look at the Welsh approach to delivering education.

Stewart Stevenson: I welcome the interaction with Finland, Wales and, I am sure, a number of other countries. Will the minister comment on the improvement partnership programme in particular and how it will improve attainment? Can she provide a guarantee that we will not see the introduction of league tables in Scotland as we have seen elsewhere in the United Kingdom?

Aileen Campbell: The improvement partnership programme is designed to facilitate schools working together either within local authorities or across local authority boundaries. The schools that are involved will learn from each other techniques and approaches that have been successful in raising attainment.

We will work closely with key stakeholders, including the Association of Directors of Education in Scot land and School Leaders Scotland, to devise the details of the scheme, including the criteria for schools that are partnering with each other. However, it is clear that crude data comparisons will not be suitable for the purpose. Each relationship will be a long-term one and it will be of mutual benefit to all the schools and departments that are involved.

Partnership will be voluntary. In direct reply to Stewart Stevenson’s point about league tables, in his speech at the University of Glasgow in March the cabinet secretary indicated that the right decision was made not to publish league tables in Scotland, and I can guarantee that that will continue.

Stewart Stevenson
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