27 June 2013

(S4O-02319) Home Energy Efficiency Programmes for Scotland

8. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government how the distribution of funds from the home energy efficiency programmes for Scotland is calculated. (S4O-02319)

The Minister for Housing and Welfare (Margaret Burgess): The Scottish Government’s budget for fuel poverty and energy efficiency in 2013-14 is £79 million. The majority of that, £60 million, is being spent on council-led area-based schemes to tackle fuel poverty. Following agreement with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, half of the £60 million was distributed among all 32 councils based on their levels of fuel poverty and the energy efficiency of their stock. The other £30 million was set aside for more ambitious projects by councils.

The remaining £19 million will be used to deliver our national affordable warmth and energy assistance schemes and provide funding to the Energy Saving Trust and others to help support the home energy Scotland hotline and advice centres to provide advice and guidance to people about the energy efficiency of their homes and the support for which they might be eligible.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the minister agree that that funding is particularly important in supporting energy efficiency in rural areas, where many houses are reliant on heating oil?

Margaret Burgess: Yes, I do. Aberdeenshire got £4.4 million of the HEEPS money. It is clear that it is a national scheme that is being delivered locally. Local authorities can determine what is required in their area. The projects in Aberdeenshire take account of the area’s rurality, which was the intention of the scheme.

19 June 2013

Statement: Budget Outturn 2012-13

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): The next item of business is a statement by John Swinney on the 2012-13 provisional outturn.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Is the cabinet secretary aware that in 2010 it was said:

“the UK government continues to take Scotland for granted”?

That was in relation to employment. That statement was, of course, made by the gentleman who is now the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Does the cabinet secretary think that it is time for that gentleman to respond to what he said in 2010 and change his capital spending plans in Scotland but especially in the UK, where unemployment—in contrast to the situation in Scotland—is rising?

John Swinney: I think that the comparative position on employment patterns north and south of the border is instructive. That is why I marshalled information to demonstrate that the different economic strategy that this Government has taken has delivered a different outcome for Scotland. To go back to my answer to Mr Hepburn’s question, the UK Government needs to understand that, without action to remedy the reductions in capital expenditure, the ability of many people in our society to recover from the economic difficulties that we face will be affected and those difficulties will be prolonged.

(S4O-02277) Arts Festivals (Regeneration Areas)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): 6. To ask the Scottish Government what assessment has been made of the contribution that local arts festivals make to communities in regeneration areas. (S4O-02277)

The Minister for External Affairs and International Development (Humza Yousaf): We are aware of the significant cultural, social and economic contribution that Scotland’s arts and culture festivals make to all our communities. That is why Creative Scotland’s creative place awards, for example, reward the hard work and imagination that contribute to the rich cultural life of a community, as well as its social and economic wellbeing.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the minister agree that arts events such as the coast festival, the launch of which I attended recently in Macduff, are vital in supporting community spirit and boosting the local economy by attracting visitors, both foreign and domestic?

Humza Yousaf: I absolutely agree. We all know that the arts and culture make a vital contribution to social and economic wellbeing. On top of that, they are a great way in which people can come together, as the member said, and share creative experiences.

I heard that the coast festival was a fantastic success, particularly the sandcastle competition and the rubber duck race. I was delighted that the festival took the opportunity in our year of natural Scotland to celebrate the beauty and creativity of the Banffshire coastal towns.

Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (Lab): Given that the Leith festival benefits not just regeneration areas in Leith but the whole of Leith and Edinburgh and further afield, is it not time that the Leith festival received some funding from the national fund that is available for national festivals? Would the Leith festival at the beginning of June each year not be the ideal curtain-raiser for the great summer of festivals, which continues tonight with the launch of the film festival?

Humza Yousaf: The member makes a good point about the wider contribution and impact that festivals can make. I am not entirely sure whether the Leith festival has applied for funding, but I am more than happy to sit down with the member to explore that.

18 June 2013

(S4T-00402) VisitScotland (Website)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Does the minister feel, as I do, that it is good and useful that we can see against 1888 on the website that

“The Scottish Labour Party is formed by Keir Hardie”?

I might argue that the foundation of Celtic Football Club or the opening of Peterhead prison in my constituency, which took place in the same year, was a more important event, but the fact that the VisitScotland website mentions Keir Hardie’s formation of the Scottish Labour Party and, indeed, the foundation of the Scottish Trades Union Congress in 1897 is clear evidence that the website gathers to its bosom a wide range of interesting material.

Fergus Ewing: I think that I have listened to Mr Stevenson over a period of around 12 or 13 years, and I confess that I have often concluded that my education has not been sufficiently developed but that Mr Stevenson was helping me to put that right. I agree that his points are well made.

The main conclusion about all this is that VisitScotland is there to serve the public and to promote tourism. It is doing that by setting out some interesting dates and some interesting points in history. The information that it provides is not meant to imply any judgment or any view, and it does not. That is the point, and it is a point that a first-year law student could grasp in a nanosecond.

11 June 2013

Statement: Common Fisheries Policy Reform

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): How will the banking and borrowing of quota across adjacent years be administered in Scotland? In particular, will it be possible, after the end of a year, to borrow or bank back across to the year that has just passed?

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (Richard Lochhead): The short answer is yes. That is one of the flexibilities.

It is worth pointing out that we have always had the ability to bank and borrow quota so that the take-up of quota from year to year is balanced efficiently. The new measure is that quota can now be swapped for quota to help with the discard ban. In other words, if fishermen do not have quota for what they catch, they can surrender other quota and convert it into the quota that they need to land the catch legally without it going to fishmeal, provided that the country meets its overall quota limits and the catch is within sustainable limits. There are some new flexibilities that will be important for implementing the discard ban in Scotland.

6 June 2013

(S4O-02215) National Health Service (Digital Wards)

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

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with national health service boards regarding the future integration of digital wards. (S4O-02215)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Alex Neil): All boards are making progress in increasing the use of digital technologies, increasing access to information, improving efficiency and reducing reliance on paper across all clinical settings. NHS boards are committed to the provision of technology that positively improves the care that healthcare workers can provide in hospital wards and clinics. Boards are actively seeking to address that by using mobile, whiteboard and related technologies. Each NHS board has a delivery plan that outlines how that will be achieved. The Scottish Government regularly meets NHS boards to review progress and consistency with the national e-health strategy.

Stewart Stevenson: Is the cabinet secretary aware of the recent University of Edinburgh trial of home blood pressure telemonitors, which allow the general practitioner or specialist to receive and respond timeously to patient-collected data? Given that the trial suggests that there were improved health outcomes for participants, does he agree that further investment in digital infrastructure and the use of direct data feeds to GPs, especially in rural areas, may assist in reducing unnecessary deaths, particularly from stroke and heart disease, where infrequent monitoring may be an issue?

Alex Neil: I am aware of the positive results that emerged from the telescot trials and I am pleased that a growing body of evidence shows the effectiveness of supported telemonitoring in achieving clinically important outcomes in primary care settings. The fact that the trial was developed and researched in Scotland is just one reason why, in my view, Scotland is rightly held up across Europe as being in the vanguard in integrating telehealth and telecare into the delivery of services.

At a recent visit that was kindly hosted by East Ayrshire Council, I was able to see at first hand the benefits that home health monitoring brings, not only from enabling individuals to stay in their own home rather than be unnecessarily admitted to hospital, but from improving their health through better self-management. Both of those are key Government policy objectives. In that pilot, the rate of hospitalisation among those involved decreased by 70 per cent.

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