.

.

16 December 2015

(S4O-05181) Youth Employment

8. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what information it has on how youth employment in Scotland compares with the rest of the European Union. (S4O-05181)

The Minister for Youth and Women’s Employment (Annabelle Ewing): The latest data from Eurostat show that Scotland, with a rate of 54.6 per cent, had the third-highest youth employment rate across the European Union countries for quarter 2 of 2015. Only the Netherlands, with a rate of 61.3 per cent, and Denmark, with a rate of 55.9 per cent, were ahead of Scotland.

Stewart Stevenson: That is very welcome news, although overtaking the Netherlands and Denmark should remain an objective.

What investment is being made to improve opportunities for young people across Scotland so that we can get to number 1?

Annabelle Ewing: I share Stewart Stevenson’s ambition to get to number 1. The Scottish Government has been taking a number of initiatives and making a number of investments to ensure that we do everything that we can so that young people can fulfil their potential in life. For example, we invested £12 million last year and we have invested £16.6 million this year in embedding our developing the young workforce principles and policies. We have also provided more than 25,000 modern apprenticeship starts year on year, and some 101,000 modern apprenticeship opportunities have been delivered in the current parliamentary session. We have ambitions to go further and secure 30,000 modern apprenticeships starts by 2020.

Of course, we also work with Skills Development Scotland on employability activity, we invest in community jobs Scotland, which is operated through the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, and we have extended eligibility for the educational maintenance allowance. There are a number of other initiatives, and I should add that we work with Inspiring Scotland to help young people in the 14 to 19-year-old age bracket. We are therefore conducting a number of activities across a range of areas to ensure that we are doing everything we can.

In that regard, I am pleased to note that the labour market statistics that were published this very morning show that youth employment has increased by 20,000 over the past year. We are going in the right direction, but we recognise that we have more to do.

10 December 2015

Statement: Common Agricultural Policy (Payments)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The next item of business is a statement by Richard Lochhead on an update on common agricultural policy payments. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of his statement.

14:31
... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I draw members’ attention to the fact that I have a very small registered agricultural holding, but I receive no public funding for it.

The basic and greening payments process has been at the heart of what the cabinet secretary has said today, but farmers also wish to be assured that coupled support for beef and sheep and, indeed, the £60 million for less favoured areas are also on schedule to be paid in a reasonable time.

Richard Lochhead: Stewart Stevenson is right that we have to recognise the importance of the payments other than the basic payments that will happen in the coming months. Normally, we pay the beef calf scheme in April and the less favoured area support scheme payments go out around March. I have said publicly already that some of those payments could be delayed by a few weeks, because the message that we have had from the industry is that all our efforts and resources should be focused on the basic and greening payments. However, clearly I am keen to minimise any impact on the other payments, given the fragility of some of the sectors involved and the cash-flow issues that they face.

8 December 2015

Statement: Forth Road Bridge

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a statement by Derek Mackay on the Forth road bridge. The minister will take questions at the end of his statement, and there should therefore be no interventions or interruptions.

14:20
... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Does the minister recall my announcing in June 2007 that there would be a new bridge delivered in 2016? Is it a result of a proper and permanent response then, and effective management now, that we are on schedule and £1 billion below the budget that I announced at that time?

Derek Mackay: I think that it is fair to say that, as well as all the other contingency plans that have been put in place as a result of the bridge closure, the decision that was made to build the replacement crossing is a rather substantial contingency plan. The events have vindicated the Government’s decision to build a replacement Forth crossing, which is being delivered on time and under budget.

26 November 2015

First Minister's Questions - Carbon Capture

2. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Yesterday the Chancellor made the disgraceful decision to pull £1bn funding from the development of carbon capture and storage technology in the UK – which could have created the world’s first commercial scale gas powered CCS plant in Peterhead – has the First Minister been in touch with the UK Government regarding this, and does the First Minister have any observations as to the effect of this on the negotiating position that the UK might have at the upcoming Paris talks on climate change.

First Minister: I think Stewart Stevenson is absolutely correct to describe this as a disgraceful decision and I think it’s a shocking example of how the Conservative UK Government is treating businesses. We have two FTSE 100 companies entering a £1bn capital funding competition in good faith, committing resources, time and money towards a bid that was due at the end of this year only to be told at the very last minute that the money is no longer available. We weren’t consulted on this before this decision was announced and as everybody will have realised, the Chancellor actually neglected to mention this in his autumn statement and we were only told afterwards.

Fergus Ewing has already made clear to the UK Government our opposition to this decision – which is the latest in a long list of UK Government decisions which harm energy generation in Scotland. And as Stewart Stevenson rightly says ahead of the Paris talks undermines our efforts to tackle climate change. So I would call on the UK Government today to reverse this decision because it is utter folly, it is unfair to business and it is downright wrong.

5 November 2015

(S4O-04756) Domestic Abuse (North-east Scotland)

9. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what is being done to address domestic abuse incidents in the north-east. (S4O-04756)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): The Scottish Government is working closely with our partners in the statutory and third sector to address domestic abuse in the north-east and throughout Scotland. We are investing more than £700,000 in services throughout the north-east to support women and children who have experienced or are at risk of domestic abuse.

Nationally, the First Minister announced an additional £20 million from justice to invest in a range of measures to strengthen our efforts to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls and to better support victims of violence and sexual assault.

Furthermore, we have introduced to Parliament the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill, which, along with our planned consultation on a specific offence of domestic abuse, will seek to strengthen the law in this area.

Stewart Stevenson: I very much welcome the £700,000 that the minister has made us aware is available in the north-east. However, given that, nationally, almost half of incidents reported do not result in a conviction, can more be done beyond what is currently planned to help lead to more successful prosecutions?

Michael Matheson: The Scottish Government is absolutely clear that there is no excuse for domestic abuse and is absolutely committed to doing everything that it can to tackle the issue. Our partners in Police Scotland and the Crown Office have taken forward a range of work in this area. Police Scotland has established a national domestic abuse task force to tackle the most prolific perpetrators. The Crown Office has a dedicated national prosecutor for domestic abuse and has introduced a consistent and robust approach to the prosecution of domestic abuse. For example, in 2013-14, court action was taken by prosecutors in 85 per cent of domestic abuse cases that were reported by the police.

29 October 2015

Statement: Winter Transport Resilience

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): Good afternoon. The first item of business this afternoon is a statement by Derek Mackay on winter transport resilience.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): The minister can pin back his ears, because I suggest that perhaps a 25-year-old technology—message texting—is one of the most effective ways of communicating with people. Almost all fixed land-lines can receive texts, which are read out over them. Will the minister follow the lead of the floodline system, which is good at alerting people to flood risks, in looking at the most effective use of text and also using the data service that is part of FM radio? Traditional methods work, too.

The Minister for Transport and Islands (Derek Mackay): I suspect that Stewart Stevenson probably invented that technology, which is why he is promoting it to me. I am more than happy to look into that.

The ferry service uses such technology already to communicate directly with customers so that it can update them. It was recognised that not everyone has internet reception, so text messaging and traditional phones can be a useful form of communication for further updates, which I am happy to explore.

7 October 2015

(S4O-04677) Teacher Shortage (North-east Scotland)

10. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to address the reported teacher shortage in the north-east. (S4O-04677)

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Angela Constance): We have increased student teacher intake targets in each of the past four years, committed £51 million to safeguard teaching posts and launched a teacher recruitment campaign.

I welcomed the invitation to attend the teacher recruitment summit in Aberdeen last week. We discussed the positive work that the Scottish Government and local authorities are doing and explored the scope to build on it. I have written to the seven local authorities concerned, setting out proposals for further action, including extending the provision of part-time distance learning initial teacher education and incorporating regional workforce intelligence into the national workforce planning process on a more structured basis.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the minister agree that it is important to local communities that young people in particular who might have had to leave their area to study elsewhere can find employment in their own local area? In that context, what is the Scottish Government doing to encourage routes into teaching, especially for the young and newly trained who live in or are attached to the north-east?

Angela Constance: I agree with that sentiment. The Government is committed to working with local authorities and universities to develop routes into teaching that enable people to remain within their local area. That is why we brought the University of the Highlands and Island on-stream as an initial teacher education provider, and why we have increased the number of student places for initial teacher education across Scotland, especially at the universities of Aberdeen, Dundee and the West of Scotland.

Aberdeenshire is one of the local authorities to have benefited from the funding that the Government provided to enable the University of Aberdeen to develop the part-time distance learning professional graduate diploma in education course so that partner local authorities can develop existing staff as primary teachers on a part-time basis while they continue in their employment. At the teacher summit, it was clear that that innovation has been widely welcomed by local authorities, and I have asked my officials to explore with partners how the distance learning initial teacher education could be extended to the secondary sector.

15 September 2015

Future prosperity for the North Sea

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): In his statement, the minister talked about maximising economic recovery. Can he tell us what expectations he has that we will see a UK policy on that subject any time soon? How is he going to help?

The Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism (Fergus Ewing): I hesitate to speak for the UK Government—I am not sure that I would be its anointed spokesperson—but it is abundantly clear to anyone who has studied Sir Ian Wood’s final report, which I have with me and parts of which I have reread in the past couple of days, that there is one fundamental truth that the UK Government has not acknowledged. That is that, if we are to achieve the objective of maximising economic recovery, the UK Government must step up to its role of using fiscal policy as a lever—nay, a precision tool—to get the maximum from the North Sea.

The UK Government must therefore make a commitment in the Energy Bill or the Infrastructure Bill, which are currently going through the UK Parliament, to do that. It has not done so yet, but I hope that, after this statement, it will begin to think very seriously. If it does not collaborate, why should it expect industry to collaborate? That is what it is asking.

We will pursue that argument vigorously with our MPs in Westminster and in Scotland so that we achieve the best for the industry and thereby secure tens of thousands of jobs in this country.

10 September 2015

(S4O-04571) Employment (Fraserburgh)

4. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to protect employment in the Fraserburgh area. (S4O-04571)

The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy (John Swinney): Our continued investment in infrastructure, regeneration and business support is designed to support the area’s economy and create and safeguard jobs. For example, an investment of £13.7 million of European fisheries fund assistance in Fraserburgh supported harbour deepening and quay improvements. This has ensured the long-term operation of the harbour and safeguarded the jobs of more than 700 fishermen.

Stewart Stevenson is aware of the situation with Young’s, and the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism has been working closely with the company. I firmly believe that we have offered it a very strong case, such that maximum employment can be retained in Fraserburgh.

Stewart Stevenson: I thank the Government on behalf of the harbour board for the support that it has given, which is certainly a useful contribution.

Specifically on the situation at Young’s, will the cabinet secretary give more detail on the launch of the Fraserburgh task force and how it might contribute to protecting and enhancing employment in the area?

John Swinney: Stewart Stevenson will be aware of the issues that we face in relation to the long-term future of Young’s at Fraserburgh. The Government has engaged very strongly with the company and Fergus Ewing has drawn together all interested parties to ensure that we have a co-ordinated approach to addressing this particular difficulty.

25 June 2015

First Minister's Questions - Young's Seafoods

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): The First Minister will be aware of the loss by Young’s Seafood of probably the biggest fish-processing contract in the United Kingdom, which is affecting jobs in Fraserburgh and in Grimsby. Aberdeenshire Council has indicated that it will work to mitigate the effects of that, and the chief executive has indicated to me that he will give every support to Government initiatives. It would be very welcome if the First Minister could indicate that the Government will support every effort to mitigate the effects of job losses in Fraserburgh.

The First Minister: I share the member’s concern about recent developments in respect of Young’s Seafood and the potential impact on employees, their families and the surrounding areas. I can confirm that the Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism and the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment have offered and will continue to offer immediate support to the company. Scottish Enterprise is also in contact with the company to support the business and to discuss what can be done to minimise any negative impact on jobs.

In the unfortunate event of job losses, we have already made the offer of support through our partnership action for continuing employment initiative, which helps in redundancy situations and assists those who are affected by redundancy. I reassure the member that the Government will do everything within our power to help the company through this difficult time.

17 June 2015

(S4O-04473) Islands Transport Forum

6. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what matters the islands transport forum will discuss at its first meeting. (S4O-04473)

The Minister for Transport and Islands (Derek Mackay): Earlier this month, I announced in Orkney that a new islands transport forum will be set up to consider strategic transport issues affecting Scotland’s islands.

The forum will meet biannually and will include representatives from local authorities with island communities. It is intended that the forum will deal with internal and external ferry, air and other transport services on which each of the island communities so heavily depends for social cohesion and sustainable economic activity and growth. I am in the process of finalising the detailed membership and the working methods for the forum, in consultation with the island authorities. Therefore, no detailed agenda items have yet been set for the forum’s first meeting.

Stewart Stevenson: Thank you for that response and for the content of your reply to question 5, which also touched on the matter.

I will introduce something quite new with which the minister is unlikely to be familiar. Air navigation and approach procedures are changing with the move towards the use of GPS—global positioning system—instrument approaches, which have not yet been adopted in the United Kingdom but which are eminently suitable for Government and local authority airports and might make a contribution to improving reliability in poor weather conditions. Will the minister talk to people involved in the islands transport forum about that and, thereafter, consider approaching the Civil Aviation Authority and the UK Government to see whether we can pilot some of the new technologies, which are much cheaper than the previous ones?

Derek Mackay: I will give the matter close consideration and, in answer to the question, yes, I will.

3 June 2015

(S4O-04401) Rural Payments and Services (Single Application Forms)

8. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government whether the futures programme is on track to receive all single application forms for rural payments and services by 15 June 2015. (S4O-04401)

The Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Aileen McLeod): The Scottish Government is working hard in this transition year to implement the complex common agricultural policy. As of this morning, a total of 12,389 single application forms had been received: 7,675 have been received online through our new rural payments and services system and 4,714 have been received on paper.

With two weeks to go to the close of the extended application window, we have received just over half the expected applications. The rate of submission remains ahead of the comparable point in 2014, when we received 67 per cent of all single application forms in the final two weeks. Therefore, we are on track to receive the estimated 22,000 single application forms by the closing date of 15 June. However, we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Stewart Stevenson: I thank the minister for the encouraging news that we are ahead of last year’s progress. To be parochial, will she tell us what the response has been in the north-east of Scotland and whether the area is likely to benefit from significant funding?

Aileen McLeod: As of 2 June, the rural payments and inspections division had received 1,842 single application forms from north-east businesses, which is 19 per cent of the total received. That is about half the total expected, with about two weeks of the application window remaining.

On funding, the latest analysis indicates that the north-east of Scotland will account for around €94 million of the direct payment budget—or £68 million at the current exchange rate—at the end of the transition period. That is the highest share of any of Scotland’s regions.

For the agri-environment climate scheme, the region accounts for 19 per cent of applications that are currently in the system. That is the highest total after the south-east of Scotland at 20 per cent.

13 May 2015

Statement & Questions: United Kingdom General Election Outcome

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a statement by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on the outcome of the United Kingdom general election. The First Minister will take questions at the end of her statement.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Does the First Minister agree that it would be a democratic affront if any politician who was rejected by the electorate were to return to Westminster by appointment to the House of Lords? In particular, given that the Liberals have 101 members there—more, even, than the total number of people in the United States Senate—does she agree that, now that they are down to eight MPs, it is time for some 80 or 90 of the existing lords to consider resignation?

The First Minister: I would go slightly further. I think that the House of Lords is a democratic outrage in and of itself. [Applause.] I look forward to the day—which may not come within this session of Parliament, now that the Tories are back in office—when the House of Lords is no more, because people with no democratic mandate should not be writing the laws of our land.

To address Stewart Stevenson’s point directly—yes, I do think that it would be deeply democratically wrong for MPs who were defeated in the election to find their way back to Westminster via seats in the House of Lords. My party is in a unique position in that we did not lose any seats in the election this year, so we do not have defeated MPs, and in that we do not appoint to the House of Lords anyway. However, I hope that Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats will each give a clear commitment that they will not seek to get round the democratic will of the Scottish people in that way, and that no defeated candidate from last week’s election will find their way into the House of Lords.

6 May 2015

(S4O-04275) Rail Journey Times (Highland Main Line)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests in relation to my role in Railfuture and my presidency of the Scottish Association for Public Transport. Will the minister confirm that, in Scotland, we are investing in our rail network more than double per capita what is being invested in England and Wales?

The Minister for Transport and Islands (Derek Mackay): Yes. The Scottish Government is committed to investing £5 billion in Scotland’s railways over the five years to 2019, including more than £3 billion of capital investment in Network Rail infrastructure. On a per capita basis, that is more than double the equivalent investment planned by United Kingdom ministers.

(S4O-04298) NorthConnect Power Scheme

5. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what progress is being made with NorthConnect’s £2 billion power scheme between Aberdeenshire and Scandinavia. (S4O-04298)

The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy (John Swinney): NorthConnect KS has made an application to Aberdeenshire Council for planning permission relating to a converter station for the proposed link to Norway. The council received the application on 14 April and a public consultation will run until 21 May. It would not be appropriate to comment on a live planning application.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the cabinet secretary welcome—within the limits of there being a live planning application—the fact that the scheme will draw significantly on green energy developments in both Scotland and Norway? Does he agree that we will need to see similar cross-country initiatives if we are to meet electricity demand in Scotland? We should be encouraging more investment in renewable energy projects.

John Swinney: On the policy questions that Mr Stevenson raises, I agree whole-heartedly. Increasing interconnection and transmission upgrade activity is a necessity for us. It is a generic process that is inherent in changing the sources of power generation on which we rely. The Government has taken forward a number of sustained investments in the renewable energy sector, and it has taken the policy initiatives to enable the renewable energy sector to thrive in Scotland. We look forward to taking policy decisions that enable us to continue that activity in the years to come.

5 May 2015

(S4T-01005) Colonsay, Coll and Tiree (Lifeline Flights)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Is the minister aware that Hebridean Air Services uses a different kind of fuel for its aircraft from that which is used for almost all other air services in Scotland? Only the Orkney and Shetland services use similar fuel, and only they pay duty on that fuel—no other air service does. That is probably a five-figure sum per year for Hebridean Air Services. Will the minister raise that anomaly with United Kingdom ministers the next time he has the opportunity to talk to them, so that the playing field will be levelled a bit for Hebridean Air Services—and, indeed, for the Orkney and Shetland services?

The Minister for Transport and Islands (Derek Mackay): I can confirm to the chamber that I was not aware of the fuel specification of the aircraft in question. I do not have the information that the member requires to hand, but I am happy to take his question away and supply him with further information.

17 February 2015

(S4T-00943) Teacher Numbers

1. George Adam (Paisley) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to provide councils with resources to maintain teacher numbers. (S4T-00943)

The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (Angela Constance): The Government provides councils, through the local government finance settlement, with £37.6 million to fund the teacher induction scheme and £41 million to support the commitment to maintain teacher numbers.

The Deputy First Minister wrote to all local authorities on 5 February asking them individually to commit to maintain their pupil teacher ratio and the numbers of teachers that they employ. In return for meeting that commitment, the Government will provide councils with their share of the £41 million, plus a share of an additional £10 million.

George Adam: Given the resources available to councils that commit to maintaining teacher numbers and the fact that the Scottish Government has offered to suspend the penalty that it was entitled to apply as a result of last year’s fall in teacher numbers, does the cabinet secretary agree with Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland? He said:

“The fact that COSLA”—

the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities—

“is continuing to resist a national agreement, including the offer of significant new money, is extremely disappointing.”

Angela Constance: Yes, it is indeed disappointing that COSLA found itself unable to accept the original offer. That fair and generous offer has now been made to all local authorities; I encourage them to accept it.

It is important to recognise that the maintenance of teacher numbers is also a condition of the tripartite pay agreement. Teachers unions have accepted changes to their members’ terms and conditions on the basis that teacher numbers will be maintained.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Given the unacceptable teacher vacancy numbers in Moray, will the cabinet secretary advise what contact is being made with the council to establish why that situation has arisen and to ensure that it is taking proper steps to address the deficiency?

Angela Constance: A number of actions can be taken and are being pursued at local and national level. I have had meetings with Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council, and I have been in touch with members who represent the Moray area.

It is true that in some areas of the country there are teacher shortages, particularly in certain subjects. The Scottish Government has an overall responsibility for national workforce planning; local authorities have duties to employ and recruit teachers.

A number of actions are being taken. At a national level, for example, for the fourth year in a row we have increased the number of students going into initial teacher training. The increase has been disproportionately geared towards the University of Aberdeen, the University of Dundee and the University of the Highlands and Islands to help those geographical areas where there are shortages. At local level, as I know from my discussions, councils are using the flexibility of financial incentives and programmes such as the distance learning initial teacher education initiative, which the Government funds, to train up classroom assistants.

22 January 2015

(S4O-03934) Patient Care (NHS Grampian

4. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government how the additional £15.2 million announced for NHS Grampian in 2015-16 will benefit patient care. (S4O-03934)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport (Shona Robison): NHS Grampian has welcomed the additional £15.2 million from the Scottish Government. It is currently working up plans on how best to use the extra funding for the benefit of its patients.

Stewart Stevenson: Following the news this week of a highly successful scheme pioneered by the Henry Ford medical group in Detroit, where the suicide rate among patients has fallen by 75 per cent in four years, are there any plans to implement strategies that would specifically target suicide rates in Grampian?

Shona Robison: I am more than happy to look into that research in more detail. We should always look at emerging findings from elsewhere. In the meantime, NHS Grampian works in partnership with Moray Council, Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Police Scotland and third sector partners on suicide prevention strategies and plans. Well-established initiatives are in place across Grampian in a range of community settings. Those follow the choose life strategy, which has been very successful; indeed, other countries have looked at adopting it. The essence of it is that the partners work collaboratively to reduce suicidal behaviour by reviewing data and understanding trends, providing support to those who are affected and working with local community planning partnerships to raise awareness of suicidal behaviour through awareness training.

20 January 2015

(S4T-00900) Peterhead Fish Processing Plant Fire (Support)

2. Alison McInnes: To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the need for support following the fire at the Peterhead fish processing plant. (S4T-00900)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): The minister helpfully referred to the local economy. In particular, has any contact been made with other businesses in Peterhead and beyond to find out what the knock-on effects are and to establish what the Government and others can do to assist?

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment (Richard Lochhead): I assure Stewart Stevenson that that is one of the issues that will be discussed at this week’s meeting of the task force. We are aware not only that the fire is an issue for the factory, which is a significant employer in Peterhead, but that many suppliers rely on the company for their business, so there will indeed be a knock-on impact.

It is also worth saying that other pelagic businesses in the area have been in contact with Northbay to offer support. We should welcome that and thank them for doing so. The local community is putting a lot of effort into rallying round the staff, the business in question and the other businesses affected.

I assure Stewart Stevenson that we will pay close attention to the knock-on impact on other businesses in the locality.

Stewart Stevenson
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