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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.

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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.

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