24 November 2016

First Minister's Questions

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

With the Brexiteer chimera of £350 million a week for the national health service being replaced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday with £225 million a week of new borrowing, is it not now much more difficult for Governments north and south of the border to deliver social justice, given that our economy is being burdened by debt of that magnitude due to the incompetence of the Tories?

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): Yes, I think that that is absolutely correct. Yesterday, perhaps for the first time, we started to see laid bare the true cost of Brexit. Rather than there being the promise of £350 million extra a week for the national health service, we saw that the additional borrowing alone that has been caused by Brexit will amount to £225 million a week. That is the Brexit con that so many people in the Conservative Party have presided over. That is why I am determined that we will continue to explore every option to protect Scotland’s interests and, in particular, to protect our place in the single market, because that is how we will minimise the costs of Brexit that are being imposed on us by the Conservative Party.

23 November 2016

(S5O-00377) Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme (Review)

13. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its plans to review the protecting vulnerable groups scheme. (S5O-00377)

The Minister for Childcare and Early Years (Mark McDonald): On Monday, the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, spoke at Disclosure Scotland’s stakeholder event in Glasgow. He outlined the broad themes that the protecting vulnerable groups scheme review would cover, including digital delivery of services, the importance of safeguarding vulnerable groups and the financial sustainability of the scheme. Between now and the end of February 2017, Disclosure Scotland officials will continue to engage with stakeholders to develop terms of reference for the review. Once that work is completed and ministers have agreed the terms of reference, I will write to the convener of the Education and Skills Committee and arrange for the information to be provided to the Scottish Parliament information centre.

Stewart Stevenson: The minister has provided very welcome and up-to-date information. Disclosure Scotland plays an important part in ensuring that vulnerable groups are protected. Can he provide further information about how the disclosure system might emerge from the review that is now being undertaken?

Mark McDonald: The review will cover both aspects of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007: the listing and barring functions under part 1; and the vetting and disclosure functions under part 2.

With regard to what Mr Stevenson says, the important point is that we ensure that there is strong stakeholder engagement as part of the review. During the stakeholder event on Monday that I mentioned, officials offered attendees the opportunity to become involved in the work to devise the terms of reference for the review. In response, 39 individuals who represent organisations in the regulatory, public, private and voluntary sectors in Scotland signed up. Officials will take forward further discussions with those individuals and with Who Cares? Scotland, the recruit with conviction network and members of the Disclosure Scotland stakeholder advisory board with a view to presenting terms of reference for the review to me by the end of February 2017. Once we have had the opportunity to flesh out those terms of reference, that will be an appropriate point at which to respond to Mr Stevenson on what the review will cover.

10 November 2016

Statement: Climate Change Action

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a statement by Roseanna Cunningham on Scotland’s contribution to international action on climate change and the Paris agreement.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Does the cabinet secretary recall hearing a long line of assurances to our island communities about the future of what is rather oddly described as remote onshore island wind?

Yesterday was a highly suspicious day for the UK Government to announce that it was reneging on its promises—it was hoping that the announcement would be buried by other news. Should we now make sure that we make common cause with Maurice Golden, who said that infrastructure needs to be put in place, and others of a progressive nature on climate change in this Parliament, to get that decision overturned?

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Roseanna Cunningham): I would certainly welcome support from across the chamber, including from the Conservatives, on the matter. It was a long-awaited announcement, and it was very disappointing on a number of fronts. I am not quite sure what the timing was all about—I will let others draw their own conclusions on that.

We have repeatedly sought assurances from UK ministers. It is a matter of regret that this Government was not consulted before the announcement; that is unfortunate, because our islands have huge renewable energy potential, possibly the greatest in the whole of Europe.

(S5F-00450) US Presidential Election

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

To ask the First Minister what assessment the Scottish Government has made of the impact on Scotland of the outcome of the US presidential election. (S5F-00450)

The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon): While the outcome of the US presidential election is not the one that I had hoped for, it is the verdict of the American people. That said, I hope that the new President will reach out to those who felt marginalised and, often, vilified by his campaign. I hope that he makes clear that he will be a President for all of modern multicultural America and one who values the principles of tolerance, respect and diversity. The Scottish Government will continue to monitor developments during the transition period between now and January. We will fully assess the impact for Scotland once President-elect Trump forms the new Administration and its priorities are made clear.

Stewart Stevenson
: On 19 November 1863, at Gettysburg, the founder of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, said that his nation was

“dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Does the First Minister agree that, although the US President-elect’s comments during the election barely connected with that proposition, he will have our support if he embraces, in his acts and his thoughts, Lincoln’s statement as a proper foundation of what can truly make America great again and a great friend of ours?

The First Minister
: I agree with that. I was struck yesterday by comments made by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, when she said that she wanted to have a constructive engagement with the new President but one based on the values of respect for all, tolerance and diversity. I echo that sentiment. The relationship between Scotland and the United States of America is a strong one, which I believe will endure. As the elected First Minister of Scotland, I want to engage positively and constructively with the American Administration, but I will never, ever shy away from standing up for those important principles. I very much hope that we see a President Trump who is very different from the candidate Trump whom we have all witnessed and by whom many of us have been appalled in the past few months.

5 October 2016

Statement: Supporting Farming and Food Production

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Given the importance of primary and processed food production in my constituency, I welcome the announcements that the cabinet secretary has made about supporting the food industry. What steps can he take—or can he advise what steps the UK Government is contemplating—to protect those industries’ access to labour from other parts of the EU on which they are critically dependent?

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): That is an extremely serious matter. I have made many visits to farms and great co-ops such as Aberdeen Grain Services, Ringlink Scotland or Grampian Growers and we are reliant—whether for raspberry picking, tattie picking or a range of jobs in the rural community—on people who come from the EU to work here, who choose to do so, who are welcome here, and who, in many cases, are migrant workers.

As Stewart Stevenson knows from his constituency, in respect of fish processing, we are utterly reliant on the good will of people who are welcome in this country. The announcements emerging from the Conservative conference are of the most right-wing and reactionary variety that I have heard in 17 years in politics. They are quite shocking and quite disgraceful.

4 October 2016

(S5T-00117) Common Agricultural Policy Loan Scheme

1. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress that it has made in delivering the national common agricultural policy loan scheme. (S5T-00117)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): I announced the national basic payment support scheme for 2016 to Parliament on 13 September, and delivery has proceeded on the timescale that was set out in that announcement.

Letters inviting farmers and crofters to apply for loans were issued dated 27 September, and everyone who is eligible to apply for a loan should receive their letter this week.

I regret that after letters were sent, manual checking of a sample of the calculations uncovered an undervaluation of entitlement that affected some potential applicants. Clearly, that is regrettable and I appreciate fully that it will have caused confusion for people receiving letters. Revised loan letters will be issued to the affected farmers and crofters this week. However, it is important to note that no farmer or crofter who is entitled to receive a loan will be worse off as a result of that undervaluation. Indeed, every single farmer or crofter who is affected will be entitled to receive more than they were originally notified of.

Stewart Stevenson: I thank the cabinet secretary for his explanation and assurance about what are clearly difficult circumstances. Can he advise when all payments can be expected to be made under the scheme after the closure of applications in about two weeks?

Fergus Ewing: I can advise that our aim was that the bulk of the payments should be made in the first fortnight of November, and that is still our intention. I would not use the term “closure” because we have asked farmers to return the form by 12 October, and those who are affected by the adjustment following the undervaluation will be given a further week to do that. However, there is no cut-off period; no one is excluded if they do not meet the deadlines. In other words, those who miss the deadlines will still receive a loan payment but might not receive it at the same time as everyone whose forms are returned timeously.

Stewart Stevenson
: I am sure that the flexibility that the Government is showing will be very welcome. The cabinet secretary said in a statement to Parliament that a small number of businesses will not qualify for a loan. How many might be involved, why might they not receive loans and what help might be forthcoming for them?

Fergus Ewing: A relatively small minority of businesses will not receive loan offers at this stage because of the complexity of their cases. There is a variety of cases in that category, and we are absolutely determined to work through all of them. As the validity of each case is resolved and where eligibility is established, loan offers will be issued case by case.

13 September 2016

Statement: Common Agricultural Policy Payments

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): It is a cause of some embarrassment to me as a systems engineer that a computer development problem is at the heart of the problem. It is clear that farmers have experienced pain; the Government has experienced pain to its budget, too. Will the minister ensure that the contractor also shares some of the pain of fixing the IT problem?

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): I assure Mr Stevenson that, in my meetings with the contractors and the project team in Saughton house, we have had full and frank discussion of all the issues resulting in, as I reported to Parliament earlier in the year, a substantial saving on the contract, a driving down of costs and performance improvements. Therefore, the contractors have responded to our requests and, indeed, to our requirements to secure better value for money.

I know that Mr Stevenson has an on-going interest in IT projects. He will have copious knowledge about all the matters from his previous experience of implementing them in practice, so perhaps it is a shame that we did not have his input into the project some five years ago. I hope that he will be pleased to hear that a great deal of work has been done to address precisely the issues that he—correctly—raises.

30 June 2016

(S5O-00083) Dairy Production (North East Scotland)

3. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure the sustainable future of dairy production in North East Scotland. (S5O-00083)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): Although dairy farming is centred mainly in the south-west of Scotland, it also occupies an important place in the economy of the north-east. As the member will know, the industry faces a number of market-driven pressures, which we have been seeking to address with stakeholders. Dairy farming in the north-east of Scotland, as in other parts of the country, can be maintained only if our excellent producers receive a fair return for their efforts.

Although it will ultimately be down to the market to deliver that, the Scottish Government is on the front foot, with a range of initiatives that are aimed at boosting resilience in these challenging times, including the creation of the Scottish dairy growth board and support for the online Scottish dairy hub. We will also be involved in an industry-led working group that will consider what support can be given in the short to medium term.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the Scottish Government encourage the actions of the National Farmers Union Scotland, Opportunity North East and Aberdeenshire Council to commission a study into alternative dairy processing options in the north-east? If so, does the Government consider that that local initiative can be a vital component of ensuring support for the dairy industry in the area that I represent?

Fergus Ewing: Yes, I very much agree with that. I have had the pleasure of meeting the NFU on several occasions since I was appointed, most recently yesterday. I am conscious of Opportunity North East and Sir Ian Wood’s extremely generous gesture of support and his interest in promoting innovation in farming. As Stewart Stevenson well knows, there is of course already a huge amount of innovation in farming, especially in the dairy sector and particularly in diversification into higher-profit-margin products in recent years by a variety of companies. I am determined to work with members of all parties and the industry to address the serious challenges that currently face the dairy sector in Scotland.

16 June 2016

Statement: Policing and Security

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Many incidents that happen in local communities across Scotland could not reasonably be foreseen through intelligence and stem from the actions of a single individual. Is the cabinet secretary satisfied that there are adequate ways in which local commanders can get access to the new resource that he has announced today?

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): Part of the work that Police Scotland has been undertaking over the past couple of months has been to look at the changing nature of the threat, and there is no doubt that the incidents that we witnessed in Paris in particular highlighted that changing nature, in that several different incidents took place simultaneously. That has led to a reassessment of how policing resource should be deployed in order to prepare for such an event, should it occur. However, the resource will be deployed by Police Scotland on the basis of where it believes the greatest risk is presented. The model is constantly reviewed and it reflects the information that Police Scotland has.

I assure the member that the uplift in resource will provide a greater level of coverage across the whole of Scotland and will ensure that all communities have the armed officer provision that is necessary and appropriate to the situation and the risk in the area. Police Scotland reviews that regularly, based on the information and intelligence that it receives.

14 June 2016

Statement: Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2014

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I express enormous gratitude to all who have contributed to the possibility that, when we meet the 2050 target of an 80 per cent reduction, I might be not 104 years old but 84 years old—I might survive for that long. However, it is clear that the UK Government’s policy change on renewables will have an impact on our ability to reach that target. Now or later, will the cabinet secretary give us a quantitative indication of how much more difficult the UK Government’s changing of renewables support makes meeting the target under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, which I was greatly honoured to take through Parliament in 2008 and 2009?

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Roseanna Cunningham): The UK Government has made a number of policy decisions that could have a serious impact on our climate change ambitions, which I have referred to. The renewables obligation for large-scale onshore wind and solar photovoltaics projects was closed early, and support for small-scale renewables projects through the feed-in tariffs was cut. Delays in and uncertainty about contracts for difference are also having an impact on investor confidence.

The UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change conducted an impact assessment of the early closure of the renewables obligation that estimated that the UK could lose a reduction in additional source emissions of up to 63 megatonnes. To put that in context, that is the equivalent of more than a year’s worth of Scotland’s entire emissions level.

In Scotland, we have made it clear that our ambition is to create a low-carbon energy future while keeping the lights on and keeping consumer bills low but, if we are to achieve those three aims in the absence of subsidies, we will need a mechanism to stabilise the market and ensure investment in our more cost-effective low-carbon technologies.

9 June 2016

(S5O-00021) Transport Infrastructure (North Aberdeenshire)

Question: To ask the Scottish Government what investment plans it has for transport infrastructure in north Aberdeenshire. (S5O-00021)

The Minister for Transport and the Islands (Humza Yousaf): The completion of the Aberdeen western peripheral route Balmedie to Tipperty project will provide a dual carriageway link to Ellon and bring significant travel benefits to communities and businesses north of Aberdeen. Construction work is well under way on that £745 million project, which is estimated to bring 14,000 jobs and £6 billion of benefits to the north-east over the next 30 years. We are also making a number of improvements to the Aberdeen to Inverness rail line and have given a clear commitment to dual the A96, which will mean delivery of approximately 86 miles of upgraded road between Inverness and Aberdeen by 2030.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I very much welcome the work that is being done on the AWPR and the dualling of the road between Balmedie and Tipperty. In light of the importance of travel times to business and commuters, can the minister enlighten us on the specific benefit to travel times of the investments that the Government has made?

Humza Yousaf
: Of course, that is a key benefit of the work that we are doing on the AWPR, which will cut journey times across Aberdeen by up to half at peak times and will provide much improved journey times—as well as improved reliability and facility—for public transport on local roads. The AWPR Balmedie to Tipperty project forms a core part of our commitment to improving transport in the north and the north-east.

Alongside that project is the Inveramsay bridge on the A96, which the member will know well and the improvements to the Haudagain roundabout that I mentioned earlier, as well as the proposals to dual the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness. Taken with all the other projects that we are doing in the area, those projects will ensure that all Scotland’s cities are connected by a high-quality transport system that will generate economic growth.

31 May 2016

Statement: Common Agricultural Policy Payments

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I draw members’ attention to my joint ownership of a registered agricultural holding, which is let to my neighbour for rough grazing. I receive no financial reward for doing so.

The cabinet secretary sat on the parliamentary committee that looked at the IT difficulties in the Scottish Qualifications Authority programme under the Labour-Liberal Administration in 2000, and he will be aware of the London Ambulance Service IT failures in 1992 under the Conservatives. We are now dealing with a project that has had significant IT difficulties associated with it under the SNP Administration. Will the cabinet secretary indicate how the public sector in general can raise its game in how it uses IT for public benefit?

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): I am not responsible for all IT systems across the Government—that is a somewhat pleasing reflection to offer the chamber. However, the member is perfectly right to say that, in her third report on the CAP payment system, Caroline Gardner said that she is reflecting on general lessons to be learned and will let us have her views shortly.

In the circumstances, the most sensible answer that I can give to Mr Stevenson, who—I did not appreciate it until now, although it does not come as a huge surprise—is a farmer among his many other occupations, is that I will reflect on his remarks and urge him to await the publication of Caroline Gardner’s further thoughts on these matters.

23 March 2016

(S4O-05707) Children

2. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to ensure that children get the best start in life. (S4O-05707)

The Minister for Children and Young People (Aileen Campbell): Ensuring that all children get the best possible start in life is a key priority for the Government. That is why we established the early years change fund in 2012, with local government and the health service, to invest £274 million to deliver transformational change in early years services. That has included establishing the early years collaborative, which is encouraging agencies to work together and intervene early and is building on Scotland’s first-ever early years framework.

We have also invested about £500 million to expand free early learning and childcare to 475 hours for all three and four-year-olds and disadvantaged two-year-olds. We are recruiting 500 additional health visitors by 2018 to support parents in their children’s earliest years.

Stewart Stevenson: I am sure that parents and children throughout Scotland very much welcome the more than £0.5 billion of investment that the minister refers to. We are all aware of the impact that poverty can have in early years, but what more can we do in the next Parliament, which we are about to elect?

Aileen Campbell: We fundamentally disagree with the changes that the United Kingdom Government currently proposes and we will continue to develop a Scottish approach to tackle and mitigate the impact of poverty. We are investing £14 million in 2016-17 through our new third sector fund to tackle inequality and help thousands of children, families and communities. We have fully funded free school meals for all primary 1 to P3 pupils, which will deliver a saving for families of at least £380 per child per year and benefit 130,000 children throughout Scotland.

As the First Minister recently announced, we will also extend universal free school meals to all two, three and four-year-olds in early learning and childcare when we expand provision to 30 hours a week. Moreover, if re-elected in May, we will replace the sure start maternity grant with a new and extended maternity and early years allowance, which will increase the amount for the first child, reinstate payments for subsequent children and make payments to low-income families when their children start nursery and school. I could list more that will contribute to a package of measures to give children the very best possible start in life.

15 March 2016

Statement: Energy Strategy

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Can the minister confirm that it is the Government’s view that the proximity of north-east Scotland—and Peterhead in particular—to emptied oil basins creates not only a domestic opportunity for CO2 storage but an international opportunity to take other people’s CO2? In particular, given the engineering expertise in the north-east, has he had any positive indications of any kind that tomorrow’s budget might help to provide employment as well as address climate change?

The Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism (Fergus Ewing): I have not heard from Mr Osborne any indications, positive or otherwise, but Mr Stevenson is absolutely right about the opportunity to use depleted oil and gas fields off the shores of Scotland, and indeed of England. That is an enormous opportunity for the environment and for the oil and gas industry. That is the case for the environment because—as the International Energy Agency has often said—in order to cut our emissions and meet climate change targets, carbon capture and storage is a necessity; it cannot be done without it. That makes the Greens’ refusal to support the policy somewhat astonishing.

On Mr Stevenson’s second point, the engineering expertise that was encompassed in the SSE-Shell partnership that was working on the CCS project, which the UK Government unilaterally and abruptly scrapped, was international. The people who were involved, whom I met on a half-day visit to Peterhead, were hugely looking forward to the project and there was a spring in their step. They were looking forward to Scotland and Britain leading the world, but all of that was scrapped in a moment in a short-sighted, venal decision by the UK Government.

9 March 2016

(S4O-05631) Culture and Traditions (North East Scotland)

6. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what value it places on the culture and traditions of North East Scotland. (S4O-05631)

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop): The Scottish Government places great importance on the traditional culture, language and heritage of north-east Scotland and supports Creative Scotland, Event Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland to promote its rich local culture and traditions in different ways.

In 2014-15, Creative Scotland invested over £2.4 million in organisations and individuals that are based in north-east Scotland. Under the time to shine strategy, £400,000 has supported the youth arts collective north east hub in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, which has provided 1,000 opportunities for young people to progress and excel in the arts. Last year, Creative Scotland published its first Scots language policy, which underlined the organisation’s commitment to supporting the language through its own work and the work that it funds across the arts, screen and creative industries.

Stewart Stevenson: Foo are ministers gaan tae gie a haun up tae Doric?

Fiona Hyslop: I do not know the answer to that one. It is very important that we provide support for our languages, and most of that is done through the Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland’s Languages, Alasdair Allan, to whom I direct the member’s attention.

On culture, I refer the member to Creative Scotland’s website. Yesterday, it put a piece up about “Netting”, a Morna Young play that is touring. It is funded by Creative Scotland and is an important promotion for using Creative Scotland’s resources. In the piece, Morna Young talks about writing in Doric, about “Netting” and “Lost at Sea”. She is also a Scots language ambassador. That is one thing that we are doing, as of now, to give a haun up to Doric.

3 March 2016

(S4O-05617) Tourism (Aberdeenshire)

3. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what support it is providing to tourism in Aberdeenshire. (S4O-05617)

The Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism (Fergus Ewing): We work closely with a range of public bodies—including VisitScotland, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Natural Heritage, Skills Development Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland—and with industry to increase tourism throughout the country, including in Aberdeenshire.

Stewart Stevenson: I thank the minister for the substantial support that is being given to tourism delivery in Aberdeenshire. I invite him to join me in welcoming the formation of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire tourism company, which is consolidating what has been a fragmented approach to tourism in Aberdeenshire. With more than £1 million of initial funding, it looks set to deliver much more for Aberdeenshire in that important economic sector.

Fergus Ewing: In 2014, the total visitor spend in the Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire region was £351 million, with 1.25 million trips, so there is plainly a great deal of success already. However, the establishment of the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire tourism company represents an opportunity for even more success. I am delighted that there has been support from all parties, including Sir Ian Wood’s Opportunity North East—ONE—initiative, to build on the success of tourism in Mr Stevenson’s part of the world.

24 February 2016

(S4O-05576) Cashback for Communities (North East Scotland)

3. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what impact the cashback for communities programme is having in North East Scotland. (S4O-05576)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): We are rightly proud of our unique cashback for communities programme and have published information by local authority area on the cashback website. It demonstrates that, up to the end of March 2015, young people from North East Scotland, which covers the local authority areas of Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee city and part of Moray, have directly benefited from nearly £5.5 million of cashback investment that has delivered more than 250,000 activities and opportunities for young people in the area.

Stewart Stevenson: I very much welcome the £5.5 million that has been recycled from the pockets of criminals for the benefit of the public good in North East Scotland, as has happened elsewhere in Scotland. What criteria might the cabinet secretary wish to see used for the future selection of cashback projects?

Michael Matheson: Our approach in the past three phases of allocating cashback money has been to work with the 14 partner organisations that are responsible for projects across the country. They range from sporting organisations to cultural organisations and youth groups and they focus on areas that are deprived and where there are disadvantaged young people.

We are coming towards the end of phase 3 of the programme, which goes up to March 2017, and I am considering the arrangements for phase 4. I want to ensure that it is targeted more on deprived areas, that it focuses on assisting us to reduce inequalities in our communities and that, in doing so, it maximises the benefit for communities. There is no doubt that the programme has been an extremely successful way to take money from criminals and put it back into our communities. We intend to build on the important work that we have achieved in recent years with the programme.

6 January 2016

(S4O-05218) Common Agricultural Policy Convergence Uplift Negotiations

5. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what progress it has made in the common agricultural policy convergence uplift negotiations with the United Kingdom Government. (S4O-05218)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment (Richard Lochhead): Despite qualifying for the convergence uplift only as a result of Scotland’s low payment rate, the United Kingdom Government refused to pass on the full allocation to Scotland, which was a bitter blow to Scotland’s farmers and crofters.

The then Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs promised to review the UK’s allocation of common agricultural policy funding in 2016. It is now 2016, and so I have today written to the current secretary of state urging her to set out the timetable for the review as a matter of the utmost urgency, and seeking an early discussion on its terms.

Stewart Stevenson: I very much welcome the news that the cabinet secretary is seeking to hold the UK Government to account for its previous promises. Has the Scottish Government estimated the financial loss to the Scottish economy from loss of those funds—which came to the UK only because of Scotland—and, if possible, of any multiplier effects that the funds would have had on our economy?

Richard Lochhead: It is complete larceny that that money, which was sent to the UK Government because Scotland’s low payment rates allowed the UK Government to qualify for the uplift from the European Commission’s common agricultural funding, has been denied to Scotland’s farmers, crofters and rural communities. At the time, the payment was worth £190 million over the course of the current CAP. That is a substantial resource, given the number of questions that I have just received from members who are arguing for more investment in the agriculture sector. That money is Scotland’s money: it belongs to Scotland, but we got only a small percentage of it, whereas the whole £190 million should have come to Scotland. As Stewart Stevenson rightly said, that would have had a multiplier effect across our rural and food economies.

It is essential that the UK Government live up to its words and that it undertake the review immediately on a very short timescale, with a view to delivering Scotland’s money to Scotland’s farmers, crofters and rural communities.

Stewart Stevenson
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