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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.

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