12 December 2017

(S5T-00813) Police Governance

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Does the cabinet secretary agree that the addition of substantial experience of public service and of Government to the SPA will greatly enhance its oversight responsibilities. In particular, will he expect of the new chair that improvements will continue throughout her term of office and that quick fixes will be suspect?

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): It is worth reiterating that last week’s report from Audit Scotland has already demonstrated the significant progress that has improved overall governance and financial accountability in the Police Scotland and SPA budgets. This is the first time that the audit report has not modified their accounts, which recognises the progress that has been made in accountability and transparency in the accounts’ processes.

The new chair of the SPA has already said that she intends to address the issues that Audit Scotland raised in the report in order to ensure that the SPA drives forward further improvement on the issues, and that she intends to learn lessons where they can be learned. I have no doubt that Susan Deacon will bring to the organisation considerable leadership and skill that she has gained from her time in Parliament and in the public and private sectors over recent years.

Alongside that, Kenneth Hogg, as the new chief officer in the Scottish Police Authority, brings considerable experience from the public sector and of transformation of public agencies. I have no doubt that both will bring considerable leadership to the organisation. Members should be reassured by their commitment to learning lessons and to addressing the issues that were highlighted in this year’s Audit Scotland report.

Forties Pipeline

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Does the minister have any knowledge of the nature of the problem that has occurred in the pipeline? More fundamentally, does he know how the information about that failure may be shared with other pipeline operators to ensure that we have the best possible chance of this event being a one-off?

The Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy (Paul Wheelhouse): Mr Stevenson makes a very reasonable point about learning lessons from this and relaying any issues around good practice to other pipeline operators as swiftly as can be done. Obviously the Health and Safety Executive is not a devolved agency, but I am sure that it will take a very keen interest in this to ensure that something can be done to prevent a similar risk to safety from occurring in future. That is something that we very much need to take forward.

It appears that there is a crack or breach in the pipe. As yet, we do not have a confirmed cause for that failure, which goes to the heart of what is being said about the cause. We have to understand whether it is metal fatigue or another internal cause, or whether something externally damaged the pipe and thereby caused the crack. We do not have an answer to that question yet, but I certainly commit to furnish those answers to members in the chamber who have an interest once we have identified the cause.

29 November 2017

Statement: Policing

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani): The next item of business is a statement by Michael Matheson on policing. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of his statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Does the cabinet secretary agree that the great strength of Police Scotland—and of its predecessors—is its ability to operate as a team within a framework of laws and to grow new senior officers, and to do so without hands-on interference from politicians?

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): In recent years, I have met a range of officers from right across the organisation, from local policing to specialist units. It has been very clear to me that one of the real benefits of having a national force is the ability to deploy specialist support as and when it is necessary and to utilise all the skill sets that are based in the organisation, at appropriate times, to address particular investigations as and when they occur. I believe that Police Scotland has a very rich seam of leadership in the organisation, as Deputy Chief Constable Designate Iain Livingstone also suggested recently, when he said that he believed that Police Scotland has strong leadership from the top right through to local policing. I believe that that is the case, and that we should all look to support that.

22 November 2017

Statement: Burntisland Fabrications

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a statement by Keith Brown on Burntisland Fabrications. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of his statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions during it.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): BiFab plays a major part in the development of the Beatrice offshore wind farm. Can the cabinet secretary confirm that the agreement is also very welcome for many companies and projects that depend on the continuing existence of BiFab? I can see the Beatrice offshore wind farm at night from my garden, so I am close to it and I know how important it is. Is the approach a key part of ensuring that we continue to promote renewable energy and the businesses that depend on it?

The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work (Keith Brown): Stewart Stevenson makes a very important point about other companies. In particular, NRL also employs people who are dependent on the work continuing, and it will also benefit if we are able to grow what the business currently does by winning future contracts. I acknowledge that BiFab is an extremely important part of the Scottish supply chain.

It was interesting to hear different aspects of the discussions last week and about the extent to which the workforce is seen as the company’s most valuable asset by far. Claire Baker mentioned that. The workforce is internationally recognised for the skills that it has. There is no question but that BiFab needs to have a tougher focus on delivery but, if it can do that, we can continue to see it as a vital part of the Scottish supply chain through its having the opportunity to trade on the reputation of that workforce.

15 November 2017

(S5O-01456) European Union Nationals (Post-Brexit Working)

4. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Government regarding the future of European Union nationals currently working in Scotland post-Brexit. (S5O-01456)

The Minister for International Development and Europe (Dr Alasdair Allan): The Scottish Government has repeatedly urged the UK Government to guarantee the rights of EU citizens and their families who are living in the UK post-Brexit. We want EU citizens in Scotland to feel settled and secure and to continue to make a strong contribution to our country. The Scottish Government has not been substantially engaged in the detail of the negotiations.

Last week, the Scottish Government provided the UK Migration Advisory Committee with the latest evidence on the overwhelmingly positive contribution that EU citizens make to Scotland and the vital importance of continued free movement in delivering future population growth and economic growth.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the minister see any prospect of a solution to the fishing industry’s problems, which involve the fact that 70 per cent of workers in the industry in the north-east of Scotland are not EU nationals?

Dr Allan: As the member points out, that is a huge problem for Scotland’s offshore processing sector, where EU nationals make up 58 per cent of the workforce in large seafood processing factories—the percentage is even higher in the Grampian area.

As we have made clear, people who choose to work and live in Scotland—whether they are from the EU or elsewhere—are welcome and needed. It is for exactly that reason that the UK Government must give assurances. I am asking the UK Government to provide those assurances and to immediately remove the unnecessary uncertainty that is being caused to businesses and to the workers to whom the member refers.

8 November 2017

(S5O-01415) Rural Payments

1. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on progress with the 2017 basic payment scheme. (S5O-01415)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): Through the basic payment scheme 2017 loan scheme, the majority of farmers and crofters are receiving up to 90 per cent of their basic payment support earlier than ever before. As of the beginning of November, £292 million has been paid to more than 12,000 businesses, demonstrating the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting and providing security to the rural economy.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the cabinet secretary agree that, given that the money is reaching rural areas and farmers earlier and quicker than ever before, much needed certainly is being given to the rural economy as a whole and to businesses that depend on agriculture? Will he confirm that even though the deadline has passed, farmers and crofters can still apply for an interest-free loan, if that is the decision that they want to make?

Fergus Ewing: The loan payments have been welcomed, as has the fact that they were paid a week or so earlier than it was indicated at the outset that they would be. I was determined that we would pay out the maximum possible and, in most cases, that has been 90 per cent—not 80 per cent—of entitlements. That has provided financial certainty for farmers and crofters; it has also helped the wider economy in rural Scotland.

The answer to the member’s second question is yes. Those farmers and crofters who have yet to accept their loan offer may do so—the offers are still open for acceptance and payment. In fact, the money is there for farmers and crofters, so I am keen that they receive the money to which they are entitled, and I encourage them to send their opt-in slips in the supplied pre-paid envelopes.

Any business that has not received a loan offer, or that has lost its original offer, should not hesitate to contact its local rural payments and inspections directorate office.

31 October 2017

Statement: Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Annual Target 2015)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Is the cabinet secretary aware that, on 21 September, Nicaragua signed up to the Paris agreement, meaning that only two countries—Syria and the United States—are not signatories? Will the Government use the Climate Group states and regions approach to work with the states in the United States to mitigate the anti-science effects of the presidency and far too many of that Government’s administrators?

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform: I might have seen the same tweet as the one from which the member might have picked up that information about Nicaragua. All of us would have preferred the United States not to have taken the position that it has taken on Paris, and it is a matter of some regret that it has chosen to do that.

We work closely with the Climate Group. It is an important forum for this country, and the member will be grateful to know that, when I visit Bonn in a couple of weeks’ time, I will attend a number of round-table discussions with other members in that group, particularly with California, for example, whose approach has been of interest to us. Those conversations will continue.

I perhaps should have said to David Stewart that, when I am in Bonn, I will take every opportunity to see whether I can have useful discussions not only with members of the Climate Group but with others who might be there.

25 October 2017

Statement: Common Agricultural Policy Convergence Moneys

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Has the cabinet secretary seen the November edition of Scottish Farming Leader? It says, on page 9:

“NFU Scotland has always been clear that Scottish policy makers must be empowered to utilise the future agricultural budget to develop policies and tools that are fitted to Scotland’s unique agricultural characteristics.”

Is the UK Government’s long-running failure on convergence moneys the irrefutable evidence of its total inability to act promptly in Scottish farmers’ interests? Does it illustrate perfectly why we must resist the Tories’ attempted policy grab post-Brexit?

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): There were several excellent rhetorical questions in there, and I agree with all of them. I saw the article to which the member referred.

Let me give a concrete example of why it is essential that power over agriculture is not grabbed from Scotland. If it were not for the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government—and I give credit to the previous Administration on this—I think that we could easily have lost the ability to have a less favoured area support scheme. I say that because my understanding is that other parts of the UK have dispensed with such a scheme; in England, they dispensed with it seven years ago. If England set Scottish hill farming payments, would there have been any over the past seven years? I think not. That is a concrete, practical illustration of the absolute need to avoid the power grab that we believe some people down in Westminster are intent on pursuing.

21 September 2017

(S5O-01275) Carbon Capture and Storage (St Fergus)

1. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what the timescale is for a feasibility study into developing carbon capture and storage at St Fergus. (S5O-01275)

The Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy (Paul Wheelhouse): The acorn CCS project will be officially launched in Aberdeen on 26 September 2017. The launch will signal the formal start of the feasibility stage of the project which is anticipated to last 18 months. The acorn project is managed by Pale Blue Dot, an energy transition consultancy that is based in Banchory, Aberdeenshire.

Stewart Stevenson: I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to the St Fergus project. Does the minister share my disappointment in the United Kingdom Government’s anti-carbon capture and storage inaction at St Fergus and its proactively hostile actions at Peterhead? Does that put at risk an opportunity that would not only benefit the environment, but create jobs and boost the economy across Scotland?

Paul Wheelhouse: I agree with Stewart Stevenson’s assessment that the UK Government’s decision to scrap the £1 billion carbon capture and storage programme, which included a strong commitment to Peterhead, is a disgrace and a lost opportunity for Scotland and the UK. Had the competition been allowed to run its course, the world’s first commercial-scale gas-powered CCS plant could have been built at Peterhead and the world’s attention would have been drawn to Scotland and the UK as a trailblazer in that technology. Unfortunately, the first mover advantage has been lost to some extent. Undoubtedly it would have attracted significant investment to the UK, bringing with that further opportunities for job creation and skills development, potentially positioning the UK to take its place in the supply chain for Europe of that important technology.

It is worth emphasising that the need for CCS remains. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that it would cost 138 per cent more to achieve a 2°C climate change mitigation scenario without carbon capture and storage. Despite the clear need for CCS, all UK Government efforts to date to bring forward the technology have failed. Given that track record of failure—in the rest of the UK as well as Scotland—it is now essential that the UK Government sets out a clear and robust policy framework, hopefully working with the Scottish Government and others who want to support the technology, in its soon-to-be-published UK clean growth plan.

12 September 2017

Statement: Policing

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I declare that I have a close family member who serves in the Police Service of Scotland.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that we require the highest standards of personal integrity for everyone who works in the Police Service? I understand that he is to address the Police Service’s conference on ethical standards on Tuesday next week. Does he expect that he will be able to congratulate all who attend on their continuously high standards of ethical behaviour, and on the commitment to public good that is exemplified by all but the tiniest of tiny minorities in the service?

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): I am impressed that Stewart Stevenson has such insight into my diary for the coming week. I will attend that conference to address it on ethical standards in policing.

The vast majority of our police officers and staff uphold very high ethical standards in discharging their responsibilities. I would expect that of not just police officers and staff in Police Scotland but of anyone in the public sector and beyond. I have absolutely no doubt that that will continue to be the case with officers and staff in Police Scotland, as the organisation moves forward.

Statement: Common Agricultural Policy

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Has the cabinet secretary seen that the UK Tory Government is setting aside £230 million for fines to cover its CAP basic payment failures in 2015-16? That suggests a pro rata cost in Scotland of around £41 million. What is the Scottish figure?

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): I am aware of reports of the scale of the disallowance that was experienced in 2015-16 in England, which was reported to be £230 million. We are not forecasting disallowance on that scale here in Scotland. As was previously reported to Parliament, we have estimated late-payment penalties for 2015 at around £5 million and for 2016 at around £500,000 to £700,000. However, it will be some time before the final totals are available following the due diligence that is being carried out at EU and UK levels. All member states carry the risk of wider disallowance, and Scotland is no different. Nevertheless, over the past 10 years disallowance has amounted to around 1 per cent of the total CAP expenditure, which is broadly within tolerance levels and compares reasonably with the figures for other parts of the UK. My job is to get on with the work in Scotland, and that is what I am focusing on.

7 September 2017

(S5O-01219) Gypsy Travellers (Parking Sites)

5. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what information it has regarding the provision by local authorities of parking sites that are suitable for Gypsy Travellers. (S5O-01219)

The Minister for Local Government and Housing (Kevin Stewart): The provision of Gypsy Traveller sites is a matter for the relevant local authority. The Scottish Government does not routinely collect information concerning sites in Scotland. All Scottish local authorities must, by law, produce local housing strategies that set out their priorities and plans for delivering housing and related services. Those strategies should include plans for meeting any Gypsy Traveller housing needs, including addressing any requirement for provision of suitable sites.

Stewart Stevenson: While noting the particular difficulties in Moray, where Tory part-time MP Douglas Ross was recently a member of the council administration that has failed to provide any such parking sites, does the minister believe that rather than vilifying Travellers—who make a valuable contribution to society—as a “top priority” problem, as he described it, Mr Ross and others in his party should work to address that deficiency?

Kevin Stewart: Yes, I agree with Mr Stevenson. As I set out in my first answer, the provision of suitable Gypsy Traveller sites in Moray is a matter for Moray Council, based on its local housing strategy. Councillors should look at the needs that are highlighted in their local housing strategy and address the issue accordingly. Gypsy Traveller communities are among those that are most disenfranchised and discriminated against in Scotland. The Scottish Government values the Gypsy Traveller community, the contribution that it makes and the important role that it plays in enriching Scotland socially, culturally and economically. We are committed to tackling all forms of discrimination and to promoting a multicultural society that is based on mutual trust, respect and understanding.

20 June 2017

Statement: Next Steps for Crofting Commission

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I welcome the news that 4,000 crofts are now registered. How will we help communities to ensure that the remaining 14,000 crofts are appropriately registered?

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): A lot of work has been done and a lot more needs to be done. Since the crofting register commenced, the Government has been working with Registers of Scotland and the Crofting Commission to help crofting communities complete registration of their crofts. Registers of Scotland has engaged with 346 townships in the past year, and continues to promote the benefits of registry. To date, it has held meetings with 18 townships and has supported a further 38 communities. In crofting terms, Registers of Scotland is an activist, although it might not term itself thus.

From my own work in overseeing Registers of Scotland in the previous five years, I know that it brings huge professionalism and enormous commitment to that task. There is a lot of work to be done, but the staff of Registers of Scotland are the right people to be in charge of leading it.

Statement: Policing 2026

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I draw members’ attention to the fact that I have a close family member who is a police constable.

Is the cabinet secretary aware that section 41 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994 empowers the Treasury

“Where VAT is chargeable on the supply of goods or services to a Government department”

to direct the commissioners to refund VAT? On 1 April 2015 in England, such a direction was made to allow the Highways Agency to retrieve its VAT, and the introduction of academy schools has led to a similar effect. Is not it time that the Treasury was fair to Scottish interests and allowed us to regain the VAT that we have paid on our police force?

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): Stewart Stevenson has raised an important point. As I mentioned in my statement, the cost of not being able to reclaim VAT for our police and fire services in Scotland has been £140 million so far and could, by the end of this parliamentary session, be almost double that figure.

I know that many members will say that we were warned about that when we created Police Scotland: I do not reject that argument. However, I reject the idea that the Treasury does not have the power to give a VAT exemption to, or the ability to return VAT to, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

As Stewart Stevenson made reference to, and as I have made reference to on a number of occasions in the chamber, the Treasury has, when it has suited it to do so, allowed a national organisation to reclaim VAT. However, for some reason, when it comes to Scotland’s key emergency services, the Conservative UK Government refuses to do the same. It will be telling if the new Scottish Conservative MPs in Westminster continue to vote against the Scottish police and fire services being allowed to reclaim VAT. That is unacceptable, so it is about time that Conservative members stood up for Scotland’s police and fire services.

31 May 2017

(S5O-01045) Inshore Fisheries (Unlicensed Commercial Fishing)

7. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what action it has taken to protect inshore fisheries against unlicensed commercial fishing. (S5O-01045)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): Measures under the Shellfish (Restrictions on Taking by Unlicensed Fishing Boats) (Scotland) Order 2017 came into force on 17 April and place restrictions on the quantities of shellfish that unlicensed fishing boats can take. The measures support the right of people to enjoy fishing as a hobby, establishing daily catch limits to provide clarity and tackle the issue of unlicensed, illegal commercial fishing that is conducted under the guise of hobby fishing. To enforce them, Marine Scotland compliance uses rigid inflatable boats and conducts regular inshore patrols.

Stewart Stevenson: I thank the cabinet secretary for advising us of that order, which I am sure will be welcomed. I assert that our inshore fisheries play an important part in our rural economy and supply absolutely superb food. Will the recently announced pilots seek to improve fisheries and will they help us to make further improvements to support our coastal communities?

Fergus Ewing: Yes, I believe that the pilots will. We want to see our fishermen and communities make the most of our inshore resource, which is what the recently announced inshore fisheries pilots aim to achieve. They will explore two different management approaches to determine what works in delivering greater economic, social and environmental benefits to coastal communities and our rural economy, and they will explore a more localised approach to fisheries management, in which fisheries interests work together to develop distinct arrangements that meet their needs.

The learning from the pilots will inform a more strategic approach to managing inshore fisheries, to ensure that we make the most of our valuable inshore waters, and they will inform work on the future of fisheries management in Scotland in the next few years.

18 May 2017

(S5O-01005) Infrastructure Investment (North-east Scotland)

7. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what infrastructure investment it has made in the north-east since 2007, and what future investment it has planned to make the area better connected. (S5O-01005)

The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work (Keith Brown): Since 2007, the Scottish Government has invested in major projects within the north-east, including the Aberdeen western peripheral route Balmedie to Tipperty road scheme, the emergency care centre in Aberdeen and significant investment in school buildings, including the completion of 16 new schools across the region.

Our recent infrastructure investment plan progress update highlighted that major infrastructure projects within the north-east region totalling more than £1.3 billion are currently in construction or estimated to be in construction during this year alone.

Looking forward, we have infrastructure investment planned for the Aberdeen to Inverness rail improvements, the A96 dualling programme between Inverness and Aberdeen and the A90-A96 Haudagain junction improvement.

We also have the digital Scotland superfast broadband programme to extend fibre broadband access to at least 95 per cent of premises in Scotland by the end of 2017 and 100 per cent superfast broadband coverage by 2021. Finally, we will also invest £125 million in the Aberdeen city region deal and a further £254 million in north-east infrastructure over the same five to 10-year period.

Stewart Stevenson: I very much welcome the investment of more than £1 billion in the north-east. In particular, upgrading the A96 will be a huge boost. However, is the cabinet secretary aware of environmental concern about one of the proposed routes east of Inverurie? How does he intend to respond to the concerns in relation to Bennachie?

Keith Brown: I am very well aware of the concerns that Stewart Stevenson mentions—not least because of representations received from Gillian Martin and from others. I have made it clear to Transport Scotland that I want to be able to demonstrate the utmost regard for the environment, particularly the popular local site that he has mentioned at Bennachie. That should be taken into account, as is consistent with the process that he will know that we have to go through. As with all road schemes, meaningful engagement with communities forms a key part of our work as we develop our plans. We expect the next stage of our design and assessment process to start later this summer, so he should be reassured that the concerns expressed by the save Bennachie campaign and others in the area will be carefully considered and taken into account.

16 May 2017

Statement: Global Ransomware Incident

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh): The next item of business is a statement by Shona Robison on the impact on and response by the national health service in Scotland to the global ransomware incident. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Given that the opportunity for the cyberattack lay in a vulnerability in obsolete software and, critically, the publicising of that vulnerability, will the cabinet secretary consider whether it would be appropriate to have a database that gives us knowledge of the use of obsolete software in public services and, therefore, enables us to target news of potential vulnerabilities of which we become aware at the appropriate people before potential attacks?

Shona Robison: Stewart Stevenson makes an important point. In response to Donald Cameron, I made the point that this is not about one type of software. The ransomware appears to have affected a number of different software and has particularly impacted on GP practices, rather than on acute hospitals, with NHS Lanarkshire being the exception.

We need to understand a bit more about what lies underneath the more vulnerable areas, because there appears to be a different pattern in different places—we need to understand all that more readily before we decide what action to take. The national cyberresilience leaders board, which is meeting today, chaired by my colleague, Michael Matheson, has the requisite experts and we will draw on further experts, so I can assure Stewart Stevenson that the recommendations that we take forward on how we make our systems more resilient will be based on the best available advice that we can find.

2 March 2017

(S5O-00725) Fishing Industry (Negotiations on Leaving the European Union)

6. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what the impact would be on the fishing industry of the United Kingdom Government considering it a medium priority in its negotiations on leaving the European Union, as suggested in a recently leaked memo. (S5O-00725)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): I have asked UK ministers repeatedly for an assurance that Scotland’s fishing industry will not be expendable, as it was in the 1970s. UK ministers have failed to give such a guarantee. The memo, if it is genuine, serves only to increase my concern that, once again, the UK Government is not taking seriously the importance of the fishing industry to Scotland. It also indicates why it is vital that Scotland be fully involved in all negotiations relating to Scotland’s future in Europe. Scottish waters are among the most valuable in Europe and, with the right management and policy approach to support both offshore and onshore interests, they can help us to build growth in Scotland’s rural and coastal communities.

Stewart Stevenson: In the light of the silence from the UK secretary of state, I suspect that I know the answer to the question that I am about to ask, which is whether any guarantees have been given about the funding levels that support fishing communities and which are an important part of the support that flows from the current arrangements with the EU.

Fergus Ewing: Last week, I and my colleagues met Andrea Leadsom and her fellow UK ministers. I cannot say what she said at that meeting, because of the rules under which it was conducted, but I am able to state that I asked for an assurance that the pre-referendum pledges made by Andrea Leadsom and George Eustice that EU funding of £500 million a year to our rural economy would be matched. Those were the pre-referendum pledges.

Since the referendum, there has been radio silence. I specifically asked Andrea Leadsom to confirm that she would meet her unequivocal pledge that the UK Government would match the funding of the EU. We are still waiting for a reply, but we shall fight and fight again for a fair deal for Scotland’s fishermen. We will fight to prevent them from being sold out now as they were in the 1970s, when it emerged after the referendum that an internal Whitehall memo said that the Conservatives regarded the Scottish fishing interests as “expendable”.

Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con): In light of the cabinet secretary’s previous answer, is the Scottish Government in favour of Scotland remaining a part of the common fisheries policy?

Fergus Ewing: In our alternative paper, “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, we put forward how we would be able to come out of the common fisheries policy. It is in our paper. I suggest that Conservative members read it; they might educate themselves.

Sadly, despite Mr Russell’s frequent meetings with Mr Davis, the UK Government has said precisely nothing whatsoever in response to that very serious paper, which sets out proposals that would protect Scotland’s interests. The paper makes clear the importance of single-market membership to our economy as well as the point that we would not be happy to remain constrained by the CFP, or see it as an acceptable option, outside the EU.

21 February 2017

Statement: Business and the Economy (Support)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I welcome the fact that 972 businesses in Moray and Aberdeenshire will benefit from today’s announcement, adding to the 9,608 premises that will pay no more in rates in the coming year than they did in the past year.

In relation to valuation appeals, is the cabinet secretary minded to follow the example of the UK Tory Government, which is making appeals in England more difficult than they were in response to the crisis there?

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution (Derek Mackay): No, I have no proposals to introduce a charge, as has happened in England. Obviously appeals boards will have to look at capacity issues to ensure that they can manage appeals appropriately, but that is a matter for them. Again, I have no proposals to introduce a charge for appeals, which is what the Conservatives have done.

9 February 2017

First Minister's Questions

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Did the First Minister note that, last night, the Labour Party signed a blank cheque to the Prime Minister to allow her, without further democratic reference, to determine the terms of leaving the European Union? Does she also note that paragraph 8.16 of the UK Government white paper says that there should be a “mutually beneficial” solution for the Spaniards and the UK in relation to fishing, clearly confirming a sell-out of our interests by the Tories once again?

The First Minister: Nobody should be surprised if the Tory Government is preparing to sell out the Scottish fishing industry, because it has done that on plenty of occasions before.

On the vote in the House of Commons last night, it is deeply regrettable that amendment after amendment was rejected by the Government. Those amendments simply asked for protection for EU nationals and asked the Government to commit to doing things like not breaching the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland. All those amendments were rejected—not a single concession was won through any of them—yet the Labour so-called Opposition decided to vote for the bill and hand the Conservative Government a blank cheque. That is utterly pathetic and shows the weakness of the Opposition that there is in the United Kingdom Parliament in the form of the Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn tweeted last night that the real fight begins now. How utterly pathetic. It is not so much closing the stable door after the horse has bolted as closing the stable door after the horse is dead and buried. The UK badly needs vigorous opposition in the House of Commons, and the SNP is providing it day in, day out. It is just a pity that the Labour Party is failing to do so.

24 January 2017

Statement: ScotRail Performance Improvement Plan (Update)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Is the minister content with the fact that, one minute ago, the public performance measurement was 9 per cent better in Scotland than in the GB network, and that, at lunchtime today, there were two trains that were not running to schedule—both of which arrived early?

The Minister for Transport and the Islands (Humza Yousaf): I am grateful for that. The serious point is that, as I have said, there has been an improvement in performance over the past few railway periods. Performance is not where I want it to be or what it should be, and it is not enough to lift ScotRail out of performance improvement plan territory, but it is important to say that ScotRail is on the right trajectory.

Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP