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.

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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.

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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.

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