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20 June 2018

(S5O-02241) Ageing Population (Oral Health)

3. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to meet the oral health needs of an ageing population. (S5O-02241)

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport (Shona Robison): In January, we published Scotland’s “Oral Health Improvement Plan”, which includes actions to ensure that older people receive appropriate oral health care. One of our priorities is to introduce a new domiciliary care service. For adults, including older patients, the plan also introduces an oral health risk assessment, which will ensure that dentists can offer tailored advice to older people on how to look after their oral health and minimise any risk of dental disease, including oral cancer.

Stewart Stevenson: What discussions has the Scottish Government had with the United Kingdom Government on including dentists in the proposed visa cap scheme, particularly given the large number of European Union nationals who operate as dentists in the north-east of Scotland, whose future in the service might be at threat?

Shona Robison: The member is right to point to the number of EU nationals who are working as dentists in the north-east of Scotland—that is also the case in Dumfries and Galloway—as a result of previous successful recruitment campaigns. I would be very concerned to lose any of them from Scotland.

An announcement last week confirmed that, from 6 July, doctors and nurses are to be excluded from the cap on skilled worker visas under tier 2 of the immigration rules. Although that is welcome, we need to see the detail of the policy, which may increase capacity for other applications from outside the health professions. Obviously, dentists are not directly covered, so we want to take the matter up with the UK Government, and we will seek further detail on that in the coming weeks.

14 June 2018

Statement: National Council of Rural Advisers

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I draw members’ attention to my agricultural holding and the fact that I will be a R100 beneficiary.

In connection to that, I wonder whether, when looking at the contracts for R100, preference will be given to those with future proofing so that, when the backhaul is eventually upgraded, we can have 300 megabits per second and 1 gigabit per second delivery to rural locations, thus enabling us to have an advantage over urban areas where presently we have a disadvantage.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): Mr Stevenson makes a good point. The answer is yes. The way in which the contract is being taken forward in the procurement stage is to anticipate the future need and desire to move from superfast to ultrafast broadband. My understanding is that the use of fibre enables that process to take place; therefore, that forms part of our thinking. Although we cannot mandate one technology over another because of state aid rules, encouraging bids for the tender that reference the extent to which achievements will be reached by provision of fibre rather than other methodologies—precisely because of the point that Mr Stevenson makes—and scoring the tender accordingly will empower those in rural Scotland, perhaps in some cases to an even greater extent than urban dwellers, as it means that they will have ultrafast broadband in years to come.

12 June 2018

Statement: Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2016

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Can the cabinet secretary outline her view on trade agreements after Brexit and the effect that they might have on our approach to climate change, especially with regard to the relatively recent departure of the United States from the Paris agreement, which suggests that the US Administration has no interest in or understanding of the effects of climate change?

The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Roseanna Cunningham): I could say that that question has been asked and answered by Stewart Stevenson. However, it is the case that, post-Brexit, the UK might arrive at trade agreements that would not help us to reduce emissions. We do not know what is going to happen and we are not certain what any trade agreements will hold. However, they could end up, for the reason to which Stewart Stevenson alluded, leading to increased emissions from the goods and services that we import. The truth is that membership of the European Union and its single market provides Scotland with access to climate friendly trade with our neighbouring countries, which I think everybody would accept is the most sensible way to proceed.

5 June 2018

Statement: A Future Strategy for Scottish Agriculture

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I draw members’ attention to my ownership of a very small registered agricultural holding.

Can the cabinet secretary clarify whether the champions’ vision and recommendations apply only after we have left the EU or whether there are some that we can start work on before then?

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): I can confirm that the champions’ recommendations apply to the future, whatever it may hold. That is why I am surprised that the Conservatives do not appear in the slightest bit interested in the work that has been done by those leading figures in Scottish rural life—it is very sad, really. The champions have a great deal to say about the future, on sustainability, productivity and skills.

They have a lot to say about the need for new entrants, the need for increased productivity and the contribution that farmers already make to the stewardship of the environment, which is of course one of their twin main purposes. I commend to every member, as Mr Stevenson obviously would, that they read carefully the contents and recommendations of the report, which are extremely valuable in forming a pathway ahead for Scotland, whatever happens in relation to Brexit.

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