Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee – 3 October 2017

(From 19:39)

1. Decision on taking business in private: The Committee will decide whether to take items 8, 9, 10 and 11 in private.

2. Social Security (Scotland) Bill: The Committee will take evidence on the delegated powers provisions in the Bill at Stage 1 from—
Jeane Freeman, Minister for Social Security;
Chris Boyland, Legislation Team Leader, Social Security Policy Division;
Fraser Gough, Parliamentary Counsel;
Colin Brown, Senior Principal Legal Officer, Scottish Government.

3. Instruments subject to affirmative procedure: The Committee will consider the following—
Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2017 [draft]; Scotland Act 1998 (Insolvency Functions) Order 2017 [draft]; Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 Amendment Regulations 2017 [draft].

4. Instruments subject to negative procedure: The Committee will consider the following—
Agricultural Holdings (Modern Limited Duration Tenancies and Consequential etc. Provisions) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 (SSI 2017/300); Functions of Health Boards (Scotland) Amendment Order 2017 (SSI 2017/304); Civil Legal Aid (Scotland) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2017 (SSI 2017/310).

5. Instruments not subject to any parliamentary procedure: The Committee will consider the following—
Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 (Commencement No. 2 and Saving Provision) Regulations 2017 (SSI 2017/293 (C.21)); Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 (Commencement No. 6, Transitory and Saving Provisions) Regulations 2017 (SSI 2017/299 (C.23)).

6. Lobbying (Scotland) Act 2016: The Committee will consider motion S5M-07795 relating to the Lobbying (Scotland) Act 2016 (Reporting Procedures) Resolution 2017.

7. Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill: The Committee will consider the delegated powers provisions in this Bill after Stage 2.

8. Draft Police Act 1997 and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 Remedial Order 2018: The Committee will consider its approach to consideration of the proposed draft Order.

9. Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill: The Committee will consider further the delegated powers provisions in this Bill at Stage 1.

10. Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Bill: The Committee will consider the contents of a report to the Equalities and Human Rights Committee.

11. Social Security (Scotland) Bill: The Committee will consider the evidence it heard earlier in the meeting.

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report

Levenmouth Rail Campaign Debate – 27th September 2017

Motion S5M-05941: Jenny Gilruth MSP

That the Parliament notes what it sees as the strong support that the Levenmouth Rail Campaign has achieved; believes that this has been demonstrated by it organising a petition that has been signed by over 12,500 residents from the area, which calls for the re-opening of the rail link from Thornton to Leven; welcomes the Fife Council report, Levenmouth Sustainable Transport Study – Final Stag Report, which was published in January 2017; understands that this study included a strongly positive cost-benefit analysis for the link and suggested that its reopening would lead to major economic benefits; believes that, although the Levenmouth area faces high levels of economic deprivation and problems with connectivity, it has substantial opportunities for employment and economic development; considers that this project could help deliver this; understands that passenger numbers on other reopened services, including the Borders Railway and the Airdrie-Bathgate line have exceeded predictions, and notes the view that a strong case has been made for ministers to give serious consideration to the re-opening of the Levenmouth line for passenger and freight services.

(From 16:48)

I congratulate Jenny Gilruth on securing this debate on one of the most pressing issues that affect our two constituencies. I welcome members of the Levenmouth rail campaign and local councillors to our Parliament.

Transport links have served as a symbol of modernisation since the beginning of human civilisation, and rail has been an important means of transport for people and materials for decades. No other industry has promoted change of the scale and scope that has been brought about by the invention and adoption of the railway. Transport has always affected economic and social development, and continues to do so.

That is why it is unacceptable that Levenmouth is the largest urban area in Scotland that is not directly served by rail. As influential policy makers, it is our job to raise awareness of the 37,600 residents of Levenmouth who continue to be disconnected from key areas of Scotland.

The Levenmouth rail campaign has brought to our attention issues of economic, social and environmental inequality. It is, fundamentally, a campaign for justice for the community. The most recent statistics show that Levenmouth is in the top 20 per cent most-deprived communities in Scotland. Several areas in the region are in the top 5 per cent. Levenmouth’s transport links have been neglected for years, yet the area continues to show great potential for regeneration, investment in business and tourism development.

I have been involved with the Levenmouth rail campaign for six years. Its members must be congratulated on their enthusiasm and dedication and on taking every opportunity to highlight the issue. There has not been a summer fête or gala in the area that the campaign has not attended. In addition, the campaign has run many street stalls in the area, which have resulted in more than 12,500 residents signing a petition in support of reopening the rail link from Thornton to Leven. Jenny Gilruth and I recently presented the petition to the Minister for Transport and the Islands, Humza Yousaf.

It is evident that communities with transport connections prosper. Transport investment creates a web of links and relationships between producers and consumers, which promotes efficiency and provides the means to expand, through economies of scale and scope.

As Fife Council’s report “Levenmouth Sustainable Transport Study—STAG Report” showed, reducing the costs of, and time taken by, passenger and freight movement greatly contributes to economic growth. In an area that has one of the highest concentrations of deprivation in Fife, it is crucial that we revive the rail link to enhance employment opportunities for the struggling workforce, given that alternative modes of transport are costly and inefficient.

Alongside the economic benefits, there are environmental benefits of rail, as opposed to road transport, and the reopening of the railway would be in line with Scotland’s leading environmental role. Modern railways, when they are managed strategically, offer significant environmental and land-use benefits because they are usually more energy efficient than road transport and generate lower emissions per traffic unit than any other mode.

It is obvious that there is significant support for reinstatement of the Levenmouth rail link. During my long time in politics, it is one of the few issues that has received cross-party support. The two main political parties in Fife Council fully support reinstatement of the link and have made that their number 1 transport priority.

For that reason, I found Willie Rennie’s comments in the local papers over the past few days, in which he attacked both SNP and Labour Administrations of Fife Council, extremely disappointing and unhelpful. It was cheap political point scoring, which did nothing positive to advance the case for reinstating the Levenmouth rail link.

Willie Rennie:

Does David Torrance find it rather odd that I received a letter from the minister that directly contradicted what the council leader had said about the city region deal? Does he think that rather than argue among themselves, people should come together to take the project forward? Does he find the minister’s comments rather confusing and think that the issue needs clarity and unity?

David Torrance:

If Willie Rennie had attended many of the meetings that I have attended over the past six years, he would have found that MPs, MSPs, councillors and council leaders have come together to support the Levenmouth rail campaign. His comments in the paper were not at all helpful to our case.

Our next step is to develop a detailed reform programme. “Levenmouth Sustainable Transport Study” is an excellent start to the process.

If we disregard the campaign, we disregard economic progress in a country that is leading on reducing carbon emissions, and we disregard our duty to serve the most deprived communities in Scotland. Levenmouth and the wider community are suffering, and we need to raise awareness and help individuals and communities who have been denied access to public space.

Reinstatement of the Levenmouth rail link will address the problem of poor transport links in the area and will bring economic benefits. It also has the potential to make a significant contribution to reducing the carbon footprint of businesses in the area.

I thank everyone who is involved with the Levenmouth rail campaign for all their hard work. Without them, we would not be debating the motion today. I look forward to working with the campaigners in the future, so that one day we can all travel on a train to Leven.

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report

Portfolio Question : Health & Sport – 21st June 2017

(From 35:00)

David Torrance (Kirkcaldy) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government how it promotes cervical screening awareness. (S5O-01147)

The Minister for Public Health and Sport (Aileen Campbell): The Scottish cervical programme is supported by a range of national and local resources, including a suite of public communication materials that are also available in a number of languages; a new advertising campaign, which was launched in February this year and was developed in partnership with Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust to raise awareness of cervical screening among women aged 25 to 35; various local initiatives, including cervical screening awareness workshops; drop-in clinics for women from disadvantaged backgrounds; dedicated staff working with women with learning difficulties; and workshops run for staff by national health service boards to promote cervical screening.

The Scottish Government is also working closely with Cancer Research UK and colleagues in NHS boards to develop a facilitators programme to support and promote cervical screening in general practices and pilot projects to target uptake among those who are less likely to participate in screening. We are also investing up to £5 million of funding from the cancer strategy in screening programmes to reduce inequalities in access to screening in Scotland.

David Torrance: The majority of cervical cancers are caused by a persistent human papillomavirus infection, which causes changes to the cervical cells. Will the minister provide an update on progress on HPV primary screening in Scotland?

Aileen Campbell: The United Kingdom national screening committee recommended the introduction of HPV primary screening in January last year. Following that recommendation, a full and detailed business case has been developed for implementation of the recommendation in Scotland and was considered by the Scottish screening committee at the start of this year.

The SSC recommended to ministers that HPV primary testing should be introduced in the Scottish cervical screening programme over the course of the next two years. We are now working with NHS National Services Scotland and NHS boards across Scotland to implement that change.

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report


Portfolio Questions : Justice and the Law Officers and Land Reform – 7th June 2017

(From 25:53)


David Torrance (Kirkcaldy) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government how much Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have paid in VAT that they have not been able to claim back. (S5O-01080)

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): The amount of unrecovered VAT paid by the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service between April 2013 and March 2017 is of the order of £140 million. We will continue to press United Kingdom ministers over the disparity, which could see a cost to the Scottish public purse of £280 million by the end of the current parliamentary session in 2020-21.

David Torrance: Does the cabinet secretary agree that, as the UK Government has changed the rules to enable academy schools and Highways England to reclaim VAT, it is reprehensible that it refuses to make the same change for vital emergency services in Scotland, which would bring them into line with emergency services in other parts of the UK?

Michael Matheson: I whole-heartedly agree with David Torrance on the matter. The UK Government could very easily change the rules to enable Police Scotland and the SFRS to recover VAT. It has shown that, where there is a political will, the Value Added Tax Act 1994 can be amended to permit new bodies to recover VAT. The member referred to a couple of examples of that. Since Police Scotland and the SFRS were created, a range of bodies have been included in the 1994 act, which allows them to recover VAT. Those bodies include Health Education England, the Health Research Authority, the strategic highways company—Highways England—the London Legacy Development Corporation and academy schools. In my view, if it is good enough for all those organisations, it is good enough for Scotland’s emergency services.

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report

Portfolio Questions: Rural Economy and Connectivity – 31st May 2017

(From 16:05)

6. David Torrance (Kirkcaldy) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to encourage new plantings in forestry. (S5O-01044)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): The Scottish Government has taken positive action including an increase in grant funding for woodland creation of £4 million; additional funding for the timber transport fund; more attractive grant rates for native woodlands in remote areas; an increased threshold for requiring environmental impact assessment screening in low-sensitivity areas; and implementation of the Mackinnon report to streamline the planting approval process.

The result of that has been a substantial increase in the number of future woodland creation projects being developed and an enthusiastic response from across the forestry sector.

David Torrance: Is the cabinet secretary aware that Labour has committed to planting 1 million trees of native species across the UK and that the Conservatives intend to plant 11 million? How do those targets compare with the Scottish Government’s action on planting trees of native species in Scotland?

Fergus Ewing: The targets do not compare particularly favourably. Having said that, I am keen that, across the chamber, we should approach the opportunities that forestry provides in a consensual fashion and I am pleased that the Scottish Government’s target of planting 10,000 hectares per annum, rising to 15,000, is an aim that can be shared across the chamber. I was not aware that the Labour target had a specific figure, and I hope that they have got that figure right.

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report

Hidden Lives New Beginnings Debate – 30th May 2017

Motion S5M-05802: Christina McKelvie MSP

“That the Parliament recognises that destitution has a detrimental impact on people, affecting their mental health, their ability to access health care, and also increases their risk of exploitation and abuse; thanks those who shared their personal experience of being destitute with the Equalities and Human Rights Committee; notes that destitution can also impact on families, communities and on the provision of support from non-governmental organisations and public authorities, and notes the findings and recommendations of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee’s 3rd Report 2017 (Session 5), Hidden Lives New Beginnings: Destitution, asylum and insecure immigration status in Scotland (SP Paper 147).”

(From 50:22)

I welcome the opportunity to debate the report from the Equalities and Human Rights Committee, “Hidden Lives—New Beginnings: Destitution, asylum and insecure immigration status in Scotland”.

I thank the committee’s clerking team for their help and effort during the evidence sessions, and for bringing the report to its final conclusion. I also thank all the organisations and individuals who submitted evidence, or came before the committee to give evidence. However, I stress my disappointment at the lack of engagement by the UK Government, which refused to contribute any evidence, either in person or by video conference.

Since January, the committee has worked hard to understand the challenges that are faced by asylum seekers and refugees, and what the Scottish Government, the UK Government, local authorities and the third sector can do to effectively tackle the risk of destitution for each and every person fleeing persecution and seeking a safer and fairer life here in Scotland.

Scotland has a proud history of inclusivity and our approach to helping asylum seekers and refugees to integrate into mainstream society has been praised by the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee of the National Assembly of Wales. That is in stark contrast to the approach being taken by the UK Government. Evidence received by the committee showed that destitution is built into its harmful process, which creates a two-tier system of protection, forces far too many people into hardship, and has a detrimental impact on their integration into our communities. Individuals who have fled from dreadful circumstances find themselves trapped in destitution and homelessness, often for years, as a direct result of the asylum process.

The system places on claimants unfair stresses and constraints that impact on the whole of our society. We need a more inclusive and fairer approach to the assessment process. Andrew Morrison from COSLA summed up that view when he stated that destitution is

“an inevitable consequence of the United Kingdom immigration system” —[Official Report, Equalities and Human Rights Committee, 23 March 2017; c 2.]

as it seeks to create a “hostile environment” for those who do not have a legal right to be in the UK.

Graham O’Neill of the Scottish Refugee Council described the UK Government’s policy as “inhumane and senseless” and advised there was a significant risk of exploitation, including sexual, to newly arrived asylum applicants who are seeking to fund their travel to Croydon. That includes individuals who have been refused asylum and are required to travel to Liverpool to submit a fresh claim. The Scottish Refugee Council has called for the Home Office to make use of its extensive network of local and regional offices to make the system more accessible for newly arrived destitute women, men and children to register their claim.

The committee recognises that the UK Government and Parliament have the power to legislate on asylum and immigration. It has asked the Scottish Government to continue its negotiations with the Home Office to allow people who arrive in Scotland to be allowed to register their claim in Scotland, and to allow fresh claims for asylum to be submitted in Scotland. National and local government and the third sector are paying the price for the failure of the UK Government’s policies and an ineffective asylum process and immigration system, and this cannot go on.

In particular, Glasgow City Council and its third sector organisations cannot sustain the level of services that they are providing without additional funding help. Local authorities are cautious about becoming involved because of the lack of funding, but the success of the Syrian resettlement programme highlights what can be achieved when programmes are sufficiently funded and more local authorities become involved.

Many third sector organisations have played a tremendous part in helping to meet the needs of destitute asylum seekers and those with insecure immigration status but, without the necessary backing, they will simply be unable to continue providing such vital assistance.

I welcome the report’s recommendations, which ask the Scottish Government, COSLA and third sector partners to consider providing a fully funded independent advocacy service for destitute asylum seekers and people with insecure immigration status, and the creation of a national co-ordinated practitioners network. I firmly believe that early advocacy would result in long-term savings for health and social services while providing people with the best opportunity to start the integration process. A national co-ordinated practitioners network comprised of representatives from a number of sectors would enable all parties to share best practice and highlight concerns about legislation and practice.

We need to better understand and address the issues that are faced by those who seek asylum in Scotland. We must strive to combat the misperception, often attached to asylum seekers, that they do not need to be destitute in this country because they can simply choose to return to their country of origin. That is unfair and unjust. Given the choice, most people would choose to continue living in their home country, but because of devastating situations and events outwith their control, they find themselves with no choice but to seek asylum and a safer life for their family in a different country. Many claimants have fled from terrible violence and hardships.

We need to ensure the provision and successful delivery of the help and support that those who are seeking asylum need in order to continue learning, thriving and developing both mentally and socially. However, research shows that many barriers continue to impact on a daily basis, ranging from difficulty with travel costs to the emotional strain that day-to-day uncertainty brings. Isolation and a feeling of disconnection to wider society can also hamper opportunities and, in turn, create further barriers.

Too many asylum seekers are left with no legitimate means of securing a livelihood. Denied access to financial support or the right to work, they are often forced to adopt strategies to cope with having no income and no home while dealing with extreme levels of despair at the long periods they spend in the uncertainty of the asylum process. A high proportion of claimants report mental health issues, but the issue is substantially underreported in asylum seeker and refugee populations.

A determined response is required to ensure that the appropriate support is given at every stage of the asylum process to all asylum seekers living in Scotland who have been forced into destitution because of delays in the administration of a complex and inefficient asylum system. We must all work together to find solutions to the causes of the destitution that is experienced by asylum claimants and make efficiency a matter of priority.

The 2016 act and subsequent changes to support have the potential to exacerbate the issue of destitution for many who come here for a safer environment and risk exposing even more people to further trauma. I urge the Scottish Government to consider the report’s key findings and recommendations and to undertake a Scotland-wide consultation. I look forward to a Scottish Government report being submitted to the committee in one year’s time.

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report

World Hypertension Month – 23rd May 2017

Motion S5M-05136 : Maree Todd MSP

That the Parliament notes that May 2017 marks World Hypertension Month; understands that this awareness month will highlight this silent condition, which is a preventable cause of stroke and heart disease, and provide information regarding its prevention, detection and treatment; notes that it is estimated to cause around nine million deaths globally each year; understands that 30% of adults in Scotland have high blood pressure, half of whom are not receiving treatment, and that 70,860 people in the Highlands and Islands region are living with the condition, and acknowledges and welcomes the work of Professor Rhian Touyz, of the British Heart Foundation Centre of Research Excellence at the University of Glasgow, which aims to understand the causes of hypertension.”

(From 31:01)

I played my part in addressing the issue of hypertension earlier this month, when I was given a monitor to wear for a day. I handed it in the next day, and the doctor phoned me and said, “You peaked at 240/190”. I said, “Oh, right”. He asked me where I had been at half past 7 the night before; I said that I was at my branch meeting. There is a clue: members should not go to their branch meetings and their blood pressure will be all right.

I too thank Maree Todd for bringing the debate to the chamber in recognition of world hypertension month, which raises awareness of those who are suffering from stroke and heart conditions. It is crucial that we recognise not only those who are affected by high blood pressure, but those who remain undiagnosed with a silent condition.

The International Society of Hypertension presents, through its blood pressure awareness campaign—May measurement month—the ambitious goal of screening 25 million people who have not had their blood pressure measured for more than a year. That involves screening an average of 100 people on 100 sites in 100 countries every day throughout the month of May. It is an ambitious yet achievable goal and, by working together, we can make a difference by tackling the biggest single contributor to global death.

Sixteen million people in the United Kingdom have high blood pressure and one third of them do not know they have it, as high blood pressure rarely has any symptoms. Those people are also three times more likely to develop heart disease and stroke.

High blood pressure is entirely preventable and one of the most preventable conditions, but it still remains one of the leading causes of death in the UK. We face complex challenges to prevent and control hypertension globally and nationally, and I hope that the data collected during world hypertension month can be used to support research on a national, regional and global level.

There is only one way to identify blood pressure, which is by having a GP or other health professional measure it. That is why we need to educate people and increase awareness.

Hypertension risk varies with income. Those of lower socioeconomic status are much more likely to develop heart conditions than those who are wealthier and generally better educated. The risk persists even with long-term progress in addressing the main risk factors such as smoking and high cholesterol. That is why low socioeconomic status needs to be regarded as a heart disease risk factor in itself by the medical community as well as the political community, as the effects are cumulative.

Among women especially, it has been proven that levels of high blood pressure increase as income decreases. According to the British Heart Foundation, women are less likely to seek medical attention and treatment despite the warning signs. The risk of heart disease and menopause are correlated, and risk continues to increase with age. Women’s hormones might provide some protection from heart disease, but the risk rises post menopause.

It is crucial for women to recognise symptoms. Heart disease kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer every year, but society still perceives it as a “man’s disease”. The women in hypertension research network was

“established to encourage, support and inspire women in science and medicine in the field of hypertension and related”

heart conditions, and it creates avenues for women to communicate, collaborate and educate.

In 2016 in Scotland, 30 per cent of those tested had high blood pressure. The number is higher in Fife, where 39 per cent of those tested have high blood pressure. Keep well clinics—a Scotland-wide programme—seek to reduce the risk of ill health, and there are several clinics across Fife where community nurses can measure blood pressure.

Despite the tremendous services provided by the NHS, heart disease can place a massive emotional burden on people and create serious financial stress. In Scotland, Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland and Citizens Advice Scotland have appointed three benefits advisers to give advice and information about social security benefits for people who need assistance.

In conclusion, I applaud the efforts by those involved in world hypertension month to improve the population’s overall health. We need to prevent people from developing high blood pressure in the first place by encouraging better diet and exercise, and by reducing stress. I hope that the initiative brings together communities, healthcare professionals, health systems, non-profit organisations, charities, and private sector partners to improve care and empower the Scottish population to make heart-healthy choices.

Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report

Included in the Main?! – 28th March 2017

Motion S5M-04016: Included in the Main?! (Graeme Dey MSP)

“That the Parliament recognises the campaign, Included in the Main?!, and the conclusion of a national conversation about the reality of educational experiences for children and young people who have learning disabilities, by ENABLE Scotland, which, it understands, is the largest voluntary organisation in the country for children and adults with learning disabilities and their families; notes that the national conversation looked at inclusive education and what it means for pupils who have learning disabilities; understands that the campaign has since engaged with over 800 young people, their parents and carers, and the education workforce, to talk about their experiences and consider what makes education truly inclusive; believes that the country has come a long way from when people with learning disabilities were viewed as “ineducable” but considers that inclusive education is still far from a reality for many and that this can have whole-life consequences; acknowledges that a report, 22 Steps on the Journey to Inclusion, has been published as a result of the national conversation, which makes 22 recommendations and acknowledges that inclusive education is not about school setting or placement, but rather that all children should receive an inclusive education in a setting that best meets their educational and developmental needs, and notes the view that it is time to talk about how to make that vision a reality in Angus South and across Scotland.”

(From 17:45)

I thank Graeme Dey for securing this debate to welcome the #IncludED in the Main?! campaign and to raise awareness of, and stimulate conversation about, children and young people with learning disabilities. I also want to recognise the work of Enable Scotland, which is a charitable organisation whose aim is to fight discrimination against young people who struggle with disabilities, and the inequality that they experience.

The Scottish Government is committed to delivering excellence and equality in Scottish education, especially to the many young people who have learning disabilities and are often unfairly excluded by friends and peers, and from the classrooms, opportunities and experiences that make up such a big part of childhood and school life. The delivery plan for Scottish education is committed to closing the attainment gap, to ensuring that we have a curriculum and to empowering our teachers, schools and communities for children and young people.

Children and young people’s education experience should open the doors to opportunities that enable children to become successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors to society. That includes children and young people who struggle with disabilities. However, inclusive education is still far from being a reality for many young people and children who are struggling.

Enable Scotland held a national conversation about the experiences of young people with learning disabilities. It received more than 800 responses over seven months from people across Scotland. Of the respondents, 60 per cent said that they felt lonely at school, only 49 per cent felt that they were achieving their full potential and 80 per cent of the education workforce believed that we are not getting it right for every child. As a result of those figures, the Scottish Government and Enable Scotland now work more closely together to revisit some of the policies on inclusive education. Enable has come up with 22 detailed recommendations on how to improve the lives of children with learning disabilities.

#IncludED in the Main?! set out to listen: it is now our turn to act. An initiative that welcomes inclusive education involves an array of complex partnerships and dialogues; students, parents, carers and teachers are all involved in creating supportive networks. The solutions and tactics should reflect the diversity of the set of actors who are involved, while creating support for individualised needs, in order to facilitate equal opportunities to participate in society.

The movement towards inclusion has spread to large-scale government. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child abolished segregated education that denies children with disabilities the right to be part of mainstream schooling. Even though that international recognition is a significant move in the right direction, Scotland will benefit from localised efforts to provide unique opportunities to place inclusive education firmly on the political agenda.

Fife Council, for example, aims to support children’s needs for additional support by working closely with their families. Fife Council’s priority is for all children to attend their local school and to be successful there, and not to isolate children from their peers. In my constituency of Kirkcaldy, the approach of the new Windmill community campus embodies such inclusion. Integrated into that campus—alongside Viewforth high school, council offices, community-use sport facilities and a public library—is Rosslyn school, which is a state-of-the-art facility that caters for children and young adults aged between 3 and 18 who have complex additional support needs.

The importance of collaborative teaching strategies cannot be overstated. In recognition of that, the Rosslyn school staff work closely with their mainstream colleagues. They do that not only to ensure access and achievement for all, but to enhance the opportunities for all pupils to develop and learn together.

In addition, every school in Fife has a learning support teacher who advises the class teacher on how best to assist children and young people who have additional support needs. The more choices, more chances agenda aims to increase the number of young people above the age of 16 in education, employment or training by encouraging and valuing informal learning in order to help to develop social and employability skills. In addition, active schools co-ordinators offer all children and young people the opportunities and motivation to adopt active healthy lifestyles, now and into adulthood. Such services are also extended to further education; for example, Fife College’s equality, diversity and inclusion team aims to develop skills, confidence, motivation, independence and expertise. Each Fife College campus provides one-to-one support.

Inclusion is an on-going process: it is not a fixed state. Wherever learning takes place, all children deserve to be educated together, despite barriers and requirements for additional support. In conclusion, Presiding Officer, I say that I believe that our country values our diverse communities. It is important to promote inclusive learning and education, because communities are formed at school, where young people learn, play and grow together, and learn to live alongside each other.


Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.

Changing Lives Through the Visitor Economy – 14th March 2017

Motion S5M-04576: Inclusive Tourism, Promoting Accessible Tourism and Changing Lives Through the Visitor Economy (Fiona Hyslop MSP)

“That the Parliament recognises the vital role that tourism plays in Scotland’s prosperity, not only in its direct economic impact, but in the many ways that it can help to tackle the inequalities that exist in society; notes the recent collaboration by VisitScotland, the Family Holiday Association, Historic Environment Scotland and the many industry partners to provide ScotSpirit Breaks for families in difficult circumstances, which has shown the positive impact that the industry can have on improving the lives and life-chances of people who are not able to step outside their everyday routine; commends organisations such as Euan’s Guide for their work with public partners and private sectors in making tourism more inclusive through the development of access statements for facilities and services, along with accessible travel itineraries; congratulates destinations and individual businesses, right across Scotland, on how they are making use of these tools to help widen opportunities, not only for people with permanent disabilities, but also parents with young children, senior travellers and people with temporary injuries and their travel companions; considers that tourism is for everyone, and welcomes the continued support of public and private partners and the tourism industry itself in their willingness to work together, aiming to further develop inclusive tourism as an overarching approach so that all of Scotland can reap the many social and economic benefits that it can bring.”

(From 40:58)

We should never underestimate how attractive Scotland is as an international tourism destination or how important tourism is for the Scottish economy. Scotland’s culture, landscape and complex history attract millions of people to visit each year from all over the world, and tourism sustains well over 200,000 jobs.

I have many fond memories of travelling around Scotland to explore and view its incredible landscapes, visit its inspiring towns and cities and learn about its unique and dynamic history. There should be no doubt about how attractive Scotland is for tourism; as a country, we have a responsibility to utilise its appeal and to grow and sustain the Scottish economy by protecting assets for generations to come.

I welcome the news that there has been a 33 per cent increase in the volume of visits to Scotland by those in the accessible tourism market since 2009. However, it is estimated that up to £9 billion went unspent last year in the UK because people were not aware that a particular disability could be catered for. As much of Scotland’s tourism is heavily orientated towards outdoor activities, such as golfing, biking and hiking, it is crucial for us to accept that many of our tourists, including people who are elderly or less mobile and young children, have access needs. It is our job and our responsibility to make tourism in Scotland a more inclusive activity and to make it easier for our visitors to enjoy what Scotland has to offer.

VisitScotland has played a crucial role in unlocking Scotland’s potential for tourism; it has highlighted a business initiative that is designed to attract more tourists, especially by making our services more accessible and inclusive. Accessibility involves so much more than just accommodating wheelchair users; it is about the attitudinal barriers that often prevent accessibility policy from being pursued, such as a vision that it is expensive. We must play our part in stimulating conversation to get across the fact that simple things make big differences, including getting messages across to normalise the topic.

Almost half of disabled tourists spend between £500 and £1,000 on a holiday, while 10 per cent spend about £1,500. That produces enormous social and economic barriers. We need to invest in a broader strategy that tackles the stigma not only for the traveller with accessible needs but among us here in Parliament and everyone involved in the tourism industry.

The business case for improving the accessibility of tourism is strong, but more needs to be done to make it tangible to business owners, who might not have an incentive to improve facilities. The range of initiatives on accessible tourism has included Capability Scotland’s accessible tourism project, which aims to make Scotland the most accessible tourist destination in Europe by identifying barriers that disabled people face. The Guide Dogs open for business package, which was launched in 2013, offered inspiration to the tourism industry for thinking about ways to make their businesses more inclusive. The Scottish Disability Equality Forum has launched the accessible travel hub website, which makes information, articles and guidance readily available. Last year’s aiming for inclusive growth event on accessible tourism was extremely successful. It brought together representatives of more than 20 tourism organisations from around Europe to raise the level of accessible tourism expertise around the continent, present policies and achievements, share ideas and set agendas.

Golf courses, galleries, coastal paths and museums bring thousands of tourists to my constituency and the rest of Fife every year. The massive impact that that visitor expenditure has on local businesses, the economy and jobs cannot be overstated—from directly influenced roles, such as those of hotel and restaurant staff, to those in the transport and retail industries, opportunities are created for services or facilities in communities that would otherwise not be sustainable. There are compelling economic, as well as social, benefits from ensuring that the tourism market is accessible to all. While a great number of businesses in Fife and wider Scotland have already made positive changes to improve their accessibility, we must continue to develop and promote our facilities and demonstrate our commitment to accessible tourism for every visitor.

The tourism industry for one of Fife’s best known natural assets—its beautiful coastline—could be transformed by making our coastal areas more accessible and promoting an inclusive and proactive approach that would engage new audiences who might have felt unable to enjoy those assets previously. We must do all that we can so that no one feels unable to enjoy Fife’s breathtaking shores and scenery.

In 2014, Homelands Trust—Fife opened a unique and accessible self-catering facility overlooking the Firth of Forth that was designed and equipped to meet the needs of people with a range of disabilities and health conditions. The Paxton drop-in centre offers a variety of group and individual activities, such as self-management courses, alternative therapies and health walks.

Fife tourism partnership’s vision is for Fife to establish the social and economic benefits for businesses, visitors and the wider area by creating an accessible destination. The partnership hosts a series of workshops for businesses and staff. All such services also help Fife residents with similar disabilities, so that is a win-win scenario.

Euan’s Guide, which is an online guide that shares information about places with disabled access, lists some great reviews of places in Fife, including the Harbourmaster’s house and the Adam Smith theatre in Kirkcaldy. A massive number of tourism businesses and destinations are now promoting services for disabled guests as the norm, and I am proud that Fife’s tourist destinations and venues are being recommended for accessibility.

In 2015, Scotland’s accessible tourism market was estimated to be worth more than £1.3 billion. I place a special emphasis on stimulating conversation about disabilities and access not just in the tourism industry but in everyday life. VisitScotland and the tourism industry have made immense progress but, as the main tourism season approaches, there is still much to do to achieve the ultimate goal of making our fantastic holiday destinations accessible to everyone. I fully support the efforts of the Scottish Government and all its partners to make tourism more accessible, truly change lives and support the Scottish economy.


Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.

Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal – 8th March 2017

Motion S5M-03214: Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal (Linda Fabiani MSP)

“That the Parliament welcomes Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal, which is now in its 31st year and runs throughout March 2017; understands that Marie Curie provides care and support for over 8,000 people and their families every year in Scotland in their own homes, in 31 local authorities and in Marie Curie hospices in Edinburgh and Glasgow; highlights the vital contribution that volunteers make to provide this care; acknowledges that in 2015-16, 1,863 people across Scotland volunteered for Marie Curie in their community fundraising groups, the Helper service, shops and offices; recognises the dedication and hard work of fundraising volunteers that means the annual Great Daffodil Appeal has so far raised over £80 million pounds since 1986 to enable and support the work of the charity; applauds what it sees as the substantial contribution made by over 80 local Marie Curie fundraising groups to the Great Daffodil Appeal every year to support Marie Curie services across Scotland; further recognises that trained volunteers from the Marie Curie Helper service, currently available in Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Lothian, Grampian and Argyll and Bute, provide one-to-one emotional support, companionship and information for people living with a terminal illness and their families; considers that terminal illness can be a lonely and isolating experience and that the Helper service can help tackle social isolation, loneliness and associated mental health issues; recognises the role of volunteers in Marie Curie’s 37 shops in Scotland who it considers provide excellent customer service and are involved in a wide range of activities to support the running of each shop; acknowledges that volunteering or joining a fundraising group can be very rewarding and every volunteer’s gift of time and skills helps Marie Curie to make a real difference to the lives of people living with a terminal illness, and their families, as well as raising vital local funds; applauds the work of staff and volunteers across Marie Curie who work toward its vision of a better life for people and their families living with a terminal illness, and notes calls to encourage as many people as possible to support the campaign.”

(From 47:22)

I thank Linda Fabiani for securing the debate to welcome the great daffodil appeal, which is Marie Curie’s biggest annual fundraising event. I welcome all the volunteers to Parliament—especially the representatives from the Kirkcaldy constituency. Each year, the daffodil appeal raises more than £4 million in Scotland to help the 200 Marie Curie nurses who work across Scotland to care for and support people with terminal illnesses, and to provide emotional support for families, friends and the wider community.

The charity has made immense contributions to Scotland since it was founded in 1948—the same year as the NHS was established—and it provides the largest number of hospice beds outside the NHS. From 2015 to 2016, 1,863 well-trained volunteers were involved in fundraising in their communities and their local shops. Marie Curie does not only offer nurses who provide hands-on care and hospices that offer a friendly environment; it also helps people who are affected by terminal illnesses to get the information and support that they need, through the research that it carries out to improve care and support. Those services all come from the amazing work of volunteers and fundraisers, especially through the daffodil appeal, which has raised more than £80 million since 1986, and has contributed to giving people better-quality lives.

Those achievements would not have been possible without the help of the thousands of volunteers who make fundamental contributions to the provision of good-quality care. Marie Curie’s survival and success are dependent on the dedication and hard work of those volunteers, who dedicate their time and special skills to helping people who are in need.

Volunteering allows us to get involved with new things, environments and experiences; to create better environments for others; to create healthier communities; to meet a wide variety of people from all walks of life; to create networks and connections; to gain valuable insights and a sense of accomplishment; and to build potential future career options. In those ways, volunteering is a two-way street—volunteers and patients both benefit. The economic value of volunteering saves billions of pounds that can be used to ensure that the services that Marie Curie and its volunteers provide are the best that they can be, and can provide one-to-one emotional support, tackle social isolation and provide companionship

In my constituency, trained volunteers provide a unique one-to-one service. In 2014, Marie Curie partnered with NHS Fife to deliver tailored care and support at home for terminally ill people, and for their families. In 2015-16, 21 Marie Curie nurses cared for 318 patients in a total of 4,255 visits, and that vital support allowed 94 per cent of those patients to die with dignity in the place of their choice. The scheme works alongside other services and initiatives in Fife to meet the individual needs of patients and families. It is a great example of a partnership approach to providing health and emotional support services at what can be an extremely difficult time not only for patients, but for their families and the wider community.

I am extremely proud of the contributions that the Kirkcaldy funding group has made since its inception in 2014 by raising vital funds of more than £11,000. It spreads awareness, has participated in the town’s beach highland games and organises many events and activities in the community. Last year’s event was a fashion show that was organised by the group, which was extremely successful and raised £1,000 for the charity.

Volunteers are a vital part of the Marie Curie Fife service; they offer companionship and emotional support, provide practical help including aiding patients with small tasks, spend time with patients to allow breaks for their families and carers, and help people and their families to find further support and services that are accessible and available locally. Without volunteers, Marie Curie would not be able to deliver that range of services and support.

In conclusion, I again thank Linda Fabiani for securing the debate. I encourage everyone to give a small donation during March, and to wear a daffodil pin to raise awareness of and to promote the great daffodil appeal.


Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.