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.

Apprenticeship Week – 2nd March 2017

Motion S5M-03731: Apprenticeship Week (Fulton MacGregor MSP)

“That the Parliament notes that Scottish Apprenticeship Week 2017 will take place from 6 to 10 March with the theme, Apprenticeships are Changing; understands that it aims to celebrate the benefits that apprenticeships and work-based learning bring to employers and businesses in Coatbridge and across Scotland, with events and activity taking place throughout the week; recognises the achievements made by apprentices and the value they add to the country’s workforce; notes that the week supports targets to create 30,000 modern apprenticeship places each year as well as the introduction of foundation and graduate level apprenticeships; notes the encouragement given to members to get involved by visiting an apprenticeship employer or training provider in their area, and wishes success to all of the employers, training providers and apprentices involved in the week’s activities.”

(From 25:07)

I congratulate Fulton MacGregor on securing this debate to celebrate apprenticeship week 2017 and the positive contribution that apprenticeships have made to our society, whether for individuals, businesses, government or the wider Scottish economy. I encourage everyone to participate in the events that are being held across Scotland to support and raise awareness about all the amazing opportunities that apprenticeships provide.

The theme of apprenticeship week 2017 is “Apprenticeships are changing”. Each year, we set an extremely ambitious target to create new opportunities. By 2020, the Scottish Government aims to expand the number of modern apprenticeship opportunities to 30,000 new starts each year, while simultaneously introducing improving new standards to ensure that those who do apprenticeships can rise to the top and reach their full potential. Even more young people will be able to enter the workforce with employers including BT, Microsoft, Scottish Power, the Royal Air Force, Boots, British Airways, BBC Scotland, Santander and Lloyds Banking Group, to name just a few. Small and local businesses have also pledged new apprenticeships and traineeships to give young people the opportunity to develop skills in languages, maths and social sciences, to progress to other jobs and open other prospects.

In my constituency, a wide array of apprenticeships are available and cater specifically for the skills that young people seek to develop and the goals that they want to achieve. I was particularly impressed during a visit to the Harry Fairbairn BMW car dealership in Kirkcaldy, where I met and spoke with the staff and young apprentices. The automotive mechanical industry is a highly skilled field; I was amazed not only by the opportunities that are available but by the high standard of the education and skills that are received by the apprentices.

Fife Council and Fife College are among the area’s largest apprenticeship employers, and offer modern apprenticeships ranging from engineering, construction and social services to creative and media studies. The combination of learning and working provides young people with the best of both worlds, with hands-on work experience as well as study. The 30,000 new starts a year pledge is testament to the popularity of apprenticeships, as more and more young people, employers, parents and teachers recognise their benefits and see that apprenticeships and work-based learning bring economic and social investment to our economy. That will certainly trickle down to our communities.

It is crucial to recognise how businesses and young people can help each other through apprenticeships. When a young person gets involved with a business as an apprentice, they receive the confidence and qualifications that they need to succeed in the future, and businesses are able to build the talent, productivity and motivation that are crucial for growth, success, and accomplishment. The opportunities that apprenticeships provide not only deliver life-changing opportunities for young people; they also help businesses that are eligible for grants for taking on an apprentice. Skills Development Scotland, Scotland’s national skills body, plays a crucial part in helping to create a skilled workforce that is prepared to face the future, by setting young people up for success in their careers. Crucially, SDS is designed to tackle potential skills gaps, as well as to support existing apprentices to develop their skills.

Young people entering the workforce today still face challenges. For example, many young women face challenges that make apprenticeship opportunities a less attractive option for them than further education. It is our job as policymakers to close the gender gap and ensure that every sector of our economy provides as many opportunities to women as it does to men.

An apprenticeship is a real success story. Modern apprenticeships employ over 30,000 young people, 91 per cent of apprentices are still in employment six months after completing their modern apprenticeship, and 96 per cent of employers believe that their former apprentices are better equipped to carry out their jobs. Consistent with this year’s apprenticeship week theme, which highlights the changing nature of apprenticeships, SDS has introduced new programmes including foundation apprenticeships, which bring education closer to industry, and graduate-level apprenticeships, which take work-based learning up to master’s degree level.

I encourage all my fellow MSPs to get involved with as many events as possible in their respective areas during apprenticeship week to show support for our country’s future workforce. Growing talent among the next generation and aiding young people to develop skills to transition into new careers through apprenticeships is a positive way of laying a strong foundation for economic and societal improvement.


Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.

Safe Drive, Stay Alive Project – 1st March 2017

MotionS5M-04086: Safe Drive, Stay Alive Project (Alexander Stewart MSP)

“That the Parliament recognises the Safe Drive, Stay Alive project, which has been actively educating teenagers and young adults on the seriousness of complacency, recklessness or dangerous activity behind the wheel; understands that, during the last 11 years, around 40,000 young people from across Forth Valley have attended these events, which are specially crafted and engineered to contribute towards a real reduction in the number of youngsters killed or who have had life-changing injuries in road traffic accidents in the area; believes that, despite these tremendous successes, the project, which has been in Scotland since 2006 and is diligently organised by the Central Safe Drive Group, remains under threat due to ongoing funding issues; notes that all three Central Scotland councils previously funded the show, which it understands costs around £23,000 to put on, however this funding is no longer available due to cuts to local government budgets, with the project experiencing great difficulty in raising funds for 2018; further notes that the Safe Drive, Stay Alive roadshows present to their mainly young audiences the harrowing reality of dangerous driving and the lasting impact that it can have on people, their families and communities; welcomes that members of the emergency services give presentations in their own time based on their personal experiences, and that some of those who have had their lives completely changed after being involved in road accidents also come forward and share their experiences and how they are dealing with debilitating injuries from day to day; understands that the Central Safe Drive Group says that in the years that the project has been running, road deaths in the 16 to 25 age group dropped from an average of 11 between 2006 and 2008 to an astonishing zero count during 2014-15; considers that it is important to maintain zero deaths, and notes the view that active assistance is necessary in any way possible to help sustain the survival of what it sees as this excellent project into the future.”

(From 06:47)

I thank Alexander Stewart for securing the debate, which is aimed at preserving the important and effective safe drive, stay alive educational programme. I want to take a few minutes to tell members about this initiative, which is essential to Fife’s efforts to reduce traffic-related fatalities and to educate young people about road safety in my constituency of Kirkcaldy. The safe drive, stay alive project is an annual community roadshow that delivers thought-provoking messages to thousands of young drivers by demonstrating in realistic terms the lethal consequences should they fail to understand and accept their responsibilities when getting behind the wheel.

In my constituency, the show runs for one week annually in late autumn at the Rothes halls theatre. However, its impact spans far beyond that of the average theatre performance. In the show, members of emergency services share stories of horrific traffic accidents and suggest how they might have been prevented. Victims of debilitating road-related injuries speak about how their lives changed in an instance, after just a few moments of carelessness. Bereaved individuals share their loss and implore students to think about their actions behind the wheel. Young people are provided with a framework for safe driving, and experts share tips about how to be aware on the road.

Road safety awareness can be a tricky subject to navigate in an educational setting. Safe drive, stay alive does a tremendous job of balancing the tragic nature of road-related collisions with what can be done to prevent them. After seeing the physical and emotional damage that is done by road-related collisions, students depart from the event understanding the harrowing effects of dangerous driving and committed to preventing reckless driving.

The central safe drive team marked its 10th year and 100th show in Stirling this month. Since the show was founded by central safe drive, more than 40,000 school pupils from across Forth valley have seen it. The results speak for themselves. The expertly crafted event has contributed to a decrease of 43 per cent in Fife’s road casualties since 2006. In 2006, there were 1,056 road-related injuries; in 2012, there were 549. In the same time period, there has been a 65 per cent decrease in fatalities: in 2006 there were 20, and in 2012 there were seven. That downward trend in fatalities and accidents has continued across Fife up until 2015.

Aside from the reduction in the number of bereaved and grieving families, the reduction in the number of road collision injuries and deaths has resulted in a lower demand for the emergency services and for money spent dealing with a road traffic casualty or fatality. Safe drive, stay alive has contributed to financial savings in the region of £45 million.

For its tangible impact and extraordinary production, the safe drive, stay alive project won the most effective road safety, traffic management and enforcement project at the 2012 Scottish transport awards. Last year saw safe drive, stay alive central win a prestigious emergency services special award from Central FM for its contribution to reducing the number of road casualties among 16 to 25-year-olds. The show has been adapted by other community safety partnerships throughout Scotland and the United Kingdom. It is supported overwhelmingly by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Extremely robust external evaluations of safe drive, stay alive were undertaken in 2011 and 2012 by NHS Fife, and those evaluations identified an immediate change in the attitudes of attendees to safe driving. The 2011 evaluation, which was completed by 538 attendees, demonstrated a decrease in speeding and an increase in seat-belt use, with almost 85 per cent reporting that they always wear a seat belt.

This amazing approach to road safety education—an accessible and specially engineered programme that has proved effective in its aim of reducing traffic-related injury and death—will be eliminated without some kind of aid. A petition calling for the programme’s continuation is circulating in Central Scotland and has many signatures, including those of many members of the Scottish Parliament from many different parties. If the programme is not supported, thousands of pupils will lose the opportunity to learn vital road safety lessons, and our roads will suffer.

I acknowledge and praise the work that safe drive, stay alive has done in my constituency and beyond. It is imperative that we maintain the project for its potential to make a difference in my constituency and across wider Scotland. It is up to us to ensure that safe drive, stay alive gets the resources that it needs to continue serving our constituencies.

In conclusion, Presiding Officer, I thank Alexander Stewart once again for securing this debate today, and I thank all who have supported the motion and continue to support the amazing work of safe drive, stay alive.


Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.