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.

LGBT History Month Scotland 2017 – 22nd Feb 2017

Motion S5M-03713: LGBT History Month Scotland 2017 (Annie Wells MSP)

“That the Parliament celebrates and raises awareness of LGBT History Month Scotland 2017; notes that the nationwide event, which is coordinated by LGBT Youth Scotland, takes place in February each year and is aimed at promoting equality and diversity in society with the specific goals of increasing the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their lives, history and experiences in educational, political and cultural institutions as well as the wider community; recognises the importance of raising awareness of the issues effecting LGBTI+ people so that every individual reaches their full potential and leads a fulfilling life, and notes that LGBT Youth Scotland is encourageing as many people as possible to get involved in the full programme of events, which will be delivered by a wide range of people, partners, community groups, schools, universities, colleges and local authorities.”

(From 36:20)

I thank Annie Wells for bringing today’s debate to the chamber to raise awareness of LGBT history month in Scotland. I also thank LGBT Youth Scotland for co-ordinating the incredible nationwide event.

Throughout history, minorities have had to fight for their rights. Women were given the right to vote only 88 years ago, the first legislation to address racial discrimination was passed only 50 years ago, and transgender people were able to change their legal gender only 12 years ago. What the suffragists, the abolitionists and the LGBT movement all have in common is that they have struggled to obtain the same rights as those of us who are members of the majority, and who automatically enjoy basic human rights due to our gender, sexual orientation or race. Those basic rights are the right to choose whom we want to marry, the right to change our gender legally, the right to adopt a child, the right to join the military, the right to serve openly in politics, the right to employment equality and opportunity and—most important—the right to love whomever we want to love, the right to look however we want to look and the right to be whomever we want to be.

That is why we celebrate LGBT history month. We acknowledge those who have not had it easy: those whose rights have been taken away from them by their own Government simply because they identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender; those who feel as if they were born in the wrong body; and those who have been exposed to violence and trauma because of who they are. We recognise not only our own LGBT community, but those in other countries and societies who still live under a law in which being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is punishable by death. Most important is that we recognise that every individual can and should reach their full potential and lead a fulfilling life regardless of gender or sexual preference.

As a country, we have made immense progress. On a national level, the UK holds the world record for having the most LGBT members in Parliament, and I am proud to say that Scotland is recognised as the best country in Europe for LGBT legal equality. Scotland now meets 92 per cent of the criteria, compared with 86 per cent for the UK as a whole. I truly believe that that is the result of this Government’s willingness to communicate properly with the LGBTI community.

In my constituency, the “flavours of Fife” LGBT youth group is open to young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and their friends and supporters. NHS Fife offers advice and support services to point LGBT youth in the right direction for health services. The mood cafe in Kirkcaldy promotes mental health and national helplines for the local community. Such services make Scotland the most progressive country in Europe for LGBT rights.

Scotland—a country whose leaders are open about their sexuality—has a duty as Europe’s most progressive country for LGBTI equality to set an example to the rest of the world. However, Scotland still has room to improve and there is much more to do to achieve full equality for people in Scotland. It is important to note that changes in the law are not always reflected in everyday life. LGBTI people in Scotland and around the UK still face unacceptable levels of discrimination and disadvantage every day.

With my fellow MSPs—there has been crossparty support for the motion—I pledge to support fully the events of LGBT history month in Scotland, and I encourage colleagues to attend as many events as possible in order to raise awareness of the issues that the LGBTI community faces.

I thank Annie Wells again for securing today’s debate, and LGBT Youth Scotland for its efforts in promoting equality and diversity in our society.


Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.

Barnado’s Scotland, Nurture Week – 9th Feb 2017

Motion S5M-03336: Barnardo’s Scotland, Nurture Week (Stuart McMillan MSP)

“That the Parliament welcomes Barnardo’s Scotland Nurture Week, which runs from 13 to 19 February 2017; understands that this is a week-long series of events and activities aimed at showcasing the importance of nurture and attachment in child development; notes that Barnardo’s works in Inverclyde in partnership with schools and nurseries and takes a unique approach to health and wellbeing by working to embed nurture principles in early years settings and the classroom; further notes that this approach provides wrap-around support to families with the aim of using nurture principles to support the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people as well as help raise attainment, and notes calls for all parties to come together to support this approach.”

(From 21:12)

I thank Stuart McMillan for bringing the debate to the chamber to welcome Barnardo’s Scotland nurture week. A special thank you also goes to Gordon MacDonald for the loan of his glasses so that I can actually see my speech.

As a father of two, I stress the importance of building a supportive and long-lasting relationship with my children—a relationship that has lasted throughout their childhood and is just beginning to touch their young adult lives. However, as any parent will know, the first few years of a child’s life are crucial for their emotional, social, psychological, neurological and physical development. To support children who have insecure attachments, all members of the Scottish Parliament should encourage leaders and players in education to promote a nurturing approach to help to create strong attachments, which are the foundations of children’s positive emotional development.

Key to that mantra is Barnardo’s Scotland, which is Scotland’s largest children’s charity. It provides more than 130 local services throughout Scotland and works with more than 26,500 vulnerable children, young people and their families. It provides help with issues such as attachment and early development, it supports parents in the community and it provides guidance and advice on a case-by-case basis. That individualised service is a distinguishing feature of Barnardo’s Scotland. The charity has successfully developed a structure in which staff can acknowledge and respond to children, young people and families based on their individual circumstances, needs and background, rather than on their age, gender, class or status.

I am sure that my fellow MSPs will agree that closing the poverty-related attainment gap, especially through working with young and vulnerable children, is a priority. Barnardo’s Scotland has taken a unique approach to health and wellbeing in order to ensure that children who are living in the most disadvantaged areas are receiving as much attention as possible to literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing. Support services in Fife are an excellent example of how Barnardo’s Scotland individualises its support case by case, especially by working with other support groups including the Fife advocacy forum, Fife Council and NHS Fife. Barnardo’s child and family support service has been providing services to children and families in need for more than a decade. That Fife-based service currently has eight strands of service, including children’s rights, intensive family support, assessment of parenting capacity, family carers, family health, a nurture hub and substance abuse services.

I stress that those services often do not just involve a one-off appointment; families are encouraged to follow up with staff for up to a year after the initial meeting, which ensures that the services that Barnardo’s offers can make a long-lasting impact on our communities. I have confidence that Barnardo’s Scotland nurture week will bring awareness not only to children and young people who are suffering, but—crucially—to parents, who often take on an extremely emotional and physical role in dealing with the day-to-day struggles of their children in need.

Barnardo’s nurture service offers a space not only for children to express themselves, but for parents of vulnerable children to meet and socialise, essentially by creating ad hoc support networks. Barnardo’s Scotland is aiming to create a domino effect by fostering support and extending that support in everyday life, not just under the care of compassionate staff and volunteers.

Crucially, the getting it right for every child agenda brings all those initiatives together. Nurturing Inverclyde has set a great example for the rest of the country by putting children at the centre of the local community. Inverclyde Council has adapted GIRFEC to suit the needs of the local area; I call on every constituency to do the same by working with and consulting their council services and leaders of community development planning, and with a range of stakeholders who can contribute to wellbeing outcomes.

In conclusion, I once again thank Stuart McMillan for this important debate, and I commend Barnardo’s for its invaluable contribution to Scotland’s young people and their families.


Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.

Scotland’s Veterans – 31st Jan 2017

Motion S5M-02578: Scotland’s Veterans (Graeme Day MSP)

“That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the report by the Scottish Veterans Commissioner, The Veterans Community: Employability, Skills and Learning; understands that the study looks at the crucial issue of veterans’ employability and makes recommendations that both seek to promote the skills, experience and attributes of veterans more vigorously and remove barriers to civilian employment; acknowledges that this is the third report published by the commissioner; understands that the commissioner believes that there is an increasingly enlightened attitude towards ex-military personnel, and welcomes the part that it hopes this report can play in the formulation of policy pertaining to skills, training and employment for veterans in Angus South and across the country.”


(From 21:23)

I thank Graeme Dey for bringing the motion to Parliament for debate, and for raising awareness of the significance, strength and qualities of Scotland’s veterans.

The veteran-civilian relationship is complex and often challenging. Throughout history, veterans have served their country and returned with an expectation that the country would ease their transition back into civilian life. That has not always happened, of course. The UK Government spends billions of pounds a year on the military—2.7 per cent of its gross domestic product—but only a tiny fraction of that is spent ensuring that veterans are employed, or, if they are not employed, that they build skills or receive training to ease their transition back into society.

I welcome the publication by the Scottish veterans commissioner, Eric Fraser, of the report, which studies the crucial issue of veteran employability in Scotland. I hope that the Scottish Government and my fellow MSPs embrace the report’s findings and recommendations, as we have an obligation as policy makers to invest in programmes that will help veterans adapt to social, political and economic life. The area in which that can most powerfully and successfully be demonstrated is employment, as the report on employability, skills and learning clearly exhibits.

I highlight the paradox that veterans are able to provide us with protection but struggle to secure employment at an acceptable rate upon returning to the civilian world. The Ministry of Defence recently published statistics that highlight the problem and show that former military personnel are less likely to be in work and more likely to be unemployed than their counterparts among the general Scottish population. Although the numbers show a significant improvement when compared to studies conducted in 2014, they continue to highlight the gap between veterans and non-veterans.

I make special mention of some of the organisations and programmes that help veterans and support them back into employment: SaluteMyJob, Forth Valley Chamber of Commerce, Veterans Scotland, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish veterans employment and training service, to name a few. It is crucial that those partners not only secure meaningful and sustained employment for veterans but aid personal fulfilment and development. In my constituency, veterans first point Fife, which was established only last year, consists of veterans along with peer-support workers, clinicians and therapists, who provide information, support, social networking and understanding to promote wellbeing.

I also highlight the importance of addressing the challenges that many female veterans face. We need to recognise that women veterans experience military service in different ways from men. Without intervention, those and other issues can put women veterans at greater risk of unemployment. Therefore, we need to address the individual needs of women through specialised programmes.

The Scottish political agenda emphasises that education is a tool for ensuring a certain level of veteran employability, as barriers to significant and sustainable employment are intensified by the absence of educational attainment. Veteran higher education is often met with resistance due to monetary challenges, lack of acceptance and stress about competing with younger students. In most cases, opting out of higher education is an economic decision. As a response, the Scottish veterans fund has provided crucial financial support in the form of grants. Apprenticeships, mentoring and sponsorship opportunities are not only available but actively encouraged to help to establish networks, while our sense of community allows for an ambitious and generous charitable sector on which many veterans rely.

Although the Scottish Government is supportive of veterans, there remains work to be done to shift the stigma surrounding them that still exists among employers, the media and the public. There are often assumptions and stereotypes regarding veterans that can make some employers reluctant to hire them. However, veterans are assets. Their skills can easily be transferred into a variety of different employment opportunities. I am confident that we can mend the veteran-civilian relationship by guaranteeing that the credentials and talents of veterans are more extensively acknowledged not only by employers but, as importantly, by Scottish society in general.

I again thank Graeme Dey for securing this important debate. I hope that the Scottish veterans commissioner’s recommendations are taken on board.


Link to the Scottish Parliament Official Report.