23 February 2017
Motion : That the Parliament understands that the number of jobs lost as a result of the downturn in the UK oil and gas sector could be over 120,000 by the end of 2016; considers that the sector is of vital economic interest and cannot be left exclusively to market forces; further considers that the sector needs to have confidence that it can invest for the future; supports the use of Scottish and UK Government borrowing powers to leverage money into the sector, including active consideration of strategic public stakes in infrastructure investment, and notes calls on the Scottish Government to facilitate and take part in discussions with the UK Government, industry and trade unions to create a plan for co-investment that will support jobs, including in the north east, increase confidence and create returns to the public sector.
The last two years have been tough for North Sea workers.
Thousands of people have lost their jobs—perhaps as many as 120,000 across the UK. Many more have lived with the fear of unemployment, or the prospect of a longer working week or less take-home pay.
Jobs have been lost in the supply chain and in manufacturing right across Scotland, and in the service economy in and around Aberdeen.
Some people say that the worst is behind us and that confidence is recovering, but as major contracts come to an end this year, more jobs will be put at risk.
The figures that have been produced by Oil & Gas UK are stark: capital investment is down nearly 40 per cent in two years, exploration and appraisal drilling is at an all-time low, and new oil and gas that was found in 2015 is equivalent to only a quarter of annual production. Less investment this year means less production next year. Oil & Gas UK therefore concluded that new investment is vital in order to sustain long-term activity.
It is right about that.
The question is this: what can be done to achieve that new investment, and what else needs to happen?
Trade unions are a vital source of support for working people in tough times.
I am delighted that offshore members of Unite are here today, with Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty, and regional organiser Tommy Campbell.
I know from experience that many more will be tuned in to the debate on BBC Scotland’s “Holyrood Live”.
Oil and gas industry unions have had their work cut out in the past two years.
Their activism and vigilance will be just as important in the period ahead.
The industry itself has accepted the need for change.
High costs in the North Sea before 2015 were not down simply to the maturity of an oil province, far less to the cost of labour; they were down to a culture of competition for its own sake.
Too many companies spent too much time and money doing the same things as each other in lots of different ways, while strategic thinking about the big picture was put off until another day.
That day arrived with the price crash two years ago, and there has been some new thinking going on since then.
The industry has bought in to maximising economic recovery, and to cutting the costs of inefficiency and duplication to make that happen.
That must not put the whole burden on the shoulders of the workforce, nor should cost-cutting ever be at the expense of training, maintenance or safety.
A petrochemical production plant in a hostile offshore environment is no place for compromise in any of those areas.
I want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the late David Doig, who was chief executive of the Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation, whose achievements will be commemorated tomorrow in Aberdeen.
The Press and Journal reported his untimely death last month, saying:
“His vision helped make the North Sea workforce one of the most skilled and professional in the world. David Doig worked tirelessly for the oil and gas industry to build a modern apprenticeship scheme that will stand the test of time.”
OPITO raised concerns this week that the way that the Scottish Government plans to use the funds raised in Scotland from the new apprenticeship levy will take money out of training in oil and gas.
The best tribute ministers could pay to David Doig’s legacy would be to ensure that that does not happen.
Government, of course, has a number of responsibilities in the field, alongside industry and trade unions, and that is at the heart of today’s debate.
Over the past two years, I have called many times for action from the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments.
The Scottish Government and its agencies have offered help to some of those who have lost their jobs, which is welcome, and the UK Government has acknowledged that tougher times require a different tax regime, which is welcome, too. They have also acted on the recommendations of the Wood review to establish a new and powerful regulator in the Oil and Gas Authority, but there is more that the two Governments can do.
The OGA has got off to a strong start.
It is actively encouraging a more collaborative culture and is promoting transfer of assets to companies that are willing to invest.
It has spent £40 million of public money in shooting new seismic surveys and it has made the data available to any company that is willing to use it.
The two Governments should now work together to build on that model and use their access to capital to invest in critical infrastructure, just as the OGA has invested in vital new data.
Critical infrastructure offshore means networks of platforms and subsea facilities that are connected by pipelines and flowlines.
The biggest risk to future economic activity is a key piece of infrastructure being shut down because it no longer makes money, and its closure having a knock-on effect.
Premature decommissioning of infrastructure can block oil and gas production upstream, so that one early closure leads to another.
Rational planning to avoid that is part of the remit of the OGA, which has promised to produce an overall decommissioning strategy, a decommissioning plan and ten-year road maps, including more detailed area plans.
Those can all help to sustain critical infrastructure by planning ahead, so I hope that we will see it all soon.
Tavish Scott (Shetland Islands) (LD): I am very grateful to Lewis Macdonald for that point and for the tenor of his remarks this afternoon. In the context of forward planning, does he welcome the EnQuest takeover—for want of a better expression—of the Sullom Voe facilities, because it is a company that will, we hope, extract more with BP now seeking to develop west of Shetland, rather than in the east Shetland basin?
Tavish Scott is quite right.
It is about the onshore infrastructure in Shetland and the offshore infrastructure in the North Sea itself.
When that gets into the hands of companies that are prepared to invest, the problem is addressed.
However, that is not yet happening across the board, which is what I am keen to pursue today.
Co-investment by public and private sector partners can make a difference in those circumstances.
PWC recently published “A Sea Change—the future of North Sea Oil and Gas”, which is a report on the future sustainability of the North Sea that drew on interviews with 30 senior industry executives.
Those industry leaders called for Government to address the ownership of critical infrastructure, which could be run and maintained on a nationalised basis.
They said that the end goal should be a national grid of North Sea pipelines and hubs and they proposed that a national shared pool of critical equipment could be managed by a further Government-backed entity, “UK Offshore Equipment plc”.
The state must act where markets fail to deliver, but that does not mean giving public money away.
Public sector operators of infrastructure or equipment can charge competitive prices and make a return, but they can also act in the public interest to maintain production and to spread risk.
The north-east economy and the oil and gas workforce have shown tremendous resilience in getting through the past two years.
Now is the time to offer fresh hope for the future, which is what I call for today.
Withdrawal from the European Union (Article 50)
7 February 2017
When Theresa May invokes article 50 and gives notice of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, we will have reached a sombre moment in our shared history.
Sixty years after Anthony Eden’s resignation marked the end of empire, and 60 years after the Treaty of Rome pointed towards an alternative future, it is almost as if Britain and Europe are back to where we began.
The question now is not whether Britain leaves the EU, or whether the Government invokes article 50—the referendum vote last June made the decision to leave, and not leaving is not an option.
The question now is not whether, but when. Is the UK Government in a position to begin such a critical negotiation on our behalf, and how will it be accountable in doing so?
After months of denying that the act of leaving the EU was any of Parliament’s business, Mrs May finally agreed last week to publish her negotiating objectives in a white paper.
That white paper confirmed that the Government’s approach to Brexit is based not on a rational analysis of costs and benefits but on ideological preferences alone.
UK ministers have declared that Britain should leave the world’s largest single market, with no clear strategy on how to obtain unfettered access to that market as an external trading partner.
They also want to leave the European customs union and face the risk of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, with no idea of the terms of trade in any future agreement with the EU.
They have laid out no plans in detail for future engagement with the many other European institutions and agreements to which membership of the EU currently gives us access.
Willie Rennie (North East Fife) (LD): I thank Lewis Macdonald for giving way. Can he tell us how his party at Westminster is getting on with challenging that?
Lewis Macdonald: I will certainly discuss Westminster in a moment.
I am sure that Mr Rennie will want to reflect on how effective his colleagues there are being as well. After 60 years of Britain growing closer to Europe, we now have a Government that is determined to go in the opposite direction.
Theresa May would rather hold hands with Donald Trump than work hand in glove with Angela Merkel.
That much is clear, but there remain too many unanswered questions—too many ways in which a reckless and irresponsible approach could yet turn a difficult business into a disaster.
Our responsibility in the Scottish Parliament is to say whether we believe that UK ministers have done enough to go to Europe and negotiate on our behalf, and our answer must be that they have not.
This week, Labour is promoting a raft of amendments to the article 50 bill at Westminster; some have already been voted on and others are up for decision over the next couple of days.
The amendments set out what Labour believes are the broad principles that UK ministers should follow in negotiations: maintaining a stable and sustainable economy; preserving peace in Northern Ireland; achieving trading arrangements with the EU that are free of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, with no further regulatory burdens; laying a basis for cooperation with Europe in education, science and research, environmental protection and the fight against serious and organised crime and terrorism; and maintaining existing social, economic, consumer and workers’ rights.
Also, as we highlight in our amendment, UK ministers should consult the Scottish Government and other devolved Administrations in a serious and meaningful way, and Scottish ministers should work with other Administrations to influence the process and the outcomes.
The white paper offers no more than a wish list for achieving any of those wider objectives, and it shows little sign of taking on board the views of the other Administrations within the UK.
As the minister acknowledged, we in this place have no veto on article 50, but we do have a right and a duty to speak on behalf of those we seek to represent.
We should therefore say that we do not endorse Mrs May’s proposals and that she should not proceed until she has demonstrated that she has a clear strategy for achieving the right outcomes from the negotiations that will follow.
There are other things that Mrs May could do now, even before those negotiations begin.
Yesterday, I met parent representatives at St Peter’s school in Aberdeen, which has many pupils from countries both within and beyond the European Union.
I heard directly about the insecurity that many of those families feel and their uncertainty about the choices that they have made to live in this country and about their children’s future.
Theresa May could help with that right now.
She could follow the advice of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee in its report this week and “provide clarity on the position of EU and EEA EFTA citizens living in the UK without further delay.”
That would make our constituents feel secure again. It would also let our European friends and neighbours know—in advance of the negotiations—that we will not make their citizens suffer because of a decision that our citizens have made.
Theresa May could also do what her party declined to do in the House of Commons last night and commit to seeking a consensus with the devolved Administrations on the terms of withdrawal and the framework for our future relationship with the European Union.
That would not give anyone a veto—the constitutional position is clear—but committing to seek a consensus would show a degree of willingness to look beyond the inner circles of the Conservative Cabinet, which so far has been sadly lacking.
The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (John Swinney): I want to follow up on the point that Mr Macdonald has just made. If he can see the advantages and benefits of the United Kingdom Government coming to some form of agreement with the devolved Administrations, why, in his opinion, is it beyond the capacity of those on the Conservative benches in this Parliament to recognise the wisdom and value of such a step?
Lewis Macdonald: Those on the Conservative benches have to speak for themselves, and no doubt we will hear more from them shortly.
Clearly, however, there is a need for people to recognise the choices that are in front of us.
We will vote today that article 50 should not be triggered until the UK Government’s strategy is clear, and we will do so in terms of our own amendment.
When we debated Brexit on 17 January, we agreed that the Scottish Government should continue to seek ways of mitigating the impact within the UK. That remains our position.
However, I have to say that it is less clear how far that remains the SNP’s position. On the same day as that debate, the First Minister once again declared that a second referendum on independence was “very likely”.
She was demanding a common United Kingdom position on the one hand and working against the United Kingdom on the other.
Michael Russell: For the avoidance of doubt, I will repeat what I said in my speech. We continue to negotiate constructively and positively—or to attempt to do so—on the basis of our paper, “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, the options in which Parliament has considered, and we will continue to do so up until the triggering of article 50, because we feel that we can still achieve a deal if there is the will from the UK Government.
Lewis Macdonald: I recognise what Mr Russell says, but the truth is that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP Government are keeping the threat of an independence referendum on the table.
They might argue that that gives leverage with Theresa May, but the truth is that it merely adds to the uncertainty that we face.
Whether the SNP really wants to ask people to vote for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom in order to remain in the European Union has to be a moot point.
Some of the strongest votes for Brexit were recorded in places such as Banff and Buchan, which voted by 61 per cent to 39 per cent to leave—an “overwhelming” majority, as some on the SNP benches might say.
Those who voted to leave are hardly going to turn out to vote for independence if that means that Scotland will stay in the European Union after all.
I urge the SNP to recognise that a consensus cannot be built with the threat of a referendum on the table. If the SNP wants a positive response across the board, it should accept that.
We in the Labour Party reject an independence referendum and we will not support anything that creates barriers to trade within the UK.
However, Theresa May has so far failed to address the uncertainty that we face as a result of the Brexit process, and therefore article 50 should not be triggered at this time.
On that basis, I move amendment S5M- 03858.1, to leave out from “agrees” to end and insert:
“recognises that a majority in Scotland voted for the UK to remain in the EU, and that a majority also voted for Scotland to remain in the UK; agrees that the UK single market is more important to the Scottish economy than the European single market and therefore that there should be no move to put in place any barriers that would damage Scottish trade with the rest of the UK; believes that many people voted against leaving the EU for the same reasons that they voted to remain in the UK, in order to secure jobs, opportunities and social and civil rights; believes that the majority of the people of Scotland want to remain inside the UK, with as close a relationship with Europe as possible; agrees there should not be a second Scottish independence referendum; respects the outcome of the EU referendum and accepts that, as a result, the UK will leave the EU; agrees that the UK Government’s European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill should not proceed until it has set out detail on the full range of unanswered questions covering many policy areas where its proposals would have a detrimental effect on the jobs and opportunities of people across Scotland; further believes that the UK Government must consult the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations on the process of exiting the EU, and calls on the Scottish Government to work with other devolved administrations on the range of relevant issues, including to protect workers’ rights, to ensure that the UK does not become a bargain-basement tax haven, to guarantee legal rights for EU citizens living in the UK and to seek to retain all existing EU tax avoidance and evasion measures postBrexit.”
Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology
Speech in the Scottish Parliament.
31 January 2017
Thank you, Presiding Officer. We, too, celebrate Scotland’s year of history, heritage and archaeology.
The physical artefacts of past generations are worth conserving not just for their potential to generate visitor spend, which they do, but because they are important in their own right.
None of it, however, comes for free.
Part of the Scottish Government’s responsibility in 2017 is to ensure that the relevant agencies are able to make the necessary investments, and another part of that responsibility is to strengthen the working relationships in the field between central Government agencies and local councils.
Mr Stewart highlighted the role of VisitScotland, which is the lead agency for promoting tourism as a sector.
Once again, it is having to plan its annual marketing expenditure with a real-terms budget cut.
It is confident that it will be able to do that, but that is nonetheless an important point.
Historic Environment Scotland, which is the product of a very recent merger of two distinct public agencies, is still seeking to find stability after a period of some difficulty, with no additional funding in real terms.
Fiona Hyslop: Is the member aware that, in the 2017-18 budget, Historic Environment Scotland’s budget rises by 3.95 per cent? Does he recognise that VisitScotland’s written evidence on the budget states that it is pleased that its budget for the next financial year will be maintained at £43.9 million, which is exactly the same level as the budget for 2016-17? That is a challenge but, in a tight budget settlement, that has been received as a good result for both the tourism and heritage sectors.
Lewis Macdonald: I have no doubt that both agencies will do their level best to ensure that they deliver against their responsibilities in the face of the budget constraints that the cabinet secretary describes, but it is important, in seeking to make the most of a themed year such as the one that we are discussing, that we recognise that it will not happen by itself and that it will require expenditure by public authorities.
The Government has an overall role in promoting the themed year, but it also has a role in ensuring that the resources that are required are provided.
I turn to Scotland’s councils, because they are facing a substantial cut in their budgets for the next financial year, which can only add to the pressure on those aspects of Scotland’s heritage sector for which they are responsible. This Parliament now has the power to consider a tourism levy, which councils might use to fund investment in visitor attractions and events, and the power to vary income tax, which councils might use to support local public services.
Those will be matters for debate in the budget debate on Thursday rather than today, but if ministers agree that a world-class heritage sector requires adequate resources, part of their job is to ensure that they find the means to deliver those resources where they are required.
Local authorities fund many of the museums and galleries that are many people’s first points of contact for the culture and heritage of their local area, and they are key partners in supporting many of the destination management organisations and city centre business improvement districts that pull together public and private sector partners to put their local areas on the visitor map.
Councils also employ archaeologists, who have what, in the words of the current chair of their association, “can be argued to be the biggest role in protecting Scotland’s heritage”.
Bruce Mann has said that, among many other things, their job is to assess every planning application for its impact on the historic environment; to provide guidance to landowners and developers; to support community projects; and to lead large teams of volunteers in excavating sites.
Mr Mann reckons that he and his peers are responsible for managing 90 per cent of Scotland’s historic environment and around 290,000 sites, and that, last year alone, they generated more than 1,600 projects across the country.
That is just one of the council services that are vital if our historic environment is to be protected and which create added value of their own.
It is clear that the direct employment of our professional archaeologists might be at greater risk if a council faces the prospect of having to make wide-ranging cuts in services, as many are likely to do this year.
Despite the professional dedication of those archaeologists, the capacity of local councils to employ members of that profession has fallen in recent years as a result of funding issues.
It is important that councils are supported to make the capital investments that are needed to sustain the quality of the museums and galleries estate.
Both the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government can help in that and act as funders for projects such as the refurbishment of existing buildings and the development of new projects.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has, of course, a substantial role in working with both central and local government agencies.
European funding has been significant in many such projects in recent years.
Fiona Hyslop: I very much appreciate the point that Lewis Macdonald is making. Funding from the Scottish Government can quite often come early or late in a project. Amazing work has been happening at the Kelvin hall. There is funding from the Scottish Government already, and provision by the National Library of Scotland; there is also the roof project, which will free up additional space. That is very important capital funding that complements the work of Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council.
Lewis Macdonald: I absolutely recognise that.
To refer to my city, I recognise Scottish Government support for the refurbishment of Aberdeen music hall, but I remind the cabinet secretary that there has not been the same support for the refurbishment of Aberdeen art gallery, which is part of the estate.
I understand that the Government cannot support every project and that it has to make decisions and choices, but when we look at the context of those choices, we need to recognise that all those sources of funding can be significant.
Many of Scotland’s European structural funds for the current programme period have yet to be drawn down.
I hope that ministers can provide certainty about spending the currently available funds and future plans.
I think that we all recognise that Historic Environment Scotland has faced challenges in getting to grips with its very broad remit since it was created by the merger of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
The success of that merger faced real challenges as the new agency struggled to find its feet and achieve effective partnership working with other public bodies.
It is clearly important that public bodies are able to work together to solve problems before the point is reached at which a significant site can be closed to visits by the public—the cabinet secretary will recall that that happened at Maeshowe last year.
Working together takes leadership, and in the field in question that leadership must come from Historic Environment Scotland.
It is now for the agency and its new chief executive, Alex Paterson, to provide such leadership and to move ahead in a spirit of active co-operation with local councils and other partners.
The challenge for the Government is not just around—
The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am sorry, but I ask you to close very shortly. Thank you.
Lewis Macdonald: The challenge for the Scottish Government is not just to support Historic Environment Scotland and other public agencies, of course; it is also to ensure that all our public visitor spaces and all the places that we know about and which have been mentioned are given support, whether they belong directly to Government agencies or to local government, or operate in the private sector or the charitable sector. Many of our key sites in Scotland are not—
The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am sorry, but you must close. You have had an extra two minutes. Please move your amendment.
Lewis Macdonald: Thank you for your indulgence, Presiding Officer.
I move my amendment with the present, the future and the past in mind.
I move amendment S5M-03748.1, to insert at end: “, and considers that adequate funding of local authorities, Historic Environment Scotland and other relevant agencies will be essential to maintain the quality and accessibility of museums, galleries and heritage sites in 2017 and beyond.”
Celebrating Burns and the Scots Language
Speech in the Scottish Parliament.
25 January 2017
I am grateful to Emma Harper for bringing the debate to Parliament, in part because of my father, the Rev Roderick Macdonald.
He was first a published poet in Gaelic—Scotland’s other language that has been too-long neglected—and an enthusiastic translator between Gaelic and English.
He was deeply honoured to be crowned Bàrd at the National Mòd in 1977.
However, when he went from St Columba’s parish church in Stornoway to Insch parish church in Aberdeenshire, he discovered a third Scottish tongue for poetry and prose—just as we, his children, discovered it in daily life.
Aberdeenshire Scots is known today as Doric, thanks to the classical preoccupations of 19th century scholars, but it is, in truth, one of the richest regional varieties of a language that can be heard in many places, from Shetland to Galloway.
Lowland Scots is not heard in the Outer Hebrides, but it is still the mother tongue of local children in Insch and the Garioch, and many other communities, besides.
Roddy Macdonald would have fully agreed with the view that is expressed in the motion this evening—that the written word, in a standard form, is vital to sustaining and transmitting a living but largely oral culture from one generation to the next.
He considered himself to be bilingual, which he defined as not just speaking and writing in two languages, or even just thinking in two languages, but as dreaming in both Gaelic and English, which he had done for most of his life.
I do not think that he ever dreamed in Scots, but he made understanding and explaining the relationships of Scots, English and Gaelic a focus of his learning and his creativity in the second half of his life.
A book that reflects that focus very well is one that he wrote in collaboration with Joyce Collie and Derrick McClure in 1995.
It goes not by one name, but three: “Trilingual Poetry”, “Bàrdachd Thrì- Chànanach” and “Sangs in Three Tongues”.
That was original and groundbreaking, but it was in the translation of the entire works of Robert Burns from Scots and English into Gaelic that Roddy Macdonald’s scholarship in Scots and creativity in Gaelic found their perfect fusion.
As Derrick McClure has said since, what is impressive about the work is not just its scale but the fact that the translations succeed in retaining the metre and rhythms in which Burns wrote, while presenting them in a quite different language.
However, my father would have said that achieving that was not so hard, or down only to his own poetic gifts.
He was delighted to discover that a good deal of the Scots of Robert Burns had Gaelic roots, which some earlier translators had failed to recognise.
The Scots tongue of Robert Burns is not, as some would have it, different from northern English only because of loan words from Scandinavia, the low countries or France—such loan words are to be found in Northumbria and Yorkshire, too.
What makes the Scots language unique is its roots in Scottish Gaelic, combined with those other influences.
Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire in 1759, the same year in which the last speaker of Ayrshire or Galloway Gaelic died.
His family had moved not long before from the north-east, at a time when Gaelic was still the first language in places such as upper Deeside and Glengairn.
The cadences and metres of Burns could readily translate from Scots to Gaelic precisely because Gaelic had helped to shape many of those rhythms and metres in the first place, and Roddy Macdonald was proud to make the connections among Scotland’s three tongues because he believed that those connections strengthened them all.
I am certain that, if he were still with us, he would want to join us in celebrating that view today.
The Deputy Presiding Officer: Afore we gang any further, I am minded to accept a motion under rule 8.14.3 that, due to the number of members who wish to speak, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.
That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[Emma Harper] Motion agreed to. The Deputy Presiding Officer: Tapadh leibh. There, Mr Macdonald—I have used all three languages.
Lewis Macdonald: Glè mhath.
Speech in the Scottish Parliament.
11 January 2017
The Government’s motion talks about a “strong cross-party collaborative approach and support for international development in the Parliament”.
There is broad consensus, which Scottish Labour has been proud to be part of building.
We welcome the strategy paper and we now want the Government to go beyond those 24 pages of good intentions and set out in detail what it will do to deliver them and how it will do so.
I know that the minister will welcome the invitation to attend the cross-party group on international development to address those questions in more detail than he will have time to do today.
I am glad that the Government has indicated that it will accept our amendment in the same spirit.
Discussion of Scotland’s approach to international development is always likely to start with Malawi, and the discussion has done that again today.
The key early decisions in shaping a distinctive strategy for Scotland’s devolved Government included those on core funding of the Scotland Malawi Partnership and the establishment of the Malawi development programme in 2005, as the minister acknowledged.
The vision of Jack McConnell as First Minister and the coalition Government was to build on the long-standing partnerships in church and civil society between Scotland and Malawi and was for Scotland’s devolved Government to add value directly in financial support and indirectly by providing a focus for the efforts of others.
That approach remains just as important today.
According to the Scotland Malawi Partnership, for every £1 in official Government assistance, there is a further £8 in support from civil society, and there are more than 1,000 individual partnerships or connections between individuals and organisations in the two countries.
Many of those links are long standing, but others have been stimulated by Government-to-Government engagement over the past 12 years.
For example, individual congregations of the Church of Scotland have long had links with their counterparts in the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, which have grown and developed in the context of Government support.
The presbytery of Aberdeen, for instance, was twinned with its counterpart in the city of Blantyre in November 2005.
The Scotland Malawi Partnership was established at the same time.
There are now 18 individual twinning links between congregations in those two cities alone.
The Government’s latest strategy proposes perhaps a closer focus on Malawi and three other countries.
We think that a strong focus on a small number of countries makes sense in principle.
In that way, the relatively modest Scottish Government budget can make the biggest difference where it is needed most.
We also recognise that development partnerships in civil society are independent of the Government and are all the more valuable as a result.
Organic connections at the grass-roots level can survive changes in Government and in policy and can continue to deliver at a local level, whatever may be happening elsewhere.
It follows that the Government must not be prescriptive when it comes to development work that is undertaken by civil society.
A focus by the Government on particular countries may encourage others to follow suit, but it should not discourage or downplay independent initiatives by churches, faith groups, councils or other partners that choose to support development elsewhere in the world.
Alexander Stewart made some important points. For example, he said that the Scottish Government should continue to work closely with the UK Department for International Development.
The UK is one of the biggest providers of development assistance in the world, along with the United States, Japan, Germany, France and, of course, the European Union.
Working with DFID and the EU institutions will therefore be essential to get the best outcomes from Scottish aid spending.
It is simply a fact that Scottish taxpayers contribute far more through the UK and the EU than through the Scottish Government’s programmes.
We agree on the importance of supporting “minority, marginalised and vulnerable groups” in the delivery of aid. I was pleased to hear the minister’s assurances on human rights.
However, Mr Stewart’s amendment causes concern in its reference to encouraging “the move from aid to investment ... in developing economic growth”.
Aid is, of course, a means to an end, and successful development assistance ultimately puts itself out of business.
However, that is quite different from making a political choice to shift the whole focus from aid to investment, regardless of how far poverty has been eliminated or the obstacles to inclusive economic growth have been eliminated.
We have heard the Secretary of State for International Development suggest that her department’s role should be more focused on trade and economic advantage for the UK, so we are bound to worry about the political choices that are being made by some of Mr Stewart’s party colleagues elsewhere.
Our choice should be to work for sustainable and inclusive growth and to use aid and investment towards that end.
Labour’s amendment calls for more detail in the Government’s strategy and highlights the country strategies and policy coherence across the Scottish Government.
Non-governmental organisations that are keen to support in-country work need to understand the mechanics of how applications to the international development fund and the climate justice fund will work—when applications can be made, the number of stages that will be involved in an application and whether the grant receiver will be required to part fund projects.
There are also questions about how the Government will seek to build sustainable long- term partnerships in country to make the best use of local resources and local expertise.
Just as local authorities and voluntary organisations in Scotland want to be able to plan on the basis of three-year budgets rather than one-year funding commitments, NGOs would like to have certainty about longer-term support for projects that will take time to mature or, as Liam McArthur said, for core funding of the essential work that allows them to deliver individual projects.
Part of that will depend on how the Government intends to assess and evaluate the projects that it supports and how it will use those evaluations to improve the effectiveness of future projects.
When the Government commits to going beyond aid, it is important to know how it intends to do so in relation to its own activities outwith the international development programmes that we are debating.
For example, direct assistance from police, health and education services in Scotland for building up those same services in Malawi is important, but it is also useful and important to know how the Government intends to embed its commitments on development, human rights and global justice into its routine decision-making processes across the Government, just as with its consideration of impacts on business, the environment and equalities.
I hope that the minister will be able to respond to many of those points in closing the debate.
I move amendment S5M-03303.2, to insert at end:
“, and looks forward to the Scottish Government setting out its detailed plans on how it intends to achieve its stated aims in each of the four countries where work will be focused, and in ensuring policy coherence across all sectors in pursuit of sustainable development goals in all the countries in question.”
International Migrants to Scotland
Speech in the Scottish Parliament debate
13 December 2016
When the United Nations established international migrants day at the turn of the century, it declared that migration could be beneficial for all concerned.
It could be good for migrants, moving country to better themselves and to improve life chances for their families.
It could benefit destination countries, bringing in new people to do jobs that other people did not want, and gaining new residents who were on average younger and more active than the people there already.
It could also be good for countries of origin. Migrants around the world sent more than $400 billion home to their families last year—more than three times as much as all the world’s development aid put together.
That is the up side, but of course it is not the whole story.
Migrants can also be exploited and underpaid by employers; ripped off by landlords; trafficked into slavery—or something like it; treated as expendable; or placed in mortal danger on the journey from one country to another, as we have already heard today.
Countries of origin can lose their best-qualified and most enterprising people, while older, poorer and less able citizens are left behind.
One country’s demographic solution can be another country’s demographic disaster.
As the UN also says, in destination countries “Migration may reduce wages or lead to higher unemployment among low-skilled workers in advanced economies, many of whom are themselves migrants who arrived in earlier waves.”
That is why it is right to manage migration, and to do it in the context of wider society, protecting the rights and interests of new migrants and established residents alike.
Scotland has been at both ends of the migrant journey.
That point was made at the St Andrew’s day rally in Aberdeen by Piotr Teodorowski, a local member of the Scottish Youth Parliament.
He reminded us that, when the merchant Robert Gordon traded between Aberdeen and the Baltic region, thousands of Scots lived and worked in what is now Poland.
Those Scottish migrants had gone to the other side of Europe in pursuit of opportunity.
Among other things, they were known for their strong work ethic and for looking out for one another, much as Polish migrant workers are known in Scotland today.
Some of today’s Polish migrants work or study at the university that is named after the said Robert Gordon, which was founded with the profits of Scotland’s Baltic trade 300 years ago.
Every part of Scotland has a similar story to tell of outward migration in centuries past and inward migration in recent years. Some parts of Scotland are still experiencing both at the same time.
As First Minister a decade ago, Jack McConnell saw that inward migration offered part of the answer to Scotland’s demographic deficit, and his fresh talent initiative was so successful that it was extended by the then Labour Government to the rest of the UK.
That is important, for a number of reasons. It is an example of managed migration: an immigration policy that was tailored to Scotland’s needs, including an incentive for overseas students to study at Scottish universities; and an immigration policy that was for only one part of the United Kingdom, but which was supported by a UK Government, with overall immigration policy still decided at Westminster.
Scotland’s devolved Government was leading the way, with the rest of Britain following.
That example still matters today.
After scrapping post-study work visas across the UK in 2012, Tory ministers are now piloting a very modest variant at four English universities, prompted no doubt by the potentially devastating impact of Brexit on excellence in higher education.
Perhaps more significant—and also in the context of Brexit—the idea of enabling skilled migrants to work in only one part of the UK has been taken up elsewhere.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is exploring the idea of a regionally specific work permit that would allow people to enter the UK to work in greater London alone.
Last month, when members of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee met our London Assembly counterparts, they were keen that Scotland and London should work together to see whether such schemes could be part of the answer to the challenges posed by Brexit.
I hope that ministers share that view and that they will work with the mayor of London and other devolved Administrations to explore whether it is possible to devise a work permit scheme that is specific to given nations or regions and could operate in the context of the UK as a whole.
The outcome of the EU referendum has changed the picture profoundly as far as European migration into the UK is concerned, as well as for migration from here to other European countries.
We have heard important words about the need, over the next two years—and, indeed, beyond—to support the position of migrants from other European Union countries who are resident or moving here.
That message to those migrants is important and to say that they should be used simply as a bargaining tool is not acceptable.
The Tory amendment talks of levelling up the opportunities for migration from non-EU countries.
In reality, UK Tory policy is much more likely to level down opportunities for migration to and from our nearest neighbours, potentially doubling the number of people who would require a visa or permission to enter the UK.
We should reject the folly of Tory plans to impose artificial caps on inward migration, which take no account of our demographic deficit or economic needs. We should instead embrace managed migration to grow Scotland’s skills base and our economically active population.
We should explore all means to do so in the context of the United Kingdom.
To that end, I move amendment S5M-03049.1, to insert at end: “, based on a recognition of the country's demographic defiit and economic requirments, noting in particular the importance of students and graduates from both other EU countries and other parts of the world, and calls on the Scottish Government to co-operate with devolved and city administrations seeking to address similar concerns in other parts of the UK.”
Speech in the Scottish Parliament debate
6 December 2016
When it comes to building a renewable energy powerhouse, Scotland has three critical advantages: we have the natural resources; we have the political will across parties, as we have heard; and, in the supply chains that have been built up to support offshore oil and gas over the past 40 years, we have the formidable concentration of energy and engineering expertise from all over the world that makes Aberdeen the energy capital of Europe.
The Aberdeen supply chain has been innovative from the outset, enabling the recovery of more natural resources from further below the sea bed in more hostile environments over a longer period of time than would once have been thought possible.
The same pioneering spirit and technological innovation are needed to realise the potential of renewable energy and to turn aspiration in that field into reality, and it is largely the same people and businesses who can help to make that happen again.
There are, however, some challenges to be met. Renewables UK has yet to recognise that much of what its members want to do in the marine environment is already being done, particularly regarding safe working practices offshore.
It is deeply frustrating for workers who have been made redundant as a result of the current downturn in oil and gas to be told that their hardearned offshore safety certificates are not recognised by marine energy employers, even for aspects of the job that are virtually identical in both sectors.
Safety standards set by OPITO in the North Sea are recognised worldwide as the best in offshore oil and gas.
Unemployed oil workers who want to make their own transition to renewable energy should not have to spend precious redundancy payments on repeating training that they have already done simply in order to tick a bureaucratic box.
I hope, therefore, that the Scottish Government will add its voice to the calls that have already been made by oil workers unions and training organisations for Renewables UK to look at all that again. Even where practices differ—and they do, in some respects—short and affordable conversion courses would surely be to mutual advantage.
As the minister knows, last week I was delighted to welcome ABB, which was holding its first reception at the Scottish Parliament.
ABB is a specialist service company that supports oil and gas and other sectors, and its UK operational headquarters are in Aberdeen.
Now it wants to drive the new technologies that will shape the industries of the future, from digital manufacturing to electric vehicles.
Vattenfall, which has been mentioned, is another big inward investor in the north-east.
It has just agreed terms with the Aberdeen Harbour Board for an onshore base for the European offshore wind deployment centre, which is to be built in Aberdeen bay.
Just as Orkney hosts the European Marine Energy Centre, so Aberdeen will host Europe’s prime site for proving new offshore wind technologies— despite the opposition of a well-known local hotelier who was recently elected as the President of the United States.
International companies such as ABB and Vattenfall enjoy working in Aberdeen, as we have heard, because of the strength and depth of the engineering sector there.
They like the fact that the whole city embraces energy and engineering as great ways to make a living.
They also like the fact that Aberdeen is a city that plans for the future. Rebranding the oil capital of Europe as the energy capital of Europe some time ago was a symbol of that forward thinking, and the Aberdeen city region deal that was recently agreed with the UK and Scottish Governments also looks to the future beyond the production of oil from the North Sea.
Aberdeen City Council set up the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group to act as a catalyst for change, working with public and private sectors and with local communities, and there are many examples of the progress that has been made in recent years.
The Donside hydro project in Aberdeen was recognised as the best community project in Scotland at the Scottish green energy awards last week.
An urban village of social and affordable homes will generate its own power— and profits—funded by a large number of small investors based in and around the community itself.
The city also has the biggest and best district heating network anywhere in Britain thanks to the efforts of Aberdeen Heat and Power.
Connecting thousands of homes and many public buildings to heat and power grids has reduced carbon emissions and cut energy bills for people who were formerly in fuel poverty.
Aberdeen is also blazing a trail on transport.
Last week, Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City committed to ban diesel within their city limits by 2025, so the race is on to commercialise hydrogen fuel cell technology and the work that is being done in Aberdeen has put Scotland in pole position in that race.
Aberdeen has Europe’s largest fleet of fuel-cell buses and the UK’s largest and most efficient hydrogen production and refuelling station.
The scheme has had valuable support from the Scottish Government and from the European Union.
It is attracting huge interest in Japan, which sees hydrogen as the next big thing in energy, but if Scotland is to keep its lead in the area, Aberdeen needs the Government support to continue.
I therefore ask the minister to agree that the work to turn aspiration into reality must not now be put at risk, and to confirm that the Aberdeen hydrogen bus project will receive the funding that it needs if it is to proceed to the next stage.
Scotland’s devolved Governments since 1999 have all set demanding targets for renewable energy production, and they have all been delivered.
A target for jobs would be a good step to take at this stage, and there needs to be an increasing focus on transport and heat as well as power, as Mark Ruskell said.
With the right support from government at every level, Aberdeen—as a centre of engineering, technology, skills and innovation, and as the energy capital of Europe long after North Sea oil— can play a big part in that process.
That way, all our aspirations can be turned into reality.
Species Champions Initiative (Relaunch)
8 November 2016
I thank Graeme Dey for bringing the debate to the Parliament.
I have been fortunate after hearing Bruce Crawford and Angus MacDonald, I think that I have been very fortunate to be species champion for the curlew for the past three years. With the support of the RSPB, I have been able to visit sites in the north-east that have a connection with that emblematic species.
Everyone knows that the curlew is a bird of loch and shore, so the Loch of Strathbeg in Buchan was an obvious destination. I recommend a visit to anyone who has not yet been; they will see a huge number and variety of bird species, of which the curlew is only one. The RSPB recently completed a £60,000 refurbishment of the Loch of Strathbeg visitor centre, which will enable it to host many more volunteers each year and provide an even better experience for tourists and wildlife enthusiasts.
Less well known to city dwellers, perhaps, is that the curlew breeds on high moors and farmland, where it is equally a defining species. I saw that for myself at Corgarff, in Strathdon, not long ago, where I also saw the work of the RSPB to protect and encourage breeding curlews and their chicks.
All that really matters for the future of the species. Like a number of the species that we have heard about this evening, the curlew has red status on the list of birds of conservation concern, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies it as near-threatened.
Britain as a whole is the third most important country in the world for breeding curlew populations, with between one in four and one in six of the global population. Around half the UK’s breeding population is here in Scotland about 36,000 breeding pairs.
That might sound like a large number of birds in comparison with some of the numbers that we have heard in the debate, but it is a significant reduction from the numbers in the past, which is why the threat has been well identified.
As with so many other native spaces we heard this from Alison Johnstone about the hare, as well as from other members about other bird species changes in farming practices have reduced the curlew’s breeding success rate, while the number of predators that take eggs and chicks in the breeding season has increased. Curlew numbers have also been affected by changes not just in the breeding grounds inland and uphill, but in the wintering grounds on and near the coast.
Farmers who have adjusted their farming practices to encourage the curlew to breed on their land should themselves be encouraged. As has been mentioned, big decisions on how we support agriculture in future are imminent. Those adjustments should be taken very much into consideration. Other practices, such as new forestry and whether it is designed to protect breeding grounds in upland areas, should also be considered.
There is a job of work to be done for the curlew, as there is for other species. I very much welcome the efforts that have gone into making the debate continuing.
Speech : UK Referendum on EU membership
1 November 2016
There are few better examples of how the European Union has changed and developed in recent years than in the field of justice and security.
The EU began life as a customs union and free trade area and grew into a single market. Its focus was at first an economic one.
However, as Joan McAlpine said, if a single market covering so many separate jurisdictions was to work, the need for a common approach by the law courts in those jurisdictions to an ever wider range of issues quickly became clear.
Once that was acknowledged, it made sense to develop ever greater judicial co-operation, not only on issues affecting trade and investment but increasingly across the field of civil law.
The very real threats faced by all European countries since the turn of the millennium, which many members have mentioned today, have made the case for co-operation on policing and criminal justice unarguable—in particular, in fighting international crime and terrorism.
Membership of Europol, as opposed to talking to it from outside, allows even closer partnership working among police forces in EU member states than working through Interpol alone.
That is bad news for criminals and good news for law enforcement.
The same applies to Eurojust, which, as the cabinet secretary said, co-ordinates the work of the prosecuting authorities across boundaries to a degree that simply does not happen with countries outwith the EU.
Most obviously of all, it also applies to the European arrest warrant, which transcends national boundaries so that fugitives from justice can be caught and returned to stand trial in the country from which they had fled far more quickly than can be achieved under extradition agreements with other countries around the world.
John Finnie gave some very good examples of that, and Claire Baker also spoke about it.
All those areas of co-operation and others were supported by every party of government in both Scotland and the UK before the Brexit referendum, and supporting them remains in the national interest today.
It is deeply concerning that ministers in the current Tory Government have not yet signed up to the new powers that have already been agreed for Europol, which are due to come into force in May next year.
As long as we are in the European Union, we should surely take advantage of its benefits, and co-operation across the police forces in Europe is surely one of those benefits.
If nothing else, I hope that the Scottish Tory party will support that sign-up today and use this opportunity to urge its colleagues elsewhere to take the necessary steps to maintain full membership of Europol for as long as we are members of the EU.
I am sorry that Douglas Ross is not in the chamber at the moment, because he was keen to tell us that a UK minister is to make a statement on the issue shortly.
I hope that either he or one of his colleagues will tell us that they want that UK minister to stand up in the House of Commons and pledge to sign up to the new powers for Europol so that we can enjoy those benefits over the immediate period ahead.
Perhaps we will hear something on that later on this afternoon.
Michael Matheson: Will the member give way?
Lewis Macdonald: Of course, although I would far rather give way to a member of the Conservative front bench.
Michael Matheson: I note that Mr Ross is not present. One of the central points about making a decision on Europol is the time and resources that are necessary to put in place joint investigation teams. The delay on the part of the UK Government means that officers in Police Scotland who are seeking to engage with other EU states through Europol are already finding that other member states are saying that, because the UK might not be a member of the organisation come the end of next April, they are not prepared to start to engage in that discussion at this point. That is why we need a quick decision on the matter, rather than delay.
Lewis Macdonald: Mr Matheson makes a strong point.
I note that Mr Ross has returned to his seat.
Perhaps we will now hear that the Conservative front bench in the Scottish Parliament believes that the UK Government should sign up to Europol’s new powers, which have already been negotiated.
Mr Ross has an opportunity to make that clear today, if he so wishes.
As we have just heard, the Scottish Government has already made that case, and that is welcome.
Of course, however, we also need to hear from Scottish ministers how they propose to take forward the issues beyond that of Europol’s new powers, and what they are proposing to their UK counterparts as the basis for our future cooperation with EU member states. As a number of members have said, Scotland has continued to exist as a separate jurisdiction with our own system of law and justice through hundreds of years of economic and political union with our nearest neighbours.
It is, therefore, essential that the Scottish Government engages fully in the formulation of the United Kingdom’s approach to negotiations in the justice field, not least in order to ensure that what is ultimately agreed recognises Scotland’s distinct position.
Stuart McMillan: Does Lewis Macdonald agree that having these debates creates an opportunity for the Scottish Government to listen to the issues and the concerns of all members, so that, when it has conversations with the UK Government, it can put those views forward?
Lewis Macdonald: Yes, that is vital.
As Jenny Marra said, we are talking about one of the most significant political events of our lifetime, and it is vital that the Parliament fully considers the issues.
However, as Jenny Marra also said, it is equally important that the Parliament and the Government maintain a clear focus on the areas for which they are directly responsible in our communities.
I hope that we will have those debates in this Parliament as well.
With regard to the formulation of the Scottish Government’s approach to negotiations with UK ministers, it is important that there is wide consultation about the implications of Brexit, about the needs of the justice system and about how best to deliver what the justice system needs, given the political context that has been set by the referendum.
We have heard something about that consultation from Mr Matheson today, but I hope that we will hear more at the close of the debate not only about the various stakeholders whom ministers have consulted but about what the Scottish Government has concluded from those consultations and what it will propose to UK ministers in order to protect Scotland’s relationships in Europe.
After all, there are plenty of thorny issues for ministers in both Governments to address.
The word “bespoke” has been much used by Tory ministers. However, UK participation in European justice arrangements is already bespoke.
The Treaty of Lisbon allows the UK specifically to opt into or out of most of the arrangements, more or less at will.
Of course, as we know and as we heard today, UK Governments of all parties have opted into some of the critical arrangements. It was concerning to hear some of the Parliament’s Tory members today appearing to make light of some of the vital forms of cooperation that have been supported by Tory ministers in the past.
We can only hope that, in the UK Government, wiser counsel will prevail, because some of the things that all parties have signed up to in the past remain just as important today.
However, even if wiser counsel prevails in Theresa May’s Cabinet, the issue becomes just how difficult, destructive and time consuming it will be to keep the arrangements that we have already signed up to while we leave the EU itself. It has been said that co-operation on policing and the courts is not confined to EU member states.
Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are members of the Lugano convention, for example, which supports the enforcement of judgments in the civil courts; there are plans to extend a form of the European arrest warrant to Norway and Iceland; and other countries, such as the United States, Canada and Australia have co-operation arrangements with Europol, Eurojust or both.
However, as with access to the single market— of which Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein are members—third-party agreements do not allow external partners to decide the rules of engagement or play a full part in the policy process. If we were to join Margaret Mitchell’s long list of external partners of Europol, for example, police officers here would, as Stuart McMillan said, lose access to some of the powers that they currently have.
In particular, Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish forces would no longer be able to provide senior managers for Europol to influence the organisation’s direction.
All of that has serious implications for the police and the courts in Scotland and throughout the UK. We need to know from UK ministers whether and how they propose to retain the benefits of our existing European arrangements on justice, and at what cost.
We need to know from Scottish ministers what proposals they will make to UK ministers in the justice field and what scope there is for continuing Scottish engagement with European partners.
Those are not abstract issues; they impact directly on people’s lives. That is why we need to focus on what can be done now and in the longer term to protect the victims of crime and the integrity of our justice system.
Speech : BBC Royal Charter and Framework Agreement
6 October 2016
Scottish Labour welcomes the debate and the progress that has been made in recent months. We believe that the draft charter and framework agreement now offer a more certain future for the BBC in general and public service broadcasting in Scotland in particular.
A few months ago, there was real cause for concern.
Changes proposed by Conservative ministers to the governance of the BBC appeared to call into question the editorial integrity and independence of the corporation.
At the same time, the process of charter renewal in Scotland was in danger of getting drawn into the constitutional debate, which would have threatened the independence of the BBC from a different direction.
Today, we appear to have moved on, at least in some important respects.
The UK Government has accepted that it should be the BBC and not ministers who appoint a majority of board members and that there should be a senior independent director, as well as a chair appointed by Government.
The cabinet secretary’s approach to today’s debate confirms that SNP ministers also recognise the draft charter and framework agreement as a basis for further progress, although she clearly continues to have reservations, not all of which may be addressed in the weeks ahead—we shall see.
Our focus now should not be on issues of constitution or governance; it should be on investment in creativity and adding economic value.
Stuart McMillan (Greenock and Inverclyde) (SNP): Lewis Macdonald mentioned governance. Surely governance is crucial in any organisation.
Lewis Macdonald: It certainly is.
Mr McMillan will agree that the changes to governance contained in the charter have moved things forward, and moved them in the right direction.
There is sufficient in that to allow us to focus on the issues of creativity and economic benefit that lie ahead.
A year ago, we had a debate on an Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee report on the economic impact of television and other creative industries, in which I highlighted the importance of quotas, under the BBC’s existing charter, for production outwith London and the stimulus that they already offered to Scottish production companies.
That sector was well represented in evidence that was heard at last week’s meeting of the Europe and External Relations Committee, and its views on the draft charter are worth noting. David Smith of Matchlight said:
“The charter is a welcome step forward, but it is not the end of the journey by any stretch.”
David Strachan of Tern TV said:
“The charter offers a number of checks and balances that did not exist before that allow for scrutiny by this place and by other organisations.”
Rosina Robson of PACT—Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television—said:
“we are pleased with the overall shape of the charter and the agreement. There will be more opportunities for production companies in Scotland and around the UK to pitch for, because the BBC will be that much more open”
Those witnesses set the tone for the committee’s evidence session and I hope that it is that approach that sets the tone for our debate today.
As well as improving the governance proposals for the BBC as a whole, the draft charter builds on the existing charter in strengthening the BBC’s focus on the nations and regions of the UK and its ability to further strengthen the independent production sector in Scotland.
As has been mentioned, very specific requirements are now placed on the BBC, which has been welcomed.
The accountability of the BBC to the Scottish Parliament and the devolved Administrations here and elsewhere is central.
We can look forward to many more opportunities to scrutinise the senior management of the BBC, as committee members did last week, and to hold it to account for delivery of its strategy and plans.
The amended public purpose is significant.
The BBC must
“reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the United Kingdom’s nations and regions”.
That of course does not just require representation of Scotland as seen from Holyrood or Pacific Quay; Scotland’s regions must be fully represented, too. Further, in meeting that duty, the BBC must
“support the creative economy across the United Kingdom”.
Again, that is good news for all of our creative hubs—Aberdeen as well as Glasgow and the Hebrides as well as the central belt.
The framework agreement commits the BBC to continued support for Gaelic broadcasting in partnership with MG Alba.
That partnership is responsible for around half the total number of hours that are commissioned from production companies in Scotland, so that commitment really matters.
However, as Fiona Hyslop said, it is not enough on its own. BBC Alba currently makes 4.2 hours of new Gaelic-language programmes each week, compared with the BBC’s equivalent Welsh-language commitment to 10 hours a week.
We want a commitment to 10 hours weekly to really secure the future of that service. We believe that that should be funded centrally by the BBC across the UK and not simply diverted from the spend that is already undertaken by BBC Scotland.
That would surely meet the spirit of the BBC’s new purpose, which is to represent the diversity of communities across the United Kingdom.
Television is hugely important but, as Jackson Carlaw said, it is not the whole story.
Real progress has been made since 2006 through quotas for TV production outwith greater London, but we need to see real progress on radio and online content over the term of the next charter.
The BBC can, if it chooses, set targets for the share of network radio programming and online content that is made in the nations and regions and, if it does so, Scotland stands to benefit accordingly.
We believe that the new board of the BBC should make that an early priority.
The draft charter and agreement provide a framework for the work of the BBC over the next 11 years.
By definition, a framework is not prescriptive.
It does not tell the BBC what to do day by day or issue by issue, but it clearly indicates the direction of travel.
It is for the BBC now to make its own decisions as a public service broadcaster independent of Government control.
The appointment of Ken MacQuarrie as BBC director of nations and regions is to be welcomed as an indication of intent.
There is also the intention to appoint commissioners in Scotland.
The Parliament must use our new responsibilities to encourage such decisions by the BBC, which will move us further forward over the next 11 years.
One thing that the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee found last year was that, on film and TV, Scotland had lost ground relative to other nations and regions in the UK. Jackson Carlaw mentioned Northern Ireland, which has forged ahead with top-class studio facilities and a Government agency that is dedicated to the film and TV sector.
I know that the cabinet secretary is aware of the positive lessons to be drawn from that and is seeking to address that.
Northern Ireland’s success is also down to a culture of partnership working. Politicians there do not seem to see the BBC as a problem; they see it as a partner that brings in business and adds value.
That is the culture that we should aim for over the next 11 years.
We should work together to achieve sustained growth in programme production in Scotland and to realise the full potential that the draft charter now offers
This is the text of a speech by Lewis in a Scottish Parliament debate
Speech : Events
22 September 2016
We welcome the debate, and we wholly endorse the proposition that Scotland’s major events strategy should be based on a collaborative partnership approach.
The first such strategy post devolution was launched by the Labour-led Scottish Executive in 2002.
It set out a vision for making Scotland “one of the world’s foremost events destinations by 2015.”
That strategy was about
“Competing on an international stage”, and the tagline of providing a stage for events was continued in the most recent strategy, which was published by the current Government in 2015.
Then, as now, the strategy was developed in consultation with the Scottish Government’s agencies for culture, sport and tourism, and with local government.
That broad alliance is mirrored in the current strategy’s emphasis on the “one Scotland approach”. EventScotland was set up to implement the original strategy in 2003.
Therefore, the principles that underlie the Government’s motion are ones that command broad support, and the strategy builds on an approach that was first laid out by Labour ministers.
So far, so good—but, of course, any successful strategy requires not only a plan and a dedicated agency working with partners, but the necessary resources to make it happen.
That is where legitimate concerns exist.
Scotland’s events strategy is not just about the major international sporting events that are mentioned in the cabinet secretary’s motion; it must also be about events of all sizes in a wide range of fields of human activity, from the book festival in Wigtown to the boat festival in Portsoy.
Many of those events depend on local councils for support, and local government faces the reality of
funding cuts that have already been made and others that are still to come.
Given the overall cut in funding of 11 per cent that the Accounts Commission has reported, which has already been mentioned, it perhaps comes as no surprise to learn that the best figures that are available to the Scottish Parliament information centre suggest that net revenue expenditure on cultural and related services by Scottish local councils together fell by nearly 10 per cent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2014-15.
Local government finance has already been debated.
We will continue to call on ministers to use the powers that they have to secure the resources that we need to achieve our ambitions as a country, whether in schools, in healthcare or in delivering the major events strategy that we are debating.
We will also continue to make the case for local authorities to have the power to raise local finance in order to deliver local priorities, and to have real choices about what revenues they raise and how.
Councils that want to maintain and strengthen their events offer should be able to raise money by way of a tourism tax, as is done in leading European destinations such as Paris and Barcelona.
Of course, a tourism tax would not work everywhere.
In some places, it might be counterproductive, but the parts of the country that have the strongest offer for visitors are also often the ones that are the most open to the idea of a tourism tax to enable them to get the investment that they need.
Julia Amour, who is the head of Festivals Edinburgh, said in February that
“There needs to be a very realistic public debate” on how to fund future events.
Only this week, Rita Marcella, who is the dean of Aberdeen business school at the Robert Gordon University, wrote:
“There is general consensus that Aberdeen and the north-east more widely need to diversify and grow our sources of revenue across a range of sectors”.
She also highlighted the potential for a tourism tax to support Aberdeen’s “growing and vibrant festival programme.”
We want Scotland’s major events strategy to succeed, but that needs ambition, partnership and investment, which must include investment by local authorities empowered by ministers to raise local revenues, set local priorities and fund local investment.
That way, everyone has a stake in success, and Scotland’s ability to compete on the world stage can go from strength to strength.
…later in the debate
It has been useful to focus on Scotland’s events strategy, however briefly we have been obliged to do so, and to consider the challenges that lie ahead.
Colin Smyth’s point about the cost of policing emphasised the important point about securing the resources to deliver the investments that a successful events strategy will need.
Whether at local or at national level, money that has been invested well in cultural and sporting events will come back several times over as extra visitor spend and increased economic activity.
Councils and public agencies need to be confident that they will have the resources they need and they need to command the public’s confidence.
Next year has been designated as the year of history, heritage and archaeology, so the spotlight will be turned firmly on all the agencies that are engaged in the field, whether national, local or in the third sector.
Questions were raised this week about Historic Environment Scotland, and access to Maeshowe.
I know that the cabinet secretary is alert to that issue. Confidence in HES’s stewardship of our historic and prehistoric sites will be essential next year and beyond.
Our museums will also have an important role to play in enhancing the historic and heritage events that will happen up and down the country in 2017. In December, the Museums Association surveyed its members across the UK, including those in Scotland.
One museum professional raised concern about prospective cuts to funding of between 25 and 40 per cent, while another talked of the local museums service having to review its estate and its opening hours in order to “focus on priorities.”
Councils must be able to set and focus on priorities and to secure the resources that they need to meet those priorities.
That is why we argue for much greater flexibility and choice in the future funding of local government.
In my region of North East Scotland, such events are equally important, whether it be True North, Aberdeen’s festival of music and song, which starts today, or the 20,000 people who will gather at Pittodrie on Sunday for the visit of Rangers FC.
We should of course engage in realistic debate about what and how, but we should also celebrate 14 years of strategic vision and growth, and look to the future.
Speech : Implications of the EU
As far as today’s motion and amendment are concerned, there is little of substance with which to disagree.
Rachael Hamilton is right to highlight the importance of good infrastructure and transport systems to allow people to access major events, although that is true for our towns and cities as well as for more rural areas.
I was able to attend part of the Edinburgh international culture summit this summer, and a very good event it was too, although of course the British Council, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Parliament are partners in that, alongside the Scottish and UK Governments.
The motion in the cabinet secretary’s name notes the importance of cross-agency working and welcomes the establishment of the events and festivals industry group by the Scottish Tourism Alliance. I am happy to endorse those points.
A number of members have highlighted just how important events are to their local economies and communities.
Colin Smyth has his own words of wisdom quoted on page 29 of “Scotland the Perfect Stage”, and he has again today highlighted the contribution of festivals and events to the cultural and sporting life of his part of Scotland.
Sport or culture, old or new, large or small, north or south, Scotland’s events calendar is jammed full of great occasions for people to come together and enjoy themselves, and some of the memories will last a lifetime.
This is the text of a speech by Lewis in a Scottish Parliament debate
14 September 2016
Michael Russell’s opening speech was well trailed both in the press on Sunday and by what the First Minister said at the European and External Relations Committee earlier today.
Michael Russell added a historical perspective, which is welcome, although of course there was nothing inevitable about the sudden and complete reversal of 60 years of UK policy on Europe that happened only a few weeks ago.
The Government’s plans for a series of debates on British exit from the European Union are welcome.
There will be many consequences of Brexit and many questions that ministers will have to answer about their approach to this process in the months ahead.
I hope that we will hear more of the detail in the coming weeks, but I will focus today on the big picture of overall objectives.
It is, of course, not just Scottish ministers who have questions to answer.
Theresa May has so far failed to answer the most important question, which is what outcome her Government is seeking on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom.
To be or not to be in the single market is not a matter of tactics or of horse trading, to be kept under wraps until Tory ministers have seen what is on offer across the negotiating table; it is a matter of the utmost strategic significance.
Mrs May has disowned the assertion by David Davis that membership of the single market is “very improbable”, but she refuses to say whether she regards it as desirable.
We are left to speculate on what not being “very improbable” actually means.
The Conservative amendment rightly highlights, as we have heard, the need for the United Kingdom, as the member state, to endorse any proposals that the Scottish Government wants to discuss with other European Governments or institutions.
Mr Carlaw drew the conclusion that Scottish ministers therefore need to work in good faith with their UK counterparts in negotiations with Europe—absolutely.
However, he failed to acknowledge the equally obvious point that UK ministers will have to tell Scottish ministers and everybody else what their objectives in the negotiations actually are.
If UK ministers choose not to reveal their strategic objectives, the suspicion will grow that what the Tories really want is to have all the benefits of membership of the single market with none of the obligations: a Europe of free trade and high profits, with fewer rights for working people, fewer protections for consumers and lower environmental standards.
I doubt whether many leave voters in Scotland’s inner cities or in the fishing ports of Moray or Buchan thought that that was what they were voting for.
Before the Conservative Party calls for the devolved Administrations to work in good faith with Mrs May’s ministers, those ministers need to show their good faith by telling us what kind of British exit from the European Union they are actually trying to achieve.
Of course, transparency is not just for Tories. Scottish ministers also need to set out their stall as they engage with the UK Government, and tell us how they will seek to balance the many different interests that are represented in this Parliament and Scotland as a whole. I accept that a start on that has been made today.
The motion reiterates the importance of membership of the European Union—as the First Minister did earlier—and affirms that a key objective of the Scottish Government is “for Scotland and the UK to remain inside the EU single market.”
Mike Rumbles: According to the motion, the Scottish Government wants to participate “fully in all negotiations between the UK Government and the EU”. In other words, it wants to have a veto. Surely that is not the purpose of the Labour amendment, and I would be astonished if Labour were able to support the motion.
Lewis Macdonald: We all agreed as a Parliament that the Scottish Government should negotiate and explore options.
That remains the position that we support. As the statement in the motion about seeking to remain in the single market is the first strategic objective publicly endorsed by either Scottish or UK ministers, it is worth being absolutely clear about precisely what that means.
There is, indeed, a single European market, which includes the United Kingdom, and remaining inside that market is a clear objective.
However, it is not a European Union market, but a single market of the European Economic Area, which we are also inside by virtue of Britain’s membership of the EU.
That market is not confined to European Union member states. Nicola Sturgeon confirmed earlier today her objective that Scotland and the UK should remain inside the European Economic Area, even as the British Government implements its commitment for Britain to cease to be a member state of the European Union.
Adam Tomkins was quite wrong in his intervention, because it is indeed possible to be a member of the European Economic Area even outwith the European Union.
That is why the European and External Relations Committee met in Brussels with the ambassadors of the two leading such countries, Norway and Iceland, which are full members of the single market in just the same way that we are.
Adam Tomkins: Does Mr Macdonald not accept that membership of the EEA was designed as a way into and not out of the European Union, and that EEA members have to accept their full subjection to supranational law through the European Court of Justice? There is no sense in which sovereignty could be returned to national legislatures, so there would be no taking back of any control with EEA membership.
Lewis Macdonald: Through the very description that Adam Tomkins used in his intervention, he has confirmed that the single market is, indeed, a membership organisation.
We have membership of that organisation and, as Norway and Iceland do, we should seek to retain that membership.
There is a question for the Scottish Government.
If its key objective to remain in the single market is secured by Britain remaining in the EEA after we have left the EU, will this Parliament’s mandate to the Scottish Government to protect the benefits to Scotland of our relationship with the EU have been discharged?
If the UK remains in the single market, so does Scotland.
At that point, should ministers conclude that their mission has been accomplished and that there would be no further need for a distinctive Scottish approach and relationship with the European Union?
Would the independence option come off the table if the UK Government successfully negotiates continuing membership of the single market?
If so, that would clearly put the ball firmly back in the Conservative court—not at some future point, but right here and now.
Mrs May would then have to decide what matters more: keeping ministers in her cabinet who want to leave the single market or getting an independence referendum off the table.
If, on the other hand, SNP ministers would wish to press on regardless in pursuit of a separate Scottish outcome, they need to tell us what else is a key objective for them in the negotiations in addition to the one that they have highlighted today.
Is single market membership the red line for the Scottish Government or would achieving that objective not be enough?
Scottish Labour wants to see more rights for working people and better protection for consumers, not fewer rights or less protection.
We want higher environmental standards and trade and investment that creates good, well-paid jobs.
We see remaining in the single market as a means to achieving those ends, and we will work with other parties on that agenda.
Calling for openness is more than just a slogan; it does not just apply to someone else.
The Scottish Government is right to seek full participation in the talks that lie ahead, but it also needs to be clear and open about what all its key objectives and priorities will be.
Scotland Welcomes 1,000 Refugees
As has been said, their tragic deaths quickly came to symbolise the human cost of the refugee crisis that is gripping the middle east and north Africa, and sparked a humanitarian response across Europe.
Alan’s father, Abdullah, now lives in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
He remains, of course, utterly bereft. Abdullah’s sister, Tima, told The Independent the other day that the family would never recover from the deaths, but she feared that the rest of the world hadalready forgotten.
For her, the world had not sufficiently embraced those
fleeing from danger or done enough to end the civil war in Syria to allow Kurdish families and other refugees to return to their homes.
She said:“We need a bigger table, not higherfences.” That perspective should inform debate on refugees, and not just in this Parliament. Later this month, world leaders and experts will gather under the auspices of the United Nations to consider the scale of displacement of refugees and mass migration in general.
The choice between bigger tables and higher fences is one not just for Scotland or the UK; it is a choice that faces the wider world.
Here in Scotland, though, we have a clear part to play.
As has just been said, the fact that 1,050 Syrian refugees have been welcomed here in the past 12 months means that 1,050 people have hope for the future and are a symbol of what might be achieved for others.
I am most aware of the successful settlement of 63 Syrian refugees, in nine families, in and around Aberdeen, and of the way in which different agencies and faith groups have worked together to make their experience as positive as possible.
Refugees who have found homes in Aberdeenshire have been able to access classes organised by North East Scotland College, not only to learn English but to find out how things work in a new and unfamiliar country.
Aberdeen FC Community Trust has been running football sessions for newly settled refugees at local centres.
In doing so, it has provided both coaching in football skills and a way to access local services.
With translation provided courtesy of Aberdeen mosque, those enthusiastic Syrian footballers have also enjoyed hospitality on
match day at Pittodrie, which is an essential visit for anyone who wants to get to know about life in Aberdeen.
The voluntary organisation Aberdeen Solidarity with Refugees has mobilised a great deal of good will in local communities.
After starting with a mission to help refugees in camps in Calais and elsewhere, it has swiftly evolved into one of the key partner agencies supporting Syrian refugees in the north-east.
Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council have, of course, played a central role by co-ordinating the efforts of others and ensuring ready access to housing, schools and other essential services, as well as engaging neighbours in local communities as part of the process of making new citizens feel welcome.
The experience in the north-east is a good indicator of the welcome and integration process across the country.
Good will is there in plenty.
Signposting to services has been successful and third parties have engaged in the process.
However, as the cabinet secretary said, that does not mean that the experience of welcoming and integrating refugees from Syria and elsewhere has been problem free.
Restrictions around access to employment have been a continuing issue, even for those who have been here for more than just the past few months.
A report, published by Queen Margaret University in June, found that only 9 per cent of those with refugee status were in work 12 months after their asylum claim was granted, and that as many as 12 per cent ended up presenting as homeless to their local council. Loss of jobs and a lack of social rented housing are a challenge for many other people too, but refugees and people seeking asylum are particularly vulnerable, not least because of difficulties with language and interpretation.
The approach that we propose in our amendment is intended to help to address those difficult issues.
We highlight the case for a refugee integration bill to put the rights of refugees on a statutory basis, in line with the 1951 refugee convention and international human rights law.
Those rights, which would include a right to access services and specific rights in relation to language and interpretation services, would require to be backed up with the resources that are necessary to provide such services.
Issues around the reunification of refugee families also need to be considered by government at every level. I have recently taken up the case of a Syrian family whose elderly parents remain stuck in a war zone, in part because they cannot obtain permission to join their family in this country.
Children who travel alone or are separated from their families in transit are particularly vulnerable.
A year on from the death of Alan Kurdi, the needs of child refugees should have a prominent place and, as Alf Dubs argued in the House of Lords, that is best achieved by specific commitments on the part of Government.
Back in the 1930s, 30 unaccompanied children arrived in the north-east from the Basque Country as refugees from the Spanish civil war.
The Luftwaffe had just destroyed Guernica, and those children, fleeing for their lives, found refuge in Montrose.
Like them, the children who are fleeing Syria today face an uncertain future.
We should applaud efforts to bring the civil war in Syria to an end and make it safe for people to go home, but we can also make them welcome in this country, and that is what we should unite to support today.
This is the text of a speech by Lewis in a Scottish Parliament debate
Programme for Government
If it is true that there are decades in which nothing happens and then weeks in which decades happen, this summer has been many decades long.
It has been only a matter of weeks since the EU referendum but, to many, it feels as if it happened a long time ago.
This debate is about the Scottish Government’s plans for this session of Parliament, but it has to be seen in that wider context.
The challenge for Government is to respond to the prospect of Brexit and the certainty that there will be fundamental change both at home and in the nature of the European Union itself.
This should be an opportune moment not to revive the independence debate but to make best use of the new powers of the Scottish Parliament.
At the end of July, Scottish Labour launched its own proposals for responding to the Brexit vote.
We said that the Scottish Government should bring forward infrastructure spending, particularly for building thousands of new homes. We called for a Brexit support fund to support sectors that are threatened by the UK leaving the European Union, and we called for guarantees of workers’ rights, certainty for EU nationals who live in the UK and action by Government at every level to tackle austerity .
We are, of course, more than willing to work with the Scottish ministers on mitigating the impact of Brexit and in trying to minimise the disruption to Scotland’s relationship with Europe, but we need the Scottish Government to be bold and ambitious in taking action at its own hand rather than focusing only on the decisions that are taken by others.
Brexit is a new threat.
The downturn in oil and gas has been happening for nearly two years now, and it is still hard to discern in looking at this week’s programme for government a Scottish Government economic strategy to address the impact of that on the wider Scottish economy.
Yesterday, the First Minister announced one new initiative in that field: Scottish Enterprise will develop a comprehensive action plan to attract decommissioning work to Scotland.
Many of the oil and gas and supply chain companies that have been working together on that agenda since 2010 through Decom North Sea will be surprised to learn that the Scottish Government’s agencies do not have such a plan in place already.
The need for such a plan was graphically illustrated when the Transocean Winner drilling rig hit the rocks on Lewis last month and was towed away past the Arnish yard to be decommissioned at the other end of Europe.
A further plan to win decommissioning business is therefore welcome, if belated.
I hope that the Scottish Government will work with the many businesses that are already engaged in that agenda and with ports and harbours right around the Scottish coast.
From a north -east perspective, I urge ministers to acknowledge the need to build on and go beyond the Aberdeen city region deal and to set dates by which some of the additional projects that the Scottish Government has promised will actually be delivered, not least on the east coast railway line at Montrose.
Other bodies—both public and private—recognise that a city deal alone is not enough and that Government needs to be proactive and not just reactive in diversifying the economy and underpinning future economic growth.
Today, Aberdeen Harbour Board announced its preferred bidder for developing a proposed new harbour in Nigg Bay.
Aberdeen City Council is actively promoting an agenda of further devolution from the Parliament to Scotland’s cities and regions, and the private sector, through Opportunity North East and the Aberdeen Inspired business improvement district, is committed to regenerating and broadening the base of the local economy.
I hope that ministers will engage with all those initiatives in a positive way .
If we agree that devolution is a process and not an event, we should also agree that the process of devolution must mean powers going out from Holyrood to local communities as well as powers coming in from Westminster or, indeed, Brussels.
More needs to be done in the field of skills, too.
It is simply not acceptable, as we have heard this afternoon, that the Scottish Government is a year behind the UK Government in telling employers and training organisations how the apprenticeship levy will work.
Likewise in education, which the First Minister says is at the centre of the plans, the lack of adequate investment in the north-east, as elsewhere, is truly alarming.
The University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University and North East Scotland College add £1 billion in economic value to the north-east economy.
However, as Audit Scotland’s reports this summer indicated, Scotland’s universities and colleges have been at the sharp end of Government cuts.
Real-terms cuts in recurrent funding will have an impact across the board.
None of those issues can be resolved for free.
A Government that truly wishes to rise to the challenges of these times in education, skills, the economy, the NHS and our relations with the rest of Britain and the rest of Europe will have to make tough decisions.
The SNP’s programme for government stops short of taking those tough decisions. Until ministers choose to use the powers that they have and make the difficult choices, the difficult challenges will simply not go away.
This is the text of a speech by Lewis in a Scottish Parliament debate
That is why we argue for much greater flexibility and choice in the future funding of local government.
In my region of North East Scotland, such events are equally important, whether it be True North, Aberdeen’s festival of music and song, which starts today, or the 20,000 people who will gather at Pittodrie on Sunday for the visit of Rangers FC.
We should of course engage in realistic debate about what and how, but we should also celebrate 14 years of strategic vision and growth, and look to the future.
Speech : Implications of the EU Referendum