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Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Thursday, May 2, 2024


General Question Time

Good morning. The first item of business is general question time.

Commonwealth Games 2026

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its involvement in the proposals for Glasgow to potentially host the Commonwealth games in 2026. (S6O-03380)

The Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care (Neil Gray)

The Commonwealth games are a hugely important event to Scotland and Scottish athletes—I say that as a former athlete. The Commonwealth Games Federation is working with a number of Commonwealth games associations to reset and reframe the games.

Commonwealth Games Scotland has confirmed that it is looking at a potential hosting solution in Glasgow if an alternative host cannot be found. That solution would be delivered using investment from the Commonwealth Games Federation, plus commercial income.

The Scottish Government is continuing discussions with Commonwealth Games Scotland and Glasgow City Council to further assess and develop the proposals, although no formal decision has been made as yet.

Will Mr Gray go into a little more detail on timescales for making decisions? Will he confirm whether any public money would go into hosting?

Neil Gray

The Commonwealth Games Federation has said that it intends to announce a decision about the favoured proposed host in May 2024. If, at that stage, Scotland is deemed to be the only viable option, steps will be taken to gather additional information and assurances to enable the Scottish Government to confirm its support—or otherwise—to proceed.

The Commonwealth Games Scotland concept proposes a significantly reduced budget that is in the region of £135 million, with funding being drawn from £100 million of investment from the Commonwealth Games Federation and from commercial income, and not from the public purse.

Paul Sweeney (Glasgow) (Lab)

The proposal to hold the 2026 Commonwealth games in Glasgow is great, and I encourage the Government to embrace it enthusiastically. However, I was disappointed that the scope of the proposal does not include an athletes village, which was one of the great legacies of the 2014 games. Perhaps there is an opportunity to focus state investment on expediting regeneration of derelict sites in Glasgow that are in the pipeline for development, such as Cowlairs or Red Road, as an athletes village. I encourage the cabinet secretary to engage with Wheatley Group and other social housing providers to look at the opportunity to bolster the proposal for hosting the Commonwealth games in Glasgow.

Neil Gray

I thank Paul Sweeney for his enthusiasm. There is quite a bit to consider, not least the timescales and public finance that are involved, as well as Glasgow’s legacy from 2014, which—I say as a spectator—was incredible. That was a phenomenal games, and Glasgow has an incredible reputation around the world as a host.

The infrastructure that is in place puts Glasgow in a good position, but should Glasgow be the preferred location, there are considerations around timescales, the scale of the games and what we would be able to offer, which must align with the Commonwealth Games Federation’s consideration of the long-term situation for the games.

Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership

To ask the Scottish Government when it last met with Renfrewshire health and social care partnership. (S6O-03381)

Scottish Government officials last met Renfrewshire health and social care partnership officers on Thursday 4 April 2024.

Paul O’Kane

I welcomed the news on Tuesday that the integration joint board in Renfrewshire has abandoned the proposals to close or merge the Milldale and Mirin day centres for people with additional support needs. I congratulate all service users and their families on their tireless campaign to save those services. However, it should not have taken such intense efforts or legal action to change the proposal.

Other services are not being spared, such as Montrose care home in Paisley. The underlying problem remains that the Government is chronically underfunding HSCPs and slashing their budgets. When will the minister deliver for people in Renfrewshire—especially the most vulnerable—with proper funding to avoid cuts and by taking action to end residential care charges and bring people who have a learning disability home to their areas, as has been promised by the Government for years?

Maree Todd

First, we do not want to see the closure of good-quality care homes and other important care services. We absolutely understand the concern that that can cause for supported people and their families. However, decisions on how to deliver local services are for integration authorities to make—in this case, the Renfrewshire integration joint board. The Scottish Government expects those decisions to be made in consultation with the people who use the services and in full awareness of the potential impact on them.

On funding, the Scottish Government has invested more than £2 billion in health and social care integration under the 2024-25 budget. That delivers on our commitment to increase social care spending by 25 per cent over the parliamentary session and does so two years ahead of our original target.

I know that discussions about a national care service are on-going, but the creation of that service is our proposal for rising to meet some of the challenges. Members of Parliament and the public want to hold ministers accountable and responsible, and the national care service proposal will enable that to happen.

Hatton Lea Care Home

3. Stephanie Callaghan (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the potential impact of reports that HC-One plans to terminate the contract for the hospital-based complex clinical care service at Hatton Lea care home. (S6O-03382)

The Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport (Maree Todd)

Although we have overall responsibility for health and social care policy in Scotland, the statutory responsibility for delivering and commissioning appropriate services for the community lies with local authorities and integration joint boards. We set clear standards for the quality of care that is provided in Scotland and regularly engage with local partners to ensure that those standards are met.

We understand that North Lanarkshire health and social care partnership is working to identify a new location for the service and is conducting robust reviews for each individual to ensure that the safety and care of every resident remains everyone’s top priority. We also understand that HC-One’s managing director has offered to meet residents’ representatives and the affected families to discuss their concerns.

Stephanie Callaghan

The termination of HC-One’s outdated contract with university health and social care North Lanarkshire has led to the closure of three of its five Hatton Lea care home units, as the physical layout is considered no longer suitable for residents with advanced dementia. Vulnerable patients and their families are left understandably distressed at the loss of their forever home. What steps is the Scottish Government taking to monitor planned closures and prevent such failures at a national level, so that any escalation in closures during this period of rising costs can be addressed at an early stage, to ensure that continuity of care is prioritised?

Maree Todd

We understand that university health and social care North Lanarkshire is working hard to identify a new location for the HBCCC service in a comfortable and homely environment. Its overriding priority for each and every patient is ensuring their continued safety, minimising any distress and supporting them and their families and carers through the process. It is also providing support, as necessary, to staff to ensure that the service’s patients remain everyone’s number 1 priority throughout the process.

Regrettably, there will be situations in which care homes that are run by the independent sector or a local authority close. Our focus is on ensuring that the local partners that are responsible do what is required to ensure transition to suitable alternative placements.

Social Housing (Damp and Mould)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to help local authorities tackle damp and mould in social housing. (S6O-03383)

The Minister for Housing (Paul McLennan)

The latest Scottish house condition survey results show that damp was present in 4 per cent of social sector dwellings in 2022. More than £200 million has been made available to social landlords through the social housing net zero fund, which was launched in 2020 to improve energy efficiency and install clean heat. Proposals for the new social housing net zero standard include measures to prevent damp and mould.

Local authorities have powers to tackle substandard housing and to decide how to spend available funds. Record funding of more than £14 billion has been provided to local government in the 2024-25 budget settlement.

Pam Gosal

My constituent is a single mother with three children who is trapped in a two-bedroom dwelling in Westwood with damp and mould. Her infant and her toddler are now having respiratory problems. Efforts to fix the problems have been shockingly inadequate, and the damp and mould persist. I am sure that the minister agrees that that neglect is unacceptable.

Reflecting on the tragic loss in 2020 of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, whose life was claimed by poor housing conditions, the United Kingdom Government introduced Awaab’s law, which creates a strict guideline to force social landlords to address damp and mould issues. What consideration has the Scottish Government given to introducing similar legislation?

I am happy to engage with the member to pick up the specific issue with the local authority and to discuss how we can take forward the proposal that she mentioned.

Seasonal Workers (Protection)

5. Ariane Burgess (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

To ask the Scottish Government what discussions the rural affairs secretary has had with ministerial colleagues regarding what steps it can take to protect horticultural workers on seasonal worker visas from unfair work practices and substandard accommodation. (S6O-03384)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands (Mairi Gougeon)

The Scottish Government recognises the valuable contribution that seasonal agricultural workers make to the agriculture sector.

We are fully committed to ensuring that fair work applies to seasonal workers. We have funded the Worker Support Centre Scotland since 2022 to provide free and confidential support to seasonal migrant workers. The Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution provides practical, emotional and financial support to all people involved in the Scottish agricultural industry.

The housing to 2040 strategy aims to ensure that there will be no margins of tolerance, no exemptions and no “acceptable levels” of sub-standard homes in urban, rural or island communities, deprived communities, or tenements.

Ariane Burgess

The Scottish Government has committed to rolling out fair work conditionality for public sector grants and recently confirmed that the real living wage and effective channels for worker representation would apply to five grant schemes for agriculture, crofting and forestry. However, it is unclear when those conditions will apply to direct farm payments, which would do the most to safeguard vulnerable workers on our big fruit farms and protect them from unfair dismissals, unfair piecework payment rates and unsuitable accommodation. Can the cabinet secretary provide information on when fair work conditions will be extended to cover all farm payments?

Mairi Gougeon

The principles of fair work have been a key tenet of the Government’s policies and are also a key driver for achieving sustainable and inclusive economic growth. We believe that, when it comes to public funding, those principles should be used to lever in wider benefits, such as the promotion of fair work, to support the development of a successful wellbeing economy over the longer term. That is why we are putting fair work principles at the heart of new agricultural funding streams. Specifically, we committed to introducing a requirement on public sector grants to pay at least the real living wage to all employees and to provide appropriate channels for an effective workers’ voice, such as trade union recognition, in the limits of devolved competence.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

A recent report, from April last year, on seasonal migrant workers in Scottish agriculture found that most seasonal workers come to Scotland because working here has been “personally recommended to them” and that 87 per cent of those who were surveyed were satisfied with the accommodation. Does the minister agree that Scottish agriculture needs access to the people who want to come to Scotland and make a vital contribution, and that the main route to doing that is to undo the damage of a Brexit that was forced on Scotland by Westminster?

Mairi Gougeon

I absolutely agree with that. The member has raised some important points. Scotland is a welcoming country; we value those who choose to come, live and work here.

Fruit and vegetables are one of the biggest and fastest-growing parts of our farming sector. Scottish employers are increasingly dependent on migrant workers for a growing proportion of their workforce. The issues that they are experiencing have all been exacerbated by the hard Brexit that the United Kingdom Government chose to pursue.

Seasonal agricultural workers play a hugely important role when it comes to filling vacancies across the agricultural sector as well as helping the overall sustainability of our rural economy. The UK Government’s immigration policies fail to address Scotland’s distinct demographic and economic needs, which highlights the need for a tailored approach to migration.

Care Homes (South Lanarkshire)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to prevent the closure of care homes in South Lanarkshire. (S6O-03385)

The Minister for Social Care, Mental Wellbeing and Sport (Maree Todd)

No one wants to see the closure of good-quality care homes, as I have said already. Decisions on how best to deliver services for local communities are for integration authorities to make, in consultation with people who use those services and in full awareness of the impact on them.

I met the save McClymont house group on 26 April. I have also written to the South Lanarkshire chief officer and chair of the integration joint board requesting an urgent meeting to seek reassurances on the steps that they plan to take to ensure that the residents of both care homes in question continue to receive the support that they deserve.

As the member knows, the 2024-25 national health service recovery, health and social care budget contains £2 billion investment for social care and integration. That represents an increase of more than £1 billion compared to 2021-22, exceeding our commitment to increase funding for social care by 25 per cent over this parliamentary session.

Colin Smyth

The residents of McClymont house do not want the minister to write to them to talk about assurances; they want the minister to intervene to save McClymont house. The IJB has made it clear to the minister that the closure is an entirely financial decision, in order to plug a funding shortfall of £33 million. The minister knows that the closure proposal is absolutely devastating for the older, vulnerable people who face being kicked out of their home, to save just a few hundred thousand pounds at a time when the home could be used as a step-down facility to tackle delayed discharge.

Will the minister intervene now? A national care service will be too late—people want intervention now. Will she save that care home for the residents who face being homeless as a result of its closure?

Maree Todd

The member is aware that the chief officer of the IJB has written to request my intervention in that case. As a result of that request, I have met the families who are affected by the closure and I have requested an urgent meeting with the IJB’s chief officer and members, in order to discuss the closure.

The most important thing is that the individuals who live in that care home—and their families—are satisfied that the care that they currently receive, which is acknowledged to be of an exceptionally high quality, is continued beyond whatever arrangements are made for their care.

Dental Payments (Mid Scotland and Fife)

To ask the Scottish Government what analysis it has conducted of the impact of its reformed dental payments system, introduced on 1 November 2023, in the Mid Scotland and Fife region. (S6O-03386)

The Minister for Public Health and Women’s Health (Jenni Minto)

We have long-standing arrangements to publish activity on national health service dental services through Public Health Scotland, and data on the reformed dental payment system will continue to be provided through those arrangements on a quarterly basis.

Published data provides information at both a national and regional level, which officials use to inform on-going, regular analysis in discussion with all NHS boards, including NHS Fife, on the impact of national reform on local care provision.

Roz McCall

The dental payment system reforms that the Scottish Government embarked on were supposed to make it easier for people to access dental treatments. However, in my region, latest statistics show that, although around 90 per cent of adults in Fife are registered with an NHS dentist, only around half of them have actually seen an NHS dentist in the past two years, which has widened oral health inequalities.

Will the Scottish Government agree to amend the data collection on NHS dentistry to include participation as well as registration? How does it intend to deal with the growing oral health inequalities in my region?

Jenni Minto

I thank Roz McCall for her question and am happy to look at her initial suggestion.

We are working very closely with health boards on workforce initiatives because, as we were very clear at the start of payment reform, that was the first step on the journey. We are looking at things such as the direct access model, and I know that NHS Highland is keen to be involved in that.

I have also been working with the other United Kingdom nations and stakeholders to improve the overseas dentist pipeline, which I am pleased to see moving forward.

Scottish Candidate Numbers (Use in Research)

8. Jeremy Balfour (Lothian) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it has followed the advice issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office regarding appropriate governance and controls for the use of children’s Scottish candidate numbers for research in the education system. (S6O-03387)


Jeremy Balfour

As the cabinet secretary will be aware, when the health and wellbeing census was run in 2022, no governance was put in place around the use of children’s Scottish candidate numbers. For example, candidate numbers are used as pupil email addresses in some schools. The ICO has advised the Scottish Government that it needs to address serious risks of harm to children, due to the intimate nature of the data that is gathered about pupils and their families.

Will the Scottish Government commit to review and—if found to be infringing the general data protection regulation and ethical standards for health research—to delete the data that was gathered from 134,000 children who participated in the survey without being informed of those risks?

Jenny Gilruth

As the member will be aware, in the past year or so, my officials have had a series of meetings with the Information Commissioner’s Office on that very issue. I understand that the ICO has also met local authorities to discuss the same issues with them. As a result, the Government is reviewing and enhancing our internal processes and procedures to further reduce the risks of using the Scottish candidate number for our own statistical and research purposes.

Those enhancements are also about ensuring that we have the improved technical and organisational measures that are designed to more effectively implement data protection principles. It will also ensure that improved safeguards will deliver on better meeting the requirements that are set out under United Kingdom general data protection regulation requirements.