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Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Thursday, June 6, 2024


General Question Time

Just Transition Plan (Mossmorran)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide further details of the process that it will follow to develop a just transition plan for the Mossmorran industrial site. (S6O-03540)

The Minister for Climate Action (Gillian Martin)

The Scottish Government has committed to publishing a just transition plan for Mossmorran following the delivery of the Grangemouth just transition plan. Work will commence in early 2025.

Lessons will be learned from developing the just transition plan for Grangemouth. I anticipate taking a sequential and measured approach, and the plan is likely to include a data-driven baseline, an outline vision for 2045, a corresponding action plan and a monitoring framework.

I am committed to ensuring that that work is business credible while embedding the ambitions of both workers and the community. I welcome early engagement with all stakeholder groups to ensure that their voices are heard, and the plan will be co-designed with them.

Mark Ruskell

I thank the minister for the detail of that answer. ExxonMobil and Shell run Mossmorran. Around 250 workers work there, and many more are employed through short-term maintenance contracts. Any credible just transition plan for the site must be co-designed with the workers and the unions from the get-go, to safeguard their livelihoods. What engagement process does the Government plan to follow to ensure the development of a worker-backed plan? Will the minister join me, alongside site operators, workers and unions, at the summit that I will organise on the issue later this year?

Gillian Martin

As with the Grangemouth just transition plan, unions and the voices of workers will be central to the development of the Mossmorran plan. I approached ExxonMobil at Mossmorran to say that I would like to work with it on a just transition plan, and it was happy for that to happen.

It is probably more important to get the Grangemouth plan off the ground, given the situation at the Grangemouth complex, but work will be brought forward into how we approach the Mossmorran plan. Many of the same unions will be involved in that process, and we will be able to learn the lessons from the Grangemouth plan and adapt them for the Mossmorran plan.

Alexander Stewart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

In December, the Scottish Government, which the Greens were then part of, cut the just transition fund. The Greens now ask about a just transition for the Mossmorran industrial site. Now that the Bute house agreement has collapsed, will the minister commit to restoring funding to the just transition fund for the future?

Gillian Martin

The just transition fund is for the north-east and Moray, and I am considering how other areas of Scotland might benefit from it. It has not been cut. In its current form, it will be the same as it was when it was announced, and it will be delivered over 10 years. It is not true at all to say that it has been cut.

Hyperbaric Treatment Services (West Coast)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it has held any discussions with stakeholders regarding the future of hyperbaric treatment services on the west coast. (S6O-03541)

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

The Scottish Government is aware that the contract for national health service hyperbaric medicine services in Oban ceased on 31 March and that the chamber has not been operational for NHS patients since January. Review of the facility is on-going, and Scottish Government officials have been in contact with NHS National Services Scotland as the commissioner of those services and NHS Grampian, which provides and co-ordinates hyperbaric medical services in Scotland.

We are being kept updated as the review of the situation continues, and we have been assured that risk is minimised and that plans are in place for the timely transfer and treatment of patients.

Tim Eagle

I met residents and businesses in Oban earlier this week, and I heard worrying reports that some local businesses in the aquaculture sector are considering relocating nearer to sites that have an active NHS hyperbaric chamber.

NHS Grampian confirmed to me in writing that its decision to renew the contract with Tritonia was not taken for financial reasons. Will the cabinet secretary please commit to engaging with NHS Grampian further, with a view to reinstating that vital service and protecting the aquaculture sector in Oban and its surrounding communities?

Jenni Minto

I recognise the description of the communities and businesses that Tim Eagle presents. As I said in my initial answer, there was a review of the service last month, and I await the outcome of that. We are engaging with NHS Grampian.

Affordable Housing

3. Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green)

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of its recognition of a housing emergency, whether it will take steps to improve the application of policy 16 of the fourth national planning framework in relation to affordable housing. (S6O-03542)

The Minister for Public Finance (Ivan McKee)

Policy 16 of national planning framework 4 focuses on quality, diversity and sustainability. It gives strong support for the delivery of the right homes in the right places, reflecting local needs and providing choice across tenures. NPF4 has already strengthened the affordable housing policy, compared with previous Scottish planning policy, to require at least 25 per cent of homes on a market site to be affordable unless local evidence justifies higher or lower contributions. It is for decision makers to apply policy on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with the local development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

Patrick Harvie

I think that the problem lies not in the precise wording of the policy but in its application. Glasgow City Council says that it has approved 1,500 homes since the turn of the year, which could have meant hundreds more affordable homes if the policy had been applied. In one example, the Scottish ministers rejected the call from Green councillors to call in the Shawlands arcade redevelopment, which alone could have provided 125 affordable homes. What is the value of the policy if local councils are not being required to apply it and to ensure that private developers include affordable housing as part of their developments?

Ivan McKee

I am sure that Patrick Harvie understands that the local development plan has a clear role in how the policy is taken forward and that it is up to local planning authorities and councillors to make decisions on that. He will know that Glasgow City Council is gathering evidence for its new local development plan.

He will also know that policy 16 allows for a lower contribution to be justified by certain local circumstances, which can include an “impact on viability” among other criteria. I do not want to talk specifically about the example that Patrick Harvie has raised, but, in cases where viability is important, it is a question not of losing a number of affordable homes but of potentially not having any homes being built at all, which, of course, would have an impact on the overall market.

All of those factors are taken into account locally, as rightly they should be.

Christine Grahame has a brief supplementary question.

Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

I hope that you feel that my question is relevant, Presiding Officer, as it is about affordable homes.

I believe that there are more than 43,000 empty homes in Scotland at large—perhaps this issue is more for the Minister for Housing—including more than 400 in Midlothian and 1,000 in the Scottish Borders. What levers are open to the Scottish Government to bring those homes into the market legally?

Ivan McKee

Some of that lands in the housing minister’s remit, as the member correctly identified, but planning has a role to play. Work has been taken forward to review compulsory purchase orders, and consideration is also being given to the place that compulsory sales orders might have in helping to support a solution to the problem of empty homes. Updates on that work will be brought back to Parliament in due course.

Child Neurodevelopmental Assessments

To ask the Scottish Government what the longest projected wait is, in years, for a neurodevelopmental assessment for a child currently on a national health service waiting list. (S6O-03543)

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

Long waits for neurodevelopmental support are unacceptable. However, we do not—as I have explained before in the chamber—currently collect waiting times for neurodevelopmental assessment. Child and adolescent mental health services statistics capture children who meet the CAMHS criteria. Children who require neurodevelopmental support are not reported in those statistics unless they have a comorbid mental health condition.

Our focus is on improving support. Our neurodevelopmental specification places an expectation on the NHS and children’s services to work together to implement standards in line with getting it right for every child. Crucially, local authorities have a statutory duty to identify and provide support for pupils who have additional support needs, regardless of their diagnosis. We are working with NHS boards and local authorities to improve the support that is available, and we have allocated £55.5 million to health boards in 2023-24 to improve mental health and neurodevelopmental services.

Edward Mountain

If that is an answer, I do not know what I am doing in the Parliament. Let me help the minister: there are 24,096 children on NDAS waiting lists. Some councils and NHS boards do not even have lists, but NHS Ayrshire and Arran says that it will take 19 years and three months to clear its NDAS waiting list. NHS Highland does not have a list and neither does the council. Will the Government at least tell them to draw up a list so that we know how many children actually need help?

Maree Todd

I assure the member that we are working with all NHS boards, including NHS Highland, to improve neurodevelopmental support and pathways. We are working with local authorities to ensure that support is there for children and young people, regardless of whether they have a diagnosis. As well as the investments in health boards, in recent years we have provided more than £1 million to fund five neurodevelopmental tests of change areas, including one in Highland. Those areas are focused on implementing the ND specification, including the delivery of GIRFEC and multi-agency working. We will continue to support health boards and local authorities to work together in line with the specification, to ensure that the support is there for the children who need it.

Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry (Terms of Reference)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it has any plans to revise the terms of reference that it has set for the Scottish child abuse inquiry. (S6O-03544)

The Minister for Children, Young People and The Promise (Natalie Don)

Currently, there are no plans to amend the remit of the Scottish child abuse inquiry. Questions about the scope of the inquiry in relation to non-residential settings have been raised previously and ministers have made clear the need for the inquiry to focus on its current and wide-ranging terms of reference, which are centred on the abuse of children within institutions that had legal responsibility for the long-term care of children. Widening the remit of the inquiry to include abuse in non-residential settings would result in it taking much longer to respond to the survivors of abuse in care.

Russell Findlay

There are two classes of child abuse victims in Scotland—those who are heard by the inquiry and those who are not. That includes victims such as Susie Henderson, whose childhood was destroyed by a legal establishment paedophile ring, and Peter Haynes and Stuart McMillan, whose childhoods were destroyed by industrial-scale abuse in Scottish football. They and many others simply do not understand why the inquiry is closed to them.

They have also been fed misinformation from the Government. Last year, Nicola Sturgeon told me that the inquiry’s remit is a matter for the inquiry. That is not true. I have asked ministers to widen the inquiry’s remit, but they have continually refused. I again urge the minister to do the right thing by those victims. Will her Government please think again?

Natalie Don

I want to make it very clear that our sympathies are with all victims of historical abuse. However, as Russell Findlay knows and as I have reiterated, the Scottish child abuse inquiry was set up under the Inquiries Act 2005 to investigate abuse of children in care in Scotland following a call, over many years, from survivors of in-care abuse.

Ministers have made clear the need for the inquiry to focus on its current and wide-ranging terms. Although Scottish ministers set the terms of reference for the inquiry, it is the responsibility of Lady Smith, the chair of the inquiry, to decide what is considered as part of the inquiry. We are fully committed to maintaining the inquiry’s independence from the Government, while the investigation into and prosecution of those who are guilty of abuse remains a matter for Police Scotland and the courts.

Publicly Owned Care Homes (Moratorium on Closure)

To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the reported calls for a moratorium on the closure of publicly owned care homes. (S6O-03545)

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

No one wants to see the closure of good quality care homes. I understand the concern that that causes for residents and their families. Regrettably, there will be situations in which local authority-run care homes close for various reasons. Although we have overall responsibility for health and social care policy in Scotland, the statutory responsibility for delivering those services is for integration authorities, in consultation with people who use the services and in full awareness of the impact on them. It would not be appropriate for the Scottish Government to intervene directly in local decision making. I reiterate that no one wants to see the closure of good-quality care homes. I absolutely understand the concern that that is causing for residents and their families.

Colin Smyth

The minister knows that a disproportionate number of the care homes that have closed in recent years in Scotland were publicly owned and in rural areas, at a time when we have a delayed-discharge crisis. In Lanarkshire last year, 64 people died while they were stuck in hospital on delayed discharge. People in Clydesdale were promised a step-down facility but, instead, they are getting the closure of the McClymont house care home, which has space to provide that step-down facility, but is being closed. Even at this stage, will the minister step in and stop that closure? She has the power to do so because, ultimately, those partnerships are directly funded by the Government.

Maree Todd

Colin Smyth is aware that I have met families who are impacted by the closure in that area. I have also met the chief officer and discussed that particular closure with the local integration joint board. The decision to close the care homes in South Lanarkshire was taken by the IJB. If I were to override local decision making in a Labour-run council area, members would be quick to criticise me for intervening in a matter of devolved competence.

Let me be clear—we do not want the closure of good-quality care homes and services. We understand the concern that that causes for residents and their families. We are acutely aware of the pressures that are faced at present by the social care sector as a whole, and we are very grateful for the efforts of the social care workforce, which continues to support our communities.

The statutory responsibility for delivering—

Thank you, minister.

—commissioning and—

Thank you, minister.

Clare Haughey has a brief supplementary question.

Clare Haughey (Rutherglen) (SNP)

New data from the Home Office shows that the number of health and care worker visa applications was 76 per cent lower in January to April this year than it was in that period last year. Does the minister agree that that will negatively impact on day-to-day operation of publicly owned care homes? Does she also agree that the incoming United Kingdom Government should overturn the cruel immigration policies that harm our care sector?

Minister, please respond concisely and only on matters for which the Scottish Government has general responsibility.

Maree Todd

I absolutely agree with Clare Haughey’s point. The workforce in social care is under real pressure and has been supported by immigrants for many years in Scotland. We need an immigration system that delivers a workforce to do important and vital work for our nation by looking after our loved ones, and we need a system that works in Scotland. The current system is absolutely broken and does not deliver to our needs in Scotland.

Over-the-counter Medication (Children and Young People)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to prevent children and young people from overdosing on over-the-counter medication. (S6O-03546)

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

The Medicines Healthcare and products Regulatory Agency, in combination with retailers, limits the sale of paracetamol to a maximum of two packets of 16 tablets.

The aim of those voluntary measures is to balance the need for people to access pain relief medicines against the dangers for vulnerable individuals to purchase, on impulse, excessive quantities of any single analgesic.

A community pharmacy may sell larger packs under the supervision of a pharmacist; it is illegal to sell more than 100 tablets or capsules of either paracetamol or aspirin in any one retail transaction.

Pam Gosal

I recently received correspondence from health professionals expressing concern about instances of young people overdosing on common painkillers such as paracetamol. They also expressed concern about the lack of data relating to the issue. When I wrote to the minister, she responded that National Records of Scotland does not publish an age breakdown of that data. What action is her Government taking to increase the availability of data in relation to drug overdose and age?

Jenni Minto

I thank Pam Gosal for her question and recognise the work that she has been doing, which she referenced in relation to the fact that she has written to me. She is correct that I responded by saying that National Records of Scotland does not publish an age breakdown of that data. However, I am happy to meet Pam Gosal to discuss that further in order to understand the concerns that she and her constituents have raised.

Affordable Housing (Glasgow)

To ask the Scottish Government how it is investing in affordable homes within Glasgow, including within the Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn constituency, to help address any housing need. (S6O-03547)

I ask the minister for a concise response.

The Minister for Housing (Paul McLennan)

The Scottish Government has made £328 million of funding available to Glasgow for investment in affordable housing over the first years of the current session of Parliament, and a further £78.6 million has been allocated for 2024-25. From that funding, £26.8 million is planned for investment over the same period in the Maryhill and Springburn constituency. That investment will provide an additional 455 homes for Maryhill and Springburn communities.

Bob Doris

NG Homes, in my constituency, is seeking to develop innovative ways to bring void properties back into use as affordable homes, including 25 void tenement properties at Stonyhurst Street in Possilpark, which will be a challenge over several years.

Will the minister meet me and NG Homes to discuss the company’s ideas regarding innovation around void properties more generally, perhaps in Possilpark itself, in order to see both the challenges and opportunities that are presented at sites such as Stonyhurst Street?

Paul McLennan

I am aware that NG Homes has already engaged with Glasgow City Council, which manages the affordable supply programme in Glasgow through the transfer of management development fund. The council has agreed to provide funding to undertake a feasibility study to consider options for redevelopment of the pre-1919 tenement buildings. That study is now under way and, on its completion, the council will meet with NG Homes to consider the next steps.

Over the summer, I am planning to meet all the registered social landlords that operate in Glasgow and will be happy to discuss the plans with them.

That concludes general questions.