Meeting of the Parliament
Meeting date: Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Bus Services, Mental Health Crisis, Complaint, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Lyme Disease
- Portfolio Question Time
- Bus Services
- Mental Health Crisis
- Business Motions
- Parliamentary Bureau Motions
- Decision Time
- Lyme Disease
Portfolio Question Time
Constitution, External Affairs and Culture
Good afternoon. The first item of business is portfolio question time, and the first portfolio is constitution, external affairs and culture. As ever, I make a plea for succinct questions and answers to allow as many members as possible to have their chance.
Question 1, in the name of Mark Griffin, was not lodged.
United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 (Exemptions)
To ask the Scottish Government whether the United Kingdom Government has communicated any intention to provide exemptions to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 in relation to legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament. (S6O-02229)
The United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 radically undermines the devolution settlement in Scotland and was imposed on this Parliament without its consent. We can see the outcome most clearly with the deposit return scheme—the bill that this Parliament passed is now threatened by the 2020 act, placing the whole scheme at risk, including significant industry investment. Regrettably, the UK Government has yet to reach a decision on excluding Scotland’s deposit return scheme from the act.
We have been engaging with the UK Government on this issue for nearly two years now. UK ministers have acknowledged that we have followed the agreed exclusions process. We cannot wait any longer in providing businesses with the clarity that they urgently need. We need a positive decision from the UK Government, and we need it now.
I have previously welcomed the creation of 140 new jobs in Motherwell as part of the DRS. Those are just some of the hundreds of jobs that are being created across Scotland as a result of the scheme. However, the jobs are now at risk because of the UK Government’s deliberate delay in excluding the scheme from the 2020 act.
Many other issues are being considered that might need such an exclusion, including a potential ban on disposable vapes. The common frameworks are meant to provide a forum for timely and collaborative decision making. Does the cabinet secretary agree that the DRS experience has shown those to be ineffective and that that could put at risk some of the public health and environmental measures that we are trying to take?
I agree with the member. The Scottish Government warned that the 2020 act would undermine devolution and that it would create confusion and uncertainty for businesses. Sadly, we have been proven right, as the example from the member’s region shows.
Brexit has been used as a pretext for eroding devolution and the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The common frameworks offer one of the few options that are available to us for engagement on mitigating some of the effects of a Brexit that Scotland did not vote for.
The Scottish Government has spent a great deal of time trying to make common frameworks work as intended. We now need the UK Government to show a similar commitment to take full account of the work that has been undertaken collaboratively through the common framework, to agree to an 2020 act exclusion and to lift the threat of the act from Scotland’s deposit return scheme.
Does the cabinet secretary believe that the tensions arising from the 2020 act demonstrate that, under Westminster’s control, Scotland’s devolution settlement can be undermined at the whim of the UK Government, particularly by any hypothetical Secretary of State for Scotland who might harbour a scarcely concealed desire to act like a governor-general?
As I have noted, a Brexit that Scotland did not vote for is being used to roll back the powers of a Parliament that Scotland did vote for. The 2020 act, which was imposed on this Parliament without its consent, is the result. Despite that, we have acted in good faith to mitigate the act’s worst effects, and we have been engaging through common frameworks to that end. That is what we are doing in respect of Scotland’s deposit return scheme. We need the UK Government to finally recognise the evidence that has been gathered through the common framework, to agree to an exclusion and to remove the threat that the act poses to the scheme.
UK ministers have acknowledged that the Scottish Government has followed the agreed procedure. The fact that we are still waiting for a decision shows the vulnerability of the devolution settlement and the ability of the Scottish Parliament to use its powers to benefit the people of this country.
Retained European Union Law
To ask the Scottish Government whether it is considering replacing any retained European Union law. (S6O-02230)
The United Kingdom Government’s Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill is still reckless legislation, despite the sensible change that removes the automatic sunset of retained European Union law at the end of this year.
Vital protections remain at risk, and UK ministers can still act in devolved areas without a requirement for consent from Scottish ministers or from this Parliament. That is unacceptable, and that is why we continue to call for the bill to be withdrawn. We do not have plans to use powers in the bill to alter existing policy, but we continue to assess that as part of our on-going work, including to prevent laws from being lost.
The cabinet secretary said in his statement on 9 May that the loss of Erasmus was a loss of opportunity for young people, and we know that it also is a loss to the economy. Although young people in England and Wales are accessing the replacement Turing and Taith schemes, young people in Scotland are still waiting, despite the Scottish National Party having committed in its 2021 manifesto to replace Erasmus. Does the cabinet secretary accept that this is yet another broken promise from the SNP to Scotland’s young people?
I am sure that the Presiding Officer would not wish me to answer questions—
Cabinet secretary, I am sorry to interrupt. I appreciate that the question seems to be a bit wide, but if there is anything else that you wish to add, perhaps as regards matters within your ministerial responsibility, you can do so.
The question that was put relates to retained EU law, and neither the Erasmus scheme nor the Turing scheme fall within the ambit of retained EU law. We will continue to work with partners, including members of the House of Lords, to do everything that we can to mitigate the threat of disaster that the retained EU law bill still poses. We do not know what will be the final outcome of that legislative process.
On the wider question that Pam Duncan-Glancy has asked, I am always happy to answer questions at the appropriate stage about how we can maximise educational co-operation between Scotland and the European Union.
Question 4 has not been lodged.
Culture and the Arts (Cunninghame South)
To ask the Scottish Government how it is supporting culture and the arts in the Cunninghame South constituency. (S6O-02232)
Our culture strategy sets out our ambitions for nurturing culture and creativity across all of Scotland’s communities. We support a range of initiatives and organisations in the Cunninghame South constituency, including the Culture Collective programme, the youth music initiative and the Scottish Maritime Museum.
For example, Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland is supported through the Culture Collective and is delivered by Creative Scotland. TRACS brings together artists and people in local communities; one area of its focus is Kilwinning, in North Ayrshire. TRACS has received £345,000 in total to support projects across nine communities.
Many barriers prevent our citizens—particularly families on lower incomes—from accessing arts and culture, whether it is lack of expendable time, distance from events or festivals or affordability. How can the Scottish Government ensure that public money that is invested in arts and culture is used for the benefit of all, whether those who are attending or performers and artists who are creating outwith the main cities?
Ruth Maguire raises an excellent point, and one that is central to the work that we are doing. Our major cultural programmes actively work to break down those sorts of barriers.
Our youth music initiative, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, operates across the country in rural and urban areas. It aims to tackle inequality and to engage young people who would not otherwise be able to participate in meaningful and high-quality music-making opportunities. Our Culture Collective programme, which has been funded by more than £10 million to date, has provided free, engaging, community-focused activity across the length and breadth of the country. Over the past two years, it has focused on access and participation. Later this year, we will publish a refresh of our culture strategy action plan, which will provide much more detail about our ambitions in that space.
Arts Sector (Support)
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on how it is supporting the arts sector. (S6O-02233)
I understand that this is an incredibly worrying time for the culture sector. The Scottish Government continues to provide significant support to the sector. That includes funding to Creative Scotland totalling £35 million for its regularly funded organisations, more than £9 million for youth projects and more than £2 million for festivals. The Scottish Government has committed to maintaining the £22.496 million of funding for the five national performing companies and £3 million for the Victoria and Albert museum in Dundee. The Scottish Government is providing an additional £2.1 million to support increased costs in the national collections, reflecting the high fixed costs that those organisations have.
The arts sector plays a crucial role in promoting cultural expression and creativity and in bringing people together in communities. In the Scottish National Party’s 2021 manifesto, it pledged to create a new £2 million fund for public artwork. Seven months ago, I asked when that would happen, but no information was provided. Will the cabinet secretary give more detail on what the pledge actually means and when the commitment will be met?
I have just given Sharon Dowey an overview of the level of financial commitment right across the arts and culture piece. She asked a very specific question, and I would be happy to write to her to update her on progress in that area. However, I hope that she is assured that the Scottish Government is committed to supporting arts and culture right across Scotland, including in the area that she has highlighted.
Several members are seeking to ask a supplementary question. I intend to take all of them.
With the summer festivals season approaching, Scotland’s cities are gearing up for a busy and vibrant few months, kicking off with the fantastic Nuart Aberdeen festival of street art, which begins on 8 June. What role does the cabinet secretary see culture and the arts playing in Scotland’s on-going pandemic recovery?
Culture can play an important role in the recovery from the pandemic. We know that participation in cultural and creative activity supports our wellbeing, not only at individual level but across our communities and for the country as a whole. That is why I am pleased to confirm the on-going support for the cultural sector. In the past year, Creative Scotland has provided £7.73 million in funding to festivals across Scotland, through its regularly funded organisations and through its open fund. In addition, Edinburgh and Glasgow festivals have received £3 million from the expo and place funds.
Another important aspect of our cultural life is our built heritage. This morning, I was delighted to confirm, together with Historic Environment Scotland, the silver city heritage and place programme with Aberdeen City Council. The programme will bring great benefits, particularly in the regeneration of the east side of Union Street, which has high levels of vacancy. I think that that will make a huge difference to people in Aberdeen.
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the culture and arts sector hard. Cherished and well-respected arts venues such as the Filmhouse in Edinburgh have been forced to close. Other venues such as Leith theatre are in disrepair due to a lack of support and funding. What funding can be allocated to such struggling venues to avoid Scotland’s valued arts venues closing for good?
I am sure that I will get into difficulty with the Presiding Officer if I repeat the statistics that I read out at the beginning of this interchange with colleagues. The Scottish Government has multimillion pound commitments to the arts and culture sector, which is hugely important, and there is agreement across the chamber that that is worth while.
Foysol Choudhury hits the nail on the head when he highlights that there are significant challenges to cultural institutions, particularly venues. That applies here as well as elsewhere in the United Kingdom and internationally. It is a challenge for all of us—the artistic organisations in question, venue management, our arm’s-length organisation Creative Scotland, which is responsible for working directly with arts organisations, and the Scottish Government, which wants to ensure that we protect as many of our venues as possible.
I assure Foysol Choudhury and other members that we are looking extremely closely at everything that we can do to ensure that the arts and culture infrastructure, including the institutions that he has mentioned, can continue and can thrive in the future. I remain seized of that, and I know that the same will apply to him.
With high costs of travel and fewer accommodation options, islands and rural Scotland are expensive places for artists to visit and perform. Post-pandemic, there has been a loss of creative outlets and funding options have reduced. Therefore, how best can the Scottish Government work with local communities to ensure that rural and island areas continue to attract artists, productions and events to their areas?
As an introduction to my answer to Beatrice Wishart, I say that I am sure that she would recognise that we are fortunate that Creative Scotland funds regularly funded organisations right across Scotland, including in our island communities. That is hugely worth while.
It is important to stress that Creative Scotland’s grant priorities are aimed at supporting culture and the arts throughout Scotland. I know that Creative Scotland is doing a lot of active thinking about how it can give maximum financial assurance to the creative and arts sector on a multi-annual basis so that people are able to plan. That includes plans for performing in different parts of the country, whether that involves people going to Shetland or people from Shetland performing elsewhere in Scotland. I agree with Beatrice Wishart that that is hugely important. I am sure that Creative Scotland will listen closely to the points that she has made, and I am happy to underline them when I next meet Creative Scotland.
Independence (Policy Prospectus)
To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to review its prospectus for an independent Scotland, in light of reported divisions within the independence movement. (S6O-02234)
As set out in the First Minister’s recent policy prospectus, “Equality, opportunity, community: New leadership—A fresh start”, the people of Scotland will be given the information that they need to make an informed choice about whether Scotland should become an independent country. The Government will build the case for a thriving and socially just independent Scotland.
Many people across the United Kingdom will be looking at their household bills, including their power bills, and at the problems that the UK faces, and many people in Scotland will be considering and, indeed, concluding that an independent Scotland is more important than ever. With that in mind, a cohesive, vibrant, creative and cross-party wider movement is important. It is important in designing a successful campaign, in presenting a united front and in going on to win majority public support for independence. Does the minister agree not only that establishing an independence convention is imperative but that there is an urgent need to do so now?
I agree with the point that the member made about the urgent requirement for Scotland to become an independent country. My task is to make the Government’s case through the series of prospectus papers that we will lay out. Three have already been published, and there will be more to come. That is the activity that I will undertake. Those papers will be laid before the people and will be a key part of making the case to the wider public.
When I take the temperature of the independence movement at the moment, I get a real sense of unity of purpose and a determination to work collaboratively towards that goal. I intend to play my part in that regard.
I take this opportunity to warmly welcome the Minister for Independence to his new post. I know that he will work very hard on a subject that is clearly not a priority for the Scottish people right now.
It is obvious from recent weeks that divisions in the independence movement have been trumped by divisions in the Scottish National Party. We have been treated to an internal melodrama of back-bench rebellions and infighting. On that note, the minister’s colleague Joanna Cherry recently described the Scottish Government’s independence papers as “lightweight”. Does he agree with her?
I thank Mr Cameron for his overdue warm welcome—it was certainly warmer than those that I have heard thus far.
It is an interesting perspective to say that we are not able to make the case for independence. The Government was, of course, elected on the platform of advancing that case. We have published three, I believe, compelling prospectus papers, and I can tell Mr Cameron that I intend to publish many more in the coming months.
What budget does the Minister for Independence have, and how many civil servants work directly to him?
That question has been put to me in written form by a number of members. Only one civil servant—my private secretary—works directly to me. However, it is incumbent on civil servants across the entire Government to respond to the Government’s priorities, of which independence is one. In that regard, the civil service is working towards our agenda.
We should be grateful to Ash Regan for genuinely and honestly referring to the divisions in the independence movement. However, she has been incredibly creative, with her most interesting suggestion being that estranged friends should be brought in from the cold. Will the Minister for Independence be seeking advice from former First Minister Alex Salmond when crafting his new prospectus?
I will be working with dedicated civil servants to craft the prospectus papers.
I am sure that the minister will agree that one of the many strengths of the 2014 campaign was the wide range of organisations that were part of the yes movement at that time and continue to be so. What is the Scottish Government doing to engage with organisations in the wider yes movement in the development of those prospectuses?
I am in regular contact with a range of organisations. I am happy to engage with any organisation with an interest in the future of Scotland whether or not they support independence because, at the end of the day, the future of the country is everybody’s business.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Discussions)
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office regarding the reported communiqué to United Kingdom ambassadors and diplomats and their involvement in the Scottish Government’s international engagements. (S6O-02235)
I have written to the Foreign Secretary to ask him to withdraw that guidance, which will damage Scotland’s interests and undermines devolution. More than two weeks later, I have yet to receive a reply, which says everything about the disrespect that the UK Government has shown thus far.
Despite what those documents assert, nothing in the Scotland Act 1998 precludes Scottish ministers from discussing any issue with other Governments or international organisations. On that basis, I had a successful visit to Vienna this week, promoting Scotland’s energy and space sectors, our commitment to human rights and the rule of law and our work to achieve net zero. As ever, I was grateful for the positive and constructive support provided by the FCDO in capital, both from the embassy to Austria and the mission to the United Nations.
As the cabinet secretary has intimated, condescending Westminster attitudes could cost real jobs and investment, such as that which the Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy announced on his recent visit to Japan of plans for a subsea cable factory in the Highlands, which will bring much-needed jobs to that region and across Scotland.
Westminster is endangering direct foreign investment, which rose in Scotland by 14 per cent last year in comparison with 1.8 per cent across the UK.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that we should all get behind Scotland’s businesses and economy instead of meekly accepting the Westminster Government’s blatant contempt for Scottish interests?
I thank the member for raising a vital reason why ministers travel overseas—namely, to secure investment and jobs for people in Scotland. My cabinet colleague Neil Gray was in Japan last month, when there was the announcement from Sumitomo, which demonstrates the strength of confidence that investors have in our vision for a net zero economy.
We have a world-beating pipeline of offshore wind projects and the visit demonstrated the important role that Scotland’s international network plays and the value of growing and developing relationships with our partners around the world. The Government will therefore continue to promote Scotland’s interests and fight attempts to undermine devolution.
That concludes portfolio questions on constitution, external affairs and culture. There will be a very brief pause before we move to the next portfolio to allow front-bench teams to change position.
Justice and Home Affairs
The next item of business is portfolio questions on justice and home affairs. Again, I make a plea for succinct questions and answers in order to be able to take as many members as possible.
Policing of Protests
To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with Police Scotland regarding any changes to the policing of protests. (S6O-02236)
I regularly meet the chief constable and his team and there have been no discussions regarding change to the policing of protests.
Although significant change to the legislation concerning public order policing in England and Wales has taken place recently, those provisions do not extend to Scotland and we have no plans to make any changes to the policing of protests here. Scotland has a proud tradition of peaceful protest, and the Scottish Government is committed to uphold the democratic right to peaceful public assembly.
There was widespread anger at reports of heavy-handed policing of peaceful protest at the coronation. The cabinet secretary’s reassurances about support for peaceful protest here in Scotland are especially welcome following the disgraceful Public Order Act 2023 in England and Wales, which Labour now says it will keep on the books if it is in government. Does the cabinet secretary agree that trashing the right to peaceful protest is yet another example of where Tories lead, Labour follows?
The member makes a political point that I am, of course, compelled to agree with. The legislation that was passed in England has been described by some as draconian—a piece of legislation that clamps down on our basic democratic right to protest as an anti-protest law that can be used to stop the public from seeking even to hold placards in the street. By contrast, we in this Parliament will uphold people’s right to peaceful protest, while always ensuring a balance between rights and responsibilities.
I am glad to hear the justice secretary confirm that there is no intention to go down the same route as the UK Government in that area, but as Ariane Burgess pointed out, there were concerns arising from the policing around the death of the Queen. There were also concerns in relation to the 26th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP26—about the use of stop and search powers and more general surveillance.
Therefore, has the cabinet secretary had, or does she intend to have, discussions with Police Scotland about data gathering, which could give us a greater sense of confidence that the human rights-based approach to policing by Police Scotland is being delivered in practice?
Police Scotland is one of the most scrutinised public services in Scotland, and it has a clear track record and commitment to upholding human rights. The position of Police Scotland on policing protests is to engage, explain and encourage, and to do all that before ever reaching an enforcement stage. However, of course, as members would expect me to do, I will discuss data matters with Police Scotland to explore what would be proportionate and possible.
Michelle’s Law Campaign
To ask the Scottish Government what “concrete action” it anticipates taking on the proposals outlined in relation to Michelle’s law, which were discussed in the debate on the Michelle’s law campaign on 6 September 2018. (S6O-02237)
The Scottish Government has already taken action in line with the Michelle’s law campaign. We amended the Parole Board rules in March 2021 to make it clear that the board can take account of the safety and security of victims and families when deciding upon a prisoner’s release.
In addition, individuals who are registered with the victim notification scheme are advised when a prisoner is first being considered for temporary release, and those who wish to can provide their views about that decision to the Scottish Prison Service. Victims can also make representations to the Parole Board for Scotland when someone is being considered for parole. Furthermore, the Parole Board can already set exclusion zones as a condition of parole licence, and parole licence conditions can include the requirement to be electronically monitored to stay away from a particular location or from named individuals, as well as the requirement to monitor that someone remains at a specified address at certain times.
I thank the cabinet secretary for the response. When you are sitting opposite a mother as she describes the unimaginable pain of losing her daughter to murder and how that is exacerbated by the murderer being allowed out of prison without her being notified and by the murderer’s father being allowed to walk past her house so many times, the need for Michelle’s law becomes a stark reality.
The Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill fails to introduce Michelle’s law, despite Humza Yousaf previously promising action. Does the cabinet secretary agree that Michelle’s law would give victims the reasons for a release decision in full and require—require—their safety to be considered in every case?
I very much appreciate the issues that Mr Whittle has raised in this regard and how different parts of the justice system can retraumatise victims. However, I hope that he would accept that a change to the Parole Board rules, which are rooted in law, is a change in legislation.
Of course, there is always more to do. In Parliament, we are currently at stage 2 of the Bail and Release from Custody (Scotland) Bill, through which we hope that there will be improvements to the victim support system. In the not-too-distant future, we will also of course be debating the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill. There will therefore be ample opportunities for Mr Whittle and others to bring forward further improvements as required.
I was very pleased to see victims at the heart of the recently introduced Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill. How will the cabinet secretary ensure that both victims and their families are supported to stay involved in the bill’s passage through Parliament?
The bill has, indeed, been shaped and developed through engagement and consultation with victims and witnesses, who have had the courage and bravery to share their experiences. I have been clear that I will continue to engage with victims directly as well as through channels such as the victims task force, victims advisory board and Rape Crisis Scotland’s survivor reference group. I am sure that victims and witnesses and their families and advocates will also make their views known to Parliament as the bill progresses.
Youth Antisocial Behaviour
To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to tackle youth antisocial behaviour. (S6O-02238)
We support local agencies to reduce antisocial behaviour and are investing in prevention and early intervention. Local agencies are well placed to deal with those issues and have a wide range of powers to tackle antisocial behaviour, including—where appropriate—warnings and formal measures such as fixed-penalty notices and antisocial behaviour orders. As part of our broader support for prevention, we are developing a new youth work strategy so that all our young people reach their potential. Between 2023 and 2026, we are committing £20 million through the cashback programme to support more than 33,000 young people in communities around Scotland.
Nobody, not least the elderly, should have to put up with harassment or intimidation. Sometimes, due to the age of the apparent offenders, it ends up being a multi-agency issue, as the cabinet secretary mentioned. There is sometimes a perception, including among some offenders, that little can be done to challenge them. What more can the Scottish Government do to help the police, social workers and schools work together with children, particularly those in the 12 to 16 age group?
Alasdair Allan is right to be concerned about the impact of antisocial behaviour on some of his most vulnerable constituents. However, I want to reassure him and others that something can be done to address those issues on a multi-agency basis.
I am aware that a specific group has been established in the Western Isles, involving key partners. I also understand that the local children’s services have been developing plans to divert more young people in the area away from criminalisation and that they are preparing a bid for additional funding. I also know that there are four partners in phase 6 of cashback for communities—Ocean Youth Trust Scotland, Access to Industry, Youth Scotland and the Scottish Football Association—that are all focused on diverting young people who are at risk of participating in antisocial behaviour.
Of course, enforcement measures are also available, including talking to parents and issuing those formal warnings, and acceptable behaviour contracts and antisocial behaviour orders may also be considered for children over the age of 12.
Retailers Against Crime told me about two Lanarkshire teenagers who are using free bus travel to inflict chaos in shops across the country, with a particularly horrific attack in Edinburgh leaving staff injured. Glasgow Chamber of Commerce previously raised concerns that free bus travel for under-22s is fuelling some antisocial behaviour. Shop workers are therefore asking this very specific question: will the cabinet secretary consider finding a way to remove free bus passes from the small number of people who abuse them?
I am advised that transport colleagues will be undertaking a full review of the free entitlement. However, it is important to acknowledge that it is a national entitlement for all young people for very good reasons.
Our focus should always be less on the mode of transport—notwithstanding the work that is done across agencies to ensure the safety of people who work in public transport, as well as of the citizens who travel on public transport—because we need to get to the root causes of such behaviour. There are a number of well-proven, well-evidenced approaches to diverting young people away from criminal activity and antisocial behaviour, as I have already mentioned.
I echo Alasdair Allan’s key point. It is undoubtedly a fact that there has been an uptick in such antisocial behaviour in my constituency, ranging from egg throwing to the assaulting of security guards at fast food outlets, which I have had to deal with. Are any additional measures and consequences for such action being considered? Although no one wants to lock people up and throw away the key, there is a feeling, as Alasdair Allan pointed out, that much of the behaviour in question has no consequences.
Mr Johnson raises an important point. Although the overall statistics on antisocial behaviour do not show an increase, we must be fully cognisant of the fact that antisocial behaviour is often underreported. The Government is undertaking work with the Scottish Community Safety Network to explore what the appetite is for, and what the benefits would be of, revisiting some of our past, more formalised approaches and whether there is a need to review those. If Mr Johnson wishes to write to me, I will keep him fully informed of how we progress with that.
So far, Glasgow City Council has unanimously agreed that putting lights in parks is the right thing to do to help to address antisocial behaviour. Meanwhile, many people are still afraid, and the council has said that it will take years to do that. Does the cabinet secretary think that the installation of lights in parks could help? What more can the Government do to help to move things along more quickly in Glasgow?
I am always happy to engage with partners at a local level, and indeed MSPs, on what would assist in their local area. However, it is important to remember that the question of what solution is best, where, is often best determined at a local level. From my perspective, it tends to be the case that a range of solutions need to be brought to the table, because some of the causes and consequences of the issues in question are complex.
Has the Scottish Government done any work to ascertain whether there is any connection between antisocial behaviour and cuts in funding for youth services?
The Government is continuing to invest in youth services. I refer the member to my original answer to Dr Allan, in which I outlined the investment that is being made via cashback for communities, which will benefit 33,500 young people in Scotland.
Police Patrols (Public Perception of Frequency)
To ask the Scottish Government what work it has conducted to ascertain the public’s perception of the frequency of police patrols in their local area. (S6O-02239)
Scotland continues to be a safe place to live—the current level of recorded crime is among the lowest levels since 1974. Research shows that people in Scotland are significantly less likely to be victims of crime than people who live in England or Wales.
The Scottish crime and justice survey regularly has well-established questions that ask respondents for their perceptions of safety in their local area and of local policing. In 2019-20, 65 per cent of respondents agreed that police in their local area could be relied on to be there when they needed them, and 73 per cent agreed that crime in their local area was either the same or lower compared with two years previously. The latest findings will be published in autumn 2023.
The Scottish National Party Government’s crime and justice survey confirms that there has been a significant drop in the proportion of adults who were aware of police patrols in their area. In the year before Police Scotland was formed, 56 per cent of people said that they saw police regularly patrolling their area; by 2019-20, that figure had fallen to 37 per cent. A regular police presence reassures local communities and can often deter the committing of crime. Therefore, what action will the Government put in place to reduce the burden that Police Scotland is under and boost the police presence in our local communities?
Policing continues to be a priority for the Government and we have ensured that there have always been year-on-year increases in funding.
I remind the member that 96 per cent of adults rated their neighbourhood as very or fairly good to live in, and that 84 per cent of adults continue to trust the police. Of course, public perception and the presence of police is important, but we also have to recognise that, given that the nature of crime is changing, how we police matters sometimes has to change with the times, under the stewardship of the chief constable.
I know that our police officers work very hard and do their utmost to respond quickly and efficiently, and to have a very visible presence.
The results of the Scottish household telephone survey that were published last month showed that 84 per cent of respondents trust the police, as the cabinet secretary just said, and that neighbourhood safety levels were rated highly. With that in mind, what steps is the Scottish Government taking to ensure that neighbourhood safety remains a priority?
Neighbourhood safety is a central priority for the Government. We work for a society in which people feel, and are, safe in their communities. To that end, we will continue with our transformative policies, including those outlined in “The Vision for Justice in Scotland” and our programme for government. In doing so, we will engage with a range of partners, including the emergency services and the wider community safety organisations to which I referred in an answer to Daniel Johnson, such as the Scottish Community Safety Network, Crimestoppers and Neighbourhood Watch Scotland, as well as local community safety partnerships.
Question 5 was not lodged.
Naloxone (Police Officers)
To ask the Scottish Government how many front-line police officers have been trained to use, and equipped with, naloxone. (S6O-02241)
The Scottish Government recognises the vital role that emergency services play in providing and improving our response to drug overdoses. To date, 10,300 officers have been trained to use and been equipped with naloxone kits. As of today, Police Scotland has recorded 201 administrations of naloxone, which shows how crucial the intervention is in helping to tackle preventable deaths. I want to thank each and every officer who has carried and administered life-saving naloxone.
The roll-out of naloxone to front-line police officers began at last year’s international overdose awareness day. Naloxone is an emergency first-aid treatment for use in potentially life-threatening overdose situations. When will the cabinet secretary see the results of the use of naloxone on the figures for overdose deaths?
Many factors contribute to reducing overdose deaths, and the national statistics are published every year in the summer months. There have been 201 recorded incidents of police officers having administered naloxone, and they have done that in a wide variety of circumstances and locations. On all but seven occasions, the individuals survived their ordeal. On most occasions when the individual did not survive, the officer suspected that the person was deceased prior to police arrival, but the officer administered naloxone to give them the best possible chance of survival.
Once again, I thank Police Scotland for its leadership in the area and its front-line officers for playing their part to save lives.
Deaths at Work (Fines)
To ask the Scottish Government how many fines have been issued by courts to companies for breaches of health and safety rules, resulting in workers’ deaths, in the last five years. (S6O-02242)
Information provided by the Crown Office indicates that, in the period 2018-19 to 2022-23, 164 companies have been convicted and fined for criminal breaches of health and safety law. Information relating to the number of specific health and safety cases in which a death has occurred is not available.
The Health and Safety Executive found that, of all the United Kingdom nations, Scotland has the highest rate of deaths in the workplace caused by fatal injuries, so it is highly concerning that no cases have been prosecuted in Scotland under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 despite 164 companies having been legally deemed responsible for workers’ deaths. Although that law is reserved, will the Scottish Government review why those cases are not being brought as corporate manslaughter cases and how it can make that option more accessible for victims’ loved ones?
The member is correct in saying that that is concerning. Health and safety legislation is reserved, and the legislation to which she refers is United Kingdom legislation that was passed in 2007. Although the argument is progressed by some that that legislation acts as a deterrent, because it ensures that organisations are aware that they must meet a duty of care to employers and the public, I know that the member and some of her colleagues have narrated effectively how the legislation bypassed, in effect, what was then referred to as the Transco loophole, as opposed to closing the loopholes.
We will consider what more we can do within our powers in that area, in which I recognise that the member, along with Claire Baker, has a long-standing interest.
The recent work by the Scottish Trades Union Congress and the Scottish Hazards group shows that we need to consider the best way to reform legislation in order to better allow negligent companies to be prosecuted. The enforcement of safe working environments is essential, and it is a disgrace that the UK Government has cut the Health and Safety Executive’s budget by 40 per cent.
The Scottish Hazards group has stated that
“only full devolution of health and safety regulation allowing convergence with existing devolved powers ... will provide the necessary foundation for a health and safety system that protects workers and delivers justice for those impacted by health and safety failure.”
Does the cabinet secretary agree with that view?
I very much agree with the member, given that the Smith commission considered giving this Parliament powers over health and safety but did not ultimately recommend it. I am aware that the STUC has said that that failure was “a missed opportunity” to allow this Parliament to shape how workers can be better protected. I am sure that many members would agree with that statement, and this Parliament would be able to do more to protect workers if those powers sat here.
Sexual Entertainment Venues (Nil Cap)
To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the Court of Session’s ruling that a so-called nil cap for sexual entertainment venues under provisions in the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 is unlawful. (S6O-02243)
The Scottish Government delivered new powers through the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015, which enabled local authorities to set policy on sexual entertainment venues, taking into account views from stakeholders and the community. The judgment does not mean that a nil cap is unlawful; instead, the judgment made clear that the council ought to be aware of the impact of setting a nil cap in its area. In response, the council has delayed the introduction of a licensing scheme until 31 December this year and, prior to that, it will carry out a statutory 12-week consultation to review its licensing policy on sexual entertainment venues.
When I previously raised the issue in the chamber, the minister’s predecessor was very supportive of the policy. Although there is now a consultation on-going, what steps will the minister and the wider Scottish Government take to make modifications to policy—and, if need be, to legislation—to ensure that our councils can lawfully implement nil caps, if that is their democratic decision after they have carried out consultation?
I am very supportive of local areas carrying out local consultations and coming to a view on what is in the best interest of their area. If City of Edinburgh Council wishes to continue to pursue a policy of a nil cap and to follow due process, I will support that. I do not think that the issue in this instance relates to Government policy or legislation, but I am happy to discuss the matter further. My door is always open to the member and others in that respect.
The Government has long recognised, through its equally safe strategy, that commercial sexual exploitation in all its forms is both a cause and a consequence of men’s violence against women. Can the cabinet secretary give an update on legislation to tackle male demand and end that violence?
The member is right to make that connection. We must ensure that our work in the area aligns with the equally safe strategy. The Scottish Government continues to make progress in delivering on the programme for government commitment to develop a framework that effectively tackles and changes men’s demand for prostitution and to support those with experience of it.
Several aspects of the work in the equally safe strategy recognise commercial sexual exploitation as a form of violence against women and girls. A number of reforms and measures have been developed to underpin that work, and we will keep the member informed as we take it forward.
That concludes portfolio questions on justice and home affairs. There will be a very short pause before we move on to the next item of business.
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