First Minister's Questions - 28 October 2021

First Minister's Questions - 28 October 2021

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Before we move on to First Minister’s question  time, I invite members to join me in welcoming   to the gallery Dr Gabriele Andretta, President  of the State Parliament of Lower Saxony. I intend to take constituency and general  supplementary questions after question 2.   Members who wish to ask supplementaries should  press their request-to-speak buttons during   question 2. I will keep a note of members who  press their buttons, and I will take further  

supplementaries after question 7, if we have  any time in hand. Members who wish to ask a   supplementary to questions 3 to 7 should press  their buttons during the relevant question. After months of worry about what will happen,  we heard last night that the train strikes have,   thankfully, been averted. Although that is a  welcome relief for commuters across Scotland,   that should never have taken to the 11th hour  to secure. Will the First Minister explain why  

the additional funding and urgency to resolve  the matter have been found only now, as world   leaders are coming to town for the 26th UN climate  change conference of the parties—COP26—and why   those attendees are more important than ordinary  Scots, who have had to put up with it since March? It is clear that Douglas Ross has not  looked at or understood the nature and   detail of what was agreed last  night. I will come on to that. A very reasonable offer was made to the rail  unions, and negotiations have been on-going   for some time. The reasonableness of the offer  is evidenced by the fact that three of the four   rail unions that were party to the negotiations  had already accepted the offer; the outstanding   union was the National Union of  Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. I am delighted to say that agreement was reached  last night. The basis of that agreement is a   one-year deal. That is where I do not think that  Douglas Ross has looked at the detail. There is no   additional funding in that one-year deal. The deal  that was offered for the first year is the same  

as the one that was offered to the RMT earlier  this week. The difference is for the second year,   which the other unions have accepted.  There will be further negotiations to come. The outcome for the travelling public across  Scotland is a good one. It does not simply  

remove the prospect of a rail  strike over the period of COP;   it resolves the Sunday strikes that have been  on-going for some time. It is a good outcome,   and I am delighted that it has been  secured over the past 24 hours. Does the First Minister really expect us to  believe that there was no funding involved in that   and that the rail unions just suddenly decided to  accept it? I was very clear in my question, and I   hoped that the First Minister would have taken  the opportunity to apologise to people across   Scotland who have faced disruption since March.  They have waited for a resolution for months,   and the matter has been resolved only now, as  world leaders are about to come to Glasgow.

COP26 presents a huge opportunity  to tackle climate change,   but it will disrupt the daily lives of working  people across Glasgow, even with the RMT strike   cancelled. The list of road closures is  considerable, and there is massive potential   for traffic to grind to a halt. Is the First  Minister confident that Glasgow City Council   and the Scottish Government have done everything  that they can to minimise the disruption to   commuters and local residents in Glasgow who  are trying to get on with their daily lives? Before I come on to the questions relating  to COP more substantively, let me conclude   on the points relating to rail. In passing, it is  worth pointing out that, as far as I understand—I   will be corrected if I am wrong—south of the  border, where Douglas Ross’s party is in power,   rail workers are getting no pay increase  anywhere near the pay increase that is being   offered to rail workers in Scotland. Not for  the first time, there is something of an irony. I would have thought that Douglas Ross  would have considered something before   asking his questions but, given  that it is clear that he did not,   he might want to do that after he has asked them.  The agreement that the RMT accepted last night  

is virtually identical to the deal that had  already been accepted by the other unions, for one   year. That is the position. It is the same deal  that was on the table at the weekend for the RMT.   I am delighted that agreement has been reached,  because that now removes the prospect of strikes. Moving on, I hope that COP is successful on  the objective of making real progress towards   tackling climate change. All of us should want  to see that success over the next two weeks. The Scottish Government, working with the UK  Government, the United Nations and Glasgow   City Council, has put in place appropriate  contingency measures to ensure the successful   logistical operation of COP. We will not be  complacent. Our resilience arrangements are   stood up and there will be day-to-day  monitoring of all the different aspects   of the situation. However, I am as confident  as it is possible to be that those arrangements   are appropriate. Of course, COP is not  a Scottish Government event; it is a  

United Nations event. The UK Government is the  formal host and we are working closely with it. For the people of Glasgow—I am a resident  of the city and a representative of part   of it—there will be disruption and  inconvenience over the next two weeks.   That is regrettable in many ways, but  I think that the majority of people in   Glasgow understand the importance of the  COP26 summit for the future of the planet. I wish the United Nations negotiators,   the UK COP presidency and everybody  attending in an official capacity   every success in reaching a deal that puts first  the future of the planet and generations to come. Let us start with what the First Minister said  and, crucially, did not say in that answer.  

I hate to break it to her, but the deals  cannot be virtually identical. Identical   means that they are the same so,  if they are virtually identical,   they are not the same. There was clearly  a difference for the deal to be accepted. What the First Minister did not say in her first  or second answer was sorry. She did not say sorry   to the people of Scotland who have been  waiting for months for her Government to step   up and resolve the issues on the railway.  They have been resolved now but should have  

been resolved far sooner, because people have  been struggling with rail strikes since March. The First Minister accepted that there will  be disruption and inconvenience for people   in Glasgow. There is real potential for disruption  from protest groups at COP26 that risks public   safety. Only this morning, Extinction Rebellion  said that it plans “deliberate disruption” with  

“the most impact” possible. We all respect the  right of protesters to express their views,   but we cannot sit back and allow deliberate  and dangerous disruption of people’s lives. Will the First Minister reassure people across  Glasgow that there will be a zero-tolerance   approach to protests that disrupt people who  are going to their work—including doctors   and nurses—and ambulances that are carrying  people who are in urgent need of medical care? If truth be told, what Douglas Ross is really  displaying is disappointment that the rail strike   has been resolved because he would  rather that it had continued. He wants to know the details of the deal, given  that he did not check it before coming into   the chamber. The deals that were already  agreed by the other unions consisted of,   for the first year, a 2.5 per cent pay rise  backdated for 2021, a £300 COP26 payment and  

a rest-day working agreement; the deal that  was agreed with the RMT last night consists   of a 2.5 per cent pay rise backdated for 2021,  a £300 payment for COP26 and a rest-day working   agreement. That sounds to me pretty  identical to the one that three of the   four unions had already agreed. It is good news  for the people who travel on our railways and   for the Scottish population, which is probably  why Douglas Ross is so deeply irritated by it. Obviously, it is for Police Scotland to decide  the appropriate approach to the policing of   demonstrations. The chief constable, with  whom I will have further discussions on the   matter today and tomorrow, has been clear  that there will be a sensitive policing   operation that will do everything possible to  facilitate appropriate and peaceful protest.  

However, Police Scotland will respond to any  protests that seek to break the law and disrupt   people beyond what would be considered reasonable. People want to come and make their voices heard.  That is understandable, given the importance of   the issues that are under discussion. However, I  say to people who are looking to come to protest   in Glasgow that they should do it peacefully  and with recognition that the people of Glasgow   are agreeing to host the conference and  suffering some disruption because of that,   so they should not add to that disruption  for them. Let us all get behind the people   who will negotiate a good outcome—I  hope—for the future of the planet. Nicola Sturgeon speaks about disappointment  and irritation. If she wants to look for  

disappointment and irritation, it is coming  from commuters, who have been putting up with   the situation since March. We have now had  three attempts to get the First Minister   to have some humility and to accept  that the problems of the strikes   have affected people up and down Scotland  for months. Would she take the opportunity   to recognise the disruption that that has  caused to people across Scotland? The fact   that the matter has been resolved at the last  minute makes it look like it is more important   for it to be suitably sorted for the COP26 travel  arrangements, not for people across Scotland. The First Minister also mentioned  the protests that are expected   over the next couple of weeks in Glasgow. There  have been suggestions from some public figures,   including one of Nicola Sturgeon’s own ministers,  that some unlawful protest will be tolerated.  

It is one thing to be frustrated by  the lack of action on climate change,   but it is another thing entirely to take that  frustration and use it to disrupt people’s lives.   We all want COP26 to be a success. It is not  just an opportunity to tackle climate change;   it is a once-in-a-generation chance to highlight  the best of Glasgow to the rest of the world. It has already been a rocky  road to get to this point,   from strike threats to hospital appointments  being cancelled to the well-known problems   with bin collections and concerns  over wider travel disruption. Is   the First Minister now fully confident that  Glasgow is ready to grasp this opportunity? Yes, I am. Obviously, the UK Government has  a big part to play here. Douglas Ross is   actually sounding a bit disappointed that  the UK Government decided to bring COP26   to Glasgow; perhaps he wants to direct  some of his concerns to the UK Government.

These are serious issues, which the Scottish  Government has been focused on, with our   partners—which, in the case of COP, include  the UK Government, Glasgow City Council and the   United Nations. I met just yesterday with the  UN lead negotiator for COP26 to discuss some of   the logistical issues around the conference  and also the substance of the negotiations. On the issue of rail disruption, the Scottish  Government has been supporting ScotRail to   bring an end to any disruption. I always regret  disruption that is caused by disputes of this  

nature. However, I think that the offer that has  been made to rail unions was a reasonable one, as   evidenced by the fact that three out of the four  unions had already accepted it. I am glad to say   that we reached agreement with the fourth of  those unions last night to take away the prospect   of a strike and to end the Sunday disruption  that has been suffered for some time now.

On the issue of protest, in a constitutional  democracy it is not for politicians to decide   how to police demonstrations; it is for the  police to decide how they appropriately police   demonstrations. What Douglas Ross is asking  me is whether I have confidence in the ability   of Police Scotland to do that appropriately  and sensitively, with the interests of the   people of Glasgow and Scotland at heart. Yes, I  do have confidence in Police Scotland to do so. Next week, the eyes of the world will be on  Glasgow as leaders gather for our last great   chance to avert the climate emergency. It is  in all our interests and in those of future   generations that the 26th United Nations climate  change conference of the parties—COP26—succeeds.  

We have the opportunity to strike a historic  Glasgow agreement. However, the proposals that   are currently on the table would still lead to  more than 2°C of global warming. That simply is   not good enough. That is why it is important that  political leaders, both at home and abroad, turn   their words into meaningful action. Does the First  Minister agree that that means leading by example? Yes, I do agree with that, and Scotland does  lead by example. That is not to say that we do  

not have more work to do—we  absolutely, most definitely, have—but   our own statutory climate change targets are  more than consistent with the Paris agreement,   which gives us the ability to apply pressure to  others. Unfortunately, we are not directly at the   negotiating table, but we have a considerable  degree of influence, not least through   our co-convenership of the Under2  Coalition, which is bringing city,   state and devolved Governments together to  put maximum pressure on the discussions. Yes, we must lead by example. There is a  big job of work to do to keep 1.5°C alive,   which is the aim of the COP26 summit. There is  a gap on emissions right now, and there is a gap   on climate finance. I know that the negotiators  are very focused on trying to close those gaps   as far as possible, and that is what we must  hope emerges over the period of the summit.

I will come back to the national record, but  let us talk about what this means locally.   I love Glasgow—it is my home—but, frankly, it  has been let down by the Scottish National Party,   which cannot even get the basics right.  Tonnes of waste is piling up on our streets,   fly-tipping is on the rise and there are more  than a million rats. Glasgow deserves better.

While Nicola Sturgeon lectures the  world about the global environment,   she is turning a blind eye to the environment that  Glaswegians are living in every day. Tomorrow,   I will join cleansing workers who have  been on the front line throughout the   pandemic. For months, they have been crying out  for Nicola Sturgeon to tackle the waste crisis,   but they have been repeatedly ignored.  Will she join me tomorrow in Glasgow   to hear directly from them about the  challenges that they face every day? I will be working hard to make sure that the  Scottish Government is doing everything it can to   support the Convention of Scottish Local  Authorities and local authorities to reach—I   hope—an agreement with the trade unions to resolve  the issues. That is my job and my responsibility.  

I do not shy away from the problems and challenges  that cities such as Glasgow—because Glasgow is not   unique here—face in the times that we are living  through right now, but nor will I stand here   and allow Glasgow, which is one of the greatest  cities in the world, to be talked down for   political purposes in the way that Anas Sarwar  has disgracefully been doing in recent times. Next week, we will be talking about making  history, but that was probably a historically   out-of-touch answer from the First Minister. She  is basically saying to Glaswegians, “That’s as   good as it gets.” That is, frankly, not as good as  it gets. She talks about talking to world leaders,   but those people in Glasgow are on the front  line, leading the fight against the environmental   crisis. She should be taking them much more  seriously, because she needs to lead by example. Nicola Sturgeon is right to say that we need  credible action, but, while she talks about the   need for more public transport and getting people  out of their cars, her Government is cutting   hundreds of train services. She lectures the world  on the global environment while cutting cleansing  

budgets and neglecting the local environment. Her  Scottish National Party Government has missed its   renewable heating target and has missed its  gas emissions target for three years running.   She promised 130,000 green jobs by 2020,  but we have just over 21,000. We all want   COP26 to be the moment when the world comes  together to stop the climate catastrophe,   so when will Nicola Sturgeon stop talking  about credible action and start delivering it? I will take those questions in  turn. We are seeing an increase  

in renewable heat. The decline that was reported  yesterday was driven by reduced output from large   biomass systems. As the Energy Saving Trust  noted yesterday, that actually masked growth in   renewable heat output from other  technologies, particularly heat pumps. On greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland, we have  decarbonised as a country in recent years faster   than any G20 country. We have reduced our  emissions by 51.5 per cent. Yes, our target   said that it should have been 55 per cent, and  that is why we are publishing a catch-up plan,   which the law requires us to do. We have  decarbonised to a greater extent and faster  

than most other countries in the world,  which is why we are leading by example. On rail services, there has been a  consultation and ScotRail is now looking   at all the responses to that consultation   to make sure that we have rail services that  are fit for the future. I am proud to say   that it is this Government that is going to  renationalise Scotland’s railways to make them   fit for the future. When Labour was in government,  it did not even allow us the powers to do that. I will now take supplementary questions. In 2014, we were told that the people in Scotland  benefit from the United Kingdom’s influence on the   world stage. However, under Westminster’s control,  decisions that affect our lives are constantly   taken without any serious consideration of  the interests of the Scottish people. The  

latest example of that is the New Zealand trade  deal. What is the First Minister’s assessment   of the possible effects of the agreement on our  farming industry and the wider Scottish economy? The proposed trade agreement with New Zealand  represents a significant opening up of our   agriculture market to imports of New Zealand  agri-food, which is produced at a lower cost and,   crucially, will do nothing to offset the damage  to our economy that is being caused by Brexit. The   UK Government’s own economic analysis concluded  that a UK-New Zealand trade agreement would have   a zero per cent impact on UK gross domestic  product overall and would actually deliver a   contraction of 0.5 per cent in GDP in Scotland’s  agriculture and semi-processed food sector. We   were not involved in those negotiations, but the  proposed deal is evidence that, when it comes to   negotiating such trade deals, Scotland’s interests  are nowhere on the radar of the UK Government.   That is utterly disgraceful, and it is yet another  downside implication of the Brexit disaster. As the First Minister knows, I am—along  with many other Scots—taking part in the   Novavax vaccine trial. It is now more than  two weeks since triallists in other parts  

of the United Kingdom were contacted  and offered an alternative vaccine;   however, in Scotland there has been silence. Will  the Scottish Government follow the UK Government   in offering trial participants two  doses of an alternative vaccine?   That would give them clarity and peace of  mind that they were appropriately protected. Discussions are continuing on that matter.  We have made it absolutely clear that there   will be no disadvantage to those who have taken  part in vaccine trials. We are deeply grateful   to them. I know that the Cabinet Secretary for  Health and Social Care is having discussions   with the UK Secretary of State for Health  and Social Care and the chief medical   officer later today. He will, of course,  update the Parliament as soon as possible.

A 94-year-old woman in my constituency had  to cancel her booster vaccination appointment   because she caught Covid. Thankfully, she has  now recovered, but her family is still trying   to re-book online and on the telephone through  the NHS Inform booking service. They have tried   over three days, phoning several times a day.  Yesterday, the operator told her that the system  

was down, that it had been down all week and that  they did not know when it was going to be fixed.   When the First Minister was telling everybody to  phone NHS Inform this week to get an appointment,   the system was not functioning. Can  she tell us when it will be fixed? The issue has been resolved now, I understand.  There was a problem with the system. If Jackie  

Baillie sends the Cabinet Secretary for Health  and Social Care her constituent’s details, we can   get in touch to make sure that they have  what they need to re-book the appointment. Such issues will happen from time to  time. They are regrettable and we fix   them as quickly as possible. However, as of  yesterday, almost 600,000 booster vaccinations   had been given across Scotland. Every day,  thousands of booster vaccinations are given,   which is to the great credit of everybody who  is administering the scheme across the country. The First Minister will be aware that the  people of Afghanistan are currently suffering   a humanitarian crisis, with more than half  the population facing acute hunger as the   country is gripped in one of the world’s worst  food shortages. The United Nations has warned  

that a harsh winter looms and that more  than 23 million Afghans will go hungry   as a result of conflict and the economic downturn.   Will the First Minister express her  solidarity with the people of Afghanistan   and call on the United Kingdom Government to  work quickly with the UN to come to their aid? Yes. I am sure that we would all want to  express once again our solidarity with the   people of Afghanistan. The Scottish Government  has announced humanitarian funding through our   own humanitarian emergency fund—we did that just  last month. We are also welcoming people from  

Afghanistan and helping to give them refuge here.  We all want to do everything possible to help,   and the Scottish Government is absolutely  focused on making sure that we do that. Aberdeen City Council is £6 million out of  pocket because the Scottish Government has   not paid vital Covid grants from over a year ago.  Ministers have pushed back the date for payment on   three separate occasions. When will Aberdeen  City Council get the money that it is due? Councils are getting every penny that  is due to them. I will look into the  

particular issue of the timing of payments  to Aberdeen City Council and will write   to the member, but councils have had  tens of millions of pounds of Covid   funding and, as I have said, they get  every penny that they are entitled to. Last week, one of my constituents, Ms Cooper  from Bishopbriggs, went to get her Covid-19   booster vaccination. She arrived on time for  her appointment but the vaccination centre had   no available disabled parking, no managed queuing  and no seating for waiting patients. Ms Cooper,  

who is 83, has dementia, diabetes and  reduced mobility but she was made to   wait for an hour and a half outside  in the cold and rain. Ms Cooper’s   daughter has told me that her mother is  afraid to go for any future vaccination.   Ms Cooper is not alone. My inbox and the  inboxes of colleagues are full of similar cases. Forcing the elderly to wait in such  conditions is turning people off   getting their vaccination at a time  when it is needed more than ever.  

What is the First Minster doing to ensure that  our elderly and most vulnerable citizens are   vaccinated quickly and safely and that nobody’s  mother or father has to wait outside for hours   in inclement weather? She will, I am  sure, agree that that is unacceptable. The Cabinet Secretary for Health  and Social Care has raised with   national health service board chairs  the issue of people having to queue   or wait for appointments. It is really  important that that does not happen. Obviously, I accept that what has been recounted  is not acceptable for any elderly person. However,   it is also important to recognise the huge  success of the vaccination programme, including   the booster campaign that is under way right  now, literally as we speak. Thousands of people  

are being vaccinated with booster jags. That is  a good thing, because it is a vital part of our   protection over this winter period. Health boards  and vaccinators are working hard on that, and the   Scottish Government is doing and will continue to  do everything it can to support that programme. NHS Borders is sending out  booster vaccination invitations.   Can the First Minister confirm to my constituents  that, if they are registered with a Borders   general practitioner, they will be notified of  that appointment by NHS Borders even if they   had one or both of their vaccinations in England? Yes, that is the case. The appointment  notification will be given through NHS Borders. If  

anybody does not receive a notification  when they believe they should have done,   the process allows them to check  whether there is a problem. A recent report revealed that 53 per cent of  surveyed university staff showed possible signs   of depression and that one in five academics  was working at least two extra days per week.   What action is the Scottish  Government taking to help universities   and colleges to reduce the workload  of staff as restrictions persist? We recognise that there has been a mental health  impact on many people in different sectors across   the country, and we are taking a range of steps  to improve mental health provision. First and   foremost, it is for universities and colleges  to look after the wellbeing of their staff.   Through the discussions that we have with  the sector about funding and other support,   we will—as we do in all sectors—make sure that  mental health issues are properly catered for.

To ask the First Minister, in light of the 26th  United Nations climate change conference of   the parties—COP26—what action the Scottish  Government is taking to showcase the role   that Scottish agriculture can  play in reducing carbon emissions. I am sure that Rachael Hamilton will join me in  welcoming the announcement that was made this   morning by the Cabinet Secretary for Rural  Affairs and Islands of a national test   programme of measures to kick start action  by farmers and crofters to reduce their   carbon emissions. She also announced yesterday  that the agri-environment climate scheme—AECS—will   reopen for funding in 2022 to support the  ambition of doubling the amount of land under   organic management. We have also published  a consultation that builds on key themes   from the farmer-led groups, which  will help to inform future work. I hope that Rachael Hamilton has noticed what  we are not doing here in Scotland: we will not   sell out Scotland’s farmers and food producers  in trade agreements that threaten to undermine   standards and prices and we will not cut the level  of payments that our farmers receive. However,   we will fight Tory United Kingdom Government  plans to treat agriculture payments as subsidies,   unlike any other jurisdiction in the world,  which further undermines the potential   support that is available for farmers and  crofters in Scotland for producing food.

Rishi Sunak’s budget yesterday delivers for  Scottish farmers and crofters, providing   an additional £1.9 billion, which will be  beneficial in fighting climate change. We   welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment for  further AECS funding, which is a long-standing   Conservative demand, but farmers urgently require  the detail of that extended funding. Scottish   agriculture has some of the most environmentally  friendly practices in the world, but livestock   producers are concerned that the industry will be  used as a scapegoat. Has the Scottish Government   ever considered allocating funding to accelerate  the reduction of cattle numbers—yes or no? Our agriculture sector is being used as a  scapegoat, but not by the Scottish Government; it   is being used as a scapegoat by the UK Government  and has been, frankly, betrayed and let down   by the UK Government. We know that agriculture is  an emitter of greenhouse gases and must play its   role in us meeting our net zero target, but we  will do that in a way that supports the sector   appropriately. We will not short change the  sector in the way that the UK Government has done. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish   Government’s response is to  the United Kingdom budget.

We welcome aspects of the United  Kingdom Government’s budget,   but there is also much to cause disappointment.  It does not do enough to address the cost of   living crisis that many individuals  and families across the country face,   and it will leave the Scottish Government  with fewer resources in every year of the   spending review than we have at our disposal  this year. The budget results in considerable   challenges for the Scottish Government and  we will set out our budget plans shortly. Millions face a squeeze on living  standards over the coming year.   While the Chancellor cut taxes on bank  profits, he failed to introduce measures to   help households that are already struggling  with rising food and fuel prices. The tax  

burden is now at its greatest since the 1950s,  with raised national insurance contributions   and frozen personal income tax allowances,  cutting people’s disposable incomes. Does the First Minister agree with Paul Johnson,   director of the Institute  for Fiscal Studies, who said: “This is actually awful. Yet more years of  real incomes barely growing. High inflation,   rising taxes, poor growth keeping living standards  virtually stagnant for another half a decade”? Does she agree with anti-poverty  charity Z2K, which said: “There’s absolutely nothing for the  3 million plus whose disability,   illness or caring responsibilities mean they  can’t work and will be hit hard this winter”? What about a question? This is a speech.

Does she further agree that the UK budget  was a failure in terms of delivering— Excuse me, Mr Gibson. —equality, fairness and improving  the lives of people in Scotland? Mr Gibson, could you hold  on for one minute, please? Sorry. That was an exceptionally long question,  but I will decide whether we will hear   your exceptionally long question. If the  First Minister heard enough of the question,   I would be grateful if she would respond to  that. I ask members to bear in mind that there   is a great deal of interest in this session. I  would like to get in as many members as possible. I suspect that I know why the Tories did not want  to hear Kenny Gibson’s question. It is because  

there were some deeply uncomfortable truths in  it for them. When I gave my initial answer to Mr   Gibson, there was laughter from the Conservative  benches when I said that we would have less money   in every year of the spending review than we have  in this year. Let me give the detail of that. First Minister, could you give me one second?   I would very much like to hear the First  Minister, and I would be grateful if   colleagues could desist from commenting  from a sedentary position. Thank you.

I have two final points that I  suspect the Conservatives will also   not want to hear. It is the case that,  on the issue of living standards,   the director of the Institute for Fiscal  Studies said yesterday about the budget: “This is actually awful. ... more years of  real incomes barely growing. High inflation,   rising taxes, poor growth keeping living standards  virtually stagnant for another half a decade”.

Then, of course, we have universal credit. This  is what the Resolution Foundation had to say: “Of the 4.4 million households on Universal  Credit around three-quarters ... will be   worse off as a result of decisions  to take away the £20 a week uplift”. Beyond the headlines, those are the  realities for individuals and families   right across the country. That is why the  Conservatives did not want to hear the facts. What is the Scottish Government’s  reaction to yesterday’s call from the   Scottish Tourism Alliance to extend the period of  business rates relief in retail, hospitality and   leisure on a similar basis to that announced  by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday? We had already extended 100 per cent rates  relief, when the chancellor did not do so   for other parts of the United Kingdom.  The 100 per cent rates relief is already  

in place in this financial year. We will bring  forward our budget in due course for scrutiny   by Parliament and I can give a guarantee  that we will be fair to the retail sector,   as we have been in a way that the UK  Government has not over recent months. What is the First Minister’s reaction  to the aviation duty cut in yesterday’s   announcement? What demand management can  we put in place to ensure that it does not   encourage climate-polluting frequent  flying within the United Kingdom? I think that it was the wrong choice. A  few days from the start of the 26th United   Nations climate change conference of  the parties—COP26—when all of us have an   obligation to think about how we contribute  to reaching net zero and saving the planet,   the chancellor chose to make that cut in  aviation duty. It is not a choice that this   Government would have made, but it is for the UK  Government to defend it in the months to come. To ask the First Minister what the  Scottish Government anticipates the   impact of the 26th United Nations climate  change conference of the parties—COP26—will   be on Glasgow’s healthcare services.

The Scottish Government is working  closely with NHS Greater Glasgow and   Clyde. We have been doing so for some  months to plan and prepare for COP26.   Information from previous COP summits tells us  that the impact on routine health services is not   substantial. However, we are not complacent and  we recognise the risks that are associated with   hosting COP during the pandemic. We have therefore  been working with the UN, the United Kingdom   Government, Glasgow City Council, Public Health  Scotland and others to put in place measures to   mitigate the risks and the potential impact on the  national health service and other public services.   Arrangements are in place to closely monitor  Covid cases and to respond swiftly and   appropriately to any increase in cases in order  to minimise the impact on healthcare services.

Like the First Minister, I recognise the hard  work that has been done by our health services.   However, I had hoped that she might share my  concern about what was said in a paper for   Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS  Board this week, namely that “no specific provision has been made  for additional inpatient capacity” during COP26. I would have hoped that the First Minister would  know that COP26 is not really comparable to the   G7 summit. At COP, there will be about 14,000  delegates a day and the march by activists on   6 November has been licensed for up to 100,000  people. It is obvious that, given that Covid cases  

are high and hospitals are already overwhelmed,  there is likely to be an increase in in-patient   numbers. In light of that, can the First  Minister tell me today or at some other time   what will be the receiving hospital for COP26?  Will that hospital have additional capacity? The First Minster has a constituency interest  in the matter. I hope that she can tell me that   there will be safe and guaranteed routes to  accident and emergency departments not just   for ambulances but for the general public who will  need to attend A and E during COP26. I hope that   she can give me whatever assurance that she can  that she will be mindful of the need to constantly   ensure that safe routes to A and E  and to our hospitals are provided. On the last point, which, of  course, is extremely important,   all that is factored into the transport plans  that are in place, as people would expect.

On the broader question, Pauline  McNeill mentioned the G7 summit. I   know that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has  been looking at previous COP summits to assess   the likely impact on routine healthcare.  However, it is important to recognise that   previous COP summits have not taken place amidst  a pandemic, so there might be a different impact. A number of contingency arrangements are in  place. The health secretary and I have been  

looking closely at the contingency  arrangements that Greater Glasgow   and Clyde NHS Board has in place. There is  substantial on-site health provision to try to   reduce the impact on hospitals in Glasgow, and the  health board is increasing the numbers of staff   who will be in place during the summit. Of course,  which hospitals receive patients will depend   on why those patients are admitted and, of course,  on the profile of the impact across the city. Substantial contingency arrangements are in place.   I hope that that gives some reassurance  to Pauline McNeill and other members.

With significant road closures and ill-timed  roadworks across Glasgow, what provisions   have been put in place to allow hard-working  national health service staff to get to work? The transport plans that are in place take  account of all those things. The plans have   been communicated to people in Glasgow over  a significant period so that people can make   arrangements. It is vital that those who  work in our health service get to work,   and that has been part of the consideration  as the plans have been put in place.

To ask the First Minister what the Scottish  Government will be doing to amplify the voices   of the global south at the 26th United Nations  climate change conference of the parties—COP26. We have committed to ensuring that our programme  for COP26 is inclusive and that we work to amplify   the voices of those who are too often not  heard, including through the Glasgow climate   dialogues, and to learn, listen and engage on  the key issues for those from the global south. We want people to be at the heart of decision  making in Scotland and at COP, and we   supported the Global Assembly to bring the lived  experiences of global citizens directly to COP. We are amplifying youth voices in Scotland,  and those from Malawi through, for example,   our Malawi climate leaders programme.

I expect to have a number of meetings  with representatives of the global south   over the next two weeks, to listen to  their perspective on the climate crisis   and hear how we can further support  their voices in their ask of COP26. It is clear that the Scottish Government  is showing leadership. However,   the global south has been clear that a  just transition away from fossil fuels   that leaves nobody behind must  also be a priority at the COP.

Let us look at what other small nations of  around 5 million people are doing by using   their full powers over energy. New  Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and Costa Rica   are all moving on from the era of oil and gas. The  case for independence rests on Scotland proudly   joining them as a world leader in that real  just transition. Does the First Minister agree? Yes, we are all in a transition away from  oil and gas. As I said earlier this week,   we have to accelerate that transition as  far as possible. The Scottish Government   has, for example, commissioned new research to  look in detail at how we can do that quickly.

We have to build up the alternatives  as quickly as possible but, crucially,   we must support those who work in oil and  gas to transition to the jobs of the future.   The Scottish Government is focused on doing  that and on making sure that the just transition   is fast enough to be in the  interests of the planet. At the most recent meeting of the cross-party  group on international development, we discussed   those people who are the most disproportionately  affected by climate change in the global south,   such as young people, women and the marginalised.  It was stressed that any international aid  

must get to local communities, because they  are best suited to ensuring that the aid   is distributed where it is most needed.  What steps can the Scottish Government take   to ensure that aid is reaching local  communities and vulnerable groups? In trying to amplify those voices during COP,  that will be one of the key issues. The quantum   of climate finance and how that finance is used  on not just mitigation, but adaptation and what is   called loss and damage, is one of the significant  strands of the discussions that will take place in   Glasgow during the next two weeks. Our own climate  justice fund is looking to pivot towards that. We   can lead by example, but also do everything  that we can to make sure that the voices of   the global south are heard on those issues.  That is exactly what we intend to seek to do. To ask the First Minister what the  Scottish Government’s position is   regarding the use of facial  recognition technology in schools. Facial recognition technology in schools does  not appear to be proportionate or necessary.  

That said, as Willie Rennie will be  aware, the introduction of biometric   identification systems is a matter  for local authorities and schools. The Scottish Government is clear that,  prior to introducing biometric systems,   an education authority should carry out a privacy  impact assessment, or a proportionate equivalent,   and consult pupils and parents. Information  should also be provided on data protection,   how to opt out, consent, and alternative systems  that may be used. Schools and local authorities   will also pay due attention to the  Information Commissioner’s Office   requirements that organisations that are  using facial recognition technology should   comply with data protection law  before, during and after its use.

The subtle change of tone from the  First Minister is mildly welcome,   but I am afraid that she is not doing enough  on this. It is about children’s rights   and she does not seem to  be that bothered about it. The United Kingdom Information Commissioner’s  Office has called a halt to the scheme in North   Ayrshire, but it should never have got this  far. The SNP Government previously opposed   the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner  having a role in health and education.   If the First Minister will not intervene on  facial recognition, will she support the expansion   of the remit of the Scottish Biometrics  Commissioner so that he can intervene? I am happy to give consideration to that  suggestion. The rights of children are  

hugely important to all of us in the Parliament.  We are committed to ensuring that their rights are   protected, including their right to the fair and  lawful processing of their personal information. I am not aware of any subtle change  in the tone of my answer. What I set   out in my initial answer is important. It  recognises the role of local authorities  

in schools, and it also sets out the requirements  to which local authorities need to pay heed. That   is the appropriate way to deal with what I  accept is a difficult and sensitive issue. Like me, the First Minister has the privilege  of representing Glasgow as an MSP, so I was   disappointed to hear her response to Anas  Sarwar’s question asking her to meet cleansing   workers tomorrow. Talking about the state of  our streets and how rats are running around   them is not talking Glasgow down; that is letting  Glasgow down. As she is my representative and MSP,   I again ask the First Minister to please meet  the cleansing workers tomorrow and hear from   them at first hand what is happening. I assure  her that there are rats in our streets. There  

are rats in my flat. As my representative,  will the First Minister please meet the   cleansing workers tomorrow and  show that she cares about Glasgow? I think that the people who live and work in  Glasgow, and certainly those in my constituency,   know that I care deeply about all  the issues that they face. That   is, I presume, one of the reasons why they have  elected and re-elected me as their representative.

I listen to cleansing workers and other  people across Glasgow on a daily basis. My job   as a local representative is to represent those  interests, which I do every day to the best of   my ability. My job as First Minister is to  find the solutions to their problems. That   is why the Scottish Government will continue  to do everything that it can to support the   Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to  find a solution to the issues in question.

As a resident and a representative of  the city of Glasgow, I do not shy away   from the challenges that the city faces,  but I think that some of the language   that Labour is using about Glasgow and some of the  ways in which Labour is seeking to characterise   the city of Glasgow are doing a disservice  to the city and to people who live there,   and that Labour is doing that for political  purposes, not in the interests of the city. On a   point of order, Presiding Officer. I apologise  for the late notification of my point of order. I seek your guidance in relation to  comments that were made by Graeme Dey,   the Minister for Transport, about future rail  services in the south-west of Scotland. In   responding to a question from Emma Harper  in the chamber on 22 September, the minister   stated that there would be six additional  services operating on the Ayr to Stranraer   line. When I asked a supplementary question  about that information, Mr Dey responded: “In his haste to jump up and ask a supplementary  question, Finlay Carson was clearly not listening   to my first answer, so I will repeat  what I said. It is proposed that there   will be an additional six Ayr to Stranraer  services compared to the current timetable”.—

Subsequently, I asked the Scottish  Parliament information centre to   confirm that the information that  the minister provided was correct.   SPICe has since told me that the minister  spoke in error. In its response, SPICe stated: “To confirm, Rail officials and the Minister  are aware of the error below. The error   resulted from the analysis of figures by Rail  officials which were then provided to Mr Dey.” Despite the fact that the minister has  apparently been informed of the error, I   have received no communication or  apology from Mr Dey on the matter.

Therefore, Presiding Officer, I seek your  guidance. As far as you are aware, has the   minister made any attempt to correct the record,   now that he must surely be aware of  his error? If not, given how long the   information in question has formed part of the  Official Report , can you advise how the error   should be addressed and whether there has been any  code of conduct breach, ministerial or otherwise? I thank Mr Carson for his contribution, which  is now on the record. He will be aware that   the content of members’ contributions is not a  matter for me, as Presiding Officer. However,   a mechanism exists whereby members can  correct any contribution that they have made.

2021-10-30 14:31

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