After section 17

Part of Family Law (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:45 pm on 15th December 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 3:45 pm, 15th December 2005

The context of the debate has changed in light of the minister's announcement this morning of £300,000 to aid capacity building in the various family relationship services around Scotland. However, we must be conscious that there are 30 such services, therefore if the funding for capacity building were divided evenly—I recognise that it will not be—the amount given to each would be limited to £10,000. Of course, that would not secure the long-term future of the services. I am particularly interested to hear what the minister has to say about that.

I did not make a sufficiently accurate note of the minister's announcement this morning, so I am not 100 per cent clear whether it covers all three of the proposed subsections in amendment 44, which are on relationship counselling services, family mediation and contact centres. I recognise that, in many ways, contact centres might be the most costly service, but they enable the kind of contacts that we have just discussed—those that result from contact orders—to be facilitated and mentored by a third party. I suspect that contact centres strongly support the initiative that the minister adumbrated in discussing the contact officer pilot in group 11.

I do not think that I speak separately from the Justice 1 Committee on this subject, which the committee discussed again yesterday. The minute of the meeting records:

"The Committee agreed the importance of proper provision of family support services and to consider this matter at a future meeting following the passage of the Family Law (Scotland) Bill."

We assume that the bill will be passed—it is a widely held assumption—but we have not exhausted the subject by any means.

The minister has an opportunity to compare and contrast what might be happen in Scotland with what the Justice 1 Committee found is happening in Australia. Even I might agree that it is going over the top a bit to spend 300 million Australian dollars—if I recall the figure correctly—on the matter in a country that has twice our population. However, that puts into context the £300,000 that the minister announced this morning. Australia's system of dealing with matters is a three-stage process that is similar to ours. First, a court order is made. Secondly, if the court order is breached there is a fallback. Thirdly, people are sent to jail. Of course, Australia never sends people to jail.

Amendment 53 is consequential and I will say no more on it.

I move amendment 44.