Cabinet (Meetings)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 29th June 2017.

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Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

4. To ask the First Minister what issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the Cabinet. (S5F-01463)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Issues of importance to the people of Scotland.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

Last week, I asked the First Minister about the latest problems in the police. She told me that she had that under control

. This week, we discover problems with the chief executive of the Scottish Police Authority, a botched recruitment process and a flawed forensic service. Is there anything else that she has not got under control?

The First Minister:

I think that to trivialise those issues in the way that Willie Rennie is doing does not do him any credit. He mischaracterises the answer that I gave him last week.

What I actually did last week was go into detail about some of the work that had been done, including the report by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland that looked at the improvements that have already been made in the workings of the SPA and in the relationships between the SPA, its executive and Police Scotland.

This week, Willie Rennie refers, among other things, to the report on forensics services. Much of the report talks about the high quality of forensic services, but it also sets out areas where the SPA requires to deliver further improvements.

With Michael Matheson in the lead of this work, we have taken action with the SPA and Police Scotland, all of which is overseen by HMICS to ensure that the improvements that require to be made are being made.

I give credit to Willie Rennie, because he has raised police issues consistently in the chamber, and he is right to do so. However, although anybody who has the degree of interest that he has in those issues will continue to point to the issues that require to be improved and resolved, in all fairness they will probably also give some credit to the police for the significant progress that has already been made.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

That is about as convincing as David Mundell on the Barnett formula.

It is not just the police that the First Minister’s fingerprints are all over. The Fraser of Allander institute is warning that we could be just 140 hours from recession, the Royal College of Nursing says there are more questions than answers on the national health service workforce plan, and we have just heard that Scottish farmers are angry that the First Minister did not bother to tell them that they are not to get their money on time. All of that has happened in just seven days.

The First Minister has faced questions on competence on the economy, education, policing and farming. Is that the reason why she abandoned her ministerial reshuffle this week? Did she work out that the problem might not be them but might be closer to home?

The First Minister:

That proves that Willie Rennie lives in a wee world of his own most of the time. Sometimes it sounds like quite a fun one, so maybe I will join it one day and take some of whatever he is on.

I will quickly go through the serious issues that Willie Rennie has raised. The Fraser of Allander institute put out an important report this morning that shows challenges for the Scottish economy. What it forecasts, though, is that the Scottish economy will grow this year, next year and the year after. The big shadow that is hanging over the performance of the Scottish and the United Kingdom economies, of course, is the on-going Brexit negotiations.

On NHS workforce planning, the report that we published this week focuses on the NHS workforce, and further parts will focus on how we integrate workforce planning in social and primary care. The current report looks at 1,600 more nursing places, added to the 1,000 that we had already committed to over this session of Parliament, as well as measures to encourage nurses who have left practice to return to it. It is serious, substantial, comprehensive work that looks at how we build on the record numbers of staff in our national health service and make sure that it is sustainable for the future.

On the common agricultural payments issue, which I have already talked about at length, the fact is that, notwithstanding the issues in the system, the vast majority of farmers have received the money that they are entitled to—or 80 per cent of it.

On all those issues, whether it is in the last week, over the recess or after the recess, this is a Government that is getting on with delivering for the people of Scotland. We will get on with doing the job that we are here to do—improving our public services, helping to grow our economy and lifting people out of poverty. We will let the others continue with their bad jokes—in Willie Rennie’s case—and political point scoring. We will get on with the job.

The Presiding Officer:

I understand that there are a few more supplementaries.

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

Yesterday, the Prime Minister repeatedly failed to confirm whether David Mundell made representations over Scotland receiving its fair share in funding following the Tory and Democratic Unionist Party deal. Does the First Minister agree with me that it is now obvious that he made no such effort?

The First Minister:

I think that it is obvious to anybody that David Mundell, the Secretary of State for Scotland, did not lift a finger to try to make sure that Scotland got additional funding in the same way that Northern Ireland got additional funding. If the normal rules had been applied here, Scotland would be looking at additional funding of almost £3 billion, but thanks to David Mundell not lifting a finger and thanks to the 13 Tory MPs who, just a couple of weeks ago, we were told were going to be ruling the roost in number 10 and in London, but who instead have gone absent without leave, Scotland has not got a single penny.

Shame on the Scottish Conservatives, and shame on the Secretary of State for Scotland. I watched him yesterday trying to wriggle his way out of the fact that, just a few days ago, he was saying that he would never stand for something that gave money by the back door to Northern Ireland. It seems that, when he was asked what he did to stand up for Scotland, the answer was simply this—when the Tories came to shaft and sell out Scotland, all that David Mundell did was to try to make sure that they did it transparently. I think that people have the right to expect a lot more from the so-called Secretary of State for Scotland.

Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

Scotland is in the height of its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex pride season. Does the First Minister agree that it is unacceptable for schools to deny young people the right to express their identity or support the LGBTI community?

The First Minister:

Yes. I believe that all young people should be able to express their identity freely without fear of discrimination or bullying in any way, and I do not think that schools or any other parts of society should prevent them from doing that.

I congratulate the time for inclusive education campaign in particular for reaching its second anniversary this week. We are currently working with TIE in the working group that has been set up to promote an inclusive approach to sex and relationship education in our schools, and we look forward to continuing work to progress that through the working group in the weeks and months to come.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

I want to return to the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill. I understand what the First Minister says about the commission, and Labour will work with the Government over the summer to try to find a way forward. However, what work is being done to identify the costs of addressing child poverty? Does she accept that, unless we make new moneys available to invest to tackle child poverty, targets will not be met?

The First Minister:

First, I welcome Alex Rowley’s commitment to work with us. From my conversations with Angela Constance, I think that he understands the issue here, in terms of the statutory underpinning of the commission. That is not the problem. The issue is whether we want to restrict the commission’s remit to child poverty as opposed to poverty more generally. I think that there is a view on the part of some stakeholders that we should not do that, but I am certainly keen that we work with others to find the right way forward on that.

There are two further points that I would make. Yes, I agree that we have to invest to lift people out of poverty. That is why, as we take on our new social security powers, this Government is looking to do exactly that. I mentioned earlier the early years grant and the money that we already spend—the tens of millions of pounds every year that we spend on mitigating some of the welfare cuts that, if we were not doing that, would be hitting families and children much harder than they already are.

My third and last point is this. Notwithstanding how welcome the additional social security powers are, the vast bulk of the budget around social security will remain in the hands of Westminster, and as long as we allow that to be the case, we will be at the mercy of a Tory Government that is intent on ripping up the social security safety net. That is why all of us who care about these things, and I include everybody in this chamber in that, should be arguing for, campaigning for and demanding to have more social security powers in the hands of this Parliament so that we can use them to lift people out of poverty and not drive more people into it.