I also congratulate Ben Macpherson on securing the debate and welcome the opportunity to respond. In the time that is available, I hope to be able to deal with various points that have been raised.
I begin by restating that the SNP Government believes that it is completely unacceptable that our police and fire services face a combined annual VAT cost of approximately £35 million per year, which other territorial services in the UK do not have to bear. Since the establishment of Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in 2013, the total amount of VAT that cannot be reclaimed is about £140 million. If the situation continues throughout the current parliamentary session, the total cost to the Scottish public purse will be about £280 million. To put that figure in context, that is more than the resource budget of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for a whole year.