I remind members that social distancing measures are in place in the chamber and across the Holyrood campus. I ask that members take care to observe the measures, including when entering and exiting the chamber. Please use only the aisles and walkways to access your seats and when moving around the chamber.
The next item of business is stage 3 of the Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill. In dealing with amendments, members should have the bill as amended at stage 2—“SP Bill 1A”—the marshalled list and the groupings of amendments.
The division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes for the first division of stage 3. The period of voting for each division will be up to one minute. Members who wish to speak in the debate on a group of amendments should press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible after I call the group.
Members should now refer to the marshalled list of amendments.
I thank you, Presiding Officer, for accepting my amendment, which is the same amendment that I spoke to yesterday, when it was in a group with another amendment. It is not my practice to bring back amendments that have already been debated, but we ended up in a pretty strange situation yesterday. My amendment yesterday was on licensing boards. The other amendment, which was in the name of Alex Cole-Hamilton, dealt with councils. In essence, they both sought to do the same thing, which was to expire the provision that allows those bodies to bar members of the public from their meetings.
My argument was then, and is now, that licensing boards and councils should by September be allowing members of the public into their meetings. There is no justification for their continuing not to do that.
We ended up in a situation in which the amendment that dealt with councils was accepted but the amendment in my name, which dealt with licensing boards, was not. That seemed to me to be completely illogical. I went home rather perplexed by that, but I thought that the Deputy First Minister would realise the inconsistency of the situation and think that it would probably be worth relodging the amendment. I thought that he would realise that we are in a pretty daft situation and would reflect on that. I hope that he has: he is normally a reasonable man. I look forward to hearing his comments.
I move amendment 1.
To return the favour that Graham Simpson did me yesterday, I support amendment 1 for the same reason that I moved my amendment 13 yesterday. It was on public scrutiny, which matters, particularly as the change will come just months before local authority elections. People want to know how decisions, particularly about things that are important to them, are made. I am happy to support Graham Simpson’s amendment 1.
I find myself in an absolutely terrible position this afternoon: I fear that Graham Simpson can interpret my mind. [
.] That is a truly awful situation to find myself in.
I did go home and reflect on the comments that Mr Simpson made in his closing remarks in yesterday’s debate. I believed, not for the first time, I have to say—although I do not do so on all occasions—that Mr Simpson had advanced a reasonable point in his closing remarks. I hope that the people on the Conservative Party selection panel note that I have destroyed his career chances with that commendation. Mr Simpson has made a fair and reasonable point, so the Government will support amendment 1, which he has lodged today.
I need to put on the record one issue about the composition of amendment 1. It raises a bit of trickiness, if I am allowed to put that word into the parliamentary record. There is a distinction in licensing legislation between a meeting of a licensing board and a hearing of such a board. The amendment would require meetings of licensing boards to be held in public. Further analysis suggests that acceptance of the amendment would still leave licensing boards some discretion to determine that a hearing cannot be held in person because of reasons relating to coronavirus. In such cases, the board must offer alternative means to allow participants to be heard remotely. That would mean that boards could continue to conduct hearings via remote means, rather than in person, if there was a justifiable reason for doing so.
A licensing board would not do that lightly, nor should it, but if a hearing, which is the forum in which decisions under licensing legislation are made, needs to be conducted in that manner and separately from the licensing board meeting due to coronavirus, those arrangements will take their course. Amendment 1 would ensure that meetings of licensing boards would be held in public.
Having listened carefully to Mr Simpson’s points, and in light of the analysis that I have placed on record, the Scottish Government is content to support amendment 1.
.] My colleagues will, no doubt, testify to that.
I am not a mind reader, but I was trying to delve into the Deputy First Minister’s mind from afar and I seem to have got that right. I welcome his comments.
Amendment 1 agreed to.
Yesterday, Jackie Baillie withdrew an amendment that would have extended temporarily for a period beyond 30 September 2021 the reporting provisions for care homes. I listened to members’ views and made a commitment to reflect on how best to reassure Parliament about that important matter. Gillian Mackay also raised the issue during the debate.
I suggest that we have made a proposal that members across the chamber can support. Together, amendments 2 and 3 will remove the provision in the bill that seeks to expire part 9 of schedule 1 to the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No 2) Act 2020, and will provide a deliverable solution that will suspend on 30 September the temporary reporting duties that have been placed on care homes and the Care Inspectorate.
In accepting amendments 2 and 3, we can safeguard the Care Inspectorate’s ability to discharge its statutory duties without hindering or diverting resources from wider scrutiny activity, including by giving support to care home services that fall short of the expected quality of care, and by easing care home staff’s burden of weekly reporting.
By suspending but not expiring the provisions, we can also provide reassurance that if, in the future, there is a significant rise in the number of Covid-19 cases and a subsequent adverse impact on care homes, under section 8 of the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No 2) Act 2020 ministers will retain the power to introduce regulations to revive the original provisions in part 9 of schedule 1, if there is clear evidence that that is necessary.
The Care Inspectorate has been consulted on the amendments and has assured me that they are practicable. I hope, therefore, that members are reassured that a flexible and deliverable process can be put in place that supports the business of the Care Inspectorate and eases the burden on care homes, as well as assuring the public and Parliament that there is a mechanism to revive fortnightly reports on inspections and on weekly deaths in care homes, if they are needed at any stage during the pandemic, and for the lifetime of the legislation that Parliament will, I hope, endorse this afternoon.
Having made those comments, I hope that Parliament is assured that we have tried to construct a proposition that addresses the issues that Gillian Mackay and Jackie Baillie raised yesterday.
I move amendment 2.
I am grateful to Jackie Baillie for her support for amendments 2 and 3. We have successfully managed to put in place an approach that will allow the Care Inspectorate to focus on its essential work of assuring the quality of the care home environment, while retaining our ability to exercise a power of oversight, should that be required later in the pandemic. I am grateful to Jackie Baillie for her support for the amendments; I invite Parliament to support them.
Amendment 2 agreed to.
After yesterday’s stage 2 debate, I had discussions with the Scottish Government. They went on late into the night and the early hours of the morning, but I should point out that we were not just discussing amendment 4, which was agreed quite quickly. I am pleased to say that the amendment is agreed by both parties.
I want to ensure that Parliament has the best possible opportunity for scrutiny. The Government benefits from that scrutiny and challenge, and we as parliamentarians have a duty to the people whom we represent to understand their concerns and reflect their views in the chamber. Amendment 4 will help to ensure that that happens in future. Bringing a statement to Parliament at least 24 hours before making changes to Covid-19 measures will give the Government the right amount of flexibility and speed to respond to emerging situations, and will allow Parliament to scrutinise them. My original amendment contained a timescale of 14 days, which I acknowledged yesterday would have been far too long in an emergency.
On the basis that we have an agreement, I am pleased to have worked with the Government on this, and I urge members to support the amendment.
I move amendment 4.
My contribution will be brief. Yesterday, I was happy to support Jackie Baillie’s amendments that sought 14 days’ advance notice, on the principle that as much parliamentary scrutiny as possible should be encouraged. I recognise that she did not progress those amendments and has come back with a much more modest period of 24 hours. I hope that she has not sold herself short in her negotiations with the Deputy First Minister and was not able to secure a longer period.
However, what is proposed is an improvement on what is in the bill and, on that basis, we will support amendment 4.
I am very pleased that we have reached agreement on this important provision. The point of principle that Jackie Baillie has advanced concerns the importance of notice to Parliament. The Government does not in any way dispute the importance of that; the question is one of practicality. I am delighted that I was able to negotiate Jackie Baillie down from 14 days to 24 hours. I think that that is a triumph of my persistence over Jackie Baillie’s unreasonableness, but we have reached a happy outcome at the conclusion of the process.
The Government is happy to support Jackie Baillie’s amendment 4.
This group of amendments deals with the issue of reporting, which we discussed at some length yesterday. At the outset, I want to make it clear that the Government recognises that, when Parliament grants extraordinary measures of the type that are contained in the Scottish Covid acts, it is essential that there is transparency and openness about how those measures are used and whether they remain necessary and appropriate.
The first Scottish Covid acts put in place a robust reporting regime to deliver transparency and continual review. The Government recently published its seventh bimonthly report. Those bimonthly reports will continue to be published for as long as the measures in the Scottish Covid acts are in use. I assure Parliament that we will aim to make those reports as helpful to Parliament and other observers as we can.
In considering the amendments on reporting that were lodged yesterday at stage 2, my principal concern has always been about how they would fit around the existing reporting structure, which has worked well until now. My aim is to provide the enhanced transparency that the Parliament seeks, while avoiding unnecessary duplication and ensuring that reporting requirements are proportionate and workable.
The result of that consideration is the amendments that the Government has lodged. I am keen that a very clear reporting structure is agreed today, and that we do not end up with a series of requirements that duplicate or conflict with one another, which I believe would be the case if a number of the amendments in this group were agreed to. I believe that the Government’s amendments can deliver on the creation of a clear reporting structure, and that they will avoid any confusion in the reporting structure for Parliament, Government, stakeholders and the public.
My amendment 5 deals with the amendments that we dealt with yesterday that sought one-off reports on specific topics. I have consolidated the intentions of stage 2 amendments 25 to 30 into a single omnibus amendment. Amendment 5 covers the information that Parliament sought on wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, support to help business, social security support for carers, support for people who are self-isolating, social care services and the use of fiscal fines.
I know that there are some specific issues that members would like these amendments to address. Paul Sweeney has expressed an interest in reports covering conditions for trade union recognition in large firms, and Pauline McNeill has a particular interest in live music at weddings. I am minded to accept her amendment 5A, which would add live music and live music venues to amendment 5, on the basis that that would fit with the general reporting structure that we aim to create.
However, I am not minded to accept her amendment 5B, which I believe is already covered by amendment 5A, and which would introduce a level of detail that is not proportionate or consistent with the general reporting structure that has been proposed.
Having said that I accept Pauline McNeill’s amendment 5A, I urge her not to move amendment 7, which I do not consider necessary. For the same reason, I am not minded to accept Paul Sweeney’s amendment 11 and Pam Duncan-Glancy’s amendments 12 to 14. Those amendments would take the reporting structure to a level of detail that I consider would go beyond the structure and design of the legislation that we have in place. On amendment 12, I understand that Pam Duncan-Glancy is concerned that amendment 5 does not pick up the reporting requirement in relation to the Scottish child payment. That is because it is not relevant to the expiry of the social security provisions in the Scottish Covid acts. I share the member’s ambitions on addressing poverty for low-income families, and she will know that our six priority family groups include those with a disabled adult or child. We have reached more than 70,000 families with the Scottish child payment, and we intend to reach many more when it is rolled out to under-16s by the end of next year. In the meantime, we are introducing bridging payments to reach all families that are in receipt of free school meals. We are making tackling child poverty a national mission, as has been set out in this Parliament and was reiterated by the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government just yesterday.
With my amendment 5, I have tried to create a general reporting structure that is flexible and works within the scope of the bill. I believe that that is the best approach to take, but I am happy to undertake to consider how the points that members have raised might be addressed in the report that the Government will produce, and I would be happy to discuss that further with members if they would find it helpful.
My amendment 6 addresses the additional information that Parliament sought on evictions from dwelling houses. The reporting requirement will be embedded in the existing bimonthly reporting requirement that the Government discharges. I also highlight Pauline McNeill’s amendment 4 from stage 2. I undertook that the Government would write to Pauline McNeill to provide her with the information that she sought on the welfare of prisoners, and I can confirm that that letter is being prepared.
I hope that the amendments on reporting that the Government has lodged will address the principal concerns of Parliament, which we discussed yesterday at stage 2. I urge other members not to press their amendments.
I move amendment 5.
I will speak to amendments 5A, 5B and 7 in my name. Amendment 5A would insert
“live music and live music venues”,
as the cabinet secretary mentioned, and amendment 5B covers
“the permissibility of live music in ... indoor and outdoor venues and the impact of limitations on indoor household gatherings”.
Amendment 7 would insert a
“Duty to report on effect of Act on live music”.
I have lodged the three amendments in order to approach the issue in different ways, so that the Government can consider what it might be prepared to accept. I welcome what John Swinney has said, but I would like to say a few more things. I really cannot give up on the battle for clarity on behalf of huge numbers of people. I could have said that I lodged these amendments totally for John Swinney’s amusement, although I was not referring to anyone in particular yesterday when we discussed the question of “cringey dancing” at weddings; I was quoting my constituent Brian O’Riordan; I wish him well for his wedding on 31 July.
I could be wrong, but when the First Minister addressed today the question of talking to the wedding sector, I thought that there might be some more scope. If not, I would plead with the Government: in all honesty, I think that there should be more relaxation of dancing restrictions, for the reasons that I outlined yesterday. Nonetheless, I sincerely thank the cabinet secretary for our exchange yesterday to clarify the easing of restrictions as it affects live music outwith weddings, because every part of the discussion helps people understand the decisions that their Government is making.
Alex Hutchinson, who runs Kubix Festival in Sunderland and who had an event cancelled, said:
“I think people forget there are millions of people behind these closed industries, either directly or in the supply chain.”
TRNSMT festival, which hopefully will run this September, and many other promoters such as Regular Music have highlighted the Government’s research that shows that even minimal restrictions will have a damaging effect on the live music sector. The Government is only too aware of that.
There are literally thousands of young bands and musicians who not only make a living from music but suffer because they cannot perform. It is what they love and, unfortunately, in many cases, not performing brings mental health issues with it.
We did not run a pilot or test event, which we could have done. Some cities have done so, as did the Download Festival, which ran as a pilot from 18-20 June. I hope that the cabinet secretary appreciates that tens of thousands of musicians, performers, publicans and music venues—the whole sector—would be delighted if the Government continued to acknowledge that we require clarity on the easing of restrictions and the mitigations that were talked about yesterday.
I assure Pauline McNeill that the Government will actively engage with the sector, particularly between now and early August, so that we can work with it on the various elements of guidance that require to be put in place. As I mentioned yesterday, there will still be some requirements around ventilation, hygiene and other questions, and it would be better if the Government clearly understands the practical issues for venues and the live music environment, so that we can formulate a position that is helpful to the sector. It might not be everything that the sector would like, but at least we will be engaged in a practical discussion about those provisions.
I know that many people who I speak for will welcome John Swinney’s intervention, because they would not like to think that the discussions will simply end because the parliamentary term ends today. As the cabinet secretary outlined, the discussions will be on-going. The sector has a lot of ideas to offer the Government and it fully understands that there will still be issues with mitigation. Everyone understands that we have to do this in a safe way, so that is appreciated.
Yesterday, I said that Scotland made no mention of the night-time economy, which has live music at its centre, whereas Northern Ireland, England and Wales did. I hope that the night-time economy will not be missed out of the reporting process.
I would have liked a bit more, but in the interest of working with the Government and compromising, I am happy not to move amendments 5B and 7.
I acknowledge what the cabinet secretary said on amendment 4, which I moved yesterday. The cabinet secretary said that a letter on prisoners’ welfare will be sent to me, which I welcome.
I move amendment 5A.
I rise to speak to amendment 11. Following amendment 26, which I spoke to yesterday, I am disappointed in what the Government has presented at stage 3. I took the Government’s commitments in good faith, so it is not good enough that trade unions and bus operator reform are not even mentioned in the bill.
The way in which the proposed legislation has been brought forward in the past week, before summer recess, has been extremely rushed. That has made scrutiny and the chance of effecting meaningful change near impossible.
We have opportunities to harness the allocation of vast state support for the private sector as a means of achieving better social and economic outcomes, yet, shamefully, it seems as though the Government is willing to miss out on those opportunities. Private bus companies in Scotland receive an average of £314 million every year in public subsidy, which is 45 per cent of their annual revenues, and the Scottish Government has given private bus companies an additional £200 million of grants in the past year alone. That is an obscene amount of cash from the public sector in return for a disproportionately priced and inadequate service.
Amendment 11 meets with the established mission of the Parliament.
If only that was always the case—it is not the experience in Glasgow. We would certainly be able to level up—to coin a phrase—if we had proper franchising measures in place.
It is fair to say that amendment 11 matches this Parliament’s established mission in relation to both Government policy and legislation that is already on the statute book. There is no ground for ministers to reject it on that basis. In 2018, the then transport minister, Humza Yousaf, said:
“This Government will not stand by as bus passenger numbers decline.”
In that case, why has the number of bus journeys in Scotland decreased by 12 per cent over the past five years and why did bus passengers experience a 9 per cent increase in fares over and above inflation between 2015 and 2019?
Greater Manchester’s new approach means that fares, timetables and routes will be set by the regional transport authority instead of by private companies, but private operators may still be able to continue running services under a franchising system.
I recognise that it is important not to make the perfect the enemy of the good and to benchmark against best-practice regions such as Greater Manchester. In the spirit of maximising the chance for us to move forward in this area, I have therefore adjusted my amendment from yesterday to simply require ministers to consult private bus companies and local authorities on the potential of regional franchising as a condition of future financial support from the state.
Scotland has the powers to follow that example. We secured amendments to the Transport (Scotland) Bill in 2019 in order to allow that. However, on 2 June this year, a Scottish Government answer to a freedom of information request clarified that no discussion or communication had taken place between Transport Scotland and local authorities in relation to funding for franchising. The minister was reported as saying:
“I can confirm no discussion or communication has taken place between Transport Scotland and local authorities in relation to funding for franchising, public ownership or BSIPs”
—that is, bus service improvement partnerships.
Instead of giving no-strings grant-based funds to private bus providers and facilitating a bus service that is ever more overpriced and fragmented, the Government has an opportunity through my amendment to use the massive allocations of public subsidies to drive forward what the Parliament agreed and legislated for in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2009, and deliver a franchising system in every region of Scotland that will underpin a public bus service that is fit for purpose.
Amendment 11 would allow us to take that basic step forward. Surely there is no reasonable basis on which to reject the initiating of consultation with local authorities, bus companies and regional transport authorities in order to prepare the ground on this important issue, especially with such vast sums of public money being pumped into private bus companies. We cannot continue to socialise losses and privatise profits.
On the point that has been raised about trade unions, I note that the First Minister said in her speech to the Scottish Trades Union Congress in 2019:
“The Scottish Government recognises the value of everything the trade union movement does for Scotland. You are fundamental to the fairer Scotland that we all want to see ... Increasing collective bargaining in Scotland is not just a trade union objective. It is a national objective.”
If the Scottish Government holds workers’ rights and the role of trade unions in such high regard, it is surely a commonsense step for it to support my amendment, which would require it to consult businesses that receive support from the state on increasing trade union recognition. The Labour Government in Wales is already taking that step and it is not unreasonable to ask the Scottish Government to do it, too. Even the Pope has said that efforts to rebuild economies after Covid-19 must aim at a future with
“decent and dignified working conditions” by giving workers the right to organise in trade unions. On pain of excommunication, perhaps, members might consider supporting the proposal in the chamber today.
In summation, my point is that, instead of allocating funds on an ad hoc basis, we should consider how we can condition the support to achieve better social and economic outcomes, not just over the next six months under the pandemic but in the long term. We have taken that approach before in the face of national crises, when we have used it as an opportunity to underpin major reform.
I have listened carefully to the discussions on the issue both yesterday and today. I know that the member feels strongly about trade unions, but is he seriously suggesting that the Government should not support businesses or individuals who are not affiliated to trade unions? That is an utterly bonkers suggestion.
I am not, although it is reasonable to expect any large business with more than 250 employees to permit trade union organisation if the workers desire that. I would not necessarily make support conditional at this point. In my revised amendment, I do not propose conditionality; I merely propose that the Government be required to consult businesses that receive support in order to encourage discussion about trade union organisation. That would be a reasonable step forward.
I feel that that adjustment from yesterday might perhaps meet with greater support in the chamber today.
We all too often hear empty words from the Government on the advancement of public transport and trade union rights. When it comes to the crunch, however, it does not come up with the goods, so I would like the Government to support amendment 11 and I invite support from across the chamber. For once, I hope that the Government puts those empty sentiments into action.
Yesterday, we were clear that, had the scope of the bill been wider, we would have sought to do much more with it to ensure that protections that were given to people during the pandemic were available for a while longer. We would also have sought to add provisions that would be needed to meet the challenges ahead.
In my short time in the Parliament, I have been asked to input to two bills that have been limited in scope and have limited our ability to amend them. Although I understand the reasons for relative speed, I put on record that I find this way of working not as supportive of collegiate law making or of harnessing the potential of all of Scotland’s people as I would hope. I am sure that the Government and others will share the hope that this approach will not be the way forward when we return.
Scottish Labour was clear yesterday that, although we have been able to amend the bill in the way we wished, we had intended to move a number of amendments at stage 2 that would have placed duties on the Government to report to Parliament on the effect of expiry or otherwise of various current provisions within a month of the bill receiving royal assent, particularly as they relate to some of the people the pandemic has most impacted, such as disabled people, people on low incomes and carers.
My amendments focus on the provisions that are in place to protect those groups and on the need to assess whether further measures are required, including those that we set out in the chamber yesterday on adding a supplement to the Scottish child payment, making further double payments of the carers allowance, and creating a self-isolation support grant.
The chamber will be aware that I did not move my amendments yesterday, because of the commitment that the cabinet secretary offered that the Government would introduce a wide-scale reporting requirement that would bind it to report to Parliament on the impact of the extension or expiry of provisions. I do not expect that the cabinet secretary will be too surprised to hear me say that I was slightly disappointed when I saw the Government’s amendments earlier today, with their limited provisions on reporting requirements.
I feel strongly that the Government’s amendment 5 is not strong enough. It requires reporting on “information” and “plans” but not on effect or impact. For that reason, I do not feel that amendment 5 offers even the limited protections that we sought yesterday in our original amendments for reporting requirements. By specifically asking the Government to consider the effect of continuing or expiring such provisions, we sought to encourage not only an assessment of where we are now or where we are going, and thus of what future measures we need, but some reflection on where we have been.
I understand concerns about the detail that those provisions ask for, which the cabinet secretary has just outlined. However, it is the detail that we need to get this right. I am sure that organisations and people across Scotland will be pleased to help the cabinet secretary out in that regard.
In respect of my amendment 12, I welcome the inclusion in amendment 5 to require a report on the social security support that is available to carers to cope with the additional pressures of the pandemic and on what further support the Government will consider. However, I feel strongly that the amendment does not capture the depth of the report that yesterday’s amendments suggested, in the way that I just described. It is important to consider what support is available and what plans there are for the future and to understand the effect of the measures in place to allow for consideration of what we should do.
Amendment 5 also misses the crucial ask to report on support for families with a disabled person in them, and specifically on whether a £5 supplement to the Scottish child payment is required for that support, and whether that amount is sufficient. The omission of that group of people from the report requirements is disappointing, given the levels of child poverty that the chamber heard about yesterday, and the impact that the pandemic has had on that group. I can see that that provision could be, as the cabinet secretary has said, outwith the reporting mechanisms of the bill, but that is largely because of the limited scope of the bill in the first place.
All that I was trying to do with amendment 12 was to ask the Government to consider whether it will make provision for such a supplement in the context of Covid, so I will press that amendment. I do not doubt that, had there been more time to engage with the Government on this issue, we could have resolved much of it through constructive engagement, in which I am sure the Government would partake, without bringing back the amendments. Unfortunately, time not being on our side, although we will back amendment 5, we will press amendment 12 to try to ensure that a depth of consideration is given.
In the same vein, with regard to the provisions in amendment 13, amendment 5 falls short. I will therefore press amendment 13 today.
Members will also recognise amendment 14, because I lodged the same amendment yesterday, although I did not move it. Unfortunately, I do not feel that amendment 5 goes far enough in setting out what we want to assess. Amendment 14 is clear about where we feel that monitoring assessment must take place. Throughout this week, I have set out the importance of reports that consider the impact of reducing eligibility for social care packages. In my contributions today, I have set out the importance of looking back as well as forward. For that reason, amendment 5, in the name of the cabinet secretary, has also fallen short of where we would like it to be.
Presiding Officer, please be assured that I have brought my amendments back today not to keep us here longer than necessary but to draw attention to the serious issues, apply as much scrutiny as we can in the time that we have and encourage meaningful and impactful discussion with, and action from, members in the chamber.
I welcome amendments 5 and 6, in the name of the cabinet secretary, which show that reasonable progress has been made in relation to the points that were raised in the chamber yesterday. Yesterday, we were happy to support the various amendments on improving reporting, and amendments 5 and 6 go some to way towards recognising some of the concerns.
However, I share the concern that some members have expressed that the amendments might not go far enough. I turn to Pauline McNeill’s amendments, on which she has made fair points about support for live music venues—an issue that she has pursued assiduously in the chamber over many years. If she moves her amendments, we will support them.
Our view is that the amendments in the name of Pam Duncan-Glancy are reasonable in asking for reporting on issues such as social security support for carers and social care. If she moves her amendments, we intend to support them.
We cannot support amendment 11, in the name of Paul Sweeney. Our concern is that the amendment involves significant policy issues and, in our view, it not appropriate to introduce such issues into an emergency bill. There has been no opportunity to debate or carry out external consultation on the matters that he has raised, however worthy they might be. An emergency bill that we are rushing through Parliament in three days is not the vehicle to discuss such matters in any detail. For that reason, we will not support amendment 11, although we will support the other amendments in the group.
I refer to 300 people in my constituency who are still in work, and to the “must consult” part of amendment 11 and Paul Sweeney’s suggestion about support achieving better social and economic outcomes, although he said that he was not proposing conditionality.
Three hundred employees are now working at Diodes in my constituency thanks to cross-party efforts and the efforts of the local authority and a task force to save jobs. In 2018, Texas Instruments, a profitable business, was to close. The Scottish Government, Inverclyde Council and other public sector organisations worked tremendously hard to get a solution and, in February 2019, the jobs were saved.
I am not averse to Mr Sweeney’s suggestion regarding trade union representation, but I fear that, if amendment 11 were to be agreed to, the “must consult” requirement would mean that, in any similar situation—whether in my constituency or anywhere else in Scotland—jobs would be lost. Therefore, I urge colleagues to reject amendment 11.
I had better say something, seeing as Murdo Fraser has teed me up. [
.] It is too late for that.
I want to comment on amendment 11, in the name of Paul Sweeney. Mr Sweeney has got it completely wrong. The bill is classed as emergency legislation—we do not see it as that, but that is the way that we are dealing with it. Mr Sweeney seemed to want to introduce a wider transport debate, and of course he rightly points to the provisions in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, some of which have not yet been enacted. Parliament can have that debate when those provisions come into force—now is not the time.
I welcome the colossal sums that have been put into the bus industry and rail services to keep public transport moving. That has been vital. What we cannot do, as we move on, is make it a “condition of support”—those are the words in Mr Sweeney’s amendment—that private bus companies, which Mr Sweeney appears to hate, and local authorities can receive support only if they move down a regional franchising route. I should point out to Mr Sweeney that we are talking about emergency support.
I think that Mr Sweeney has got this completely wrong, and we will oppose amendment 11.
I did not intend to speak—people often say that and then take part in a debate. As I understand the policy memorandum, the bill’s purpose is to
“update a range of existing legislative measures which support various aspects of the ongoing response to the public health emergency” caused by the Covid pandemic. It amends two acts—it is a bill that amends existing legislation. Its purpose is not to introduce new provisions.
There is a good debate to be had, but I cannot see how amendment 11 fits into the bill in any shape or form. To me, it is a process matter.
Surely the member recognises that I was not afforded the opportunity to shape those prior legislative instruments. It is an important cornerstone of our constitution that the Parliament cannot be bound by decisions made in the previous session. If we are looking to deliver positive social outcomes that this Parliament has already agreed are favourable, surely we should be looking at measures to drive that forward. Indeed, if we are looking at those future opportunities and we are not going to endorse them now, surely that is a tacit agreement that the current damaging status quo is acceptable.
Let me become the voice of calm in the debate. [
.] It has been a fascinating debate, with interesting contributions that I will reflect on.
Members have rightly and properly commended Pauline McNeill for the assiduous way in which she has pursued the interests and perspectives of the live music sector, and she raises important issues in her contribution. In the course of the passage of this legislation, she and I have had the opportunity to have exchanges, which are on the record and which I hope provide reassurance to those to whom I know she listens carefully and on whose behalf she speaks. I will make sure that we follow through on the dialogue that I have committed to in the discussions today.
What I have tried to do—this is where I draw on the distinguished contribution and legislative assessment of one of our long-serving members, Christine Grahame—is formulate proposals that are consistent with the framework of the bill. I know that not everybody agrees with the judgments that I have made in that regard. I know that the Labour Party would like me to go further and that the Conservative Party believes that I have gone too far already—although that did not seem to stop Mr Simpson from wanting me to go further in the debate earlier on. I simply say that I am trying to reach some forms of agreement in this debate.
We have tried to focus on legislation that Parliament has already passed and update it for the current circumstances that we face on Covid. Although members of Parliament clearly would have liked us to, we have not tried to use the bill to stretch much further. There were plenty of opportunities to stretch much further in terms of Covid recovery, the policy response to tackle fundamental inequalities, and the steps that we need to take to support business. That will all be part of the Covid recovery agenda that the Government brings forward and that Parliament considers.
However, this is a tight bill updating existing legislation that Parliament has already passed. For those reasons, I have tried to extend the reporting requirements as broadly as I think that it is reasonable to do so within the confines of the legislation. That is what makes it impossible for me to support the amendments lodged by Pam Duncan-Glancy, because I believe that they go much further than the scope of the bill and—particularly as drafted—run the risk of putting confusion into statute. From the discussions during and tenor of today’s debate, I assume that amendment 5 will be agreed to, which will provide scope for reporting. Additional provisions will then broaden that scope, which I think creates the sources of confusion.
I will not rehash all the arguments about how narrow the bill is. However, on the question of broadening the scope, I am sorry to return to the issue of dancing. Did I hear the First Minister correctly when she said that she is engaged with the sector? A lot of people in the wedding sector are saying that, for the sake of nine days, in all seriousness, if those restrictions were relaxed now, all those couples from 31 July onwards could get the advantage of that.
It sounds almost as if there is some dancing going on at the back of the chamber. Who am I to interrupt the fun of my colleagues at the back?
The issues that Pauline McNeill raised are being explored. The First Minister said that at First Minister’s question time today. We are trying to be as helpful as we possibly can, if there is any way in which we can exercise some degree of pragmatic action. Jackie Baillie talked yesterday about the relaxation of requirements around some of the arrangements when people are in pubs for some of the football games that might go to penalties. We have taken pragmatic action on that to avoid situations that could be disruptive. We are able to take such action, and those issues are being actively explored.
I come now to the controversial—if I might call it that—part of the debate, which is Mr Sweeney’s contribution. He raised absolutely legitimate issues of debate; they are completely legitimate issues and I do not in any way whatsoever dismiss them. However, the amendments should not be agreed to for a number of reasons.
The first is that a number of the issues that Mr Sweeney raised are already provided for in existing statute. To go back to my argument about not causing confusion in statute, if there is already provision in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, I do not see the necessity for us to expand that provision in a bill of this character, which has a narrow scope.
Secondly, I want to counter the view that funds have been allocated to transportation companies on an “ad hoc” basis—Mr Sweeney used that phrase. Funds have been allocated to try to sustain public transport services in Scotland. If the Government had not expended the money in the way that it has, we would not have public transport services available to us in the post-pandemic situation. It is as simple as that. Those were emergency distributions of funds to try to sustain a sector that, through the impact of the pandemic, was unable to take in any fares.
The cabinet secretary makes a fair point, which I accept. It is essential to maintain those services, because they are critical to our communities across Scotland. My point about the allocation of funds being ad hoc is that the Government is not thinking strategically; it is a reactionary measure to maintain existing services as they are, however inadequate they might be. Other parts of the UK such as Greater Manchester have evolved that position to see how we can develop franchising as the best-practice model across public transport in the UK. That is merely a means of evolving our position in Scotland to use that extensive state support more efficiently in the interest of the public good.
I am not close to all the details about the Greater Manchester transport system, but I would hazard a guess that a lot of that work was done pre-Covid. Mr Sweeney raises a legitimate point, which is addressed in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, which is that those options can be pursued. The funding that was available during the pandemic was literally survivability funding. If we had not disbursed that funding, we would not have public transport services that are able to be used today. Those are issues that Parliament can come back to and consider, and they form part of the Government’s policy agenda.
The Government is entirely committed to the fair work agenda. I was involved in an extensive discussion this morning with representatives of a broad cross-section of opinion in Scottish society, including business people, third sector representatives and public sector representatives, and at the heart of that there was a discussion about how we can use the fair work agenda to structure our recovery from Covid. I assure Parliament of the Government’s intention to be absolutely focused on using every instrument at our disposal to advance some of those arguments.
The final group relates to minor and consequential amendments resulting from yesterday’s stage 2 proceedings. As I indicated yesterday when I spoke in support of Jackie Baillie’s amendment 15, today’s amendments 8, 10, 15 and 17 are technical consequential amendments to tidy up the statute book.
Currently, the Scottish ministers are required by the Scottish coronavirus acts to lay statements in Parliament alongside any regulations under those acts being progressed under the made affirmative procedure. However, the ability to progress regulations under the made affirmative procedure rather than the draft affirmative procedure is being expired on 30 September 2021. Therefore, amendments 8, 10, 15 and 17 ensure that the requirement to lay accompanying statements is repealed at the same time.
Similarly, amendments 9 and 16 are technical amendments to tidy up the statute book as a consequence of Alex Cole-Hamilton’s amendment 13 being agreed by Parliament yesterday at stage 2. They ensure that all provision in the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 relating to local authorities being able to physically exclude the public from local authority meetings is repealed on 30 September 2021, when that measure is expired.
I move amendment 8 and ask members to support amendments 8 to 10 and 15 to 17.
Amendment 8 agreed to.
Amendments 9 and 10 moved—[John Swinney]—and agreed to.
The Presiding Officer:
That ends the consideration of amendments.
As members will be aware, at this stage in proceedings, I am required under standing orders to decide whether in my view any provision of the bill relates to a protected subject matter—that is, whether it modifies the electoral system and franchise for Scottish parliamentary elections. In my view, no provision of the Coronavirus (Extension and Expiry) (Scotland) Bill relates to a protected subject matter. Therefore, the bill does not require a supermajority to be passed at stage 3.
There will be a brief pause before we move on to the stage 3 debate.