Business Motion

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 19 April 2022.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

The next item of business is consideration of business motion S6M-04061, in the name of George Adam, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, setting out changes to this week’s business.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees to the following revision to the programme of business for Thursday 21 April 2022— delete followed by

Scottish Government Debate: Long COVID and insert followed by

Ministerial Statement: Progressing Scotland’s Leadership on Blue Carbon followed by

Scottish Government Debate: The Scottish Approach to Managing the Global Risk of Antimicrobial Resistance followed by

Legislative Consent Motion: Health and Care Bill - UK Legislation—[

George Adam

]

The Presiding Officer:

I call Stephen Kerr to speak to and move amendment S6M-04061.1.

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative

My amendment to the business motion should not be controversial. It simply reinstates a debate on long Covid that the Scottish Government proposed only three weeks ago, when the Parliamentary Bureau last met. That debate should not have been cancelled at the last minute.

My colleague Dr Sandesh Gulhane has been calling for a long Covid strategy since before he was elected. He knows what he is talking about. He has seen what is—[

Interruption

.] I am surprised to hear dissent from members of the Scottish National Party to the idea that Dr Sandesh Gulhane knows what he is talking about, because he does. He has seen at first hand what is happening in the lives of thousands of people who are suffering from long Covid. He also knows what is being done elsewhere in the United Kingdom and what is working.

Before the recess, I believed that Thursday’s debate was a promising start. I believed that it was a recognition that there was a problem, a recognition that the SNP Government has failed and the start of addressing that failure. Perhaps I should say, “More fool me.”

Perhaps because there is an election in a couple of weeks’ time, there is to be an embargo on any criticism of the SNP Scottish Government in the Scottish Parliament. Perhaps our Scottish Parliament is to be sent into slumber without any controversy for fear that the SNP policy might be exposed for what it is.

The Minister for Parliamentary Business, George Adam, says that a debate will happen when the Government has something to say. I conclude that the Government has nothing to say on long Covid—or, as Mr Adam may wish to put it, the Government is not ready to say anything on long Covid. Ministerial statements are for Government announcements.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

Does the member agree that, with no clinics, no in-home support and not a penny of the support fund having been spent, many long Covid sufferers are being left behind? Does he also agree that it is sorely disappointing that the only debate on long Covid in the Scottish Parliament was in Opposition debating time during a Liberal Democrat business day last November?

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative

I have every sympathy for what the member says. In respect of the timetabling of business this week in Parliament, her party has been shown a great discourtesy by the SNP. We had scheduled a debate on long Covid and that debate should go ahead for the sake of our constituents and their health concerns.

The Scottish Parliament exists to scrutinise the Executive—the SNP does not seem to get that. If the SNP members were less tin-eared, they might hear something in a debate, such as ideas that they might wish to pursue. Frankly, the Parliament hardly needs more evidence that the SNP does not have answers—it is remarkably devoid of ideas, as we can all attest.

The thousands of people who are suffering from long Covid must wait for concerted action such as has been proposed by my colleague Dr Gulhane.

Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

Does the member accept that many people with long Covid, including some of my constituents, are being treated right now?

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative

I can only say to the member that I have a full post bag from the family members of those suffering from long Covid, who are concerned that concerted treatment is unavailable to them. Instead of having a debate, those constituents and their families will have to wait. The constituents who are suffering from the effects of long Covid—struggling with extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, problems of memory and concentration, heart palpitations, joint pain—[

Interruption

.] Those patients are being sacrificed to save the SNP minister a difficult afternoon in Parliament when the minister will have to answer a few questions and listen.

Photo of Jackson Carlaw Jackson Carlaw Conservative

I noticed one or two SNP MSPs pointing to themselves, saying that they have long Covid and are being treated. It is all very well for a well-known MSP to receive treatment when they see their general practitioner, but many of my constituents are not being treated and are looking to the Scottish Parliament for solutions.

The Presiding Officer:

Please conclude, Mr Kerr.

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative

I will wind up, Presiding Officer.

Undoubtedly, the SNP and the Greens will line up tonight to prevent an open debate on those who are suffering from long Covid and their treatment. That is disrespectful to those who are suffering from long Covid and it is disrespectful to the Scottish Parliament that it is being used to shield the SNP from criticism.

I hope that I am wrong and that the minister will hear the arguments and relent. However, I fear, on past form, that he will not.

I move amendment S6M-04061.1, to leave out “The Scottish Approach to Managing the Global Risk of Antimicrobial Resistance” and insert:

Long COVID”.

The Presiding Officer:

I call George Adam to respond on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau.

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

I felt that I had explained this earlier today to everyone in the bureau in a very open, honest and transparent manner. Once again, I will endeavour to articulate our position. It is not the position claimed by Mr Kerr, whereby I said that the Government had nothing to say on the matter—everyone who was in the room knows that that is not what I said. I said that there are real people dealing with real issues in their lives at the end of all this and that the Scottish Government needs to ensure that, when it puts anything in front of the Parliament, it is strong and robust enough to deliver for those people.

On the other matter, the debate has been postponed to enable another debate on Thursday, when the Scottish Government will provide the Parliament with an update on Scotland’s multisectoral one-health approach to addressing the global health threat posed by antimicrobial resistance, or AMR. That is an important topic, as, I am sure, everyone here would agree.

What I will say in response to some of Mr Kerr’s rantings is that we intend to bring the long Covid debate back to Parliament after the local elections.

Members:

Ah!

The Presiding Officer:

Colleagues, I would like to hear the minister.

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

It appears that panto season has already started for the Opposition.

That very short postponement will allow ministers to provide a fuller progress update, as it will not be bound by pre-election period restrictions.

The Scottish Government’s intention is to provide Parliament with a detailed update on the outcome of the thorough planning process that is currently being undertaken with national health service boards to determine the first allocations of the long Covid support fund.

I sincerely hope that that puts the minds of my Opposition colleagues at rest on the matter. I will inform the Parliamentary Bureau, in the normal manner, when the long Covid debate can be brought to the chamber.

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. For clarity, for those who are watching these proceedings, can you confirm that there is nothing about the pre-election restrictions that would prevent a debate on long Covid from happening in the Parliament on Thursday?

The Presiding Officer:

Pre-election announcements are a matter for the Government.

The question is, that amendment S6M-04061.1, in the name of Stephen Kerr, which seeks to amend motion S6M-04061, in the name of George Adam, setting out changes to this week’s business, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

The Presiding Officer:

There will be a division.

There will be a short suspension to allow members to access the digital voting system.

17:16 Meeting suspended.

17:20 On resuming—

The question is, that amendment S6M-04061.1 be agreed to. Members should cast their votes now.

Division number 1 Business Motion

Aye: 52 MSPs

No: 66 MSPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 52, Against 66, Abstentions 0.

Amendment disagreed to.

The next question is, that motion S6M-04061, in the name of George Adam, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, setting out changes to this week’s business, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 2 Business Motion

Aye: 69 MSPs

No: 51 MSPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

No: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

The result of the division is: For 69, Against 51, Abstentions 0.

Motion agreed to,

That the Parliament agrees to the following revision to the programme of business for Thursday 21 April 2022— delete followed by

Scottish Government Debate: Long COVID and insert followed by

Ministerial Statement: Progressing Scotland’s Leadership on Blue Carbon followed by

Scottish Government Debate: The Scottish Approach to Managing the Global Risk of Antimicrobial Resistance followed by

Legislative Consent Motion: Health and Care Bill - UK Legislation