14/05/2017 Scottish First Minister's Questions


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14/05/2017

Recorded coverage of questions in the Scottish Parliament to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon from Wednesday 10 May.


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In a trend started under the last Labour Government the NHS in England

:20:31.:20:37.

spends 7. 6% of its budget on the private sector. We will continue to

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make sure that we are investing in the public NHS not the private

:20:43.:20:46.

sector. Interestingly, one of the first things I did when I was Health

:20:47.:20:51.

Secretary was scrap the private contract for the running of

:20:52.:20:56.

Stracathrow hospital introduced by the last Labour administration. The

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problem for Labour here is all these things. They Pontificate about in

:21:05.:21:09.

Opposition are things they failed to do when they had the opportunity in

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Government. Lastly, Presiding Officer, I don't expect anybody

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working across our public sector to be grateful to any Government

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because they are dealing with extremely tough times. I recognise

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that and I recognise that particularly for people working at

:21:28.:21:33.

the frontline of the NHS. But I would expect opposition parties to

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recognise in these tough times this Government has done more in terms of

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public sector pay than any other Government across the UK. That's why

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agenda for change staff are paid more in Scotland than England. It's

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why newly qualified nurses are paid more in Scotland than they are in

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England and in Labour governed Wales. We will continue to take the

:21:56.:22:00.

right action in our NHS, which is meaning that we have record funding

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in our NHS and we have record numbers of staff working in our NHS

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as well. APPLAUSE

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I'm conscious we've taken a lot of time for our first two questions,

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serious issues as they are. There are a number of members who wish to

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get in. Two constituency questions the first from John finny. North

:22:25.:22:33.

West Highland's gained UNESCO status in 2015. That status is assessed

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every four years. It's due to be assessed in 2019. Until now the

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Scottish Government has provided funding to the geopark. This year

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the Scottish Government decided not to supply funding. They have raised

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just 18% of the total required. Given the effort that's gone into

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achieving that UNESCO status it would be a disaster if that was

:23:01.:23:03.

lost. First Minister, would you agree to have your officials examine

:23:04.:23:08.

options for providing the modest financial support to allow the west

:23:09.:23:13.

Highland geopark to retain that status, please? Can I thank you for

:23:14.:23:19.

raising this issue. I am film with geopark and the UNESCO status that

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it has got. I agree that is extremely important. Oars I recall

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-- as I recall, the Scottish Government provided core funding. I

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am happy to have officials to look at this again and consider whether

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there is anything the Scottish Government is do to help.

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I will report back once we've looked at it. The tennis club is

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175-year-old club offering sporting facilities to Inverclyde. Chaenking

:23:57.:23:59.

to use and water exemption rules has left them with a bill of up to

:24:00.:24:05.

?2,000 per annum, which could drive up membership costs or force them to

:24:06.:24:09.

close doors. They're not the only ones. What comfort can the First

:24:10.:24:15.

Minister provide to groups across Scotland that the government will

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seriously look to the charges. Will she commit to a full and open review

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into the policy? It's not too long since we had a full review of the

:24:24.:24:28.

situation around charities with water rates or exemptions from water

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rates. I remember it well. At the time I was the minister in charge of

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taking forward the recommendations from that review. I remember well

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that we tried to put in place a system that was as fair as possible

:24:39.:24:42.

to as many charities across the country as possible. Now the test

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for zemings are based on the income of charities and capital that

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charities hold. Therefore there will always be some charitable

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organisation that don't get exemptions because of income or

:24:58.:25:01.

capital above the thresholds. I should say I'm more than happy to

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have the relevant minister look at particular organisation that has

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been cited here. I'm looking in the wrong direction, to look at the

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particular organisation to make sure that the rules are being applied

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appropriately. But the point I would make is I think all members would

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recognise that with any system of exemptions like this, there will

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always be some organisations that do not qualify for the exemptions. I

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know that will be very difficult for organisations who are in that

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position. I'll ask Rosanna Cunningham to look into this and

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report back. What issues will be discussed at the next meet fght

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Cabinet? -- of the Cabinet? Matters of importance to people of Scotland.

:25:44.:25:48.

Yet again we've heard about the poor statistics on education. The mother

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of our 15-year-old schoolboy said to me yesterday that she is worried her

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son could be one of those statistics. He is struggling with

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reading and writing. She is anxious about his future. And she is also

:26:05.:26:11.

angry with the SNP, who have been in charge for the whole of her son's

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education. What has the First Minister got to say to that mother

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and her son? I'm concerned to learn of a parent with concerns like that.

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I would say again how seriously I and the Government take the

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challenges on education. I won't repeat as I did with Ruth Davidson

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all the strengths that are there. But to recognise some of the real

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improvements we're making. One of the ones I didn't mention earlier on

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was the improvements in attainment of pupils with additional support

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needs for example. It's because we recognise some of these challenges

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that we are take the action that we are take. I don't know the school

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that the child quoted or the child the parent quoted goes to but it's

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likely that the head teacher of that school now has in his or her own

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hands additional resources, significant additional resources to

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invest in the specific areas that head teacher thinks are required to

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improve attainment. It's exactly that kind of action that we are

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determined to continue to drive forward. I would say to you, many of

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the reforms we are taking form are reforms that he is opposing. Yes, I

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think it is right that members bring concerns to this chamber. But we

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also then have to be prepared to do the difficult things that are

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required to see the improvements that we all want to see.

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I'm afraid that's just more promises to improve school education at some

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point in the future. It won't help that schoolboy now. He could be part

:27:52.:27:56.

of a lost generation. He has been at school for a decade. Every single

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day of that, the SNP education secretaries have been in charge.

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They still sit round the Cabinet table today. These are the education

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secretaries that rejected a pupil premium for six whole years, even

:28:14.:28:17.

though it raised attainment in England. They delayed nursery

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education for two-year-olds, rejected a penny on income tax for

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education and cut thousands of places from our colleges. When the

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First Minister and her ministers have got it so wrong for years,

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where on earth should that mother and her 15-year-old son ever trust

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them again? Firstly, these are important issues and important

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challenges that we've got to face, but I would say, I do think it does

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a real disservice to the young people of our country to use

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language like a "lost generation". That is pretty disgraceful. Willey

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Rennie talks about investments that he thinks we should have made years

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ago. I would simply remind him that those years gone past are exactly

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the years that the Liberal Democrats were in a Westminster coalition with

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the Tories, cutting Scotland's budget year after year after year.

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The last point I would make is the most important point. He says that

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the young man and the parent they talked about, what money -- what

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goodwill this money do? The money is in the hands of head teachers right

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now. I have spoke ton head teachers who are talking about the

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initiatives they are taking forward with the investment. The additional

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investment direct to head teachers, the extra investment elsewhere in

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our attainment fund, but also the measures we're taking forward to

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ensure that we can track the progress as a result of these

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measures and Willie Rennie repeatedly stands up in this chamber

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and opposes the things we're trying to do to see these improvements and

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make sure we can be accountable to every parent across this country.

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We'll get on with doing the things that need to be done, even sometimes

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when they are difficult and they don't get the support of the Liberal

:30:16.:30:22.

Democrats. A few topical supplementaries.

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Thank you Presiding Officer. Last night BBC Scotland broadcast a

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shocking documentary on the human trafficking trade. It provided clear

:30:32.:30:36.

evidence that young girls are being trafficked from Slovakia to Glasgow,

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where they're forced into sham marriages to local men. This is a

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scandal and a human tragedy, which is going on right under our noses

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here in Scotland right now. Can the First Minister set out what her

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Government will do to support girls who arrive in such appalling

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circumstances and what measures can be taken to crack down on

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trafficking, and traffickers who engage in this evil trade? This is

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an extremely important issue. It is as she is right to say, both a

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terrible crime. That is what human trafficking is. It's also a global

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problem. But it's important that we take robust steps to tackle it, both

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in cracking down on the crime committed but also making sure we're

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supporting the victims. Now in terms of tackling the crime, the human

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trafficking and exploitation act that was passed by this Parliament

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in to 15 gives police -- in 2015, gives police and prosecutors

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enhanced powers to detect and prosecute those who are responsible

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for human trafficking. Police Scotland uses joint investigation

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teams to work with Romanian and Slovakian police in this area. It's

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vital police Scotland continues to work closely with UK immigration,

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Europol and other nations' police forces in order to investigate

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offences and bring those responsible to justice. We will continue to make

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sure that our police force have the powers and eresources to investigate

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and to tackle what are evil crimes against these individuals. The

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second important point is how we support victims of human

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trafficking. We continue to support what is invaluable work of

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organisations that offer assistance to victims. In 2017/18 the

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Government will provide grant funding of ?800,000 to the specific

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organisations who support adult victims of human trafficking. That's

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an increase on previous funding. We'll continue to work with them to

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improve the support available to prevent re-trafficking. There's a

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range of - I don't have time to go into all of it, I'd be happy to

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write to the member with the detail of the work we are doing - but we

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should all agree that the crime of trafficking is evil. We must bring

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those responsible to justice and provide the support that the victims

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need. The Government will continue to focus on doing exactly that.

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As the First Minister may be aware there is huge disappointment and

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shock following the decision by the Crown office after a prolonged

:33:16.:33:18.

police investigation and I'm told nine court hearings to drop the case

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relating to the alleged illegal killing of a hen harrier in my

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constituency in 2013. They have taken a view that the evidence was

:33:31.:33:36.

inadd missable. Notwithstanding the progress made in recent years, will

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the First Minister acknowledge this case represents a serious crime

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against a threatened species. Most often this takes place in remote

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areas, the law and the approach of the Crown office must take into

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account such factors. Will the first machine investigate this case will a

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view tone suring the justice system doesn't miss any opportunities to

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hold those who illegally kill indigenous species to account? Yes,

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I do agree very much with Richard Lockhead. He will understand the

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decisions of the prosecution of crime are decisions for the Crown

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office and the law officers act in that respect independently of

:34:18.:34:20.

ministers. I think it's important that we take wildlife crime very

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seriously, indeed particularly in cases whereas he has highlighted

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today it threatens a threatened species. I would be happy to ask the

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relevant minister again to meet with Richard Lockhead to see what more we

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can do, particularly taking into account his point about often these

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crime take place in remote areas and are more difficult to detect. It's

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important to make sure the policy framework, the law around this and

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though it's independent of ministers, the decisions taken by

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the Crown office, are doing everything possible to crack down on

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these kinds of crime and I can assure him that we'll continue to do

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everything we can to make sure that's the case.

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Cry, College lecturers have been forced on strike for the fourth day

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in this dispute, impacting on them, their family and on their students'

:35:14.:35:18.

education and exams. Can I ask how many days lecturers will need to

:35:19.:35:23.

strike before the First Minister intervenes to ensure the pay deal is

:35:24.:35:28.

honoured and does she agree preparation time is essential for

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high quality learning? Yes I do agree with that Leys point. I want

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to see the dispute settled and I don't want to see lecturers on

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strike and it is not in their interest or students. As members

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will be aware, I won't go into all the detail, we have moved to a

:35:51.:35:59.

position of national bargaining, the discussions are about a

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harmonisation and this will see a pay rise for the majority. The

:36:04.:36:08.

discussions now are about how different college by college terms

:36:09.:36:12.

and conditions are replaced with a national system. Talks are

:36:13.:36:16.

continuing, and I would encourage both sides to go the extra mile,

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including and perhaps especially the employers. I would say in terms of

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point about government intervention, ministers have been speaking

:36:30.:36:33.

regularly with both sides in the dispute, trying to make sure we are

:36:34.:36:36.

doing everything to encourage them to move to a resolution. The move to

:36:37.:36:42.

national bargaining was something the unions campaigned for and

:36:43.:36:47.

something I'm delighted to say this government has delivered. But if a

:36:48.:36:52.

government has to step in, that is not the success of national

:36:53.:36:55.

bargaining that, would be the failure of national bargaining. So

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ministers will continue to discuss with both sides and do everything we

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can to bring the dispute to a settlement. Talks are ongoing today

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and certainly tomorrow I would hope we would see resolution of this,

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because that is in the interests of college lecturers and students and I

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hope that reassures the member that the government will continue to make

:37:20.:37:24.

shoor we are doing everything possible to bring that about. Four

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more questions. I would like to refer members to my register of

:37:33.:37:36.

interests to ask how the Government is marking mental health awareness

:37:37.:37:40.

week. Well, I welcome the opportunity to highlight mental

:37:41.:37:43.

health awareness week. It is important that we all do what we can

:37:44.:37:50.

to raise awareness. To mark the week, the minister for mental health

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met with parents of children and spoke at an event to discuss mental

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health stigma. We will hold the first meeting on 23rd June. That is

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a specific commitment, because we know working with stake holders will

:38:07.:38:12.

be key to building on the actions of the strategy. Thank you. In my

:38:13.:38:21.

opinion, one of the most important actioned in the strategy is to build

:38:22.:38:27.

a clinical network. Can the First Minister outline how the network

:38:28.:38:31.

will help mothers experiencing mental health problems? Progress is

:38:32.:38:35.

being made and I'm happy to confirm that this week the lead clinician

:38:36.:38:41.

for mental health has been successfully appointed. The Scottish

:38:42.:38:44.

Government officials attended the conference on Monday and heard at

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first hand from mothers their experience in asking for and getting

:38:49.:38:53.

the right help and I would expect the new network to help us get it

:38:54.:38:56.

right by driving up standards of care through sbe sbrags of services

:38:57.:39:01.

and -- integration of services and more collaboration. To ask the First

:39:02.:39:06.

Minister whether the Scottish Government has had discussions with

:39:07.:39:12.

SEPA to encourage it to have staff in gaining mouth. -- Grangemouth.

:39:13.:39:21.

The Scottish government is in discussions about the SEPA estate.

:39:22.:39:27.

SEPA staff are present in gaining mouth. But I -- Grangemouth. But I

:39:28.:39:35.

understand following discussions SEPA has agree toad see the benefits

:39:36.:39:42.

of supporting a Grangemouth site. Thank you. I welcome the fact that

:39:43.:39:49.

SEPA are going to have those discussions for Grangemouth. Doesn't

:39:50.:39:58.

require an answer. Question 6. To ask the First Minister what the

:39:59.:40:02.

Scottish government is doing to better resource planning authorities

:40:03.:40:06.

in light of an increase in planning fees for major applications from 1st

:40:07.:40:12.

June 2017. We need a planning system to support business and communities

:40:13.:40:16.

to deliver high quality development. There has been a general

:40:17.:40:19.

understanding that fee levels are too low and in many instances not in

:40:20.:40:24.

proportion to the work involved. We have always been clear that fees and

:40:25.:40:30.

performance go hand and hand and we are increasing the maximum fee to

:40:31.:40:34.

provide further resources. The Government will continue to work

:40:35.:40:38.

wall stake holders to ensure that planning services deliver for

:40:39.:40:44.

Scotland's communities. The First Minister will be aware that the

:40:45.:40:49.

national view of planning fee, that maximum fees have Ryz frn 30,000 to

:40:50.:40:55.

125,000 and let me say this is a welcome resource for local

:40:56.:40:57.

authorities. Many planning authorities have done an excellent

:40:58.:41:02.

job, despite cuts. Organisations such as homes for Scotland and

:41:03.:41:07.

smaller building firms who want to make sure there is an improvement in

:41:08.:41:12.

the service for those fees, would the First Minister recognise that

:41:13.:41:16.

these costs could be prohibitive if there is no at dramatic improvement

:41:17.:41:21.

in waiting times, in particular I'm looking at the figures for house

:41:22.:41:24.

building where there is an average wait of 48 weeks and I know the

:41:25.:41:29.

Government has a strong interest in this, planning to build 50,000

:41:30.:41:32.

houses and I would like to know what the First Minister can do to ensure

:41:33.:41:38.

the additional costs are spent on improving the planning system

:41:39.:41:41.

itself? I think it would make two points. First, it is important to

:41:42.:41:47.

stress the maximum fee and the fee increase only applies to major

:41:48.:41:52.

applications, that less than 1% of applications. So it wouldn't impact

:41:53.:41:56.

op plans to deliver 50,000 affordable homes. The second point

:41:57.:42:01.

is important, the fee increase is about giving councils resources to

:42:02.:42:05.

improve performance and improving planning performance and doing it on

:42:06.:42:09.

a consistent basis is one of the things we can do to boost sxhibg

:42:10.:42:13.

growth in -- economic growth in Scotland and it is vital the

:42:14.:42:16.

increases lead to that improvement in performance. I should say we are

:42:17.:42:21.

seeing improvements, reductions in waiting times, but there is more

:42:22.:42:24.

that can be done and I hope this increase in the fee together with

:42:25.:42:29.

the actions we will take from the review will help with that in the

:42:30.:42:36.

period ahead. Question 7. To ask the First Minister in light of local

:42:37.:42:40.

Government elections whether Scottish Scotland will act to

:42:41.:42:45.

randomise the names of candidates on ballot papers. For someone whose

:42:46.:42:51.

surname starts with an S, I can see the attraction. Can I congratulate

:42:52.:42:59.

all councillors elected, we will wish them well. Following the

:43:00.:43:05.

successful electronic count, randomised ordering of candidates'

:43:06.:43:09.

surnames is one innovation the Scottish Government will consider. I

:43:10.:43:12.

should say no decisions have been taken. But it is one of changes that

:43:13.:43:20.

will be considered. Thank you. The SNP randomises its own internal SNP

:43:21.:43:30.

ballot will and so seems reasonable to introduce such a method. In

:43:31.:43:43.

Glasgow, 40 of the 43 contests with Mo or two candidates from the same

:43:44.:43:55.

party stood. Glasgow City Council has populated by these names. Does

:43:56.:44:01.

the First Minister agree that after three elections, under the Single

:44:02.:44:07.

Transferable Vote, there is something wrong when a surname can

:44:08.:44:11.

prove a decisive factor and if this not addressed the credibility of the

:44:12.:44:15.

Single Transferable Vote system is at stake. I think that has to count

:44:16.:44:25.

as a classic Kenny Gibson question. Can I say just before address the

:44:26.:44:31.

question, I'm delighted that there was an Aiken electeded in Glasgow.

:44:32.:44:42.

Councillor Susan atd Ken is' -- - Aitken it set to be the leader of

:44:43.:44:46.

Glasgow council. It is important that no candidate in any election is

:44:47.:44:50.

at an unfair disadvantage. I think we would all agree with that. That

:44:51.:44:54.

is why we have said that we will examine the particular issue that

:44:55.:45:00.

Kenny Gibson has raised. Its important with any changes to

:45:01.:45:02.

elections that we build consensus around that. It is not for any one

:45:03.:45:07.

party to decide on those changes. So as we look at that, we will be

:45:08.:45:13.

looking at opinion not just across the parties, but across civic

:45:14.:45:21.

Scotland. So as we do, have this consideration I would everyone to

:45:22.:45:26.

contribute to it to build consensus. Thank you. That is the end of First

:45:27.:45:29.

Minister's questions.

:45:30.:45:33.

Recorded coverage of questions in the Scottish Parliament to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon from Wednesday 10 May.