11/05/2017: First Minister's Questions Politics Scotland

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11/05/2017: First Minister's Questions

Coverage of First Minister's Questions in the Scottish Parliament.

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Hello. A very warm welcome to the Garden Lobby here at Holyrood.


Glorious weather. Beautiful day for going out canvassing. Yes, of


course, the UK general election is well under way. The leak of the


draft Labour manifesto today causing quite a fuss. The main emphasis of


this is questions to the First Minister on the devolved powers of


the FM. But you can bet that UK begun election will come up as well.


Let's cross to the chamber and find out. That's Mary Fee on her feet


asking a question about education. A hot subject this week. That Labour


manifesto will rear its head today once questions to the First Minister


gets under way. The issue of renationalisation of rail, bus and


postal services might not be so controversial with everyone here.


But the Trident question is certainly one which the First


Minister may want to use against Kes can ya Dugdale. The Scottish Labour


Party vote in the favour the getting rid of Trident. As we saw in its


draft form today, favours maintaining the Trident system


against the Scottish Labour Party and of Jeremy Corbyn. On top of


that, we're bound to get questions on those devolved issues with a view


to the election campaign, how they might impinge upon it. We've had


those questions this week about education, about literacy and the


SNP Government's record on that. That's an issue which Nicola


Sturgeon said she wants to make her main priority. This is, of course,


the Education Secretary, John Swinney on his feet to answer that


question. We faced a number of Labour local authorities that were


absolutely determined to reduce teacher numbers. I wouldn't have it.


So, I'm delighted that as a result of the Government's strong action in


this respect, we see an increasing number of teachers in our schools


and our classrooms and I'm delighted that the ?120 million that the


Government has made available directly to the schools of our


country, which the Labour Party voted against every single one of


them, is now recruiting another teachers in our classrooms and


assisting in the delivery of education in Scotland. I would have


thought Mary Fee would have welcomed that. Deputy First Minister getting


things under way early. Well, that's warmed us up! The First Minister


does not need to follow that example. Returning to First


Minister's Questions. Ruth Davidson? Thank you. I want to ask the First


Minister what engagement's she's planned for the rest of the day. The


Government's programme for Scotland. Today, in Scotland in an S2 class of


30 pupils, on average, five can't write properly. That's double the


number of just four years ago. When the First Minister sees statistics


like these does she feel embarrassed, achimed or both?


Actually, what I feel is utterly determined. Determined to carry on


with the changes we are making in Scottish education so that we


continue to see the improvements in attainment and progress in closing


the attainment gap. Ruth Davidson points to the S2 performance in


writing in the study published this week. I'm not going to try in any


way to diminish the significance of those findings. But, I think it is


important to say this, that study, a sample study, measures S2 pupils


against the standard that they're expected to reach in S3. What we


know now from the much more comprehensive data that we're


publishing through the national improvement framework, which we'll


continue to publish on an annual basis and will become informed by


the standardised assessments. We see over 80% of the pupils in S3 meeting


the standard that they're required to meet. We'll continue to take


forward the meshures that have been guided by OECD recommendations. For


example, our new attainment challenge, our new attainment fund


which as the Deputy First Minister said is directing resources to head


teachers. The new bench marks for literacy and numeracy put in place


backed by a range of targeted programmes from the attainment


challenge, book bug, play top read programme in the early years, read,


write, count in early primary. The read reading challenge. We'll


continue to take forward the new detailed mesh you arement system


which will track progress not just by way of a sample survey, but by


using data on every pupil in primary 1, 4, 7 and S3 broken down by local


authority and schools. In answer to the question, I feel determined to


continue to get on with these reforms to make improvements for


pupils right across our country. Ten years and five out of every 30


pupils can't write properly. Presiding Officer, we like to pride


ourselves in Scotland that our education system was the best in the


world. After ten years of this SNP Government, we can do so no longer.


Last week, I stood here and raised the fact teacher training places are


not being filled. Yesterday, we learnt about the standards of that


training. On the time spent on literacy one trainee said it would


be a single week. One week. Another said she and her fellow trainees


don't have the sufficient skills in numeracy to be able to teach it to


11-year-olds at a reasonable standard. So, we've not enough


trainee teachers coming through and the ones who are, aren't being


taught properly. That's not their fault. But, if they're not getting


the proper instruction, what chance do they have of teaching our


children? Firstly, I think, as I said also last week, while we should


not and this Government does not ignore the challenges we face, we


should not do a disservice to pupils and teachers across the country. As


I've just said, more than 80% of S3 pupils, according to the


comprehensive data we publish, are meeting the required standards in


writing. We're also seeing annual increases in the proportion of


school levers reaching the national 5 level. The gap between richest and


poorest closing. A record number of advanced higher passes. A record


number of higher passes in the last few years. Let me turn also to the


question of teacher education. In terms of entry into initial teacher


education, we've increased the intake into teacher education as


part of the work we are doing to make sure there are the required


numbers of teachers coming into our schools. In terms of the content of


teacher education, which is the substance of the question Ruth


Davidson asked and has been under discussion at the Education


Committee this week. There's a couple of points to make first


before I action we've taken. It is universities, of course, in


partnership with the GDC that decide the content and structure of initial


teacher education. Here's a fact... Here's a fact that Ruth Davidson


won't like to hear. It says something good about Scottish


education. The recently published complete university guide rate the


four of Scottish universities in the top seven across the UK for


teacherer education. We have recognised we need to do more around


teacher education. I'm surprised Ruth Davidson doesn't seem to know


this from the content of her question, in our delivery plan


published last year, we committed to a review of Scotland's initial


teacher education courses. And, the report of that review will be


published in the next few weeks. On that, as well as on the other


issues, this is the situation. We've got good performance across


education in Scotland. But there are areas where we have recognised we


need to do better. This Government is getting on with the job of taking


the action that will deliver these improvements. Here's a fact for the


First Minister. Bright young trainees are starting their careers


in Scotland without the tools they need to do the job. That's not me


saying it. That's what they told this Parliament just yesterday. As


the Education Secretary acknowledged this week, we need inspections to


flag up issues in our schools but the number of inspections has gone


down upped the SNP. Why? We don't have enough inspectors and the one's


we have are being dragged off the job to sort out of the mess that the


curriculum for excellence. Does this sound like a system which is in any


way functioning properly? She just said about curriculum for


excellence, not only did Ruth Davidson go against what her party


said about curriculum for excellence, she goes against the


judgment of the OECD when they did a review of curriculum for excellence


and said that was a reform that they welcomed but they pointed out the


areas where we had to further improve to deal with the challenges


we face. So, what we have in education is good performance and we


have a range of international experts who have said that. We have


a number of challenges, not least the ones the SSLN survey highlighted


this week. We have a programme of reform that's getting on with making


the changing backed by significant addition at investment in our


schools that are about delivering improvement. So, I think it is


important that this Parliament scrutinises that on an ongoing


basis. As First Minister with the Deputy First Minister, I'm going to


stay focussed in taking forward this reform programme. As I said last


week, what we often find in this chamber is opposition parties


calling for us to make changes but as soon as we make any of those


changes and as soon as some people might think they disagree with them,


we find opposition parties running for cover. Well, this Government


will continue to focus on making the reforms and making the changes that


we think are required to drive the improvements we are determined to


see. It's funny the First Minister talked about what a range of


international experts said about. Professor Lindsey Paterson. He says


this: Curriculum for excellence has ignored the need for deep knowledge


with the dismaying consequences that we now see. So, every week we stand


up here and hear jargon about cross curricular this and joined up that.


It's not much help if we've children in our country that can't add up,


can't write and can't read. Last week, the First Minister accused me


of being obsessed about the constitution. Well, here is her


record in this place. Since last year, this Government has spent more


time debating the constitution than debating education, health,


transport and justice combined. And we have had enough. After ten years,


after ten years, don't the people of Scotland deserve a Government that


will for once focus on their priorities and not on hers? Let me


share some of the views... Order, that's enough! Let me share some of


the views of the international exports I was referring to. Page 13


of the OECD review of Scottish education states this. The


curriculum for excellence is an important reform putting in place a


coherent 3-18 curriculum. It rests on a contemporary view of skills and


what makes for powerful learning. The deputy director for OECD. We


applaud Scotland for having the foresight and patients to put such


an ambition reform as curriculum for excellence in place. That's the


support backed up by the international council for education


advisers. Who were deeply impressed with the schools they visited during


their programme here. We'll continue to build on the strengths of


Scottish education and make sure we drive the improvements through the


action I have been talking about. The the attainment fund, putting


?120 million into the hands of head teachers. The attainment challenge,


driving improvements in literacy and numeracy. Making sure we don't have


to just rely on a sample SSLN survey. We have comprehensive data


on every pupil in these particular school years. We'll continue to take


forward that programme of reform. Let me turn to the issue of


priorities. You see when Ruth Davidson talks about the time spent


in this chamber debating the constitution, what she's trying to


distract attention from is that has been time debating the implications


of Brexit. The Brexit disaster. The Brexit disaster that the Tory Party


is leading this country into. Secondly, on priorities. Over the


past week, the Scottish Tories have churned out press release after


press release after press release. In all of those press releases, we


have seen health mentioned once. We've seen education mentioned 12


times. We've seen me, the SNP or Independent mentioned a grand total


of 153 times! So, Presiding Officer, I'll get on with the job of


improving education, but I'll take no lectures on priorities from Ruth


Davidson or the Tories! What engagements has the First


Minister planned for the rest of the week. The bring forward the


Government's plan for Scotland. Scotland's nurses need a pay rise.


Since 2010 they've seen a real terms cut in wages of ?3,400. Our NHS


staff are underresourced and underpaid. The Labour Party will


always argue for better wages because it means better performance.


The reality of today's NHS is nurses are more likely to leave the


profession because the work isn't paying as well as it should. The


results, hundreds of millions of pounds spent on agency staff. So,


why did the SNP vote against scrapping the pay cap last night?


Well, I think this is a really important issue, not just for people


working in NHS but for public sector workers generally. We've had a


period of pay restraint. The reasons for that pay restent were firstly


the financial crash. Then the long period of austerity started under


Labour and continued under the Tories. The reason for that pay


restraint, the reason was to protect jobs in the public sector and make


sure we can protect investment in areas of the public sector like our


NHS. As I said previously, we're seeing more investment in our NHS


today under this Government than we would if Labour were in Government.


They didn't pledge as much as we did. On the issue of pay, can I say,


I think this is an issue we are required to look carefully at now


inflation is rising again. With the NHS, of course, it is the


independent pay review body that makes pay recommendations. The


Health Secretary yesterday committed to working with the health unions to


jointly commission work that we would then submit to the pay review


body for its deliberations for the next year. But, we have taken action


to make sure that we are treating workers in our NHS as fairly as


possible. Unlike Governments elsewhere in the UK, we have


targeted low pay and we've also made sure that we've always accepted


recommendations of the pay review body and made sure people working in


our NHS aren't denied the progression they've sometimes been


denied elsewhere. As a result of that, while I do not deny for a


second the real pressure that people working in our NHS are under, as a


result of that, in Scotland, every entry level NHS support staff worker


is paid more than ?1,000 a year more than their English counterparts. A


band 5 nurse, the level for a newly qualified nurse, is paid ?300 a year


more than somebody doing the same job in England. And, crucially, paid


?312 a year more than a nurse doing the same job in Wales. Why do I


mention Wales? Labour is in Government in Wales and they haven't


even done as much as we've done to protect the pay of nurses. We'll


continue to make sure we work with our trade unions to get fairness for


our nurses and for public sector workers. In all of that, there's no


escaping the reality whilst they might be ?300 better off than


England they are worse off than they should have been under her


Government. And the brutal reality of a decade of SNP has seen them


make a complete and utter mismachinagement of our 2346789 HS


The Times newspaper today reports a ?400 million contract for private


doctors to work in our NHS that went out to tender on the 1st May. The


brutal truth is our hospitals have to turn to private sector because


they don't have enough doctors in the first place. Labour can reveal


today the number of consultant posts that have remained vacant for six


months or more has increased six fold since 2011. That's the reality


of complete and utter mess she has made of our NHS. So, tell me First


Minister, why can't the SNP find ?400 million for private health


companies but it can't find the money to pay our NHS nurses? I'll


take no lessons on private sector involvement in our NHS from the


Labour Party who signed PFI contracts in our NHS that continues


to drain the budgets. The reality is, reliance on the private sector


reduced under this Government. That is right and proper. Let's go back


to the important issue of pay. Not just in the NHS but in the public


sector. I understand why workers across our public sector think the


1% pay cap has now to be lifted. We'll continue to talk to trade


unions. I was talking about this very issue earlier this week. And


will continue to make sure the evidence we submit to the pay review


body for the NHS properly reflects the circumstances in the economy


today. We've had pay restraint because we have had an extremely


tight public spending environment. We have had to make sure we protect


jobs in the public sector and protect investment in our National


Health Service. The other thing Kezia Dugdale won't want us to


mention is the fact we've also in Scotland had a policy of no


compulsory redundancies in the public sector. We look at the NHS.


We see 12,000 compulsory redundancies in the NHS. 20,000


South of the border, none here in Scotland. I'm not standing here


saying it is easy for anybody working in our NHS. Because of the


action we've taken to make sure we target extra resources at low paid


people, making sure people working in our NHS get access to


progression, because of that, 60% of agenda for change staff will have


been paid more than the 1% uplift when they're progression and action


in low pay's taken into account. I don't think it is at all fair for


Kezia Dugdale simply to dismiss the fact we have done more than any


other Government anywhere else in the UK to try to help public sector


workers in this difficult time. We will continue to do exactly that.


The difference is this Government stands on the side of public sector


workers in the NHS and elsewhere too. Two things come from that.


First of all, in all of that answer, she's actually asking us to be


grateful that she's not sacking nurses because of her compulsory


redundancy policy. Secondly, there is a clear difference between our


two parties. Whilst I have a progressive plan to protect our


public services and stop the cuts, all she has is a plan to see the


private sector profit from Scotland's sick. That is the


reality. And the Times romp today also tells us the amount of private


money going into the NHS has doubled in the last two years alone upped


her watch. Let's look at those facts. Our hospitals don't have


enough nurses. Those nurses don't have enough money in their pocket.


Our hospitals don't have enough doctors. But this there's enough


money for private health firms S this what the NHS looks like when


the Government's more interested in running a referendum than running


the NHS? Let's look at private sector spend. Private sector spend


fell last year in NHS Scotland. It represents 0.7% of the Scottish


Government's total health resource budget. In comparison, in a trend


started under the last Labour Government, the NHS in England


spends 7.6% of its budget on the private sector. So, we will continue


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


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


Secretary was scrap the private contract for the running of a


hospital that was introduced by the last Labour administration. So, the


problem for Labour here is all these things they pontificate about in


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


Government. And, lastly, I don't expect anybody working across our


public sector to be grateful to any Government. They are dealing with


extremely tough times. I recognise that. I recognise that particularly


for people working at the front line of the NHS. But I would expect


opposition parties to recognise that in these tough times, this


Government has done more in terms of public sector pay than any other


Government across the UK. That's why agenda for change, staff are made


more in Scotland than England and why newly qualified nurses are paid


more in Scotland than they are in England and Labour-governed Wales.


We have record funding in our NHS and record numbers of staff working


in our NHS as well. I'm conscious we've taken a lot of


time on the first two questions. There are a number of members who


wish to get in. If we can make progress. Two constituency


questions. John Finney? North-west highland, it's UNESCO status in 2015


after ten years of hard work by local communities. That status is


assessed every four years. It is next due to be assessed in 2019.


Until now, the Scottish Government's provided core funding. This year,


the Scottish Government took the decision not to supply core funding.


The park have put of a crowd funder that closed on Monday. They've


raised 12,816. What's gone into achieve that can UNESCO status, it


would be a disaster if that status was lost. Will you examine options


for sporting the West Highland geopark to keep its UNESCO status? I


am familiar with go owe park and the UNESCO status it has. It is


extremely important. As I recall, the Scottish Government provided


initial core funding with a view to geopark becoming sustainable. I am


happy to ask for it to be looked into again and see if we can do


anything. I'll report back to on-Finney once we've had the


opportunity to look at it. Our bowling and tennis club in Greenock


is a 175-year-old club offering vital sporting facilities. Changing


to water and sewage charge exemption rules has left them facing a bill up


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


them to close doors. They are not the only ones. What comfort can the


First Minister provide charities, clubs, village halls and sporting


groups that the Government will look at these charges. Will she commit to


a full and open review into this policy? . It is not too long since


we had a full review of the situation around charities with


water rates or exemptions. I remember it well. At the time, I was


the minister in charge of taking forward the recommendations from


that review. I remember well we tried to put in place a system that


was as fair as possible to as many charities across the country. The


test for he exemption are based on the income of charities and capital


that the charities hold. Therefore there will always be some charitable


organisations that don't get examingses because they've capital


above those thresholds. I am more than happy to have the relevant


minister look at the particular loringation cited here. To make sure


the rules are being applied appropriately. The genuine point is


all members will recognise with any system of exemptions like this,


there will be some organisations that do not qualify for the


exemptions. I know that will be very difficult for organisations in that


position. I'll ask Rose Anne in a Cunningham to look at this


particular case and report back to the member in due course. To ask the


First Minister what issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the


Cabinet. Matters of the importance, the people of Scotland. Yet again,


we've #45ered about the poor statistics on education. The mother


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


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


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


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


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


and her son? I'm concerned to learn of any parent anywhere in the


country who has concerns of that nature about their child's


education. I would repeat again how seriously I and this Government take


the challenges that we face in education. I won't repeat as I did


with Ruth Davidson, all of the strengths of Scottish education. I


do think it is unfair to teachers working hard across the country not


to recognise those strengths and to recognise some of the real


improvements we're making. Up with of the ones I didn't mention earlier


on was the improvements in attainment with pupils with


additional support needs. Because we recognise some of these


challengeses, we are taking the action we're taking. I don't know


the school the child 69 parent quoted by Willie Rennie goes to. But


it is very, very likely that the head teacher of that school now has


in his or her own hands, additional resources, significant resources to


invest in areas that head teacher thinks is required to attain improve


thes. It is that action we're determined to continue to drive


forward. Many of the reforms we are taking forward are reforms Willie


Rennie's opposing. Yes, it is absolutely right members bring


concerns to this chamber. But, we also have to be prepared to do the


difficult things that are required to see the improvements we all want


to see. I'm afraid that's more promises to


improve school education at some point in the future. It won't help


that schoolboy now. He could be part of a lost generation. He's been in


school for a decade. Every single day off that the SNP education


secretaries have been in charge. And they still sit round the Cabinet


table today. These are the Education Secretary is that rejected a pupil


premium for six whole years, even though it raised attainment in


England. They delayed education for two-year-olds, rejected a penny on


income tax education and cut thousands of places from our


colleges. When the First Minister and her ministers have got it so


wrong for years, why on earth should that mother and her 15-year-old son


ever trust them again? Firstly, these are important issues and


important challenges we've got to face. I do think it does a real


disservice to the young people of our country to use language like "A


lost generation". That is pretty disgraceful. Secondly, Willie Rennie


talks about investments he thinks we should have made years ago. I would


remind him that those years gone past are exactly the years the


liberal Democrats were in a Westminster coalition with the


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


The last point I would make is the most important point. Willie Rennie


says the parent he talks about, what good will this do now. The money I'm


talking about that is in the hands of head teachers is in the hands of


headteachers right now. I've spoken to headteachers in my constituency


who are already talking about the initiatives they are taking forward


with this investment. The additional investment direct to headteachers,


the extra investment elsewhere, but also the measures we are taking


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


measures. Willie Rennie repeatedly stands up in this chamber and


opposes the things we are trying to do to make sure that we can see


these improvements and make sure we can be accountable to every parent


across this country. We will get on with doing the things that need to


be done, even sometimes when they are difficult and don't get the


support of the Liberal Democrats. APPLAUSE


Last night BBC Scotland broadcast a shocking documentary on the human


trafficking trade. It provided clear evidence that young girls are being


trafficked from Slovakia to Glasgow where they are forced into sham


marriages to local men. This is a scandal and human tragedy which is


going on under our noses in Scotland right now. Can the First Minister


set out what her government will do to support girls who arrive here in


such appalling circumstances and what measures can be taken to cut


down on trafficking and traffickers who indulge in this evil trade? This


is an extremely important issue. Annie Wells is right to say that it


is both a terrible crime, it is also a global problem. It's important we


take robust steps to tackle it, both in cracking down on the crimes being


committed but also making sure we are supporting the victims. In terms


of tackling crime, the human trafficking and act passed by this


Parliament in 2015 gives both police and prosecutors enhanced powers to


detect and prosecute those responsible for human trafficking.


Police Scotland also uses joint investigation teams established


under European law to work with Romanian and Slovakian police in


this area. It's vital that Police Scotland continues to work closely


with UK immigration, Euro poll and other nations' police forces in


order to investigate human trafficking offences. We will


continue to make sure our police force have the powers and resources


to investigate and tackle what are evil crimes against these


individuals. The second important point is how we support victims of


human trafficking. We continue to support what is the invaluable work


of organisations that offer assistance to victims. In 2017-18


the government will provide grant funding to specific organisations


who support at Old victims of human trafficking, an increase on previous


funding. Will also continue to work with them to improve the support


available to prevent re-trafficking. There is a whole range of it. I will


be happy to write to the Minister with more detail but we should all


agree that the crime of human trafficking is evil and we've got to


bring those responsible to justice but also provide the support the


victims need. Is the First Minister may be aware there is huge


disappointment following a prolonged investigation and nine separate


court hearings related to the case of the illegal killing of a hen


Harrier. The video footage supplied was inadmissible. Notwithstanding


the progress made by ministers in recent years in tackling wildlife


crime for the First Minister acknowledge this is a serious crime


threatening the species. Given that wildlife crime is often difficult to


detect, the law and the approach of the Crown Office must take into


account such factors. Can I ask the First Minister if she will be


willing to investigate this case? I do agree very much with Richard


Lochhead. As he will understand, decisions about the prosecution of


crime are decisions for the Crown Office and the Law officers act in


that respect independently of ministers. I think it's important we


take wildlife crime very seriously. Particularly in cases where it


threatens a threatened species. I'll be happy to ask the relevant


Minister again to meet with Richard Lochhead to look at what more we can


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


taking place in remote areas and therefore they are more difficult to


detect. It's important we make sure the policy framework, and the law


around this, and that the decisions taken by the Crown Office are doing


everything possible to crack down on these kinds of crime. We will


continue to do everything we can to make sure that is the case. College


lecturers have been. On strike for the fourth day in this current


dispute, impacting on them, their families and their students'


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


strike before the First Minister intervenes to insured the pay deal


is honoured? Does she agree with me that preparation time is essential


in order to enable high-quality learning? I agree with the last


point. I want to see this dispute settled. I don't want to see college


lecturers on strike. It's not in their interests or in the interests


of squalid Dutch students. As members will be aware that dash in


the interests of college students. It will see a significant pay rise


for the vast majority of college lecturers. The discussions now are


about how different terms and conditions are replaced with a


national system. Talks are continuing and I would encourage


both sides to go the extra mile, including and perhaps especially the


employers to go the extra mile to reach an agreement. In terms of the


point about government intervention, and I take this seriously because


ministers have been speaking regularly with both sides trying to


make sure we do everything to encourage them to move towards a


resolution. The move to national bargaining was something the union


is rightly long campaigned for an something I'm delighted to see this


government has delivered. If we have a situation where in order to


resolve a dispute government has to step in and intervene, that's not


the success of national bargaining, that would be the failure of


national bargaining. Ministers will continue to discuss with both sides,


we will do everything we can to bring it to a settlement. Talks are


ongoing, I think today and certainly tomorrow and I hope we will see a


resolution of this. That's in the interest of college lecturers and


also college students. I hope that reassures the member that the


government will continue to make sure we are doing everything


possible to bring that about. I'd like to refer members to my register


of interest to ask the First Minister how the Scottish Government


is marking meant to help awareness week. I welcome the opportunity to


highlight Mental Health Awareness Week. It's important we all do what


we can to increase awareness and reduce the stigma. To mark the week,


the Minister for mental health met with parents of children with


experience of mental health services and last I spoke at an event to


discuss stigma within the workplace. We will hold the first meeting of a


stakeholder Forum on the 23rd of June. That is a specific commitment


in our new strategy because we know that working with stakeholders will


be key to the actions of the strategy in the year ahead. I thank


the First Minister for that answer. In my opinion one of the most


important actions outlined in the strategy is a commitment to


introduce a managed clinical network for perinatal mental health. How


would that be progressed and how will it help mothers experiencing


mental health problems? Progress is being made and just this week the


lead clinician for the managed clinical network for perinatal


mental health has been appointed. They heard at first hand from others


their experiences in asking for and getting the right help. I would


expect the new network to get it right for parents and their children


by driving up standards of care through integration of services and


more collaboration. I ask the First Minister whether the Scottish


Government has had discussions with agency to SEPA? The Scottish


Government is in regular contact with the Scottish Environment


Protection Agency. SEPA staff are present in Grangemouth on a regular


basis as part of their duties to deliver regulatory functions. I


understand the following discussion with locally elected members, SEPA


is establishing a site to support the wider Stirling -based team. I


thank the First Minister for that and I welcome the fact that SEPA are


going to have those discussions with Grangemouth. It doesn't require an


answer! To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government is


doing to better resource planning authorities in light of an increase


in planning fees for major applications from the 1st of June


2017. We need a planning system that supports both businesses and


communities to deliver high quality development on the ground. There has


been a general understanding that fee levels are too low and in many


instances aren't proportionate to the work involved in processing


planning applications. Fees and performance go hand-in-hand


therefore we are increasing the maximum fee for major planning


applications to provide further resources to councils to improve


performance. The National view of planning fees


that she has mentioned, maximum fees have risen from 30,000 to 120 5000.


This is a welcome Rob Dorset for local authorities. Many planning


authorities have done an excellent job despite cuts. Organisations such


as homes for Scotland, are TPI and smaller building firms want to make


sure there is a corresponding improvement in the service for those


fees. With the First Minister recognise that these costs could be


prohibitive if there isn't a dramatic improvement in waiting


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


where there is an average weight of 48 weeks. I know the government has


a strong interest in this, planning to build 50,000 houses. I'd like to


know what the First Minister can do to ensure those additional costs are


spent on improving the planning system itself. I think I would make


two quick points. Firstly it's important to stress that the maximum


fee increase only applies to major applications, which account for less


than 1% of all applications. It wouldn't impact on our plans to


deliver 50,000 affordable homes. Secondly, the fee increase is


deliberately about giving councils resources to improve their


performance. Improving planning performance and doing it on a


consistent basis across the country is one of the things we can do to


boost economic growth in Scotland. Its vital these increases lead to


that improvement in performance. We are seeing improvements in


reductions in waiting times for example, there is more that can be


done and I hope this increase in the feed together with the actions will


take forward from our wider review of planning will help with that in


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


government elections, whether Scottish Government will act to


randomise the ordering of candidates by surname on ballot papers in


future elections? For somebody who surname starts with an S, I can see


the attraction! Can I begin by congratulating all councillors


elected last week. I'm sure everybody would join me in wishing


them well in their roles to support local communities. Following the


successful electronic count, randomise the ordering of candidates


's earnings is one of the innovations the Scottish Government


will consider for future elections. No decisions have been taken but


it's one of the changes that will be subject to consideration. I thank


you for that answer. The SNP randomises its own internal SNP


ballot so it seems reasonable that the SNP government introduces such a


measure in local elections. The system produces results heavily


biased in relation to surnames. In Glasgow 40 of the 43 contests where


two or more candidates from the same party stood, the individual who


surname is closest to the beginning of the alphabet received the highest


number of votes. Does the First Minister agree that after three


elections, there is clearly something wrong when one surname can


prove such a decisive factor in whether one is elected, and does she


not agree that if this isn't addressed the credibility of the


single transferable vote system is at stake? APPLAUSE


I think that has to count as a classic question! Before I address


the substance of the question I'm delighted that there was an Aitken


elected in Glasgow because Councillor Susan Aitken of course is


set to be the new SNP leader of Glasgow City Council. I'm delighted


about that. On the serious issue, it's important that no candidate in


any election is at an unfair disadvantage. We would all agree


with that and that's why we have already said that we will examine


the particular issue that Kenny Gibson has raised. It's also


important with any changes to how we do elections but we build consensus


around that. Not for any one party to decide on those changes. As we


look at but we will be looking carefully at opinion not just across


the parties but across civic Scotland as well. As we do have this


consideration over the next few years I would encourage everybody


across Scotland to contribute to it. That concludes First Minister's


Questions. They can't get away from elections. Even talking about the


ordering of names on the ballot paper. It's the UK general election


that is dominating attention. I'm joined by two colleagues, speaking


as a tailor I come after both of you in the running order is! Simon


Johnson, first of all, let's talk about the education question. Again,


Nicola Sturgeon looking contrite but argumentative in response to it.


Yes, I thought sometimes Nicola Sturgeon is at her best when her


back is against the wall but she really struggled. She said, you are


talking down pupils and teachers, we are doing X, Y, Z. She came up with


a convoluted excuse about how we shouldn't be looking at the fact


that half of S2 pupils can't write properly. To be honest I thought she


struggled because the figures were... It was a tough gig. They are


reading off a list of things they are doing latterly to try and


address the situation. Both Willie Rennie and Ruth Davidson came back


to the fact that ten years ago they came to power. I think she was


struggling quite a bit on it. Katrina, it came out of the evidence


at Holyrood and the fact it wasn't just the pupils who were in numeric,


the teachers themselves lacked the skills in transmitting new Morrissey


as well. Yes, trainee teachers, people who are going to educate the


next generation said that they were concerned that they didn't have the


numeracy skills to teach maths to primary seven pupils. Clearly


something has to be done. Nicola Sturgeon says there is a review


going on and that's due to publish in the next few months. What it will


bring, we will see Ben. Simon, it was both Ruth Davidson and Willie


Rennie going on this question. It is a devolved matter but they are


trying to make an election point as well. Absolutely. It plays into two


key themes for both parties. One is to do with Nicola Sturgeon's


competence in government and secondly, it's playing into this


argument that the Scottish Government has been focusing on


Constitution and the independence referendum rather than doing the day


job. But will be a major theme for the Conservatives and Liberal


Democrats. The First Minister came back she said it's not me obsessing


about the Constitution and it had education, health, transport and


justice combined. Nicola Sturgeon said we've been debating the


constitution because we've been debating the Brexit shambles your


Tory government caused. Is it fair to judge, this is a UK general


election, it's not about the matters people decide what people bridge the


two. Everything is fair game in politics. People don't understand


the daily nation between this place's powers and Westminster's


powers. It feeds into issues of competence about Nicola Sturgeon


specifically. Let's talk about Kezia Dugdale's chance for Labour, she was


going again on the SNP's record. It was health and nurses pay. It was


one of the other big responsibilities the Scottish


Parliament has. Kezia Dugdale was saying, under the SNP's watch, over


the last ten years nurses have seen their wages decline in real terms by


over ?3000. Nicola Sturgeon didn't so much dispute that but she said,


hang on, nurses are paid more in Scotland than in England and Wales.


She said a newly qualified nurse in England or Wales would get ?300 less


than their counterparts in Scotland, pointing to Wales which is of course


the one part of the UK where Labour are in government. It was an attempt


by Kezia Dugdale to place herself on the side of the workforce and Nicola


Sturgeon quite explicitly said in her final statement, we are on the


side of the workforce. There was a battle there for the hearts and


minds. Yes, that was a question to do with one eye on the election as


well. Labour are fighting a battle for their base, public sectors


workers, workers in the NHS. This was Kezia Dugdale saying, I'm on


your side, I believe you should be getting more pay. Katrina, the two


topics health and education struck me that they will almost rehearsed


positions. Of course these are topics that have been raised


endlessly, education was raised last week. Kezia Dugdale was raising the


subject of nurses pay only yesterday. But it appeared that they


were almost formulaic in the questions and the response as if it


was familiar ground for all of them. It did, didn't it? The education


questions came off the back of the statistics we had earlier this week


and also on the appearance of trainee teachers at the education


committee. Kezia Dugdale and Labour were making the same point about


nurses pay yesterday. Both sides had their arguments lined up and gave us


their lines. It doesn't take us much further forward. Finally, you can


see the First Minister responding slightly contrite but equally the


Education Secretary sitting next to her looked really solemn and


serious. They know this is a huge challenge on these education stats


but don't seem to be very good. That's the thing. It's very


difficult to turn around, when you've got 49% of S2 pupils who


can't write well. It's going to take years of difficult work and they are


going to keep getting hammered on this. They can project improvements


but it's going to take a while. It's going to take a long time and taking


on the education unions as well, which is difficult stuff. They've


done a lot of low hanging fruit making this and that free but this


will be really difficult. A lot of this was done in England a long time


ago. Katrina and Simon, hang on a second. As I mentioned it's the


small matter of a UK general election coming up in four weeks'


time. We've had the leak of the draft Labour manifesto, pretty well


right now it's going to the national executive of the Labour Party at a


meeting in London to ratify change. The Scottish party has their input


to that. I spoke to Kezia Dugdale just before coming on air, she


wasn't exactly delighted that it had been leaked but she welcomed the


statement there was against independence in a referendum. I


asked her about the fact the manifesto, contrary to the Scottish


party's conference position, the manifesto backs the renewal of


Trident. You're in favour of Trident according to the manifesto. The


draft manifesto clearly says it supports the renewal of Trident,


that's the Democratic position of the UK wide Labour Party. Not the


Scottish Labour Party? We took a position against the renewal of


Trident and we argued that within our movement. The final fate of the


Labour Party is to renew Trident but also to... Said the Scottish party


is overruled? This is part of our democratic process, we took a


position and made our voice Claire. I'm joined by my colleagues again.


Simon, let's talk about the leak. Parties like to be in charge of the


distribution of policy not having it done by leak. Ignoring what's


actually in the document, a leak of an entire manifesto, what it tells


the electorate is that this is a party at war with each other.


Somebody inside has seen it in their interest... To pass it to the


Telegraph who broke the story. The Telegraph and the Mirror! Somebody


trying to cover their tracks, perhaps. There's somebody in there


who isn't very enamoured with the direction of the party or Mr Corbyn


and is trying to sabotage the campaign. This party is not ready


for government. As to the content, substantial renationalisation,


rail... Rail, energy companies as well. The price cap that the Tories


to cried in 2015 on energy prices coming in, now under Labour.


Substantial changes as well and offers on Social Security and


benefits. Yes, yes. It's interesting, going back to what


Simon said about it going to the Telegraph, he said it shows a party


in chaos but another commentator was saying, actually more people will


read the Labour manifesto as a result! LAUGHTER There's a lot of


tax and spending, regulation, nationalisation. It does smack of


the 1970s... A gloomy picture of Mr Corbyn, you must have been dredging


through the archives to find that one! He looks much smarter now. What


does it say about Scotland and the input of the Scottish Parliament?


The position on Trident for example, it's slightly shambolic. We've got a


UK party saying we are in favour of Trident with a leader who clearly


isn't. Up here we've got a Scottish party whose official position is


that they are opposed to the renewal of Trident with Kezia Dugdale as a


leader who is in favour of Trident. What the voters will make of that, I


think they'll be rather confused. They can go with the manifesto


approach that Trident will be renewed but they are seeking a


multilateral approach. On the subject of the election we will be


hosting a series of ask the leader debates on BBC One Scotland a week


before the general election, hosted by Glen Campbell. We are looking for


members of the public to put their questions to each of the party


leaders. You can apply to be part of the audience by visiting the


website. You can follow the election


throughout the campaign here on BBC Scotland.


The race is on to complete London's most ambitious railway.


I don't think we've seen anything to this scale and complexity before.