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Meeting of the Parliament

Thursday 31 January 2008

Note: (DT) signifies a decision taken at Decision Time.

The meeting opened at 9.15 am.

1. Accessible Passenger Transport and the National Concessionary Fares Scheme: Des McNulty moved S3M-1246—That the Parliament notes the importance of accessible passenger transport to achieving the Scottish Government’s climate change objectives and in tackling the significant inequalities in Scottish society; expresses concern over capped allocations for reimbursement for concessionary travel and the Bus Service Operators Grant over the next three years and the implications for fare-paying passengers; urges ministers to reconsider their decision not to increase the Bus Service Operators Grant in line with the support given by the UK Government to bus service providers in England and Wales; calls on ministers to urgently review the national concessionary travel scheme to extend eligibility to disabled people in receipt of the lower rate of disability allowance and to older and disabled people using community transport in rural areas, enabling these extensions to be introduced by the parliamentary summer recess, and invites ministers to consult users, passenger service operators and the Parliament on other desirable changes to the scheme.

Alison McInnes moved amendment S3M-1246.2 to motion S3M-1246—

insert at end—

“recognises the valuable contribution that Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) can make to social inclusion and accessibility, particularly in rural areas and for disabled and elderly passengers; notes with concern that the Scottish Government’s budget has caused uncertainty over the future of DRT provision; considers that expansion of DRT is an essential aspect of improving accessibility in Scotland, and therefore calls on ministers to end the uncertainty and develop DRT services in Scotland.”

Patrick Harvie moved amendment S3M-1246.1 to motion S3M-1246—

leave out from “expresses concern” to end and insert—

“recognises that it is vital that accessible and affordable public transport is available to help the Scottish Government to meet its climate change objectives and to ensure the continuation of vital urban and rural services; calls on the Scottish Government to provide a substantial increase in the budget for the Bus Service Operators Grant in 2008-09 and to consider keeping fares more affordable for the longer term; notes the Scottish Government’s intention to review the national concessionary travel scheme, and calls on ministers during that review to ensure that they maximise the benefits for the public throughout Scotland while guaranteeing the best return on a scheme which represents a significant investment of public money.”

Alex Johnstone moved amendment S3M-1246.1.1 to amendment S3M-1246.1—

insert at end—

“and notes that Labour and Liberal Democrat ministers in the previous administration chose not to grant eligibility to disabled people in receipt of the lower rate of disability allowance and to older and disabled people using community transport in rural areas when they created the National Concessionary Fares Scheme.”

After debate, amendment 1246.2 was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 58, Against 63, Abstentions 1).

Amendment 1246.1.1 was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 65, Against 56, Abstentions 1).

Amendment 1246.1, as amended, was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 65, Against 56, Abstentions 1).

The motion, as amended, was then agreed to ((DT) by division: For 65, Against 56, Abstentions 1).

Accordingly, the Parliament resolved— That the Parliament notes the importance of accessible passenger transport to achieving the Scottish Government’s climate change objectives and in tackling the significant inequalities in Scottish society; recognises that it is vital that accessible and affordable public transport is available to help the Scottish Government to meet its climate change objectives and to ensure the continuation of vital urban and rural services; calls on the Scottish Government to provide a substantial increase in the budget for the Bus Service Operators Grant in 2008-09 and to consider keeping fares more affordable for the longer term; notes the Scottish Government’s intention to review the national concessionary travel scheme; calls on ministers during that review to ensure that they maximise the benefits for the public throughout Scotland while guaranteeing the best return on a scheme which represents a significant investment of public money, and notes that Labour and Liberal Democrat ministers in the previous administration chose not to grant eligibility to disabled people in receipt of the lower rate of disability allowance and to older and disabled people using community transport in rural areas when they created the National Concessionary Fares Scheme.

2. Education: Rhona Brankin moved S3M-1258—That the Parliament recognises the importance of high-quality school buildings to young people's learning; notes the SNP’s commitment to match the previous administration’s school building programme “brick for brick”; further notes that the previous administration built 200 schools between 2003 and 2007; condemns the Scottish Executive for its total failure to publish details of its school building programme, and calls on the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning to make a statement to the Parliament detailing the Executive’s plans for building the new schools that Scotland’s children deserve and that the SNP promised in its 2007 manifesto.

Elizabeth Smith moved amendment S3M-1258.1 to motion S3M-1258—

leave out from “; notes the SNP’s commitment” to end and insert—

“and the need for energy efficiency, quality design including the incorporation of sound ecological and sustainable design principles, and value for money for the public purse in building schools; recognises the need for the Scottish Government and local authorities to continue to improve Scotland’s school estate; notes the SNP’s commitment to match the previous administration’s proposed school building programme “brick for brick”, and calls on the Scottish Government to make a statement to the Parliament detailing its plans for new schools and how these will be funded.”

The Minister for Schools and Skills (Maureen Watt) moved amendment S3M-1258.1.1 to amendment S3M-1258.1—

insert at end—

“and further notes that future plans for school buildings will be usefully informed by the imminent publication of Audit Scotland’s report on improving the Scottish school estate and the Scottish Government’s proposals for the Scottish Futures Trust and the Infrastructure Investment Plan.”

Jeremy Purvis moved amendment S3M-1258.2 to motion S3M-1258—

insert at end—

“recognises the publication of the Scottish Government's consultation on the Scottish Futures Trust and its support for the use of private finance, and is concerned that the failure of the SNP government to bring forward an alternative funding mechanism and support is causing confusion and uncertainty and is holding back councils across Scotland who want to improve schools in their areas.”

After debate, amendment 1258.1.1 was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 65, Against 13, Abstentions 44).

Amendment 1258.1, as amended, was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 109, Against 12, Abstentions 1).

Amendment 1258.2 was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 55, Against 63, Abstentions 3).

The motion, as amended, was then agreed to ((DT) by division: For 108, Against 0, Abstentions 13).

Accordingly, the Parliament agreed—That the Parliament recognises the importance of high-quality school buildings to young people's learning and the need for energy efficiency, quality design including the incorporation of sound ecological and sustainable design principles, and value for money for the public purse in building schools; recognises the need for the Scottish Government and local authorities to continue to improve Scotland’s school estate; notes the SNP’s commitment to match the previous administration’s proposed school building programme “brick for brick”; calls on the Scottish Government to make a statement to the Parliament detailing its plans for new schools and how these will be funded, and further notes that future plans for school buildings will be usefully informed by the imminent publication of Audit Scotland’s report on improving the Scottish school estate and the Scottish Government’s proposals for the Scottish Futures Trust and the Infrastructure Investment Plan.”

3. General Question Time: Questions were answered by Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers.

4. First Minister’s Question Time: Questions were answered by the First Minister (Alex Salmond).

5. Themed Question Time: Questions on Finance and Sustainable Growth were answered by the Cabinet Secretary and Ministers.

6. Poverty: The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Nicola Sturgeon) moved S3M-1260—That the Parliament agrees that poverty, inequality and deprivation are among the greatest challenges to be faced in Scotland today, that tackling these challenges is core to the delivery of the Government Economic Strategy and that development of a framework for taking forward these aspects of the Government Economic Strategy will contribute to the creation of a fairer Scotland.

Margaret Curran moved amendment S3M-1260.2 to motion S3M-1260—

leave out from “that tackling these challenges” to end and insert—

“; regrets that the SNP’s approach fails to respond to the needs of the poorest households in Scotland and fails to engage those groups experienced in tackling poverty in finding solutions, and believes that social justice is a priority for the Scottish people and should remain a central policy commitment of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament.”

After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 43, Against 66, Abstentions 13).

Mary Scanlon moved amendment S3M-1260.1 to motion S3M-1260—

insert at end—

“recognises that the Scottish Government, UK Government and local governments need to work together to get people off welfare and into work where possible and to increase the percentage of benefit take-up ensuring that those most in need of help get it, and calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward proposals to achieve these aims.”

After debate, the amendment was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 65, Against 3, Abstentions 54).

Ross Finnie moved amendment S3M-1260.3 to motion S3M-1260—

leave out from “that tackling these challenges” to end and insert—

“; believes that tackling poverty requires a co-ordinated approach with the UK Government to ensure that the benefits system supports those most in need and actively encourages those able to return to education, training and work to do so; believes that a cross-party approach to increasing opportunity across Scotland is required, and therefore calls for the establishment of a cross-party inquiry, involving stakeholders, to address the causes and effects of poverty and wealth inequality in Scotland and recommend to the Parliament practical actions in areas including health, housing, training, social enterprise and the voluntary sector, micro-credit and community regeneration.”

After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 13, Against 63, Abstentions 46).

The motion was then agreed to ((DT) by division: For 75, Against 46, Abstentions 0).

Accordingly, the Parliament resolved—That the Parliament agrees that poverty, inequality and deprivation are among the greatest challenges to be faced in Scotland today, that tackling these challenges is core to the delivery of the Government Economic Strategy and that development of a framework for taking forward these aspects of the Government Economic Strategy will contribute to the creation of a fairer Scotland; recognises that the Scottish Government, UK Government and local governments need to work together to get people off welfare and into work where possible and to increase the percentage of benefit take-up ensuring that those most in need of help get it, and calls on the Scottish Government to bring forward proposals to achieve these aims.”

7. Decision Time: The Parliament took decisions on items 1, 2 and 6 as noted above.

8. Extra-curricular Outdoor Education for Every School Pupil: The Parliament debated S3M-0765 in the name of Elizabeth Smith—That the Parliament notes the vital contribution that taking part in extra-curricular activities makes in developing our young people; notes that extra-curricular programmes help our young people to learn new skills, to enjoy new responsibility, to appreciate the work of other people and to learn about leadership; notes the success of projects such as Crieff High School’s Community Awareness Project, and considers that, in an age when too many of our young people are in the headlines for the wrong reasons and when there are increasing concerns about school discipline and the numbers of youngsters involved in incidents of antisocial behaviour, extra-curricular activities in schools and five days outdoor education for every school pupil in Scotland should be supported.

The meeting closed at 5.57 pm.

P E Grice
Clerk of the Parliament
31 January 2008

Appendix
(Note: this Appendix does not form part of the Minutes)

New Bills introduced or reprinted on 30 January 2008

Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Bill—A Bill for an Act of the Scottish Parliament to make provision about the judiciary and the courts; to establish the Scottish Court Service; and for connected purposes. (SP Bill 6) (Executive Bill)

Introduced by: Kenny MacAskill

Supported by: Fergus Ewing

Explanatory Notes (and other accompanying documents) (SP Bill 6-EN) and a Policy Memorandum (SP Bill 6-PM) were printed to accompany the Bill.

Other Documents

The following document was laid before the Parliament on 31 January 2008 and is not subject to any parliamentary procedure

“A review of free personal and nursing care” – A report and key messages summary prepared for the Auditor General for Scotland (AGS/2008/1)

laid under the Public Finance and Accountability (Scotland) Act 2000

Committee Reports

The following reports were published on 31 January 2008—

Local Government and Communities Committee, 1st Report, 2008 (Session 3): Subordinate Legislation (SP Paper 53)

Subordinate Legislation Committee, 4th Report, 2008 (Session 3): Budget (Scotland) Bill (SP Paper 54)

Subordinate Legislation Committee, 5th Report, 2008 (Session 3): Subordinate Legislation (SP Paper 55)