Holyrood Highlights 04.10.19


I can finally relate to the well-known line from cookery programmes that the contestants are ‘feeling the heat.’ As the day of the Orkney Celebrity Masterchef competition drew closer, the nerves grew and so last weekend saw me desperately getting in some much-needed, last minute practice.

Monday morning was spent catching up on emails and casework, before an afternoon of back-to back meetings with constituents. In the evening, I popped along very briefly to the St Magnus Centre for a Maritime and Coastguard Agency roadshow event to raise awareness and seek views on a proposed revised code for small fishing vessels, aimed at improving safety.  This is obviously an important issue for the sector in Orkney and hopefully the feedback will help in shaping the code that is eventually adopted. You can read about the new code here and about MCA here

I flew to Edinburgh on Tuesday morning in time for the Justice Committee where this week we took further evidence on the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill. You can read more about the Bill here.  We also heard from Police Scotland on their contingency planning for Brexit, where DCC Kerr was clear about the costs and risks faced. He also raised worrying concerns about the difficulties Police Scotland have faced in getting information at a UK level to inform their planning processes. You can watch the full committee session here and read the report here, as well as my further comments here.

Following the committee, Beatrice Wishart and I met with the Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf  to discuss concerns about the future funding of the Orkney and Shetland Drugs Dog charities.  There can be no doubt about the benefits delivered by these services, particularly in Shetland where they have been operating for many years, in terms of detection, deterrence and disruption of drugs activity. It is vital that funding is identified to enable them to continue on a sustainable basis. You can read more about Orkney Drugs Dog here and Dogs Against Drugs Shetland here

After the weekly meeting with my Lib Dem MSP colleagues, I was off to the Chamber for Topical Questions where I was again pressing the Justice Secretary, this time on the back of a damning HMICS report on the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), which found no clear strategy, plan or vision in place for the SPA, six years after it was formed.  You can read the report here, watch my question here and the full session here.

Back in my office, I had some time to deal with emails and casework, before a brief meeting with Karen Freel on behalf of the Glass Bottle Industry in relation to proposals for a Deposit Return Scheme and concerns about the consequences of including glass in the scheme. Interestingly, the Norwegian scheme I visited in summer last year excludes glass. You can read details of the proposed Deposit Return Scheme here.

Beatrice and I then had a meeting with Jonathan Hinkles Managing Director of Loganair, where we covered a range of issues from recent changes to the baggage allowance to the ongoing dispute between HIAL management and air traffic controllers, which continues to cause disruption to services across the region. You can follow updates on Loganair’s website here.  

In the evening, I attended the cross-party group on Digital Participation, which included the group’s AGM.  I also took some time to stop by the Art in Action reception, hosted by SCAN, to meet with artists involved in promoting and developing visual art within their communities. I was delighted to be able to see the Art in Action campaign literally in action this Summer at the Pier Arts Centre during their annual pavement artist competition as part of Stromness Shopping Week.  You can read about my visit here.  You can also find out more about the Art in Action campaign here and about SCAN here.

Before calling it a night, I also dropped into a briefing session hosted by Environment LINK on wildlife crime legislation. You can find out more about recent developments in relation to this issue here.

On Wednesday, I was back on the early flight to Orkney ahead of the Orkney Celebrity Master Chef competition that evening.  As well as some final preparation – including buying most of the ingredients and doing a checklist of pans, plates, utensils etc - I also managed to deal with emails and some casework (just to calm the nerves).

As for the event itself, in the end it was great fun. A packed Orkney Theatre really entered into the spirit of things as did the judges, Rosemary, Izzy and Daniel. A special mention though for my fellow contestants, Cameron, Gwenda and Lee who were nothing short of brilliant – not just on the night but in the run up as well. Lee was a very worthy winner, but the whole experience felt like a team effort. Thanks to Edgar, Orkney Food & Drink and all who helped put on such a fantastic evening and a brilliant showcase for what Orkney has to offer when it comes to food and drink. You can see more of what happened on the night here and here.

The next morning, it was back to the day job, as I caught my third early flight in as many days, back to Edinburgh, where I met with the CEO of Crown Estate Scotland, Simon Hodge and his colleague Tom Mallows to discuss a range of issues, including changes to managing the use of the seabed and marine environment in and around Orkney.  You can find out more about Crown Estate Scotland here.

Beatrice and I then held a conference call with the Orkney and Shetland Drugs Dog teams to brief them on the earlier meeting with the Justice Secretary and to discuss next steps in the campaign, after which we headed to the Chamber for First Minister’s Questions.  This week Jackson Carlaw raised the inevitable B word, and interrogated the FM on whether she would support a deal. Richard Leonard asked questions about mental health in NHS Tayside, while Willie Rennie highlighted the lack of care packages available resulting in ‘bed blocking’ and people being forced to remain in (and pay) residential care they don’t need or want.  You can watch the session here and read it here.

I then had dash to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, where we took evidence from the Justice Secretary as part of our pre-budget scrutiny focused on the police capital budget.  You can read the official report of the meeting once it is uploaded online here.

I didn’t quite manage to attend the cross-party group on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which also acted as the group’s AGM (you can see more details of the group here), as I had to immediately run to the Chamber to hear a government statement on fracking. There was no great surprise, as they let the frack out of the bag by accidentally publishing their position online the day before, but confirmation that fracking cannot take place in Scotland was welcome. You can watch the statement here, and read about it here and s

Monday morning was spent catching up on emails and casework, before an afternoon of back-to back meetings with constituents. In the evening, I popped along very briefly to the St Magnus Centre for a Maritime and Coastguard Agency roadshow event to raise awareness and seek views on a proposed revised code for small fishing vessels, aimed at improving safety.  This is obviously an important issue for the sector in Orkney and hopefully the feedback will help in shaping the code that is eventually adopted. You can read about the new code here and about MCA here

I flew to Edinburgh on Tuesday morning in time for the Justice Committee where this week we took further evidence on the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner Bill. You can read more about the Bill here.  We also heard from Police Scotland on their contingency planning for Brexit, where DCC Kerr was clear about the costs and risks faced. He also raised worrying concerns about the difficulties Police Scotland have faced in getting information at a UK level to inform their planning processes. You can watch the full committee session here and read the report here, as well as my further comments here.

Following the committee, Beatrice Wishart and I met with the Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf  to discuss concerns about the future funding of the Orkney and Shetland Drugs Dog charities.  There can be no doubt about the benefits delivered by these services, particularly in Shetland where they have been operating for many years, in terms of detection, deterrence and disruption of drugs activity. It is vital that funding is identified to enable them to continue on a sustainable basis. You can read more about Orkney Drugs Dog here and Dogs Against Drugs Shetland here

After the weekly meeting with my Lib Dem MSP colleagues, I was off to the Chamber for Topical Questions where I was again pressing the Justice Secretary, this time on the back of a damning HMICS report on the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), which found no clear strategy, plan or vision in place for the SPA, six years after it was formed.  You can read the report here, watch my question here and the full session here.

Back in my office, I had some time to deal with emails and casework, before a brief meeting with Karen Freel on behalf of the Glass Bottle Industry in relation to proposals for a Deposit Return Scheme and concerns about the consequences of including glass in the scheme. Interestingly, the Norwegian scheme I visited in summer last year excludes glass. You can read details of the proposed Deposit Return Scheme here.

Beatrice and I then had a meeting with Jonathan Hinkles Managing Director of Loganair, where we covered a range of issues from recent changes to the baggage allowance to the ongoing dispute between HIAL management and air traffic controllers, which continues to cause disruption to services across the region. You can follow updates on Loganair’s website here.  

In the evening, I attended the cross-party group on Digital Participation, which included the group’s AGM.  I also took some time to stop by the Art in Action reception, hosted by SCAN, to meet with artists involved in promoting and developing visual art within their communities. I was delighted to be able to see the Art in Action campaign literally in action this Summer at the Pier Arts Centre during their annual pavement artist competition as part of Stromness Shopping Week.  You can read about my visit here.  You can also find out more about the Art in Action campaign here and about SCAN here.

Before calling it a night, I also dropped into a briefing session hosted by Environment LINK on wildlife crime legislation. You can find out more about recent developments in relation to this issue here.

On Wednesday, I was back on the early flight to Orkney ahead of the Orkney Celebrity Master Chef competition that evening.  As well as some final preparation – including buying most of the ingredients and doing a checklist of pans, plates, utensils etc - I also managed to deal with emails and some casework (just to calm the nerves).

As for the event itself, in the end it was great fun. A packed Orkney Theatre really entered into the spirit of things as did the judges, Rosemary, Izzy and Daniel. A special mention though for my fellow contestants, Cameron, Gwenda and Lee who were nothing short of brilliant – not just on the night but in the run up as well. Lee was a very worthy winner, but the whole experience felt like a team effort. Thanks to Edgar, Orkney Food & Drink and all who helped put on such a fantastic evening and a brilliant showcase for what Orkney has to offer when it comes to food and drink. You can see more of what happened on the night here and here.

The next morning, it was back to the day job, as I caught my third early flight in as many days, back to Edinburgh, where I met with the CEO of Crown Estate Scotland, Simon Hodge and his colleague Tom Mallows to discuss a range of issues, including changes to managing the use of the seabed and marine environment in and around Orkney.  You can find out more about Crown Estate Scotland here.

Beatrice and I then held a conference call with the Orkney and Shetland Drugs Dog teams to brief them on the earlier meeting with the Justice Secretary and to discuss next steps in the campaign, after which we headed to the Chamber for First Minister’s Questions.  This week Jackson Carlaw raised the inevitable B word, and interrogated the FM on whether she would support a deal. Richard Leonard asked questions about mental health in NHS Tayside, while Willie Rennie highlighted the lack of care packages available resulting in ‘bed blocking’ and people being forced to remain in (and pay) residential care they don’t need or want.  You can watch the session here and read it here.

I then had dash to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, where we took evidence from the Justice Secretary as part of our pre-budget scrutiny focused on the police capital budget.  You can read the official report of the meeting once it is uploaded online here.

I didn’t quite manage to attend the cross-party group on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which also acted as the group’s AGM (you can see more details of the group here), as I had to immediately run to the Chamber to hear a government statement on fracking. There was no great surprise, as they let the frack out of the bag by accidentally publishing their position online the day before, but confirmation that fracking cannot take place in Scotland was welcome. You can watch the statement here, and read about it here and see my further comments here.

I remained in the Chamber for Justice Questions, where my week of interrogating the Justice Secretary continued when I asked about the renovation of the women’s prison estate. Progress on delivering a more ‘fit for purpose’ estate is now well behind schedule, while the number of women in prison remains unacceptably high. You can watch the exchange here, and read it here.

The rest of the afternoon was also spent in the Chamber as parliament considered Stage 3 of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill. This legislation, which was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs, will remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement”, which means that smacking will no longer be permissible under Scots law. You can read more about the Bill here,  watch the debate here and read it here.

Today, as part of my Corporate Body responsibilities, I have been involved in the interview process for a new Chief Executive of the Scottish Parliament, following the retirement of Sir Paul Grice last month.  These interviews will continue on Monday, after which we will hope to make an appointment.  Before then, I am flying back to Orkney this evening and hope to be over in Caithness on Saturday, supporting the joint Orkney & Caithness’s under-18s rugby team as they take on Moray/Huntly.

 

Next Week

I will be taking part in a ‘political speed dating’ event organised by 2050 Climate Group to raise awareness of how young people can get involved in politics, I am co-sponsoring a Diwali celebration at parliament and attending the launch of the MS Society’s Stop MS Appeal on Tuesday evening, I will be having meetings with Existing Homes Alliance Scotland, Advocacy and the Criminal Justice Voluntary Forum throughout the week, and I will be speaking in Stage 1 of the Non-Domestic Rates Bill and in General Questions on Thursday.

As ever, my full diary is here while “This Week in the Scottish Parliament”, a weekly update from the Scottish Parliament, can be found here.  You can also view motions that I have submitted to parliament this week here and questions that I have tabled here

ee my further comments here.

I remained in the Chamber for Justice Questions, where my week of interrogating the Justice Secretary continued when I asked about the renovation of the women’s prison estate. Progress on delivering a more ‘fit for purpose’ estate is now well behind schedule, while the number of women in prison remains unacceptably high. You can watch the exchange here, and read it here.

The rest of the afternoon was also spent in the Chamber as parliament considered Stage 3 of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill. This legislation, which was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs, will remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement”, which means that smacking will no longer be permissible under Scots law. You can read more about the Bill here,  watch the debate here and read it here.

Today, as part of my Corporate Body responsibilities, I have been involved in the interview process for a new Chief Executive of the Scottish Parliament, following the retirement of Sir Paul Grice last month.  These interviews will continue on Monday, after which we will hope to make an appointment.  Before then, I am flying back to Orkney this evening and hope to be over in Caithness on Saturday, supporting the joint Orkney & Caithness’s under-18s rugby team as they take on Moray/Huntly.

 

Next Week

I will be taking part in a ‘political speed dating’ event organised by 2050 Climate Group to raise awareness of how young people can get involved in politics, I am co-sponsoring a Diwali celebration at parliament and attending the launch of the MS Society’s Stop MS Appeal on Tuesday evening, I will be having meetings with Existing Homes Alliance Scotland, Advocacy and the Criminal Justice Voluntary Forum throughout the week, and I will be speaking in Stage 1 of the Non-Domestic Rates Bill and in General Questions on Thursday.

As ever, my full diary is here while “This Week in the Scottish Parliament”, a weekly update from the Scottish Parliament, can be found here.  You can also view motions that I have submitted to parliament this week here and questions that I have tabled here


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