A Budget for Scotland’s People Scottish Parliament speech 25 November 2010

I am pleased to open the debate on behalf of the Labour Party.
I recognise that it is an important debate for the people of Scotland. It is not our intention for this to be a yah-boo debate; it is not a debate for the sake of it, but one that is of significance for all Scotland.
As members might be aware, I am not an aficionado of budget debates.
However, this is not simply a debate for the parties' finance spokespeople—which is why I am opening—but one that is at the heart of Labour's concerns and, I believe, the concerns of others about the Scottish National Party's approach and attitude to the development of the budget and the consequences for individuals, families and communities throughout Scotland.
Our motion recognises the reality in Scotland of uncertainty, anxiety, stress and fear for what the future may bring. Our job—the purpose of the Scottish Parliament—is to protect people and to take action that offers greater stability and certainty.
The evident uncertainty is corrosive; it is a threat that is not easily captured in a ledger but which fundamentally impacts on people's lives.
Our central argument is that the Scottish Government is compounding that uncertainty.
Yes—Mr Swinney is demanding efficiencies and outlining his spending priorities for the next year, but the reality is that he is preventing a wide range of public and voluntary bodies and local authorities from being able to plan and make informed choices about the future.
The Scottish Government has the information.
It can help, but chooses not to by refusing to give spending projections for the period of the comprehensive spending review.
When the Scottish Government is challenged about its many failures, broken promises or incompetences, it often says that it is a minority Government.
That is not, in itself, the problem: the problem is that it is a minority that is incapable of seeking compromise and consensus.
Instead of seeking co-operation to support people in these tough times, it acts in a way that keeps MSPs in this Parliament in the dark and, more important, which keeps in the dark crucial public bodies and organisations that are striving to deliver front-line services.
It is our contention that that is a dereliction of duty and an abdication of responsibility: those are sacrificed on the altar of party interest, not in the country's interest.
At decision time today, there will be an opportunity for the Parliament to assert itself against that minority control over the Parliament's powers, and to confirm its disapproval of the approach and its consequences for the people whom we represent.
If successful, it will be a challenge to the Scottish Government to accept accountability and to act accordingly to create more certainty and give people more protection.
I expect that, if the motion is supported at decision time, the Minister for Parliamentary Business will report as a matter of urgency on how he plans to enact that decision of the Parliament.
We want the Scottish Government to take an approach that recognises the challenge not only for ministers but for all those who depend on the Government's funding. Mr Swinney said in his budget statement that this is not a one-year problem and then revealed that he would provide only a one-year budget. That contradiction is as odd as it is unacceptable.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP): Why does the Labour Party want to win the election next year but operate an SNP budget? You are basically calling for us to set a budget for a four-year term of office throughout which you hope to be in power. Is that because you want to sit in office—if you win, which is unlikely—and blame the SNP for all the cuts that were imposed thanks to the incompetence of the previous United Kingdom Labour Government?

Johann Lamont: That intervention was self-evidently ludicrous.
We make the point—I will make it again later—that this is not about elections but about serving the people of this country.
Mr Swinney says that it is difficult in these unprecedented times to do as we suggest, but in Wales people have the information and in England people have the information.
Earlier in the week, the Northern Ireland Government indicated that it would provide spending plans for 2011-12 to 2014-15 as part of its budget process.
I even understand that in the Republic of Ireland—despite the system there being under terrible pressure—the Government has made it clear that any budget that it produces will provide plans for a period far beyond the next year.
In a previous debate, when Mr Swinney was being asked to produce an indicative budget ahead of the comprehensive spending review, he replied that Wales had taken the same approach as he had; that he and the Welsh finance minister were as one and had decided
"to wait until the comprehensive spending review had been undertaken".
Mr Swinney asked Andy Kerr:
"If that approach is good enough for Welsh Labour, why is it not good enough for Scottish Labour?"—[Official Report, 4 November 2010; c 29972.]
In the same way, we might now ask: if a spending review for the comprehensive spending review period is good enough for England, for Wales and for Northern Ireland, why is it not good enough for Scotland?
Why, uniquely, are we incapable of doing it?
What is unique about our civil servants that renders them incapable of identifying options for spend beyond the next year?
Is Mr Swinney really saying that no work has been done, or is being done, to prepare spending plans?
If the work has been done, why could it not be done as part of the budget process?
Were civil servants instructed not to do the work?
If they are doing that work, why is it not being harnessed to create certainty for all those who seek to meet need in our communities?
The truth is that Mr Swinney has that information; he just does not want to share it.
"But", says Mr Swinney, "we can't because there are big issues here. We have asked Campbell Christie and his commission to look at them and we can't give details until Parliament has had the opportunity to consider the commission's proposals."
We might say that there is evidently no rush, but Mr Swinney is asking us to set aside the fact that the logic of that position, given the breadth and depth of the commission's remit, is that no decisions could be taken on anything.
At the same time, Mr Swinney has blithely ruled out much of the independent budget review and has made significant spending commitments at his party conference.
To accept Mr Swinney's position, one must also disregard the fact that the commission has been told by the Scottish Government that its purpose is long term and that, in an earlier debate, Mr Swinney said that that purpose would allow
"the focusing of medium-term financial priorities."—[Official Report, 4 November 2010; c 29976.]
We all know, however, that the reality is that Mr Swinney is now using the commission as a short-term alibi to get him through the winter and into election time. [Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Order.

Johann Lamont: I call in evidence someone whom I would not necessarily happily quote. In an interview in Holyrood magazine of 18 October, Alex Salmond argued that what is happening in Westminster in relation to cuts is about election timetables.
He reflected that
"electoral, political and economic cycles don't always fall in the same way and politicians should have a higher duty and the duty is more to the economic cycle than the political cycle."
Mr Salmond clearly needs to have some firm words with Mr Swinney and himself.
I recognise many of those who have agreed to serve on the commission and the qualities that they bring, but the slightest glance at its remit, which embraces not only delivery of services, but improvement of services and tackling of inequality and its causes—among a host of other things—makes it clear that its purpose is not just about rationalising the landscape in tough times in order to inform immediate spending decisions. It is about far more.
So substantial is its work that it is entirely illogical to call it in aid against publishing spending plans and giving people the information that they need to plan.
I am sure that the commission will make interesting recommendations, but its remit is, in my view, so substantial that it is, in fact, one of the central purposes of Government.
We have to ask what Mr Swinney and his colleagues have been doing for the last number of years.
Why did they not notice that challenging times were ahead and act then by harnessing the talents within government, in the Parliament and throughout Scotland to prepare, rather than cobbling a commission together now, with a glorious remit and short timescale, which reflects not on the commission members but on the motives of those who have set it up and on the short-termism of the Scottish Government?
Mr Swinney may try to dismiss the issue at the centre of our motion as being some kind of academic issue about budget processes, and as being of interest only to the pointy heads.
It is not, however, academic or obscure; it is not just for the number crunchers.
Budgets are living documents.
They are the expression of priorities and, in their delivery, they give shape and direction to the society we wish to live in and they shape people's life chances.
In the tough times, these choices are ever more critical.
Local authorities, health boards, voluntary organisations and police boards, which are all on the front line, want and deserve some certainty and the ability to plan.
They want that not for the sake of it but because they care deeply about their health provision, their care services, their responsibility for people with learning disabilities, their ability to create economic opportunities and their creation of sustainable communities.
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Strathclyde police authority, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, the Confederation of British Industry Scotland, Consumer Focus Scotland and a range of other organisations have all asked for the certainty of a spending review. When they ask for that certainty, are they all wrong?
My colleagues will focus on the impact of the budget in more detail, but it is self-evidently contradictory to demand efficiencies without a timescale in which to make those demands realistic and achievable.
I predict that, instead of demonstrating increased rationality in their decisions, organisations will become risk averse and perhaps cut services that might otherwise have survived, thereby creating the worst kind of short-termism.
In its written evidence to the Local Government and Communities Committee, COSLA said:
"This puts Scottish Local Government at a disadvantage compared with other parts of the UK ... Had we been able to see the resources over a longer time frame this would enable Local Government to plan more effectively and perhaps avoid cuts which may hurt our communities unnecessarily."
That is the charge.
Not only is it displaying short-termism, but the Government is creating a situation in which people are making cuts that may be unnecessary.

Tricia Marwick (Central Fife) (SNP): Johann Lamont cited several organisations that support a three or four-year budget. If she gives such weight to external bodies, why did the Labour Party give such little weight to all the external bodies that wanted minimum pricing?

Johann Lamont:
This is a serious debate about the Government's choices.
The historic concordat suggested that the SNP listened to local government.
The charge is very serious.
Who pays?
I will give just one example: the care worker who is waiting to find out whether they have a job as the result of a commissioning agreement, while the voluntary organisation that has made a bid waits for the decision of local government, which is waiting for the Scottish Government's decision.
What is the impact on that individual worker and his or her capacity to deliver the service?
They do no know whether they will have a job or should look for another.
It is demoralising and reduces the local capacity to be efficient.
For some, it is much worse.
I understand that Employers in Voluntary Housing, with the help of the Scottish Housing Regulator, has issued guidance for housing associations and co-operatives about the challenge of the current economic situation.
Banks are reported to be eagerly seeking to review deals for risk, and will possibly increase costs and charges, while the housing association grant has already been cut, increased and then cut again and is unpredictable.
In such circumstances, the lack of information for future planning may have a devastating effect by undermining the sector's capacity to thrive and deliver economic opportunity.
The call for the sector to be more efficient is entirely undermined by the Scottish Government's approach, which hampers housing associations' attempts to do what they do best—planning, preparing, delivering and maintaining.
The Government's approach to the budget disregards the needs of local people and is symptomatic of the SNP's overall approach, which is that it is cynical, self-serving and incapable of separating the country's interests from the party interest.
If Mr Swinney is to be worthy of his office, he should use the powers that he has to help people throughout Scotland. At the very least, he should stop being a hindrance to those who want to make a difference to individuals and their families.
In refusing the spending review, he is not taking a technical step but making an active choice.
Mr Swinney lacks the political will do what his office demands, and his purpose is to serve his party, not his country, and to put his own interests ahead of the future of people in our communities.
That is his narrow, SNP party-political choice, but—

Members: Oh!

Johann Lamont: The consequences of that choice will be felt by those who are weakest in defending themselves—the people who seek jobs and who rely on services. [Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Order.

Johann Lamont: I ask members to support the motion. The people of Scotland deserve better.
I move,
That the Parliament notes that the Scottish Government has been presented with its spending budgets for the four-year spending review period yet has chosen to provide local authorities, NHS boards, universities, colleges, the voluntary sector and the wider public sector with only one-year budget proposals for 2011-12; believes that such uncertainty is corrosive as it does not allow those organisations to plan effectively; believes that this inability to plan will have an adverse impact on services, individuals, families and communities, and calls on the Scottish
Government to follow the example of the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body and publish indicative figures until at least 2013-14, in addition to its planned one-year budget for 2011-12.

Labour's Living Wage - Fair Pay for All

Housing Bill Scottish Parliament speech 3 November 2010

Suitably chastised by the minister, I will do my best to be consensual.
However, when I express different views, I do so because I disagree with him.
As we move forward, seeking a false consensus is probably as much of a problem as anything else.
We have indicated that we are happy to support many of the bill's provisions.
In particular, I note and concur with the minister's comments on veterans' entitlements.
However, I do not think that the bill deserves to be described as radical.
Some of members' disappointment about the bill arises from the overblown rhetoric that the minister used in the early days about his plans to abolish the right to buy.
When we voted on the issue, it was recognised that the minister had overstated the case and that past changes had made the really big difference.
There is an overall challenge in relation to housing.
It is about the availability of housing to individuals and their families, but it is also about housing's role in sustaining communities, especially at this difficult time.
The minister will be aware of the term "community anchors".
Often, housing associations play that role.
We should tread gently when we move into that area, to ensure that we do not damage the role that housing providers—housing associations and councils—can play in communities.
We will have a tough budget decision to make, and housing providers will play a critical role in determining what happens in the future.
The plans for housing benefit at United Kingdom level have many implications both for individuals and for those who are planning and making decisions at community level.
For example, a housing association might be faced with a tenant who has rigorously paid their rent, who has been unemployed for a year, and who discovers that their housing benefit is to be cut by 10 per cent because they have stayed on jobseekers allowance.
That sort of situation has implications for housing associations and other organisations that generally manage things in a businesslike way.
I have no doubt that the proposals also have implications for people in supported accommodation—there are people with learning disabilities who are currently supported, and we do not know what the proposals will mean for Women's Aid refuges and so on.
I am sure that we will have to revisit the impacts of the housing benefit proposals on housing as a whole.
Tough decisions have to be made, of course, and one of the frustrations felt in my party comes from the silliness of some of the things that the minister and the Scottish National Party have said in the past about the division between our support for council housing and RSLs.
We took a tough decision to support stock transfer in Glasgow.
We brought £1.2 billion into the city.
If ever there was a Labour legacy for tough times, it is the fact that properties are still being improved there and there is still new build.
There is a new-build development in my constituency, which is creating jobs in the construction industry, and the private sector has embraced that.
The idea that spending through the public purse does not support private investment and activity is false.
We should be careful about making false divisions, which do not help the debate.
I am genuinely disappointed about the decision to remove the whole question of the private sector.
The minister says that it is water under the bridge, but the single most significant concern that is brought to me and others in our casework is to do with the quality of rented accommodation in the private sector.
Sarah Boyack highlighted the question of party flats, and Pauline McNeill mentioned houses in multiple occupation. There is also the matter of addressing antisocial behaviour, which Charlie Gordon raised.
It is unfortunate that, when it was indicated at stage 1 that there was a problem, the minister did not sort it out. There is a sense of urgency.
People do not want those issues to be dealt with slowly.
I am concerned that the HMO provisions are not coming until 2011.
There is an issue around the regulator.
We know the importance of having solid regulation, but there is a concern that the regulator will increasingly focus on community-controlled housing associations, despite the fact that they generally perform better in inspections.
The fear is that the regulator will get a notion that bigger is somehow better, so that there could be forced mergers, although we know that the lesson from the community-controlled movement has been that managing things locally, with control going down to local communities, makes a difference.

Alex Neil: At stage 2, I lodged an amendment to avoid forced mergers. The approval of the tenants will now be required before any merger or takeover happens.

Johann Lamont: I welcome that, but we should ensure that the regulator's approach is light touch.
We do not want to kill innovation at a local level in housing.
There is uncertainty about the fact that housing association grant has gone up and down.
It has been put to me that there is a fear that banks will use that as an opportunity to intervene and review, and perhaps change the arrangements that they have made with housing associations. That is of concern.
We have already discussed the controversial issues around homelessness, but I reiterate that the issue is the provision of support at the right stage.
We have been talking about preventative spend.
If we can address the issue at an early stage, ensuring that other agencies are engaged, that will be significant.
We welcome the Scottish social housing charter, but it has to be real.
We need to listen to what tenants say about allocations policy; about the difficulties of evicting difficult tenants, particularly drug dealers; about the need to address antisocial behaviour, and the need to bring back a community aspect to how antisocial behaviour is addressed; about sensitive lets and people being told that they cannot identify categories of housing for older people, whose whole lives might be disrupted by younger people being placed in a way that is inappropriate for both of them; and about the role of private landlords.
The social housing charter should reflect those concerns of tenants.
It should also reflect the fact that tenants want there to be mixed, safe communities.
There is a gap between that and what the regulator says.
There are also concerns about rent levels going up more quickly for councils and about increased debt being masked by low interest rates.
We are happy to support the bill for the limited changes that it creates, but we trust that we can engage with the minister on the many issues where action is necessary.

Iain Gray : Because Scotland Deserves Better

Iain Gray's speech to the 2010 Scottish Labour conference in Oban

Ed Miliband's Speech to the Scottish Labour conference, Oban 2010

Iain Gray and Ed Miliband : United for our values

Ed Miliband : A New Generation : First Speech as Leader to the Labour Party Conference

Supported Employment Workplaces Scottish Parliament speech 7 October 2010

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was slightly late for the beginning of the debate.
I was delighted not to miss any speeches, other than part of the speech by my colleague Lewis Macdonald [Laughter.]
I had a good sense of what he was going to say, so it was fine.
This is an important debate but we must put it in context.
In their briefings, Leonard Cheshire Disability and others reflected that challenging the scandalous level of unemployment among people with disabilities must be about more than tackling the issue of sheltered workplaces.
I could not agree more.
There is a demonstration today in the Parliament highlighting the need to recognise the human rights of disabled people at a time when budget choices are being made.
That understanding of the broader context of the needs of disabled people has meant that we on this side of the chamber continue to press for a skills strategy that understands inequality in the workplace, the lack of opportunity for people and the challenges faced by disabled people in particular.
That is why we have been so critical of the single outcome agreement process.
I am sure that Bill Kidd will agree that the Government has persistently refused to ensure that single outcome agreements that determine spending in local authorities are equality impact assessed.
If that is not done, how can we ensure that the needs of disabled people in relation to education, employment strategies and every local authority service are being met, and that the political choices that are currently being made do not disproportionately disadvantage people with disabilities?
That is the reason for our commitment to the broader issues of disability and it is why we continue to express concern that the changed role for Scottish Enterprise means that it is not working to address the employment needs of people with disabilities in the way that it might have done in the past.
We look to Westminster with dread as we see the downgrading of a commitment to tackle inequality and the possible dismantling of the bodies that monitor progress in equality.
Not only is it possible that people will be more disadvantaged, but there will be no machinery to ensure that decisions on that are challenged.
However, the fact that we cannot do everything does not mean that we cannot do anything.
I was surprised by the defensiveness of some members in their speeches. Dr McKee, especially, seemed to expend more energy on explaining why things could not be done than on considering the positives.
That is in sharp contrast to Frank McAveety's contribution, in which he explained precisely how someone who has political power can make political choices that can make a difference.
It is disappointing that action on supported workplaces, using article 19, has not been properly recognised.
Despite what the minister said, I remain disappointed that the huge project at the Southern general has done so little. The minister says that it is a problem if we make one person het. I say to the minister that he is het.
He is the minister. He has the capacity—a capacity that some of us long for—to drive things forward.
We want the Government to lead by example.
The minister is not a dispassionate observer of what is happening at Blindcraft and how we can make a difference using article 19.
There is a huge issue about mainstreaming employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
We should challenge employers on their disgraceful record.
We owe it to people who work in sheltered workplaces not to say, "You can only go that way."
We must recognise that there is the opportunity to go either way.
I accept what Gavin Brown said about the importance of debating in measured tones.
I am a good example of how that is done.
However, I wonder whether people in the disabled community sometimes feel that our measured tones reflect complacency. No member would want that.
In the Tory amendment, Gavin Brown talks about balance and the importance of reflecting the challenges for some public bodies.
We recognise that and we would hope that the timetable would reflect the fact that some bodies will be unable to move as quickly as others.
However, that must not slow the process down; we must recognise the power of the measure.
We understand the differences among various bodies, but we expect speedy action from the minister on publishing the timetable.
We do not want Gavin Brown's amendment to be a get-out clause, but we acknowledge that in speaking he made a number of positive suggestions about subcontractors and, on that basis, we can support his amendment.
Mike Pringle talked about how difficult it is to support sheltered workplaces in tough economic times, but the reality is that when we are in tough economic times, because of what is happening at a UK level, people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable.
We must do more and not use the economic situation as an explanation for doing less.
Tackling inequality is not a task just for when the sun shines; at this time, we need even more positive action to meet the needs of disadvantaged groups.
Ian McKee made the same point.
He said that we are in tough times and so perhaps we should expect that the more vulnerable people will suffer. However, that should be not an excuse for not acting, but an imperative to act.
The implication of what Ian McKee said is that we are talking about good works, charity and doing people a favour. It is not about that; it is about allowing people a level playing field on which they can show and prove their potential. In a decent society, we owe it to people with disabilities to support them; it is not a question of our feeling good about offering them an opportunity, in the way that was suggested.

Ian McKee: The implication of what I said in my speech is that when the hard times come, there is little point in continuing to subsidise the production of something for which the market is falling. We should be devising sustainable ways of changing patterns so that the needs of the future—not of the past—are considered.

Johann Lamont: In tough times, the Government should redouble its efforts to make a difference and should use the powers that it has to do that.
I agree absolutely with Bill Kidd in commending Glasgow City Council and its work through the Commonwealth group and City Building, but we know that it did not happen by accident. It happened because active political choices were made.
We can make a difference to disabled people through the use of specific contracts and I was disturbed by the minister's blinkered view, which he has given in Parliament before, that the Scottish Government does not really need anything that sheltered workplaces make.
If there was a disabled champion in the Government, they would look at the contracts, speak to the sheltered workplaces and have a dialogue about the potential for them to meet the Scottish Government's desires.
I made a point about the concerns about the Southern general hospital, where a huge opportunity was missed.

Jim Mather: I wonder whether the member heard me talk about the Southern general in specific terms. If she did not, she can refer to the Official Report.

Johann Lamont: I listened all too carefully.
I accept that the Government has used community benefit clauses; what I am saying is that not one contract has been reserved under article 19.
A huge opportunity, which would have increased the benefits that come from the community benefit clauses, has been missed.
No one is in favour of tokenism, but if every public body in Scotland reserved one contract to a sheltered workplace, let us imagine the difference that that would make to the workplaces and what it would tell the public body about how things can be done.
It would make a seismic change that would move such contracts from tokenism to common practice.
There is a broader issue about understanding the power of the public purse to drive change and create opportunities, especially at a time of economic difficulties.
The idea that public spending is problematic is promulgated at a UK level, but we know that public investment can stimulate private sector activity.
In housing, for example, the Scottish Government rightly brought forward its budget because the private sector understood that public money could sustain jobs and skills in the short term.
It is simply not good enough for ministers—this is a feature of the SNP—to go on at length about what they care about and develop strategies and then not do the hard work of delivering on those strategies.
It is a question of tough action and getting the contracts in place.
That, rather than reflecting on the discussion and explaining how somebody else is not doing the work, is how we can make a difference.
With a budget of £8 billion, the reservation of one contract—possibly—is abject failure and it speaks of the values and priorities of the Scottish Government.
It is hardly surprising when the Government's entire mindset is to talk about the powers that the Parliament does not have.
The Government should use the powers that it has to create economic opportunity and to drive good practice into the private sector.
We will support both amendments because of the key recognition that the Government has not done enough so far and that a timetable will be produced.
This is not a question of tokenism.
The minister said that the Government does not rely on article 19 alone, but the problem is that it does not rely on it at all.
That is about its priorities.
The minister mentioned Donald Dewar.
Donald Dewar understood that we get power to make a difference to people's lives.
The Government should use the power that it has to make the difference and to support sheltered workplaces.

Scottish Government’s programme Scottish Parliament speech 8 September 2010

In his statement, the First Minister said:
"The people, when they voted for this Parliament, voted for a legislature that would be bold and would act to protect their values."
No one would disagree with that.
We recognise that Labour's legacy to Scotland has been a Scottish Parliament that can protect and work for people in these difficult times.
I was struck by the contrast between—if I may say so—the overblown and rather self-regarding language of the First Minister and the thinness of the programme itself.
The statement was, as usual, full of expressions such as "lead the world" and "being in the vanguard".
It also referred specifically to the exceptional, laudable qualities of the Scottish character, and how compassionate and innovative we are at a time like this—peculiarly so and unlike others, I presume.
I think and suspect that, like all previous statements, this one is not to be taken seriously, because, on the past record, they have never been delivered.
It is ever more evident to me that Mr Salmond lives in the moment.
That is an interesting way to be as a leader, but it creates problems for those who need the Government to act in their interests, because being bold is not only about shouting; it is about taking tough and serious action.
Here we have Mr Salmond's problem: he may wish to govern, but he is also always alive to a choice.
He can choose to make the Scottish Parliament work for the people of Scotland in these tough times and show how it can make a difference, but his problem is that it is his party's interest ever and always to talk about what cannot be done.
Alex Salmond will never make the Parliament work, because his wish for independence relies on showing that it cannot .
I was fascinated by Mr Salmond quoting Edwin Morgan and what that might suggest about his lack of self-awareness.
Was there not a civil servant bold enough to say that perhaps it was not the best idea to quote Edwin Morgan disdaining the "it wizny me" mentality?
Does he not know that his Government is the very embodiment of the "it wizny me" mentality.
We regard as shameless his constant response that he is blameless. I say to Mr Salmond,
"O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!"
It is a serious point because, when the issue was raised earlier, examples of people to blame came from many SNP members.
Times are too serious for us to have government by alibi.
We need people to take the circumstances seriously.
As has been indicated, there are a number of bills that Labour can support.
We recognise certain measures that we can support in the Alcohol etc (Scotland) Bill and I trust that, in turn, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing will confirm that she will look seriously at the recommendations of Labour's commission in the way that her colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning took seriously our commission on education. I urge her not to make minimum pricing the whole picture.
The reality is that, given the parliamentary arithmetic, the proposals on minimum pricing will not get through.
It demeans the debate to say that minimum pricing is the only test of people's commitment to tackling alcohol.
Is it not a curiosity that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing will persist, knowing full well that it will come to defeat?
I am sure that some of her fundamentalist colleagues, such as Sandra White and Bob Doris, must wonder why the same persistence does not apply to the referendum bill.
We were all surprised by the ditching of the bill, but I understand that we were not as stunned as the Government back benchers who have cheered to the echo over the past three years every turn and shift of their front benchers. They defended the action when the Government ripped off Glasgow.
Did they not, at any point in the last week, finally say to Mr Salmond, "Stop acting the goat and get on with governing this country"?
We are told that they are lukewarm on the proposals, but it took Margo MacDonald to say what they have all been thinking and to argue a case that they did not have the courage to come into the chamber and argue themselves. There is a case for arguing that, as others have suggested, Mr Salmond is like the grand old Duke of York.
That is all right for a kids' party, but that silliness is not what these times deserve.
On the budget, there are pages of defensive lines in the statement about why it is not possible to share with the Parliament the information that would allow us to come together and have a serious understanding of the issues that face us.
On the housing bill, I welcome the proposals on private landlords and ask the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing whether she would consider supporting Mary Mulligan in bringing those elements of the bill forward into the current Housing (Scotland) Bill, where some elements of the private sector are being addressed.
On the justice system, I ask the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to perhaps look at the continuing problem of the rape conviction levels.
He would get great support from the Labour Party if he addressed some of the ways in which the legislation we passed to protect victims is now being used against them.
On child poverty, the Government is boldly publishing a strategy, but publishing a strategy is not enough: it is necessary to deliver.
A difficulty for the Government is that it has delegated entirely any responsibility for delivery.
One might say that the whole point of the concordat was to be able to say, "it wizny me".
We need to address that issue with local government.
How will we ensure that we tackle the needs of the most vulnerable?
A simple example of something that has been missed out altogether is action for kinship carers.
The Government committed itself to equality and parity between kinship carers and foster carers.
That was signed up to in the concordat, but Mr Russell airily signed it away in order to get a deal on class sizes.
That is unworthy of a Government that wishes to tackle child poverty.
There were grand words in the statement about community benefit, but if we ask the Scottish Government what it is doing now to deliver community benefit clauses in its contracts, or indeed whether it is reserving any work to sheltered workplaces, there is an absolute silence, and in that silence there is an indication of the Government's attitude—"We make the grand statement, but don't ask us to do the hard, deliberate work of making it happen."

Margo MacDonald: Will the member give way?

Johann Lamont: I will continue.
The statement says that the Government's priorities are economic recovery, protecting front-line services and developing a low-carbon Scotland.
We wish that that were true.
The problem is that it is not.
We know that the Government is squandering money on the Scottish Futures Trust rather than finding ways of creating a stimulus for construction.
It is talking about schools instead of building them.
It is talking about jobs rather than making a difference in our local communities and expecting Scottish Enterprise and others to work in communities to find jobs and opportunities for our young people.
We are in serious times and we need a First Minister who takes his job seriously and not just himself seriously.
Mr Salmond says that he will appeal to the people because he cannot win the vote in the Parliament, but a dialogue with the people works both ways.
Perhaps Mr Salmond should start listening too.
If he had listened to young people, he would not have prioritised independence over acting on jobs.
If he had listened to the victims of knife crime and their families, he would have supported Labour's demand for action on knife crime and supported minimum custodial sentences for those who carry knives.
If he had listened to women's organisations, he would not have put victims of domestic abuse at further risk by opposing short-term sentences.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: You should be finishing now, Ms Lamont.

Johann Lamont: Mr Salmond says that he will appeal to the people.
He could have dumped the referendum bill two years ago on the basis that he could not get it through and got on with serious business.
Instead, he has taken the disturbing attitude that it is the purpose of the Parliament to deliver him lines for his election campaign.
The people of this country need more from the Parliament.
They need serious business.
The sooner we get people in here who will do that, the better.


Speech in the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill 30 June 2010

Stewart Maxwell said that we should not have a straw-man argument or debate positions that are not being put, and should instead reflect seriously on what people are saying in the chamber today. I am therefore surprised that Robert Brown chose to describe those who oppose the proposal as "doomsayers". I do not think that we should call Scottish Women's Aid doomsayers. I think that we should reflect on the fact that, over the years, women's organisations have managed to persuade the legal establishment that the way that things are done does not work in the interests of victims.
The Scottish Government's position is that short-term sentences do not work and that we should use community sentences instead. The logic of that position is that, if community sentences are put in place, short-term sentences will wither on the vine. However, what is being proposed is that the presumption against short-term sentences will be put in place, leaving victims—not the people in this Parliament—to face the risk that that approach will not work.
In the short time that I have, I will not appeal to the minister, as his complacency and arrogance are evident to us all. However, I will appeal to his back benchers, who listen to women's organisations, to listen to what Women's Aid has said. It believes that the criminal behaviour of perpetrators of domestic abuse does not fall into the category of people with chaotic lifestyles, for whom prison is a revolving door, and that a presumption against the use of prison
"will only serve to increase the risks to safety for women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse"
and will undermine the work that is done within the criminal justice system to address the issues of domestic abuse, and that
"It would be disastrous if the proposals were to foster an attitude amongst abusers that their behaviour was no longer being taken seriously in terms of sentencing".
I know that there are people on the Scottish National Party back benches who are concerned about the issues of women, children and victims of domestic abuse. Do not allow this debate to be characterised as an academic theoretical debate between people who hold different views on prison sentencing. Listen to people on the ground who say that the Government's proposal will put people at risk. If the Government wants to prove that short sentences do not work, it should put money into community payback and let short sentences wither on the vine; it should not do it in the way that is proposed, which is short-term political expediency dressed up as a strategy. Listen to the women's organisations and oppose this proposal. The SNP listens to women's organisations on some issues; it should listen to them on this one, too.


Poverty Framework speech 17th. June 2010

I am happy to participate in the debate, and I join Alex Neil in supporting the aspiration that he described at the end of his speech. However, the test for us is not our aspiration, but what we do to deliver on it and address the serious issue of poverty, particularly at a time of great change.
The reality of what precipitated the economic crisis—the failures in the global private markets that led to the banking system requiring Government intervention—has curiously been transformed into an argument that the crisis was caused by big government and a public sector that was too big, as if all public sector workers were useless bureaucrats rather than people who are employed to deliver services for some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens. They are people such as care workers, classroom support assistants and those who work in child care, employability and educational support, and they work directly to address issues around poverty. I trust that our Lib Dem colleagues will bring their pressure to bear on the coalition to ensure that the hostility to big government does not involve attacking services that are required by the poorest in our communities.
Labour's amendment acknowledges the existence of the framework approach, but argues that it is not enough to have an approach; we need to be serious about delivering on it. I wish to say something about the weakness of the Scottish Government approach and the gap—not for the first time—between words and action. I will speak about some of the key challenges and provide some examples of how a national approach can be national and how the powers of the Parliament might be used.
The Scottish Government presided this year over an increased budget, but the reality is that whatever the size of the budget, it is simply a dereliction of duty not to maximise its impact among the poorest in our communities. A useful starting point is provided by the Child Poverty Action Group, which argues that the Scottish Government and local government budgets should be poverty proofed. If the Scottish Government took even a moment to poverty proof one of the critical elements that it often identifies in its poverty strategy—the council tax freeze—that would reveal that whatever it is, it is not an anti-poverty strategy. It is disappointing that the Government continues to resist the idea that single outcome agreements should be poverty proofed. I urge the minister to consider taking that approach, because it would cause a shift from asserting good works to doing what works.
The Scottish Government does assertion—indeed, the minister is a master at it—but it must trouble us all that a written answer to Bill Butler revealed that the centrally held poverty budget has been cut by a third. I understand that that funding could be used to support financial advice work, benefit uptake work and so on, which are all important to poor families. If one claims to take a national approach, one needs evidence of its effectiveness. There needs to be monitoring and assessment to test the gap between saying and doing, but also to allow government at every level to reflect on and amend what it is doing to address weaknesses or ineffectiveness.
There is a well-rehearsed debate on the concordat and single outcome agreements. It is not an academic debate; the framework approach is predicated on its being delivered through locally determined single outcome agreements. We can put aside the ludicrous haste with which the concordat and single outcome agreements were cobbled together as an approach; the lack of consultation with, for example, the voluntary sector; and the total lack of thought-through indicators. The reality is now serious. There is no effective monitoring, no reflection on input and clear evidence that too many services are subject to a postcode lottery. We know that local authorities are under pressure and are not helped by claims by the Scottish Government about resources and a lack of funding, and that local authorities are making difficult choices, but surely those choices should be shaped by basic standards across local government throughout the country.
In this carers week, the problem is highlighted by a clear example of what the lack of a national approach means. Information that we obtained under freedom of information legislation about the lack of assessment of unpaid carers showed three staggering elements: the huge variation in approach across Scotland; the apparent reluctance to assess unpaid carers, perhaps because, once assessed, the need has to be met with resources; and the number of local authorities with no information about the number of carers in their area.

Sandra White (Glasgow) (SNP): The member talks about national projects and policies and working together. What does she say about the green paper on the national project proposed by the Westminster Government that would have taken money away from carers? That is neither national nor local; it is disgraceful.

Johann Lamont: It is also not a policy. There was a green paper and the response to it was unhappy. I am asking us to look at what we can do here. The fact is that currently, only 3 per cent of unpaid carers have their needs assessed and most local authorities do not even know how many unpaid carers they have. That is a simple example. If we acknowledge that, as in the words of the motion, we have a responsibility
"to take long-term measures to tackle drivers of poverty",
what is the Scottish Government doing to address the needs of carers whose caring responsibilities often hold them in poverty? It is simply not good enough to look away or to blame others. If the Government is to take a national approach, it must address the problem of carers' wide variation in experience across the country.
As I said, the framework is underpinned by single outcome agreements. We all acknowledge the role of the voluntary sector in reaching out to communities and understanding how poverty is lived and what needs to change. The sector is pivotal in that regard. However, when voluntary sector organisations persistently express their concerns about the lack of specific indicators to test and shape local government and national priorities—for example, on disability—they are simply ignored. There is a lack of seriousness in the Government's approach that includes a cavalier disregard for any process of reporting, which means that voluntary organisations have to fund their own interrogation of single outcome agreements. If the Government is serious, that cannot be acceptable.
In my remaining time, I will flag up some areas in which the powers of this place could be used more effectively. The minister acknowledged the critical role of work and talked about the concentration of unemployment in some communities. Does he still think that it is acceptable that Scottish Enterprise no longer has any geographical role to support community regeneration and create employment opportunities for people in our poorest communities? It is important to support those who lose their jobs, but we need commitment and evidence of action to deal with those who are further away from work. The danger is that while supporting people who have lost their jobs, those who are further away from the market move even further away as the tougher employability actions of the Government become deprioritised. I urge the minister to reassure us on that point.
The minister spoke about pay issues. We need to establish what is being done to tackle problems around equal pay. I would welcome an update on the role of the Scottish Government in helping women who are currently trapped in equal pay tribunal processes. I would also welcome some progress in what the Scottish Government is doing with regard to the living wage.
Low pay is particularly prevalent in the tourism and retail industries. What is the Scottish Government doing in its tourism strategy to tackle that? What levers are being used to advocate for and reward those businesses that have a living-wage approach? The minister says that the national health service is a living-wage employer. Will he confirm that, in the Scottish Government, the living wage extends to agency and contract workers?
We all recognise the power of public spend. Can the minister confirm that the public procurement process includes a positive assessment for bidders who include commitments to the living wage? Can the minister give examples of how public procurement procedures incorporate the provisions of article 19 of the European directive on public procurement, which allows contracts to be reserved to sheltered workplaces? I would welcome some examples of current spending by the Government where that has been done, as it is an obvious way of tackling poverty among people with disabilities.
In recognising the importance of the Scottish Government's role in tacking poverty, I ask the minister whether he and his colleagues have reflected on what constitutes front-line service—I refer here to the point that I made about the education maintenance allowance. The most vulnerable people need services from mental health groups, carers groups and voluntary organisations to get them to the point where they can access front-line services, and my fear is that those services will be the first to go, and that most vulnerable people will not even get to the point where they can use front-line services in future.
I urge the minister, together with us, to wrestle with these tough questions. What are our priorities? How do we balance the roles of local government, central Government and voluntary organisations? How do we ensure that financial pressures do not impact disproportionately on those who need small amounts of enabling support in order to access services? I also urge the minister to ensure that what he says is followed by action. If he does that, we will certainly support him.
I move amendment S3M-6581.2, to leave out from "to take" to end and insert:
"; further notes the findings of research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust that child, pensioner and overall poverty fell faster in Scotland than in any other part of the United Kingdom during the period of the previous UK administration, led by Labour, but notes concerns raised by anti-poverty organisations, such as Save the Children and the Poverty Alliance, that single outcome agreements do not give sufficient priority to meeting shared poverty targets and have created further problems in terms of monitoring progress and accountability; therefore urges the Scottish Government to review the impact of the concordat and single outcome agreements to ensure a clearer focus on reducing poverty and that measures are put in place to monitor progress made at the national level, and further, in this European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion and given the critical role for the Scottish Government in tackling poverty, calls on it to report to the Parliament detailing how it will use all the powers at its disposal to tackle poverty and disadvantage."


Scottish Labour video : Iain Gray standing up for the NHS May 2010

VE Day 65th. Anniversary 12th. May 2010

I congratulate Stewart Maxwell on securing the debate. Like him—although perhaps for a shorter time—I was a minister with responsibility for veterans. Of all my responsibilities, that was probably the one that I regarded as being the greatest privilege and the one for which I felt most inadequate. I regarded the job as being very serious; there is a huge responsibility on whoever has that job.

The reality is that whatever we say in the chamber or elsewhere will be insufficient to match the courage and sacrifice of a generation that fought against fascism, defended the country, put their own lives at risk and paid the ultimate sacrifice. It was clearly a battle of good against evil. As we reflect on those times, we remember how quickly the ideas of fascism could catch hold and what a challenge they were to everybody's lives throughout the world when they did so. It is important not only to mark the celebration but to acknowledge the struggle and what caused it.

We have a people's history of the experience at that time and it is important that we capture that. There are records not only of the experience of those who fought, but of the impact on families and communities. They record the impact on large communities in the west of Scotland and on small seafaring communities, such as the one from which my family came in Tiree. Such small communities suffered a huge impact because they lost a generation of young men. The small monuments in those communities, along with the large ones in our big cities, reflect respect and commitment to a generation that fought on our behalf.

As we pass on from the general election, it is interesting to reflect that that generation not only fought fascism, but it came back determined to shape the world in which it lived. A disproportionate number of those people still go out to vote and understand the importance of doing so.

It is important to acknowledge that we now have veterans of all ages. We owe a duty not only to the elderly veterans; we must also recognise the particular needs of those who are involved in, or are recovering from, more recent struggles.

It is important to recognise the role of veterans organisations such as Veterans Scotland and Erskine that campaign and challenge those who make decisions about veterans' needs. We must recognise the huge housing needs that have been mentioned, the health needs and the need for support for families in caring for veterans. I heard on the radio the other day people talking about the impact on families after the second world war, when fathers came back to families where the children did not know them. That is still true today, and we need to ensure that the services to support them exist.

In these challenging funding times, we need to listen to veterans organisations and give assurances that, in the times when there are pressures on funding, veterans services will not miss out and that, in shaping services, we will talk to those who understand the needs and priorities.

Not a few years ago, on a visit to the United States I was struck by how that country manages to celebrate its veterans and soldiers regardless of the purpose or cause of the conflict: they are owed a duty of care and should be treated with respect regardless of what Government decisions had led them to conflict. We must find a way of doing that in our discourse so that it is about recognising not only what was done in the second world war or what is done now, but that people live daily with the consequences of decisions over which they had no control.

In the practical delivery of services to those veterans, we will honour those who, a long time ago, fought fascism in Europe and those who now take on serious responsibilities on our behalf. Because it is a cross-party issue, I look forward to the minister identifying the ways in which funding can be secured to meet the needs that veterans organisations have identified.

Speech on the Living Wage 29 April 2010

I congratulate all those who were involved in the living wage campaign throughout the United Kingdom—I think that it started in London—and those in Scotland who have pursued it. They have played an important role in addressing and in asking us to challenge poverty and low pay.

Tackling low pay has not always been an area of consensus. Indeed, even inside the Labour and trade union movement, there was a long argument about the extent to which free collective bargaining would ensure that low-paid workers would be properly remunerated. There came a time when we considered the fact that there was a disproportionate number of women among the low paid and we recognised that the trade unions in themselves could not protect low-paid workers. Therefore, our movement came to the view that Government intervention was necessary to protect people's entitlement to a basic level of pay to save them from the exploitation that some of us remember all too well, such as security guards being on £1.50 or £2 an hour.

Such exploitation was justified in the name of the economic growth and prosperity that are mentioned in the Tory amendment. It is significant that, when the economic crisis emerged, the first solution that some people within the business community proposed was that the national minimum wage was a problem, so perhaps we should get rid of it. We should commend the businesses that are responsible and that recognise that part of good business and their being in partnership with our communities is that they ought not to exploit people.

The briefing from the Poverty Alliance recognises that, in the debate, the living wage is not the same as the safeguards that have been put in place through the national minimum wage and the tax credit system. One is not a substitute for the other, but they reinforce our commitment to ensuring that people do not languish in low pay.

We have to consider whether any measure will make a difference to the people about whom we purport to care. The Tory amendment talks about economic growth as being the best way out of our difficulties but, beside that, we must have shared prosperity, which will not happen by accident. Government must introduce measures that will make that difference. The national minimum wage presents such an example, and the living wage creates such a challenge for us all, wherever we are.

Rob Gibson talks about the big picture—the huge issues—but that cannot be an alibi for not doing what we can, where we are. The Scottish Government must be challenged on its priorities. It usually describes its anti-poverty strategy in terms of three issues: the council tax freeze, the extension of free school meals, and free prescriptions. Any equality assessment of that strategy will tell us that those do not benefit the poorest people in our communities.

Jeremy Purvis's party talks about exempting from paying tax anyone who earns less than £10,000 a year, but the Institute of Fiscal Studies tells us that the beneficiaries of that policy would be three of the four wealthiest groups in the income table. I wonder what equality assessment has been done on that. We need an honest and focused approach, and we need tough targets and monitoring. I regret that the Scottish Government has not continued the challenge of producing an annual report on whether it is meeting its targets on poverty, because such reports can be a spur to action.

I would like the minister to clarify what has been done by the Scottish Government. I understand that although Nicola Sturgeon costed a package for introducing the national minimum wage to the NHS, it was vetoed by John Swinney. Is that true? Has the Government considered how it can use procurement policy not just in its powers to address the needs of public sector workers but to challenge the private sector to improve the scandal of private sector low pay? Will the minister support Glasgow's approach? Will he acknowledge housing associations that are implementing the minimum wage? Will he, when he sums up, identify not just the principle that he believes in, but the areas in which he has control and power in terms of that principle's being implemented?

Speech on Regeneration 3rd. March 2010

The minister's motion is straightforward. Indeed, despite my best endeavours, I could not find anything in it with which to disagree. We will therefore support it and the other amendments. In the interests of consensus, I am keen that we have a substantial debate about regeneration issues rather than a more aerated discussion—I am sometimes involved in such discussions.

The minister must accept that the budget that he has to spend this year has grown. I do not think that the Scottish National Party's position is that the UK Government ought not to have bailed out the Scottish banks. It is recognised that the consequences for the public finances of doing so must be dealt with across the United Kingdom.

There is concern that there may be a gulf between what is said about regeneration and what is happening at the local level. I want to raise several issues that I hope the minister will address.

As the minister has said, we must recognise the connections between economic, physical and social regeneration. In focusing on economic development, we must understand the need for the physical and social development of communities. That means that we must take a strategic, Scotland-wide approach. We must look across Scottish Government departments' budgets and resources, and not simply talk about regenerating a community from one budget; we must recognise that that has implications for justice department spending and health budgets, for example. We must also recognise that there are links and that things are interdependent.

There has been concern in that regard. When the Scottish National Party came into office, set up its directorates and separated community planning, which was under the minister with responsibility for local government, from community regeneration, which was under the communities minister, I remember discussing the dangers inherent in such an approach and the likely disjunction that would emerge.

There is a genuine fear that we are now beginning to see the result of that mistaken decision, which is that community planning is regarded not as a catalyst for community regeneration and as a vehicle to revitalise communities, but as a mechanism for the distribution of resources. The minister must address that.

Physical regeneration is important, which is why time and again members raise concerns about what is happening in the construction industry. Public building through the construction industry is an important part of challenging the recession but, from where we sit, it looks as though there is paralysis in Government policy in that regard, with the consequence of lost opportunities for jobs and apprenticeships and for people to retain their skills.

Alex Neil: Does the member accept that figures that were published last week demonstrated a record build of 7,700 new social houses in Scotland—something that was never achieved in the first 10 years of the Scottish Parliament?

Johann Lamont: I recognise that moneys were brought forward and that there was two years' spend in one year, but only 40 per cent of that spend went on new build. There is a concern that a significant amount of money was spent on off-the-shelf housing that was languishing on the market.

A broader issue is that not one hospital or school has been built through the Scottish Futures Trust. That is a lost opportunity in our local communities. We talk about the importance of economic activity, but it is critical to link that to local opportunity. There is concern about the fact that the Scottish Government does not have an employability strategy and that its skills strategy is entirely blind to the barriers and discrimination in the employment market. We must recognise that it is the Scottish Government's job to address economic, social and personal barriers. I am all in favour of the go local message, but we still need national support. The levers at the Scottish level must be used to support that local activity.

If there was ever an example that captured the lack of understanding of how all those aspects come together, it is found in those who criticised the Glasgow airport rail link for being simply a train line. The frustration at the loss of GARL was that it was an opportunity to create jobs and to provide community development and regeneration in a deprived community. The scheme would have created 1,300 jobs for local people, which would have made a huge difference. That regeneration issue must be addressed.

The same issue arises in relation to the role of Scottish Enterprise. The minister said that Scottish Enterprise never had responsibility for a social remit under the legislation, but the fact is that, in the past, when there was physical regeneration in the constituency that I represent, Scottish Enterprise was at the table talking about how to link the training and employment opportunities to the people in the community. Scottish Enterprise has told me that it no longer has that role. It does not have responsibility for training or for directing economic activity to deprived communities, which is a huge problem. Deprivation has a geographical dimension, so an agency that is so well funded ought to have that geographical responsibility. Scottish Enterprise should not be led simply by demand from companies; it should actively support local economic activity. I make the same point about community development in Scotland. There are huge opportunities, but I am not convinced that those are recognised in Scottish Enterprise.

I want to flag up issues about the planning system, because regeneration at all levels must be supported by a strong planning system. However, people in the planning system who are committed to working in communities tell me that local authorities are deciding to make planners redundant and to reduce their planning departments. I am told that community engagement with the planning process is not as rigorous as it should be. In the current times, planning is a critical job. To an extent, we will plan our way out of recession, so we must have strong planning departments to do that.

As someone who supported community planning, I have a great fear that it is being honoured in the breach. There is an issue about the role of the voluntary sector in community planning partnerships. They are not at the table. I ask the minister whether that will be sorted and whether voluntary sector representatives will, as of right, sit at the table in every community planning partnership.

One of the big issues in the old social inclusion partnership process was the extent to which we were able to bend the spend sufficiently. I recognise that we did not do that; mainstream budgets were not directed sufficiently into communities. However, it seems that the process now is even worse.

We need real community engagement, but the feeling is that less community engagement is happening now. Community engagement is critical in relation to prioritising budgets, understanding need and knowing where the real challenges are. To be fair to the minister, he referred to that in his opening speech. However, he will know that the study of the fairer Scotland fund by the Scottish centre for regeneration, which was based on case studies in a number of local authorities, concluded that many respondents felt that, in comparison with the more local, geographic and project-focused approaches of previous programmes, it has become more difficult to engage communities in the more thematic community planning partnership-wide approaches that are becoming more common. I am sure that we would all be interested to know how that problem is being addressed.

The minister said, quite rightly, that local government is a critical partner, but it is facing severe financial pressures now—not in the future—despite a growing budget. There will be a time when we will have to ask whether a centrally imposed council tax freeze on local authorities is the best approach when we need to sustain communities and the groups that Robert Brown rightly identified.

There is a particular issue around single outcome agreements and the extent to which they are delivering on the local priorities that would support regeneration. A report by Audit Scotland states:

"The audits showed many CPPs to be overly bureaucratic and not focused ... on outcomes for local people."

It has also been said that

"There is a need for Community Planning Partnerships to make clearer the impacts that their SOA (and specifically the FSF related elements) will have on equalities groups in their areas."

There is a disjunction between what the Government has said it wants to do with regeneration and the vehicle through which that is being delivered.

Single outcome agreements are still not equality impact assessed. In those circumstances, I am not confident that there is a rounded view of community regeneration.

Robert Brown mentioned the impact on voluntary organisations locally. Will the minister confirm his willingness and that of John Swinney to intervene where they feel that voluntary organisations are disproportionately feeling the impact of the financial squeeze locally? That in itself seems counterproductive when we are talking about regeneration.

Regeneration should be part of an anti-poverty framework. It is unfortunate that single outcome agreements emerged ahead of the achieving our potential framework, the equally well framework and the guidance on equalities. As a consequence, spending on regeneration locally has not been shaped by anything other than the warm words of the frameworks. We are not seeing any delivery at the local level that is influenced by the frameworks at the Scottish level.

An example of that is the supported employment framework, which is important in relation to regeneration. The framework has come out, but there is no role for Scottish Enterprise, no money and no evidence that, where the Scottish Government has let big contracts, work to support those who are further away from employment is being recognised.

I would welcome the minister's comments on how he sees the Southern general hospital contract providing community benefit and employment opportunities. Is there an opportunity to use article 19 of the European Union public procurement directive to support sheltered workplaces? Those are examples of how thinking at a local level can support a regeneration strategy.

I recognise the minister's important comments on how regeneration works and the fact that it should be central. However, he will understand, as we all do, that saying that does not make it happen. The levers have to be used more extensively to ensure that we do not have just warm words, that there is a Scottish strategy that recognises the geographical nature of deprivation and the challenge facing some of our communities, and that, therefore, genuine local partnerships can be fostered, alongside the work of the Scottish Government, to ensure the regeneration of employment and the economic, social and physical regeneration that the minister talked about and which we in the Labour Party supported.

I move amendment S3M-5852.1, to insert after second "regeneration":

"; notes in particular the importance of an effective planning system and the necessity of genuine community engagement to secure real change".



Speech on Female Offenders in the Criminal Justice System 11th. February 2010

I welcome the debate and congratulate the Equal Opportunities Committee on the important job that it has done in producing its report.
As Elaine Smith mentioned, the Parliament has wrestled with the issue of female offenders over a long period of time. The Equal Opportunities Committee has always been an important forum for addressing such questions, particularly with regard to understanding that the justice system often treats women most unfairly and further victimises them, and the committee has debated those broader issues over the years.
The committee's report and today's debate highlight the need for us to pursue a gendered understanding of the justice system. We need to understand why women are overwhelmingly the victims of domestic abuse and male violence, and we need to address our policy with regard to that understanding. It is a simple truth: if we do not ask why, we will not change behaviour and create circumstances in which we can eradicate domestic abuse, for example.
It is important to speak about women's experiences. We need to ask why women suffer disproportionately from mental health problems and end up in jail, and why their offending behaviour is remarkably different from that of men.
The minister referred to the issue of knife crime. Women are rarely the perpetrators of knife crime, but many women are mothers who will sleep easier at night if we address the problem of knife crime and the risk that it poses to our sons.
I would be grateful if the minister could confirm that he and his department will continue to take a gendered approach to the issue of male violence against women. As is the case with understanding why women end up in the situation that they do, the answer involves addressing the pattern and then eradicating it. That attitude explains why we on the Labour side of the chamber resist a mechanistic approach to sentencing, which the minister has advocated—as if the different needs of men and women could be captured by taking a blanket approach to sentencing.
The irony is that a sentence of six months or less might keep a woman who has been abused by a man safe from male violence. It should be recognised that short sentences can have a different impact for women victims of male violence from that which they might have for men.

Hugh O'Donnell: I have a hypothetical question. What would happen if a female was obliged under pressure to carry a knife or bladed weapon for her boyfriend? Would she be prosecuted under the mandatory sentence system?

Johann Lamont: We have made it clear that that is appropriate, and we need a justice system that asks those questions.
I return to my point about sentences of six months or less. Ninety per cent of aggravated domestic abuse crimes do not attract a custodial sentence at all, and the remainder attract a sentence of less than six months. The respite that women get when men are sentenced, even if it is only for three or four months, can make a life-changing difference for them. Therefore, any sentencing policy cannot involve the type of blanket presumption that the minister makes.
The cabinet secretary referred to the period during which I was Deputy Minister for Justice. I was aware back then of the temptation in the Scottish Executive, as it was then, for departments to operate in silos. I urge the minister to ensure that his justice policies are shaped by an understanding of equality issues and by the views of the equality unit and the national group on violence against women.
We all recognise that women offenders often represent failures of systems to support women at an earlier stage in their lives. It is essential that local services understand women's needs. That is why I continue to press the Government to ensure that single outcome agreements are subject to equality impact assessment. If they are not, the problem of some services not meeting women's needs will be compounded. I was troubled when I read the following in the committee's report:
"Members of the Committee were deeply concerned to hear that some women deliberately commit offences purely to access the services provided in Cornton Vale prison."
How scary a comment is that, and how serious a comment on the lives of far too many women? It shows what their lives outside prison are like. We have to redouble our efforts to ensure they have access to services and to refuge, our efforts to tackle offenders, and our efforts to support those who face abuse.
We need certainty in funding. That is a challenge for the Government, as it would be for any other. However, it highlights the importance of considering the role that prisons play in supporting women. I understand why people say that prison cannot help everyone who goes in for short periods, but I do not accept the view that nothing can be done and that short sentences are therefore a failure. I refer the minister to the routes out of prison project, which is run by the Wise Group. James Kelly mentioned that. In that project, life coaches work with people while they are in prison—sometimes it is the first time that it has been possible to capture them—and provide a bridge out into the community. I urge the minister to provide that service for women prisoners as well, because such support is critically important to them.
Families Outside, the group that Robert Brown mentioned, is right to talk about the disruption to families and the shame that they experience. It is critical, then, that we ensure that there is sufficient funding for the voluntary organisations that people trust. Statutory organisations are often dangerous places for families in such circumstances. I also urge the minister to reflect on what we should be doing in schools to support young people. We need to understand the barriers to learning that can exist when children face such circumstances.
I finish on Elaine Smith's point that we have to consider the issue in relation to an equality perspective. It is about women's lives, their education and employment opportunities and their lives as young people. We need to fund services as much as making pronouncements on justice policy if we are to ensure that we address women offenders' needs.

Speech on Supported Workplaces 28th. January 2010

I add my congratulations to Richard Baker. I also particularly congratulate the employees of sheltered workplaces and Community union representatives who are in the public gallery on forcing the issue on to the political agenda, confronting us as politicians and ensuring that action has been taken. They are to be commended for that tireless work, from which many people will benefit.

A danger is that such debates can sometimes be soft and involve kind words and expressions of concern—having heard Maureen Watt's speech, I exclude her from that.

In fact, the debate is tough and we should be obliged to confront it, because it is about real people and real discrimination. Government at every level is obliged to find solutions to that.

Unemployment levels among people with disabilities are a scandal. We are talking not about
doing people a favour but about meeting an obligation and entitling people to achieve their potential. We need to shift from simply expressing concern about the position in which people find themselves to finding ways of delivering. Maureen Watt gave us a load of explanations for why things could not be done. We should listen to people who have solutions, capacity and talents but who have been denied opportunities.

Sometimes, a false debate takes place about whether we are in favour of sheltered, supported workplaces or mainstreaming access to employment. Given the unemployment levels among people who are disabled, I understand why anxiety is felt about a shift to mainstreaming, because mainstream employers have fallen down on the matter, as has the public sector. The notion is also held that we can have only supported workplaces or mainstream employment, but it is possible to move from a supported workplace into a mainstream workplace—that is a huge opportunity for people.

I ask the Scottish Government to recognise in its mainstream thinking what it says about its obligation to people with disabilities. What does it say in its skills strategy? Such documents do not happen by accident. I am concerned that Scottish Enterprise as now recast has no responsibility for people and place. The consequence of that for disadvantaged groups and communities is evident, but that also applies to people with disabilities. Such strategies will not operate simply through the market; political will is required at every level.

The Government's priority is the economy. We must show where people's needs and entitlements are placed in the economic strategy. Equality must inform every Government priority. That is why I and others maintain the critical importance of having a champion for disabled workers at the table when an employment or economic strategy is discussed.

I congratulate Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries in my city and City Building on embracing the notion of using the European legislation. RSBI has done critical groundbreaking work with young disabled people. It runs a yearly school vocational programme to provide more than 30 schoolchildren with special learning needs half a day's training per week as part of their curriculum. At the end of the year's training, they receive a Scottish vocational qualification. We cannot measure the confidence that that gives those young people and the opportunity for them to be role models for other people with disabilities in the issues that they face.

We are examining the challenge to us from the people in the gallery and in our communities about how we ensure not just value for money but value for people.

I urge the minister to take that challenge in his response.

Speech on Attendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance 14th. January 2010

I come to this debate more in sorrow than in anger—which reflects the dispiriting instinct of the party of Government to do what it does best, an example of which was embodied for us in Alex Neil—not because of the critical issues around care of the elderly, which all of us throughout the UK need to address, but because, again, the Scottish National Party is talking about what others are doing, rather than what it will do. It is settling for a bit of misrepresentation, coupled with a touch of scaremongering, mixed up with that signature SNP approach of a trumped-up feeling of self-righteousness. That demeans this Parliament and those throughout the UK who are exercised by and concerned about the issues at hand.
What we have from Alex Neil is a non-debate about an imagined slight by the UK Government in a Parliament that, with the SNP, is becoming characterised as having a lack of real engagement with the key debates and anxieties of the day. More and more decisions are being taken away from this Parliament and priorities are determined by the ability of ministers to make decisions away from the Parliament, which is reducing it to a place where politicking is the only thing that really seems to matter and where we rather get the sense that ministers are more exercised by identifying alibis than by developing solutions.

This is a week after a number of long cold weeks in which the Scottish Government showed its extraordinary inability to act in the face of the national emergency that was caused by the severe weather by failing to act in the interests of vulnerable and elderly people who were trapped in their own homes. The most striking feature of the discussion and the debate on that issue was the fact that ministers had obviously not even thought about it and saw no role for themselves in co-ordinating the response as the extent of the problem emerged. Given the Government's default position of talking and not acting, that was perhaps entirely to be expected. Far from caring about older people when it really mattered, the SNP Government was complacent, defensive and absolutely lacking in leadership.
Last week, John Swinney was unable to defend his lack of action and the explicable and damaging silence of his health colleague Nicola Sturgeon. He claimed that I had missed the mood, but he was wrong.
The contention is that at a UK level we are moving to deal with the attendance allowance to the detriment of older people. I simply make the point that we have a Scottish Government that is comfortable talking about that, but which will not address its own failings during the recent, and current, emergency in relation to cold weather. I hope that the Scottish Government will consider appointing an older person's champion for that purpose.
It is important to listen to groups on these matters. I will outline the context—for me—of the debate, explore some of the key issues and perhaps identify a number of areas for action by the Scottish Government. If the Scottish Government believes that there is an issue with what is happening at UK level, I am sure that it is more than capable of drawing together the views of the people of this country and representing them. It does not require a motion of this Parliament to do so.
Indeed, the SNP's own Minister for Public Health and Sport has already made a commitment to making a joint statement in response to the green paper. The SNP knows as well as I do that there is no decision on action. I assume that it understands the status of a green paper. The Scottish Government has said that it has developed a response. Perhaps the substance of the debate could have been the Scottish Government's response. We could have discussed that, rather than a theoretical position and its view of something that has not yet been implemented.
Let me make this serious point. It is obvious that some people are concerned about the implications of some policies that the green paper outlines. The consultation is the place to explore those anxieties.
The Scottish Government has misrepresented the debate about attendance allowance and has categorised it in one way, so it finds it difficult to deal with somebody who wishes to explore seriously the policy's implications.
The reality is that green papers are used in the way that the document that we are discussing has been used. It is understandable that ministers wish to consult on potential approaches without being obliged absolutely to pursue them. Shona Robison understands that.

When challenged on the fact that the voluntary sector had not been involved in her policy on elderly care, she said:
"it would be dishonest for us to go out with a blank sheet of paper and say to people, 'What do you think?' We need to be able to put down some ideas to gauge and guide that discussion, and that is the stage that we have reached."—[Official Report, 28 October 2009; c 20547-8.]

Shona Robison understands the role of a green paper. She makes it clear that the Government's responsibility is to shape debates and test ideas. That is what consultations are for.
The UK ministers involved have made it clear that they are continuing the process and that nothing has been decided. The motion implies that no discussion has taken place—
The trouble with SNP members is that they think that shouting something loudly makes it true, but what has been said is not true. The debate is serious and people deserve to have it taken seriously, so let me continue.
The motion implies that no discussion has taken place and that Scotland will not only suffer as a consequence of the proposals—

Sandra White: Will the member take an intervention?

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Order. It is clear that the member is not taking interventions.

Johann Lamont: The minister made even more explicit the implication in the motion that Scotland will somehow lose funding, which will be directed to care in England. That is why the motion calls on the UK Government to consult.
Consultation is, of course, good. In our debate on elderly care in October, Shona Robison, the Minister for Public Health and Sport, said:
"We are, of course, also working with the United Kingdom Government in the light of its green paper 'Shaping the future of care together'. Given that any changes to the benefits system, particularly attendance allowance, will have profound implications for the way in which social care is delivered in Scotland, that dialogue is important."—[Official Report, 28 October 2009; c 20548.]
We recognise the challenge of the issues. According to Shona Robison, dialogue is taking place and the Governments are working together. I am therefore curious to establish what today's debate is about.
The Westminster Government has rebuffed the argument that the proposal will involve a reduction in the moneys that are available to support people's care. The Minister for Housing and Communities should have confirmed that that commitment was made. The UK minister has said that using disability living allowance for under-65s has been categorically ruled out and he has made it clear that those who receive attendance allowance and over-65s who receive DLA will continue to receive an equivalent level of support and protection in any reformed system.
The minister must be aware that a key issue that drives the debate has been the examination of how a national care service for England might be created. We might wish to—I agree that we should—interrogate the implications of that for Scotland, but we might as seriously ask why the Scottish Government has nothing to say about minimum care standards, a fair charging regime—for which attendance allowance is used—and the reasonable expectation that charges and the care service should be the same wherever people are in Scotland.
From work that Jackie Baillie and others have done, we know that the charging regime varies widely throughout Scotland. It is suggested that the quality of care is as varied. How does the minister propose that we address that problem, given that any consideration of single outcome agreements reveals a lack of priority for the needs of elderly and disabled people?
I welcome Nicola Sturgeon's invitation today to a meeting to discuss those serious issues, but it is depressing that the minister does not recognise their significance, too. What is the Scottish Government doing to develop meaningful self-directed care? I am very committed to the idea of personalised budgets, but it sits ill with any commitment when waiting lists for direct payments are growing and when it is feared that care in Edinburgh is being categorised artificially to reduce support levels.
This is a critical issue. Indeed, it reflects the concern of many that self-directed care is not being developed. The lack of confidence among people who need support and those who care for them is reflected in much of the anxiety about the possible ending of the attendance allowance and the use of the money to develop care packages. That anxiety remains even when the Government has given the assurance that doing so will not mean a diminution in the level of support.
Carers and people who use the services are anxious that none of us is serious about self-directed support. The minister has to answer these questions. Why are there waiting lists for direct payments? Why are payment levels being reduced so that people cannot direct their own care? I am interested in hearing what the minister has to say on the action that is being taken in the concordat to encourage the process. Will there be a step change in services for older people?
I am also anxious to highlight concerns that have been reported to me on the drop in respite provision. Respite is part of the context of the debate; elderly care is not only about charging. Will the minister tell Parliament how respite figures are monitored and what work is being done to ensure that the cut in respite is not being masked by a lack of reference to the length of time that is offered? One example is in-home care. Carers groups are telling me that people who would have been given two to three hours to have an afternoon away from their care responsibilities are now being told that they can have only an hour or less.
I am aware of the work of the Scottish Government in developing its own proposals on delivery of care for elderly and disabled people. I will flag up a number of issues in that regard about which older peoples groups are particularly concerned. People are concerned about the false connection of volunteers—people who want to support their neighbours—into care packages, making them an obligatory part of a package. There is also the entirely different matter of making the assumption that those who care for their loved ones do so on a voluntary basis.
The Scottish Government has emphasised the importance of telecare, but that cannot be a technological fix for all. In the recent severe weather—

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The member should begin to wind up.

Johann Lamont: I am genuinely concerned that the minister's scaremongering may mean that we lose sight of the key issues that every level of government needs to address in terms of care for the elderly. I urge the minister and his colleagues to reflect on them. The debate on how we treat our elderly people is of critical importance and it speaks volumes that the SNP wants to use it as a vehicle to play games. The Government needs need to address seriously the ways in which to develop minimum standards across Scotland and meet the needs of our elderly population.
I move amendment S3M-5515.1, to leave out from "notes" to end and insert,
"welcomes the opportunity afforded by the UK Government's Green Paper, Shaping the Future of Care Together, to contribute to the debate on issues concerning the future provision of care services; welcomes moves to address the postcode lottery of care and recognises the need for a similar debate to take place in Scotland, taking into account specific challenges and opportunities arising from a growing population of older people; notes that the consultation on the Green Paper closed in November 2009, and looks forward to ongoing dialogue with the UK Government to achieve shared objectives of ensuring that older and disabled people have fair access to good quality services and support."