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."

Speech on Violence against Women 2nd. December 2009

It has been a mark of this Parliament that, since its establishment, it has sought to build an understanding of the causes and consequences of male violence against women. I believe that a consensus has been created across the chamber about the significance of the issue for the health and wellbeing of far too many women and children in our communities.

I recognise the significance of that consensus, but I believe that we owe it to our shared commitment to tackle violence against women not to settle for a cosy coming together. Rather, we should see the debate as an opportunity not only to acknowledge that but to reflect on a number of critical issues that need to be addressed.

On Monday, we marked St Andrew's day. For some, it was a day to acknowledge our Scottishness, for a bit of flag waving and perhaps for some sentimentality. I was privileged to hear Alastair McIntosh—a Quaker, author and fellow of the centre for human ecology—on Radio 4, providing a fascinating insight into and a challenging view of our patron saint. I will quote, or rather abridge, his words. He said: "Today is the day of Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, but for some people—men and children, but I am thinking especially of women—it won't be a happy day to wake up to. It will be a day of nursing last night's wounds. In many ways, domestic violence is the most confusing type of assault, because it comes from those who are supposed to love you. We learn of St Andrew in the Acts of Andrew. These tell how he became the spiritual teacher of Maximilla, wife of the Roman proconsul, Aegeates. She confided how, every night, her husband came home drunk and forced himself on her. Andrew—whose name means 'manliness'—encouraged her to treat this with zero tolerance. Aegeates had him flogged, specially tied to an X-shaped cross to prolong the agony, and crucified at Patras. Here, domestic violence links to the ugliness of empire and strikes out far beyond the home. It profoundly distorts a person's sense of what is normal and acceptable. Andrew stood by Maximilla as she broke that spell of violence. May his gentle manliness be our inspiration. Let us today remember Andrew—patron saint of a woman's right to say no."

That wonderful contribution reflects a powerful message about the long existence of male violence, but it also gives us hope that male violence is not inevitable. Perhaps, in Andrew, we see a more optimistic view of what manliness might be. In our various debates about what a future Scotland might look like, we are determined to ensure that, whatever the constitutional arrangements, we must seek to create in our communities and our country a place where women and children are safe, where rape and abuse of women through trafficking and prostitution are tackled and women are protected, where perpetrators are challenged not tolerated and where our young people are taught to grow up together in safe and respectful relationships.

I will highlight a number of areas of concern that I would like the minister to address, given our shared commitment to protection, provision and prevention.

Our amendment notes that we are still awaiting a report on the implementation of single outcome agreements, despite a commitment that that would be available in September. If we cannot analyse what is happening with single outcome agreements in relation to violence against women, how can their effectiveness be assessed, how can confidence be given to those who were fearful of the consequences of the end of ring fencing for consistency of provision, and how can there be certainty that any problems with the agreements will be addressed?

The minister will be aware that I have fought hard to get John Swinney to agree not to accept single outcome agreements without evidence of an equality impact assessment having been carried out. I believe that that approach would respond to the concerns that were highlighted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in its briefing.

The minister will also be aware of the analysis of single outcome agreements that was done by Scottish Women's Aid. That must ring alarm bells about the safety of women in our communities.

Women's Aid tells us that its analysis of single outcome agreements raises questions about whether the protection of women and children from violence is one of the highest priorities across Scotland. It points out that only 11 single outcome agreements state that addressing violence against women locally is a priority; that only 10 single outcome agreements include a specific reference to children affected by domestic abuse; and that only five single outcome agreements make reference to violence against women in relation to gender equality.

I am sure that the minister will agree that that is a troubling trend for those who are committed to consistency of understanding and provision across Scotland.

Linked to that are the concerns that have been highlighted to me that the work on violence against women is being diluted and increasingly subsumed into a more generalised community safety role. I am all for putting energy into addressing disorder and antisocial behaviour, but we all know that a fundamental of our understanding of violence against women and domestic abuse is that the crime needs to be named so that it can be tackled. It is essential to maintain a sharp focus on the distinctive nature of male violence and its consequences.

With regard to the protection of women and children, we must welcome the continued focus on multi-agency working, in which education, police, housing, social work and health all play a role in supporting women and minimising the impact on children. However, it is the justice system that is central in protecting women. We should never forget the horrific statistics on the murder of women, which show that women are most at risk from a partner or ex-partner and most vulnerable at the point of their decision to leave.

I commend Rhoda Grant's proposed members' bill, which will give women increased support and access to legal support; I believe that she will say more about that today. I welcome the Tories' amendment, which acknowledges the role of domestic abuse courts and repeats Labour's call for Kenny MacAskill to ensure that such courts are rolled out beyond Glasgow. It will be essential that the courts, in whatever form they are developed, allow for partnership working and effective risk assessment. That approach is currently provided in Glasgow through the advice, support, safety and information services together—ASSIST—project.

We need to explore the availability of perpetrator programmes, and, connected to that, programmes for the families of perpetrators. Women's organisations resisted the push for pre-court diversion for men who had committed domestic abuse offences in the past, as women believed that the crime should be recognised as precisely that: a crime.

Today, we need to take heed of what women's organisations are saying about the plans to end sentences of six months or fewer. We need to deter men by marking domestic abuse as a significant offence. There is no doubt that for some families, a sentence—even if it is for less than six months—can afford not only respite but, more critically, enough space for a woman to make a life-changing decision, and to get out and be supported to do so.

I raised that issue with the First Minister at First Minister's questions last week, and he replied that serious offences should attract serious sentences. I seek clarification on that. Does that mean that domestic abuse offences would be exempt from the presumption against sentences of six months or fewer, or that all domestic abuse offences would attract sentences of more than six months? How would such approaches be enforced?

Christine Grahame: Surely, in certain cases, the term "domestic abuse" is the wrong one to use. The offence is purely and simply a criminal assault, and should be dealt with in the courts—whether it is the sheriff court or the High Court—as just that: a criminal offence.

Johann Lamont: In the 10 years that we have been debating the issue, we have argued precisely the opposite. We have argued that we need to understand domestic abuse and violence against women in the context of the power of men over women in the home and in the community.

What action has the minister taken, and what work has been carried out by the equality unit, to ensure that that dimension of the justice proposals is taken seriously? Women's organisations say what they are saying because of their experience of working with women. That is why our amendment asks for a statement on how, across Government, policies are tested against their impact on those vulnerable women and children.

It must be a concern to us all—indeed, the minister referred to it—that the incidence of domestic abuse continues to rise. I acknowledge that that is due, at least in part, to more confidence among women and more rigour by the police. However, I ask the minister to reflect again—and I say this gently—on one explanation that he gave on television. He suggested that the rise in incidents was in part because we live in a time of economic recession.

We know that male violence is not caused, or excused, by poverty, and that male perpetrators are no respecters of class or income. I seek an assurance from the minister that he does not seek to perpetuate such a distorting view of where the problem manifests itself and what causes it.

I do not doubt the desire of members on all sides of the chamber to address violence against women, or their heartfelt wish to see women and children safe—and we must welcome anything that recognises the particular impact on children. However, we have a responsibility to bring together what we say and what we do. Caring is not enough, and will not in itself protect one woman, give one child back their childhood or open the eyes of one young man to a life of respect, not violence. Not one step on the road to greater equality was ever made by accident.

We need aspiration that is delivered locally bit by bit, wherever need is, throughout Scotland. The aspiration to deliver through the practicalities of action is laid out for all of us each week in the ASSIST bulletin. The reality of violence against women and the statistics may overwhelm us, but the results of the project give us great hope.

The Scottish Government must address the concerns and not dismiss them. If the current
processes to secure protection, provision and prevention are examined and found to be wanting, they must be changed. The Scottish Government and the minister would have our support if that happened. That would be a legacy of listening and responding of which we could all be proud.

I move amendment S3M-5307.2, to insert at end:

"and regrets that a report on the implementation of the first round of single outcome agreements has not yet been published, given the concerns of Scottish Women's Aid about the level of provision across Scotland; believes that the strategy of protection, provision and prevention remains central to the tackling of violence against women, and agrees that the Scottish Government should produce a joint statement from across its directorates to ensure that all its key policies are tested against their impact on women facing violence."

Speech on Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill 26th. November 2009

My comments reflect the concerns of many of my constituents about some aspects of the bill. I regret that, this morning, the cabinet secretary seemed simply to dismiss those concerns rather than take them seriously.

Before I get to the substance of my speech, I will flag up a few issues that I trust will be revisited at stage 2. They include the issues that Sandra White flagged up in relation to trafficked women; prostitution and men who abuse women and prostitute them; and lap dancing. A further question that I hope we will revisit is how we make a connection between communities that suffer under the cosh of serious organised crime and the money that is secured as a consequence of that under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. There should be a direct link, with funding going back to the communities that have suffered the most.

On the broader debate, it seems that nothing is easy. It is unhelpful to try, as I think Dr McKee rather complacently did, to create the impression that somehow only those who are wilfully stupid wish to ignore the policy that the Scottish Government is taking forward. It is most unfortunate to demonise those in our communities who are demanding action and those of us who wish to highlight how victims often feel let down by the system. To do that is to deny a voice to those who, because of their day-to-day experience, feel that the justice system is unfair, irrational and out of touch with the way in which they have to live their lives.

Yes, we have to try to understand what causes people to commit offences, but we also have to stop infantilising people who choose to terrorise their partners, their families and their neighbours. We owe it to the young men who carry a knife, as much as to their potential victims, to do everything in our power to stop them doing that. I have worked with young men who, in later life, ended up either in prison on a murder charge or dead. If we take steps to address the needs of such young men as well as those of their victims, we will be doing something important.

Robert Brown: I do not think that anyone would disagree with that. The issue is what makes the difference. What is the tough sentence that turns such people around? That is the nub of the debate, which some people on my side of the chamber would say the Labour Party has not engaged with as it might.

Johann Lamont: I recognise that, but I do not think that there is recognition on the other side of the importance of deterring young people who are outside the core group that carry knives, who see that nothing happens to those people and who then carry knives themselves. We owe it to those young people to say, "This is serious," in the same way that we punish people who drink drive to prevent others from doing that.

I am always struck by the degree to which people who come to me to ask for help because of disorder, crime and violence in their communities do so not simply because they want us to put people in jail and throw away the key but out of desperation about their circumstances. It is unjust and contemptuous to sneer at those who want tougher action on knife crime because of their direct experience of those who use violence to silence people, harm them and intimidate them to the point where they phone the police in a whisper. We owe it to those people to empower rather than disempower them and to listen to them. In that context, I urge the minister to reflect further on the action that he is taking and to test it against people's need to have certainty that their communities will not be more dangerous and that the measures will not put them at further risk.

The scrapping of six-month sentences raises a number of issues. At First Minister's question time, I highlighted the implication of the policy for the victims of domestic abuse and the fears of many people that it might increase risk. Following the First Minister's response, I seek clarification on what the Scottish Government's policy actually is. The First Minister said that serious offences should attract longer sentences. Is it the Government's view that all domestic abuse cases that currently attract sentences of less than six months should attract longer sentences? If that is the case, how would that be enforced?

Kenny MacAskill: Will the member give way?

Johann Lamont: I am sorry, but I have only a minute left—the minister can answer the point when he sums up. Would that policy apply to other serious offences?

There is an issue around resources. It is not enough simply to say that the resources are available. We could end up with an experiment with no safety net, the costs of which will be borne by individuals and communities. The obvious fear is not just that there could be an increase in offending behaviour, but that there could be an increased lack of confidence in the justice system's ability to serve people's needs.

At the heart of the matter there is a puzzle. It is illogical to say that the only way to encourage community sentences is to end short sentences now—it could be done the other way round. It is also illogical to say that people can be rehabilitated in their communities working with them only five or 10 hours a week, yet absolutely nothing can be done with them over six months when they are in prison. I have never understood the logic in assuming that the Scottish Prison Service has no responsibility towards those who are in prison serving shorter sentences. I would have more confidence in the minister if we were not hearing that Sacro, Apex Scotland and other organisations that work with prisoners who come out of prison are being told that their funding is being cut.

In those circumstances, the lack of confidence in our communities must be addressed, not dismissed.

Speech on Education (Scottish History) 25th. November 2009

I am happy to participate in this debate. I declare an interest as a former history teacher and, indeed, as someone who was taught Scottish history in a Glasgow school 40 years ago. This subject is not new. I am a bit despondent at the way in which some of the minister's comments were largely an opportunity to hook on to the issue of the homecoming. All who love history should resist the temptation to create a year-zero approach to what has been and is being done in this field.
More generally, there are loads of opportunities to have an interesting discussion about the role of history in schools, but people want us to wrestle with big issues in, for example, education and the care system. I am concerned that the Scottish Government has chosen this debate, which feels, notwithstanding the quality of the speeches, a bit like a stocking filler. There is a danger that what we see now in this Parliament is Executive action with little opportunity for scrutiny, and this place simply being a debating chamber and nothing more.
It has always been the case that, in teaching history, people have wrestled with the balance between history at the level of local communities, at the Scottish level, and far beyond, to give young people an international dimension. That issue is nothing new. It is important that our young people understand how some of the broader movements across the world were expressed in Scotland.
On the question that Margo MacDonald raised, I do not think that we teach our young people something as crude as whether the empire was good or bad; we develop in them an understanding and a capacity to think for themselves, with enough information—which in the past would not have been given to them—so that they can come to a judgment. If our history is about anything, it is about developing the minds of our young people in that regard. I believe that we should have described this debate as being not about Scotland and its history, as if it were one entity, but about the people of Scotland and their history, and an understanding of the diversity of experience, culture and values in Scotland and how they have related to the wider world.
We know that some in the Scottish National Party are keen to recast the political debate as being between us and them; between Scotland and England in the past and, perhaps a little more subtly, now between Scotland and London or the rest of the United Kingdom. Some in the SNP seek to capture the language of oppression and freedom for now and our past in describing the relationship with the rest of the UK. That is a political debate, which will be reflected in our understanding of history. I believe that the debate is about a partnership with the rest of the UK, but others believe that it is about oppression and freedom. That is a legitimate debate for us to have, but we must be careful about the way in which we present the priorities for teaching in history. There are fundamental differences.
I was concerned about the language that the minister used when she talked about "reclaiming our history". If young people are reclaiming their history, who has taken it from them? Young people will always take the opportunities that are provided in school to learn, test and understand. The idea that our culture has been silenced in some way resonates with the SNP's view of the relationship with the rest of the UK, but few other people recognise that view.

Margo MacDonald: I have too much respect for the member to disagree with a great deal of what she says, but I tried to make the point in my earlier intervention that there will always be at least two views of historical events. For example, some children were taught in Scottish schools—I do not know whether they still are—that Winston Churchill was a great war leader and that we should remember that that was his contribution; other children were taught that he turned the guns on the miners at Tonypandy. Both views were correct, but both indicated a bias, or perhaps not a bias—

The Deputy Presiding Officer: This is going on just a bit too long.

Johann Lamont: I accept what the member says. My point is that history teaching at its most liberating encourages people to scrutinise for bias and to test it against other information that they are given. We must recognise the importance of taking a rounded view of history and understanding how change happens and why. For example, there are those in the Parliament, particularly in the SNP, who emphasise that this Parliament is a reconvened Parliament, but the interesting question for me is why this place, its elected members, its purpose and its priorities are so different from the Parliament that joined the union in 1707. This Parliament's story is one of a journey of radicalism, of change and of movements in which people recognised that things in the past were unacceptable. The fight for suffrage was part of that journey and it is, in my view, a far more interesting issue—

Fiona Hyslop: Will the member give way?

Johann Lamont: Let me make this point.
We need to seek to understand the movements that transformed the lives of ordinary people and that tackled injustice and exploitation within our communities—some of which was perpetrated by Scot upon Scot. I was taught about the clearances. If some who were involved in making decisions about the year of homecoming had a better understanding of the clearances, they would not have put the clan chief gathering at the centre of a celebration of the people of Scotland in the modern age.
For me, the big issue is how we make history not just about the big history. Too many people in the SNP want to talk about the big history—I recognise that Christina McKelvie identified individuals and movements below that—but, in my view, the big argument that we need to wrestle with in history is understanding the individual, the community and the local, and how events there paralleled with what happened in other parts of the world. History should be a liberating subject rather than being about them and us or oppression versus freedom.
Fiona Hyslop: On the member's point about the different views of particular events in history, one aspect of the online resource is interviews with history professors who take different perspectives on the same period in history. That will help to develop skills for analysis and debate and to get people to make up their own mind. Does she welcome that part of the online resource?

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): You must wind up, Ms Lamont.

Johann Lamont: I have not not welcomed anything that encourages young people to think about all of their history. My point is that a separate element to the debate is the overlaying of a template or view of Scotland's relationship with the rest of the world and of Scotland as one entity. Our job is to provide the resources and teachers to ensure that young people are given the capacity to think for themselves and to come to their view of how our history—the history of all the people of Scotland—has shaped our priorities and choices for the future.