Claire Baker MSP

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Claire Baker MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 22 January 2015 : Thursday, January 22, 2015
1. Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

To ask the Scottish Government when it last met NHS Fife and what issues were discussed. (S4O-03931)



Meeting of the Parliament 22 January 2015 : Thursday, January 22, 2015
Claire Baker

The cabinet secretary is well aware of the pressures that are facing NHS Fife, including bed blocking and breaches of waiting time guarantees. In 2013, the then health secretary said that he wanted to accelerate the pace of change towards seven-day services.

Labour has this week called for £100 million from budget consequentials to create a front-line fund to take forward that ambition, ease the pressure on front-line staff and provide better patient care. Will the cabinet secretary support it?



Meeting of the Parliament 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Given the strength of feeling that the film industry expressed this morning, including claims that Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise are not fit for purpose, will the cabinet secretary hold an urgent meeting with Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise to address the concerns?



Meeting of the Parliament 20 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

Yesterday, when I met the director of Dundee V&A in his office, which is opposite a building site, on the original timescales I should have been on a tour of the building. We have seen escalating costs and continual delays for the project, so there needs to be transparency and accountability on that. I am sure that the cabinet secretary, too, must have concerns about how the project has developed. Will the Scottish Government therefore agree to the calls for an inquiry into the rising costs of the building so that we know who knew what and when?



Meeting of the Parliament 06 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

This afternoon’s debate gives us the opportunity to recognise the diversity of celebrations and festivals that take place in Scotland over the winter months. However, I want to take a moment to reflect on the tragic accident that happened in George Square in the run-up to Christmas. Our thoughts are with those who lost loved ones in the midst of the Christmas festivities; it was heartbreaking to see families experience such shock and loss at that time of year, and I wish all those injured a full recovery. Again, we saw Glasgow having to pull together to deal with a difficult time, and it showed how the idea of community lies at the heart of the city.

Although the focus of the official winter festivals programme is the period from St Andrew’s day in November to Burns night later this month, for many Hallowe’en and bonfire night mark the start of many exciting opportunities to gather and celebrate during the dark months. Winter festivals do not always mean big gatherings; they are also about the community-led celebrations that mark our winter months. All of them play an important role in our lives, support our local and national economies, boost the tourist trade, promote Scotland as a year-round destination and showcase and share some of the best of Scotland’s rich culture.

Winter festivals have grown in popularity in recent years and are increasingly seen as an important part of community life. Scotland is a northern country and, as our days get shorter, winter festivals provide a focus for celebration and entertainment. The winter festivals programme, which is delivered and supported by EventScotland, promotes landmark cultural days by offering a wide range of major ticketed and free events that encourage participation. However, we need to strike an appropriate balance between the commercial aspect of such events, with a recognition of the importance of that aspect to their viability, and the need for inclusivity at a time of year that for many people can be expensive.

The popularity and success of the festivals can be seen in the figures in VisitScotland’s briefing. In particular, Edinburgh’s hogmanay programme has grown over the years; indeed, it was the only festival in the Discovery Channel’s recent list of top 25 world travel experiences, which is pretty impressive. Increasingly, people who come to the city at this time of year are spoilt for choice and although the big events remain the focus, other innovative and imaginative events are springing up. Now in its third year, the Scot:Lands event, which the cabinet secretary mentioned, takes audiences on a new year’s day treasure hunt through a series of venues in the old town, staging music, dance, film and other events.

Although there is a focus on our cities, which are the key tourism destinations, winter festivals also encourage people to go further afield. Last year’s St Andrew’s day celebration in St Andrews attracted almost 10,000 people to the town over the course of the weekend, which boosted the local economy significantly. Burns night events extend from Dumfries and Galloway’s big Burns supper, an imaginative and modern celebration of the bard’s work that has grown in recent years, to the “Haggis, Beasts and Tatties” event at Eden Court in Inverness.

It is smart and indeed important to highlight those events that are uniquely Scottish, as such an approach encourages people to visit us in order to have a special experience. However, we must ask whether we are doing enough to promote what we have and to promote and support international marketing; as we have read today, Scotland’s export figures stalled in the final quarter because of a depressed European market, and we need to be flexible and look at where we need to grow future tourism markets. To ensure the continued success of our festivals and Scotland’s brand in general, we must do more and look at new and innovative ways of promoting our unique and sought-after brand across the world.

I was pleased to read yesterday that VisitAberdeen is pushing forward with plans to develop a Chinese version of its tourism website. We all know about the benefits of overseas tourism to Scotland and of the particular strength of the Chinese tourism trade. It is estimated that the Chinese spend £125 billion on overseas leisure and business. To put that into context, it is apparently on average 50 per cent more than Americans spend.

We know from recent surveys that Chinese tourists appreciate the countryside, built heritage and culture. Scotland has all three in abundance, so we are in a prime position to benefit from their tourism. However, according to yesterday’s report, only 1 per cent of the Chinese population speak English. Multilingual websites are therefore an important tool in promoting what our country has to offer to as many countries as possible.

Promoting Scotland as a destination is increasingly culturally focused. We cannot rely on our weather as our selling point; as we saw with the unfortunate cancellation of Stirling’s hogmanay celebrations due to high winds, it can still have a negative impact on our festivities.

Winter festivals provide opportunities for business and activity over the traditionally quieter seasons. For example, I recently met representatives from the Scottish Showmen’s Guild and heard that the growth in winter festivals supports its members outwith the fairs season.

While the growing success of the major festivals is important, particularly to tourism and the economy, smaller local festivals are increasingly playing an important part in the local economy and vibrancy of an area. They are increasingly innovative and imaginative and, with the involvement of the local authority, arts trusts, local groups or schools, they are often more inclusive and collaborative and engage more directly with the community. The Kirkcaldy lantern parade in the run-up to Christmas was a beautiful example of community engagement. It had lantern-making workshops so that people could join the parade, a bringing of the light song composed for the event and a fireworks display. Is the cabinet secretary confident that we have an integrated strategy and that enough support and advice are being targeted at more regional and local events, which might not return the big tourism figures but provide community activity and celebration and support a domestic tourism market?

We also see local festivals supporting the retail sector. Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular, so town-centre festivals provide a way of broadening the experience of shopping and help to keep our high streets alive by ensuring that they get a share of the festive shopping. We need to continue to change the way in which we use retail and public space. As our amendment says, I recognise the hard work of all the volunteers, community groups, trade associations and small businesses that do so much to make such events happen.

This debate is to be followed by a debate on mental health, which is a huge health challenge of our times. While that debate will no doubt attempt to address broad and complex issues, if we are talking about health and wellbeing as factors that underpin good mental health, we should acknowledge that winter can be a challenging and particularly isolating time for many people. In a small way, winter festivals or winter activity can provide important and valuable opportunities for people to come together, socialise and benefit from a collective experience. We should do all that we can to support them and to encourage wide participation.

I move amendment S4M-11976.2, to insert at end:

“; also recognises the many local and community-organised winter festivals that take place throughout Scotland, and commends the hard work of volunteers, local groups and small businesses that make such events a success”.

15:18  

Meeting of the Parliament 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I am pleased to make a contribution to the debate.

The Parliament recently held a food and drink debate. There is a growing recognition that the public health agenda and the food and drink sector need to be more closely aligned. The “Becoming a Good Food Nation” consultation indicates a different Scottish Government focus. It attempts to tie together the debates on growing food as a strong sector of our economy and how we address our domestic food challenges with regard to income and knowledge. That is to be welcomed.

It can be challenging to work successfully across Government, and the new food standards Scotland organisation, which will have responsibilities in public health as well as regulation of the food sector, is an example of the need for closer working and to produce food policies across Government portfolios that relate meaningfully to each other.

What are the challenges facing the new body? This afternoon will confirm the creation of the new organisation. Along with the chair, a board will soon be appointed, notwithstanding the debate about the board’s make-up. The organisation’s policy direction and focus will then be created. Therefore, the debate now moves on to what the new body will achieve.

The Parliament has led public debate on tobacco and alcohol and we need to turn our attention to food. By 2030, we will be spending £3 billion on tackling obesity if we continue the way that we are going. At a time when our overseas food export market has the potential to expand, with the development of new emerging markets, we will be fighting battles about food at home.

Alongside obesity, there are health issues associated with poor diet and food poverty. There needs to be realignment of our diets, and the new body has a role to play here. How do we have that debate? In the “Becoming a Good Food Nation” consultation, the Government proposes a food commission.

Debate around food in Scotland can be difficult, and Richard Simpson has the tabloid scars to prove it whenever he talks about a soda tax. A commission could provide the space for a reasonable, evidence-based assessment and proposals. I ask the minister to say how it would relate to the new food standards body. Also, if the new body is to have a greater public health role, how will it co-ordinate the work with the national health service to prevent duplication?

At the cross-party group on food and drink a few weeks ago, someone said that we should have not a good food nation but a good diet nation. In our parliamentary debate a few weeks ago, members took us on culinary tours of their constituencies. The focus was very much on pastries, pies and tablet. Does it matter if we consume such products as long as they are part of a balanced diet?



Meeting of the Parliament 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Claire Baker

I am very tight for time.

Are people clear about what a balanced diet means? A focus on fad diets, even by the First Minister, does not change long-term habits and build good health.

The new body has a role to play in providing trusted information and the Government needs to support it in getting out that message. No coffee or kitchen-table book will be produced by the new body that competes with those that promise the latest starlet figure if people drink maple syrup—or whatever the latest fad is—but the Government and all partner agencies have a responsibility to promote clear messages and to do all that they can to support that by working with producers and suppliers.

We need to look at child obesity in particular. The reasons for such obesity are complex, but there is a lack of information for parents on portion size, calories and activity levels. Advice needs to be tailored and different from that provided to adults.

In the stage 1 debate, I focused on the organisation’s regulatory role and its responsibility for meat inspection. I say again that that must be robust and resourced. We have seen cuts in staff and inspection numbers; we have also seen such cuts at local authority level among environmental health officers. The new organisation will be challenged in reconciling capacity and demand to ensure food safety.

The reputation of Scotland’s food and drink sector is strong and the new organisation has an important role to play in keeping it that way.

15:24  

Meeting of the Parliament 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

It is almost a year since the new common fisheries policy was introduced, but the forthcoming year is when the force of the changes comes into effect. We are starting to see changes in the end-of-year negotiations that the debate refers to. There is less horse trading and fewer late-night negotiations. There is an increasing attempt to take out the politics and grandstanding and instead to focus on delivering sustainable fisheries that support employment, communities and our food sector, while not damaging stocks or the marine environment.

Conservation and stability of stocks can deliver long-term economic health for the whole industry, onshore and offshore. We need a continued commitment from the Scottish Government and the sector to deliver that. Scotland’s fishing sector employs about 5,000 people in the catching sector and supports key employment in supporting sectors. Scotland has world-renowned produce but, although our produce is sent all around the world, we could do more to support our home market. Although we are an island country, we are not big consumers of seafood, and there could be greater promotion of it, as well as a greater commitment to local sourcing. I hope for a positive outcome from the good food nation consultation that is happening.

The industry has a significant base in Scotland, but it operates throughout the UK, with a common regulatory system and a UK network of harbours and fish processors. That is reflected in some of the concerns that the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation raised about the quota consultation, which I will say a bit more about later.

The drama of previous years may be on the way out, but the importance and complexity of the EU negotiations are increasing, as they are not just about allocating effort but about changing the system to meet the CFP’s environmental objectives.

We are nearing the end of the negotiations. I support the Scottish Government’s key objectives going into the negotiations and wish the cabinet secretary well in the final stages.

We are looking to amend the motion to focus on the key issues for the sector rather than sustain a debate about who represents it, when we all have a common view anyway. I have sympathy with the cabinet secretary over recent decisions on who would present the UK case but, going forward, our understanding of what is “clearly appropriate” might not always be the same as the Scottish Government’s understanding.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Claire Baker

My understanding of the Scottish Government’s motion is that it does not refer to the particular incident about who represented us at EU negotiations, when I supported the Government’s concerns. However, as during the referendum debate, I am pretty clear that I believe that the UK’s strong negotiating position provides the best deal for Scottish fishermen.

Notwithstanding the UK Government’s questionable decision to bring in a member of the House of Lords at the last minute to represent UK interests, I hope that the cabinet secretary will work well with his UK colleagues in the interests of the Scottish sector, as in previous years. The negotiations are significant, and I want Scotland to support decisions that aid the effective introduction of the landing obligation, achieve fishing at sustainable levels and help to deliver good environmental status. That can be achieved while retaining a profitable fishing sector, but it will require effort and commitment from all partners. We need to keep an eye on the prize of a fishing sector that has a future, without compromising our marine environment.

As the cabinet secretary outlined, the already-agreed increase in the North Sea cod and haddock TAC for the next year is welcome. That will help to ease the introduction of the new CFP. The successful negotiation of inward transfers of haddock and whiting quota is also welcome, as scientific evidence suggests that those stocks are in good shape.

In the fisheries debate last year, Labour’s amendment called for a clear plan of action to introduce the discard ban. I hope that I can be convinced today that that is in place and that the Government is supporting the sector in the efforts that have to be made.

We should not forget why we are introducing a discard ban. Discarding bycatch fish or fish whose quality was not high enough was a practice for many years, particularly as the financial incentive increased. It took a television campaign and a public outcry to mobilise the movement against that practice, whose time was up. That can be a good thing that will respect our seas and the natural resource that they give us, and it can open up new opportunities for the sector.

Scotland has been a fishing nation at the forefront of good practice, and we should recognise the commitment of much of our fleet to achieve that. That has taken investment and tough decisions. I recognise the frustration that there can be at the behaviour of other countries and the importance of the need for a level playing field, but the new CFP is a further challenge for our sector. The nature of Scottish fishing will make it very difficult to deliver a discard plan. We need to ensure that we have robust plans in place to deliver.

Last year, the cabinet secretary spoke about the need for the European Commission to provide fishermen with additional quota to enable the landing of all fish that are caught. He argued that the Commission must give us the tools to put in place a sensible and practical discards ban. I do not disagree on the need for greater flexibility, which is crucial, but we also need greater regional decision making and planning that increasingly identify and make best use of a shared quota and resource.

We also need a plan from the Scottish Government. We need a clear indication of the measures that it expects to be introduced and of what checks and balances it will bring into the sector to reward those who fish responsibly and work to meet the new standard. If fleets are struggling to change or are resistant to change, they should be supported to adapt, or compliance measures can be introduced.

Next year, there will be huge challenges for our mixed fisheries. There will be huge difficulties. We do not have the right quota at the moment, but there will be ways to make things easier.

Scotland has been at the forefront of selective gears, but we can do more in that area. Too many vessels are not using identified selective gear. We need to consider spatial management measures if we are to focus on avoiding catching unwanted fish. We need investment in research and development to support work in our universities to develop innovative solutions.

An increased or changed quota is of course important, but we must also work hard to develop markets for less popular species. The Scottish Government’s economic analysis identifies offsetting economic benefits of that. Introducing measures that will enable the landing and selling of all fish that are currently discarded, or increasing selectivity so that no unwanted fish are caught in the first place, has the potential to add up to £200 million to the landed value by 2020.

We need more flexibility from the Commission, but that will take us only so far. The approach means changes for our fleets but, if we start planning now for the challenges ahead and if we decide on and are clear about the measures that will need to be introduced and the expectation that they will need to be delivered, there will be rewards.

By 2015, Scotland’s fleets must show that they are doing all that is in their powers to fish at sustainable levels and deliver maximum sustainable yield. That must be achieved by 2020 at the latest. We need to develop a clear road map now that will set us on the right path for the next few years. The emphasis is often seen as being on the restrictive measures of selectivity, temporal and spatial management and behaviour change, but we should also work out ways to reward the good guys—the fleets that are taking the responsibility seriously and delivering on the environmental objectives.

The Scottish Government has consulted on quota allocation policy. The cabinet secretary will be aware that the period of restriction has been problematic or detrimental for some UK operators in Scotland. I understand that there has so far been little evidence of quota being held speculatively or as an investment. However, the Scottish Government makes a case that the quota is Scotland’s national asset, and I await the outcome of its consultation.

If there are changes, they could present the opportunity to create a pool of quota, which could be used to recognise the efforts that fleets make to comply. That could be used to reward vessels that provide social and economic benefit to communities—vessels that support fishing communities, provide employment opportunities and support a local economy—as well as a vibrant offshore sector.

I move amendment S4M-11825.3, to leave out from second “and supports” to end and insert:

“; believes that the European Commission must deliver greater flexibility and regionalisation to achieve this, and calls on the Scottish Government to set out a clear plan of action to ensure that the discard ban is implemented and sufficiently monitored.”

16:11  

Meeting of the Parliament 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Claire Baker

The member might be interested to note that Westminster is debating fisheries negotiations on Thursday this week.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12101 John Swinney: Budget (Scotland) (No.4) Bill—That the Parliament agrees to the general prin
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-12095.4 Ken Macintosh: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12095.2 Alex Johnstone: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12095.1 Willie Rennie: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-12095 Alex Neil: Tackling Inequalities—That the Parliament agrees that a strong, sustainable eco
>> Show more
YesCarried

Selection of John Pentland MSP for appointment to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.
Not VotedCarried

S4M-12060.2 Hugh Henry: Commending the People who Keep Scotland Safe in Emergencies—As an amendment
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12045.3 Shona Robison: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-12045 in the name of Rich
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-12045.2 Jackson Carlaw: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-12045 in the name of Ric
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Claire Baker
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11976.2: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11931: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11825.3: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 08/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11598.1: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11077: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11075: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11027: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10399: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10328: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10025: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Claire Baker
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24091: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24092: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03931: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23839: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23840: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23833: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23835: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23834: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23836: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23838: Claire Baker, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>

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