Fergus Ewing MSP

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Fergus Ewing MSP

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  • Member for: Inverness and Nairn
  • Region: Highlands and Islands
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Fergus is a member of the following Committees:

Fergus is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

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Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
The Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism (Fergus Ewing)

Scottish ministers have discussed the TTIP with the UK Government at meetings of the joint ministerial committee in March and October this year. In addition, the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing has been in correspondence with the UK Secretary of State for Health regarding concerns about the impact of TTIP on the Scottish national health service. Officials are actively engaging with UK Government officials about the progress of the negotiations and any potential implications for Scotland.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Fergus Ewing

As Mr Campbell is aware, my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing is primarily dealing with this. My understanding is that assurances have been sought from the European Commission and the UK Government. The response from the European Commission has been encouraging; the response from the UK Government lacks an unequivocal assurance that the NHS will remain as it is and will not potentially be open to being sued for not going down the privatisation route. That is something on which we are still seeking cast-iron assurances from the UK Government.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
The Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism (Fergus Ewing)

This is a worrying time for the employees of Tata Steel and their families. On learning of the announcement by Tata Steel, Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment, spoke with John Park, strategy and policy director at the Community trade union, which represents the majority of the Scottish workforce. Yesterday, I spoke with John to maintain our close links with the workforce and to discuss the emerging situation, and I have agreed to meet him for further discussions.

I have also spoken to David Mundell MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, regarding the concerns of the workforce in Scotland, and I have followed that up with a letter to Vince Cable, underlining our commitment to working together with the United Kingdom Government to safeguard jobs and investment in Scotland. Finally, Scottish Enterprise has maintained its dialogue with Tata Steel and is engaging with the Klesch Group. At present, there has been no announcement of any impact on jobs. However, we continue to closely monitor developments and stand ready to support the workforce.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Fergus Ewing

I am not sure that I picked up the precise wording of the question, but I assure the member that we will leave no stone unturned and will do everything possible to preserve and protect jobs in Scotland—that is a priority for us. Across the Scottish Government, we will do everything within our power to maintain steel production in Scotland.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Fergus Ewing

I had discussions with Tata when I visited the Scottish sites, and we of course continue to engage closely with the companies. However, the primary responsibility and need at the moment is for Scottish Enterprise through Lena Wilson, its chief executive, to pursue discussions directly with both Tata and the Klesch Group. I can assure Mr Pentland, first, that we will keep him fully informed of all developments, as Angela Constance made clear at the outset; and, secondly, that I will personally liaise extremely closely with Lena Wilson on the work that Scottish Enterprise will do. It is essential that we do everything that we can to maintain steel production in Scotland. We of course rely on the UK Government to work closely and fully co-operate with us, and we will make sure, within our power, that that happens as well.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
The Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism (Fergus Ewing)

On 27 November 2012, the Parliament debated the imminent sale or closure of Remploy’s enterprises in Scotland. At the time, that involved nine factories, employing more than 250 disabled people, and three closed-circuit television contracts with a further 29 staff.

During that debate, members spoke of their concern for the staff involved and their disagreement with the United Kingdom Government over a process that threatened all those jobs. Few spoke more passionately than our much-missed colleague Helen Eadie, representing her constituents in the Cowdenbeath factory. In addressing Parliament, Helen asked that we think about what we could do to help not just Remploy but the other supported businesses in Scotland.

On that day, Helen Eadie was right to encourage us to look more widely than the immediate threat to Remploy jobs and businesses. Today, I want to update Parliament on that very matter—the work of the Scottish Government since 2012 to encourage and enable the development of the remaining supported businesses in Scotland.

We must first ask ourselves why supported businesses are so important. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of visiting Haven in Inverness. I understand that David Whyte from Haven is here in the gallery for the debate, along with a number of colleagues from the sector. Inverness is one of a number of Haven sites throughout Scotland. Over the past two years, I have visited many of Scotland’s supported businesses and, prior to their closure, I visited a number of the Remploy factories.

What I found in Inverness this week was what I find in all those sites—dedicated staff, working hard to deliver high-quality products. Indeed, it is my reflection that often people with a disability work even harder than those without a disability and, in many cases, have a far lower absentee rate through sickness or illness from work, such is their determination and pride in what they do. When I undertake those visits, I struggle with the perception that some observers have, or have had in the past, that these are no more than sheltered workshops that bear little resemblance to real working conditions. That is plainly not the case, as I think members understand. I challenge anyone feeling that way to visit Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries in Glasgow or Dovetail Enterprises in Dundee to see for themselves how the businesses function.

There are 20 supported businesses in Scotland. There are 900 employees; more than 700 have a disability. We all have a duty and a desire to do everything that we can to support those businesses. They are an important part of the landscape of support available to help disabled people to find sustained and fulfilling work opportunities. I am delighted that my colleague Michael Matheson will close the debate, because he has of course responsibility for the wider issue of disability and supported employment for people with a disability. However, we all want to work together to sustain supported businesses and help them to expand in a way that is commercially viable.

What have we done since the debate in 2012? I have been clear from the outset that the ambition of the Scottish Government is that a commercially viable range of supported businesses should operate across Scotland. Since 2012, Scottish Government staff, in partnership with the businesses and a range of external organisations, have undertaken a significant range of work to assist the businesses to become more sustainable. It is important to understand that these are successful businesses that are turning over £33 million a year. These are not hobby businesses. These are not amateur businesses. These are professional high-quality businesses that we are all determined to support. Changing perceptions within the public and private sectors is part of our task.

I have taken a strong personal interest in developments and felt that it would be useful for the Parliament to have an opportunity to debate these matters. I convened the supported business advisory group, which met on several occasions. It included representatives from trade unions. I add my thanks to Lyn Turner and Phil Brannan from the trade unions, who played an excellent part in the proceedings and regularly brought us back down to earth about the reality that the people who work in supported businesses face. Also represented were the just enterprise consortium, Scottish Enterprise and the British Association for Supported Employment—whose representative, Alistair Kerr, is also in the gallery witnessing the debate, I am informed—along with representatives of the third sector and local government.

That group’s work has been instrumental in shaping the Scottish Government’s actions. We have decided, together with those who are closest to the people who are involved in supported businesses, what best we can do in a practical sense.

Procurement is plainly extremely important and, in 2012, Parliament was clear in demanding action to enable supported businesses to access more public contracts. Since then, we have begun to transform the way that buyers perceive supported businesses via a number of proactive steps with a view to increasing the commitment of public bodies to buy from them.

I lack the time to go through every action taken, but we have taken key steps to raise awareness and to make it easier for public bodies to procure from supported businesses.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Fergus Ewing

There are two parts to that intervention. I do not accept the premise of the first part and I will come on to address the second part.

In October 2012, Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, launched the new national framework agreement for supported businesses, making it easier for public bodies to access the goods and services that Scottish supported businesses can offer. The framework agreement and other Scottish Government initiatives within the public sector in the past year have provided around £2.7 million of contracts for supported businesses. That is promising, but we accept that we need to do more. With the support of other Scottish Government ministers and to ensure that we do more, I have met a number of public bodies, including the national health service, the Scottish Prison Service, Police Scotland and the Scottish Futures Trust.

Alex Neil and I launched a new supported business directory in January this year—I have a copy of it here; of course, it is online as well. The directory gives details of the 20 supported businesses in Scotland and means that those who are involved in procurement in public bodies have ready access to what is available.

To respond to one of the points in the Labour amendment, which I regret that we cannot accept, it is plain that to impose a duty on 118 public bodies to purchase goods or services that they may not need—supported businesses supply a limited range of goods and services—is not a practical suggestion.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Fergus Ewing

Ms Marra makes an entirely different point. My point was that her amendment says that there are 118 public bodies and they must all issue one contract. There are 20 supported businesses and they operate in a variety of fields, but there will be some public bodies that do not need some of the goods. I was not talking about local authorities—I was making the point that there are 118 public bodies and Ms Marra’s amendment says that they must all procure from supported businesses. However, some of those bodies will not need any of the goods or services that the businesses provide. Of course, many individuals will require workwear, but that is an entirely different point.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Fergus Ewing

The vast number of public bodies provide procurement to the supported employment sector. I hope that members will accept that it is not unreasonable but practical and sensible for the priority to be that we focus on the major public bodies that have the major procurement, such as the national health service.

For example, thanks to the work of Alex Neil, Michael Matheson and others in the Scottish Government, we persuaded the NHS that it should procure from the sector nurses uniforms up to an annual value of £1.5 million. That was a major decision, and we are extremely grateful to all those in the NHS who were involved in it. It took a lot of time and consideration, because the issues are not simple—they are matters of business. It is terrific that, through the substantial efforts of Mr Neil, and working with procurement officials in the NHS, we have delivered a contract that has helped to secure the future of many of the ex-Remploy workers. I hope that members will acknowledge that that example and the many other examples that we can provide represent solid progress since 2012.

In addition to the supported business directory, we have produced a promotional DVD, which has been distributed to buyers and the businesses themselves. The benefit of that is that it shows every procurement individual exactly what supported businesses are.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Fergus Ewing

No, I will not.

One benefit of this debate is that it gives us an opportunity to explain and get across to the public sector what supported businesses offer. We have also done that through the excellent document and DVD. I recently attended a meeting of the SFT hub managers at which one of the hub managers, from the Morayshire area, told me that the DVD “said it all”. It has been extremely useful.

We have run two meet-the-buyers events this year—one was in the Stirling management centre and another was run by the Scottish Prison Service—and there was an event at the Procurex conference last week, with John Swinney.

The success of Haven PTS—the new company that was formed following the sale of the stage 2 Remploy businesses—in securing the said agreement to become part of the supply chain for NHS Scotland’s nurses uniforms is truly significant. It has enabled 22 staff to retain their jobs. I had the pleasure of attending, with my colleague Alex Neil, the occasion on which we made the announcement on that particular public procurement. It was one of the happiest of the several hundred engagements that I have attended as a minister.

Supported businesses were successful in securing contracts relating to the Commonwealth games to the value of £914,000. Although winning new contracts is important, we need to provide business support to supported businesses. I am pleased that Scottish Enterprise, the business gateway and local authorities and just enterprise have stepped up to the plate and have offered business support to all 20 BASE members in Scotland.

What will we do in future? The work to support increased procurement and business development will continue. Supported businesses need a concerted approach and a long-term relationship with the Government and public sector authorities. That is not about winning one contract per public body or one-off contracts; it is about ensuring a steady flow of work that sustains those businesses over the long term. That is the Scottish Government’s approach.

I will continue to press the Department for Work and Pensions for a discussion about its intentions regarding the financial support that is given to supported businesses through the work choice programme in the form of a payment of £4,800 per supported employee with a disability. It is essential that that support is not withdrawn, and yet it is under threat from the UK Government. I have written on four occasions so far to DWP ministers requesting a discussion on the matter. The letters date back to November last year and March this year, but there has so far been no discussion, no response and no assurance. Without that payment, the future of supported businesses is, I think, in serious question. I hope that we can today unite behind the proposition that it is surely only fair to the 900 employees in those businesses that they receive that support.

Since 2010, disabled people have suffered at the hands of the UK Government through the introduction of a series of welfare reforms that have reduced their income and made some of the most vulnerable in our society feel vilified. Lord Freud’s comments at the recent Conservative conference simply served to reinforce the view of disabled workers that the current UK Government holds.

The Scottish Government does not share Lord Freud’s views, which we regard as morally execrable. We believe that we should recognise the varied employment support needs of disabled people and ensure that a variety of services and options, including supported business, is available to help as many disabled people as possible into work.

I move,

That the Parliament recognises the economic and social value of supported businesses in Scotland; welcomes the recent success of many of these businesses in enhancing their commercial viability through business support and action to increase public and private sector procurement; commends the work of the new third sector supported business, Haven Protective Technology Solutions (Haven PTS Ltd), which has been developed in response to the enforced closure of the five Stage Two Remploy factories, and agrees the importance of continuing to support these businesses.

14:47  
Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11332.2 Jenny Marra: Supported Business—As an amendment to motion S4M-11332 in the name of Fergu
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NoDefeated

S4M-11332.1 Gavin Brown: Supported Business—As an amendment to motion S4M-11332 in the name of Fergu
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NoDefeated

S4M-11332 Fergus Ewing: Supported Business—That the Parliament recognises the economic and social va
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YesCarried

S4M-11304.3 Michael Russell: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to mo
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YesCarried

S4M-11304 Liz Smith: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament believes
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11123 Joe FitzPatrick on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau: Business Motion—That the Parliament
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YesCarried

S4M-11114.2 Kenny MacAskill: Policing—As an amendment to motion S4M-11114 in the name of Graeme Pear
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
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YesCarried

S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11116.1 Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-11116 in the name of Jo
>> Show more
YesCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Fergus Ewing
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11332: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11071: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11070: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11069: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11068: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10988: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10305: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10304: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10303: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10302: Fergus Ewing, Inverness and Nairn, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
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EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S3W-06602: Fergus Ewing, Central Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/11/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-06602: Fergus Ewing, Glasgow Anniesland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/11/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-00002: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/05/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-00001: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/05/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-00000: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/05/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32673: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32686: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32674: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32675: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2007 Show Full Question >>
Question S2W-32676: Fergus Ewing, Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2007 Show Full Question >>

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