Joan McAlpine MSP

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Search for other Speeches made by Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

I, too, would like to congratulate Christina McKelvie on securing this important and timely debate.

I start by listing some of the arguments against extending the franchise. People said, “90 per cent of them don’t want the vote”, “The benefit doesn’t outweigh the expense”, “It will cause division in families”, “Politics is corrupting” and, of course, “They don’t know enough about the serious issues.”

Those arguments were put not against young people getting the vote but, back in the days of the struggle for women’s suffrage, against women getting the vote, although some of them were repeated to try to stop the franchise being extended to 16 and 17-year-olds. Denying women the vote for those reasons seems absurd now and, listening to the debate today, I feel confident that we will see an extension of suffrage to 16 and 17-year-olds.

I want to spend some time praising the particular role of schools in educating young people in democracy in the course of the referendum campaign. The journey that young people went on during that time was noteworthy. If the chamber would indulge me, I would like to praise the schools and educational institutions that held debates in which I participated: Tranent secondary; Jedburgh grammar; Langholm academy; Dumfries high; Dumfries academy; St Joseph’s college, in Dumfries; Dumfries and Galloway College; Moffat academy; Wallace Hall academy; and Annan academy. Outwith my region, I stepped in for a colleague in a debate in Cleveden secondary, just up the road from my house.

In all of those debates, I was really struck by the efforts that the teachers—and, indeed, the pupils, who were often involved in the organising—had put in to make them happen. They are not easy to pull off; they are something of a logistical exercise, and the curriculum is busy.

The teachers should be congratulated not only on organising the debates but on the way in which they prepared pupils. I believe that extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds will benefit all voters because young people will start to be educated at school, where they will have access to good-quality, clear and balanced information, not just what they get through the media. That will make them good citizens and political participants for the rest of their lives, which is, of course, very important.

Modern studies teachers, in particular, played a really important role in organising a lot of the debates. I am not saying that those teachers were involved exclusively but they certainly played a prominent role in the schools I spoke at. If we get 16 and 17-year-olds the vote and continue this level of political education in schools, we must make it consistent and ensure that it reaches all pupils. Modern studies is a fantastic subject and a source of pride for the Scottish education system, and it would be great if everyone took it. However, we need to consider how we roll out the best-quality political education to all our 16 and 17-year-olds.

In the last few weeks of the campaign, I ran many street stalls in different towns in the south of Scotland. Many of those stalls were close to schools, and in those last few weeks we benefited from marvellous weather, which allowed us to engage with young people. One of my best memories comes from Moffat, where I saw three fifth-year pupils from Moffat academy sitting on a park bench in the lunch-time sunshine and absolutely focused on reading “The Wee Blue Book”, which was one of our materials.

A lot of young people got engaged in the campaign towards the end of it, but the fact is that many of our debates had taken place six months before. Six months is a long time in the life of a 16-year-old and I would be keen to ensure that, if the franchise were to be extended in future, activity took place in schools as close to the vote as possible to capture the sense of excitement that we saw in the campaign’s last few weeks.

13:07  

Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

The subject is exactly the sort of matter that the Parliament should debate, and it is testament to the Public Petitions Committee that it has brought the issue to the chamber.

I am naturally inclined to support a register of judges’ interests. I understand the need to enshrine the independence of the judiciary and I understand Lord Gill’s decision to decline the committee’s invitation because, although that decision understandably drew criticism, one could argue that the judiciary should not be subject to political pressure. However, I tend to agree with Jackson Carlaw that, in this instance, Lord Gill should have come to the committee to argue his case and to show that the judiciary is not a law unto itself.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Joan McAlpine

Yes, I agree—that is a fair point.

Perhaps it is because I am a former journalist that I naturally lean towards increased transparency in all areas of public life. The committee convener outlined the need for that in his opening remarks. I take great pride in the fact that there is more transparency in the Scottish Parliament, for example, than there is at Westminster.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Joan McAlpine

No, thank you.

However, I have considered the safeguards that ministers have outlined today, in particular the judicial oath, which I am sure all our judges take very seriously indeed. I do not think that many members of the public know about the judicial oath or what it entails. I am interested in knowing more about the process that kicks in if someone is suspected of breaking the judicial oath. Has that ever happened and what are the consequences?

I read with great interest the Lord President’s letter to David Stewart MSP. I was not particularly convinced by the passage on practical considerations, in which the Lord President suggests that it would not be possible to identify all the interests. The subtext seems to be that it is a bit of a hassle. Well, yes, it is a bit of a hassle. It is probably a bit of a hassle for MSPs, too, but it has to be done. I was more swayed by the passage on unintended consequences in which the Lord President says:

“Consideration requires to be given to judges’ privacy and freedom from harassment by aggressive media or hostile individuals, including dissatisfied litigants. It is possible that the information held on such a register could be abused. These are significant concerns. If publicly criticised or attacked, the judicial office holder cannot publicly defend himself or herself, unlike a politician.”

I thought that that was a fair comment.

I do not think that the matter of a register of judges’ interests will disappear. We have seen the progress that is being made here and in New Zealand as a result of the debate being opened up, even though that is short of establishing a register. It is important that all national institutions continue to revise their procedures so that they retain public confidence. It is easy to see how public confidence can be lost if that is not done. The Westminster Parliament expenses scandal blew up precisely because of a lack of transparency in the system. I recall that there was a belief that, if MPs were completely transparent about what they claimed, that would somehow open them up to too much scrutiny, which would be a bad thing. In the end, MPs really came a cropper because of that.

Similarly, the claims of historical child abuse by powerful establishment figures at Westminster and how they may or may not have been dealt with by the authorities at the time surely demonstrate that the way that things were done 30 years ago is not the way that we should do things now. Therefore, I very much hope that the Lord President is paying attention to the debate.

We have to move with the times. It is a recurring feature of tabloid newspapers to draw attention to judges who do not move with the times. One particularly famous incident was in a court case down south when the footballer Paul Gascoigne was taking to court someone who had written an unauthorised biography. The judge clearly had no idea who Paul Gascoigne was, as his lawyer had to explain that he was a famous footballer, to which the judge replied, “Rugby or association?”

I gently suggest to the Lord President, in whose gift it is to set up a register, as we cannot legislate for it in the Parliament, that he should be mindful of the need for the judiciary to move with the times, along with every other public institution, in order to retain the confidence of the public.

16:24  

Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

To continue on that theme, the focus on growth to generate more growth can also be applied geographically in the way that money is spent via the budget. I am a South Scotland MSP and I am based in the south-west, which is not a high-growth area compared with some of the other areas that we have discussed, such as the north-east.

If your strategy is based on investing in growth, what happens to the parts of the country—such as the part that I am based in—that are not high-growth areas at the moment? For example, you could improve the infrastructure links to the south-west in the hope that it would generate new growth in the future. Is there a difficulty in doing that, given how things are structured at the moment?



Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Joan McAlpine

On a related matter, it is now a number of years since economic development funding was devolved to local authorities. That happened when the local enterprise companies were done away with and the money was given to the councils. However, there is a perception, certainly in my part of the world, that economic development was stopped rather than responsibility for its management being given to the council. Is that system working well or could improvements be made?



Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Joan McAlpine

On the more general point, is the transfer of economic development funds to local authorities working well?



Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
2. Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what evaluation will be done of the work carried out by schools to help prepare 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the referendum. (S4O-03572)



Meeting of the Parliament 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Joan McAlpine

I am sure that, like me, the minister welcomes the cross-party support that exists for 16 and 17-year-olds voting in future elections. Does he agree that, during the referendum campaign, different schools tended to take different approaches and that, if 16 and 17-year-olds are to get the vote on a more permanent basis in the future, a more consistent approach to how young people engage in the political process should be taken across all schools?



Education and Culture Committee 07 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP)

I was going to ask about opportunities for sharing best practice, but you have already answered Gordon MacDonald’s questions on that subject quite extensively, so I will ask something completely different.

One of the Government initiatives that was introduced at the same time as curriculum for excellence was rolling out, and which has been affected by curriculum for excellence, was the commitment to Scottish studies in schools. That is obviously a popular initiative; I think that about 80 per cent of people in Scotland believe that their children should learn more about their own culture, and there was a big debate about whether it should be taught as a separate stream, as I believe is the case in Norway. However, it was decided that, because of curriculum for excellence, it should be interdisciplinary and that Scottish studies should run throughout all subjects. How is that going and what is happening to monitor the effectiveness of introducing Scottish studies across the curriculum?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

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
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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
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YesCarried

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

S4M-11116 Johann Lamont: Scotland’s Future—That the Parliament recognises the result of the independ
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YesCarried

Amendment 61 moved by Elaine Murray on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland) Bi
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NoDefeated

Amendment 62 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
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NoDefeated

Amendment 63 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Amendment 64 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Joan McAlpine
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11150: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08987: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09405: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09341: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08990: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08709: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08705: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08592: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08577: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Burrell Collection (Lending and Borrowing) (Scotland) Bill Committee, Date Lodged: 11/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08295: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Joan McAlpine
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03603: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22755: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03572: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03549: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03414: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/06/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03314: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03271: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/05/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-20621: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/04/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03095: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/03/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03007: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 05/03/2014 Show Full Question >>

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