Lewis Macdonald MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Lewis Macdonald (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Nobody who knows him will be surprised that Mr Ewing used the word “cautious” four times in his short statement—an advance copy of which I thank him for—but the most important words that he used were

“we need to do more.”

Indeed, the Scottish Government needs to do much more if it is to meet public concern about the issue.

Labour has pressed for early devolution of licensing powers following the Smith agreement—[Interruption.]



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Lewis Macdonald

The response of some of those behind the minister is very revealing indeed: it shows how selective they are in the way that they have followed this issue.

As I have said, we have pressed for the early devolution of licensing powers, but the key issue is how ministers use the planning and environmental consent powers that they already have. Despite his instinct for caution, therefore, will the minister add some more to what he has to say about those issues?

Labour at Westminster added 13 specific conditions—[Interruption.]



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Lewis Macdonald

Members would do well to listen to what I have to say—



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Lewis Macdonald

—so that they can be a little better informed in dealing with these issues.

Labour has added to the Infrastructure Bill 13 specific conditions that must be met before consent can be given to fracking, and 10 of those conditions relate to devolved areas. Will the Scottish Government endorse those 13 conditions to ensure that the consents regime in Scotland is at least as tough as that in the rest of the United Kingdom?

Will the minister today match Scottish Labour’s commitment that Scotland will not be the first to frack in the UK and that fracking will not happen here until lessons have been learned from elsewhere? Finally, will the Scottish Government now agree that no fracking project can proceed without the support of a local community expressed in a local referendum?



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Lewis Macdonald (North East Scotland) (Lab)

The Deputy First Minister will be aware of the increasing surcharges on the delivery of packages and parcels by a number of private companies, specifically in the north of Scotland, and not only in the Highlands and Islands but in the rural north-east. Does he agree that the UK command paper now gives Scottish ministers the powers that they need to require, on the same basis as a UK minister of the Crown, a full investigation of competition issues specific to Scotland? Does he agree that those new powers should be used to tackle discriminatory surcharging at the earliest opportunity?



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Lewis Macdonald (North East Scotland) (Lab)

Does the minister agree that there is a case to be made for forgiveness of Scottish-level taxation in the circumstances that he describes, as well as for forgiveness or relief on taxes that are due to HMRC?



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Lewis Macdonald (North East Scotland) (Lab)

The debate is timely, because the Scottish economy is facing the threat of thousands of job losses as a result of the falling price of oil. Partnership action for continuing employment clearly has a part to play in responding to that threat, but PACE is not enough on its own. That is why Scottish Labour’s amendment proposes a resilience fund to strengthen the response to economic shocks at a local level.

We recognise the role of PACE, and I echo the minister’s comments about the personal qualities of the staff in the PACE teams. We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has brought forward a debate on a report on PACE that was published in June of last year.

The news release at the time—which had the headline “Scottish Government PACE initiative five years on”—told us that

“the Scottish Government established the PACE Partnership”

in response to the economic downturn

“In June 2009”.

At first glance, that might seem curious, given that the first-year review of PACE was published by the then Scottish Executive 14 years ago, and that PACE was launched under that name in March 2000 but, of course, ministers know that they did not invent PACE, and that what we are debating is an initiative that is almost as old as devolution itself. However, it is true, as Mr Ewing said, that PACE has been around in its current form only since 2009, and that the changes that were made then were more than simply a minor rebranding for public relations purposes.

Last year’s report highlighted enhancements from a continuous improvement programme that included a PACE helpline, a new data capture system, an evaluation framework and improved support in a number of fields for people who are made redundant. Helplines and data capture systems can be very significant, but the most substantial changes that have been made to PACE, in comparison with its operation a decade ago, have been to who leads the partnership action and to the scope of ambition on continuing employment.

When it was first established, PACE was seen as an economic intervention tool, the role of which was to bring together Government agencies to protect existing jobs as part of a wider approach to supporting the productive economy. That is why Labour’s amendment highlights the original remit of identifying companies or sectors that are in difficulty at an early stage; promoting partnership working between public sector agencies and private companies to mitigate that difficulty and avoid job losses; and, when that joint working fails to avoid job losses, working to get people back into employment as quickly as possible.

Because PACE’s role was originally about the wider economy, the lead was taken by the enterprise agencies, and the real strength of PACE in its first few years was that leadership and delivery were provided by local response teams that brought together the local enterprise company, the local council and the then equivalent of Jobcentre Plus. Local enterprise companies were done away with in the Scottish National Party’s first term, and local response teams are no longer under the aegis of the enterprise agencies, although, as the minister said, PACE now encompasses the business gateway. Instead, Skills Development Scotland leads on the delivery of PACE on behalf of the Scottish Government, and that shift of focus is reflected in the Government’s motion.

The motion describes

“helping those made redundant gain other employment or opportunities”

as the core function of PACE, rather than as one of a number of equally important tasks, as was the case in its original remit.

Getting unemployed people in those circumstances into jobs is rightly a very high priority on which the national skills agency should provide a lead, but the original vision that inspired the creation of PACE was also a vision of preventing those redundancies from happening in the first place. Prevention is better than cure; indeed, the Government has said that it is in favour of preventative spend rather than simply picking up the pieces. The Government’s ambition must be about continuing employment for whole sectors and workforces, and not only about enabling individuals to find alternative jobs, highly important though that is.

All the agencies and organisations that are involved in PACE are doing their best to help, but we believe that the Government needs to look at the bigger picture. The Government, or the enterprise agencies on its behalf, should assess the effectiveness of early intervention to prevent redundancies to see whether the change of focus over the past five years has reduced the ability of public agencies to prevent redundancy situations from arising in the first place.



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Lewis Macdonald

I do not doubt that the will and the good intention exist; the question is how far the enterprise network is able to deliver early intervention, given the strength of focus on post-redundancy situations.

For example, what has taken the place of the local enterprise companies in providing early warning or local intelligence of what is going on in the local economy? How far are local trade unions or, indeed, local employers engaged on a routine basis in sharing their knowledge of risks or threats to local jobs? We need to know whether the appetite or the capacity to address risks that have not yet become threats has been significantly affected by moving PACE from having an enterprise focus to having a skills development focus.

For all those reasons and given new threats to jobs in the Scottish economy, the Scottish Government should look again at PACE’s role and remit to see whether it is fit for purpose, rather than simply saying that we need to do more of the same.

The most serious new threat to jobs in Scotland is posed by the prospect of low oil prices over an extended period, of course. In the view of some in the sector, they will possibly be low for as long as two or three years. Yesterday, Aker Solutions followed Chevron, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and Talisman Sinopec in announcing hundreds of further job losses in Aberdeen and across the UK.



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Lewis Macdonald

In a sense, the point that I am making is that it is not simply about picking up the pieces when a company goes bust; it is about intervening to assist sectors by using early intelligence—it is about making such interventions.

As Mr Allard will know, besides the headline figures of hundreds of jobs going at major oil companies, many other jobs have gone quietly in many of the smaller companies in the sector. We need an assessment of the impact of those job losses on the wider economy before we can make a sensible estimate of how many thousands of jobs have already gone and how many more are at risk.

My question is this: how far has PACE contributed to anticipating or mitigating the loss of jobs in the oil sector in the north-east and beyond? The Scottish Government certainly seemed to underestimate the impact of the falling price of oil on the Scottish economy for a long time and to regard it as merely cyclical or a blip rather than as a serious threat to future production and employment.

We welcome the offer to protect oil industry apprenticeships, of course, but it is worth noting that all the companies that have announced major redundancies so far have gone out of their way to avoid including apprentices in those who are losing their jobs. We welcome the establishment of a task group, but it is critical that it makes serious proposals very quickly.

As the minister acknowledged, Labour’s amendment promotes one such proposal—to establish a resilience fund as part of the next Scottish budget. Just as a local council that is faced with an environmental shock such as major flooding can apply for extra funding under the Bellwin scheme, so a local council that is faced with a sudden and unforeseen economic shock could apply to the Scottish Government for support from such a resilience fund. It could then use that funding to make a real contribution to local economic resilience, for example by providing short-term rates relief to help supply chain companies survive an initial economic shock.

It seems to us that a budget of £10 million would be enough to get such a fund under way and to make a difference, for example in areas that are affected by the current position in the oil industry. However, the resilience fund would not be specific to any one region or sector. It would be part of a renewed PACE and would be an additional tool for partner agencies to use to anticipate and, where possible, prevent job losses in their local area.

If ministers were to take that proposal on board through the budget process, we would of course work with them to set the right criteria and conditions to get real added value from such an additional fund.



Meeting of the Parliament 27 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Lewis Macdonald

Mr Ingram is absolutely right. The coalfields, particularly in East Ayrshire, are a very good example of exactly why a fund should happen. If he is chiding me for not coming to this sooner, I hope that he will chide his front bench as well and ensure that ministers now get behind the proposal and ensure that what was not done two years ago is done now and can make a difference.

We will continue to support partnership action for continuing employment and its work not just after redundancy but in seeking to prevent redundancy, in line with its original remit and purpose when it was set up 15 years ago. I hope that we can work with members of other parties to ensure that every mechanism that can help us to do that is in place.

To that end, I move amendment S4M-12154.1, to leave out from “considers” to end and insert:

“recognises that PACE was originally created with a remit to ensure the early identification of company or sector difficulties, to undertake partnership working with companies in order to mitigate difficulty and, only where redundancies are inevitable, get people back into jobs as quickly as possible; recognises that more needs to be done to support companies, sectors and regions faced with sudden economic shocks and difficulties to avoid or reduce the number of job losses; agrees that the work of PACE should be reviewed in order to identify where more pro-active interventions can be made at an earlier stage, and calls for the establishment of a resilience fund to assist with these efforts with an initial budget of £10 million in 2015-16.”

15:52  
Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12160.2 Michael Matheson: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Kez
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AbstainCarried

S4M-12160.3 Margaret Mitchell: Women Offenders—As an amendment to motion S4M-12160 in the name of Ke
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12160 Kezia Dugdale: Women Offenders—That the Parliament welcomes the decision of the Scottish G
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-12154.1 Lewis Macdonald: Partnership Action for Continuing Employment (PACE) – Supporting Indivi
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12120.1 Jenny Marra: 2020 Vision, the Strategic Forward Direction of the NHS—As an amendment to
>> Show more
YesDefeated

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
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12095.2 Alex Johnstone: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12095.1 Willie Rennie: Tackling Inequalities—As an amendment to motion S4M-12095 in the name of
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-12095 Alex Neil: Tackling Inequalities—That the Parliament agrees that a strong, sustainable eco
>> Show more
Not VotedCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Lewis Macdonald
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12196: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12154.1: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12059: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12027: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12024: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 09/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11922: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11747: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11525: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11505: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11500: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Lewis Macdonald
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03996: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 28/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24065: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24066: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24014: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24013: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24012: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24011: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24010: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 14/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23682: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03825: Lewis Macdonald, North East Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 10/12/2014 Show Full Question >>

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