Liam McArthur MSP

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Member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

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Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

The cabinet secretary is right to point to the resounding success of those events. It has been suggested to me, however, that because of the sponsorship relationships at the Commonwealth games, opportunities for Scottish food and drink producers were more limited than we had hoped earlier in the year. Will he comment on that?



Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Liam McArthur

Jean Urquhart will be aware that Professor Anne Glover, who is the former scientific adviser to the Scottish Government and, until recently, the scientific adviser to the European Commission, has had her services dispensed with in large part because of the position that she took on GM. Does Jean Urquhart support or regret that decision?



Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Liam McArthur

Does Jean Urquhart regret the decision to dispense with the chief scientific adviser to the European Commission largely on the basis of the stance that she took in relation to GM?



Meeting of the Parliament 20 November 2014 : Thursday, November 20, 2014
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

After that, the chances of Mike MacKenzie keeping the increase in his waistline to less than 2 inches in the next few months are limited. The advisability of at least three drams before lunch time is also open to question.

Like others, I welcome the debate. I welcome the sentiments that the cabinet secretary expressed, not least in pointing up the paradox of the natural resources that we have at our disposal and the issues that we face on diet—I include myself in that.

The cabinet secretary is right—we are all right—to acknowledge the success of the Government and the strategy. It would be slightly disingenuous to adopt a year-zero approach; it is fair to acknowledge the work of his predecessor, my colleague Ross Finnie, in developing the strategy for agriculture, which was a necessary precursor to the valuable strategy on food and drink. I will perhaps touch on that later.

Those of us who were at the VisitScotland reception last night had not only a demonstration of the interconnection between tourism and the food and drink sector but an indicator of the quality, confidence and success that characterise the sector. I see evidence of that locally, as Mike MacKenzie mentioned—I will come on to that—but it is evident at a national level, too.

It is not difficult to see why that is the case. Other members have commented on the briefing from the Bank of Scotland, which illustrates the extent of the success against a backdrop of challenging economic circumstances. The sector has weathered the storm. It grew to £13.1 billion last year, and everyone expects 2014 to be a highly successful year.

The food and drink sector is the largest manufacturing sector and is clearly ambitious to grow further, not least through the export market. That applies as much to microbusinesses and SMEs as to the largest manufacturers. The signals are all very good.

As I said, it is difficult to see how we could have a food and drink strategy without an agriculture strategy. The National Farmers Union Scotland’s briefing suggests:

“without farmers, a Good Food Nation simply would not exist.”

I do not think that any of us would dispute that. Farmers and crofters across the country grow the crops, fruit and vegetables and raise the livestock that underpin our food system. They are working to improve the environmental and welfare standards. As Claire Baker suggested, it is hoped that increased consumer awareness about those issues will translate into greater success for quality-assured produce, whether through the Scotch beef, Scotch lamb and red tractor marks or whatever else.

There are challenges, too, as we would expect. In tough economic times, it is perhaps no surprise that consumers revert to buying on the basis of price. Alex Rowley made a number of pertinent points on that. One hopes that, as wages start to rise, that issue will begin to be addressed.

The NFU has pointed to concerns that the proposed food commission risks duplication and overlap with other regulators and advisory bodies, but we will wait to see the details. There are challenges, too, for the retail sector. As the NFU makes clear, our supermarkets’ actions

“can influence consumer behaviour, diet profiles and also the sustainability of supply chains.”

The good food nation requires sustainable pricing to be embedded in supply chains.

Unfairness in the supply chain not only hurts businesses but runs the risk of stifling investment. The setting up of a grocery code of practice and appointment of an adjudicator are welcome innovations at UK level, not to promote a confrontational relationship between retailers and primary producers but, I hope, to encourage a more positive and constructive relationship. It would be wrong of us to lay all the blame at the supermarkets’ doors. They help to promote and sell upwards of £10 billion-worth of Scottish food and drink to the rest of the UK, which remains our largest market.

I turn briefly to the local situation, which is a microcosm of what is happening nationally. I commend Orkney Food and Drink’s work and particularly Edgar Balfour’s personal efforts. The food and drink awards in Orkney have been initiated. I hope that they continue and that success is celebrated locally. Exemplars include top-quality beef, lamb and seafood; Orkney cheese and ice cream; Stockan’s oatcakes; fudge; Orkney preserves; Highland Park whisky and Scapa whisky; and the Orkney brewery and Swannay brewery. All are award winners and are ambitious to grow and to meet the demand locally, nationally and internationally.

The cabinet secretary was right to say that he would not rest on his laurels and that he would look at what further support could be provided. I welcome that and I offer examples. The high costs pointed out in the Bank of Scotland briefing are an all-too-evident challenge that faces isles-based businesses. Transport and energy, as well as poor broadband connections, come up repeatedly.

On ferry services, there are concerns that Orkney producers are not entitled to access the road equivalent tariff, unlike those in the Western Isles. As Edgar Balfour said:

“we do not benefit from RET and find it hard to understand why there is this distinction between island communities.”

On air services, we have seen cuts to the air discount scheme. Orkney Food and Drink points out:

“The cost, for Orkney food and drink businesses, of doing business in the UK is expensive in any case—without making the first leg of the journey even more expensive.”

The cabinet secretary might want to reflect on and take on board those issues.

On postal services, we need to take seriously the Royal Mail’s warnings. On skills, Claire Baker’s amendment points to issues that not only young people but people of all ages face, which involve attaining the skills to keep them in and raise the quality of the sector, which they might need to go off-island to secure.

On food labelling—the Bank of Scotland raised that—perhaps I can follow up the issues with the cabinet secretary.

Locally and nationally, the food and drink sector is a success story. We should recognise and celebrate that and thank and support all those across the sector who are achieving that success. In the year of food and drink 2015, and to fall foul of the cabinet secretary’s paradox, I very much look forward to microbrewery month.

15:29  

Meeting of the Parliament 18 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I join my colleagues in congratulating Alex Fergusson on securing the debate. As others have testified, his commitment to and passionate support for the links between the Parliament and Scotland and Malawi is a matter of record, to the point where he has been prepared to be Annie Lennox’s bag carrier, which is above and beyond the call of duty for most Presiding Officers.

Like Patricia Ferguson, Maureen Watt and Alex Fergusson, I have felt very fortunate in being able, in my role as an MSP, to develop my own links with Malawi, often born of the links that community groups, schools and others in my constituency have fostered over the years. A lot of excellent work has been developed, whether in education, health or economic development. MUMs is a project that I was less familiar with. In that sense, today’s debate serves a further useful purpose.

Raising awareness is the easy bit. As Alex Fergusson made clear in his opening remarks, the really remarkable work of what he called the “true angels” is the hard stuff. Much has been said about Linda McDonald. If someone can get Mike Pringle to do what they ask, where on earth were they when we needed a Liberal Democrat chief whip in previous parliamentary sessions? The same applies to Charity Salima—she and Linda McDonald do the sort of work that humbles all of us. Alex Fergusson was right to pay eloquent tribute to that.

I was on the same visit to Malawi as Maureen Watt back in 2011. One of the more striking aspects of that trip was our visit to a settlement on the outskirts of Lilongwe to visit a mother who had been diagnosed as HIV positive during a previous visit by a Scottish Parliament delegation. Truth be told, no one really expected her still to be alive in 2011. It was therefore remarkable to see the recovery that she had made. That was evidence that things were coming together and moving in the right direction: there had been investment in education, and the fertiliser programme was ensuring that markets at least had the food that could support the antiretroviral programme.

It is too easy to succumb to a counsel of despair, which is why, as Patricia Ferguson suggested, we should not lose sight of the fact that some projects are delivering real benefits here and now. Although there is still an awful lot to do, that should give us confidence that the interventions that we are making work.

Despite that progress, the figures are bleak. Life expectancy in Malawi is still around 37 years; the maternal death rate is still eight in every 1,000; one child in 10 dies before the age of 10; and every week two nurses die from HIV, which parallels the issue with the attrition rate among teachers, where the number of teachers passing away due to HIV/AIDS is undermining efforts to build capacity in the school sector. The figures are a source of real concern and underscore the need for projects such as MUMs and the work that is done by Linda McDonald, Charity Salima and their colleagues.

The objectives of that work are that Malawi’s children should be well nourished and have educational opportunities; that all mothers should have safe and caring maternity provision; that nurses who have AIDS, who are at risk of contracting AIDS or who are simply concerned about the risk of contracting AIDS should be supported; and that we should ensure that we work closely with local communities to give them the confidence and the capacity to help themselves. We should support all those objectives, and we should raise awareness of the work and encourage others to support it.

Last year, the McArthur family agreed to forego a few presents at Christmas in order to adopt a snow leopard. This year, I can think of no better cause than supporting Linda McDonald and MUMs towards their target of £15,000 to complete their clinic before the end of the year.

Immortalising things on plaques seems to be very much in the zeitgeist of the week but, in conclusion, I congratulate Alex Fergusson on securing the debate and I promise to see him afterwards to settle my debt. I offer my thanks to the “true angels” who are doing so much good work in the warm heart of Africa.

17:26  

Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

Serco’s latest profit warning this week in confirmation that it is writing down £1.5 billion in losses on various public contracts comes as a result of what its chief executive suggested were two strategic mis-steps: diversifying away from core business; and focusing too much on winning new business. One example of both is the contract awarded to Serco by the Scottish ministers in 2012 to provide ferry services to the Northern Isles.

Given this week’s revelations, what reassurance can the First Minister offer my constituents that there will be no knock-on impact on Serco’s ability to continue delivering lifeline ferry services to the communities that Tavish Scott and I represent? Will the Scottish Government review the way that the contract was tendered to ensure that each bid was considered appropriately and that each bidder was offering something that they could deliver?



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Liam McArthur (Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body)

In 2009, the financial scrutiny unit was set up by the Scottish Parliament information centre to support the committees and individual members to understand and scrutinise the Scottish budget.

With pressures on public finances and with new tax powers on their way to the Parliament, financial scrutiny is a vital function of the Parliament. I thank Cara Hilton for her question, not least because it will allow me to highlight the recent development of some online interactive tools that are now available on the Parliament’s website and that will assist all members.

One tool uses graphics to allow members to explore the budget at a very detailed level—right down to level 4—and to see year-to-year changes at a glance; and another tool allows members and, indeed, members of the public to vary rates, bands and some of the underlying assumptions in relation to the new land and buildings transactions tax. I think that the SPCB would very much welcome feedback from members and, indeed, the public on how useful they find those innovations.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Liam McArthur

That is a valid question that I think many have been asking.

I think that we will have to await the outcome of the Smith commission before we progress any more specific work on the new powers and the consequences and implications for the Parliament and its committees. Having said that, SPICe provided briefings on a number of fiscal and welfare issues during the pre-referendum period and has already built up considerable expertise. SPICe will also tap into expertise available outside the Parliament, including in our universities and internationally. However, we will obviously keep the matter under constant review over the coming months.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Liam McArthur (Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body)

The SPCB discussed the expenses scheme’s transitional arrangements in respect of members employing close family members at its meeting on 4 June 2014 and it agreed to return to the issue later in the year. I reassure the member that the SPCB will, of course, ensure that any decision that it makes complies with the relevant legislation.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 November 2014 : Thursday, November 13, 2014
Liam McArthur

I certainly understand the background to Mr Brodie’s question. It is worth reflecting on the fact that the McIntosh review contained recommendations for a transitional provision that was intended to allow the existing arrangements for any family member of staff who had been employed to continue until three months after the date of the next Scottish Parliament elections. Of course, the date for the next election has been moved by 12 months, and the corporate body is actively considering how to give effect to the intention that the transitional scheme should run until three months after the next election. It is a matter that we will return to.

As for the support that will be provided to anyone who is affected by the decision, the corporate body will be cognisant of its responsibilities in that respect and will provide any appropriate support that we can. I should, however, underscore the fact that the McIntosh review’s recommendations on this matter were subject to legal advice and we are confident that any recommendation from the corporate body will be consistent with any relevant legal requirements that are placed upon us.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

S4M-11567.2 Margaret Mitchell: Lowering the Drink Drive Limit—As an amendment to motion S4M-11567 in
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NoCarried

S4M-11507.1 Cameron Buchanan: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11494.3 Jackie Baillie: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Liam McArthur
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11304.1: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10777.1: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 12/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10718: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 04/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10717: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 04/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10263: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 09/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10417: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 19/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10320: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10147.2: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 28/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10148: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 27/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10116: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Liam McArthur
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-23364: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23365: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03743: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 17/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23116: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 12/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23080: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 07/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23081: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 07/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23079: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 07/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03682: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 03/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22637: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 30/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22636: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 30/09/2014 Show Full Question >>

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