Liam McArthur MSP

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Member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

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Meeting of the Parliament 20 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I, too, thank Jim Eadie not just for the motion and for securing the debate but for the passionate and eloquent way in which he set the tone and the scene for the debate. I join him and others in expressing my gratitude and that of my party to Mercy Corps for all that it does on behalf of some of the most needy communities and people around the world. The team that is based in Scotland, which does truly remarkable work in more than 30 countries around the world, should be a source of pride for us all.

Malcolm Chisholm was right to put his finger on the flexibility of Mercy Corps and the local solutions that it is committed to introducing, as that approach is very much at the root of the organisation’s success. It often moves from urgent recovery into longer-term resilience, which must be the ultimate objective of international aid.

Linda Fabiani mentioned the modesty of Mercy Corps. I think that it would be at pains to point out that it is part of a wider effort and network. We are truly blessed in the efforts that many organisations do on our behalf internationally. There is no doubt that that effort has never been more necessary, as we are now seeing the highest number of refugees at any point since the second world war.

I recall a debate that I think took place three years ago, which again was led by my friend Jim Eadie, on the crisis in Syria. A number of colleagues participated in that. It was suggested then that the number of refugees coming out of the conflict in Syria was the highest of any conflict. Nobody will need reminding that the situation in that country has deteriorated abysmally since then.

Although the pressure of numbers creates challenges, this is not simply a numbers game. Mercy Corps made clear to me in correspondence the challenges that are presented by what it calls complex humanitarian emergencies, in which the impact of conflict is real for not just those who are directly affected but those who seek to deliver help to people in those communities.

David Torrance mentioned the situation in Malawi and pointed out that we are not talking just about areas of conflict. The complexity comes from natural disasters, too. I will join the Deputy Presiding Officer and James Dornan on a visit to Malawi next month, which is timely. We will see for ourselves the immediate effects of the floods—the disease risk and so on—and the longer-term risks to infrastructure and the like.

I am very grateful to the First Minister for her response to Patricia Ferguson at First Minister’s question time last week. That commitment is greatly to be welcomed and follows a long legacy of commitment to international development that ministers of different political persuasions have shown over the duration of the Parliament.

Recently we have seen the reaction to not just the Malawian floods but hurricane Haiyan, the Ebola situation in west Africa and conflicts such as those in Syria, Gaza and elsewhere. Financial support is important and members were absolutely right to point to the wider significance of the United Kingdom Government’s international aid efforts—I am particularly proud of the coalition Government’s commitment to delivering 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product in aid—and the wider international effort. However, we in Scotland also have expertise that we can deploy internationally, and the actions of ministers and parliamentarians here can publicise and raise awareness of the efforts of Mercy Corps.

As we move from the millennium goals to the principles of leaving no one behind, there is a call for us to take a more strategic approach to international aid. Jim Eadie and others pointed to the principles of addressing climate change, gender equality, human rights and democracy. All those things need to be fed into our approach, although I would be a little wary of an approach that tried to spread our influence too widely, as ultimately that could dilute it.

I thank Jim Eadie again for allowing the debate to take place and I congratulate Mercy Corps on its 35th anniversary. I wish it all the best in the desperately difficult but absolutely critical work that it does on our behalf.

17:43  

Meeting of the Parliament 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
10. Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

To ask the Scottish Government how often the short-life working group on heart failure has met and what conclusions it has reached regarding strengthening the role of heart failure nurses. (S4O-03890)



Meeting of the Parliament 14 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Liam McArthur

I thank the minister for her response and belatedly welcome her to her post. She will be aware that Orkney is the only area in the country without a heart failure nurse, which is an issue that I raised in the chamber back in 2013. It is also a concern of the Orkney heart support group, which has been in regular contact with NHS Orkney. The board accepts that a heart failure nurse would be cost effective and beneficial to patients and could reduce hospital readmissions. Will the minister agree to engage with the board to see whether it can include the appointment of a heart failure nurse in Orkney in its delivery plan for the coming year?



Education and Culture Committee 13 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

First, convener, I apologise for my late arrival, which was due to flight delays.

As I said in the debate on time to shine, I very much welcome the strategy, and it is encouraging to hear the positive messages. However, I was struck by the remarks in Mark Sheridan’s submission about sustainability and the risk with two-yearly reviews that, as in other areas, we will be tempted to dig up the roots to see whether the plant’s growth is fine, to little effect and with the potential to damage the structure that has been put in place. Are you confident that the review structure contains benchmarks along the way and that we will not be in effect doing handbrake turns every two years to try to deal with any issues that might arise?



Education and Culture Committee 13 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Liam McArthur

That is helpful. Kenny McGlashan mentioned that the strategy is also about developing and enriching networks and connections and about developing creative ways of bringing together what is already happening or opening up opportunities to those who do not have them at the moment.

I do not want to get overly hung up about the hub structure, but people will forgive me if I say that the islands are perhaps conspicuous by their absence from it. The Borders and Dumfries and Galloway are also notable for not being included. During the debate, I asked Fiona Hyslop how we can build the networks and develop the young person input in areas where there is no hub. I am not sure that I got an answer. Do those at the coalface have a view about how to reach beyond the regions where the hubs are based?



Education and Culture Committee 13 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Liam McArthur

I think that Mark Sheridan alluded to my next point. The area that I represent—Orkney—has a vibrant arts, cultural and music scene in which young people play an integral part. The issue is understanding better how that links with regional and national organisations.

Although those who are excluded can be excluded for many reasons, including social and economic reasons, there are also issues of rurality. It would be helpful to understand whether, as part of the strategy, it is recognised that many people with a wide variety of talents find themselves distant from where it is appropriate, sensible or reasonable to coalesce and deliver courses or whatever. Does the strategy pick up on support for travel and accommodation for people who are not necessarily at the poorest end of the spectrum but for whom it is prohibitively expensive to go away for multiple weeks or for a year-long course?



Meeting of the Parliament 13 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

Like Gavin Brown, I belatedly congratulate Keith Brown on his promotion. I also welcome the Labour front-bench members to their new positions.

I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate. I put on record the gratitude and respect of me and the Scottish Liberal Democrats for the vital contribution that is made by all those who work in the public sector in Scotland. I need no persuading that making that contribution has been more difficult in recent times, in the face of the need to bring the country’s finances back under control and tackle the legacy of debt. That has presented enormous challenges and continues to create pressures, not least for those who work to deliver our public services. However, meeting those challenges is made no easier by the SNP Government’s obsession with independence, which leads it to characterise support for Scotland remaining a part of the UK as somehow anti-public service.

We have heard it implied again today that an independent Scotland would—miraculously—be immune from the need to rein in public spending, although the Government’s fiscal commission has advised that matching the UK’s deficit reduction path would be required. World oil prices have fallen to half the level that they were at when the Government’s white paper was published, which leaves an even bigger black hole at the heart of the SNP’s assertions and which would almost inevitably require deeper cuts in public services.

Another tragedy of the SNP’s self-delusion, through which everything that is difficult is always somebody else’s fault, is that it ignores the reality of what is happening now in our public services and removes the responsibility to do anything to improve the situation. What has been happening on the SNP’s watch? The Royal College of Nursing recently reported that staff at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had expressed concerns that they had too few staff and too little equipment to look after patients properly.

NHS Grampian, too, has been in crisis because of a lack of funding—a situation to which ministers belatedly woke up earlier this week, having taken their eye off the ball for years. The damage caused by that inaction is real. It has affected staff, patients and the wider community in the north-east as well as in the islands that I represent, where my constituents rely heavily on specialist services and treatment that NHS Grampian provides.



Meeting of the Parliament 13 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Liam McArthur

It is funny how there has been a revelation for the SNP with a general election pending. I have been told for years about the underfunding of NHS Grampian and have witnessed the crisis that has unfolded. [Interruption.]



Meeting of the Parliament 13 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Liam McArthur

In our schools, teachers have been put under enormous strain. No one could argue that last year’s roll-out of the new exams under the curriculum for excellence was textbook. The Educational Institute of Scotland repeatedly warned of the effect that the additional workload and the uncertainty were having on teachers as well as pupils and their parents.

Meanwhile, last week we had confirmation that the Government has again failed to honour its commitments on primary school class sizes and teacher numbers. Those failures make life much more difficult for people who work in that key public sector and people who rely on it.

The Scottish Government already has a full range of powers over education and health policy and budgets. SNP ministers cannot duck the consequences of the decisions that they have chosen to make. They might wish to say that a big boy did it and ran away, but blaming Mr Salmond does not absolve them of the responsibility to face up to the choices that any and every Government has to make.

For example, it is perfectly legitimate for ministers to boast about the continued freeze on council tax, but only if, at the same time, they accept the effect that it has on councils’ ability to meet the demands that are made of them for a wide range of services and if ministers acknowledge that the freeze, which everybody knows benefits most the people who live in the largest houses—it is an asymmetric benefit, if you will—means that less money is available for other priorities, including measures that are targeted at the people who are most in need.

The other nonsense that the SNP trots out is that it has no truck with the private sector helping to deliver public services. For sound, pragmatic reasons, that has never been the case, despite protestations over the past eight years. In that time, ministers have been so happy for Kilmarnock prison to be run by a private operator that they have subsequently offered the same private operator—Serco—a contract to run lifeline ferry services to Orkney and Shetland.

Our health services have long involved private operators as partners that carry out specific operations and treatments, as well as helping to achieve Government targets on, for example, dental provision. The truth is that the SNP has presided over annual increases in the amount of public money that is spent on private providers in the health service—that is now to the tune of more than £400 million.

For all the talk today and in the motion about the UK Government’s austerity agenda, the fact remains that Barnett consequentials from protected health and education spending have allowed the Scottish Government to plough spending increases into key public services if it wishes. A further £238 million will come to Scotland courtesy of the autumn statement. If we add to that the significant underspend that Mr Swinney has admitted to running up, the assertions from the SNP are even more nonsensical.

Moreover, the economic course that the coalition Government has taken has put the UK’s finances back on track. Liberal Democrats have anchored the economic policy in the centre ground. From that security for the future, we can build quality public services that are affordable and sustainable into the long term. We should contrast that with the prospectus that is offered by the nationalists, who still appear intent on pursuing independence by the back door.

The SNP took its eye off the ball in the pursuit of independence—an obsession that remains for many of its members—so we will not take lectures from it on public services. The Liberal Democrats have helped to protect those services in Scotland by balancing spending and borrowing to allow continued movement from economic rescue to recovery. That is the best and most robust foundation on which to build a strong economy and a fairer society that can deliver high-quality public services and opportunity for all.

I move amendment S4M-12034.1, to leave out from “including an increase” to end and insert:

“; notes the recent concern expressed by health professionals regarding pressure on the NHS, particularly accident and emergency services and the lack of sufficient resources to ensure parity between the treatment of physical and mental ill-health; further notes that some NHS boards have still to reach parity through the NHS Scotland Resource Allocation Committee formula and that Aberdeen and Edinburgh City councils are still receiving under the 85% floor for revenue allocations; understands that the Scottish Government will benefit from additional funding of £238 million through to 2015-16 as a result of spending decisions taken by the UK Government in the Autumn Statement 2014; notes that the Scottish Government’s Fiscal Commission Working Group advised it to match the trajectory of UK deficit reduction even beyond the 2015 general election; further notes the Scottish Government’s continuing underspend on day-to-day services, and believes that the best platform to achieve a strong economy and a fair society best able to deliver high quality public services and opportunity for everyone is from an economy anchored in the centre ground, with spending and borrowing balanced to allow continued movement from economic rescue to recovery.”

15:04  

Meeting of the Parliament 13 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Liam McArthur

I even let him intervene!

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

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

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

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

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
YesDefeated

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

Selection of John Pentland MSP for appointment to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body.
YesCarried

S4M-12060.2 Hugh Henry: Commending the People who Keep Scotland Safe in Emergencies—As an amendment
>> Show more
NoDefeated

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 Liam McArthur
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12061: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 13/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12044: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 12/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12034.1: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 12/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12031: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 09/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12030: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 09/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11940: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11900: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 15/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11794: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 03/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11713: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11691: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 25/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Liam McArthur
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03961: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 19/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03890: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4T-00880: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23787: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 22/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23785: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 22/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23786: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 22/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23784: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 22/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23781: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 22/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23782: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 22/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23783: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 22/12/2014 Show Full Question >>

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