Liam McArthur MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Liam McArthur

There is a real need to focus on using the powers that we have, as well as those that come from the Smith commission, to build a stronger economy, a fairer society and, crucially, opportunity for all our young people.

16:12  

Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Liam McArthur

The SNP’s raid on college budgets is having a direct impact on young people’s pockets. Students need the bursary funding to help them to manage the cost of living while studying. Without it, they either take on more debt or drop out, and the situation is starting to cut into efforts to broaden access. We are also seeing colleges struggling to meet additional support needs. In discussing college mergers, Colleges Scotland states:

“the consequent reductions in staffing levels have made the provision of good quality support much harder to achieve”.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Liam McArthur

I think that the member made her point earlier, and I am running out of time.



Meeting of the Parliament 17 December 2014 : Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I, too, welcome this debate on developing Scotland’s young workforce. I congratulate, albeit in absentia, Roseanna Cunningham on her promotion, as I do Annabelle Ewing, and I offer her an apology for earlier intemperate remarks.

As others have observed, the Wood commission’s report contained a comprehensive series of recommendations, but in publishing the report back in June, Sir Ian Wood also set out in very stark terms the challenges that we face, in that thousands of our young people are not in work or education and are wondering whether their community has any need for them. Fewer than 30 per cent of Scottish businesses have any contact with education to offer work experience opportunities or to recruit young people directly, and only 13 per cent of employers have modern apprentices.

Very deliberately, Sir Ian Wood set out a challenge to not just the public and voluntary sectors but the private sector to up their game. Of course, there are examples of companies that are doing precisely that. I am not sure whether Standard Life is back on the Government’s Christmas card list yet, but the cabinet secretary might wish to find out more about that company’s investment 2020 programme, which offers 12-month traineeships for successful applicants and can boast 100 per cent positive destinations for them, most of which are within Standard Life, whose business unit directors are now queuing up to take on trainees. The programme also helps to address an age profile in the company that was a source of real concern over the medium to longer term.

Standard Life’s programme is a good illustration of how transition from education into training and work can be made smoother. Gaining better vocational skills while in education and the opportunity to upskill even after leaving education are all part of the picture, which means that schools, colleges, employers, public sector agencies and Government all need to be involved.

I do not think that there is any lack of shared ambition for Scotland’s young people to have the opportunity of sustainable employment and the skills that they need to succeed in it now and in the future, but that ambition must be translated more effectively and less patchily into practical reality.

On the plus side, I welcome not only the fact that we have been achieving 25,000 modern apprenticeships but the ambition to move to 30,000. However, as I think ministers accept, it is not just a numbers game. The range of companies and sectors that are covered by modern apprenticeships needs to be expanded and the quality of those apprenticeships needs to be safeguarded and, in many cases, improved. Sir Ian Wood and the NUS have picked up on that point. Perhaps the involvement of former modern apprentices will help to make that happen.

I agree with the comments that Roseanna Cunningham made in her opening speech about equality of opportunity. We are seeing a problem addressed there, which is to be welcomed, but Mary Scanlon’s point about STEM also needs to be picked up.

On black and minority ethnic young people, I was struck by the following comment from the Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights:

“The Strategy’s key message with regard to BME young people is that they embark on a narrower range of pathways than young people from the population as a whole, are more likely to experience unemployment and represent less than 2% of all Modern Apprenticeship entrants despite making up 6% of Scotland’s young population.”

There is more to be done there.

Colleges Scotland suggests that, even though colleges deliver more than 20 per cent of current modern apprenticeships, there is a lack of recognition of the role that colleges play—and the role that they might play in future—in delivery. As Neil Findlay and others observed, the Government is conspicuously failing to walk the walk on colleges.

We have heard about the cuts that the sector faces. NUS Scotland’s stop student poverty campaign is calling on the Scottish Government to put in place better measures to fund students throughout their education and to prevent them from falling into poverty. Its action comes a week after figures published by the Scottish funding council showed an £11.2 million shortfall in college student support funds.



Meeting of the Parliament 11 December 2014 : Thursday, December 11, 2014
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

I join others in congratulating Kenneth Gibson on, and thanking him for, bringing the debate to the Parliament.

As Jayne Baxter and Mary Scanlon indicated, the debate follows on from a visit that the Education and Culture Committee made to Falkirk high school earlier in the week. That visit was made in the context of not only the work that we are doing on the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill but work that we plan to do in relation to attainment for deaf children and young people. It was exceptionally helpful in that regard.

Educational outcomes and access to education for deaf children and young people are poor and, as Kenneth Gibson indicated, that rolls on into employment opportunities. It is absolutely right for us to be clear at the outset that, as Dennis Robertson reiterated, there is no reason why the outcomes for deaf children and young people should be any different or why their aspirations should be any less.

That point was reiterated to me in a recent meeting with the National Deaf Children’s Society. I pay personal tribute to the society’s efforts on behalf of deaf children and their families. At that meeting, I was joined by Jonathon Moir—I think that I see him up in the public gallery and I am delighted that he is joining us for the debate—who was able to give a personal perspective on the challenges at school and subsequently with finding employment, which Kenneth Gibson and others outlined. Those were reinforced by the pupils and, indeed, staff whom we met at Falkirk high school earlier this week.

Falkirk Council, in collaboration with Stirling Council, is doing comparatively well but, even there, there are gaps. However, the NDCS has confirmed that there are particular problems with meeting the needs of deaf children and young people in rural areas. It is not necessarily difficult to understand that, and I am sure that the minister will appreciate it more than most. However, I understand that Highland Council might be bucking that trend. I do not know the reasons for that or whether there are lessons that can be learned from it.

A point that was illustrated in some of the briefings for the debate is that any level of deafness can affect attainment—the level does not matter. That was very much in evidence at Falkirk. There was no difference in communication skills between some of the pupils, but their levels of communication and attainment varied enormously.

That also points to the importance of the home environment and providing suitable support there. However, the point has been made that, when it is not detected, mild hearing loss can also result in disruptive behaviour and a reduction in attainment. Therefore, those who are profoundly deaf are not the only ones who need support.

Rachel O’Neill, a lecturer and researcher in deaf education at the University of Edinburgh, has talked about the need to improve school acoustics. I understand that standards exist in England but not yet in Scotland. Bad acoustics will clearly have an effect on all children in a classroom. Perhaps the minister could pursue that.

The importance of early identification has been reiterated by Jonathon Moir, Falkirk high school pupils, the NDCS and Rachel O’Neill. Ms O’Neill suggests that attainment gaps go back to the pre-school differences in language skills.

The Scottish sensory centre has developed early years standards, with the aims of responding to the newborn hearing screening—which is pretty comprehensive—and putting in place programmes of language development, whether for speech, for signing or for a combination of both. Where such measures are used, the results appear to be good, but they are clearly not being implemented across the country.

Education Scotland is not inspecting early years services for deaf children. However, Falkirk high school was very complimentary about its engagement with Education Scotland. One point is that the approach is not systematic enough, and that relates to the point about the qualification of teachers, which Jayne Baxter quite rightly focused on and which we need to get to grips with.

I again thank Kenneth Gibson for bringing this important debate to the chamber. I applaud the work of the National Deaf Children’s Society. While acknowledging that the Scottish Government has made significant strides in a number of areas, I echo the comments of Dennis Robertson that there is clearly much more work that we still need to do.

13:06  

Meeting of the Parliament 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Liam McArthur

Not only have we just heard an example of referendum denial, but that personal attack on Bertie Armstrong was outrageous, and the call for him to be ousted comes in marked contrast to SNP members lining up both to praise him and to quote him in fisheries debates from 2007 onwards.

By and large, however, this has been the usual generally consensual debate, with issues of concern being raised from across the chamber. All members have acknowledged the importance of the sector not just to island communities, such as the one that I represent, and coastal communities, but far beyond. Cara Hilton made that point in her speech, and it was also alluded to by Stewart Stevenson in pointing out the importance of the processing sector. The importance of fisheries is economic, but the resonance of the fishing sector goes far beyond that in the Scottish psyche. It is an importance that cannot be measured simply in pounds and pence, or even in jobs.

The annual negotiations, being the focus of the debate, come against the backdrop of generally encouraging conclusions to the negotiations between the EU and Norway last week. The agreement with the Faroes earlier today was perhaps the best of a bad job, but it definitely still grates with many people who work in the pelagic sector; there is still great anger in the industry.

As we look ahead to next week, there is no doubting the fact that the negotiations look more straightforward than they have in the past, as was acknowledged by the cabinet secretary. He made a valid point, however, about the extreme opening negotiating positions that mean that an awful lot of effort is expended trying to row back from positions that nobody realistically expects to hold. Nevertheless, that seems to be the modus operandi of the Commission.

Jamie McGrigor and one or two other members pointed to the threat of further effort controls. I very much welcome Richard Lochhead’s strong emphasis on the need to hold the line there. That is an area where our industry has already conceded a great deal, so it is perhaps time for others to shoulder more of the responsibility.

I turn now to one of the key themes of the debate: the discard ban. As I indicated in my opening speech, it generally poses far fewer problems for a pelagic fishery that is far cleaner. From next year, that should be borne out. However, the discard ban, which is right in principle, needs to be got right in practice. In that respect, as we look to the demersal fishery and the implementation of a ban from 2016, we are not yet remotely close to where we need to be. I think that the potential for that to be significantly more problematic is acknowledged all round.

I was interested in Cara Hilton’s reference to the fish fight campaign. There is no doubt that it captured the public imagination, but I question whether it captured the complexity of the issue for those who are then charged with responsibility for developing policy on the back of that. It brought to people’s attention an issue that nobody disputes must be addressed, but perhaps it also created an overly simplistic impression of what needs to be done to resolve it.

In its briefing, RSPB Scotland points to the importance of use of selective gear and other technical measures, and of rolling them out more widely across the fleet. That has featured in fisheries debates dating back as long as I can remember, and more still needs to be done on it.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Liam McArthur

I should declare an interest as the son of the cartoonist of the Fishing News.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the optimism in the industry will not be helped by Government back benchers launching the sort of attack on fishermen’s leaders that we heard from Dave Thompson earlier in the debate? Will he distance himself from those comments?



Meeting of the Parliament 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Liam McArthur

In concluding, I again wish the cabinet secretary the best of luck in the negotiations next week. Whatever seat he or his officials are in, I hope that he continues to exert influence, that he brings to bear his experience and expertise and that he will continue to promote Scotland’s interests in the negotiations.

17:08  

Meeting of the Parliament 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Liam McArthur

I do not want to diminish the importance of such campaigns, but there is sometimes a risk that they paint in primary colours and leave the policy makers who are then charged with responsibility for responding with the difficult task of matching expectations to the complexity of the issue.

Finally, I turn to the political issue that ran through today’s debate—who leads the delegation. As I said at the start of the debate, the Smith agreement provides a sensible basis for implementing a set of arrangements that better reflect the industry’s needs and the political aspirations of the public. On the Scottish ministerial lead, there is no doubt, as Stewart Stevenson said, that the delegation benefits from the experience of not just the minister but the officials who support him but, by the same token, Scottish ministers benefit from having the weight of UK votes and influence behind them.

We have not got that right, and the example that was cited is a perfect illustration of that. The Government’s motion talks in reasonable terms, but some of the rhetoric that was used during the debate in order to make that point was considerably less reasonable. I think that Graeme Pearson alluded to that. The respect agenda that Rob Gibson pointed to is a two-way street.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 December 2014 : Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Liam McArthur

In the aftermath of the vote in favour of the UK, the fishing industry made it crystal clear that it expects both Scotland’s Governments to work collectively and collaboratively in the interests of the industry. Parliament should expect that to be the case today and, more importantly, next week in Brussels. I wish Richard Lochhead and his officials all the best in their endeavours.

I move amendment S4M-11825.1, to leave out from second “and supports” to end and insert:

“; believes that, before the ban on discards is introduced, the Scottish Government should ensure that a comprehensive plan is prepared setting out how the ban will work in practice without damaging Scotland’s whitefish sector; notes the desire of the Scottish industry to see a phased approach implemented to the discard ban for the main whitefish stocks due to come into effect in January 2016; further notes the industry’s wish for any such phased approach to proceed initially with haddock, and recognises the strong concerns of the Scottish pelagic industry regarding the EU-Faroese reciprocal arrangements on mackerel.”

16:25  
Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11901.3 Neil Findlay: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11901.1 Mary Scanlon: Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce—As an amendment to motion S4M-11901
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11830.2 John Swinney: The Smith Commission—As an amendment to motion S4M-11830 in the name of Ru
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-11830 Ruth Davidson: The Smith Commission—That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the Sm
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

Amendment 6 moved by Dr Richard Simpson on motion S4M-11826 Maureen Watt: Food (Scotland) Bill—That
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-11825.3 Claire Baker: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.2 Jamie McGrigor: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11825.1 Tavish Scott: End of Year Fish Negotiations—As an amendment to motion S4M-11825 in the n
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-11825 Richard Lochhead: End of Year Fish Negotiations—That the Parliament welcomes the successfu
>> Show more
AbstainCarried

S4M-11763.3 Margaret Burgess: Private Sector Rent Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-11763 in the
>> Show more
NoCarried

Search for other Motions lodged by Liam McArthur
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
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 >>
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 >>
Search for other Questions asked by Liam McArthur
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-23785: 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 >>
Question S4W-23784: 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-23787: 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-23750: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23655: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 11/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23654: Liam McArthur, Orkney Islands, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Date Lodged: 11/12/2014 Show Full Question >>

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