Liz Smith MSP

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Liz Smith MSP

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Member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

Search for other Speeches made by Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Meeting of the Parliament 01 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Anyone who goes into Perth’s famous A K Bell library will be able to access copies of the Perthshire Advertiser and the Strathearn Herald from June 1921, both of which report on international challenge golf matches between American and British players. Those matches were, in effect, the forerunner of what became the modern Ryder cup, and they were set against the backdrop of the skeleton building structures of what we now know as the famous Gleneagles hotel. The matches attracted widespread publicity and quite considerable prize money of 1,000 guineas, as well as some very sociable celebrations in Auchterarder and, quite bizarrely, a railway carriage somewhere in Auchtermuchty. The journalist did not seem quite sure of the details, which is perhaps just as well.

The newspapers also report on the presentations made by the Duchess of Atholl, who said that the match had proved that first-class golf courses were no longer dependent on a seaside location and that Perthshire people should be very proud of what had been achieved. I think that she would be even prouder today. Of course, times have changed, but I think that we can all agree that it was very fitting that Gleneagles played host to the 40th Ryder cup and kept up the reputation of what is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest sporting events—an event that was made even better by the fact that Europe won.

From day 1, when it was announced that Gleneagles was the chosen venue, the Ryder cup administration team, along with everyone involved in Gleneagles itself, Perth and Kinross Council, Police Scotland and VisitScotland—and many more—produced briefing material about the event that was of an exceptionally high standard. For that reason alone, there was a very high level of public trust in the event. There were some minor problems—local newspapers have mentioned, for example, some of the wi-fi connections, pedestrian and campsite access and a local information leaflet that I think was a little confused—but otherwise the running of the tournament was exceptionally smooth. As one might have expected, given the glorious setting of Gleneagles, the event attracted very favourable comment from around the world, and it speaks volumes that the competitors, too, were delighted.

I have never seen a championship golf course in the world looking as good as Gleneagles was—and I include Augusta, Crans-Montana and Malmö in that—and we should be in absolutely no doubt about the extraordinary efforts that go into making such a tournament work. In that respect, I should mention the head professional, Andrew Jowett; the senior green-keeper, Scott Fenwick; the Ryder cup referee, Charles Dernie; and Peter Lederer and his team at Gleneagles. The Ryder cup is no ordinary sporting event, and it is no ordinary task to ensure that the estimated 250,000 spectators all have the best possible visitor experience.

The cabinet secretary has spoken about the media and sales promotion partnerships, whose spend was somewhere in the region of £500,000 and which reached in excess of 10 million people in the United Kingdom and Ireland. A record-breaking number of golf fans—in the region of 130,000—entered once-in-a-lifetime competitions to win trips to the 2014 Ryder cup. It is clear that there was absolutely no lack of enthusiasm.

In the international sphere, more than £250,000 has been spent on golf marketing in the key markets of North America, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and so on, with the biggest spend in the last few months coinciding very much with the screening of the Ryder cup.

We all have to recognise such good news for Scotland.

The main part of the legacy will be judged by the development of the game for future generations, of course. It is very good to hear about the initiatives that the Scottish Government has undertaken on clubgolf and the inspiration that will undoubtedly come from the junior Ryder cup at Blairgowrie. I particularly welcome the initiative to involve families in that.

Given that Scotland is very much the home of golf and that we have some of the best golf courses in the world at Gleneagles, St Andrews, Muirfield, Royal Troon and so on, it is striking that the vast majority of our young golfers who want to make it big in the game feel the need to go abroad to get some of their training. In the future, we can try to help them to stay home based, because that would not only be very much to the benefit of the game of golf but greatly inspire our young people.

Likewise, we need to do more to support existing golf clubs to improve their environmental surroundings and business case, which I think Neil Findlay will speak about.

I will finish on a constituency note on behalf of the 3,000 Auchterarder residents who have in the past week signed a petition that asks for the hugely successful footbridge over the A9 at Gleneagles station to be made permanent. There could be no better lasting legacy for those people, who have had to cope with the aftermath of two recent fatal accidents on that stretch of the road, than knowing that the footbridge, whose dismantling this weekend we are all very concerned about, will be replaced with a permanent one.

In my closing speech, I will say a little bit more about some of the issues that have to go into the legacy, but I am happy to support the Government’s motion.

15:02  

Meeting of the Parliament 01 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Liz Smith

I remember that when we debated the Commonwealth games legacy, we agreed that it is not always terribly easy to define the word “legacy”, particularly when it comes to its qualitative value. Therefore it is not particularly easy to measure. The cabinet secretary has quite rightly mentioned some statistical measures that will be used to determine longer-term success and I am sure that those will be hugely significant.

However, I think that local people will want to know that that legacy is just as beneficial to them as it is to Perthshire and to Scotland generally. Annabelle Ewing mentioned that the general feeling from hotels and bed and breakfasts is that there is a good feeling out there, but local shops will want to know the same.

Local people have seen that there has been a marked improvement in many of the amenities around the local community, whether that involves road surfaces or cycle paths being improved or the excellent improvements to Gleneagles station. They definitely want that permanent footbridge and I was pleased to hear what the cabinet secretary said on that. I do not think that terribly much negotiation will have to take place with local people because it is very clear indeed, from just how quickly that petition has been drawn up, exactly what they think. I hope that the footbridge can be an immediate permanent feature and I hope that Transport Scotland will move on that extremely quickly.

Tavish Scott made an important point when he said that when it comes to legacy, it is not really about legislating but about creating the right circumstances to develop the sport. As Stewart Harris of sportscotland said after the Commonwealth games on legacy, it is about building the capacity—I think that that is absolutely correct. We have work to do when it comes to participation; it is all very well getting more and more youngsters into a taste of golf but we really have to develop a strategy that means that they will stay with the game.

I return to the particular point that I raised earlier about those who want to play the game at an elite level; we have to avoid a situation in which they feel that it is better to train and study abroad than in Scotland. We have some of the best facilities anywhere in the world and I hope that we can make better use of them.

There is an issue about the business side of golf. Far too many of our local golf clubs are finding it very difficult to survive these days. That is partly due to a decline in membership but it is also to do with an aspect of business help. Some clubs are too small to take up the small business benefits that have been part of Scottish Government legislation. We have to do more to encourage those clubs.

Some people find subscription levels very expensive, so we must take care, if we want to encourage families, to consider the difficulties involved and confront the expense of taking up full-time golf club membership. I agree entirely with Tavish Scott’s point about the need for more women in golf. The R&A sent out exactly the right message, after perhaps too long a time, that women have as much of a role to play in golf as their male counterparts; I was delighted to see that the club has changed its membership rules.

The debate has been very good. The Ryder cup was an excellent competition and it has certainly done Scotland proud. I hope that I have allowed the Presiding Officer to catch up on time by about 20 seconds.



Meeting of the Parliament 25 September 2014 : Thursday, September 25, 2014
3. Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to reduce rail journey times between Perth and other Scottish cities. (S4O-03533)



Meeting of the Parliament 25 September 2014 : Thursday, September 25, 2014
Liz Smith

I thank the cabinet secretary for that response, but this comes at a time when analysis of journey times between Inverness and Glasgow has shown that trains are taking 10 minutes longer than they were in 2000. Even the so-called express services are three minutes slower. Will the cabinet secretary decide on specific commitments when the Scottish Government is negotiating the new ScotRail franchise, in order to guarantee that the promises are kept and that passenger services are improved?



Meeting of the Parliament 20 August 2014 : Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con) The announcement today is warmly welcomed. The innovation centres are a testimony to the excellence of the Scottish universities. However, they are interested to know how much extra money would be available for academic research under the subscription form of academic funding if Scotland was to be independent, as opposed to what they get with the United Kingdom.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 August 2014 : Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con) Some interesting points have been raised in the debate. It is appropriate that, as we debate the politics of the referendum, the main focus is on the key policy issues that will not only boost the number of women in the workforce but raise the quality of their skill set and the attractiveness to them of the labour market. Those are the key things, just as much as the actual numbers that are involved. It goes without saying that women are a crucial part of the labour market because, in many cases, they bring specific skills, many of which can be offered on a more flexible basis when compared to their male counterparts.

Although there have been considerable differences of opinion, there are important areas of agreement. First, there is no question but that good-quality education and training are absolutely key. As several members have said, the value of apprenticeships is immense and many of the themes that underpin the Wood commission are important in driving forward policy. In particular, there is a growing need to address the STEM subjects. Christine Grahame, who is not in the chamber just now, and Willie Coffey both said important things about STEM subjects and the difficulties that the science and technology industries encounter in attracting sufficient women.

Notwithstanding the success of programmes such as girls in energy, which is sponsored by Shell United Kingdom, concerns remain about the Scottish Qualifications Authority returns in recent school sessions, which show a drop in numbers taking subjects such as physics, with which there has been a problem in the last five school sessions. In mathematics, the numbers remain largely unchanged for boys, but that is not the case for girls—again, there has been a significant drop in the last few sessions.

I want to flag up concerns about the Scottish baccalaureate exams, which I believe have the potential to do something about the trend. At present, the take-up rate for the baccalaureate is exceedingly low. Indeed, the figure has fallen, with only 136 entries across Scotland for the current session. The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning said in a recent parliamentary answer to me that the Scottish baccalaureate was

“never intended to be a high uptake award”,

since it is primarily in place

“to meet the needs of ... our most able learners”.—[Official Report, Written Answers, 19 August 2014; S4W-22291.]

I question the wisdom of saying that, because the whole point about baccalaureate exams is their interdisciplinary approach, especially when it comes to the dissertation work and practical disciplines. Those are the exact skills that many employers are looking for in their STEM graduates. The whole premise of the baccalaureate discipline is to have added value on the interdisciplinary front. We need to think about that very carefully.

That fall in the take-up of the baccalaureate is happening at the same time as subjects such as geology are coming out of the SQA examination diet altogether, yet geology is one of the burgeoning disciplines when it comes to Scotland’s thriving technology industries. There are serious issues there. We need to do much more on the training aspect that we all agree is so important to women in the labour market.

Secondly, there has been common agreement that many women are looking for much greater flexibility in the labour market. That, after all, is why there is cross-party agreement about the need to provide more and better-quality childcare. Of course, it would help if the Scottish Government’s economic modelling had been factually accurate. Instead, it was based on a theoretical trend, not on the specific labour market circumstances that apply to Scotland. Rhoda Grant was quite correct to point out the problem with that.

Childcare matters in terms of availability and reasonable cost, but also in terms of flexibility. That is why it is important that we do something about that availability on the flexible level. Jayne Baxter referred to issues in Mid Scotland and Fife in that regard. A group of campaigners in Glasgow is making the point that we cannot have the Scottish Government policy on full childcare provision unless we also harness the private sector availability of the public-private partnership mixes in nurseries. That provision cannot be delivered by dependence on the state sector alone. We need to take on board the fact that some of the state-funded nursery places do not have that flexibility because the provision is for only up to three hours a day and in some cases the school holidays are not covered. There are a lot of issues that we need to look at.

The third area of relative agreement is the huge role that colleges play in tackling the problem. One of the great success stories of colleges since the changes that took place in 1992 is their ability to cater for a wide diversity of courses—full time and part time—many of which are particularly suitable for women. However, as has been made clear this afternoon, it is impossible to come to any other conclusion than that the recent college cuts have disproportionately affected women. I do not want to hear any excuses about measuring part-time places against full-time equivalents. What matters is the trend against the same measure further back and, on that basis, the Scottish Government knows that the message is not a good one.

There are a lot of areas in which we agree on the principles behind the policies that we have to develop to ensure that women are not only much more available in the labour market but are available on a flexible basis that allows their individual skills to flourish in a way that perhaps has not been possible before.

The recent employment and GDP figures make it clear that Scotland is doing very well as part of the union and is benefiting from the combined economic policies of Holyrood and Westminster, as Jenny Marra and Alison McInnes said. It is essential to have those economies of scale that are important to investment and jobs and which help to provide the economic security that allows local economies to develop.

The potential for a boost in female participation rates is huge, provided that the whole of that capacity can be stimulated. That is why we are fully supportive of the unionist amendments in the names of Jenny Marra and Alison McInnes.

16:39

Meeting of the Parliament 20 August 2014 : Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Liz Smith Will the cabinet secretary give way on that point?



Meeting of the Parliament 20 August 2014 : Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Liz Smith The cabinet secretary is quite right about the need for flexibility. However, would she agree that, on childcare, the most important thing is to deliver a policy that is predicated on accurate statistics on the number of women who will go back into the workforce? The Scottish Government’s figures are simply not accurate.



Meeting of the Parliament 20 August 2014 : Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Liz Smith Will the cabinet secretary take an intervention?



Education and Culture Committee 19 August 2014 : Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con) When we took evidence at earlier stages of the bill, the Law Society of Scotland in particular expressed concerns about the possible conflict of interest between HES’s regulatory functions, which would at times influence the giving of grants, and its ability to seek grants from other sources. The Law Society cited, for example, the fact that the

“listing of a building may be of significance in respect of the availability of grants and other financial issues.”

It pointed out that issues could arise about HES’s role in securing that funding

“if at the same time it is making grants”.

There are potential issues about a conflict in respect of HES, which will hopefully be awarded charitable status in the future. That is clearly something that might exercise the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Amendment 60 is designed to ensure that there are enhanced reporting requirements on HES to ensure that its functions are kept separate and are not influenced unduly by any person or interest.

I move amendment 60.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11123 Joe FitzPatrick on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau: Business Motion—That the Parliament
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NoCarried

S4M-11114.2 Kenny MacAskill: Policing—As an amendment to motion S4M-11114 in the name of Graeme Pear
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NoCarried

S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
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NoCarried

S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
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NoCarried

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

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

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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YesDefeated

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

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

Search for other Motions lodged by Liz Smith
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-10857: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 21/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10736.1: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 06/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09947: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 06/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10147.1: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 28/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09963.1: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 07/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09482.3: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 26/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09140.1: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 25/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08879.1: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 29/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08814: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 21/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08546.1: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 09/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Liz Smith
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-22716: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22715: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22713: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22712: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22720: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 03/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03533: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 15/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4F-02248: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 11/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22291: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 07/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22264: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 05/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22171: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 21/07/2014 Show Full Question >>

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