Liz Smith MSP

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Liz Smith MSP

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Parliamentary Activities

Member of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body

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Meeting of the Parliament 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

In light of what the cabinet secretary just said, in 2013 the Scottish Government made the specific commitment to the film industry of a £2 million grant; why has that money not been spent?



Meeting of the Parliament 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I thank lain Gray for lodging the motion on a hugely important issue that highlights the significant concerns of the learned societies group, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics. It is good to hear from the convener of the Education and Culture Committee about the profile that the subject will receive in the coming weeks. Those academic bodies, which do so much to enhance the intellectual life of Scotland because their discourse is always well balanced, non-partisan, well evidenced and, without exception, very thought provoking, have spoken out about the crucial challenge that faces the future of science teaching. That challenge is especially important when one considers that, by 2030, some 7 million jobs in the UK will be directly dependent on science skills.

Unlike Mr Gray, I am not a scientist but I have taken a keen interest in what science teachers are saying, and he is right to identify that there are some issues with the curriculum for excellence—some of them good, some of them less good. There are certainly some very important messages for us. As everyone in the chamber is well aware, science learning has traditionally been very content driven—that is, knowledge of the facts has often mattered more than the learning process. It is true that there has always been a great deal of emphasis on basic numeracy, data-handling skills, problem solving and research methodology, but the knowledge content has always tended to be dominant in the traditional curriculum. Now, however, some interesting things are happening in the Scottish Qualifications Authority exams and we have what is called the “open” question, which is designed to assess the candidate’s science knowledge from a much more holistic point of view. By its very nature, an open question does not have only one correct answer, and I warmly welcome that change of direction in the curriculum for excellence.

I do not think that there is any need to get too worried about that change, because the curriculum for excellence is trying to get back to the cross-curricular teaching of science subjects, which is very important. I am a strong supporter of a baccalaureate system of exams. Nevertheless, at the moment, I do not believe that the Scottish baccalaureate has the necessary intellectual rigour. The uptake rates are not good, and it does not compare particularly well with the rigour of the international baccalaureate.

The arts, sciences and social sciences are all distinct disciplines but they inform each other. There is a good movement in the curriculum for excellence to look at how those disciplines can come together. Nonetheless, there are specific problems and we need to take action.

It is particularly important to start with the 2012 science and engineering education advisory group’s recommendations. Its report said that although the Scottish Government had quite rightly identified energy and life sciences as two priority sectors, that was not translating into successful STEM education. Given the identification of those as priority sectors, the key question for the Education and Culture Committee to ask will be why that is not being translated into action.

Partly, that is because there is a lack of science specialists, particularly in primary schools. Elaine Murray is absolutely right to point to that. The Royal Society of Chemistry made a very good call towards the end of November 2014 on the need for science specialists in our primary classrooms. We can go further. Whether politicians like it or not, educational reform is coming. It is coming because, as Sir Ian Wood has clearly identified, the needs of Scotland and our young people are changing fast, especially in what is a fiercely competitive global economy.

I flag up what Lindsay Paterson of the University of Edinburgh talked eloquently about in a lecture that he delivered at the David Hume Institute last year. He spoke of the need to support our very gifted children, whatever their backgrounds. There is a need, particularly in the science subjects, to look at greater bursary support.

There is no question but that a lot must be done. We are on the cusp of doing exciting things in science teaching, but that will not happen until we grasp the thistle: that is about resources and the professional training of teachers and ensuring that they can inspire our youngsters.

17:26  

Meeting of the Parliament 21 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Liz Smith

I think that the minister is right. There are some good signs about the numbers of pupils who are taking highers and advanced highers in the science subjects, but there is currently a big disconnect with respect to the science baccalaureate. That plays very much to the theme of the curriculum for excellence. How will the minister address that particular problem?



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
6. Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

To ask the First Minister what discussions the Scottish Government has had with the United Kingdom Government in light of the recent terrorist attacks in France. (S4F-02517)



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
Liz Smith

I thank the First Minister for some reassurance. It is clear that one of the most sensitive aspects of the current situation is the debate about a possible ban on extremist speakers at universities and other educational institutions. Will the First Minister confirm whether the Scottish Government is also engaged in those discussions with Universities UK and whether, prior to the new anti-terrorist legislation that is expected at the end of February, advice is being sought for Scottish educational institutions?



Meeting of the Parliament 15 January 2015 : Thursday, January 15, 2015
Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I seek your permission to speak to the motion in my name as a member of the SPCB, which invites members of the Parliament to agree to the reappointment of Mrs Julie Ward as a member of the Standards Commission for Scotland.

As members know, the Standards Commission’s role is to encourage the highest ethical standards in public life, and it does so by promoting and enforcing the codes of conduct for councillors and members of devolved public bodies. In addition to promoting the codes, the commission receives reports from the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland following investigations by the commissioner into alleged breaches of the codes. If the commission upholds the commissioner’s findings, it determines—in accordance with the legislation—the sanction that is to be applied.

I turn to the reappointment process. Under the Scottish Parliamentary Commissions and Commissioners etc Act 2010, members of the commission are reappointed by the SPCB with the agreement of the Parliament. The SPCB sat as a reappointment panel on 10 December 2014. I chaired the panel; the other members were Liam McArthur and David Stewart.

I thank Louise Rose for confirming by way of a validation certificate that the nomination has been made on merit following a fair and robust reappointment process that conformed to good practice.

Details of the information that the SPCB considered and the criteria on which Mrs Ward was assessed have been set out in the report that the SPCB lodged in the Scottish Parliament information centre.

We believe that Julie Ward will continue to promote high ethical standards in public life and ensure that they are upheld by councillors and members of devolved public bodies. We wish her continued success in her role as a member of the Standards Commission for Scotland.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the reappointment of Mrs Julie Ward as a Member of the Standards Commission for Scotland under Schedule 7 of the Scottish Parliamentary Commission and Commissioners etc. Act 2010.



Meeting of the Parliament 07 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 07, 2015
7. Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the flooding infrastructure in Perth and Kinross. (S4O-03867)



Meeting of the Parliament 07 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Liz Smith

The minister will be aware that, in 2012, the Water of Ruchill in Comrie flooded very badly, causing thousands of pounds of damage and causing people to be homeless for a period. The minister will also be aware of an audit report that found that, although Perth and Kinross Council should check flood situations monthly, in the previous three years such checks had happened only yearly. That is simply not good enough. What information has the Scottish Government got from local authorities with regard to ensuring that flood-prone areas are checked frequently?



Meeting of the Parliament 06 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I congratulate Claire Baker on her new appointment.

I am sure that we have all attended some local winter festivals in recent weeks, and we are now looking forward to the Burns season. As the cabinet secretary said in her motion and as is shown in the evidence she gave in her speech, the winter festivals are hugely important on a national and international scale, especially in terms of the visitors that they attract and their contribution to the economy and as a celebration of Scotland’s unique culture. The cabinet secretary is also right to point to the important influence that they will have in Scotland’s year of food and drink and the various other themes in forthcoming years. We need only look at the impressive financial benefits of the hogmanay season to see the importance of that influence.

Winter festivals are also important to local communities. They can often provide a major community focus in areas that might not always have the same degree of economic and social advantage, and it is entirely appropriate to mention the vast army of volunteers, which Claire Baker has done in her amendment, who do so much to enhance the cultural experience in their own small town or village. Many events would not happen without them, and it is important that we support them in whichever part of Scotland they are.

Several times in the past, the cabinet secretary has spoken about the intrinsic value of culture for its own sake. I agree, as do the majority of commentators who make it their business to explore Scotland’s cultural activity. Some interesting articles and papers have been written in recent weeks, including over the Christmas period. I have been struck by some dominant themes that they contain.

First, if the referendum year created divisions in the arts world, as it did elsewhere in society, it also fired up a new intellectual debate in Scotland. That is incredibly healthy—it can be the theme through which we look at the celebration of our winter festivals.

Our artists have a great many interesting things to say about culture, especially on how the evolution of a nation’s culture can come about only through healthy self-criticism and freedom of expression. That is important. The cabinet secretary said that we must ensure that winter festivals are more accessible and meaningful for all. That has very much been a desired aim of our winter festivals. However, there is a broader issue on which to reflect.

The underlying theme concerns financial constraints. Local authorities, which often run our winter festivals, are under fire because they sometimes have to make difficult choices about how to prioritise their spending. Some have been criticised because they have chosen schools, social care or roads spending above spending on cultural bodies such as libraries and museums.

We should not forget—I am sure that the cabinet secretary is not in a position to forget—that, although Creative Scotland was able to disburse £90 million in its recent round of funding grants, the bids that came in were for well in excess of £200 million. Although that shows the extent of people’s cultural aspirations, there is a danger that, in some cases, some of the smaller events cannot be afforded.

That raises issues about resources and it flags up a tension in the arts in Scotland, which is that valuing the arts for their own sake, which is so important, sometimes does not sit easily with financial management. We need only read passionate comments from the film industry or listen to artistes in our orchestras and choirs to know how strongly people in the arts feel that tension.

That point was very much taken on board by Janet Archer—and the cabinet secretary—when Creative Scotland was trying to get over its problems two years ago. Those tensions remain—they are real tensions. Some of them are financial and some are about economic management.

It is an interesting time in Scottish culture because people have new ideas that are flourishing. To bring all that together, we need a seriously coherent strategy with overarching themes that interact with industry, tourism and lots of other businesses. That is an area that we must consider because it is a real challenge for the cultural sector. I hope that the Government can take that very seriously.

I move amendment S4M-11976.1, to insert at end:

“, but believes that in order to provide the greatest support for winter festivals, along with all other cultural activity in Scotland, there needs to be a fully coherent arts strategy that provides arts bodies, both local and national, with the integrated support and funding priorities that they need in order that Scotland can enhance its cultural reputation both at home and abroad”.



Meeting of the Parliament 06 January 2015 : Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Liz Smith

If we listen to what the arts bodies are saying, we will find that, although they agree with the member entirely about allowing creativity to flourish in local areas, they want a wider, overarching strategy, which brings more aspects of Scottish society together, to give intrinsic value to art.

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
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AbstainCarried

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
YesDefeated

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
AbstainCarried

S4M-12045.2 Jackson Carlaw: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-12045 in the name of Ric
>> Show more
YesDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Liz Smith
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12062: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, On Behalf of Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, Date Lodged: 14/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11976.1: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11304: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
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 >>
Search for other Questions asked by Liz Smith
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24158: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 23/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24119: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 21/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24118: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 21/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24087: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 19/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03960: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 19/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4F-02517: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 12/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23848: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23733: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03867: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 15/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23594: Liz Smith, Mid Scotland and Fife, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Question >>

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