Roseanna Cunningham MSP

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Roseanna Cunningham MSP

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  • Member for: Perthshire South and Kinross-shire
  • Region: Mid Scotland and Fife
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Roseanna is a member of the following Committees:

Roseanna is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs (Roseanna Cunningham)

Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs (Roseanna Cunningham)

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic events at Rosepark care home, which led to the deaths of 14 of its residents. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those whose lives were lost, who will still be grieving even now. It has been a short but important debate, and I congratulate Michael McMahon on bringing the subject to the chamber and thank all those members who have taken part.

Michael McMahon raised a number of key issues, some of which were echoed by other members, and I will deal with each of them in turn. I begin by laying out what has changed since the tragic fire at Rosepark care home took place. Much has changed. New fire safety legislation was introduced, new guidance was issued and the Fire and Rescue Service has adopted a proactive role in advice and enforcement. In addition, sprinklers are now required in new care homes.

As the motion states, the Scottish Government published a revised version of “Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Care Homes” in March this year. It is the third version of the guidance that has been produced since the Rosepark fire. The guidance was revised in consultation with key stakeholders, and the changes that have been made reflect findings from the Rosepark fatal accident inquiry.

With regard to Mr McMahon’s proposal for an awareness campaign, the guidance was promoted when it was published. That was done in a series of targeted communications with key stakeholders, including all registered care homes in Scotland, as well as more than 70 other prominent healthcare sector organisations. I appreciate that, when it comes to communicating such advice, people might expect that to be done through, for example, television adverts, but the guidance for care homes was promoted in a very targeted way so that it would reach directly those who would be most interested in it and most affected by it.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service continues to support care home providers with advice and education on how to comply with the guidance, and at every visit to a care home service SFRS staff will bring the revised guidance to the attention of the duty holder and explain to them how to access and use the provisions in it.

The SFRS adopts a risk-based approach to fire safety enforcement, and a key focus on high-risk buildings is set out in its “Prevention and Protection Directorate Strategy 2013-16” and its fire safety enforcement framework. The strategy sets out that in all cases the service’s aim is to enable compliance and to work with occupiers and other responsible persons to achieve a satisfactory level of safety within the built environment. How it achieves that is a matter for the service.

The creation by this Government of the single Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has enabled a consistent approach to be taken to enforcement across Scotland. The SFRS recognises the opportunities that that brings. Its fire safety enforcement framework document, which it issued last year, includes a target to audit all care homes and some other registered care premises every year.

Figures for the percentages of care homes audited by the previous eight fire services showed significant variation. It is important that people understand that that has been a very significant change. Prior to the advent of the single service, some services were achieving a 100 per cent audit rate, while others were achieving about only 40 per cent, and we have now created a target for all care homes to be audited every single year. I must reiterate that that was simply not happening when we had the eight different fire services. In a very real sense, a huge step change is already taking place in safety, and it is a real benefit of the reform that has been made.

With regard to fire risk assessment and the competency of those carrying it out, which has been a key part of the debate, it is not the SFRS’s responsibility to undertake fire risk assessments, and I remind members that responsibility for compliance with the fire safety duties in care homes as well as all other commercial premises sits with the employer and other persons who operate or have control of the premises to any extent. That includes managers, owners and staff, who are referred to in the guidance as duty holders.

Although there is no legal requirement on duty holders to engage external fire safety consultants, the guidance acknowledges that proprietors of certain care homes are likely to need specialist advice to assist with an initial fire safety risk assessment. The Scottish Government acknowledges the difficulty facing duty holders in judging the competence of any external services that they might use, and general guidance to help them can be found on the firelaw webpages on the Scottish Government website, which provide further information and detail on recognised certification and accreditations.

Both the Scottish Government and the SFRS believe that, based on the information that we currently have and the changes that are already being made, there is no requirement at the moment to introduce further legislative changes. The on-going promotion of the practical fire safety guidance supports duty holders in the sector in complying with their obligations to ensure fire safety compliance. In its fire safety enforcement framework, the SFRS sets out its commitment to providing advice to duty holders to help enable that compliance, and that advice will include making them aware of the guidance that is available to them on both fire risk assessment and, indeed, the use of external risk assessors. As well as containing a page on how to complete a fire risk assessment, the SFRS website also provides necessary links to the firelaw and Fire Sector Federation webpages in its section on safety information for businesses.

The regulatory review group—an independent group that advises the Scottish Government on business regulatory matters—is looking at non-domestic fire safety legislation and is due to report in spring 2015. I am not sure whether Michael McMahon is aware of that, and he might wish to look at some of the work that the group is doing. I undertake to write to the group after the debate and ask it to look specifically at the issue of the competency of risk assessors as part of its review, and I invite the member to engage with that process, too.

In light of the on-going promotion of guidance and the current review by the regulatory review group, we do not at this point consider it necessary to introduce any additional requirements. However, we will, of course, continue to monitor the situation and will consider closely the regulatory review group’s findings when they become available next year.

Meeting closed at 17:34.  

Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs (Roseanna Cunningham)

Today’s debate provides an opportunity to consider the issues related to a register of interests for the judiciary—a subject that has been discussed by the Public Petitions Committee over recent months, as the convener, David Stewart, outlined.

It is, of course, vital that judges be seen to be both independent and impartial. They must be free from prejudice by association or relationship with one of the parties to a litigation. They must be able to demonstrate impartiality by having no vested interest that could affect them in exercising their judicial functions, such as a pecuniary interest or familial interest.

As I understand it, the petition originally concerned a register of pecuniary interests for the judiciary. It called on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to create a register of pecuniary interests of judges bill, as was then being considered in New Zealand’s Parliament, or to amend present legislation to require all members of the judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests and hospitality received to a publicly available register of interests. That is a narrower definition of the register than the convener talked about.

The Scottish Government considers that it is not necessary to establish a register of judicial interests. Our view is that the safeguards that are currently in place are sufficient to ensure the impartiality of the judiciary in Scotland. Those important safeguards are: the judicial oath, the “Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics for the Scottish Judiciary”, which was issued by the Judicial Office for Scotland in 2010, and the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

I will look at those three safeguards in a little more detail. The judicial oath, which is taken by all judicial office-holders before they sit on the bench, requires judges to

“do right to all manner of people ... without fear or favour, affection or ill will”.

The statement of principles of judicial ethics states at principle 5 that all judicial office-holders have a general duty to act impartially. In particular, it notes:

“Plainly it is not acceptable for a judge to adjudicate upon any matter in which he, or she, or any members of his or her family has a pecuniary interest. Furthermore, he or she should carefully consider whether any litigation depending before him or her may involve the decision of a point of law which itself may affect his or her personal interest in some different context, or that of a member of his or her family”.

The Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 contains provisions to regulate and investigate the conduct of judicial office-holders. Under section 28, the Lord President has a power to make rules for the investigation of

“any matter concerning the conduct of judicial office holders”.

The Complaints about the Judiciary (Scotland) Rules came into force in 2011. There was a consultation on those rules last autumn, responses to which the Lord President has considered, and new rules and accompanying guidance will be published in due course.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

We have looked at that report. I will refer to it shortly, if I have the time.

In addition, members will be aware that the Scottish Court Service has set up a public register of judicial recusals, which has been in operation since 1 April 2014. David Stewart mentioned it. The register sets out why a member of the judiciary has recused himself or herself from hearing a case in which there is a conflict of interests. Although that does not go as far as the petition suggested, we believe that it is a welcome addition to the safeguards that I have already covered.

The setting up of a register of judicial interests would be a matter for the Lord President, as head of the judiciary in Scotland. The Lord President takes the view that a register of pecuniary interests for the judiciary is not needed. Furthermore, a judge has a greater duty of disclosure than a register of financial interests could address.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

I want to make some progress.

The statement of judicial ethics that I referred to says that a judge’s disclosure duties extend to material relationships. In his written evidence to the Public Petitions Committee, the Lord President referred to the findings of the Council of Europe group of states against corruption. The 2013 GRECO report, which followed the fourth evaluation round report on the United Kingdom, found that

“nothing emerged during the current evaluation which could indicate that there is any element of corruption in relation to judges, nor is there evidence of judicial decisions being influenced in an inappropriate manner.”

GRECO therefore did not recommend the introduction of a register of judicial interests, which suggests that the current safeguards are sufficient and that there is no obvious problem that such a register would solve.

The position is, of course, different for MSPs and for members of other Parliaments. We are directly accountable to our constituents and are required to register our interests. GRECO also considered issues regarding the prevention of corruption in relation to members of Parliaments across the UK and recommended:

“it is essential that the public continues to be made aware of the steps taken and the tools developed to reinforce the ethos of parliamentary integrity, to increase transparency and to institute real accountability.”



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

If David Stewart will permit me to, I want to move on; I want to get through my speech.

I am aware that the petition in question was related to the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill in the New Zealand Parliament, which was considered earlier this year by its Justice and Electoral Committee. As David Stewart indicated in his opening remarks, the bill did not proceed. As I understand it, the committee recommended that the bill should not be passed and, following that report, the sponsoring member intended to withdraw it.

It is also the case that there is no equivalent register in other parts of the UK. As I have said, we do not think it necessary to establish such a register. The case has not been made that the existing safeguards are not effective. I can only assume that members agree with that, because we completed stage 3 of the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill on Tuesday. That bill could have been used as a vehicle for legislating for the introduction of a register of judicial interests. I am surprised that an amendment to that effect was not, if members are exercised by the issue, lodged during consideration of the bill.

However, today is an opportunity for wider consideration of the issue, and I look forward to hearing what others have to say. I will perhaps return to some of the issues that are raised in my closing remarks.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

I do not believe that.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

The debate has given us the opportunity to discuss issues around transparency and conflicts of interest and whether a register of judicial interests would address those matters. However, I sense that much of the debate has been about the process. Members will forgive me if I do not get too drawn into that aspect of the discussion—it is not really for me to intervene in committee procedures or the calling of witnesses. I am sure that if concerns are expressed about that they might be taken up in another place.

The debate also ranged rather more widely than the motion might have otherwise suggested. That is understandable. We have heard differing views expressed about the need for a register of judicial interests. As I said, some contributions went very widely, indeed. An exchange of views is always welcome.

We all recognise the importance of the need to ensure judicial independence, accountability and transparency. However, as I said in my opening remarks, key safeguards are already in place to ensure the judiciary’s independence and accountability. To repeat, those important safeguards are the judicial oath; the “Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics for the Scottish Judiciary”, which was issued by the Judicial Office for Scotland in 2010; and the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.The debate has given us the opportunity to put on the record that those safeguards exist.

We have seen from the debate that, if the Lord President was to introduce a register, a wide breadth of interests may need to be declared. As raised by a number of members, including Stewart Stevenson and Graeme Pearson, material relationships may in many cases be more relevant than pecuniary interests.

I think that I am right in saying that it was David Stewart who described a situation whereby a judge had to recuse himself because he had been at the same social event as one of the key lawyers in the case. I do not want to misrepresent what he said, but that is my recollection; what he said was along those lines. Frankly, if we took that approach too far, either we would have to cloister judges permanently or no cases would ever be heard, because the way in which our social relationships work in Scotland makes it almost possible to avoid that happening on a number of occasions.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

Perhaps the member will allow me to get into my speech, because I want to return to that point.

We have also heard that the Lord President is taking action to increase transparency. The register of judicial recusals recently set up by the Scottish Court Service is an excellent example of that. Over time, that will give us a better understanding of how that process works.

I am sure that the Lord President will read the Official Report of the debate and members’ speeches with interest. I will not be drawn into a discussion of his decision about attending the committee. However, as referred to by Joan McAlpine and others—I am not quite sure if I remember who—he has warned that the introduction of a register of judicial interests could have unintended consequences. He said:

“Consideration requires to be given to judges’ privacy and freedom from harassment by ... media or ... individuals, including dissatisfied litigants.”

A point that no member has raised is that, if publicly criticised or attacked, a judicial office-holder cannot publicly defend him or herself, unlike a politician. We have the opportunity to respond to criticism; a judge would not. They do not have the same right of reply as we have.

I must ask what would be included on a register. If we are agreed that it is far less likely to be financial interests that create problems, the register would somehow have to encompass social, familiar and other relationships. A register that included those relationships would be difficult to compile. Family trees, friendships and all sorts of organisations and affiliations would have to be included. Neil Findlay seemed to suggest that even religious affiliation should be included. How on earth would one know in advance what might cause a problem in a case that was as yet unseen?

It is interesting that all members who have spoken have avoided making reference to a register in anything other than very general terms, although it is clear that it is assumed that any declaration would go beyond financial interests. I have set out some of the issues that would arise if such a register were given closer consideration.

I return to David Stewart’s point about the situation in the House of Lords prior to the creation of the United Kingdom Supreme Court. As I understand it, declarations were confined to financial interests and there was not the kind of register that members have discussed this afternoon. Furthermore, when the Supreme Court was set up in 2009, it was decided that the financial register would not be continued. Instead, a code of judicial conduct was drawn up. The register to which David Stewart referred was not analogous to the register that members have been discussing. We should understand that.

We should also take heed of the outcome of the report of the Council of Europe group of states against corruption—GRECO. I reiterate that that is an important objective assessment of where we are in relation to the judiciary in Scotland and the United Kingdom.

I am aware that other people take a different view on the need for a register. The former Judicial Complaints Reviewer thought that a register would increase transparency and public trust.

As I said, it would be for the Lord President to establish a register of interests, in his capacity as head of the Scottish judiciary. However, the Government does not consider that there is currently evidence that the existing safeguards are not effective. We do not consider that a register is necessary. Indeed, some of the issues that members have raised point us to how difficult it might be to compile the kind of register that people think might be appropriate.

A number of members referred to the register of interests of MSPs. However, the situation is different, because we are directly accountable to the electorate. That is why the register exists—and we are not required to declare religious affiliation, our circles of friends and relatives, and all the social relationships that can give rise to some of the suspicions in respect of judges.



Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Roseanna Cunningham

The debate has presented an opportunity to consider all the issues. I assure members that we will continue to keep the issues under review. However, our current position is that a register is not necessary.



Meeting of the Parliament 07 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 07, 2014
The Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs (Roseanna Cunningham)

The Scottish Government is strongly opposed to any attempt by a future United Kingdom Government to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998, or to withdraw from the European convention on human rights. The Human Rights Act exists to protect the interests of everyone in society. Safeguards in the act have been actively used to protect the everyday rights of ordinary people in Scotland, including by helping some of the most vulnerable people in society to challenge iniquitous policies such as the bedroom tax. The Scottish Government’s position is that implementation of the Conservative Party’s proposals would require legislative consent, and that this Parliament should make it clear that such consent will not be given.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11332.2 Jenny Marra: Supported Business—As an amendment to motion S4M-11332 in the name of Fergu
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NoDefeated

S4M-11332.1 Gavin Brown: Supported Business—As an amendment to motion S4M-11332 in the name of Fergu
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11332 Fergus Ewing: Supported Business—That the Parliament recognises the economic and social va
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11304.3 Michael Russell: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to mo
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11304 Liz Smith: Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament believes
>> Show more
YesCarried

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

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

S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
>> Show more
YesCarried

S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
>> Show more
YesCarried

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

Search for other Motions lodged by Roseanna Cunningham
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-10291: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10090: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09957: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09272: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 07/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08950: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/02/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08881: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08544: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08422: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08145: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/11/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06644: Roseanna Cunningham, Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/05/2013 Show Full Motion >>
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EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S3O-05825: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 05/02/2009 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-05305: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/12/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-05247: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/12/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3O-05049: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/11/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-11949: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/04/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-11850: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/04/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-11849: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/04/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-11851: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 15/04/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-11221: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/03/2008 Show Full Question >>
Question S3W-10098: Roseanna Cunningham, Perth, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/02/2008 Show Full Question >>