Stewart Stevenson MSP

Welcome to Stewart Stevenson MSP's biography pages

Stewart Stevenson MSP

Here you can find out about your MSPs' political activities and how to get in touch with them.

  • Member for: Banffshire and Buchan Coast
  • Region: North East Scotland
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Stewart is a member of the following Committees:

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

Parliamentary Activities

Member of the Conveners Group

Search for other Speeches made by Stewart Stevenson

Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

The word “very” is duly noted, Presiding Officer.

It is clear from the debate thus far that there is a pretty broad consensus—it may stop at the aisle to my right, beyond which the Conservatives sit—that the issue of supported business is important and is one on which we have shared objectives. If we differ, I think that we do so on means, not objectives.

Let me commend two speeches, which have best illustrated that consensus and the nature of the challenge. One is the most recent speech by Siobhan McMahon, who has taken a close interest in the subject over a period. Although I do not necessarily agree with everything that she said, no one who listened to her could doubt her commitment. Mike MacKenzie made an outstanding speech from the Scottish National Party benches that captured the essence of the debate.

The Government’s motion quite properly talks about

“enhancing commercial viability through business support and action to increase public and private sector procurement”.

We have talked about the quality of the products that supported businesses can produce, and what has been said is correct. Very early in my married life—I have been married for 45 years—the first bed that we bought was from Blindcraft. It was an excellent product at an excellent price, and it was delivered to us. I am sure that many of us have had very good interactions with supported businesses at various stages in our lives.

Why did I go to Blindcraft? I did so first because I knew about the business and wanted to support it, but also because it made sense economically and I would buy a good product. It is disappointing to hear, as we have done, that comparatively little money is available to help supported businesses to market themselves, which we might all want to ponder from here on in.

Let us talk about what profit actually is. In its briefing for the debate, Inclusion Scotland highlights that, for every £1 that the Treasury spends on the DWP’s access to work scheme, it receives £1.60 in additional tax, so the intervention makes a profit. That leads us from the particular to the general. When we support people who require a supported environment in which to work, the odds are that the economics of that will make sense, but if we have people who have dropped out of the system and who, because of a lack of social contact, a lack of income and a lack of integration into the wider community, require more economic and social support, the cost rises. In other words, a profit is involved in supporting supported businesses. We do not have to be moral about it, as it almost certainly makes economic sense.

The trouble is that the position of people who work for supported businesses is being conflated with the position of all people who require any money from the state, who are being portrayed as leeches on the state for whom funding must be cut to the bone. The reality is that a proper economic examination of the issue would come up with a very different view.

Some interesting activities go on in supported industries. I looked into supported industries around the world and found that some of them are keeping old crafts alive. For example, in the town of Sorède in France, there is what is thought to be the last manufacturer of whips—I know that we could all think of uses for whips in this debate and many others—which is a supported business that uses local materials. We often find that supported businesses operate in little niches that are of value and interest. Such activities are going on all around the world.

An article from the New Statesman in 2013 made a few interesting observations on the subject. The first point to note is that we need to be slightly careful about when the reduction in the number of people employed in the supported business sector started. The first round of closures started under the Labour Government in 2008, when 1,600 workers were given the boot. Five years later, the DWP found that only 200 of those 1,600 people had been successful in finding jobs. Therefore, it is a long-run problem, and we should not point at any single individual or any single Government, although what is being done now will certainly not be helpful.

On 4 March 2013, Jim Sheridan asked a question in the House of Commons about the £8 million that was supposed to be made available to former Remploy people to find work or access benefits. It appears from Esther McVey’s answer and, more fundamentally, from the work of Private Eye—a print publication for which I have the highest regard—that it is unclear whether anyone got anything out of that. Most of the money seems to have been spent on unpaid volunteering, work experience or coffee mornings. On that basis, even the money that has been made available to support people in that position seems not to have been wisely deployed.

We meet people with disabilities in our everyday lives. I regularly go to a local cafe where the majority of the staff are people with disabilities; they do not work in a supported enterprise but in a supported environment within an enterprise. There are many models that will suit many people.

The Government and its companies and agencies do very well. I remember meeting Eric Ruthven on a visit that I made as a minister to the CalMac Ferries office in Gourock. He started working there in the 1990s after coming out of a supported environment. He is now a valued member of staff—he is probably the best-known member of staff to people who get the ferry at Gourock—and he received an MBE for the charitable work that he has done locally. We should never underestimate people with disabilities.

I close by thinking about big and small private companies—public companies. There is increasing pressure on them in a number of ways to behave morally. There is increasing adoption of the living wage without legislative requirements. That is good news. Corporate social responsibility is debated in many boardrooms across these islands. We should ensure that this is the next subject that is debated there. We could do what the Danes have just done in legislation on the environment—companies in Denmark now have to give an environmental statement as part of their annual reporting. Such a move could prove useful here.

Finally, I address the 118 public authorities that the Labour amendment mentions. I have looked at the list of the 20 supported businesses and racked my brains to see what exactly the Water Industry Commission for Scotland would be able to buy from any of them. I am sure that the commission is eager to use them, but it has a good complement of furniture that is relatively modern.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Stewart Stevenson

I am not sure whether I have been reinstated to a previous position, because I appear to have been addressed as the minister, but I will reply anyway. The Labour amendment says 118; I merely suggest in the kindest way that my colleagues in the chamber must proofread their amendments more carefully before lodging them, because the 118 certainly includes the Water Industry Commission for Scotland. I am not saying that it is impossible for it to purchase from a supported business at some future date but, if we were to make that a legal requirement, that would be a substantial difficulty.

Thank you for the extra time, Presiding Officer.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Stewart Stevenson

It is interesting to see the Tories again defending the Labour Party in the construction of their amendment.

The point about the WICS is the general one: we have to consider the individual circumstances of each and every body. It is perfectly proper that to mandate that a body considers the opportunities that it has for buying from supported businesses, but it is absolutely impossible to mandate that it must complete a contract, because it will have limited opportunities, whether we are talking about the WICS or any other body.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Stewart Stevenson

No, no.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Stewart Stevenson

I make a factual correction: I spoke about the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, not Scottish Water.



Meeting of the Parliament 30 October 2014 : Thursday, October 30, 2014
Stewart Stevenson

Correct, but he does not need a new one.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

The Conservatives say in their motion that they believe in “greater diversity in schools”. The Collins dictionary defines diversity as

“the relation ... between ... entities when ... numerically distinct”.

In other words, there must be a multiplicity of entities. In my constituency, in the Moray Council area, the future of schools in Findochty, Portknockie, Portessie, Cullen and Rothiemay, of Crossroads and Cluny schools and of schools nearby at Portgordon and Newmill is under review. Milne’s high school, which covers Fochabers and Mosstodloch, is under threat of closure.

The Tories also say in the motion that they believe in maximum choice. Are schools in Moray with good educational attainment being supported by what is proposed? No. They are threatened by proposals to merge, to close and to reduce the number of schools, thus reducing diversity and choice. The proposals will deliver not maximum choice but quite the opposite. They will not deliver greater diversity through reduced numbers.



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Stewart Stevenson

I may come to Mary Scanlon later, because I will say things of considerable interest to her.

No educational case has been made for the changes that are proposed in Moray. Nor does the economic case stand any scrutiny. Many of the schools are below the 70 pupils level at which additional funding trips in. If the schools whose closure is proposed do close, Moray Council will sacrifice a seven-figure sum. The decision is not justified by diversity or by choice and it is hardly likely to be justified on economic grounds.

More fundamentally, there is not a squeak, not a sound and not a word from the community in favour of such change. How do we know what the community thinks? On Saturday, the communities in Fochabers and Mosstodloch in my colleague Richard Lochhead’s constituency were on the march to save their local high school—Milne’s high school. It is an excellent high school, as are many of the schools that I have referred to, with good marks. We are not looking at closing failing schools; we are looking at schools with good education records.

Mary Scanlon rose—



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Stewart Stevenson

Just wait, please.

We had a community energised in defence of its school—not quite unanimously, though. The local Conservative councillor, who is well known to Mary Scanlon, was not with the team in Fochabers and Mosstodloch. He was not standing shoulder to shoulder with his constituents; he was standing on the touchline at Easter Road as an assistant referee in the match between Hearts and Hibs. That is an important job and it is important that he gives support in that capacity, but on that day of all days, he should have been standing shoulder to shoulder with his constituents. I hope that in future he will do so. Does Mary Scanlon wish to comment?



Meeting of the Parliament 29 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Stewart Stevenson

I am perhaps encouraged by what I have just heard, but it sounds as if we may be hearing an attempt to outsource the blame for something that the council initiated. However, if on Monday we get the result that the communities have been marching for, I will make common cause with anyone in any part of the chamber to express gratitude for it. I am glad to have given the issue an airing today in the hope that we may see progress on behalf of our communities.

In my remaining 50 seconds I will say a little about disadvantage and where it comes from. It comes from economic circumstances; it certainly does not come from children’s genetic circumstances when they are born. As a minister, I attended an event in Aberdeen in 2009 or 2010 at which I saw a film of a one-year-old child beating with music. From birth, children are affected by the environment, so having an economic environment in which we deny children the range of opportunities that they would get in wealthier environments is not a way forward. I ask the Tories to reflect on that and consider the effects on future generations of economic policies that are coming from Westminster.

I am happy to support the cabinet secretary’s amendment.

15:29  
Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11332.2 Jenny Marra: Supported Business—As an amendment to motion S4M-11332 in the name of Fergu
>> Show more
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
>> Show more
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 Stewart Stevenson
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11008: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10600: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10473: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10312: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10244: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, Date Lodged: 05/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10243: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, Date Lodged: 05/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10200: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10089: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09510: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08833: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, On Behalf of Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, Date Lodged: 23/01/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Stewart Stevenson
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4O-03633: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03594: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03478: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/08/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03434: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/07/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03140: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/04/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03048: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 13/03/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-02929: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 19/02/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-02882: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/01/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-02713: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/12/2013 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-18081: Stewart Stevenson, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/11/2013 Show Full Question >>