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Summary

  1. Next: Scottish Conservative Party Business: Education
  2. Next: Members' Business: Fire risk assessments

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Carol Duncan

All times stated are UK

Close of play

That's it from the Scottish Parliament today, don't forget you can watch all the videos from today's chamber business and the Finance Committee on demand at

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website.

Community safety minister

Community Safety Minister Roseanna Cunningham says our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victims of the Rosepark tragedy "who are still grieving now".

Ms Cunningham says the Scottish government's fire safety strategy for care homes will help the fire and rescue service.

Roseanna Cunningham
BBC

She says the single fire and rescue service will allow a better service and the auditing of every single care home in the country, every year.

This had not been the case when there were eight fire and rescue services in Scotland, says the minister.

Raise awareness

Siobhan McMahon MSP says duty holders must be assured that the information and advice they receive is relevant and up-to-date.

The Scottish Labour MSP also says more could be done to raise awareness and learning of fire risk assessments on major buildings and at major events such as the Ryder Cup.

Fire safety guidance

Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell says it is right to see if there are safeguards to prevent a repeat of the Rosepark tragedy.

Margaret Mitchell
BBC

Ms Mitchell welcomes the

Scottish government fire safety guidance for care homes published earlier this year.

The guidance aims to assist those who have responsibility under the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 for ensuring fire safety in care homes in Scotland.

More to be done

Mr McMahon finishes by saying "more needs to be done" in the area of fire risk assessment to prevent another such tragedy.

Recalling Rosepark

The Uddingston and Bellshill MSP begins his speech by recalling the Rosepark Nursing home fire in October 2004 which killed 14 elderly residents and by quoting Sherriff Lockhart who looked into the incident saying: "the fire should never have taken place because the fire risk assessment was inadequate."

Since the Fire Scotland Act 2005 has been passed and the Scottish government issued Fire Safety Guidance earlier this year.

Debate motion

Mr McMahon's motion in full:

S4M-11175# Michael McMahon: Fire Risk Assessments-That the Parliament is respectfully aware that the tragic fire at the Rosepark care home in Uddingston, Lanarkshire, that caused the deaths of 14 residents took place 10 years ago; notes the contents of Sheriff Principal Lockhart's findings after the fatal accident inquiry into the fire, in particular, his conclusion that some or all of the deaths could have been prevented if the home had had a suitable and sufficient fire safety plan; further notes the contents of the Scottish Government's Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Care Homes, published in March 2014; believes however that an awareness campaign would help duty holders responsible for care homes to understand the contents of the guidance and duty holders in commercial premises to appreciate the requirements placed on them by the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005, in particular that of obtaining a fire risk assessment specific to each premise, and further believes that people offering services in fire risk assessment should be properly qualified, preferably by third party certification.

Members' Business: Fire risk assessments

Labour MSP Michael McMahon leads a debate on fire risk assessments.

A fire at Rosepark care home in Uddingston, South Lanarkshire claimed the lives of 14 elderly residents, on 31 January 2004.

The fire broke out in a cupboard and ripped through the building.

In his motion Mr McMahon highlights the contents of Sheriff Principal Lockhart's findings after the fatal accident inquiry into the fire, in particular, his conclusion that some or all of the deaths could have been prevented if the home had had a suitable and sufficient fire safety plan.

Labour MSP Michael McMahon
BBC

His motion also points to the contents of the Scottish Government's Practical Fire Safety Guidance for Care Homes, published in March 2014.

The Uddingston and Bellshill MSP says that an awareness campaign would help duty holders responsible for care homes to understand the contents of the guidance and duty holders in commercial premises to appreciate the requirements placed on them by the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005.

Decision time

MSPs vote to pass the amendment from Education Secretary Michael Russell and thus the amendment from Labour falls.

94 MSPs backed the SNP amendment, with 18 voting against.

The amended motion from Conservative MSP Liz Smith is passed with 94 MSPs backing it, with 18 voting against.

Decision time

MSPs will now vote on the motion and amendments from the Conservative debate on educational attainment.

Postcode factor

Ms Scanlon who is closing the debate for the Tories says: "It cannot be the case that a child's postcode determines their educational attainment."

Bargain books

Scottish Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon also refers to Mike Russell's book "Grasping the Thistle" saying to the cabinet secretary:

"I would like to remind him that Tories are always looking for good value for money and looking for a bargain and given that your book is 50p in Bargain Books many of us have been picking it up quite recently and reading it avidly."

Mary Scanlon
BBC

Ms Scanlon says we should all value the child-care workers in Scotland for "they do a brilliant job for children prior to going to school" and adding "most of them are on the minimum wage".

'Positive destinations'

Mr Russell says it is not true that those from the poorest areas do not have positive destinations.

He says progress is being made with looked after children with a rise in positive destinations by 74% in 2012/13.

Michael Russell
BBC

The cabinet secretary says the government is targeting resources at early intervention, but says the budget is very constrained by Westminster.

Ministerial eruption

Education Secretary Mike Russell says he is the child of two teachers and the husband of a head teacher and he knows how hard teachers work.

Mr Russell thanks the Conservatives and Labour MSP Neil Findlay for citing his book "Grasping the Thistle" saying he still gets money for each book sold.

However he says they should get "more intelligent reading" as there were more up to date works that covered the issues.

He says he is sorry Murdo Fraser says he is a burnt out volcano, adding "I am still erupting all over the place".

Volcano
AFP/Getty Images

Equality begins at nursery

Kezia Dugdale MSP is closing for Labour saying the gap in equality begins at nursery age but says "we are not powerless to act" and so Labour will support the SNP motion.

Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale
BBC

She says there is no doubt 70% of parents say they have struggled with the cost of schools.

Looked after children

Labour MSP Cara Hilton says the attainment gap widens as a children go through their school careers.

Cara Hilton
BBC

Ms Hilton says there are "thousands of children are caught up in a cycle of disadvantage".

She says no child will ever achieve their full potential if they turn up to school with an empty belly or live in a damp home.

The Labour MSP points out that just 2% of looked after children go on to University and calls for further action from the Scottish government to address this.

Gap within schools

SNP MSP John Mason said the attainment gap can be found within schools.

Mr Mason said one head teacher told him it was like having two schools within one school.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation

SNP MSP Gordon Macdonald says a report in 2007 showed parents socioeconomic background matters most for a pupil's attainment rather than their school.

Gordon MacDonald
BBC

Mr Macdonald also highlights the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report

Closing the Attainment Gap in Scotland's Schools which found children from low income housing do significantly worse than those who are from more affluent housing.

The SNP MSP says the Scottish government is doing what it can to tackle the attainment gap, but it can only do so much to "mitigate the damage caused by Westminster policies", like cuts to welfare, which will lead to an "additional 50,000 children living in poverty by 2020".

State choice

Labour MSP Ken Macintosh says he wants to see more choice within the state system.

Ken MacIntosh
BBC

He says we have to recognise some parents are better placed to access the choices that are there and adds we cannot adopt a consumerist approach.

Dyslexia support

Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell calls on the government to do more to address dyslexia and to offer children with the condition more support, which would help close the attainment gap.

Early learning

Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur says there is much to commend in our schools, but there is a risk of not taking action where action is possible and necessary.

Girl doing homework
AP
Early intervention is key to addressing the attainment gap, says Liam McArthur.

Early learning and child care is key because the learning gap emerges in the early years and is difficult to correct.

The Lib Dem MSP says: "For every £1 invested before the age of three £11 is saved later."

'Failing an entire generation'

Jayne Baxter, a Labour MSP, says: "Colleagues we are still failing an entire generation."

She says we should look to the impact of health and social care integration, as it offers better partnership with the child as the focus.

Stretched education system

Labour MSP Neil Bibby says the Labour party is working on a strategy to reduce the attainment gap.

Neil Bibby
BBC

Mr Bibby says the strategy focusses on early intervention with children before they go to school.

He says it is a huge challenge to bridge the attainment gap and Scottish schools are being stretched and teachers are facing large workloads, with far fewer teachers in Scotland's classrooms.

Labour

Labour MSP Neil Bibby leads the debate for his party, his amendment is below:

Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools-As an amendment to motion S4M-11304 in the name of Liz Smith (Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools), leave out from "delivering maximum" to "headteachers" and insert "reducing the gap before children start school through increased and improved pre-school provisions, removing barriers to young people's opportunities and learning at school, closing the attainment gap for all children with a particular focus on looked-after children".

Equity in education

Michael Russell says the Scottish government is trying to create equity in education but "we cannot escape from the fact that the real enemy to progress is poverty."

'Relentless negativity'

The education secretary admits the most stubborn problem is the attainment gap which was a "yawning chasm before devolution".

Mr Russell says the "relentless negativity" of the Tories against schools shows they are going down the road of "demonising schools".

Liz Smith calls this an "outrageous remark to make" and says many commentators point to the fact "far too many of our disadvantaged children do not have the same chances as those in more affluent areas".

'Moving in the right direction'

Education Secretary Michael Russell insists: "We have seen progress wherever we look", adding the Curriculum for Excellence has "raised the bar in attainment" and improved education, "a shift for the better in Scottish education".

Michael Russell
BBC

Mr Russell says Scottish schools are moving in the right direction, with every main measure of performance improving.

He says the Office for National Statistics says Scotland is actually the most highly educated country in Europe and amongst the best in the world.

Education Secretary

Education Secretary Michael Russell gets to his feet to begin his speech, his amendment is below:

"Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools-As an amendment to motion S4M-11304 in the name of Liz Smith (Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools), leave out from first "believes" to end and insert "notes that Scotland's schools compare strongly when measured against international standards; believes that the greatest challenge facing Scottish education is the impact of poverty and inequality on pupils' ability to learn; further believes that the policies of the UK Government are increasing poverty and inequality; recognises that this leads directly to an unacceptably high number of young people from deprived backgrounds who do not participate in further or higher education, employment or training; further recognises that, in addition to economic policies designed to address unemployment and poverty, educational policy should focus on mitigating the barriers to educational achievement created by this inequality, and agrees that the curriculum for excellence is delivering improved outcomes using evidence-based approaches to raise attainment including a focus on strong leadership, high quality learning and teaching, literacy, numeracy and parental engagement."

'Diversity and choice'

Ms Smith says we do need diversity, a system that offers far greater opportunity to children.

She says educational policy should focus on removing the barriers that prevent too many young people in Scotland from obtaining better academic results.

Diversity and choice within school systems will help achieve this outcome, says Ms Smith.

She says a renewed emphasis on improving basic skills in literacy and numeracy is essential.

'Failing schools'

Ms Smith says a few schools in Scotland are failing to deliver the results that they should be.

She accepts poverty is a serious problem but says "let's not pretend there are some schools that are not delivering the results that they should be".

Attainment levels

Ms Smith highlights the "stark evidence" which she says lays bare the different attainment levels between different schools and different areas.

Liz Smith
BBC

She says the small improvement in educational attainment masks the fact fewer than 20% of pupils in less affluent areas get 5 standard grade passes, whereas 60% of pupils manage this in more affluent areas.

Education motion

The Scottish Conservatives will shortly lead a debate entitled 'Addressing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Schools'.

School pupils
Getty Images
The Conservatives are leading a debate on addressing the attainment gap in Scottish schools.

Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservative education spokesperson, will lead the debate.

Her motion is: "That the Parliament believes that the greatest challenge facing Scottish education is the existence of the significant pupil attainment gap between different schools and different communities; considers that this leads directly to an unacceptably high number of youngsters from deprived backgrounds who do not participate in further or higher education, employment or training; believes that, as well as economic policies to address unemployment and poverty, educational policy should focus on removing the barriers that prevent too many young people in Scotland from obtaining better academic results and the ability of Scotland's schools to compare more strongly when measured against all aspects of international standards, and believes that policies to achieve this outcome should specifically focus on delivering maximum parental choice, greater diversity in schools, strong leadership in a school system that provides full autonomy for headteachers and a renewed emphasis on improving basic skills in literacy and numeracy and greater support for those pupils with additional support needs."

Young people with learning disabilities

Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon asks how the government is helping young people with learning disabilities into employment.

Ms Constance says the government recognises the additional barriers to employment to some young people with activities.

Angela Constance
BBC

She says tailored learning and targeting businesses can improve the situation.

Female vocational students

Labour MSP Hanzala Malik asks the Scottish government what action it is taking to stem the reported decline in the number of female students studying part time vocational courses.

Angela Constance says women form the majority of college students and can benefit from record investment.

Training, Youth and Women's Employment

It is now the turn of Training, Youth and Women's Employment Secretary Angela Constance to field questions:

1. Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes: To ask the Scottish Government what impact the reported 11% fall in employment of people of working age in Dundee between 2011-12 and 2013-14 has had on women and young people. (S4O-03611)

2. Labour MSP Hanzala Malik: To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to stem the reported decline in the number of female students studying part time vocational courses. (S4O-03612)

4. Labour MSP Elaine Murray: To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to address youth unemployment in Dumfries and Galloway. (S4O-03614)

5. Labour MSP Siobhan McMahon: To ask the Scottish Government how it helps young people with learning disabilities into employment. (S4O-03615)

6. Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale: To ask the Scottish Government how the Employability Fund supports women into work. (S4O-03616)

7. Labour MSP Drew Smith: To ask the Scottish Government how it supports women in taking up places on training courses. (S4O-03617)

8. Labour MSP Neil Bibby: To ask the Scottish Government what it considers the skills needs are of the west of Scotland economy. (S4O-03618)

9. Labour MSP Ken Macintosh: To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that young people have access not only to employment, but to "decent work" as promoted by the STUC. (S4O-03619)

10. Labour MSP Rhoda Grant: To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to reduce the gender pay gap. (S4O-03620)

2014 legacy

Shona Robison says the legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games is that programmes such as Scotland's Best are providing opportunities for disadvantaged young people.

Shona Robison
BBC

There will be a comprehensive post-Games legacy in the summer of 2015.

Gypsy/Travellers

Mr Finnie raises needs assessments for Gypsy/Travellers varying across the country.

Commonwealth Games, Sport, Equalities and Pensioners' Rights Secretary Shona Robison says it does make sense for local authorities to work together.

Equality issues

Independent MSP John Finnie gets us underway by asking the Scottish government how it encourages cooperation across local authorities on equality issues.

Commonwealth Games, Sport, Equalities and Pensioners' Rights questions:

These are the questions expected to be asked in the first part of portfolio questions:

1. Independent MSP John Finnie: To ask the Scottish Government how it encourages cooperation across local authorities on equality issues. (S4O-03601)

3. SNP MSP Joan McAlpine: To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the UK Government regarding the level of the single tier pension. (S4O-03603)

4. Labour MSP Claire Baker: To ask the Scottish Government how it ensures the fair treatment of disabled people. (S4O-03604)

5. Labour MSP David Stewart: To ask the Scottish Government how it will improve the uptake of the pension credit scheme. (S4O-03605)

6. Conservative MSP Liz Smith: To ask the Scottish Government whether it will investigate tax breaks for sports clubs. (S4O-03606)

7. Labour MSP Jayne Baxter: To ask the Scottish Government what the legacy of the Commonwealth Games will be for disadvantaged young people. (S4O-03607)

8. Conservative MSP Gavin Brown: To ask the Scottish Government what the priorities are for the Sport and Legacy budget in the next financial year. (S4O-03608)

9. SNP MSP Christian Allard: To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with the European Commission regarding equalities issues. (S4O-03609

10. SNP MSP James Dornan: To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its equalities campaign, One Scotland. (S4O-03610)

Portfolio questions

Portfolio questions will begin the afternoon session from 2pm

MSPs will question the Commonwealth Games, Sport, Equalities and Pensioners' Rights Secretary Shona Robison during portfolio question time.

They will then question Training, Youth and Women's Employment Secretary Angela Constance.