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  1. 5.05pm: Greenock Ocean Terminal member's debate

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Ailsa Brown

All times stated are UK

Good night

And that ends our live coverage of the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 24 March 2015.

Holyrood at night

Remember you can watch all the video from today's business at

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live.

We will be back tomorrow at 2pm with Portfolio questions. Until then have a good night.

Minister closes

Transport and Islands Minister Derek Mackay
Transport and Islands Minister Derek Mackay

Transport and Islands Minister Derek Mackay praises the work of Peel Ports at Greenock Ocean Terminal.

Mr Mackay highlights the 56 ships coming to the port, including the Britannia visiting in July.

The Queen officially named the new cruise ship Britannia earlier this month.
The Queen officially named the new cruise ship Britannia earlier this month.


The owners of

Greenock's cruise terminal have predicted that this year it will become the first Scottish port to handle 100,000 passengers.

A total of 56 ships are expected to call at Greenock Ocean Terminal in 2015, bringing 108,866 passengers.

Passenger numbers calling at Greenock have more than quadrupled over the past eight years.

In 2007 just 20,253 passengers passed through the port, compared with nearly 92,700 in 2014.

The Peel Ports-owned cruise terminal is expecting visits from giant passenger ships such as The Royal Princess and The Regal Princess.

The Queen Mary II liner will also call at Greenock as part of Cunard's 175th anniversary celebrations.

Overseas visitors

The ITG comprises of people from Inverclyde who are passionate about where they stay; believes that Greenock is ideally placed for overseas visitors and people from Scotland sailing from their own local port, and Ms Goldie wishes everybody involved with the terminal every success.

Queen Mary 2

It has been predicted that the Inverclyde economy will receive an £8.7 million boost from the expected record-breaking number of visitors, according to the West of Scotland MSP.

The cruise terminal, which is owned by Peel Ports, will be visited by ships such as The Royal Princess, The Regal Princess and the Queen Mary 2 as part of Cunard's 175th anniversary celebrations.

Queen Mary 2
Queen Mary 2

Ms Goldie says that breaking the 100,000-passenger barrier is a fantastic achievement and testament to the efforts made to enhance the experience of overseas visitors arriving at Greenock.

The terminal works in partnership with the Inverclyde Tourist Group (ITG), which provides an ambassador service for the area by greeting passengers on arrival and offering what it considers vital information.

56 Ships

The former Scottish Conservative leader says during the year, 56 ships, bringing a total of 108,866 passengers, are expected to call at Greenock Ocean Terminal and that this would represent seven more vessels than in 2014.

Greenock Ocean Terminal

She says that passenger numbers at Greenock have more than quadrupled over the last eight years.

Greenock Ocean Terminal member's debate

Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie is leading a member's debate on Greenock Ocean Terminal.

Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie
Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie

In her motion Ms Goldie says the owners of Greenock's cruise terminal have predicted that, in 2015, it will become the first port in Scotland to handle over 100,000 passengers, thus making it the busiest passenger port in the country.

Decision time

MSPs voting

MSPs pass the amended motion from the post-study work visa, having passed Labour's amendment.

Debate ends

Mr Yousaf says he hopes, whatever the makeup of the next UK government, that it moves quickly on this issue.

He says the Westminster approach is damaging Scotland.

The minister draws the debate to a consensual close.

Not Fresh Talent 2

Mr Yousaf says credit must be given to the Fresh Talent initiative but stresses that the reintroduction of post-study work visas will not be Fresh Talent 2.

He says international students raises the attainment for everyone in the class.

The minister says he hopes the rolling back of the UK government from the principle in the Smith Commission, of some kind of visa being reintroduced, will be temporary, perhaps caused by the forthcoming general election.

No 'silver bullet'

Europe and International Development Minister Humza Yousaf is closing for the government.

Europe and International Development Minister Humza Yousaf
Europe and International Development Minister Humza Yousaf

Mr Yousaf says he accepts that even if the post-study work visa is reintroduced, it will not be a silver bullet.


Mr Gray says it is not just our industries that compete globally but also our higher education institutions.

He says in colleges there has been a drop of non-EU and EU students as well.


Cutting the income to that sector cannot be done without having an impact.

Widespread consensus

Labour MSP Iain Gray details the widespread consensus behind the post-study work visas in academia and in business.

Labour MSP Iain Gray
Labour MSP Iain Gray

Mr Gray says the Fresh Talent initiative shows this can be achieved within the devolution settlement.

'75% fall in EU students'

Ms Scanlon points out some increases in international students enrolment.

The Tory MSP says the 75% fall in EU students must be addressed by the minister in his summing up.

Man in wheelchair

She says she agrees the post-study work visa should be introduced but the Scottish government must address further education and the EU.

'Little bit painful'

Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon says "It has been a little bit painful to have three hours of consensus this afternoon."

Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon
Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon

Ms Scanlon says bogus studying and colleges had to be addressed.

'Noticeable decline'

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine says Scotland's higher education sector is a major exporter.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine
SNP MSP Joan McAlpine

Ms McApine says the abolition of the post-study work visas led to a noticeable decline in international student numbers.

'Unpaid ambassadors'

Labour MSP Hanzala Malik says it is absolutely crucial that we continue to encourage overseas students to come to study in Scotland.

Mr Malik says the revenue that is stimulated in our industry, the fresh talent and young minds from overseas is crucial and it encourages unpaid ambassadors for Scotland.

Labour MSP Hanzala Malik
Labour MSP Hanzala Malik

Mr Malkik says MSPs must demand the UK government takes their demands seriously.

Lib Dems

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur begins by expressing his "whole-hearted support to the reintroduction of the post-study work visa in Scotland".

Mr McArthur says he is not clear about the minister's call for an immigration system for Scotland that meets its needs.

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur

He says that argument is riddled with holes and he should not conflate changing the entire immigration system and the smaller request of reintroducing he visas.


SNP MSP Christian Allard MSP says inviting foreign students here helps us understand the world we live in.

SNP MSP Christian Allard
SNP MSP Christian Allard

He says international students are the bees pollinating, playing a critical role in helping our culture to flourish and our economies to grow and helping spread Scotland's seeds abroad.

'Welcome international students'

Ms Smith says we must deploy a rhetoric that makes it abundantly clear that we welcome international students.

Immigration policy must be balanced, wholly welcoming students but being punitive to anyone wishing to abuse the system, concludes the Tory MSP.

'Universities are right'

Ms Smith says she is in no doubt at all the universities are right to be concerned about the situation,

These concerns are completely justified, she says.


Scottish Conservative Liz Smith says her party will back the government's motion at decision time.

Ms Smith praises the contribution international students make to Scotland.

Conservative MSP Elizabeth Smith
Conservative MSP Elizabeth Smith

She says we should be very concerned when we hear a chorus for change to the post-study work visa.

The Scottish Conservatives have made clear these concerns to Theresa May, she says.

'Considerable contribution'

International students make a considerable contribution to our economy and our society, says Ms Baker.

Removal from migration targets

Ms Baker calls for the immediate removal of international students from net migration targets.

'Stagnant international student numbers'

Ms Baker says the launch of Fresh Talent was a Scottish solution to a Scottish problem.

It ended due to bogus colleges and the consequences of targets to reduce immigration, says the Labour MSP.

Labour MSP Claire Baker
Labour MSP Claire Baker

She says since the removal of the visa, "Scotland has at best seen stagnant international student numbers".


Labour MSP Claire Baker leads the debate for her party.

In her amendment Labour MSP Claire Baker says she recognises the success of Fresh Talent, launched by the then First Minister, Jack McConnell, in bringing considerable benefits to Scotland's economy by encouraging international students to work, study and stay in Scotland.

Former First Minister Jack McConnell
Former First Minister Jack McConnell

Ms Baker calls on the UK government to immediately remove university students from net migration targets to ensure that Scotland's universities can continue to compete in a growing global market.

Reintroduce the post study work visas

Mr Allan says the UK government is obsessed with bringing down the numbers on immigration.

It is nonsense to drive away well qualified and young people from Scotland, when they are exactly the people the country needs, he says.

He calls again for the reintroduction of the post-study work visas.


In December, Home Secretary Theresa May gave her backing to a plan that would require all foreign students to leave the country at the end of their courses.

Mrs May believes the current rules are being abused, with many students staying in the country illegally after their studies.

Theresa May
Home Secretary Theresa May

The plan put forward by the Conservatives would require anyone whose student visa expires to leave the country and re-apply if they want to continue their studies or take up graduate jobs.

But Europe and International Development Minister Humza Yousaf said the Post-Study Work group report showed there was a "clear indication that business and education in Scotland are equally keen to see the reintroduction of post-study work visas."

'Scotland suffers'

Mr Allan says he is disappointed the UK government has not made any substantive progress taking this issue forward.

The UK government delays, Scotland suffers, he says.

'No doubt'

The minister says there is no doubt in his mind a post study work visa would be in Scotland's interest.

Learning Minister Alasdair Allan
Learning Minister Alasdair Allan

Business and education leaders want post study work visa's - that is what they are telling the government he says.

Call for reinstatement of visas

Learning Minister Alasdair Allan says a post study work visa would allow recent international graduates to stay in Scotland and contribute to our economy and society.

The Scottish government has consistently argued for reinstatement for reinstatement of the visas, he says.

BACKGROUND: Post-study student visas

The Scottish government called for powers to allow for the reintroduction of post-study work visas in Scotland in its submission to the Smith Commission.


Post-study work visas were abolished by the UK government in 2012, and the SNP called for their reinstatement.

Post-study student work motion

In his motion, European and International Development Minister Humza Yousaf says welcomes the publication of the

Post Study Work Working Group's report.

Mr Yousaf says he agrees with business and education leaders who demand the return of the post-study work visa to Scotland.

Different students

The minister highlights the contribution that international graduates make to the economy and society.

Mr Yousaf also calls on the UK government to engage constructively on the Smith Commission finding that it should work with the Scottish government to explore schemes to allow international graduates to remain in Scotland.

Post-study work visas

Learning Minister Alasdair Allan is leading a debate on post-study work visas.

Considering deadline extension

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur says access to broadband is far from universal, citing the Highlands and Islands and says the logistical challenge of getting to an area office is particularly difficult for island farmers.

Mr McArthur says the feedback from his constituents is that the complexity of the Single Application Forms is a major problem.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead says the overall policy is complex and all member states are finding it pretty challenging to implement the policy.

The minister says the government is giving serious consideration to extending the deadline by a month.

'Not fit for purpose'

Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Fergusson says people are calling the online service is "not fit for purpose" and asks what the Plan B the government has is.

The minister says there are contingency plans in Scotland if the new system does not work, in the shape of paper forms.

He says he does not doubt the frustration for farmers last week but says a number of fixes have been put in place and more are on the way.

IT problems

Ms Boyack asks when the technical problems with the online service will be fixed.

The fixes have been put in place, although there are some remaining to be completed says the minister.


The European Commission has extended the deadline for basic payment scheme applications until 15 June.

In England a multi-million pound government IT system to process EU subsidy payments for farmers was largely abandoned after "performance problems".


The system will be re-launched next week with farmers asked to submit Basic Payment Scheme claims on paper forms.

Farmers say they have struggled with the £154m website for months.

Scotland has a separate Rural Payments Service.

'Major benefits'

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead says the new payments have had an extremely complex implementation and the online service has major benefits.

Mr Lochhead encourages all farmers to register and use the service.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead

Ms Boyack says farmers have found the process has been "painstakingly slow" and difficult to use and hard for dyslexic farmers to use.

The minister says the online service has only been up and running for just over a week and paper applications are still taken in Scotland.


The window for submitting Single Application Forms (SAF) opened on Monday March 16, 2015 and will close on Friday May 15, 2015, as required by EU rules.

To apply for CAP funding, farmers, crofters and land managers must register on the Scottish government's

new Rural Payments and Services system, which replaces Rural Payments Online.


According to the government, all the guidance farmers, crofters and land managers need to complete their SAF is now available on

Rural Payments and Services.