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  2. Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing apologises for EU farm payments delays
  3. Economy Secretary Keith Brown outlines government plans for Scottish economy
  4. Opposition parties raise questions about the memorandum of understanding that Nicola Sturgeon signed with Chinese firms

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Colin Bell

All times stated are UK

That's all from Holyrood Live, good night

Holyrood at night
Scottish Parliament

That's all from Holyrood Live's coverage of the Scottish Parlimanet on 31 May 2016

Join us tomorrow when we go live from 2pm, with parliamentary proceedings kicking off at 2.30pm with Nicola Sturgeon calling on MSPs to back her nominations for Scotland's top law officers.

That will be followed by a debate on the government's plans for the environment, tackling climate change and land reform.

Catch up with all the Scottish political stories here.

SNP to chair 8 of Holyrood's 15 committees...

MSPs accept Scottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie's amendment...

Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act enforced from today

The Scottish Parliament is adjourned

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh adjourns the parliament.

SNP motion amended by Lib Dems and then passed at decision time

Economy Secretary Keith Brown's motion for this economy debate is amended by Willie Rennie's amendment and then agreed to, with 93 MSPs backing it and 25 against.

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser's amendment is not agreed with 31 MSPs backing it and 88 against.

Chamber at decision time

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie also sees her amendment defeated with 50 MSPs backing it but 69 against.

The amendment from Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie is agreed to, with 94 MSPs backing it and 25 against.

Will it catch on?....

Rural economy secretary says the 'economy is built on strong foundations'

Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary Fergus Ewing welcomes many "positive contributions" from the new Conservative MSPs, unlike the old hands like "Private Fraser", aka Murdo.

Mr Ewing says the government knows there are huge challenges facing the economy, but it is built on very strong foundations.

Fergus Ewing

He says Scotland has just seen a record year for inward investment and he refutes "Private Fraser's" assertion that the economy suffered in 2014, saying it was the fourth best year since records began.

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser intervenes asking for the value of inward investment in 2014, to which Mr Ewing says "let me give you a better figure."

Tory MSP calls for clarity on tax and spend powers

Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart says the parliament recognises the importance of a strong economy.

Conservative MSP Dean Lockhart

Mr Lockhart says there is an under performance in the Scottish economy, with unemployment higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK and the economy is becoming perilously close to going into recession.

The Tory MSP says his party would reduce business rates in Scotland and prevent a higher tax rate emerging here than in the rest of the UK.

Mr Lockhart calls on the government for clarity in the way it will use the new tax and spend powers.

Labour MSP raises concerns about nature of inward investment

Labour MSP Richard Leonard says much of the inward investment highlighted by the economy secretary have been call centres not headquarters and this must be looked at.

Labour MSP Richard Leonard

Mr Leonard says an increasing proportion of our economic base is owned overseas and this is a concern.

He calls for a rearguard action to be mounted to protect Tannoy jobs.

On 6 May the owners of the audio manufacturing factory in North Lanarkshire have confirmed that the plant is facing closure, with the loss of 70 jobs.

Scottish Lib Dem leader expresses 'signifiant concerns' over Chinese Rail Group

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie says there has been "massive cuts to the renewable energy sector" from the Conservatives at Westminster.

"We should be investing in renewables not cutting investment in renewables.", he says.

Willie Rennie

Mr Rennie says he is glad he questioned the government about the Chinese Rail Group.

He reiterates the questions about corruption around the Chinese Rail Group raised by Amnesty International.

The Scottish Lib Dem leader says he has "significant concerns".

'Scotland has the opportunity to be world-beaters' in many areas says SNP MSP

SNP MSP Ivan McKee says mistakes from the past must be learned from.

Mr McKee says he was made redundant from Motorolla when some poor decisions were made during the growth of silicon valley. 

Ivan McKee

He says a country the size of Scotland does not need to compete in every market and must choose niche areas. 

The SNP MSP says Scotland must learn from the best in the world and then "do it ourselves, only better". 

Mr McKee says Scotland has the potential to be a world-beater in so many areas and we should not set our sights low. 

Green MSP calls for boldness in grasping 'massive economic opportunity'

Green MSP John Finnie says Scotland must secure a strong and diverse economy, with a managed transition away from reliance on oil and gas.

Mr Finnie says his party wants boldness in taking hold of the "massive economic opportunity".

Green MSP John Finnie
Green MSP John Finnie

He calls for investment in sustainable industries that increase the quality of life and reduces carbon emissions.

No mention of his daughter's speech, so it looks like he is following his orders from Ms Maguire to avoid 'embarrassing dad stuff'.

Scottish government must reverse cuts to college places - Tory MSP

Scottish Conservative MSP Rachel Hamilton says the focus needs to be on attracting more business to Scotland.

Ms Hamilton was giving her first speech in Holyrood since becoming an MSP.

Scottish Conservative MSP Rachel Hamilton

Ms Hamilton says the farming and tourism sectors contribute greatly to Scotland's economy. 

The Tory MSP says much more must be done to redistribute wealth into the rural economy. 

She says an uplift in skills cannot be achieved if the Scottish government continue to cut college places. 

Challenge is to take the economy even further forward - SNP MSP

SNP MSP Tom Arthur says many of the contributions so far have been concerned with Scotland's economic progress, but it is true that many economies have not made progress in the past seven and a half years.

SNP MSP Tom Arthur

Mr Arthur says the challenge now is to take the economy even further forward.

The member for Renfrewshire South says advances in technology will help to achieve this and welcomes the superfast broadband commitment from the Scottish government. 

New SNP MSP says Scottish government 'have a strong record on the economy'

New SNP MSP Ruth Maguire also uses her maiden speech to claim her constituency is the greatest of all  and that is Cunninghame South.

Ms Maguire welcomes the pledge to grow at least 50,000 affordable homes over the next term.

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire

She says the Scottish government have a strong record on the economy but this must be built upon. 

Ms Maguire is of course half of the parliament's only remaining father and daughter team and we may well here from her dad, Green MSP John Finnie later in the debate.

She has already insisted she wants 'no embarrassing dad stuff'.

Watch this space!

Tory MSP Jamie Greene echoes former prime minister in maiden speech

Conservative MSP Jamie Greene uses his first speech to echo John Major's maiden speech in the House of Commons in 1979, one year before Mr Greene was born, calling for:

  • cut taxes
  • curb inflation
  • create new jobs
  • maintain, where possible, satisfactory public services

It was true then and it is true now, he says.

John Major and Jamie Greene
First major speech for Scottish Conservative MSP Jamie Greene

Seperate economy and finance briefs

The economy and finance briefs had both previously been the responsibility of John Swinney - but the posts were split when Mr Swinney was appointed as the new education secretary, with Mr Brown becoming economy secretary and Derek Mackay the finance secretary.  

Nicola Sturgeon split the finance and economy briefs into two separate jobs when she unveiled her new cabinet
Nicola Sturgeon split the finance and economy briefs into two separate jobs when she unveiled her new cabinet

South Scotland 'too often forgotten about' says Labour MSP

Scottish Labour MSP Colin Smyth takes to his feet for his maiden speech and says it is a great honour to be selected.

Mr Smyth says unemployment is on the increase in his area of Dumfries and Galloway. 

Scottish Labour MSP Colin Smyth

The member for the South of Scotland says this area is often forgotten about.

He says roads, infrastructure and broadband in the area all need investment.

The Labour MSP says with a bit of commitment and investment from the Scottish government young people will no longer have to leave the area to find work. 

A wee bit more on the MOU Nicola Sturgeon signed with Chinese firms

The Scottish government has published correspondence relating to a £10bn memorandum of understanding Nicola Sturgeon signed with Chinese firms.

The papers, released after a freedom of information request, detail the background of the investment agreement.

Ms Sturgeon came under fire from opposition MSPs over transparency and one of the firms involved in the deal and was again challenged by Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie earlier in this debate.

The agreement was signed at the first minister's Bute House residence in Edinburgh in March
The agreement was signed at the first minister's Bute House residence in Edinburgh in March

Economy Secretary Keith Brown said the papers proved that the government had "acted in good faith" throughout.

The first minister signed the memorandum with SinoFortone and China Railway No. 3 Engineering Group at Bute House in March. However it did not come to light until April, after reports surfaced in the Chinese press.

The newly-released papers show that draft press statements were passed back and forth, including supportive quotes from RBS and Brian Souter, but these were never released.

In correspondence included in the papers, staff say no announcement was made because "it was the end of term and there was a lot going out of the door", and "we simply didn't want it to get lost among all of the other announcements that week".

SNP MSP says 'economic opportunity is critical to population growth in the Highlands'

SNP MSP Kate Forbes uses her maiden speech to say her constituency of Skye, Lochhaber and Badenoch is the most beautiful in Europe.

Ms Forbes says economic opportunity is critical to population growth in the Highlands. 

SNP MSP Kate Forbes

She says she has seen more investment in the Highlands under the last two terms under the SNP than on previous administrations.

Ms Forbes says she is excited about the government's economic plans for this term, particularly the goal to provide 100% superfast broadband by 2021.

Tory MSP makes maiden speech shows strong voice despite laryngitis

Tory MSP Alison Harris fights through laryngitis to deliver her maiden speech
Tory MSP Alison Harris fights through laryngitis to deliver her maiden speech

Conservative MSP Alison Harris takes to her feet to make her maiden speech rather bravely, with an extremely hoarse voice, 

Ms Harris battles on says this parliament deserves a strong voice and she is doing her utmost to overcome her lurgae to provide it!

She says she is looking forward to ensuring her constituents voices are heard in this chamber, "possibly when I don't have laryngitis though".

Ms Harris points to the lower growth rate in Scotland than the rest of the UK and higher unemployment.

Full breakdown of Holyrood committees....

Background: Questions over £10bn Chinese investment agreement

Nicola Sturgeon said no deals would be done with a Chinese consortium if legitimate concerns about the firms involved are uncovered in April. 

The SNP leader signed a memorandum of understanding potentially worth £10bn in March.

The Herald newspaper said China Railway Group Limited (CRG) and subsidiaries were named in an Amnesty International report on human rights abuses.

Opposition parties urged the SNP leader to reconsider the agreement.

Rennie says government should be 'ashamed' over dealings with China Railway Group

Mr Rennie says Amnesty International has condemned China Railway Group for forcing people out of their homes.

The Scottish Lib Dem leader says the Scottish government refuse to rule out the China Railway Group.

Willie Rennie

Economy Secretary Keith Brown intervenes to ask what specific deals or financial commitments were made with the China Railway Group, saying it was just an MOU.

Mr Rennie says if the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) means nothing whey on earth was it signed and says the government and the minister should be embarrassed.

Here's the Scottish Liberal Democrats plans for the economy...

Here we take a look at the Scottish Liberal Democrats' plans for the economy: 

Willie Rennie and tower of pennies
  • enable businesses to get the skills they need through penny for education policies
  • invest in the modern infrastructure for businesses

Rennie raises concerns about MOU with Chinese Railway Group

Mr Rennie focuses now on the MOU between the Scottish government and the Chinese Railway Group.

He says he wants investment, but it has to be ethical investment.

The Scottish Lib Dem leader says the SNP is trying to silence critics.

He says he has read the FOI documents today, but the papers confirm his worst fears of "no due diligence". 

Mr Rennie says someone tried to remove reference of the Chinese Railway Group from today's papers.

Scottish Lib Dem leader calls on SNP to 'come out of the timid corner it has been hiding in'

Mr Rennie encourages the Scottish government to "come out of the timid corner it has been hiding in with its lack of ambition for growing our economy".

Willie Rennie

He also calls on mental health to be addressed to help people back to work, investment in education and in infrastructure.  

This would grow the economy, he says.

Mr Rennie again accuses the SNP of being "far too timid".

Willie Rennie gets to his feet to speak to his amendment

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie gets to his feet to speak to his amendment. 

Lets take a look at where Scottish Labour stand on the economy...

Here we take a look at the Scottish Labour party's economy pledges in the recent election...

Kezia Dugdale and a wage slip
  • only award contracts or give grants to organisations agreeing to pay at least the living wage
  • establish a living wage commission to support government and agencies to promote the living wage
  • establish a new "Skills Scotland" to help Scots move "into" work and then "up in" work
  • support the creation of Scottish Strategic Sector Forums

Ms Baillie says across a range of measures Scotland is not doing well

Ms Baillie says improving productivity is fundamental to improving growh.

The Labour MSP asks what on earth happened to the Scottish Investment Bank, despite it having been announced several times.

Pound coins

She says employment levels are lagging behind the rest of the UK and calls for the government to do bettter and points to increasing unemployment.

Ms Baillie says UK unemployment decreased by 28,000, so across a range of measures Scotland is not doing well. 

Scotland 'lags behind' the rest of the UK in productivity - Labour MSP

Ms Baillie says that the Scottish economy is growing at a slower rate than that of the UK.

The Labour MSP says we also "lag behind the rest of the UK" in productivity. 

Jackie Baillie

She says we're also falling behind other countries and we are actually dropping further.

"What on earth have the SNP been doing int he past nine years to improve productivity", she asks. 

Labour call for a number of key steps on the economy to be taken....

Scottish Labour's economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie, in addition to calling for the SNP to review their economic strategy, outlined the following six key steps ahead of the debate:


1. A review of business rates and recognition of the important role of small and medium sized enterprises.2. A comprehensive industrial strategy with a specific focus on our science technology and engineering sectors.3. A renewed focus on cities as the engine rooms of the Scottish economy and make the most of city deals.4. Investment in  infrastructure to improve connectivity.5. Stop the cuts to education.6. Using the new powers over the work programme to better meet the needs of the labour market and match it with skills that employers need.  

Labour MSP calls for change in SNP's economic strategy

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie
Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie says an inclusive economy is likely to be more healthy.

Ms Baillie says the Scottish government is good at congratulating itself but it is nine years in and very little progress has been made on the economy.

She says this should be seen as a starting point if things are going to change. 

Next up is Scottish Labour's Jackie Baillie

Next up is Scottish Labour's Economy, Fair Work and Jobs spokesperson Jackie Baillie

Beware the gap

Mr Fraser says there are great strengths to the Scottish economy and the fear is that the gap is widening between Scotland and the rest of the UK. 

Scottish Land and Estates welcomes CAP payment statement...

Tory MSP says business rates have been increased by some 42% over the last nine years

Mr Fraser says business rates have been increased by some 42% over the last nine years.

Fergus Ewing asks when the Tory MSP will get his facts right, but Mr Fraser is unperturbed and stands by his statement.