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Summary

  1. The Connectivity Committee takes evidence on the digital strategy from Connectivity Secretary Fergus Ewing
  2. Nicola Sturgeon is quizzed by opposition MSPs during first minister's questions
  3. NHS waiting times, Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and connectivity are raised during general questions
  4. Education and skills ministers are in the hot seats for portfolio questions

Live Reporting

By Colin Bell and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

That's all from Holyrood Live until next week

Ballot box
bbc

That's an early bath for all the MSPs, although I suspect some frantic leafletting will be taking place before that.

We're back next Tuesday, don't forget to vote tomorrow. 

Question on North Ayrshire class of 2016

SNP MSP Ruth Maguire asks what percentage of school leavers in North Ayrshire in 2016 continued in education, went on to training or entered employment. 

The education secretary says there has been no such reduction in places

Teacher
BBC

Mr Swinney says no such reduction has taken place.

Mr Fraser says that is an interesting response and he says universities are facing difficulties in training places.

He calls for the shortage of teachers to be addressed.

The education secretary says there has been no reduction of 62% in the target number of primary postgraduate diploma in education places in the time frame quoted.

Reduction in primary postgraduate diploma in education places

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser asks for what reason there has been a 62% reduction in the target number of primary postgraduate diploma in education places between 2017-18 and 2018-19.  

Importance of extra-curricular activities

Education Secretary John Swinney
BBC

Education Secretary John Swinney says he wants all children to be as fully engaged in their learning as they can be.

Mr Whittle says Reform Scotland have highlighted the importance of extra-curricular activities.

The Tory MSP says many local authorities are charging for these activities making it harder to close the health inequality gap.

The education secretary says he generally agrees with Mr Whittle's point.

He says there is a sensitive balance to be struck in the level of government involvement in this.

Background: Scottish children 'among least active'

Boy using tablet
BBC

In November we reported that Scotland had been placed joint last in an international study of physical activity among children.

The research found that Scotland had one of the best environments and infrastructure for outdoor play among the 38 nations that took part.

But it was ranked joint worst for exercise, and for the amount of time children spend in front of screens.

The study found parents were often reluctant to allow children to play outside.

Competition from sedentary and screen-based activities was also a major factor.

Participation in extra-curricular activities

Tory MSP Brian Whittle asks whether the government will provide an update on what action it is taking to ensure that all pupils can participate in extra-curricular activities irrespective of background or personal circumstances.

'I value enormously the role of school libraries'

School library
BBC

Mr Swinney says the Scottish government is taking a wide range of action to improve literacy rates.

Ms Lennon says a report in the Times said pupils were facing a post-code lottery in terms of access to library services.

The education secretary says: "I value enormously the role of school libraries."

Literacy rates question

Labour MSP Monica Lennon asks whether the government will provide an update on what action it is taking to improve literacy rates.

Swinney says books and articles necessary for pupil must be provided by education authorities

John Swinney
BBC

Mr Swinney says education authorities have a duty to provide books, writing materials, stationary and other articles that are necessary for pupils to receive free eduation.

The education secretary says the statute could not be clearer on this.

He says a very strong settlement has been given to Highland Council and he highlight pupil equity funding.

Background: Education must not be 'political football'

Pupils
Getty Images

Scotland's largest teachers' union has said education must not be used as a political football in council elections.

But the EIS said there should be a proper discussion on education.

The union is publishing a manifesto and is calling on voters to question candidates about local education.

Some have expressed concern local issues could be overshadowed by Brexit and the possibility of another independence referendum.

Question local authority requirements

SNP MSP Kate Forbes asks what requirements local authorities have to provide children with the basic tools of learning at school.

Guidance to be published when Equality and Human Rights Committee completes bullying investigation

John Swinney
BBC

Education Secretary John Swinney says the guidance will be published when the Equality and Human Rights Committee completes its investigation into bullying. 

Mr Leonard asks if the cuts to support teachers will help or hinder the delayed anti-bullying strategy. 

Mr Swinney says the strategy has not been delayed and could have been published "months ago".

He says it was delayed at the request of the committee.

Background: LGBT bullying at 'high rate' in Scotland's schools

Pride flag
AFP
The charity said strong leadership on LGBT bullying was needed from schools and local authorities

In November we reported that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pupils are still experiencing high rates of bullying in schools, according to campaigners.

LGBT Youth Scotland said the pupils were also not confident about reporting abuse to staff.

The charity called for strong leadership from schools and local authorities on the bullying.

The Scottish government said a new anti-bullying strategy had been developed with LGBT organisations.

Anti-bullying strategy

Labour MSP Richard Leonard asks whether the government will provide an update on when it will publish a new anti-bullying strategy for schools. 

Supply teacher numbers falling

Tory MSP Liam Kerr says supply teachers are often used when teachers are absent but supply teacher numbers are falling.

Mr Kerr asks what is being done about this.

Mr Swinney says registered teachers who are not currently active are being contacted. 

The education secretary says there is a systemic challenge in recruiting teachers which does not only apply to Scotland. 

Labour MSP asks how far will the education system fall before the government acts?

Education Secretary John Swinney says the government is taking action to recruit teachers and targets are being set to train teachers.

Mr Swinney says a recruitment campaign has been launched in order to increase applications to universities. 

Ms Grant says none of this is working because there is still a high number of vacancies.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant
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Labour MSP Rhoda Grant

"How far will the once excellent education system fall before the government acts," she asks. 

Mr Swinney says the government is acting to address issues and quite clearly there are shortages. 

The education secretary says he disagrees that headteachers should not be operating across more than one school if the correct support is in place. 

Background: Government funds 371 new teacher training places

Teacher and pupils
BBC
The Scottish government said the number of training places available would rise by 371 to 3,861

Hundreds more teacher training places are to be made available at Scottish universities from September.

Education Secretary John Swinney said the number of places would rise by 371 to a total of 3,861 at the start of the next academic year.

Mr Swinney said the places would be funded by more than £3m of Scottish government cash.

The announcement follows criticism from political opponents over falling standards in Scotland's schools.

Question on teacher vacancies

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant asks what measures the government is taking to ensure that schools can fill teacher vacancies. 

Guidance provided to local authorities on nutrition

Education Secretary John Swinney
bbc
Education Secretary John Swinney

Education Secretary John Swinney says there is no plans to update the guidance but there is a review in nutritional standards. 

Ms Fabiani says she is concerned that parents complain about the nutrition of school meals and that the government provides guidance to local authorities whose responsibility it is.

Mr Swinney says the government provides guidance and local authorities should ensure that the nutrition of school meals is in line with local needs.

Background: Obesity campaigners call for more salads and fewer puddings in school

School canteen
BBC
Obesity Action Scotland wants vegetables, soup and salads prioritised over puddings

School meals should include fewer puddings and more fresh vegetables, according to a report.

Obesity Action Scotland (OAS) said improvements to school meals could play an important part in reducing childhood obesity.

It wants to highlight the issue ahead of the council elections in two weeks' time.

The Scottish government said a review of school food and drink nutritional standards was under way.

Guidance on school meals

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani asks when the 2014 guidance on school meals will be reviewed.  

Government provides funding for pre-entry medical courses

Further Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville
bbc
Further Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville

Further Education Minister Shirley-Anne Somerville says the government has provided funding for pre-entry medical courses. 

Mr McArthur says school pupils need to believe that entry into medical courses is achievable and he says work experience is an important part of this.

The Lib Dem MSP asks what plans are in place to make it a more level playing field for island students.

Ms Somerville says she agrees with the premise of what Mr McArthur is saying and the programmes take rurality into account. 

Support to access university medical courses

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur asks what support the government offers to people from island communities who want to access university medical courses.

Portfolio questions begins

Pupils and teacher
BBC

Education and skills ministers are now in the hot seats for portfolio questions.

Harvie says council tax is 'broken'

Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie
bbc
Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay says the government is committed to ensuring fairness in all taxes. 

Mr Harvie says there was no chance Mr Mackay was going to say council tax and it seems clear council tax is out of step with the government's own principles.

The Scottish Green Party co-convener says a new system should be available rather than the council tax system which is "broken". 

mr Mackay says the government has been delivering its manifesto commitments

Background: Councils assess Scottish budget impact

Council services
BBC

Councils welcomed an increase in the amount of money the government plans to give them in the coming year - but few are celebrating.

Critics argue councils will still get less government money than this year which they actually have control over.

The government agreed a budget deal in February to give councils £160 million more than previously planned.

Councils are now working out just what impact this will have on their own finances.

The fairest system for councils to raise local revenue

Green MSP Patrick Harvie asks what the government considers to be the fairest system for councils to raise local revenue.

EU funding supports third sectors organisations across Scotland

Brexit Minister Mike Russell s
bbc
Brexit Minister Mike Russell s

Brexit Minister Mike Russell says that EU funding supports third sectors organisations across Scotland and that the Scottish government will do what it can to protect Scotland's place in Europe.

Ms Fee says third sector organisations are concerned over Brexit and new funding streams must be investigated.

Mr Russell says he has been meeting with the third sector nationally and locally and that the UK government has not been doing likewise. 

Background: SCVO report finds Scottish charities in 'survival mode'

Coins
Thinkstock

Scottish charities have gone into "survival mode" amid severe financial pressures, according to a report published in February.

Analysis by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) found there has been a sharp drop in confidence in the third sector.

It called on the Scottish government and councils to help the sector by awarding fairer funding packages.

The Scottish government wants a three-year funding cycle to give charities greater stability.

Third sector funding post Brexit

Labour MSP Mary Fee asks the Scottish Government how leaving the EU will impact on third sector funding in the West Scotland region.

'The Tories are not fit to stand up for Scotland' says minister

Tory MSP Jamie Greene says only 15% of the funding came from the Scottish government and asks if Mr Ewing will join him in welcoming the funding from the UK government.

Mr Ewing says the responsibility lies with the UK government and that "the Tories are not fit to stand up for Scotland". 

'We are currently pre-procurement'

Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary Fergus Ewing says the cost cannot be determined yet and that "we are currently pre-procurement". 

Mr Ewing says he can confirm that the government will invest £112m in 2017-18 to improve digital infrastructure to achieve 95% fibre broadband coverage across Scotland and this is in addition to £18m being re-invested.

Mr Rumbles asks by what date the government will be told about the costs. 

Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary Fergus Ewing
bbc
Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary Fergus Ewing

Mr Ewing says he has faith in the finance minister to deliver figures to the parliament in due course.

The connectivity secretary says he has repeatedly called for meetings with the UK government minister Matt Hancock, to no avail.

He uses the same "Hancock's Half Hour" gag he used in committee this morning.  

Background: Bid to improve rural broadband speeds

Ethernet cable
Thinkstock

In December we reported that almost £18m is to be invested in broadband services in Scotland to improve speeds in rural areas.

The money is part of a £440m UK package aimed at delivering access to superfast broadband.

The cash comes from "efficiency savings" and money returned by BT as part of the UK government's broadband rollout scheme.

Critics said they feared the scheme would not benefit those with the worst service.

Update on the broadband coverage programme

Green MSP Mike Rumbles asks whether the government will provide an update on the cost of delivering 100% broadband coverage by 2021, and how much it has invested in this programme to date.

The government forecasts are 'close within range' says Mackay

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay
bbc
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay says the £800m figure "is deliberately misleading". 

Ms Harris says the government's analysis has been described as "poor" and asks what the government are doing. 

Mr Mackay says that Ms Harris is not fairly representing the facts.

Mr Mackay says the government forecasts are "close within range". 

Land and Buildings Transaction Tax question

Tory MSP Alison Harris asks the Scottish government for what reason its Land and Buildings Transaction Tax will generate £800 million less than it originally estimated. 

The performance 'is actually a very good one' insists health secretary

Health Secretary Shona Robison
bbc
Health Secretary Shona Robison

Health Secretary Shona Robison says the government are working to provide support to all boards to ensure all patients are treated as soon as possible.

Mr Johnson says doctors are being told to send patients home and others are having to wait 17 hours in A&E.

The Labour MSP asks what assurances can be given that "the waiting list crisis will end".

Ms Robison says the NHS has record levels of resources but that demand is increasing.

The health secretary says the long waits are not acceptable and boards have said that these times will be brought down. 

She says the performance "is actually a very good one" at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary A&E. 

Background: Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in major alert over bed crisis

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary
BBC

One of Scotland's biggest hospitals was forced to raise a major alert after 36 patients waited for up to 17 hours in the accident and emergency department.

A Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh memo on Thursday raised safety concerns for patients, urging staff to free up beds.

NHS Lothian said it had an extremely busy day on 20 April but the situation was resolved within hours.

NHS Scotland figures show the hospital has been meeting the 95% target of patients being seen within four hours.

Waiting times at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson asks what action the government is taking to reduce waiting times at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.