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Summary

  1. Transport Minister Humza Yousaf discusses his portfolio with the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee
  2. Communities, social security and equalities ministers face questioning
  3. The Europe Committee leads a debate on Erasmus+
  4. A Labour MSP highlights a fundraiser for a new focus ultrasound device for Ninewells Hospital

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Louise Wilson

All times stated are UK

That's all from Holyrood Live

Student with map in European city
Thinkstock

That's it from Holyrood Live today, Wednesday 16 May 2018.

Holyrood unanimously backed the continuation of the Erasmus+ exchange programme beyond 2020.

Prime Minister Theresa May has previously confirmed the UK will continue to participate in the scheme after Brexit in March 2019.

However, concerns have been raised that the benefits of the programme will be lost once the current phase of the scheme comes to an end in 2020.

There was cross-party consensus about the positive impact of Erasmus+ and MSPs backed a committee report urging the UK and Scottish governments to reflect on how participation can continue into the future.

Robison encouraged by University of Dundee considering MRI ultrasound research

Ms Robison says, given the latest opinion from NICE, adoption of MRI ultrasoud for the treatment of tremor cannot be considered at this time.

The health secretary explains the treatment can only be used in research trials.

She accepts this will be disappointing to campaigners.

Ms Grant intervenes saying Scotland could lead the way at Ninewells hospital and advance this research.

The health secretary replies that international research into the safety and efficacy of the treatment is underway, which NICE will consider.

Ms Robison says she is encouraged by the University of Dundee and NHS Tayside exploring the possibility of adding to this research.

Efficacy of treatment too limited according to experts says health secretary

Health Secretary Shona Robison
BBC
Health Secretary Shona Robison

Health Secretary Shona Robison says the adoption of innovative technologies by the NHS has the ability to bring about transformative life improvements for patients.

She cautions that any new treatment must be clinically scrutinised, but highlights draft guidance recently issued by NICE on the machine does not give rise to safety concerns.

However, the guidance also warns efficacy is presently too limited unless there are special arrangement in place or it is for research, Ms Robison adds.

SNP MSP praises 'absolutely tireless campaign'

SNP MSP Fulton Macgregor
BBC
SNP MSP Fulton Macgregor

SNP MSP Fulton Macgregor praises the "absolutely tireless campaign".

He says having accesses to the most minimally invasive treatment appropriate is in line with the Scottish government's priorities.

Background: How does the ultrasound machine work?

Doctors in London have used sound waves to operate deep inside the brain.

The machine uses high-intensity focused ultrasound to destroy the faulty electrical circuits in the brain which are causing the tremor.

Ultrasound is sound waves which are at higher frequencies than those audible to humans.

At low intensity, ultrasound is harmless, and widely used for health imaging, such as in pregnancy.

By contrast, the machine at St Mary's uses 1,024 high-intensity, focused ultrasound beams which target a precise point in the thalamus.

But how can sound waves perform surgery?

At high intensity, ultrasound waves cause molecules to vibrate, which generates energy and heat.

When the beams are focused on a single point, this can ablate, or destroy, tissue by heating cells to near 60C until they die.

Tory MSP welcomes campaign

Tory MSP Miles Briggs
BBC
Tory MSP Miles Briggs

Tory MSP Miles Briggs expresses concern that there are waits of up to five years for the machine in St Mary's hospital in London.

He states installing a machine in Scotland would therefore lessen some of the pressure.

Mr Briggs praises the campaign, concluding that it can offer promise for patients with essential tremors, Parkinson's and other conditions.

Campaign an opportunity for Scotland to have state of the art treatment for tremors

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant
bbc
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant points out there is already a fundraising appeal underway for Ninewells Hospital to purchase a focus ultrasound device.

This is an opportunity for Scotland to have state of the art treatment for tremors, she says.

The Labour MSP says currently patients have to wait for years to get treatment due to the significant waiting list at St Mary's Hospital in London.

Background: Public support for campaign

An Inverness pensioner who has to travel to Newcastle to get treatment for a chronic condition backs the campaign, the Press & Journal reports...

Steady hand
BBC

"Mary Ramsay, 61, from Inverness has been fighting for a focus ultrasound device being provided to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee to aid tremor suffers across Scotland.

"The equipment is set to cost £1.5m and will become only the second machine of its kind to be offered to patients in the UK.

"Currently London’s St Marys Hospital hosts the only focus ultrasound device with waiting times stretching to a staggering four years.

"Mrs Ramsay travels routinely once a year the 560-mile round trip to Newcastle, which will continue as the new ultrasound device for Scotland, would not benefit her situation.

"Mrs Ramsay added: “I am not doing this for myself; I am doing it so others don’t go through the hell I did in trying to get a diagnosis and dealing with people’s ignorance.""

Read the Press & Journal story here.

Labour MSP praises constituent's campaign

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant
BBC
Labour MSP Rhoda Grant

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant says this debate has been brought forward after she met one of her constituents, Mary Ramsay, who suffers from an essential tremor.

Essential Tremor is a nerve disorder characterized by uncontrollable shaking, or "tremors," in different parts and on different sides of the body.

While the condition is not life threatening, it can have a negative impact on people's lives, she says.

Mary was bullied physically and mentally in school for her tremor, Ms Grant states, and the MSP backs disability training in schools.

Ms Grant highlights Mary has to go to Newcastle for her treatment, which has sparked a campaign to ensure patients can be treated in Scotland.

While an focus ultrasound machine would not help Mary, she supports it because it could help patients in Scotland with essential tremors, Parkinson's and other illnesses the Labour MSP explains.

Background: Doctors use deep-brain ultrasound therapy to treat tremors

Fergus Walsh

Medical correspondent

Doctors in London have used sound waves to successfully operate deep inside the brain.

They treated a man from Cornwall who suffered from uncontrollable tremors in his right hand.

Selwyn Lucas, who is 52, can now hold his hand steady and said he felt "fantastic".

The team at St Mary's hospital used MRI guided focused ultrasound to destroy tissue causing mistimed electrical signals to be sent to muscles.

The BBC was given exclusive access to the treatment, which was performed in the imaging department rather than operating theatres, and did not involve surgeons.

Dr Peter Bain, consultant neurologist with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, told me ultrasound brain surgery had an "enormous future" and could be used to treat other movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

Read more here.

Here is the motion...

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant's motion:

  • highlights the campaign to raise £1.5m for a focus ultrasound device
  • states the device can be useful for patients with tremors, including Parkinson's of MS
  • notes there is only one such device in the UK - at St Mary's Hospital in London
Motion text
Scottish parliament

Now time for a debate on funding for a focus ultrasound device

Older person's hands
Getty Images

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant will now lead a debate on the campaign to raise funds for a focus ultrasound device to be installed at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.

Decision time

Erasmus+
bbc
Erasmus+

MSPs unanimously agree to "notes the findings and recommendations" of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee's Erasmus+ report.

Consensus supporting Erasmus+ should send strong message to UK government

Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee deputy convener Claire Baker
bbc
Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee deputy convener Claire Baker

Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee deputy convener Claire Baker says the consensus in the chamber in support of Erasmus+ should send a strong message to the UK government.

Ms Baker echoes SNP MSP Graeme Dey, saying: "This is surely the time to be engaging with the scheme, not leaving it."

She highlights the change Erasmus+ has made in young people's lives, as evinced by Jack Kane centre in Edinburgh and West Lothian College.

The Labour MSP tells the chamber Youthlink Scotland told the committee Erasmus+ funding is crucial to the youth work sector.

She says the key concern of the committee was what happens after 2020 and where Erasmus+ will be in Brexit negotiations.

Ms Baker concludes saying: "Erasmus+ is to valuable to lose."

No viable alternative to Erasmus+ says minister

Europe Minister Alasdair Allan
BBC
Europe Minister Alasdair Allan

Europe Minister Alasdair Allan welcomes the consensus in this debate about the report and the value of Erasmus+.

He expresses concern about the lack of clarity for the future, saying stakeholders "urgently need to know" about what will happen after 2020.

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton asks about engagement with the UK government on the matter.

Mr Allan refers to regular contact between officials and notes there has also been discussion on where Erasmus fits in wider negotiation priorities.

The minister says that if the UK is to seek an agreement on Erasmus similar to those of other non-EU members like Turkey, this needs to be arrived at soon.

No other programme compares to Erasmus+ and there are no prospects of a viable alternative, he adds.

Tory MSP says not acceptable if Brexit means no Erasmus

Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw
bbc
Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw

Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw begins by pointing out the agreement on the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee about this report on Erasmus+.

Mr Carlaw stresses there was unanimous agreement around this report.

The Tory MSP says Erasmus is not a policy owned by any single party.

He details the breadth of the programme and agrees young people want Erasmus.

"It is not acceptable to me, if the outcome of our exit from the European Union, is one in which we are no longer able to participate in the Erasmus programme."

Background: More UK students 'go abroad for part of degrees'

Students working outdoors
Thinkstock

In 2015, British Council figures suggested UK students were increasingly opting to study abroad as part of their degrees.

In particular, the numbers studying overseas through the European Union's Erasmus programme more than doubled in seven years, says the Council.

And more than a third of almost 3,000 UK students surveyed said they were interested in studying abroad.

15,566 UK students took part in the European Union's Erasmus programme in 2014, spending up to a year in another European country as part of their degrees.

Read more here.

Risks to Erasmus+ is 'regrettable' says Labour MSP

Labour MSP Mary Fee
BBC
Labour MSP Mary Fee

Labour MSP Mary Fee says it is "deeply regrettable that Brexit casts a cloud of uncertainty over Scotland's future and Erasmus+".

She supports the Europe Committee's recommendation that the UK's participation in it go beyond 2020.

The exposure to different languages, culture and values are all benefits of the programme, Ms Fee argues.

She tells the chamber the story of one of her parliamentary staff, who spent time in Sweden as a student.

Background: Erasmus past and present

Erasmus logo
European Union for Illustration

Erasmus stands for European Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.

It was first established in 1987 as simply a student exchange programme.

Erasmus+, which is being debated by MSPs today, started in 2014.

It is a combination of several EU schemes for education, training, youth and sport.

Background: How might Scottish universities change outside the EU?

Jamie McIvor

BBC Scotland education correspondent

For Scottish students and those from other parts of the UK, Brexit will not have any day-to-day impact but some could be affected in one crucial way.

The Erasmus scheme - established by the EU - has helped thousands of students spend time in other European countries. About 2,000 from Scottish universities used the scheme in 2013-14.

Glasgow University cloisters
Thinkstock

Not all exchange trips are part of the Erasmus scheme but it has provided once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for many.

Brexit does not imply the end of British participation in Erasmus - universities at countries outside the EU take part too - but its future cannot be taken for granted either. Arrangements would need to put in place to ensure that participation in Erasmus can continue.

Background: Brexit student exchange needs rethink says top uni head

The UK should "consider seriously" its own international student exchange programmes to replace the EU's scheme after Brexit, the head of one of the UK's leading universities has argued.

The vice-chancellor of Cardiff University said he was "absolutely in favour" of students studying abroad.

Prof Colin Riordan said the Erasmus+ programme was "relatively inflexible".

The UK government said access to future EU programmes was a matter for negotiations.

Read more here.

Background: Scotland awarded highest ever Erasmus+ funding allocation

Student with map in European city
Getty Images

Scotland was awarded its highest ever amount of Erasmus+ funding in 2017, up almost €5m from 2016.

Nearly €21m was awards to educational, training and youth work organisations.

The majority - €11.4m - went to Scotland's universities, while €1.6m went to adult education organisations and €756,000 to youth work.

The number of young people benefiting from Erasmus+ also increased.

Lib Dem MSP pays warm tribute to those who make Erasmus+ work

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott
bbc
Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott

Lib Dem MSP Tavish Scott pays warm tribute to those who make Erasmus+ work, including a constituent in Shetland whose funeral Mr Scott just attended.

Mr Scott jokes he is not going to make another Brexit speech because he can't face another wind up from Jackson Carlaw.

The Lib Dem MSP concludes saying most young people he knows, including his kids, believe they are European and they just want to stay that way.

Erasmus+ 'speaks to the kind of country we want to be'

Green MSP Ross Greer
BBC
Green MSP Ross Greer

Green MSP Ross Greer explains that while Erasmus+ tends to be associated with middle class university students, it actually goes "far, far beyond that".

He points to the programme working in with schools, sports organisations, youth organisations and others.

Particularly for working class young people, participation in Erasmus+ has been life changing he says.

Mr Greer argues Erasmus+ also "speaks to the kind of country we want to be", noting the benefits of exposing people to other cultures.

Erasmus+ is under threat because the UK government has "blindly" committed to a hard Brexit and ending freedom of movement, the Green MSP claims.

'Sometimes you don't know what you've got until you lose it'

Labour MSP Iain Gray
bbc
Labour MSP Iain Gray

Labour MSP Iain Gray begins by saying: "Sometimes you don't know what you've got until you lose it."

Mr Gray tells the chamber there is full agreement on the benefits of Erasmus+ and points out Brexit threatens its future in the UK.

Erasmus+ also brings European students to Scotland enhancing our universities, he elucidates.

He calls for a commitment to Erasmus+ beyond 2020.

Background: Erasmus is of 'mutual benefit' to UK and EU says UK government

UK Brexit Minister Steve Baker
BBC
UK Brexit Minister Steve Baker

UK Brexit Minister Steve Baker wrote to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee last month on Erasmus+.

He said: "We see future cooperation in education programmes as an area of mutual benefit to both the UK and the EU, provided we can agree a fair ongoing contribution.

"No decisions have been made about post-2020 programme participation since the scope of this programme has not yet been agreed.

"The UK government has made clear that it values international exchanges."