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Summary

  1. 14.30: Ministerial Statement: Winter resilience
  2. 15.00 Inquiry into lobbying debate
  3. 17.00 Decision time

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Carol Duncan

All times stated are UK

Parliament is adjourned.

That's it for our coverage of the Scottish Parliament today, 6 November 2014.

You will be able to watch all the day's chamber business shortly at

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website.

Scottish Parliament building
PA
Scottish Parliament

Join us next Tuesday for more coverage of Holyrood.

Prison sentence

Scottish Labour MSP Margaret McDougal says there is a need for change.

Ms McDougal says there are already checks and balances for MSPs' contact with lobbyists, including the register of interests.

Should any MSP be involved in paid advocacy, which so far has not happened at Holyrood, a prison sentence can be imposed, she says.

Closing speech

Scottish Labour MSP Margaret McDougal closes the debate for the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee.

Ms McDougal says the debate illustrated how positive lobbying can be.

Margaret McDougal
BBC

The committee's deputy convener says there will be discussions of all the evidence received, today's debate and social media from today, before the committee produces its final report.

Regulating former ministers

On the subject of the regulation of former ministers, Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick says: "We do have very robust legislation in place and perhaps we should talk about them more often."

Mr Fitzpatrick says: "A register might underline the transparency and the openness of the parliament."

Scottish government closing

Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick begins by addressing Neil Findlay's contribution and says: "Let me be clear it remains our intention to take this forward."

Mr Fitzpatrick says this is a very complex issue and the government feels it is absolutely appropriate the committee deliberates the issues, before the Scottish government moves further forward.

Joe Fitzpatrick
BBC

Mr Findlay intervenes asking if his proposals will be included in the legislative programme coming up..

Mr Fitzapatrick replies: " I am not going to stand here and discuss the government's legislative programme".

'Nothing to fear'

Mr Findlay says there would be thresholds in place in a lobbying register, adding there is a huge difference between lobbying that costs £500 and lobbying that costs £50,000.

He thinks the industry and the sector have nothing to fear.

"With increased powers to this parliament comes increased lobbying." concludes Mr Findlay.

Public should know

Neil Findlay says the inquiry into lobbying is an effort to try to bury his bill and says his proposal: "My bill, as I put forward, is simply an attempt to throw light on the lobbying process and make it more open and transparent."

The Labour MSP again calls for a simple "unburdensome" register, an A4 online form, because after all: "Why shouldn't the public know who we are meeting, what we discuss as if contracts are awarded."

Labour closing

Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay says the Scottish government intimated it would take over his bill almost 17 months ago and told him it was minded to legislate his proposal.

However, "so far nothing".

Neil Findlay
BBC

He says he fully expects his proposal to be in the new first minister's legislative programme, but if it is not he will bring back his own bill immediately.

The Labour MSP says he thinks his bill has been "kicked into the long grass".

John Lamont

Mr Lamont says he is concerned because of what we risk losing by the creation of a lobbying register, which may act as a deterrent to legitimate lobbyists.

Conservative closing

Scottish Conservative MSP John Lamont says any restrictions on lobbying may harm the parliament's ability to reform or amend legislation.

He says: "I understand the desire for transparency on the issue, voters have the right to know how laws are made and who their politicians are speaking to."

John Lamont
BBC
Conservative MSP John Lamont

However there is very little evidence there is any concern about lobbying in Scotland, says Mr Lamont.

The Scottish Parliament is more transparent than Westminster, concludes the Conservative MSP.

Blue ribbons: Dyslexia awareness

You may well have noticed that some MSPs are wearing blue ribbons this week.

SNP MSP Richard Lyle
BBC
SNP MSP Richard Lyle

The ribbon is worn for

Dyslexia Awareness Week which runs from 3 to 9 November.

The campaign aims to highlight that early intervention and support can help those with dyslexia reach their full potential.

Malcolm Chisholm

Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm says if the government is not minded to support his party colleague Neil Findlay's bill on lobbying it should not have taken it over.

'Difficult to define'

Cameron Buchanan says he has swung both ways on the issue of lobbying.

Cameron Buchanan
BBC

The Conservative MSP says lobbying is very difficult to define.

'Case for change'

On its website the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee makes it clear that there is a case for change.

It states the Scottish Parliament must seek to ensure:

  • sufficient transparency for citizens seeking information on how lobbyists seek to influence policy formulation and scrutiny processes
  • sufficient controls to prevent or expose any lobbyists seeking inappropriate access to, or to exert undue influence over, politicians or officials.

The committee also wants to ensure that its recommendations are proportionate.

Neil Findlay

In 2013 the Scottish government said it would introduce plans for a statutory register of professional lobbyists in the wake of concerns over the issue at Westminster.

Holyrood ministers said they would bring forward legislation on the subject before the next election, in 2016.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay had been promoting his own bill on the issue.

Neil Findlay
BBC

Mr Findlay tries to raise a point of order trying to clarify whether the government still intends to legislate on his proposal.

Reforms needed

Minister for Parliamentary Business Joe Fitzpatrick says the "issues of probity should command a balanced reasoned and consensual approach."

Joe Fitzpatrick
BBC

"Reforms must be necessary, proportionate and achieve the aim of increased transparency .. the aim has quite rightly been to proceed methodically rather than quickly."

Lobbying

Parliamentary Business Minister Joe Fitzpatrick says lobbying is an "invaluable and necessary part of policy making".

Mr Fitzpatrick says the approach to lobbying should be "inclusive and open" like the approach of his government and parliament.

Stevenson's diary

Mr Stevenson says in the interests of transparency, he publishes the diary entries that relate to his being lobbied.

The record starts in September 2012 when the arrangements for publishing Ministerial diaries ceased to apply to him, he says.

The SNP MSP's diary can be viewed at

Lobbying.stewartstevenson.scot.

On the website Mr Stevenson says he excludes records of constituents lobbying him on political policy or personal matters but would include a record if a professional lobbyist is involved.

Unforeseen loopholes

Mr Stevenson says it is often the logistics of how lobbying registration would work that raises concerns: "Exceptions can create unforeseen circumstances and loopholes."

The idea of charging a fee for a lobbying register was disregarded as an unnecessary barrier to access to politicians, he says.

Register of lobbyists

Mr Stevenson says with additional powers coming to the Scottish Parliament further safeguards may have to be looked at.

Should the onus be on lobbyists or on MSPs for transparency?

Some witnesses called on MSPs to make their diaries public, revealing what dealings they have had with lobbyists, says Mr Stevenson.

The definition of a lobbyist could mean everyone a politician comes into contact with and he raises the issue of a register of lobbyists.

Lobbying caution

Stewart Stevenson convener of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee says that despite negative connotations of the word lobbying, the starting point for the inquiry was: "Lobbying is a legitimate, valuable and necessary part of a healthy democracy."

Stuart Stevenson
BBC

"The more voices that feed into the Parliament the more informed we will be when scrutinising policy" but he cautions that it is "the who, what and who's affected that's important" when considering lobbying.

Helen Eadie tribute

The committee convener, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson pays tribute to the late MSP Helen Eadie for her work on the issue of lobbying, when she at on the committee.

Inquiry into lobbying debate

The

Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee is carrying out an
inquiry into lobbying.

It's remit was to examine whether there is a problem, either actual or perceived, with lobbying and, if so, how this can most effectively be addressed.

The committee are also looking at whether and to what extent a register of lobbyists would help with this process, who such a register should cover and how it would be operated in practice.

Finally it looks at whether other steps might be needed to improve probity and transparency in this area.

Airports

How will we keep the airports open, asks Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume.

Runway clearing at Inverness
Norman Strachan
Runway clearing at Inverness

Mr Brown says that with the exception of Prestwick, this is down to the individual airports.

Harthill and Soutra

Both Harthill on the M8 and the A68 at Soutra have been designated vulnerable areas, says the transport minister and precautions have been taken to address this.

Vehicles travel eastbound along the M8 motorway near Harthill,
Reuters
Vehicles travelling eastbound along the M8 motorway near Harthill

Sudden snow

In reply to questions from Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone, the transport minister says Scotland's weather patterns are responsible for the harsh travel conditions: "We are always at the risk of having disruption caused by weather"

Mr Brown says that is thanks to our temperate climate, which differs to that of Canada and Norway who deal with snow so well because they are accustomed to those conditions.

Road responsibility

Grit being spread on wintry roads
Getty Images

In response to questioning from Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone, Mr Brown says: "It is the responsibility of local authorities to look after their roads and our responsibility to look after ours".

Rural areas

Scottish Labour MSP Mark Griffin wants to know how confident the minister is in the plans he outlined given cuts to local authority budgets in recent years.

Mr Griffin says: "What has the Scottish government done to facilitate discussions with local business with heavy plant that could be used in winter weather?"

Labour MSP Mark Griffin
BBC
Labour MSP Mark Griffin

He asks about specific problems facing rural and remote areas.

The minister says when there are weather issues of disruption the government's resources are made available to local authorities.

Mr Brown says the experience in 2010/11 the biggest challenge faced was getting unusual energy supplies to rural areas.

Mr Brown concludes

Mr Brown concludes his statement saying that at a time of severe economic challenges and environmental change it is important that Scotland's infrastructure and services are ready to support businesses and people.

Gritters

The minister detailed the following measures:

  • During the 2013/14 winter season, 75 new state of the art gritters replaced older vehicles and 34 of these new machines were bigger than the vehicle they replaced and the capacity to spread more salt.
  • The new 4th generation contracts winter service (east) commenced on 1st October 2014 and shall follow similar principles; and by the end of the 2014/15 winter season, new state of the art gritters will be operational across the country.
  • New weather stations, temperature sensors, cameras, messaging signs, new icebreakers, a stockpile of alternative de-icers and welfare kits to help anyone affected by disruption have all been introduced since 2010.
Gritter off road
ScottishExposure

Road salt

Mr Brown says there is approximately 693,000 tonnes of salt in stock or on order.

Grit and salt at Glasgow City Council's roads depot
BBC

This represents more than double the amount of salt used last winter.

National Centre for Resilience (NCR)

The minister says on 14 August 2014 his colleague Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse, announced Scotland's first National Centre for Resilience (NCR).

Keith Brown MSP
BBC

The NCR will build on experience developed in the South West of Scotland to develop national capabilities focusing on natural hazards, community resilience, flooding resilience as well as providing research purpose and facilities through the creation of the new Centre for Research on Resilience (CRR).

Winter resilience ministerial statement

Transport Minister Keith Brown begins his statement on winter resilience.

Mr Brown says: "Whilst we know severe weather will cause disruption, this Government has taken a wide range of steps to improve our resilience to the challenges of winter, to mitigate its impacts and to recover our transport networks, businesses and get daily life back to normal as quickly as possible.

"Today's multi-agency preparations for the amber weather warnings issued this morning are a good example of that."

Coming up

The afternoon will begin with Transport Minister Keith Brown outlining the Scottish government's winter resilience plans.

Banks of cleared snow at Glenshee's Caenlochan tow
SAIS Southern Cairngorms
Banks of cleared snow at Glenshee's Caenlochan tow

Then MSPs will debate the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee's inquiry into lobbying.

Welcome back

Welcome back to

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live coverage of Holyrood's chamber on 6/11/2014.

Scottish Parliament
PA

Debate ends

That concludes our coverage of the RBS debate.

We will be back at 2.30pm with coverage of the ministerial statement on winter resilience.

Until then, have a nice lunch.

Customer consultation

The minister says he would like to know if RBS can be sure that all of their customers can make alternative banking arrangements within the three-month period of notification that a branch is to close: "The customers' interests must be placed at the heart of this."

RBS
AFP/Getty Images

Mr Ewing also asks if opportunities can be explored to enable credit unions to be used an alternative to a bank.

Minister's staff tribute

Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing says the the government is concerned by branch closures in local communities.

Fergus Ewing
BBC

Mr Ewing pays tribute to RBS staff saying: "For many people the staff are the bank."

'Fred's shredder'

The Labour MSP referred to RBS customer charter which, in 2010, gave a long-term commitment to "stay open for business if we are the last bank in town."

RBS logo
PA

Mr Findlay says: "This year that commitment was ripped up and put in Fred's shredder... what a way to treat loyal customers and their families."

Branch closures

Mr Findlay says the true scale of RBS proposed closures only became apparent this year with 154 branches earmarked for closure: "Of these, 14 branches were the last bank in town leaving local people and local businesses with no banking."