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  1. 2.30pm: Welfare Reform Committee Debate: Welfare Reform and the Smith Commission

Live Reporting

By Ailsa Brown and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

  1. 'Momentous year'

    MSPs agree to bring decision time forward with a somewhat festive mood in the chamber.

    Tricia Marwick MSP

    Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick wishes all the members a "peaceful and happy Christmas and a good New Year" after what has been a "momentous year".


    That just leaves it for us to wish you all a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Remember if you find yourself pining for Holyrood over the holidays, you can catch up on the best moments of Democracy Live's year in our carousel at BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website.

  2. Debate closes

    Welfare Reform Committee deputy convener Clare Adamson summarises the debate on welfare and the Smith Commission, as she closes the debate for the committee.

    Deputy Convener of the Welfare Reform Committee Clare Adamson MSP
    Image caption: Deputy Convener of the Welfare Reform Committee Clare Adamson MSP

    Ms Adamson winds up the debate.

  3. Scottish Welfare Fund

    Ms Burgess says the link between benefit reforms and the rise in food bank usage is "very clear".

    On the Smith Commission, the minister says there is nothing coming in the powers to be devolved that will help create a new welfare state.

    Job Centre Plus

    She says the Scottish Welfare Fund shows what Scotland can achieve when it delivers welfare with over 100,000 households in Scotland having received at least one award to a value of £38m.

  4. Ministerial response

    Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess says the debate has displayed the fact MSPs have a real understanding of how the welfare reforms are affecting people in all our communities.

    The sanctions regime is punitive and is not helping people back in to work, says the minister.

    Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess
    Image caption: Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess

    She says her biggest regret is that "we still have no powers over these issues in this parliament".

  5. Bedroom tax

    Mr Simpson says the bedroom tax is an illustration of what is going wrong with the system.

    Glasgow protest - pic by Laura Bicker
    Image caption: Opponents of the welfare changes believe they amount to a tax on the poor

    Food banks usage is massive with nearly one million using them today - that has to be irrefutably a consequence of the welfare reforms he concludes.

  6. Labour

    Labour MSP Richard Simpson says there has been much common ground in the debate, with most MSPs agreeing it is the Lib Dem and Tory coalition policies on welfare, whether originally with good intentions, has led to a welfare system that has become uncaring and unjust.

    Mr Simpson says we need to address the rich as well, via bankers bonuses and the mansion tax.

    Labour MSP Richard Simpson
    Image caption: Labour MSP Richard Simpson

    The new sanctions regime is excessive and is counter productive, with people not knowing they have been sanctioned he says.

    The Labour MSP says he is particularly concerned about those with mental health problems and thanks SAMH for providing valuable information on the issues.

    He concludes there is a crude system of welfare which is particularly damaging to those with mental health problems.

  7. Food banks

    Mr Johnstone says he agrees with other members who say it is unfortunate that food banks are currently necessary.

    Hackney food bank
    Image caption: Benefit sanctions are one reason for increased use of food banks, it is claimed

    They are however a wonderful example how human beings can pull together when a need is identifified and he pays tribute to tribute to people who work in food banks.

  8. Economic growth

    Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, says "we in Scotland are extremely lucky to be part of the UK".

    Mr Johnstone says the UK is creating jobs and economic growth at a time when many of our European neighbours would kill for that opportunity.

    Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone

    He says there are problems with the sanctions regime which seems to be attacking the same people time and time again.

    The Tory MSP says sanctions were introduced some time ago under a previous Labour government.

  9. Smith Commission summary

    Universal Credit

    Universal Credit (UC) will remain a reserved benefit administered and delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

    However, the Scottish government will be given the power to change the frequency of UC payments, vary the existing plans for single household payments, and pay landlords direct for housing costs in Scotland.

    The Scottish Parliament will also have the power to vary the housing cost elements of UC, including varying the under-occupancy charge and local housing allowance rates, eligible rent, and deductions for non-dependents.

    Lord Smith

    But the power to vary the remaining elements of UC and the earnings taper will remain reserved. Conditionality and sanctions within UC will also remain reserved.

    Benefits devolved outside Universal Credit

    Powers over the following benefits in Scotland will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament:

    Benefits for carers, disabled people and those who are ill: Attendance Allowance, Carer's Allowance, Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Industrial Injuries Disablement Allowance and Severe Disablement Allowance.

    Benefits which currently comprise the Regulated Social Fund: Cold Weather Payment, Funeral Payment, Sure Start Maternity Grant and Winter Fuel Payment.

    piggy bank

    Discretionary Housing Payments.

    The Scottish Parliament will have complete autonomy in determining the structure and value of these benefits or any new benefits or services which might replace them.

    Benefits reserved outside Universal Credit

    • Responsibility for the following benefits will remain reserved to Westminster
    • Bereavement Allowance,
    • Bereavement Payment,
    • Child Benefit,
    • Guardian's Allowance,
    • Maternity Allowance,
    • Statutory Maternity Pay,
    • Statutory Sick Pay,
    • Widowed Parent's Allowance.

    Powers to create new benefits


    The Scottish Parliament will have new powers to create new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility, as well as new powers to make discretionary payments in any area of welfare without the need to obtain prior permission from the Department of Work and Pensions at Westminster.

  10. Conservatives

    Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie says the real question is what Scotland does with the powers from the Smith Commission to improve the lives of the its people.

    Ms Goldie says welfare reform is aimed at trying to bring reform to the benefits system.

    While she accepts not every aspect of the reform has been well received, it would be hard to find opposition anywhere to the system needing reform.

    Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie

    The whole point of reform is to try and help people back in to work and reduce their dependency on the state, she says.

    The former Conservative leader says she wants to see a system that is compassionate, flexible and effective in helping people get back to work.

    I think the Smith Commission has done a very good job in trying balance to responsibility and obligation she says.

    "I hope the blame game will be in the past."

  11. Labour

    Labour's social justice spokesperson says UK welfare reform is one of the key factors in the rise in food bank use and calls for a sea change in the use of sanctions.

    Mr Macintosh says people are suffering anxiety over their very real needs, alongside the feeling that they are being judged.

    Labour MSP Ken Macintosh
    Image caption: Labour MSP Ken Macintosh

    He says the committee reports point directly at the Tory government.

    The Labour MSP calls for a change to the approach to our welfare system which is "bitty, piecemeal".

  12. Food banks

    Ms Burgess says she absolutely welcomes the reports from the Welfare Reform Committee.

    The minister also praises Dennis Curran, who gave evidence to the committee in March.


    Mr Curran from Loaves and Fishes said the use of food banks was "not just growing but exploding" saying people were being penalised for being poor and the "heart of the matter is people are starving".

    In March food bank providers told MSPs it was "clear" that UK government welfare reform had been one of the drivers of the "terrifying" increase in the number of people using food banks in Scotland.

  13. Welfare minister

    Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess says last year over 54,000 individuals on job seekers allowance were sanctioned in Scotland - with some receiving multiple sanctions.

    Ms Burgess says our analysis has shown that those who receive a sanction on average suffer a loss of income for four weeks - amounting to around £270.

    "That's a huge amount of money for people battling to survive on low incomes" she says.

    Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess
    Image caption: Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess

    The minister also says "in order to help us tackle poverty and inequality that blight our society, we will maintain our spending on mitigating welfare reforms at around £296m over a three year period to ease the worst impact of the reforms"

    "We will also continue efforts to stop in-work poverty including our commitment to the living wage" she says.

  14. Key proposals

    MSPs will also have the power to create new benefits and top up others, if the proposals are implemented.

    But the draft version of the Commission's report was more radical.

    It included devolving the power to vary all the key elements of Universal Credit, which supporters believe would have enabled Holyrood to design its own welfare system.

    Only the power to vary the housing element made it into the final report.

    John Swinney Lord Smith Annabel Goldie
    Image caption: John Swinney wanted greater devolution of welfare but Annabel Goldie said Universal Credit could not be unpicked

    This will allow MSPs to cancel the under occupancy charge, which has been dubbed the "bedroom tax" by its critics.

    Universal Credit is replacing six benefits including Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit and Income Support as well as Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Employment and Support Allowance.

    The Conservative MSP, Annabel Goldie, said Universal Credit would operate universally across the UK and "couldn't be unpicked".

    But the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, said it was clear there was scope to devolve a "great deal more flexibility" on welfare.

  15. Commission recommendations

    BBC Scotland saw a draft of the Commission's recommendations which included devolving the power to vary Universal Credit.

    Smith Commission

    That did not make it into the final version, although some other welfare provisions - like Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Carer's Allowance - survived.

    Some benefits, including Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Carer's Allowance, are to be devolved under the Smith proposals.

  16. Smith commission

    Some proposals for new Scottish powers did not make it into the final Smith Commission report, MSPs have been told.

    Lord Smith, who chaired the body set up after the Scottish independence "No" vote, said ideas which were judged "unworkable" did not feature.

    Lord Smith answers MSP questions
    Image caption: Lord Smith answered MSP questions at Holyrood

    Addressing members of the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee at Holyrood, he said he would not detail the plans that were left out.

    However, the BBC revealed last week that welfare powers were dropped.

  17. Food poverty

    In August Nicola Sturgeon says the level of food poverty in Scotland is "simply not acceptable".

    Ms Sturgeon announced £518,000 in funding aimed at tackling food poverty for 26 projects across Scotland.

    She blamed welfare changes introduced by the UK government for a rise in food bank use.

    Food bank worker

    Labour claimed the SNP would not be able to fund its welfare plans if it proposed to cut corporation tax.

    The Trussell Trust said the number of people who used their food banks in Scotland between April last year and March this year rose to 71,428.

    It said that figure was five times the number which used them during the previous financial year.

  18. Food banks

    Mr McMahon calls on the sanctions regime to be less punitive and more supportive.

    Moving on to food banks, he says the committee found that welfare reform is the significant cause in the rise in use of food aid.


    The committee said it contested the UK government view that the rise in food bank uses is an economic choice.

  19. Sanctions regime

    In June the Welfare Reform Committee called for a review of the benefits sanctions regime in another critical report of the welfare system.

    Sanctions brought in by the UK government mean benefits can be withdrawn for reasons such as leaving a job or not attending an interview.

    The Welfare Reform Committee has recommended a number of changes to how the regime operates.

    Hand and coins

    The committee said sanctions should only be used as a last resort for those who have consistently and deliberately refused to engage with job seeking requirements without good reason.

    It suggested people should receive a written warning at the first breach before it is escalated to a sanction, to act as a deterrent and not a punishment.

    People should also have at least 10 working days' notice prior to a sanction being applied and be told of the reason for the sanction, while sanctions should be applied appropriately and consistently and with greater levels of discretion and support, the committee recommended.

    Conservative committee member Alex Johnstone dissented from the report's findings.

  20. Welfare Reform and the Smith Commission

    Welfare Reform Committee convener Michael McMahon is leading a debate, on behalf of the committee, on Welfare Reform and the Smith Commission.

    Mr McMahon will draw the attention of MSPs to the Welfare Reform Committee's 2nd Report 2014 (Session 4), Food Banks and Welfare Reform.

    Welfare Reform Committee Convener Michael McMahon
    Image caption: Welfare Reform Committee Convener Michael McMahon

    He also highlight its 4th Report 2014 (Session 4), Interim Report on The New Benefit Sanctions Regime: Tough Love or Tough Luck?

    The Labour MSP will also deal with the welfare proposals contained in the Report of the Smith Commission for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament.

  21. Unanimous backing

    Ms Sturgeon says Ms McLeod will "do an excellent job in her new role" and will be a very able minister.

    MSPs unanimously back her to be the new children and young people minister, where upon she receives repeated hugs from her colleagues.

  22. Librarian

    Ms Sturgeon says she is delighted to welcome Fiona McLeod to her role as acting children and young people minister.

    Fiona McLeod was born in 1957, and studied History at Glasgow University, before completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Librarianship at Strathclyde University.

    She was previously elected MSP for the West of Scotland from 1999 - 2003 and served as Shadow Depute Minister for Education, Children and Sport.

    Fiona Mcleod MSP
    Image caption: Fiona Mcleod MSP

    She has worked as a Librarian at Glasgow North College of Nursing, as well as Marie Curie Huntershill Hospice, and was appointed to Ofcom's Scottish Advisory Committee from 2004 - 2006.

    She was also a founding member of Westerton Junior Youth Club, and is currently a full time carer for her elderly mother. Fiona is married with one son.

  23. Ms Campbell's donation

    The first minister says she is delighted for Aileen Campbell and she wishes her, Fraser and Angus well over the coming months and looks forward to her return.

    Fiona Mcleod MSP and Aileen Campbell MSP
    Image caption: Fiona Mcleod MSP and Aileen Campbell MSP

    Ms Sturgeon says Ms Campbell will give up a portion of her ministerial entitlement to the Scottish government's children and families budget, so that she gets the equivalent of the statutory maternity pay of her salary.

  24. 'Shatter the glass ceiling'

    The first minister says she has made it very clear that greater opportunities for women, indeed "shattering the glass ceiling", is a priority for the Scottish government.

    Paternity and maternity leave vital part of that, she says and this is the first time in the history of the parliament a minister has gone on maternity leave, she says.

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
    Image caption: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

    Ms Sturgeon says the parliament should set a "clear example" and is doing so on this occasion.

  25. Junior minister appointment

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calls on MSPs to back her appointment of Fiona McLeod as a junior Scottish Minister.

    Ms McLeod will serve as acting minister for Children and Young People Minister Aileen Campbell who will be going on maternity leave.

  26. Welcome back and coming up

    Welcome back to BBC Scotland's Democracy Live coverage of the Scottish Parliament on 18 December 2014.

    Oh, and first minister's questions is ready to view, if you didn't catch it live with us at noon.

    Lord Smith

    This afternoon's proceedings will be dominated by the welfare proposals in the Smith Commission and the Welfare Reform Committee's reports into food banks and the benefit sanctions regime.

    Before that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will call on MSPs to back her nomination of Fiona Mcleod for junior first minister.

  27. Lunch

    That's lunch, we will be back with further coverage of the chamber from 2.30pm, including the Welfare Reform Committee Debate: Welfare Reform and the Smith Commission.

    Scottish Parliament debating chamber

    Remember you will shortly be able to watch first minister's questions, again, at BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website.

  28. Sport minister

    The new sport minister said 2014 was "remarkable" and had been the "most exiting of years".

    It was an incredible year for Scottish sport with the eyes of the world apon us, says Mr Hepburn.

    Sport Minister Jamie Hepburn
    Image caption: Sport Minister Jamie Hepburn

    He says the Ryder Cup reinforced Scotland's status as the home of golf and says Glasgow was the star of the Commonwealth Games.

    The minister praises many of our successful athletes.

    Scotland's Para-Sport bowls team
  29. Curling praise

    Sport Minister Jamie Hepburn begins by praising Scotland's curlers for their phenomenal success.

    Lockerbie's David Murdoch's took silver at the Winter Olympics.

    The 35-year-old was the skip of the Team GB curling side which won its way through to the final in Sochi.

    Curling team
    Image caption: Lockerbie's David Murdoch steered his team to a silver medal at the Winter Olympics

    Murdoch's rink defeated world champions Sweden in the semi-final but lost to Canada in the final.

    Lockerbie had already enjoyed medal success at the Olympics with Anna Sloan and Claire Hamilton picking up bronze medals as part of Eve Muirhead's rink on Thursday.

  30. Competitive sport

    Conservative MSP Elizabeth Smith says she believes sport in Scotland in 2014 "has given us a great deal to think about for the years ahead".

    Ms Smith says competitive sport develops a work ethic, social bonds, friendships and a sense of community.

    Conservative MSP Elizabeth Smith
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Elizabeth Smith

    She says she think "schools hold the key in may of these areas" but also we need to do more about cultural change.

  31. Sport success

    Mr Campbell says we must build on the momentum gained from the successes both in, and outside, sporting arenas in 2014 for future sporting generations.

    Boys running

    He considers development of grassroots and introductory level sports to be of particular importance to encourage more people to take up a new sport.


    The SNP MSP praises all those involved, in any capacity, in making the sporting events that Scotland hosted in 2014 a success.

    People watching Ryder cup

    Mr Campbell also praises in particular the contribution of the large numbers of volunteers, and hopes that Scotland can be the venue for large-scale sporting events in the future.

  32. Football renaissance

    SNP MSP Roderick Campbell
    Image caption: SNP MSP Roderick Campbell

    Mr Campbell says the Scottish football team was experiencing something of a renaissance under Gordon Strachan.

    Scotland team
    Image caption: Scotland defeated Republic of Ireland at Ibrox on Friday

    He says 2014 has helped to build on what is Scotland's reputation in a number of sports.

  33. Women''s golf

    SNP MSP Rod Campbell begins his speech on an outstanding year of sport by raising the positive story of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club voted in favour of allowing women members for the first time in its 260-year history.

    Women golfers at St Andrews
    Image caption: The Royal and Ancient Golf Club has approved the admission of women

    The St Andrews-based club has 2,400 global members who were entitled to vote and more than three-quarters took part in the ballot.

    Of those that voted, 85% were in favour of change.

    "This is an important and positive day in the history of the R&A Golf Club," said chief executive Peter Dawson.

  34. Outstanding year of sport debate

    That's it for first minister's questions, now SNP MSP Roderick Campbell is leading a debate on Scotland's outstanding year of sport.

    Ryder cup again

    In his motion Mr Campbell says it has been an outstanding year for Scottish sport, including, but not limited to, its athletes' success at the Winter Olympics, the the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup success at Gleneagles, the staging of the Dunhill Links Championship at two of North East Fife's most iconic golf courses and Carnoustie and the choice of Hampden Park as a venue for group games and a knockout round at Euro 2020.

    Mr Campbell says that 2014 has helped to build on Scotland's reputation in a number of sports and that the momentum gained from the successes both in, and outside, sporting arenas must be built on for future sporting generations.

    Team Scotland

    Development of grassroots and introductory level sports to should be of particular importance to encourage more people to take up a new sport he says.

    Mr Campbell also pays tribute to the contribution of the large numbers of volunteers, and hopes that Scotland can be the venue for large-scale sporting events in the future and that this can help to encourage people to continue to live a healthy, active lifestyle.

  35. Ambitious targets

    Ms Sturgeon says proposals have already been laid out in full. Says if targets weren't difficult to reach they wouldn't be ambitious enough.

  36. Post update

    Sarah Boyack, of Labour, asks what more Scotland needs to do given the country has failed to meet targets three years in a row.

  37. Consensus

    Talat Yaqoob, feminist campaigner, tweets: Just putting together next week's #fmqs bingo sheet #consensus #bored #FMQ

    consensus sheet

    United Nations members have reached an agreement on how countries should tackle climate change.

    Delegates have approved a framework for setting national pledges to be submitted to a summit next year.

    A dried up irrigation reservoir in the Yala national park in Sri Lanka - 11 September 2014
    Image caption: Developing countries have accused wealthier nations of failing to take responsibility for climate change

    Differences over the draft text caused the two-week talks in Lima, Peru, to overrun by two days.

    Environmental groups said the deal was an ineffectual compromise, but the EU said it was a step towards achieving a global climate deal next year in Paris.

  39. Climate change

    Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens asks for the Scottish government's position on the climate agreement reached in Lima.

  40. Cross-party talks

    The first minister says she would be happy to have cross-party talks on what can be done to save the centre.

  41. 'Shining beacon'

    Mr Stewart calls for a last-minute bid to save the centre, which he describes as a "shining beacon of light" for lost climbers.


    The search and rescue co-ordination centre at Kinloss in Moray is to close, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

    A total of 27 RAF posts and 10 civilian posts are said to be affected by the relocation to the National Maritime Operations Centre at Fareham.

    The Kinloss centre co-ordinates RAF, Royal Navy and Coastguard search and rescue helicopters, as well as the RAF mountain rescue service.

    RAF helicopter
    Image caption: The centre has been responsible for co-ordinating searches

    SNP Moray MP Angus Robertson described the news as ''devastating".

    He said it was "the latest in a series of disproportionate MoD cuts to defence bases, capabilities and personnel".

    The MoD said there would be no compulsory military redundancies as a result of the closure, and personnel would be assigned to other duties across the UK.

  43. Search and rescue

    Ms Sturgeon says the MoD did not tell the Scottish government of its plans ahead of the announcement of the closure of Kinloss search and rescue control centre, in response to a question from Labour's Dave Stewart.

  44. Government opposition

    Ms Sturgeon says the inquiry into the issue is already under way under Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland. Makes clear her government's opposition to Scottish flights and airspace being used for rendition flights. Calls for UK government to appoint independent, judge-led inquiry into UK's possible role.


    Police Scotland are to consider a report on the CIA's treatment of al-Qaeda suspects as part of its probe into rendition flights.

    The US Senate report said that the CIA carried out "brutal" interrogations in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the US,

    CIA logo
    Image caption: The CIA has said that the interrogations saved lives

    Police began an investigation in 2013 into the CIA's use of Scottish airports for the transfer of suspects.

    The probe followed research by Kent and Kingston universities that suggested Aberdeen, Inverness and Wick were used.

    Suspected CIA Boeing 737 (March 2004)
    Image caption: The report accuses US intelligence agencies of using "extraordinary rendition" to send terror suspects for questioning in countries where they had no legal protection or rights under American law

    The use of Prestwick, Glasgow and Edinburgh as a stop-off on journeys, often linking the US and Middle East, had previously been identified by the two universities.

    The CIA has defended its actions in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US and in a statement insisted the interrogations had helped save lives.

  46. Rendition flights

    SNP backbencher Christine Grahame asks a question about the possible use of Scottish airports for rendition flights.

  47. Countdown to Christmas

    Kate Shannon, Local Government Correspondent at Holyrood magazine, tweets: The general consensus in here is: thank goodness it's nearly the Christmas holidays #FMQs

  48. New powers

    Ms Sturgeon says everyone needs to get behind Revenue Scotland ahead of it taking over its new powers in April. Says the government was taking the issue "very seriously" and would be keeping a close watch on developments.

  49. 'Over budget'

    Ms Rennie says ministers had boasted of creating the most efficient tax agency in the world, but it was already over budget.


    The head of Scotland's new tax collection agency has said it is "on track" to be fully up-and-running on time, despite concerns from auditors.

    Eleanor Emberson's comments came after watchdog Audit Scotland warned of an "increased risk" of Revenue Scotland being unable to do its job properly.

    Ms Emberson told MSPs that risk was being effectively managed.

    Eleanor Emberson
    Image caption: Eleanor Emberson said Revenue Scotland was due to be up-and-running to collect new taxes from April 2015.

    Revenue Scotland is being set up to collect taxes devolved to the Scottish Parliament under the 2012 Scotland Act.

    It will collect the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, which replaces the current stamp duty, and the Scottish Landfill Tax, from April 2015.

    Audit Scotland last week raised concerns that delays in hiring staff and procuring an IT system to collect and administer the new devolved taxes

  51. Taxing questions

    Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie questions the appointment of someone with no tax experience to head up Revenue Scotland.

  52. Stamp duty

    Douglas Fraser

    Business and economy editor, Scotland

    tweets: On stamp duty replacem't, @nicolasturgeon hints at tax cut if Osborne's different reform feeds thru to bigger Holyrood block grant #FMQs

  53. Meeting offered

    Ms Sturgeon says finance secretary John Swinney has already offered to meet Scottish Tory finance spokesman Gavin Brown.

  54. Sturgeon vs Dugdale

    Meredith tweets: Fantastic opening from @kdugdalemsp - calling the First Minister out on this Government's misjudged rhetoric on the oil industry #FMQs

    Martin Neil, Labour councillor in Glasgow, tweets: Very strong and confident start from @kdugdalemsp at #FMQs exposing Sturgeon and the SNP for what they are - all soundbite and no substance.

    Andy tweets: Another face, same old script. Labour have absolutely nothing to offer. #fmqs

    Steven tweets: Kezia Dugdale is hopelessly out of her depth at #FMQs A stumbling, stammering ham-fisted performance - oh, yes - panto season is here!

  55. Meeting request

    Ms Davidson asks Ms Sturgeon when the two politicians can meet to examine the proposals.

  56. Examine proposals

    Ms Sturgeon says she will examine proposals put forward by the Tories on the issue.


    In October Finance Secretary said homebuyers in Scotland would pay no tax on properties costing less than £135,000.

    And a 12% marginal rate for houses costing more than £1m will come into force next April, when stamp duty is replaced north of the border.

    House for sale

    Mr Swinney's plan came in his budget proposal for the year ahead.

  58. Stamp duty

    Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson says SNP proposals for a replacement to stamp duty in Scotland are a "cash grab" on people buying new homes.

  59. 'Political ding dong'

    Ms Sturgeon says people working in industry want to see politicians unite on the issue rather than get involved in a "political ding dong".

  60. Oil inquiry call

    Ms Dugdale points out that Ms Sturgeon was in Shetland four months ago predicting a second oil boom. She accuses Scottish government of failing to see the fall in oil price coming, and calls for an inquiry into "why you got it so wrong in the past".

  61. Noisy debate

    Laura tweets: Oh dear, @TriciaMarwickPO has her work cut out for her today. *fetches mug of tea* #fmq

  62. 'Regular meetings'

    Ms Sturgeon says Energy Minister Fergus Ewing is meeting regularly with the industry. She says she is willing to work with people on other side of the chamber to help the industry and protect jobs.

  63. Government assessment

    Has the Scottish government done an assessment of the impact of a long-term drop in oil price on Scotland, and will they publish it, Ms Dugdale asks.

  64. 'Consensual politics'

    David Gardiner, the former Better Together Deputy Director for Research, tweets: I'm pretty sure Nicola Sturgeon's "consensual approach" at #FMQs died when she attacked the Smith Commission her deputy had only just signed


    The UK's oil industry is in "crisis" as prices drop, a senior industry leader has told the BBC.

    Oil companies and service providers are cutting staff and investment to save money.

    Total's north sea oil rig

    Robin Allan, chairman of the independent explorers' association Brindex, told the BBC that the industry was "close to collapse".

    Almost no new projects in the North Sea are profitable with oil below $60 a barrel, he claims.

  66. Women in power

    Alan Francis tweets: Nicola Sturgeon, Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson. Awesome to see so many women running the country.


    Kezia Dugdale was elected as Scottish Labour's deputy leader last week

    Jim Murphy was elected Scottish Labour leader at the same time.

    Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale
    Image caption: Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale

    Mr Murphy takes over the leadership after predecessor Johann Lamont quit the job after nearly three years in the post.

  68. Oil warning

    Ms Dugdale raises a warning over the prospects for the North Sea in the light of the dive in oil prices.

  69. First time

    First minister's questions has begun. Facing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (FM) for the first time, Scottish Labour's new deputy leader Kezia Dugdale (KD) wishes everyone a happy Christmas. Ms Sturgeon does the same, but adds the thoughts of the chamber are with people who have suffered as a result of terror attacks.

  70. First minister's questions

    We will shortly bring you extensive coverage of first minister's questions, including social media reaction.

  71. Cycling action plan

    Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan asks the Scottish government whether it plans to introduce initiatives to encourage cycling beyond its present commitments.

    Last year the government announced it cycling infrastructure plans, which included a scheme for Leith Walk.


    Up to £3.6m will be available for "promoting active travel" on the busy route into central Edinburgh.

    Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown says the government is committed to delivering its shared vision set out in its Cycling Action Plan.

  72. Food bank response

    Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess says there is no comprehensive national data on food banks, however the Trussell Trust has reported that a total of 51,647 people have picked up a day of supplies from their food banks from April to September in 2014.

    15 ,424 of that number were children.

    Food bank

    There was a rise of 124% since the previous year.

  73. Murphy is watching

    New Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy MP tweets: In public gallery for today's #FMQs. Looking forward to hearing @kdugdalemsp

  74. Food banks

    SNP MSP Adam Ingram asks what information the government has about trends in the use of food banks in Scotland.

    In August Nicola Sturgeon said the level of food poverty in Scotland is "simply not acceptable".

    The then deputy first minister announced £518,000 in funding aimed at tackling food poverty for 26 projects across Scotland.

    She blamed welfare changes introduced by the UK government for a rise in food bank use.


    Labour claimed the SNP would not be able to fund its welfare plans if it proposed to cut corporation tax.

    Ms Sturgeon announced the funding during a visit to Maryhill Food Bank, which will receive £40,000.

    The money will be distributed among 17 local authority areas.

  75. Fuel Poverty

    Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess says the government is committed to eradicating fuel poverty but it only has the power over one lever to do so, the energy efficiency house power.

    Ms Burgess highlights the 7% rise in fuel prices in the last year and says she has urged the UK government to increase the Warm Homes Discount.

    She says the government will publish a report on fuel poverty later today.

    Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess
    Image caption: Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess

    Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser says the fuel poverty level is going backwards.

  76. General questions

    Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser gets us underway asking the Scottish government whether it is on track to meet its fuel poverty eradication target.

    Fuel poverty has reached its highest level in a decade, with rising energy prices meaning that almost two out of five homes in Scotland are now suffering from the problem.

    Fuel poverty

    Scottish government figures for 2013 showed that 940,000 households across the country were classed as being in fuel poverty - a rise of about 100,000 from the previous year.

    There were 39.1% of households in fuel poverty last year - a rise of almost four percentage points from 2012 and more than double the total of 16% that were affected in 2003-04.

    Some 10.5% of households were suffering from extreme fuel poverty in 2013 - up from 9.4% the previous year.

  77. Coming up

    MSPs will shortly question Scottish government ministers during general question time.

    Here is a list of the questions we expect to be asked:

    1. Murdo Fraser: To ask the Scottish Government whether it is on track to meet its fuel poverty eradication target. (S4O-03841)

    2. Joan McAlpine: To ask the Scottish Government whether the recruitment of consultants in Scotland could be affected by any move to privatise NHS services in England. (S4O-03842)

    3. Adam Ingram: To ask the Scottish Government what information it has about trends in the use of foodbanks in Scotland. (S4O-03843)

    4. Elaine Smith: To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on NHS Lanarkshire's out-of-hours service. (S4O-03844)

    5. Margaret McDougall: To ask the Scottish Government what road improvements in North Ayrshire are planned over the next five years. (S4O-03845)


    6. Cameron Buchanan: To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to introduce initiatives to encourage cycling beyond its present commitments. (S4O-03846)

    7. Angus MacDonald: To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with Falkirk Council and West Lothian Council regarding the upgrading of the A801 River Avon Gorge crossing. (S4O-03847)

    8. Neil Findlay: To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of how local government services impact on various social groups. (S4O-03848)

    9. Bill Kidd: To ask the Scottish Government whether it considers that Glasgow City Council provision in the west of the city is meeting the government's aim of providing expanded funded early learning and childcare. (S4O-03849)

    10. Malcolm Chisholm: To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with NHS Lothian about its financial situation. (S4O-03850)

  78. Referendum costs

    SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell asks about the costs of the independence referendum.

    The witnesses

    Ian Milton from the Electoral Registration Committee says the referendum was unique and it needed huge additional resources put in, in a reactive manner.

    That ends our coverage of the Devolution Committee, we will shortly bring you extensive coverage of first minister's questions and, before that, general questions.

  79. Lessons learned

    In her submission, Ms Pitcaithly highlights lessons learned and steps she would take in future elections with a potential high turnout:

    1. Ensure sufficient polling stations - based on a sensible allocation of around 800 voters in person

    2. Ensure sufficient ballot papers - giving appropriate contingency to cope with the loss of one or more polling places and their papers

    Polling cards

    3. Train staff to cope with queues.

    4. Implement a communications strategy that encourages voters to attend at quieter times.

  80. Electoral fraud

    Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald asks if the police took electoral fraud seriously enough.

    Woman sorting postal votes

    Ms Pitcaithly says: "The experience we had of dealing with the police was one of the best experiences I've had of partnership working."

    "We planned the whole approach from very early on with regular meetings."

  81. 16 and 17 year olds

    Devolution Committee Convener Bruce Crawford praises the hard work of the chief counting officers and everyone who helped make the referendum a success.

    Mr Crawford asks "in an ideal world" when does a Section 30 from the UK parliament need to be in place to ensure 16 and 17 year old voters can participate in Holyrood's 2016 elections.

    Young people outside polling station

    Mary Pitcaithly says "the answer really is as soon as possible" and "no later than the spring of 2015".

    She warns that it will be a whole new group of 16 and 17 year olds who are voting in the election in 2016.


    Prime Minister David Cameron is to give the Scottish Parliament the power to lower the voting age in time for the 2016 election.

    He confirmed the move in a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Downing Street.

    The UK and Scottish governments described the first face-to-face talks between Mr Cameron and Ms Sturgeon as "cordial and constructive''.

    David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon met at Downing Street for the Joint Ministerial Committee
    Image caption: David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon met at Downing Street as part of the Joint Ministerial Committee

    The two leaders also decided to look further at welfare reform in Scotland.

    Voters aged 16 and 17 took part in the Scottish independence referendum.

  83. 'Voter confidence'

    The chief counting officer says the referendum achieved its objective in that voters had confidence in the result and she details the positive feedback across the boards.

    Group shot

    She says the referendum was an event that we did not rush as we had time because of the early passing of the legislation allowing the structures and controls to be in place to the highest standards.

    "For us it was a referendum made in Scotland and delivered by our unique institutions."

  84. 'Biggest ever electoral event'

    Chief Counting Officer Mary Pitcaithly tells the committee the scale of the referendum "was quite frankly just huge", but adds "it did go well" due to the planning and hard work of the teams across Scotland.

    Ms Pitcaithly praises the role of the committee in its scrutiny of the process.

    Mary Pitcaithly, Chief Counting Officer at the Scottish Independence Referendum,
    Image caption: Mary Pitcaithly, Chief Counting Officer at the Scottish Independence Referendum,

    The referendum was the biggest ever electoral event ever in Scotland, she says

    "It was an event that went well."

  85. Mary Pitcaithly

    In her submission to the committee, Ms Pitcaithly said she was " very much aware that in this context of close voter engagement that the turnout was likely to be high.

    She identified four principles around which to plan and deliver her work:   

     There should be no barriers to any voter taking part (accessibility);

     Voters should have the same experience wherever they are in Scotland (consistency);

    Man in kilt going to vote

     The referendum will be administered efficiently; and

     The referendum will produce results that are accepted as accurate (integrity)

  86. Electoral Commission

    The Electoral Commission's research suggested 98% of postal voters and 94% of those who cast their ballot at polling stations were satisfied with the arrangements.

    The commission said there were "important lessons" for future votes.

    Yes and no campaigners
    Image caption: Yes and no campaigners

    The turnout was the highest for any vote in Scotland's history with almost 85% of the electorate taking to the polls.

    A total of 4,283,938 people were registered to vote in the referendum and 109,593 of them were aged 16 or 17 on the day of the poll.

  87. Devolution Committee

    The Devolution Committee will take evidence from Chief Counting Officer at the Scottish Independence Referendum Mary Pitcaithly.

    Ms Pitcaithly will be joined by Ian Milton from the Electoral Registration Committee, Gordon Blair the depute returning officer, West Lothian and Chris Highcock, senior depute returning officer City of Edinburgh.

    Mary Pitcaithly

    The Scottish independence referendum was "well run" and an example to be followed, according to the election watchdog.

    A report by the Electoral Commission has also found high levels of voter satisfaction with the process.

  88. Coming up

    Today, at noon, we will bring you extensive coverage of the final first minister's questions of 2014.

    This afternoon MSPs will participate in a debate entitled 'Welfare Reform and the Smith Commission'.

    First up the Devolution Committee will take evidence on the electoral management of the independence referendum.