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  1. Next: Tackling inequalities debate
  2. Next: Members' Business: 35th anniversary of Mercy Corps

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Ailsa Brown

All times stated are UK

Good night

And that concludes our coverage from the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 20 January 2015.

You can catch up with all the day's business at

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live.


Join us again tomorrow morning where will be hearing about the film and TV industry from 9.15am in the Economy Committee.

Until then have a good night.

Mercy Corps

The international development minister says

Mercy Corps are often still in areas long after the media spotlight has left a disaster.

Mr Yousaf says he is pleased the Scottish government has a good record in responding to humanitarian disaster, sometimes working with Mercy Corps.

International Development Minister Humza Yousaf
International Development Minister Humza Yousaf

He says there are ongoing discussions with Mercy Corps as to how the government sets a trigger for humanitarian aid, there is not a set budget for it.

The minister again congratulates Mercy Corps for its work as he concludes the debate.

'"Wonderful Team'

International Development Minister Humza Yousaf congratulates Mercy Corps and "all the wonderful team" for the work they have done over the 35 years since their creation.

Mercy Corps workers

Mr Yousaf commends Mercy Corps for the work they do in long term resilience following a crisis.

Praise for charitable organistions

During his opening speech SNP MSP Jim Eadie praised various organisations including

The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).

SCIAF work in over 16 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, to help some of the poorest people in the world, regardless of religion, to work their way out of poverty.

He also praised

Mary's Meals who provide daily meals to chronically hungry children in a place of learning.

Mary's meals

In this way the hungry child is attracted to the classroom where they can gain a better future for themselves and their community.

Mary's Meals has a simple ethos. "We deliver food and hope".

Mr Eadie also points to the work of

Christian Aid Scotland.

Christian Aid's website says it has a vision - an end to poverty - and "we believe that vision can become a reality".

He also features the work of

Oxfam who work with partners to lift people out of poverty and consider how they can help make a difference.

Mr Eadie goes on to mention

NIDOS which is the network in Scotland that unites the international development sector to promote effectiveness and collectively influence the policy agenda.

The aim is to strengthen the contribution of Scottish organisations to reducing inequality and poverty worldwide.

And last but not least he talks about

Save the Children.

Save the Children

Save the Children works in 120 countries. We save children's lives. We fight for their rights. We help them fulfil their potential.


Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur expresses his gratitude and the gratitude of his party for the work Mercy Corps do for some of the most need people in the world.

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur
Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur

Mr McArthur congratulates Mercy Corps on their 35th anniversary.

'Excellent work'

Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson praises the "excellent work" Mercy Corps has done in the last 35 years.

Ms Ferguson focuses on the plight of those displaced by the conflict in Syria,

She lauds the significant contribution Mercy Corps have made there.

Refugee camp in Azaz, Syria
Refugee camp in Azaz, Syria

The Labour MSP says over 3m people have been displaced from their homes in Syria, leading to 1.2m children missing out on a normal life.

Mercy Corps looks after some 800,000 refugees from the crisis in Syria she says.

Immense effort and dedication

Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan says Mercy Corps do a vast amount of work all over the world and it is through immense effort and dedication that they can achieve this.

Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan
Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan

Mr Buchanan says Mercy Corps has been "a huge success and deserves much acclaim".

They have made a lasting impact on a global scale he says.

Mercy Corps history

According to its website, Since 1979,

Mercy Corps has helped people grappling with the toughest hardships survive — and then thrive.

That's the heart of its approach: "we help communities turn crisis into opportunity".

The organisation was founded in 1979 as Save the Refugees Fund, a task force organised by Dan O'Neill in response to the plight of Cambodian refugees fleeing the famine, war and genocide of the 'Killing Fields'.

Justine Greening and a Mercy Corps member
Justine Greening met members of the Mercy Corps aid agency during her Syria border visit

This fledgling organisation helped focus attention on the humanitarian crisis and provided lifesaving aid to hundreds of thousands of Cambodians.

In 1980, Dan O'Neill had a serendipitous meeting that would change his life and shape his future.

At a relief and development conference, he sat in front of a man named Ellsworth ("Ells") Culver, who would become his collaborator in founding Mercy Corps.

'Complex emergencies'

Mr Eadie tells the chamber 93% of Mercy Corps staff are local to the country in which they work.

The SNP MSP says the world now has the highest number of people displaced since 1945, adding "we must pay more attention to complex emergencies".

He praises the Scottish government, which with cross-party support, has provided assistance to humanitarian emergencies in the last decade fulfilling its role as a good global citizen.

SNP MSP Jim Eadie
SNP MSP Jim Eadie

Mr Eadie says there is a need to develop a strategy to better respond to humanitarian crisis.

In conclusion he says Mercy Corps has provided "immeasurable help" to 229m people in 115 countries in the last 35 years and he calls on his fellow MSPs to pay tribute its staff.

'Resilience and self reliance'

Mr Eadie praises the work of Mercy Corps and welcomes their Edinburgh based staff to the chamber.

He says Mercy Corps has a total income of £45m and has aid programmes in 34 countries around the world.

Health worker being sprayed

Their work covers immediate disaster relief, like in the Gaza crisis last year to immediate recovery like in their water sanitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The charity provides an immediate response to a crisis, aids economic recovery and promotes resilience and self-reliance, says the SNP MSP.

Mercy Corps debate

SNP MSP Jim Eadie is leading a debate on the 35th anniversary of

Mercy Corps.

In his motion Mr Eadie celebrates 35 years of Mercy Corps' positive contribution to the world.

Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in northern Iraq
Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in northern Iraq

It was established in the USA in 1979 as the Save the Refugees Fund and after changing its name in 1996 it merged with the Edinburgh-based Scottish European Aid to launch its European-led operations which are headquartered in Edinburgh.

Mr Eadie commends the Mercy Corps on ongoing efforts to raise the public's awareness of the importance of international development and he believes that its work has helped improve 229 million lives in 115 countries and is currently working in over 40 countries.

Decision time

MSPs vote on the motion and amendment from the Scottish government's inequalities debate.

All three opposition amendments are defeated.

MSPs voting

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil's motion is passed, unamended, with 93 MSPs backing it and 18 voting against.

The inequalities debate ends

The social justice secretary says the benefit changes have been cuts to benefits to people who are the most vulnerable in our society.


It is "utterly deplorable" on top of existing cuts that Labour joined the Lib Dems and Tories to vote for another £30bn of cuts.

£18 for a week

Mr Neil says like the rest of the MSPs in the chamber he has seen hundreds of constituents with desperate stories to tell.

The minister tells of a single mother with three kids all of whom have autism, who were left by the Department of Work and Pensions with just £18 to look after her and her children for the week.

Children on swings
Getty Images

"I find that totally unacceptable in 2015."

'Human misery'

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil says the disabled community have suffered the most in recent years.

He says it is totally unacceptable for an economy as rich as ours to have the fourth largest level of poverty in the whole of the OECD.

Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil
Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil

"We have to look at why poverty got so much worse over last few years" - the Tories and Liberal Democrats do hold responsibility for this, he says.

Mr Neil says it is easy to band around statistics but "at the end of the day what poverty about is human misery".

SNP 'sheep'

Labour MSP Neil Findlay says it is essential the resources of the country are distributed equitably and progressively amongst our people.

Mr Findlay criticises the SNP backbenches saying they are "sheep" for not speaking out against the party line, after he has criticised the policies of Tony Blair.

Labour MSP Neil Findlay
Labour MSP Neil Findlay

The Labour fair work spokesperson challenges the SNP to say whether they will implement a 50p top tax rate, as Labour have pledged to do.

'Most disadvantaged now the most excluded'

Scottish Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie says "we have a growing economy and we are delivering growing employment".

Ms Goldie says the Scottish government relentlessly focuses on a paradox, it calls for higher unquantified spending in welfare but this is never actually borne out by any spending commitment.

Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie
Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie

The former Scottish Conservative leader says the loss of college places has not helped inequality.

In higher education "the most disadvantaged are now the most excluded" she says.

Optimism important

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie says "it is important we do have an optimistic view in this parliament" that we can overcome the challenge of inequality.

Mr Rennie says "despite the rhetoric from the SNP they were not promising one extra penny to be spent on welfare in their White Paper".

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie
Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie

As to austerity, he says the Scottish government's own Fiscal Commission also says there should be a downward trajectory on spending and efforts made to bring down the deficit.

Rise of food banks

SNP MSP Colin Beattie says Westminster austerity measures are doing nothing but "making the rich richer and the poor poorer".

SNP MSP Colin Beattie
SNP MSP Colin Beattie

Mr Beattie says "what has become a feature of our times is the rise of the food banks".

"In this day and age I believe there should be no reason for food banks in the first place" he says.

Save the Children

Labour MSP Cara Hilton says, according to

Save the Children, one in three children could be in poverty by 2020.

Ms Hilton says we must end the lottery of birth which dictates the level of poverty at the moment.

Labour MSP Cara Hilton
Labour MSP Cara Hilton

Education should be a route out of poverty, but the reality is children are caught in a cycle of poverty from which they can't escape she says.

"Our education system simply does not work well enough for our children."

Poverty rate

SNP MSP George Adam says we need a stronger fairer economy but "currently we don't live in that fair society".

Mr Adam says the Scottish government already has a whole host of initiatives - but the problem is limitations within the devolved settlement.

SNP MSP George Adam
SNP MSP George Adam

He says the

Child Poverty Action Group has estimated Scotland's poverty rate will increase by 100 thousand by 2020 as a direct result of UK government tax and benefit polices.

"These are the issues we have to deal with because these are the issues our constituents expect us to deal with" says Mr Adam.

Life expectancy

Labour MSP Margaret McDougall highlights the postcode lottery associated with life expectancy, with the disparity down to many issues that need to be addressed.

"It is our job as elected representatives to eradicate the inequalities that exist in Scotland."

Labour MSP Margaret McDougall
Labour MSP Margaret McDougall

She says policy must be based on evidence if inequalities are to be tackled.

In-work poverty

Scottish government figures show that

the proportion of those in in-work poverty is gradually increasing.

Kids playing in run down street
Getty Images

They also show that the percentages of children and working age adults in poverty who are in in-work poverty have increased gradually over time.

'168,000 jobs'

Mr Rennie says: "There is no monopoly of virtue in tackling poverty or inequality in this chamber."

"Even one child living in poverty I regard as unacceptable."

Money to represent benefits

The Lib Dem MSP says: "Without fairness it is difficult to create a truly strong economy - one is not possible without the other."

He says 168,000 jobs have been created since 2010 and the UK is one of the fastest growing economies in the G7.

Lib Dems

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie says that even one child living in poverty is unacceptable and that the best way to tackle poverty is by creating more jobs and opportunity for everyone.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie

Mr Rennie says since May 2010, a job has been created each minute of every working day and over 260,000 of the lowest paid workers in Scotland now pay no income tax.

He also says that over 2.2 million taxpayers in Scotland have had their taxes cut because of the increase to the personal allowance and supports the plans to increase the allowance to £12,500 in the next UK parliamentary term.

'Disadvantaged people'

Mr Johnstone says "the issue of tackling inequality is fundamental to a parliament of this nature".

He says the current UK government have done well in its efforts to elevate disadvantaged people through job creation.

Job centre

The Conservative MSP says welfare reform will "produce an important part of the change we need to achieve".


Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone is leading for his party in this debate.

Mr Johnstone's amendment says that since the UK government came into office, there are now 160,000 additional jobs in Scotland, which means that last year saw more people in work than ever before.

UK-wide three-quarters of new jobs are in full-time positions and two-thirds are in skilled trades, he says.

Tory MSP Alex Johnstone
Tory MSP Alex Johnstone

Mr Johnstone says the introduction of universal credit will significantly increase the flexibility for benefit claimants to enter employment,

He says he is "concerned at the Scottish government's lack of action on health and educational inequalities", particularly through its inaction on preventative spend,

Further and higher education

Mr Macintosh says Labour backs free university tuition but only if access is widened to be more equitable.

Ministers here have slammed the door shut to further education for 140,000 Scots, he says.

students in lecture

The Labour MSP says "one of the biggest victims of Scottish government's decision making are the most vulnerable in our society."

Mr Macintosh says the Scottish government only seems to want to go half way in its support of the living wage.

Educational attainment

Mr Macintosh tells the chamber "the levels of extreme inequality is getting worse" as the inequality gap continues to widen.

Labour's social justice spokesman says he is "slightly anxious the minister thinks this can simply be blamed on the UK government and everything we do here in Scotland is beneficial".

Labour MSP Ken Macintosh
Labour MSP Ken Macintosh

"We all have to accept responsibility."

For example he says the educational attainment gap is widening, but it has been devolved to Holyrood for the last 16 years.


Labour MSP Ken Macintosh's amendment "says more can and should be done to extend the living wage to all those employed on public sector contracts".

Mr Macintosh is concerned at growing inequalities in devolved areas such as health, the widening attainment gap in education and the increased use of charges in social care.

Children + poverty
Getty Images

He calls on all in Scotland to use the powers at their disposal, including digital and transport access for those in rural areas, to reverse these trends.

'Work together'

The cabinet secretary concludes saying the parliament must work together to create a fairer and more equal Scotland.

UK government policies

The minister highlights the Scottish government's commitment to the living wage.

Ms Cunningham says the government has focused on improving school attainment and university access for those with disadvantaged backgrounds, free school meals and childcare.

Living wage sign

"We know poverty levels are increasing in Scotland because of UK government policies."

Joseph Rowntree

Ms Cunningham says the OECD evidence says income inequality has a negative impact on growth.

She highlights the Scottish government's revised child poverty strategy "Pockets Prospects and Places".

She highlights the

Joseph Rowntree report which says the proportion of people living in households with an income below the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) has increased by nearly a third between 2008/09 and 2012/13.

The Minimum Income Standard (MIS) defines an 'adequate' income based on what the public think people need for a minimum acceptable living standard.

Horrible houses

The paper says:

-examines changes in the adequacy of household incomes between 2008/09 and 2012/13

-looks at who is most likely to lack the income needed for an adequate standard of living

-analyses the numbers and characteristics of those falling above and below the minimum income standard

Real wages have fallen

Ms Cunningham says real wages have fallen and there is now a substantial problem of in work poverty.

Roseanna Cunningham
Fair Work Roseanna Cunningham

The minister says women, young people, older workers, people without qualifications, disabled people and lone parents are more likely to be on low pay.

She insists job quality has gone down and the government is absolutely of the view these changes are bad for the economy.

Inequalities debate

Fair Work Secretary Roseanna Cunningham now leads a debate on inequalities.

The government motion says "a strong, sustainable economy is essential to building a fair and wealthy society".

It says a society that is fair and equitable underpins a strong economy and he believes that an essential element of this is that work should be a route out of poverty.

Man outside boarded up house

The motion deplores the fact that half of children in poverty are growing up in a household where at least one person is in employment.

It says that this is a clear sign that the economic and social policies of the UK government are failing Scotland.

Peterhead support

Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead says the company who owns the plant says it will get it up and running as soon as possible.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead

Mr Lochhead says the government is keen to help the local economy of Peterhead and he is awaiting to hear back from all the public agencies as to the best way to secure the future of the plant.

Peterhead fish processing plant

Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes asks the Scottish government what assessment it has made of the need for support following the fire at the Peterhead fish processing plant.

Fish factory fire
Charkes Bruce


Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop says the Scottish government has committed an additional £10 million to the V&A project bringing the total capital for the project to £25m.

Mr Johnstone asks if the minister will create some transparency around the process.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop

Ms Hyslop says she was trying to make sure "what we have is a certainty of a fixed price solution".

She agrees transparency is important.

Topical questions

Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone asks the Scottish Government what limits it will place on its contribution to the V&A project in Dundee.


extra £10m has been pledged by the Scottish government towards the construction of the V&A Dundee Museum.

It emerged on Friday that the cost of the project had almost doubled to £80m.

The new museum would form the centrepiece of Dundee's £1bn waterfront regeneration project
Dundee Waterfront
The new museum would form the centrepiece of Dundee's £1bn waterfront regeneration project

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the additional funding, which increases the government's capital contribution to £25m, reinforced its commitment to the "iconic" development.

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said ministers had to "get a grip on the spiralling cost" of the project.

'Gross discourtesy''

Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick says Health Secretary Shona Robison has been guilty of "gross discourtesy" for announcing funding for dealing with delayed discharges out with the parliament.

Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick
Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick

Ms Robison announced £100m of funding to deal with the issue in the media and on a visit to Cowan Court care home in Penicuik.

The presiding officer says the response from the minister was "unsatisfactory" and she is "very disappointed" with the government's actions.