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Live Reporting

Ailsa Brown and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

  1. Good night

    And that concludes our live coverage from the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 2 April 2015.

    Holyrood

    Remember you can watch all the video from today's business at BBC Scotland's Democracy Live.

    We'll be back on Tuesday 21 April after MSPs return from the recess, until then have a lovely Easter.

  2. Decision time and Easter recess

    The general principles of the Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill have been approved, with 70 MSPs backing it and with 10 abstentions.

    Decision time

    Presiding Officer says she hopes the sun shines on MSPs and that they manage to get some rest.

  3. Decision time

    We now move to decision time.

  4. Debate ends

    The justice secretary concludes says he cannot understand why the Conservative party will not support the end of automatic early release for the most serious prisoners, he says the logic is beyond him.

    Mr Matheson says the message is that the Conservatives want to maintain automatic early release for these prisoners by abstaining at decision time.

  5. Rehabilitation

    Mr Matheson says there will be an independent review delivered within the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) estate.

    The minister says a very significant amount of resource goes to short term offenders.

    If members are serious about more effective resourcing of rehabilitation of prisoners they have to be serious about dealing with the churn of short term offenders.

  6. Over-egging criticism

    Mr Matheson says Mr Henry is over-egging his criticism slightly.

    He says the government is bringing forward amendments at Stage 2 and he fully expects the Justice Committee to take more evidence.

  7. 'Mature, reasonable way'

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson says he fully recognises the detailed scrutiny the justice committee has given to this legislation.

    Mr Matheson says he is a little confused at some of the suggestions that what the government is doing is wrong.

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson
    Image caption: Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

    He says he is trying to respond to some of the concerns and issues raised by the committee and witnesses.

    That is a mature, reasonable way to conduct this debate, he says.

  8. 'Failure'

    Mr Henry says he has every confidence in Christine Grahame and her Justice Committee, but that doesn't excuse the failure of Scottish government to bring something coherent to us today.

    We don't know what the detail is we're voting on, he says.

  9. 'Severe and significant reservations'

    Mr Henry says we're having a debate about Stage 1 of a bill when we know when considered at Stage 2 will be completely different.

    The Labour MSP says the bill is not fit for purpose.

    He says Labour will support the general principles of the bill with severe and significant reservations.

  10. 'Bad way to make legislation'

    Labour MSP Hugh Henry says this is a bad way to make legislation and it undermines the credibility of the parliament.

    Labour MSP Hugh Henry
    Image caption: Labour MSP Hugh Henry
  11. 'Tiny percentage of prisoners'

    Ms Goldie says you either have automatic early release or you don't.

    This bill is just automatic early release for a for a "tiny percentage of prisoners" - which is not good enough, she says.

    The Tory MSP says this bill, even with the government's proposed flourishes, does not end automatic early release.

    She says her party will abstain at decision time.

  12. 'Partial and heavily qualified abolition'

    Scottish Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie says her party at Holyrood has consistently opposed automatic early release.

    Ms Goldie says since 1999 she has spoken frequently in debates against automatic early release.

    Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie

    She says in both its 2007 and 2011 manifestos the SNP said they wanted to see an end to automatic early release.

    Ms Goldie says it is disappointing the SNP are now bringing forward partial and heavily qualified abolition of automatic early release.

  13. 'Fundamentally flawed'

    Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes says to end automatic early release the government must prioritise public safety and guarantee supervision.

    The bill as drafted fails both these tests and is fundamentally flawed.

    Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes
    Image caption: Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes

    Ms McInnes says the proposed amendments suggested by Mr Matheson would allow her party to back the general principles of the bill.

  14. Automatic early release

    Ms Mitchell says the bill as introduced would affect less than 1% of the prisoners in Scotland.

    The Scottish Conservative MSP says she welcomed the justice secretary's extending the abolition of automatic early release to all prisoners with sentences over four years.

    However that leaves 97% of prisoners who will still be automatically early released.

  15. 'Dog's breakfast'

    Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell says the bill as drafted, and even with proposed Stage 2 amendments, has been proposed in such a way is "nothing short of a dogs breakfast".

    Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell
  16. Human rights concerns

    Ms Murray says there are also significant concerns about human rights in relation to the bill.

  17. Public safety

    Ms Murray says the Scottish government says the bill will improve public safety, but she says, as drafted, it could increase the danger to the public.

    The justice secretary is therefore to be commended for proposing amendments to end all automatic early release for those with four year sentences or more.

  18. Labour

    Labour MSP Elaine Murray says Section 1 of the bill does not end automatic early release, even if amended at stage 2 as indicated, it will only affect 3% of prisoners.

    Labour MSP Elaine Murray
    Image caption: Labour MSP Elaine Murray
  19. Convener conclusion

    Ms Grahame says the overwhelming majority of the committee welcomes the general principles of the bill, but some concerns remain.

  20. Parole board

    Ms Grahame says the parole board has written to the committee with potential concerns and she calls for the board to be properly resourced.

  21. Justice Committee

    Justice Committee convener Christine Grahame says she welcomes the cabinet secretary for listening to evidence at stage 1, detailed in the committee's report.

    Justice Committee Convener Christine Grahame
    Image caption: Justice Committee Convener Christine Grahame

    However there are still concerns, she says.

  22. BACKGROUND

    Experts have raised concerns about prisoners being released "cold" after serving all of their sentence in prison, rather than spending some of it supervised on licence in the community.

    However, the first minister announced a guaranteed period of supervision for prisoners guilty of serious offences coming out of custody.

    Prison

    Ms Sturgeon said the provisions of the Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, would be tightened to ensure that no prisoners serving time for serious offences would be automatically released on licence after two thirds of their sentence.

    For non-sexual offenders, the bill currently applies only to prisoners sentenced to ten years or more.

  23. 'Best of both worlds'

    Mr Matheson concludes saying his bill will improve the system of early release, ensuring dangerous prisoners do not get released automatically and long term prisoners receive supervision on release.

    He says this will be the "best of both worlds".

  24. Mandatory control period

    Mr Matheson says the mandatory control period in the community should be part of the sentence.

    The period of a mandatory control period should be consistent from sentences of four years to ten years, he says.

    The justice secretary says he thinks the minimum period for a mandatory control period should be six months.

  25. BACKGROUND

    The bill was introduced in the Parliament on 14 August 2014 and contains the following provisions relating to the release of offenders serving custodial sentences:

    • restriction of automatic early release - seeking to end automatic early release for sex offenders receiving determinate custodial sentences of four years or more and other offenders receiving determinate custodial sentences of ten years or more
    Inside jail
    • early release for community reintegration - allowing the Scottish Prison Service to release sentenced prisoners up to two days early where this would help facilitate community reintegration.
  26. 'Cold release'

    The justice secretary says his government has addressed the concerns about "cold release" of long term prisoners and will provide supervision.

  27. Long term prisoners

    Mr Matheson says if parliament agrees his amendment at stage 2 then all long term prisoners will no longer be eligible for automatic release.

    This would include all prisoners with sentences over four years.

  28. Parole board

    The justice secretary says the rate of reoffending for automatic early release is seven times higher than prisoners released by parole board discretionary early release.

    We think we are right to trust the parole board with this enhanced role, he says.

  29. Current situation

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson says it is difficult to explain why dangerous prisoners have to be released currently after two thirds of their sentence.

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson
    Image caption: Justice Secretary Michael Matheson
  30. Apology

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson apologises for being late to the chamber and says it is entirely his responsibility.

  31. We're off

    Deputy presiding officer Elaine Smith says Justice Secretary Michael Matheson was late which she says was a discourtesy.

  32. Debate delayed

    An unusual delay here before the debate gets going, the presiding officer has yet to appear.

  33. BACKGROUND

    The Scottish government announced in February it is ending automatic early release for prisoners jailed for more than four years.

    Prisoners are currently eligible to apply for parole after serving half of their sentence.

    Prisoner looking through bars

    They are released automatically after two-thirds of their jail term.

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that in future no-one will get automatic release.

  34. And that's lunch

    And that concludes the member's debate on Greenock Morton Community Trust.

    holyrood

    We will be back at 2.30pm with the Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill debate.

  35. Debate ends

    The minister concludes by thanking the hundreds of communities for their magnificent efforts on climate change, demonstrated by the Greenock Morton Community Trust.

  36. Community support

    Climate Change Minister Aileen McLeod says she wishes the trust every success in what they are doing.

    Ms McLeod goes on to says there will be a review of community support to learn how best to go forward.

  37. Minister closing

    Climate Change Minister Aileen McLeod says this has been an important debate and that she is delighted to add her own congratulations to the trust.

    Climate Change Minister Aileen McLeod
    Image caption: Climate Change Minister Aileen McLeod
  38. BACKGROUND: Greenock Morton Community Trust

    What is the Greenock Morton Community Trust?

    According to its website, the Greenock Morton Community Trust is a registered charity, bringing together Greenock Morton Football Club and Greenock Morton Supporters' Trust, with the aim of using the Morton brand to deliver quality community coaching and social inclusion programmes to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds across the Inverclyde area.

    The Community Trust was the initiative of Morton's consultant for club development, Warren Hawke, who explained:

    Greenock Morton Community Trust
    Image caption: Greenock Morton Community Trust

    "We want to reach out to our local community and ensure that there is an interaction between the club and the people that goes beyond watching or supporting the club on a matchday. We want to help address social issues and give something back to the people of Inverclyde."

    In order accomplish this, Warren invited representatives of both Morton and the Supporters' Trust to act as Trustees, tasked with ensuring that the Community Trust does just that.

  39. Remarkable

    Labour MSP Rhoda Grant says the project is "remarkable".

    Labour MSP Rhoda Grant
    Image caption: Labour MSP Rhoda Grant

    Ms Grant says she wishes them well and hopes that other teams follow suit.

  40. Congratulations

    Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie

    Scottish Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie says she congratulates all those involved with Greenock Morton Community Trust.

  41. Green Morton Project

    Mr McMillan says there are new unemployment opportunities from the Green Morton Project, which launched yesterday.

    In conclusion, he says all members will want to congratulate the successes of the Greenock Morton Community Trust.

  42. Congratulating Greenock Morton Community Trust debate

    SNP MSP Stuart McMillan is leading a debate on the Greenock Morton Community Trust (GMCT).

    GMCT received £106,029 from the Scottish government's Climate Challenge Fund and Mr McMillan says that the group will use the grant to promote lower carbon lifestyle choices in Inverclyde, including a sports kit and footwear recycling initiative.

    SNP MSP Stuart McMillan
    Image caption: SNP MSP Stuart McMillan

    Mr McMillan says the GMCT have a role in educating school children and providing them with equipment to participate in sport.

    He praises all involved at GMCT and Greenock Morton Football Club for the growing community work that they do in Inverclyde.

  43. That's it folks

    That ends first minister's questions and we now move to a member's debate on Greenock and Morton Community Trust.

  44. Social media

    Ms Sturgeon says she will always condemn anyone from any side of politics who resorts to abuse.

  45. Right of the media

    Ms Sturgeon says everybody supports the right of the media to be free of political interference.

  46. BBC Referendum coverage

    Alex Salmond

    Mr Fraser says when SNP backbencher Alex Salmond attacks BBC for coverage of referendum is he speaking for her, government, the SNP or himself?

  47. BACKGROUND: BBC impartiality

    The Guardian reported in February that BBC Trust chair Rona Fairhead had warned the UK government there was no public appetite for political interference in the BBC in a bid to avoid a repeat of the "shotgun" licence fee deal of 2010 that ushered in a new era of cuts at the corporation.

    Pacific Quay

    Ms Fairhead told the Royal Television Society that the "BBC should be kept out of politics as far as possible".

    She warned that the BBC would face "vigorous attempts to influence it" in the run-up to the general election with "barbs from all sides about the impartiality of the BBC's coverage. The BBC must withstand that".

  48. Political interference

    Murdo Fraser

    Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser asks whether the Scottish government respects the right of broadcasters such as the BBC to be free from political interference.

  49. Post update

    Kirsty Boyle tweets: Do MSPs think their constituents don't notice when they are repeatedly missing from the chamber week after week...?! #FMQs

  50. Edinburgh Domestic Abuse Court Service

    So as a result of the announcement by Ms Sturgeon the Edinburgh Domestic Abuse Court Service will now be fully funded.

  51. Post update

    Brenna tweets: I am so proud to live in a country where VAW&G is on the political agenda #FMQs

  52. Funding gap

    Ms Sturgeon says the funding gap in a domestic abuse service will be met by the Scottish government.

    She also points to the government's efforts to end automatic early release... watch out for the debate on the legislation this afternoon on Democracy Live.

  53. BACKGROUND: Domestic abuse

    The first minister announced, at the SNP conference at the weekend, an additional £20 million to be invested in a range of measures to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls .

    The funding will be put in place over the next three years to better support victims of violence and sexual assault by:

    • Increasing court capacity to reduce delays, inconvenience and stress for victims and their families.

    • Widening access to specialist advocacy and support services for the victims of crime, including domestic abuse and sexual offences.

    • Expanding access to specialist legal advice to victims of rape and other sexual offences.

    • Exploring an expansion to innovative initiatives such as the Caledonian System, which work with men convicted of domestic abuse related offences to address the underlying causes of their behaviour and further protect women.

    • Improving education and information resources to help increase public understanding of these crimes and reinforce a zero-tolerance approach to domestic abuse and sexual crimes.

  54. Domestic abuse

    Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm asks what services will be supported by the recently announced £20m to help tackle domestic abuse.

  55. BACKGROUND: Meningitis B vaccine

    Health Secretary Shona Robison has confirmed that a vaccine for meningitis B will be made available for babies in Scotland.

    It follows a deal made by the UK government on behalf of the devolved governments with the drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.

    Negotiations over the cost of the vaccine has gone on for months.

    Meningitis B

    The delay in availability angered campaigners who said children's lives had been put at risk.

    It is likely the vaccine will be available in Scotland from September.

  56. Meningitis

    Ms Sturgeon says Scotland is one of first counties in world to offer meningtitis B vaccine.

  57. Meningitis B

    SNP MSP Jim Eadie asks what steps the Scottish government is taking to protect babies from meningitis B.

  58. Concerns

    Mr Rennie says he is increasingly concerned about the integrity and practices of the leadership of Police Scotland.

  59. Post update

    Jonathan Waddell tweets: Great to see @willie_rennie challenging @NicolaSturgeon on the police record at #fmqs. Something has to been done and fast.

  60. Call waiting

    Ms Sturgeon says after last week's FMQs she looked into the police call centre at Bilston Blen and concedes there had been one caller left on the line waiting for 58 minutes due to a technical fault, since resolved.

    The chief constable has since apologised to the caller.

  61. Police phone calls

    Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie says a police call-handler says people can wait an age to speak to a human when phoning the police, another policeman said the call centre at Bilston Glen was disastrous.

  62. Lib Dem

    Willie Rennie

    Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie asks what issues will be discussed at the next meeting of the cabinet.

  63. World autism day

    SNP MSP Mark McDonald MSP, whose son has autism, highlights world autism awareness day.

  64. Public reaction

    Ms Surgeon says we will see over the next few weeks what the people of Scotland think about the Tories.

  65. Post update

    Nigel Anthony tweets: The first rule of Fiscal Autonomy is: You do not talk about Fiscal Autonomy #FMQs

  66. Full fiscal autonomy again

    Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson says 100 job creators have backed the Conservative-led government, how many businesses have come out publically for full fiscal autonomy?

  67. Conservative

    Ruth Davidson

    Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson asks her regular opener, when will Ms Sturgeon next meet the secretary of state for Scotland.

  68. Extra spending

    Ms Sturgeon disagrees saying the SNP will spend an extra £600m in the next financial year.

  69. Post update

    Colin Quinn tweets: I have no idea why Labour make a speech before asking questions. Does anyone listen? Just ask the question Kezia. #fmqs

  70. Not a penny more

    Ms Dugdale says the SNP don't plan to spend a single penny more than the Tories in 2015/16.

    She says the SNP won't come clean as they know full fiscal economy in the UK would be a total disaster.

  71. 'Defies belief'

    The first minister hits back saying the only cuts on the horizon for Scotland are the £30bn cuts planned by the Tories that Labour have signed up to.

  72. Post update

    PoliticsScotland tweets: @kdugdalemsp second question is the same as the first. @NicolaSturgeon should just say that if they can get the votes, they will #FMQs

  73. Austerity cuts

    The first minister goes on to says will Labour change their mind about backing £30bn austerity cuts and she asks are Labour backing, £100bn for the renewal of Trident.

  74. BACKGROUND: Full Fiscal Autonomy

    One of Scotland's most successful businessmen, Jim McColl, has called for Holyrood to have full control over its finances by 2020.

    He said this would give Scotland "meaningful powers" to grow the economy and close the public spending gap the new system would create.

    Mr McColl, who runs Clyde Blowers Capital, backed a "yes" vote in the independence referendum.

    Jim McColl
    Image caption: One of Scotland's most successful businessmen, Jim McColl, calls for Holyrood to have full control over its finances by 2020.

    But he says that issue has now been "settled".

    He has reverted to supporting full fiscal autonomy for Scotland.

    That would mean Holyrood taking charge of all Scotland's revenues and paying Westminster for shared services such as defence and foreign affairs

    Critics argue that falling oil prices mean that would leave a multibillion-pound hole in Scotland's finances.

  75. Trust

    Ms Sturgeon says lets see whether Labour will actually bring forward the Home Rule Bill, as they are not to be trusted.

  76. Home Rule Bill proposal

    Kezia Dugdale

    Ms Dugdale says the first minister supports full fiscal autonomy and her party's Home Rule Bill could deliver this, will the SNP bring forward amendments.

  77. BACKGROUND: TV debates

    After FMQs, Ms Sturgeon will prepare to face six other party leaders, including Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour's Ed Miliband and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, in a two-hour live general election debate to be screened on ITV from 20:00 on Thursday.

    The debate, which will be given extensive live coverage by other media outlets including the BBC, will also feature Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Nigel Farage of UKIP and Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood.

    Leaders debate

    The debate will take place at Media City in Salford with a studio audience of about 200 people.

    Each leader will be allowed to give an uninterrupted one-minute answer to questions posed by members of the studio audience

    There will then be up to 18 minutes of debate on each question; in all four "substantial election questions" will be addressed

    Leaders will not see the questions in advance and an "experienced editorial panel" will select them

  78. Full fiscal autonomy

    Scottish Labour deputy leader Kezia Dugdale brings up the hot topic of full fiscal autonomy.

  79. TV debates

    Nicola Sturgeon

    The first minister says she has a trip to Manchester for the general election leaders debate.

  80. First minister's questions gets under way

    Scottish Labour's deputy leader Kezia Dugdale begins, as ever, by asking what engagements the first minister has planned for the rest of the day.

  81. Post update

    Kirsty Boyle tweets: Are we all sitting comfortably? Get ready for what I predict will be a lively #FMQs #GE15

  82. Coming up: First minister's questions

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

    Expect a fair degree of general election campaigning, before MSPs take to the streets of Scotland over Easter to try and win your vote.

  83. The state of Scotland's roads.

    Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone asks the Scottish government what it will do to prevent further deterioration in the state of Scotland's roads.

  84. 'Remarkable progress'

    Learning Minister Alasdair Allan says this has been a longstanding commitment and schools have made remarkable progress with 96% of schools meeting the target.

    Learning Minister Alasdair Allan
    Image caption: Learning Minister Alasdair Allan
  85. BACKGROUND: Provision of PE in schools

    Last June the vast majority of schools in Scotland are meeting physical education targets, according to the Scottish government.

    Figures show 96% of schools now give pupils two hours, or two periods, of PE every week, up from 89% last year.

    The statistics came as the then Sports Minister Shona Robison formally launched a £5.8m initiative for young people.

    She said Scotland was striving to become a "healthier, more active nation".

    A survey of schools also showed that 98% of Scotland's 2419 schools expected to be able to meet the PE target by August.

  86. Provision of PE in schools

    Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser asks what the government is doing to increase the provision of PE in schools.

  87. Children and Young People

    Children and Young People Minister Fiona McLeod says the Scottish government has worked very closely with local authorities to secure places for eligible two year olds.

    Children and Young People Minister Fiona McLeod
    Image caption: Children and Young People Minister Fiona McLeod

    Ms McLeod says 5,774 two year olds registered for a childcare place.

  88. BACKGROUND: Free early education to eligible two-year-olds

    Fewer than one in six councils in Scotland have enough childcare capacity to meet the needs of working parents, according to recent research.

    The study by the Family and Childcare Trust said 15% of local authorities in Scotland had enough childcare for parents who worked full-time.

    Childcare

    That was down from 23% when the survey was carried out in 2013.

    Scottish councils have a statutory duty to provide 600 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-old and eligible two year olds.

  89. Free early education to eligible two-year-olds

    Labour MSP Cara Hilton asks how successful the government has been in implementing the extension of 600 hours of free early education to eligible two-year-olds.

  90. Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board's plan for an integrated city-wide curriculum

    SNP MSP Bob Doris asks the Scottish government what assessment it has made of how Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board's plan for an integrated city-wide curriculum could impact on students and staff.

  91. '100 fewer deaths'

    Health Secretary Shona Robison says the legal challenge has lasted two years and had it not been place there would have been 100 fewer deaths.

    Ms Robison says she and others across the chamber are frustrated by the delays caused by the legal challenge.

  92. BACKGROUND: Minimum unit pricing of alcohol

    The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 was passed in June 2012.

    It has not yet been implemented due to a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association.

    Alcohol

    The Scottish government wants to set a 50p rate per unit of alcohol, which would mean the minimum price a shop or supermarket would be allowed to charge for four large cans of beer would be £4.40, a bottle of wine would be £5 and a standard bottle of vodka £13.

  93. Minimum unit pricing of alcohol

    Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw asks the Scottish government when it expects minimum unit pricing of alcohol to be implemented.

  94. Whistleblowing

    Health Secretary Shona Robison clear that all staff should have the confidence to speak up and know there whistleblowing concerns will be taking seriously.

    Health Secretary Shona Robison
    Image caption: Health Secretary Shona Robison
  95. BACKGROUND: Freedom to Speak Up Review

    The Freedom to Speak Up Review was announced on 24 June by the UK Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt and was led by Sir Robert Francis QC.

    It is an independent review into creating the open and honest reporting culture in the NHS.

    It concluded NHS trusts would have to appoint a guardian to help whistleblowers in England.

    Nurse

    The measure was called for by Sir Robert Francis after he warned staff too often faced "bullying and being isolated" when they tried to speak out.

    Sir Robert, who led the public inquiry into the Stafford Hospital scandal, also said a new national officer should be appointed to help the guardians.

    The UK government immediately accepted all his recommendations.

  96. Freedom to Speak Up Review

    SNP MSP Adam Ingram asks the Scottish government what lessons the NHS in Scotland can learn from the Freedom to Speak Up Review about having an open and honest reporting culture.

  97. Ministerial response

    Community Safety Minister Paul Wheelhouse says the Scottish government "strongly disagrees with these statements" which he says are "ill founded and ill judged".

    Community Safety Minister Paul Wheelhouse
    Image caption: Community Safety Minister Paul Wheelhouse
  98. BACKGROUND: Methadone programme

    The methadone programme in Scotland is "out of control", an expert has warned.

    Dr Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, said "it is literally a black hole into which people are disappearing".

    The dispensing of methadone has increased in a third of council areas despite an overall national decrease
    Image caption: The dispensing of methadone has increased in a third of council areas despite an overall national decrease

    Data obtained by BBC Scotland showed pharmacists were paid £17.8m for handling nearly half a million prescriptions of methadone in 2014.

    In response, the Scottish government said both doses and costs linked to opioid treatment had been dropping.

  99. We're off

    Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie asks the Scottish government what its response is to the criticism by Dr Neil McKeganey from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research that the government's methadone programme is "literally a black hole into which people are disappearing".

  100. General questions

    Here's a list of the questions we expect to be raised during general questions:

    1. Annabel Goldie: To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the criticism by Dr Neil McKeganey from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research that the government's methadone programme is "literally a black hole into which people are disappearing". (S4O-04204)

    2. Adam Ingram: To ask the Scottish Government what lessons the NHS in Scotland can learn from the Freedom to Speak Up Review about having an open and honest reporting culture. (S4O-04205)

    3. Jackson Carlaw: To ask the Scottish Government when it expects minimum unit pricing of alcohol to be implemented. (S4O-04206)

    4. Bob Doris: To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of how Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board's plan for an integrated city-wide curriculum could impact on students and staff. (S4O-04207)

    5. Cara Hilton: To ask the Scottish Government how successful it has been in implementing the extension of 600 hours of free early education to eligible two-year-olds. (S4O-04208)

    6. Murdo Fraser: To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to increase the provision of PE in schools. (S4O-04209)

    7. Alex Johnstone: To ask the Scottish Government what it will do to prevent further deterioration in the state of Scotland's roads. (S4O-04210)

    8. Johann Lamont: To ask the Scottish Government when it last met Glasgow City Council and what issues were discussed. (S4O-04211)

    9. Mark Griffin: To ask the Scottish Government when the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Sport last met NHS Lanarkshire and what was discussed. (S4O-04212)

    10. Neil Findlay: To ask the Scottish Government what action it plans to take as a result of the report by Sheriff Principal Bowen, Consumer Protections in Conveyancing Cases. (S4O-04213)

  101. Coming up

    Not long to go before the last first minister's questions before the Easter recess.

    MSPs will soon be pounding the streets and knocking on doors with the general election dominating their lives.

    It's a good bet there will be a fair bit of campaigning in the chamber from noon!

    And of course Nicola Sturgeon has another pressing engagement this evening in the televised leaders debate.

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
    Image caption: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

    We'll shortly bring you extensive coverage of FMQs, including all the social media reaction, but first up this morning we have general questions.

  102. Private session

    The Equal Opportunities Committee is now in private session.

    msp

    We will be back at 11.40am with general questions.

  103. Loneliness

    Natalie McFadyen White from Impact Arts says she knows people who go to the shop just to have a chat with the shopkeeper and she knows of a man who just travels on buses all day because he has a pass.

  104. More secure funding

    Natalie McFadyen White from Impact Arts says three year funding doesn't support their projects well enough.

    Natalie McFadyen White, Development and Consultation Manager, Impact Arts
    Image caption: Natalie McFadyen White, Development and Consultation Manager, Impact Arts

    Anything that can be done to get more secure funding would help she says.

  105. LGBT people 'brutalised by services in the past'

    Grace Cardozo from LGBT Plus says older adults who are LGBT were imprisoned for their sexuality in the past or faced horrific so-called 'treatments'.

    Ms Cardozo says these older adults are much less trusting of the authorities as the were "brutalised by services in the past".

    Grace Cardozo, Managing Director, LGBT Plus
    Image caption: Grace Cardozo, Managing Director, LGBT Plus

    She says older people are also much less tolerant of homosexuality leading to significantly more isolation to LGBT adults.

  106. GP visits

    Laura Alcock-Ferguson from the Campaign to End Loneliness says 42% of lonely elderly people said they were not aware of the services available.

    She says a high number of visits from older people to GPs are anecdotally primarily because the patient is lonely.

    GP and older person

    The best way to promote services can be word of mouth after people have enjoyed a service she says.

  107. Short-term funding

    Sheila Fletcher from Community Transport Association (CTA) says the main issue is short-term funding.

    Ms Fletcher points to the benefit of travelling on a bus for the elderly, which helps build up social networks.

    Sheila Fletcher, Network Development Officer, Community Transport Association (CTA)
    Image caption: Sheila Fletcher, Network Development Officer, Community Transport Association (CTA)

    Short term funding makes it problematic for projects to keep going, she says.

  108. BACKGROUND: Inquiry remit

    Prevalence of social isolation in urban and rural settings:

    • Impacts of social isolation, for instance loneliness, ill-health
    • Best practice and ideas that could be shared across Scotland, including
    • examples of targeted support or initiatives (including housing, health, third sector)
    • Potential ideas for improvement and influencing policy
    • Effective awareness-raising within communities
    Old person getting lunch
  109. Befriending services

    SNP MSP John Mason asks about how to reach older people and let them know what services are available.

    Liz Watson from Befriending Networks says befriending services are generally speaking underfunded and overstretched and there are long waiting lists.

    Liz Watson, Chief Executive, Befriending Networks
    Image caption: Liz Watson, Chief Executive, Befriending Networks

    The services are not always in the areas of greatest need, says Ms Watson.

  110. Moose in the Hoose

    Jenny Ridge from ACE IT says access to the internet helps combat loneliness in older people, pointing to her organisations Moose in the Hoose project.

    ACE IT Moose in the Hoose
    Image caption: ACE IT Moose in the Hoose

    • Main purpose to introduce care home residents to the benefits of computers and information technology to keep in touch with friends, family, their interests and hobbies.

    • Specially trained Moose volunteers make weekly visits to six care homes and provide stimulation by helping residents to use emails, the Internet and Skype.

    • Approach is not to run computer classes as such, but to explore what access to the new technology can offer on an individual basis.

    • Some residents manage to type their own emails whilst others can take part in Skype calls to family set up by Moose volunteers.

  111. Health impact of loneliness

    Laura Alcock-Ferguson from the Campaign to End Loneliness says loneliness in old age has serious health impacts, the equivalent impact of 15 cigarettes a day.

    Laura Alcock-Ferguson, Director, Campaign to End Loneliness
    Image caption: Laura Alcock-Ferguson, Director, Campaign to End Loneliness
  112. Equal Opportunities Committee

    The Equal Opportunities Committee continues their inquiry into age and social isolation with a round-table discussion.

    group shot

    Laura Alcock-Ferguson from the Campaign to End Loneliness; Danny Boyle from BEMIS and Grace Cardozo from LGBT Plus will be taking part.

    As will Sandra Clements from CACE; Sheila Fletcher from the Community Transport Association (CTA) and Natalie McFadyen White from Impact Arts.

    Karen Nicoll from Aberdeenshire Signposting Project; Jenny Ridge from ACE IT; and Liz Watson from Befriending Networks.

  113. Coming up

    First up this morning the Equal Opportunities Committee will take evidence on age and social isolation.

    General questions will be at 11.40am followed as ever by First minister's questions at midday.

    The member's debate will focus on congratulating Greenock Morton Community Trust.

    The afternoon is dedicated to Stage 1 of the Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill.

  114. Welcome

    Good morning and welcome to BBC Scotland Democracy Live's coverage of the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 2 April 2015.

    Holyrood