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Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Ailsa Brown

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all folks

    And that concludes our live coverage from the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 26 May 2015.

    Holyrood at night

    Remember you can catch up on business from Holyrood at BBC Scotland's Democracy Live.

  2. Debate concludes

    Ms McLeod says there is a need for greater fairness in the provision of allowances for kinship carers.

    The minister says the Scottish government got a benefits disregard from the DWP a couple of years to ensure kinship carers did not lose out on benefits.

    She says kinship carers face a maze of jargon and officialese when they begin caring, which is why the government are funding CAS and Children 1st.

    Ms McLeod concludes saying Through Our Eyes is a "wonderful" book that emphasises the challenges as well as the happiness.

    Grandparents Parenting Again & Kinship Carers (Midlothian)
    Image caption: Grandparents Parenting Again & Kinship Carers (Midlothian)

    The minister says she believes that this book will become part of the body of evidence for practitioners and social work students.

  3. Ministerial close

    Children and Young People Minister Fiona McLeod says the Scottish government's preference is for a child to remain with a kinship carer rather than being removed from the family, it it is safe and possible.

    Ms McLeod praises the work of kinship carers and says Through Our Eyes is a "delight" as well as a moving read.

  4. BACKGROUND: Children 1st

    Children 1ST is developing a comprehensive training, information and support service for kinship carers.

    Children 1st
    Image caption: Children 1st

    This will include:

    • A telephone advice service via ParentLine (0800 028 2233) with dedicated staff and volunteers trained in kinship issues.
    • Training for kinship carers on issues that they and the children they care for can face, including alcohol and drugs misuse and managing relationships within families.
    • Work to help existing local family support groups or address gaps in local support, as well as the creation of a national forum for kinship carers to strengthen their voice in future policy development.
    • The provision of family group conferencing - a way of bringing the whole family together to find solutions for problems affecting children within a family.
    • Training on the working of the children's hearings system and implications for families.
    • Find out more about Children 1ST services in your local area.
  5. BACKGROUND: Kinship carers' resources

    According to the government Citizens Advice Scotland maintains a confidential helpline for kinship carers, providing assistance with legal and financial matters (including benefits advice).

    The Helpline can be contacted on 0808 000 006. Useful information can also be found on the Citizens Advice kinship care webpage.

    CAS
    Image caption: CAS

    Advisers at every Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau can help kinship carers access specialist advice for complex cases. Details of your local bureau are listed in the phone book or can be found on the Citizens Advice Scotland website.

  6. BACKGROUND: Scottish government definition

    If a looked after child cannot remain with their birth parents they can be placed by a local authority in the care of family or friends, for either a short or long period of time.

    Under the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009, these 'kinship carers' are defined as "a person who is related to the child (through blood, marriage or civil partnership) or a person with whom the child has a pre-existing relationship".

  7. 'Essential reading'

    Grandparents Parenting Again & Kinship Carers (Midlothian)
    Image caption: Grandparents Parenting Again & Kinship Carers (Midlothian)

    Ms Grahame says Through Our Eyes is "essential reading", not just for all MSPs but also for anyone with an interest in kinship carers.

    SNP MSP Christine Grahme
  8. BACKGROUND: Kinship Carers Midlothian and Through Our Eyes

    Kinship Carers Midlothian
    Image caption: Kinship Carers Midlothian

    Grandparents Parenting Again & Kinship Carers (Midlothian) was formed in 2005.

    The Group is a self-help support Group RUN FOR KINSHIP CARERS BY KINSHIP CARERS.

    The Group provides a listening ear, peer support, direction and guidance to Kinship Carers, and in turn to the children they look after, who have found themselves, usually at a moments notice, in a position of raising kin children.

    This unique service meets the needs of kinship carers who, in many cases, also have the added burden of conflict with their own children.

  9. Through our Eyes extracts

    Ms Grahame reads out emotional and moving stories from Through our Eyes.

    SNP MSP Christine Grahame
    Image caption: SNP MSP Christine Grahame
  10. Powerful stories

    Ms Grahame says carers who can find themselves raising children at a moment's notice commend the charity's book, Through Our Eyes, which is a collection of stories and poems by individuals telling their unique experience of becoming kinship carers.

    These stories include I don't want this, Where do I begin?, It was Only for a Couple of Weeks!, Our Precious Grandchildren, Life Changes, A Long Road Ahead, It's Hard Thinking Back and the many heartfelt poems.

    The SNP MSP commends this book to all involved with the welfare of looked-after children for the insight that it brings to the trials and sacrifices of the kinship carers but more importantly their selflessness and love of the children and young people they find themselves caring for, often with hardly a moment's warning.

  11. Through our Eyes debate

    SNP MSP Christine GrahAme is leading a debate entitled 'Through our eyes'.

    In her motion Ms GrahAme highlights the invaluable role of grandparents and other kinship carers throughout Scotland but, in particular, Grandparents Parenting Again and Kinship Carers (Midlothian),, which was formed in 2005 and provides a listening ear, peer support, direction and guidance to kinship carers and the children they look after.

  12. Decision time

    The Scottish government motion from the Equity and Excellence in Education debate was passed, with 67 MSPs backing it.

    MSPs voting

    The opposition amendments all fell.

  13. Conclusion

    The minister concludes the attainment for all children must be raised as well as closing the attainment gap.

    She says she was once from a poor family and she is very thankful as she was well supported, but also experienced being written off.

    Ms Constance says we must have the highest hopes and dreams for all our children.

  14. Attainment Challenge Fund

    Ms Constance says there has not actually been a fall in classroom assistants, in fact there has been a 6% rise.

    The education secretary says the government will never allow austerity to limit the ambitions of young people.

    She says the Attainment Challenge Fund of £100m will benefit 50% of Scotland's poorest children in the first place, but other areas will be looked at shortly.

  15. Challenging college reform

    Ms Constance says college reform has been challenging and not without controversy, but colleges are doing more for under 19s now than before.

    College students
  16. Government record

    The education secretary says under this government we have seen a massive expansion of childcare and early learning.

    Ms Constance says the government has done more than any previous administration on this issue.

  17. Government closing

    Education Secretary Angela Constance says she has discussed concerns of parents with the SQA, regarding last weeks maths and biology exams.

    Education Secretary Angela Constance
    Image caption: Education Secretary Angela Constance

    Ms Constance says the SQA has assured her that they have robust procedures in place.

  18. Educational attainment

    Young child painting

    Mr Griffin says he is glad the government are making educational attainment a priority but says he hopes they will improve their plans by redistributing money to where it is needed.

  19. Labour closing

    Labour MSP Mark Griffin says the additional revenue from the introduction of a 50p income tax rate would allow the investment of an additional £25m a year, over and above the government's proposals, to address the attainment gap.

    Labour MSP Mark Griffin
    Image caption: Labour MSP Mark Griffin

    Mr Griffin says Labour would recruit and retain literacy specialists and increase teacher and support staff numbers.

  20. Deprivation versus attainment

    The Tory MSP says the seven most deprived council areas to receive £100m from the Attainment Challenge Fund are not the council areas with the lowest attainment.

  21. Conservative closing

    Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon says she agrees with much of the government's motion and indeed that there is much to be proud of in our education system.

    Ms Scanlon says everyone wants the equality gap to be narrowed.

    Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon

    She says we need a system which can identify when a child is struggling to keep pace with the rest of the class.

    That would allow development needs to be addressed she says.

  22. Bursaries and grants

    Graduates in hall

    Mr McArthur says the total spent on bursaries and grants is barely half in real terms of that when the SNP came into office.

  23. Lib Dem closing

    Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur says progress is not being made on closing the attainment gap, in fact we could be going backwards.

    Mr McArthur again stresses the importance of the early years and early intervention.

    Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur
    Image caption: Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur

    He calls for an improvement in early learning and childcare.

    The Lib Dem MSP says the area based Attainment Challenge fund risks missing out on two thirds of Scotland's poorest children, by focussing on the seven most deprived council area.

  24. Inequality

    SNP MSP Chic Brodie says education outcomes have improved in general.

    SNP MSP Chic Brodie
    Image caption: SNP MSP Chic Brodie

    Mr Brodie says closing the attainment gap is the number one education priority which can only be buttressed by attending to inequality of income.

  25. 'Cut, cut and cut again'

    Ms Lamont says the funding of higher education is funded at the expense of further education.

    She says the poorest children have less support than the rest of the UK.

    Labour MSP Johann Lamont
    Image caption: Labour MSP Johann Lamont

    The Labour MSP, who was a teacher for more than 20 years, says the further education sector has been, "cut, cut and cut again".

  26. Chinese proverb and an American senator

    Labour MSP Johann Lamont says parents must be supported to learn as well as children.

    Ms Lamont begins with two quotations:

    • "Vision without action is a day dream." A Chinese proverb.
    • "Don't tell me what you care about show me your budget." From an unnamed American senator.

    The former teacher says resources are needed to address the issues facing our education system.

  27. Making progress

    Education Committee convener Stewart Maxwell says the issue of poverty has not been caused by a single government.

    Mr Maxwell says closing the attainment gap has been a major focus of his committee.

    Education Committee Convener Stewart Maxwell
    Image caption: Education Committee Convener Stewart Maxwell

    He says he firmly believes the government is making progress on the issue.

  28. 'Miss out'

    Mr McArthur says choosing only the seven most deprived council areas to benefit from the Attainment Scotland Fund means those living in poverty surrounded by plenty will miss out.

  29. 'Eye of the ball'

    Mr McArthur highlights the lack of progress on closing the attainment gap.

    The Lib Dem MSP says the Scottish government has "rather taken its eye off the ball".

    Young children with hands up

    He says the government has failed to get to grips with the issues over the last eight years.

    Mr McArthur says since 2007 teacher numbers are down by well over 4,000 and class sizes are not at the 18 pupil level but closer to 23.

  30. Early years

    If equality and excellence are to be available to all, the Scottish government must consider its approach to education funding from the early years through to student support, Mr McArthur says.

    Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur
    Image caption: Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur
  31. Loss of college places

    The Lib Dem MSP views the loss of 130,000 college places, which has hit female, mature and part-time learners hardest, as a regressive step in the drive for educational equality and excellence.

    He criticises government's failure to deliver on its promise to 'dump' student debt, with loans having more than doubled while bursaries have been cut.

  32. Lib Dem amendment

    Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur uses his amendment to emphasise the importance of the early year's of a child's life thus the importance of quality early years education in closing the attainment gap.

    Mr McArthur says targeted funding for school-aged pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in the form of a 'pupil premium' should be explored in Scotland as a means of giving disadvantaged pupils a better chance of reaching their potential.

    He says targeted funding should be available for students from cradle to college to ensure equality of opportunity regardless of background.

  33. Excellence demands free thinking

    The Tory MSP says she is not in favour of comprehensive schooling throughout a child's education.

    Ms Smith says excellence demands free thinking and she hopes the government will do so.

    Educational policy from the SNP government is very centralised, she says.

  34. Catchment areas and schools

    Ms Smith says there is real scope for change, that means challenging catchments as the only means for deciding where a child goes to school and indeed having a variety of types of school.

  35. Radical change

    Conservative MSP Liz Smith says radical change is coming whether the politicians like it or not.

    Ms Smith says the changes in further and higher education are happening rapidly and the fact our schools are not making progress on numeracy and literacy and closing the attainment gap has been highlighted.

  36. Excellence and greater equity

    The Tory MSP says in order to achieve both excellence and greater equity in education, there has to be much more focus on tailoring the learning experience to the best educational interests of individual children.

    Conservative MSP Liz Smith
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Liz Smith

    This in turn, demands greater diversity in the school system, one which allows full autonomy for head teachers and is more responsive to parental choice.

  37. Conservative view

    In her amendment, Conservative MSP Liz Smith highlights the persistent failure to close the attainment gap and the declining standards of literacy and numeracy.

    Ms Smith accuses the government of failing to introduce more rigorous testing of these basic skills.

  38. Colleges

    Mr Gray says 140,000 students have gone from our colleges, these are the people who had a second chance but now do not.

    He says we all have a sacred responsibility to make sure no child is left behind.

    The Labour MSP says the government has failings over the past eight years.

  39. Specialists call for

    Mr Gray says Scotland must double the resources devoted to closing the attainment gap.

    He calls for specialists in numeracy and literacy where they are needed most and keep teachers in classrooms more.

    Back to school written in chalk

    The Labour MSP says the attainment gap will not be addressed by reducing teacher numbers and increasing class sizes.

    Mr Gray says that is why the Labour party will introduce a top rate for income tax of 50p.

  40. BACKGROUND: Attainment fund

    In February Nicola Sturgeon unveiled plans designed to bridge the attainment gap between pupils from poor backgrounds and those from wealthier households.

    The first minster's proposals will draw on schemes with a proven track record, including the London Challenge.

    nicola sturgeon in dundee
    Image caption: The first minister, on a visit to a school in Dundee, said the barriers to learning must be overcome

    The scheme will be backed up by a new Attainment Scotland Fund which will provide £100m of investment over four years.

    It will be aimed at boosting literacy, numeracy and health and well-being in some of Scotland's most disadvantaged communities.

  41. Standards falling

    Labour MSP Iain Gray says numeracy and literacy "standards are moving in the wrong direction".

    Mr Gray says the right path is to start early, get the basics right and target the resources for equality.

  42. Concerns

    He highlights concerns from teachers, headteachers, educationalists and parents regarding the implementation of new national exams, and recognises that these cannot be addressed by simply asking teachers to do more.

    Teacher and pupils in classroom

    The former maths and physics teacher welcomes the Scottish government's attainment fund and widening access commission but believes that change requires targeted resources and attention to lift the standards and aspirations of those young people who need the most help.

  43. Labour amendment

    Scottish Labour MSP Iain Gray says in his amendment that schools have been put under severe strain with 4,000 fewer teachers in Scotland.

    Mr Gray says this leaves teacher workload pressure at an all-time high.

    The former teacher acknowledges that, despite the efforts of staff, numeracy and literacy standards are declining at all stages and the attainment gap remains persistent.

  44. 'Recent and worrying trends'

    Mr Gray highlights the "recent and worrying trends" in Scotland's education system.

    Labour MSP Iain Gray
    Image caption: Labour MSP Iain Gray

    The former teacher says the minister tries to trash the statistics and accuses Ms Constance of "ministerial complacency".

  45. Labour view

    Labour MSP Iain Gray takes to his feet and runs us through the proud history of Scotland's education system.

  46. BACKGROUND: Attainment for all

    The Scottish government said the Raising Attainment for All Programme was launched in June 2014, to support consistent improvement in attainment and achievement through the development of a collaborative learning system.

    Kids in classroom

    The programme is being delivered to schools and authorities as part of a 'collaborative', as with the Early Years Collaborative.

    This involves bringing groups of participating schools and authorities together for 'all teach / all learn' learning sessions.

    The schools involved with the programme are identifying their own areas for action and are being supported by professional Improvement Advisors to help them identify clear aims, measures and change ideas which will support the iterative testing of new ways of working to improve performance.

  47. Evidence led

    The education secretary says the government are putting in place a framework to help looked after children and young people and points to her announcement of half a million pounds of funding earlier this year.

    Ms Constance says she will be led by evidence, not dogma or ideology in the efforts to create equity and excellence in education.

  48. Be more creative

    The education secretary says the barriers to improving attainment must be overcome.

    Ms Constance says: "We need to think more creatively about when and how we interact with parents."

  49. BACKGROUND:

    Nicola Sturgeon has pointed to a fall in reading and writing skills among pupils as evidence that Scotland's education system is not good enough.

    Writing in the Daily Record, the first minister also said too many deprived children were still being held back.

    And she said it was her "sacred responsibility" to ensure every child was given the same chance to succeed.

    Young kids with hands up

    The Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy recently said literacy standards in P4, P7 and S2 had fallen.

    Last year, the survey flagged up a similar drop in numeracy standards.

    The Scottish government has come under pressure from opposition parties over the issue in recent weeks.

  50. Poverty not an excuse

    Ms Constance says an international expert team will review the performance on attainment next week

    She also says Scotland can can learn from other countries too.

    Poverty

    The education secretary says poverty must not be used as an excuse for failure in addressing the attainment gap.

  51. Numeracy and literacy

    Ms Constance says every teacher training course must spend enough time on numeracy and literacy

    "Our shared focus must be delivering equity and excellence in education."

  52. Indications of decline

    Ms Constance says "education of our children is one of our greatest responsibilities.

    The education secretary says "there are some worrying indications of decline" in numeracy and literacy at some stages for children.

  53. Breaking down barriers

    The minister calls on parents, teachers, school leaders, employers and politicians, to play their part in overcoming barriers to delivering an education system that ensures that every child in every community has every chance to succeed at school and in life.

  54. Improving educational attainment

    The minister says tackling inequity by delivering excellence is a key priority for the Scottish government

    The education secretary says poverty should not be used as an excuse for failure in improving educational attainment.

    Teacher at board in classroom

    She says the Scottish government has said that all options will be considered and that the evidence of what works will determine future policy.

  55. Government motion

    In her motion, Ms Constance says there is much to be proud of in Scotland's schools, with children achieving record exam results, fewer young people leaving school with no or few qualifications and record numbers securing positive destinations on leaving school.

    Ms Constance says Scotland currently sits mid-table in the international rankings for school education.

    The minister accepts that that much more needs to be done to make all of Scottish education truly excellent.

  56. Education debate

    Education Secretary Angela Constance says she made an inadvertent error during general questions and puts that on the record.

    Education Secretary Angela Constance
    Image caption: Education Secretary Angela Constance

    Ms Constance goes on to begin the debate on 'Equity and Excellence in Education'.

  57. Scrutiny

    Ms McInnes says the facial recognition system needs to be properly regulated as there is currently no public or parliamentary scrutiny.

    The justice secretary says he is not aware of any concerns with the the way Police Scotland is operating the system administered by the Home Office.

  58. Ministerial response

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson says Police Scotland retain images to prevent and detect crime.

    He says the images are only taken when a suspect is detained, arrested and then charged.

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson
    Image caption: Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

    The images are not held indefinitely when there is no charge or conviction.

  59. BACKGROUND:

    The Herald reported that hundreds of thousands of Scots are contained on a controversial facial recognition database that is being used by the national police force, raising fresh fears over civil liberties.

    Officers have admitted to using the special technology, which attempts to identity faces captured on CCTV and other images, on more than 400 occasions.

    In addition, Police Scotland said it has uploaded hundreds of thousands of mugshots onto a UK-wide police database used as a the main resource for facial recognition searches.

  60. Police Scotland facial recognition question

    Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes raises the issue of reports that Police Scotland has been using facial recognition technology on images stored on the police national database.

  61. Ministerial response

    Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown says he discussed the reports with Sir David Higgins the chair of HS2 this morning.

    Mr Brown says he has made it clear to UK Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin that HS2 must come to Scotland.

    Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown
    Image caption: Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown

    After several requests for a meeting he says he has received no positive response and indeed has not met Mr McLoughlin once since he became Transport Minister in 2012.

  62. BACKGROUND: HS2

    According to the Scotsman website a decision on whether to extend the HS2 high-speed rail link to Scotland has yet to be made by ministers, the UK government has said.

    Journey times between London and Birmingham will be reduced as part of the first phase of HS2, before a second phase will see the high-speed line split in two towards both Manchester and Leeds.

    High Speed Rail

    It was reported in the Scotsman on Saturday that HS2 Ltd had moved away from the idea of extending high-speed rail to Scotland, and is instead looking at enhancements to existing lines.

  63. HS2 question

    SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie asks what recent discussions the Scottish government has had with the UK Government on the subject of HS2.

  64. Mayhem

    Mr Simpson asks if the minister is comfortable about reports in the press of mayhem at the Southern General accident and emergency unit and asks what modelling had been done.

    The health secretary says there were concerns but lessons will be learned and the transfer timetable should be met.

  65. Doctors going public

    Mr Simpson welcomes the emphasis on patient safety from the minister.

    He says the fact these health professionals felt the need to go public shows the seriousness of the situation and the faults of the health board.

    Labour MSP Richard Simpson
    Image caption: Labour MSP Richard Simpson

    The health secretary says there have been many discussions over a long period of time and there has been a failure to agree some of the changes.

    Ms Robson says it is important the issues are resolved going forward.

  66. Ministerial response

    Health Secretary Shona Robison says patient safety is of paramount concern.

    Ms Robson says this is a complex issue and the views of the clinicians are extremely important.

    Health Secretary Shona Robison
    Image caption: Health Secretary Shona Robison

    She says she has spoken to the chair of NHS Glasgow and Clyde and there is a meeting planned for tomorrow.

  67. BACKGROUND:

    More than 50 professors and consultants at Scotland's largest cancer hospital have warned patients could be put at risk by a change of services.

    A major shake-up of care in the city is taking place as part of a move to the new South Glasgow University Hospital.

    Doctors at the Beatson cancer centre claim the changes will leave inadequate staffing in the event of emergencies.

    Beatson

    They have written to Health Secretary Shona Robison to say the situation is "desperate" and called for action.

    The doctors claim the reconfiguration of hospital services in the city will see the removal of acute medical support services from the site by the end of next week.

    The signatories of a letter have called for urgent action amid fears that junior doctors will be left in charge out of hours and that there would be inadequate staffing for resuscitating patients at such times.

  68. Beatson question

    Labour MSP Richard Simpson asks the Scottish government what action it has taken to ensure that the concerns of 56 doctors at the Beatson Cancer Centre regarding patient safety are fully addressed.

  69. Topical questions

    1. Labour MSP Richard Simpson: To ask the Scottish government what action it has taken to ensure that the concerns of 56 doctors at the Beatson Cancer Centre regarding patient safety are fully addressed. (S4T-01028)

    2. SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie: To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with the UK government on the subject of HS2. (S4T-01033)

    3. Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes: To ask the Scottish government what its response is to reports that Police Scotland has been using facial recognition technology on images stored on the police national database. (S4T-01034)

  70. Time for reflection

    Reverend Neil Urquhart from Fullarton Parish Church, Irvine is delivering the time for reflection.

    Reverend Neil Urquhart
    Image caption: Reverend Neil Urquhart
  71. Welcome back and coming up

    This afternoon, after topical questions, the Scottish government will lead a debate entitled 'Equity and Excellence in Education' following the first minister's announcement of a £100m educational attainment fund.

    SNP MSP Christine Grahame will lead a member's debater entitled Through our Eyes which looks at the role of kinship carers generally and grandparents in particular.

  72. Committee is in private session

    And that's lunch.

    Holyrood

    We'll be back after time for reflection with topical questions.

    1. Labour MSP Richard Simpson: To ask the Scottish government what action it has taken to ensure that the concerns of 56 doctors at the Beatson Cancer Centre regarding patient safety are fully addressed. (S4T-01028)

    2. SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie: To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with the UK government on the subject of HS2. (S4T-01033)

    3. Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes: To ask the Scottish government what its response is to reports that Police Scotland has been using facial recognition technology on images stored on the police national database. (S4T-01034)

  73. Legal aid

    Committee convener and SNP MSP Christine Grahame asks about the cost to the legal aid fund of FAIs.

    Mr Wheelhouse says he recognises the important role of FAIs helping families understand what happened to a loved one.

    The minister says some families will need legal aid and he will provide figures in relation to the level of legal aid awarded.

  74. Review

    Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes asks if there is scope for introducing a review process if families are unhappy with the findings in the investigation of a death.

    MSPs

    The judicial review is the process available currently says the minister.

  75. Delays in FAIs

    Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse says he agrees avoiding unnecessary delays in FAIs is very desirable.

    Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse
    Image caption: Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse

    Mr Wheelhouse says he wants smooth out the process and that is why the bill will introduce a three month interval review by the Crown office to find out the reason for any delay.

  76. Repatriation of bodies

    SNP MSP Christian Allard asks about deaths abroad and the need to bring a body back to Scotland to secure a FAI.

    The minister says he has had the privilege of meeting families like Mr and Mrs Beveridge whose son Blair Jordan died onboard a BP tanker off the coast of Japan.

    Mr Wheelhouse says he is very, very grateful for the family raising the weaknesses in the current FAI system.

    SNP MSP Christian Allard
    Image caption: SNP MSP Christian Allard

    He says Blair's body was found, but there are circumstances where a body is not found.

    The minister says if there is no body to examine then it is very difficult to conduct an FAI and it places limitations on the value added by a FAI.

  77. Armed services personnel

    Labour MSP Jayne Baxter ask if the wording in the bill can encompass armed services personnel.

    Labour MSP Jayne Baxter
    Image caption: Labour MSP Jayne Baxter

    Mr Wheelhouse says because it is a reserved issue it will require the UK government to issue a 104 order and the Scottish government awaits a reply from the MOD.

  78. Natural causes

    Mr Wheelhouse says deaths in detention could be from natural causes and families may not wish to have an inquiry.

  79. No mandatory FAIs

    Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse says he does not believe mandatory FAIs should take place for every death in detention for mental health reasons.

  80. Human rights concerns

    SNP MSP Rod Campbell begins the questioning by raising the issue of deaths of people who are compulsorily detained for mental health reason

    Mr Campbell says a number of concerns have been raised about the human rights implications.

    SNP MSP Rod Campbell
    Image caption: SNP MSP Rod Campbell

    Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse says such deaths are already subject to an investigation by the procurator fiscal and the Lord Advocate can call for an FAIs.

  81. Opening statement

    Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse says it is right that the system of FAIs was reviewed and that the legislation be updated to be fit for the 21st Century.

    Mr Wheelhouse says the government consulted on Lord Cullen's recommendations.

    Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse
    Image caption: Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse

    He says the bill will also make the system more efficient with the use of preliminary hearings.

  82. And we're off again

    Justice Committee convener Christine Grahame introduces the minister and his team.

    The minister and his team
  83. Brief suspension

    The committee suspends briefly before taking evidence from Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

  84. Possible delays to FAI

    The solicitor general details the issues which can delay the completion of an FAI:

    • the fact that there may have to be the consideration of criminal proceedings, which take precedence in the public interest over an FAI
    • the involvement of other regulatory authorities who have a duty to carry out their own inquiries and are not under the auspices of the Crown.
    • most FAIs require expert evidence of some sort, frequently medical experts and its not for the Crown to set their priorities.
  85. Timescale of an FAI

    Labour MSP Elaine Murray says Patricia Ferguson's proposed members bill would introduce time limits for an FAI and asks the panel's views.

    Ms Thomson says she shares concerns about the length of time it takes to conclude these investigations and inquiries.

  86. Lord Advocate

    Independent MSP John Finnie says if there is any dubiety about whether an FAI should proceed then the independence comes from the Lord Advocate.

    Stephen McGowan, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
    Image caption: Stephen McGowan, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service

    There is a remedy of judicial review if the Lord Advocate decides an FAI is not necessary, says Procurator Fiscal Stephen McGowan.

  87. Investigations abroad

    Solicitor General for Scotland Lesley Thomson says in relation to investigation abroad the Crown are well placed and have good relationships with a number of other countries.

    Stephen McGowan and Lesley Thomson
    Image caption: Stephen McGowan and Lesley Thomson

    This helps avoid duplication she says.

    Ms Thomson says the Crown does not have the power to send investigators abroad in relation to fatal accidents and it relies on cooperation.

  88. BACKGROUND: Deaths of Scots abroad

    Fatal accident inquiries (FAIs) could be held into the deaths of Scots abroad under the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc.(Scotland) Bill.

    It would allow the Lord Advocate for the first time to hold an FAI where the body had been repatriated.

    The proposal has been welcomed by the family of Blair Jordan, who died in 2009 after a fall on an oil tanker in the South China Sea.

    Blair Jordan died after falling on an oil tanker off the coast of Japan in 2009
    Image caption: Blair Jordan died after falling on an oil tanker off the coast of Japan in 2009

    Despite six years of searching for answers, his family said they still do not know how and why he died.

    Permitting discretionary FAIs into the deaths of Scots abroad was one of 36 recommendations he made made by Lord Cullen.

    Caroline Beveridge, whose 17-year-old son Blair Jordan died onboard the BP tanker British Pioneer off the coast of Japan, said the option of an FAI which might have given his family the information they sought about his death was not available at the time in Scotland.

    Caroline Beveridge and her husband Jim believe the new Bill will give other families answers over how their loved ones died
    Image caption: Caroline Beveridge and her husband Jim believe the new Bill will give other families answers over how their loved ones died

    Ms Beveridge said: "My husband and I are delighted at the introduction of this new Bill into the Scottish Parliament as it will now allow for inquiries to provide the transparency many people seek as they struggle for answers after the loss of a loved one abroad."

  89. BACKGROUND: Death Abroad You're Not Alone

    Earlier this month MSPs heard evidence from Julie Love who set up the campaign group Death Abroad You're Not Alone after her son Colin, 23, died in a swimming accident in Venezuela in 2009.

    She said she was "just a Glasgow mum" with no-one to speak on her behalf following Colin's death and welcomed more help for families whose relatives died overseas.

    The committee also heard from Jimmy Jones, a retired RAF Flight Lieutenant, who has been campaigning for a FAI to be held into the deaths of three airmen killed when two Tornado jets collided over the Moray Firth three years ago.

  90. Increase in FAIs

    Ms Thomson says if industrial diseases led to mandatory FAIs then there would be a large increase of FAIs, if there are more demands on resources then there will be a conflict.

  91. BACKGROUND:

    Lord Cullen, who was once Scotland's most senior judge, was tasked with carrying out a review of the Scottish FAI system in 2008 and he published his recommendations the following year.

    But the government has only now brought a bill forward.

    Among Lord Cullen's 36 recommendations was allowing FAIs to be held into the deaths of Scots abroad whose bodies had been repatriated.

  92. BACKGROUND:

    The legislation seeks to reform and modernise the law governing the holding of fatal accident inquiries (FAIs) in Scotland and largely implements the recommendations made in the 2009 Review of Fatal Accident Inquiry Legislation led by Lord Cullen of Whitekirk KT, former Lord President of the Court of Session.

    The objectives of the bill are to-

    • build on the recommendations implemented by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to make the system more efficient;
    • extend the categories of death in which it is mandatory to hold a fatal accident inquiry;
    • place a requirement on those to whom sheriffs direct recommendations at the conclusion of the inquiry to respond;
    • permit discretionary FAIs into deaths of Scots abroad where the body is repatriated to Scotland;
    • permit FAIs to be re-opened if new evidence arises or, if the evidence is so substantial, to permit a completely new inquiry to be held; and
    • provide flexibility for the locations and accommodation for FAIs.
  93. Family interest versus public interest

    Independent MSP John Finnie asks about the balance between family interest and public interest.

    Solicitor General for Scotland Lesley Thomson says she takes a wide interest in families and it is important not to be too restrictive about the definition.

    Mr Finnie asks which takes precedence family interest and public interest.

    Lesley Thomson, Solicitor General for Scotland
    Image caption: Lesley Thomson, Solicitor General for Scotland

    Ms Thomson says family interest is part of the public interest and the views of families are taken on board.

    If the family said no to a FAI but the public interests pointed to one then there would be one, says Ms Thomson.

  94. BACKGROUND: Moving testimony

    Earlier this month the committee heard from Louise Taggart, whose 26-year-old brother Michael Adamson was electrocuted in an accident at work in 2005.

    We have instances of families having had to wait seven years before they find out that an FAI isn't then going to take place.

    Ms Taggart broke down as she told MSPs of the difficulties bereaved families face in getting answers.

    She told the committee the wait some relatives faced for a FAI was "wholly unacceptable".

    Ms Taggart, a founder member of the campaign group Families Against Corporate Killers, wants time limits for holding FAIs to be introduced.

    She has also called for a review of the practice of inquiries taking place after criminal proceedings.

  95. BACKGROUND:

    Campaigners have called on MSPs to ensure fatal accident inquiries (FAI) are held more quickly to ease the pain of relatives.

    Holyrood's justice committee heard of families having to wait up to seven years before learning an FAI would not be held.

    The committee was taking evidence on legislation to reform the FAI system, based on a 2009 review by Lord Cullen.

    Lord Cullen

    The judge told MSPs it would not be "wise" to hold an FAI before a trial.

    But he suggested an early hearing would help families find answers in the interim.

    The committee is considering the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc (Scotland) Bill.

  96. Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Bill

    MSPs are now taking evidence on the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Bill.

    The committee begins by quizzing Solicitor General for Scotland Lesley Thomson and Procurator Fiscal Stephen McGowan.

    MSPS will then question Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

    The minister will be joined by Hamish Goodall; Marisa Strutt and Greig Walker from the Scottish government.

  97. Brief suspension

    That concludes the evidence session with the justice secretary and the committee suspends briefly.

  98. Reintegration plans

    Mr Matheson says reintegration plans are essential and must be in place prior to the liberation of a prisoner.

    Prison keys

    He says the principle reason for the bill is to end automatic early release at two thirds of the sentence.

  99. Scottish Prison Service

    Jail warden

    Mr Matheson says he is committed to finding the resources so that the Scottish Prison Service can do their job properly.

  100. Greater demand for prisoner programmes

    Labour MSP Elaine Murray asks if there will be sufficient funds for the prisoner programmes, as there will be greater demand as prisoners participate in an effort to get parole.

    Mr Matheson says it is expected that the end of automatic early release will lead to an increase in demand for prisoner programmes.

    Labour MSP Elaine Murray
    Image caption: Labour MSP Elaine Murray

    The biggest challenge is the amount of resource tied up with dealing with the churn of short term offenders, he says.

    The justice secretary says releasing some of that resource will allow the expansion of programmes in the prison estate.

  101. Parole or compulsory supervision

    Committee convener Christine Grahame asks what is the difference between parole and the six months compulsory supervision being proposed.

    Committee convener Christine Grahame
    Image caption: Committee convener Christine Grahame

    Mr Matheson says a prisoner can apply for parole after half of your sentence and this can only be achieved if the prisoner has met the criteria whereas the supervision is to support someone into the community.

  102. BACKGROUND: Amendments

    Following the final evidence session on the Bill at Stage 1, the justice secretary wrote to the Committee advising that the Scottish government would bring forward proposals at Stage 2 to:

    Jail
    • extend the provisions ending automatic early release to all long-term prisoners (i.e. all offenders given a determinate sentence of four years or more),
    • ensure that all long-term prisoners are, on release from prison, subject to a minimum period of compulsory supervision in the community.
  103. Proportionate parole release

    Mr Matheson says automatic early release is not proportionate whereas parole release would be and the six month period of mandatory supervision allows support of the individual getting back into the community.

  104. 'Real costs'

    SNP MSP Gil Paterson says there is no reference to benefits, housing or social work costs with the end of automatic early release, and asks for the "real cost".

    Mr Matheson says the cost of community provision is much lower than delivering things within the prison estate.

    SNP MSP Gil Paterson
    Image caption: SNP MSP Gil Paterson

    He says it is very difficult to estimate the costs will actually be.

  105. Smarter funding

    Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes asks if the bill is now adequately resourced.

    Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes
    Image caption: Liberal Democrat MSP Alison McInnes

    Mr Matheson says the government has set out a range of figures detailing the additional cost of the amendments to the bill.

    The justice secretary says too much resource is spent in the criminal system caught up with short term offenders, if we want to free up cash for long term offenders we must be far more intelligent about how we run our prison estate.

  106. Changes to female prison estate

    Woman in prison

    Mr Matheson says the government is looking at remodelling the female prison estate.

    The government is trying to reduce the number of women in prison, he says.

  107. Support programmes

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson says there will be an increase in demand for programmes of support after ending automatic release.

    The witnesses

    Mr Matheson says it is important support programmes are readily available to prisoners.

  108. 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.

  109. 'Cold release'

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson says amendments are being brought forward to ensure there is community based supervision to be provided at the end of someone's sentence to address concerns about "cold release".

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson
    Image caption: Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

    Mr Matheson says six months was seen as a reasonable length of time to address these matters.

  110. And we're off

    Justice Committee convener Christine Graham welcomes Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

    Group shot
  111. BACKGROUND: Opposition party criticisms

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

    Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell is not impressed by the bill
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell is not impressed by the bill

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

    Lib Dem MSP Alison McInnes said to end automatic early release the government must prioritise public safety and guarantee supervision, but it had failed both these tests and was fundamentally flawed.

  112. 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.

  113. BACKGROUND:

    During the debate on the bill at stage 1 Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said if parliament agreed his amendment at stage 2 then all long term prisoners would no longer be eligible for automatic release.

    Justice Secretary Michael Matheson

    This would include all prisoners with sentences over four years.

  114. BACKGROUND: Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Bill

    The Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) 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.
  115. Justice Committee

    The Justice Committee will take evidence on the Prisoners (Control of Release)(Scotland) Bill at Stage 2 from Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

    The minister will be accompanied by Philip Lamont and Fraser Gough from the Scottish government.

    MSPs will then take evidence on the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (scotland) Bill.

    The committee will begin by quizzing Solicitor General for Scotland Lesley Thomson and Procurator Fiscal Stephen McGowan.

    MSPS will then question Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

    The minister will be joined by Hamish Goodall; Marisa Strutt and Greig Walker from the Scottish government.

  116. Coming up today

    We've opted for the Justice Committee which will begin looking at the Prisoners (Control of Release)(Scotland) Bill which will end automatic release for all long term prisoners.

    At least it will after Justice Secretary Michael Matheson introduces an amendment to the bill during this evidence session.

    The committee will then continue taking evidence on the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Death (Scotland) Bill.

    The solicitor general and procurator fiscal will give evidence, to be followed by Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

    Teacher in classroom
    Image caption: This afternoon in the chamber the focus will be on Scotland's education sector.

    In the afternoon, after topical questions (yet to be selected), the Scottish government will lead a debate entitled 'Equity and Excellence in Education' following the first minister's announcement of a £100m educational attainment fund.

    SNP MSP Christine Grahame will lead a member's debater entitled Through our Eyes which looks at the role of kinship carers generally and grandparents in particular.

  117. Good morning and welcome

    Good morning and welcome to BBC Scotland Democracy Live's coverage of the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 26 May 2015.

    Holyrood