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  1. Opposition party leaders quizzed Nicola Sturgeon during the last first minister's questions before the EU referendum
  2. SNP MSP Kate Forbes led a member's debate entitled ‘Rural Communities and the Post-work Study Visa’
  3. The government made an emergency statement on policing and security announcing a rise in the number of armed officers
  4. The Scottish government led a debate in the afternoon entitled ‘The Best Start in Life for Scotland’s Children’

Live Reporting

By Colin Bell and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

That's all from Holyrood Live

Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament/Andrew Cowan

That's all from the Holyrood Live team for this week and indeed the next.

The Scottish Parliament will not sit next week due to the EU referendum on Thursday 23 June.

We will return on Tuesday 23 June 2014.

Parliament is adjourned...........

Ken Macintosh

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh adjourns the Scottish Parliament.

SNP motion on early years agreed to

SNP motion
Scottish Parliament

The Scottish government motion on early years is agreed to with 88 MSPs backing it and with 29 abstentions.

Scottish Labour amendment on early years also rejected

Labour amendment
Scottish Parliament

Scottish Labour's amendment is also rejected with 29 MSPs backing it, 59 against and with 29 abstentions.

Conservative amendment on early years rejected

Tory amendment
Scottish Parliament

Its decision time now and the Conservative amendment on early years is rejected with 33 MSPs backing it and 84 voting against.

Importance of play and interaction highlighted

The children and early years minister highlights the importance of play and interaction.

Mark McDonald

Mr McDonald says he will work very closely with the mental health minister on children's health and points to the ongoing work on the mental health strategy.

He concludes saying the SNP will not support either the Conservative and Labour amendments.

Quality and flexibility key in childcare expansion

Mr McDonald says quality will be at the heart of the childcare expansion the government is planning but flexibility will also be considered.

boy blowing bubbles

Minister calls for fathers to do more in the early years

Mr McDonald says we are in the year of the dad and he has been looking into how to increase the role of fathers in the early years.

Father with baby

He says when people say dad is doing the babysitting it really gets Mrs McDonald's goat, as it is not babysitting, it is looking after your kids.

Breastfeeding is an absolute priority says minister

Childcare and Early Years Minister Mark McDonald says there is more that unites the chamber than divides it on the early years.

Mark McDonald

Mr McDonald says breastfeeding is an absolute priority area for the Scottish government. 

Call for more detail

Mr Cameron concludes calling for more details about the government's proposals and also Labour's proposal on breakfast clubs.

Concerns about Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Mr Cameron expresses concerns about Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Mr Cameron says the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services waiting times figures for children and adults in Scotland are below the Scottish Government’s target of 90% being seen within 18 weeks. 

He says this reflects an increase in demand.

"I have very significant concerns about the pressure this will place on CAMHS – which in turn will impact on the services that can be provided, as the parameters in which CAMHS have to work are necessarily narrowed."

Tory MSP calls for a dedicated approach to healthy early years

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron says: "Actually securing the healthiest start in life for Scotland’s children requires more than high-level assertions and financial commitments.

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron

"It requires a proper, open-minded and dedicated approach to providing what is needed on the frontline."

Plan for 'affordable' year-round childcare required

Mr Gray says there needs to be a plan to move towards year-round childcare which may not be free but certainly affordable.

He says this is the way that the quarter of women who want to get out to work can do so and contribute to the economy.

The Labour MSP closes saying he hopes his party's motion is supported. 

Issues relating to children deserves parliaments 'full focus'

Scottish Labour MSP Iain Gray
Scottish Labour MSP Iain Gray

Scottish Labour MSP Iain Gray begins by quoting Frederick Douglass saying "it is easier to build strong children than repair broken men."

Mr Gray says he is not trying to say dealing with issues relating to children is easy and it deserves parliaments full focus.

He says the widest opportunities should be provided to children and young people. 

Lib Dem pledges on the early years

Toddler with computer

The Scottish Lib Dems pledged in their manifeston

  • a "pupil premium" given to schools to put towards closing the attainment gap between wealthy and more deprived pupils
  • to extend free nursery provision to all two-year-old children, with extra support for the most vulnerable families from an earlier age
  • to provide free meals for all children
  • to pilot a baby box scheme

Baby box is 'window dressing' for 'wider failings'

Scottish Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton says a healthy pregnancy is demonstrably linked to development later in life. 

Scottish Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton

Mr Cole-Hamilton says there are still failings around support for children's mental health issues.

The Scottish Lib Dem MSP says the baby box is a fantastic initiative but is still "window dressing" for the wider failings of parliament in dealing with issues such as domestic violence. 

Much revealed by the way we raise our children - Nelson Mandela

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton begins his speech by paraphrasing a quote from Nelson Mandela: 

There can be no keener revelation of a societies soul than the way it raises its children.

Nelson Mandela
There can be no keener reflection of a societies soul than the way it raises its children.
Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa

Scottish Green pledges on the early years

Toddler cookin
  • to expand the Sure Start Maternity Grant to increase payments, include second children, and extend eligibility where possible to help provide financial stability for pregnant mothers at risk of poverty
  • fund health visitors and midwives to work with families to claim all the financial support they are entitled to 
  • support programmes aimed at providing young people with confidence and self-worth and we support campaigns to reduce stigma and social pressures on children  
  • to provide free fruit, practical food education and work towards free school meals for all primary pupils  

Strategies for children's mental health issues welcomed

Scottish Green MSP Allison Johnstone says her party welcome today's motion.

Ms Johnstone says she warmly welcomes the news that there will be strategies for children's mental health issues. 

Scottish Green MSP Allison Johnstone

The Scottish Green MSP say she launched an amendment to this debate and although it wasn't selected she would like to urge the government to consider a national roll out of the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s successful Healthier, Wealthier Children project.

Here's the amendment from the Scottish Greens which was not selected. 

Greens amendment
Scottish Parliament

Early years essential in eradicating educational inequality in later life

SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth stresses the importance of building up children with confidence from a young age.

SNP MSP Jenny Gilruth

Ms Gilruth says intervention in the early years is essential in eradicating educational inequality in later life.

'Breastfeeding needs to be seen as the norm not the exception'

SNP MSP Gail Ross says social attitudes towards children have changed dramatically.

Ms Ross says children are now consulted on issues that affect them and have more rights.

The SNP MSP says deprivation can mean so many things whether it be food, social activity or love.

SNP MSP Gail Ross

She says experiments have been conducted to show brain development can be affected in a loving caring environment.

Ms Ross says that breastfeeding undoubtedly helps a child's development. 

She says some mothers are embarrassed to breastfeed in public but that is not their problem it is society's problem. 

"Breastfeeding needs to be seen as the norm not the exception", she says.

Labour MSP stresses importance of breastfeeding

Labour MSP Elaine Smith says she was astonished the motion and amendments did not highlight the need to increase breastfeeding.

Labour MSP Elaine Smith

She says the UN has highlighted the low level of breast feeding in the UK and in Scotland.

The Labour MSP stresses the importance of UNCIEF's NATIONAL BREASTFEEDING CELEBRATION WEEK 2016 next week. 

'Real progress' made by government in kinship care

SNP MSP Bob Doris says there has been real progress by the Scottish government in kinship care but more can always be done.

SNP MSP Bob Doris

Mr Doris says it is important parents are supported to try and keep families together so that children do not end up in kinship care.

In certain cases it is not appropriate to mainstream disabled children says Tory MSP

Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour
Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour

Conservative MSP Jeremy Balfour welcomes the minister's comment about the government wanting to do more to help disabled children. 

Mr Balfour says it is helpful to see more disabled children mainstreamed and it should be encouraged.

However he says in certain cases it is not appropriate to mainstream, due to issues like isolation and bullying.

Early Years Minister Mark McDonald says he can look into the presumption of mainstreaming.

Labour MSP calls for a 'comprehensive childcare plan for the whole of Scotland'

Mr Johnson concludes saying: "We need a comprehensive childcare plan for the whole of Scotland."

Fathers must do more

Mr Johnson highlights the fact mothers provide vastly more childcare than fathers.

Father with baby

The Labour MSP calls for the gender pay gap to be addressed.

Consensus breaks out between two dads as SNP Bob Doris says fathers must lead by example and Mr Johnson says he could not agree more.

Background: Toddler speech 'key issue' for education

Toddlers struggling with their first words is the biggest single issue affecting child development in Scotland, according to a charity.

Save the Children said more than 7,000 pre-school children have problems with speech and language development.

Baby with building blocks

And babies from poorer families are twice as likely to have delays or difficulties than those from more affluent homes.

It said tackling the issue was key to closing the attainment gap in schools.

The Scottish government held a major education summit on Thursday aimed at improving school standards.

Calls for more early language experts

Mr Johnson says the Save the Children analysis on early years language is cause for concern.

Daniel Johnson

The Labour MSP says the charity's call for more experts should be heeded.  

The future

Labour MSP Daniel Johnson says childcare shapes our very future."

Childcare shapes our very future.

Daniel JohnsonLabour MSP

Labour MSP says thoughts with Jo Cox

Scottish Labour MSP Daniel Johnson says his thoughts are with Labour MP Jo Cox who has been shot and stabbed in West Yorkshire.

Labour pledges on the early years

breakfast club

Scottish Labour pledged in their manifesto:

  • to establish a Fair Start Fund to give nursery and primary head teachers direct control over more resources 
  • to invest in good, affordable and flexible childcare
  • to give every primary school the opportunity to establish a breakfast club 
  • to use the proceeds from the “sugar tax” to support a game-changing investment in after-school sport

Here's the Scottish Labour amendment

Here's Labour MSP Daniel Johnson's amendment...

Labour amendment
Scottish Parliament

'Nothing more important than the early years'

Ms Smith says there is nothing more important than the early years and she accepts the government has done some excellent work but calls on it to look at the nursery issue.

'Inequity in childcare provision'

Ms Smith raises "the inequity that lies in childcare provision due to their birthday" and says there should be a fixed point start in the year.

She welcomes the new mental health strategy, as early intervention is vital.

Call for more flexible nursery provision

Ms Smith says no party in this chamber can deliver all the childcare they would like to but there is a debate about where the priority should be.


She asks if the priority should be on one and two year olds and in particular the most vulnerable ones.

The Tory MSP calls for more flexible nursery provision. 

Tory MSP stresses importance of midwives and health visitors

Liz Smith

Scottish Conservative education spokesperson Liz Smith says her party has a strong commitment to the midwife and health visitor system.

Ms Smith says "We owe them a great debt."

Conservative pledges on the early years

kids and nursery teacher

The Scottish Conservatives pledged in their manifesto: 

  • to extend flexible, high-quality childcare 
  • to extend hours to a higher proportion of disadvantaged 2 year olds and disadvantaged 1 year olds in the first instance, with a gradual expansion of part-time hours to all 1 to 4 year olds    
  • to give parents the freedom to use their entitlement whenever they need it at approved childcare providers, including registered childminders  
  • to address so-called birthday discrimination, which sees some families lose out on hundreds of pounds due to the entitlement only applying in the term after a child’s birthday