MSPs back John’s call to ban UK spying on Holyrood

John Finnie - Amnesty InternationalMSPs from across the Scottish Parliament are supporting John Finnie’s has call for David Cameron to include Holyrood in the ban on spying on parliamentarians.

Since 1966, security agencies have been banned from tapping the phones or reading the emails of MPs, under a convention called the “Wilson Doctrine” after the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson.

However, it emerged last week that GCHQ, the UK’s main communications surveillance agency, recently dropped the Scottish Parliament from its interpretation of the ban, freeing it to spy on MSPs calls and emails. The new GCHQ policy also excludes the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies, and the European Parliament. MI5 and MI6 don’t appear ever to have recognised devolved legislatures’ right to the protection of the Wilson Doctrine.

The change in policy was revealed by lawyers acting for the Green Party parliamentarians Caroline Lucas and Jenny Jones in their case against GCHQ at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. The pair are challenging the legality of GCHQ’s Tempora programme, which applies blanket surveillance to all electronic communications data in the UK.

John has lodged a Scottish Parliament motion asking the Prime Minister to ensure intelligence agencies respect the ban, and to extend it to include the devolved and European parliaments. It says:

Motion S4M-13854: The Wilson Doctrine

That the Parliament requests that the Prime Minister instructs all intelligence-gathering agencies, including GCHQ, MI5 and MI6, to adhere to the spirit of the Wilson Doctrine by prohibiting phone-tapping and electronic surveillance of parliamentarians, including members of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the European Parliament

Seventeen other MSPs have already added their names to the motion, including Scottish Greens co-convenor Patrick Harvie, SNP chief whip Bill Kidd and Labour leadership candidate Ken Macintosh.

John said:

“The Wilson Doctrine is an important safeguard of the freedom and independence of parliament from state power. It helps defend us all against the risk of security agencies blurring the line between protecting the interests of the nation, and protecting the interests of the government.

“David Cameron has promised respect for devolution; that means he has to recognise the right of MSPs, Welsh AMs and Northern Irish MLAs to the same protection as MPs. If he respects democracy in general, he must make sure that protection is a strong as the day it was created in 1966.

“From surveillance cameras on every corner to GCHQ’s massive trawling of emails, phone calls and texts, the people of the UK are some of the most spied on in the world. The present government is determined to go further, with David Cameron proposing a draconian ban on the encryption that keeps our data secure on the internet.

“I applaud Caroline Lucas for taking on the Big Brother culture, and for her success in bringing GCHQ in front of a court to defend its mass surveillance. Her tenacity has already brought to light this Holyrood-shaped hole in our tattered safeguards against abuse of power. I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more as the case goes on.”

John is the convenor of the Cross-Party Group on Human Rights, and a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee. He has written to its Convenor, Christine Grahame, to ask that the Home Secretary is called to the Committee to face questioning about the surveillance of MSPs.

Policing the polis: Holding Scotland’s new service to account

This article was written in March 2015, and first appeared in the most recent edition, issue 41, of Democratic Left Scotland’s magazine, Perspectives. Copies are now available at Word Power, West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. 

John Finnie - Amnesty InternationalEver since being asked to write an article, a couple of months ago, on Scotland’s now two year old police service, its already rancorous birth has been compounded by almost weekly controversies.

Since the new service started there has been a wholesale change in policing methods: armed officers have appeared on our streets attending routine non firearms incidents; and a significant number of Scotland’s children have been stopped by the police, asked to ‘consent’ to being searched, then having their mobile phone numbers requested.

I’m a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Police Committee and during evidence taking have been assured by senior officers that those unpopular, and in one instance legally questionable, practices had stopped only to subsequently learn that’s not the case. Whilst this information was not given on oath, as senior public servants it was reasonable to assume that we would not subjected to false, misleading or inaccurate statements.

So what is going on? Who is really in charge? And was the First Minister wise to recently give the chief constable a vote of confidence when many think she should be giving him his P45?

I will examine the background to Scotland’s police service, what checks and balances exist, whether the advent of the single police service heralded the police being the controversial political issue they have become, whether those controversies have another genesis, and what the future might hold.

The difficult birth of Police Scotland

Until fairly recent times it was widely accepted that the principal of policing by consent applied to the various constabularies discharging their duties in Scotland.

In April 2013, Scotland’s eight regional forces and ‘central services’, such as the Scottish Police College, were merged into a single entity, Police Scotland, since which time the police’s commitment to that concept has been seriously questioned by local and national politicians and the Scottish Human Rights Commission.

I fought for and secured improving amendments to the legislation and, as Chair of the Parliament’s Cross party Group on Human Rights, was delighted my proposed revised oath to be sworn by all new recruits; “I, do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of constable with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, and that I will uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all people, according to law,” was unanimously agreed by Parliament. The previous oath made no mention of “upholding human rights”.

The transition from 9 bodies to one was tortuously slow. Police are very rank- conscious and the preparatory work for the new service had exactly the same number of ‘work-streams’ as there were assistant chief constables so everyone got a new, albeit temporary, title. Self-interest among those individuals lead to inertia and it was only after the appointment of Police Scotland’s first chief constable, Stephen House, hitherto the chief constable of Strathclyde Police, that things got moving.

Stephen House is a former Metropolitan Police Officer who believes that a ‘performance culture’ is what is required to evidence sound policing practice. So, whilst some things, such as public reassurance, are very hard to quantify, it is easy to count the number of drivers charged with not wearing a seat belt or the number who have dropped litter. Now, as someone who owes their life to wearing a seat belt, I place very great store in educating the public about road traffic safety and, of course, I dislike litter. However, in each of those instances, if the offender is someone who will respond to advice, then much better that, rather than reach for their notebook, officers deploy their most significant power: the power of discretion. That way you have two citizens grateful for not being charged and two future potential witnesses to help the police. But if you give a clear focus on numbers then that’s what front-line officers will concentrate on.

The period running up to the amalgamation was frenzied. On paper at least, the scrutiny process was designed to be enhanced. Each council ward now has its own Policing Plan and each Local Authority its own Police Committee, rather than the joint board system of members for various authorities in all but two of the former forces. Overseeing it all, the Scottish Police Authority, a board of appointees with various backgrounds and officials with a variety of skills.

Arming the police

Until about 20 years ago, the Scottish Police service was always unarmed. Trained officers could be sent to incidents where firearms were needed, invariably the aftermath of an armed robbery, a murder using firearms or whilst on close protection duties for VIPs. About 20 years ago saw the advent of the Armed Response Vehicle: two highly trained uniformed officers in a vehicle on constant patrol. Within the last decade each of the forces had them but only Strathclyde and Lothian & Borders officers have the firearms carried overtly on the officers; Tayside’s ARV crews carried the weapons covertly whilst the other forces had weapons contained within a locked safe in the boot of the vehicle with withdrawal and use requiring the approval of a senior officer.

When a constituent contacted me saying they were concerned armed officers were patrolling on foot in the Inverness area I was initially sceptical but I made some enquiries and found it to be correct.

One of the changes that followed the move to the single service was the significant change I encountered trying to get replies to constituents’ enquiries. I wrote to the chief constable asking if there was a plan to put in place a correspondence protocol and was effectively told ‘we’ll decide what’s important’. For those reasons, rather than send off another letter which could go unanswered for months, I raised the matter through the Herald newspaper.

Police Scotland’s response was dismissive. I was told that only I and one other had ever complained. I sought and secured a meeting with the Assistant Chief Constable responsible for firearms and invited all my Highlands and Islands MSP colleagues to attend.

Now, almost a year and three official reports on we are told the ‘terrorist threat’ means our armed officers will retain their ‘standing authority’ to openly carry their firearms and they will still intervene in non-firearms incidents ‘using their professional judgement’. My request that the guns be returned to the safe in the car boot has been roundly rejected.

Stop and search

When used proportionately, stopping and searching citizens is legitimate crime prevention tool for the police. Indeed, common law powers of search and statutory powers relating to things such as drugs and weapons have always been a feature of effective policing. The laws relating to stop in search did not alter when Police Scotland came into being, nor did the threat level suddenly change what did alter was the police’s approach to stop and search.

One year in, we learned that levels of stop and search in Scotland exceeded those of the Metropolitan Police and New York Police Department.

More reports and explanations, and then the sad spectacle of Assistant Chief Constable Mawson, in the full light of the resulting publicity, explaining to Parliament that the ‘loss’ of “20,086 (search) records …. between May and July last year’ was because, ‘a computer programmer pressed the wrong button”. I’m not sure even he believed it, but within a few days the story changed anyway.

Whether terrorism, organised crime or drugs, the police like to tell us their operations are far from random, rather they are “intelligence led”. Of course, were that the case then we wouldn’t see communities targeted for stop and search operations resulting in four out of five stopped and searched having nothing on them, something the hapless ACC described as ‘a good success story’.

Later, having assured Parliament that searching of under-12s would cease, only for it to continue, the chief constable boasted he can and does ask for explanations from officers, bizarrely adding “that is quite an impressive development as far as human rights are concerned.” The ‘development’ that has seen young people stopped, searched, and had inappropriate details requested is ‘impressive’: an impressive disregard of human rights which will now stop.

Every profession has its own language and when we are told “there are no targets for volume of stop and search” yet are aware that each of Scotland’s Divisional Commanders has 23 key performance indicators to satisfy, you can see how scepticism can arise.

Policing the polis

Councillors on local authority committees have little to scrutinise and were cynically by-passed on the armed police issue whilst the Police Authority, initially distracted by a turf war about who’d be in charge of what, has been absent without trace on both the armed police and stop and search issues, belatedly and ineptly reporting events long since pored over by the press and politicians.

Since I became an independent MSP, the government no longer has a majority on either the Justice or Police Committees and seem to wish to characterise criticism of the police as ‘an opposition campaign’. I fear that misjudges the important scrutiny role expected of parliamentarians and, whilst we must all support the rule of law, that does not mean a blank cheque to an over-bearing policing style.

What do we learn from all of this? Well, it’s not that all the Police Scotland does is bad. The proactive work targeting serial domestic violence offenders has rightly been widely welcomed by Women’s Aid and others. Yet, even with that positive issue, rather than work with the legislative tools they are given, the police became active and vocal supporters of ending the age old Scots law convention of corroboration, the requirement for two separate sources of evidence to convict someone. That issue was eventually kicked into not very long grass by the Scottish Government, and will emerge again at the end of the year in time for proponents of this dangerous change to pontificate that some rights are more important than others.

Those opposed to the creation of the single service will feel vindicated that the series of events I have related show that they were right. I disagree; I believe they show a single-minded chief constable, unchallenged by his fellow chief officers, who isn’t held in check by his Police Authority, and who needs reigned in.

Sir Stephen House is quick to say he understands the need for him to be accountable; however, you do not need to be an expert in body language to read that’s not really his view.

I support local policing, and were I still a local councillor I would have been asking questions about armed officers on my beat. Why it was not picked up at local or national level? In fairness to the police they did tell the Police Authority. It was the last sentence of Paragraph ‘5.9’ of agenda item ‘8’: “Work is therefore well underway and on track in terms of Armed Policing provision for Day 1 when a standing authority for Armed Response Vehicles (ARV), Tactical Firearms Unit (TFU), airport coverage and other policing operations will be implemented.” Now, despite my intimate knowledge of the police service, I would not have read it as ‘routine arming’. Deliberate or not, it is now academic because, as with many other aspects of the controversies, the story has constantly changed with there being several versions of how it happened.

A colleague on the Police Committee recently asked the chief constable ‘if a witness in a police investigation changed their evidence as quickly and as often as that, they would be considered to be unreliable, would they not?’ Sir Stephen House replied ‘we would certainly be interested in why the story was changing. We are trying to explain why the story has changed.’

The story that is Police Scotland needs to change and, whilst that may only happen with the departure of the present chief constable, we must all remain vigilant and demand that our police service ‘uphold fundamental human rights and accord equal respect to all people, according to law’. I’ve not given up hope yet!

Update on Inverness Disease Surveillance Centre

This week I have written to both the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead MSP, and the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing & Sport, Shona Robison MSP, to highlight Dr Hugo Van Woerden’s letter to the SRUC regarding the proposed closure of the Inverness Disease Surveillance Centre (DSC).

Dr Van Woerden’s letter, which you can read below, expressed it no uncertain terms the concerns on public health regarding the proposed closure of the Inverness DSC. SRUC’s consultation disappointingly focussed solely on the impact of its proposals upon farmers and veterinary surgeons. The Inverness DSC played a vital role in gathering and analysing samples of animal faecal matter to give NHS Highland’s Outbreak Committee a better chance of containing and management of outbreaks of diseases such as E.coli.


Without the Inverness DSC we will see this vital link broken as the local knowledge of the Inverness staff is lost whilst the collection and analysing of samples will take much longer due to increased journey times from one of the alternative DSCs.

We saw last month when the author of the Kinnaird Report, the report being used to justify these proposals, John Kinnaird described the proposals to close Inverness DSC as “utter lunacy”, it’s clear that the concerns highlighted by NHS Highland have pushed these proposals from utter lunacy to outright dangerous.

John’s Summer Itinerary

Throughout Summer Recess John will be travelling across the Highlands and Islands meeting groups, business and individuals. You can see a snapshot of John’s itinerary below.

July 2015

13th – Applecross Community Company & Lochcarron Community Development Company.

15th – Cantraybridge College, Croy & Nairn Allotments Society.

21st – Moray Council Housing, Elgin, Grow Elgin & Third Sector Interface, Elgin.

22nd – Third Sector Interface, Dingwall & Dingwall Community Windpower.

23rd – Hitrans, Lairg.

28th – Morvern Community Development Trust, Lochaline & GighaPlus Community Broadband, Mull.

29th – Ulva Ferry, Mull.

30th – Ardnamurchan Lighthouse & Kilchoan Hydro Scheme.

August 2015

3rd – ReBoot Recycling & Moray Waste Buster Recycling, Forres.

4th – Caberfeidh Horizons, Kingussie & Badenoch and Strathspey Community Transport, Aviemore.

5th – NHS Orkney, Orkney.

6th – West Mainland Show, Dounby, Orkney.

11th – Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre, Lochgoilhead.

12th – Cowal Elderly Befrienders, HELP & Dunoon & Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust.

17th – Kintyre Environmental Group & South Kintyre Young Carers, Campbeltown.

18th – Jura Progressive Centre, Jura.

19th – Grey Matters, ReJig & Islay Energy Trust, Islay.

20th – Marine Science Centre, Dumbeg, Oban.

21st – Achaleven Primary School, Connel, North Argyll Carers & Argyll College UHI.

27th – Sleat Community Trust, Armadale, Isle of Skye.

28th – Friends of ARMS, Young Carers, Portree & John Muir Trust.


John Campaigns to Save Highland Veterinary Disease Laboratory


John  has launched a campaign to retain a vital veterinary disease surveillance service for the Highlands. Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is currently consulting on closing the Inverness Disease Surveillance Centre, operated by its SAC Consulting division.

Such a closure would leave Highlands & Islands farmers with only the disease surveillance centre (DSC) in Thurso as cover, which is not equipped to handle post-mortems on large carcasses. This would mean animals would have to be transported to other DSCs, some of which do not have microbiology laboratories, meaning further delays in detecting infectious diseases.

Commenting John said:

“It is clear that the removal of this vital service from the Highlands will ultimately cause far more damage than any short term profits that may be accrued through its closure. Without this service a very high proportion of Scotland’s holdings will be serviced by only one centre, a centre which is not equipped to carry out post-mortem on large carcases, such as cattle or horses. This means additional delays to the possible detection of infectious diseases which may be spreading across the Highlands.

“The removal of this service will also impact upon rural vets who often rely on the expertise and skill of those based at the Inverness DSC to fulfil their role as practitioners much more effectively. This loss of expertise will impact far more widely on the Highlands than is being currently stated. We will also see greater difficulties and delays in both animal welfare legal and wildlife crime legal cases. “

Yesterday John met with SAC Consulting’s Managing Director, Mike Wijnberg, and its Head of Veterinary Services, Brian Hosie, at the Inverness Disease Surveillance Centre. He cast doubt on whether the plan to close the Centre had been properly considered, but was assured that retaining the service remained an option, confirming the opportunity for campaigners to win a positive outcome.

John said:

“This appears to be a rushed decision that would benefit from a second look from the new Managing Director. Mr Wijnberg took up post within days of the announcement, and although he assures me that the consultation process was genuine, there appear to be significant gaps in the information he has available.

“SAC were unable to answer questions on staff engagement and, given the close links between disease surveillance service and public health, I was dismayed to hear they hadn’t contacted the Director of Public Health at NHS Highland about the proposals.”

“The assumption that the lab-based service can be replaced by veterinary practices will undertake post-mortems in the field seems speculative at best.”

“Some world-leading work takes place on this site, and this expertise is likely to be lost in the event of closure.

“Mr Wijnberg assures me that ‘the status quo remains an option’ and I intend holding him to that. I will be writing to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, and I would encourage the public to respond to the consultation and join the Facebook campaign.

John has established a Facebook group for anyone who would like to take part in the campaign to save the Centre at

Immigration is good for Scotland – so bring back the post-study visa

John Finnie speaking at the University of the Highlands and IslandsThis post first appeared on the Scottish Green Party blog.

Scotland has some of the best universities in the world, and would benefit from international graduates of those universities staying in Scotland and contributing their new skills to our economy.

That seems an uncontroversial statement, and indeed has just been endorsed by 100 leaders from academia and business, but we face a battle to get the UK immigration system to acknowledge it.

Until 2012, we had a ‘Post-Study Work Visa’ that allowed students to live and work in Scotland for two years after graduation. It began in Scotland as ‘Fresh Talent’ in 2005, before becoming a UK-wide scheme as part of the new immigration system in 2008.

But the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition abolished post-study work visas altogether in 2012, as part of their UKIP-appeasing campaign against migrants.

The door to positive change was opened a crack by the Smith Commission, in which all five parties agreed that the Scottish and UK governments should begin discussions on a new post-study work visa for Scotland.

Now the Europe and International Development Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP, has convened a cross-party working group to examine how we can bring this about. I’ve been appointed by the Scottish Greens to represent our party on this new group.

I’m very proud that Greens on both sides of the border have refused to go along with the anti-immigrant rhetoric indulged by the old Westminster parties. When Labour released their infamous “Controls on Immigration” coffee mug, we countered with one that reads “Love immigration – vote Green”.

Greens recognise that people are an asset. We know that migrants make huge contributions to Scotland’s economic, social and cultural life. We’re not fooled by the right-wing parties that seek to blame immigration for the damaging effects of their own policies on everything from housing to low pay.

Nowhere is that more clear than in Scotland’s higher education sector. Our wee country boasts five of the world’s top 200 universities, attracting students from all over the world – our own Co-Convenor, Maggie Chapman, was one of them when she came to Scotland from Zimbabwe to study.

International students make Scotland’s universities the world centres of education that they are, but as soon as they graduate they are forced out of the country. They take their years of top-class education, their skills, and their international experience with them when they go.

The University of California system has invested almost incalculable sums of public money in educating students from across the US. With no California version of the Home Office to throw them out, many of those students stayed in California upon graduation. The results include Silicon Valley.

If we want our brilliant international graduates to help us build our own Silicon Glen, or solve the engineering challenges of clean energy, or create the best health service in the world, then we have to stop letting a paranoid immigration system throw that talent away.

This is just one of many, many ways in which the anti-immigrant obsession of Westminster politics harms both Scotland and the people who would like to make their homes here. But with cross-party effort, it might very well be one we can change.

John’s Speech on Protecting Workers’ Rights

Thank you very much, Presiding Officer.

Last Friday, I had the great pleasure of addressing the Public and Commercial Services Union annual general meeting in Glasgow. They were a fine bunch of people. There was an extra pleasure in being asked to present an award to Louise MacBean, who works for Bòrd na Gàidhlig at Great Glen house in Inverness. She was given an award, as a young trade unionist, for the level of recruitment that she had achieved—a percentage of Great Glen house staff in the 70s. I had the good fortune at the end of that meeting to have a talk with Louise—a wee bit in Gaelic and a wee bit in English—and it transpired that the figure was wrong: she has actually recruited up to 90 per cent of the staff at Great Glen house.

To pick up on the points that Gordon MacDonald made, the significance of what Louise MacBean has done is in the collaborative workforce that it will bring about, which will bring about good relations. People being engaged in trade unionism does not suggest fractious workplaces, but quite the reverse; problems can be solved.

A number of members mentioned National Museums Scotland staff. They are PCS members, and PCS has been representing them very ably. I hope that there is a resolution to that situation, and I urge the Scottish Government to redouble its efforts in intervening.

People have also mentioned the porters in Dundee. I am inherently suspicious of any employer that is unwilling to engage with ACAS: employees are not allowed access to a tribunal without having exhausted all internal mechanisms.

It is important that we are in no way complacent. Our basis for discussing and welcoming trade union rights is the foundation that was set out by my colleague Alison Johnstone. She spoke about the relationship between various human rights, which should be the basis of our approach to everything in our policy making.

I support the Scottish Government motion; I support the devolution of powers, and not just employment powers, but a wide range of powers. Why? It is because I think that we can do things better.

I like the wording of the motion; I like the word “protection”. What is that protection? It is the protection of hard-fought-for rights. A lot of people—many brave individuals—put a great deal of effort into winning those rights. I also like the word “promotion”. Not many people seem to be keen to promote workers’ rights, but that is a very positive word to associate with this subject. I hope that the devolution of employment rights does not just bring about protection; I want enhancement of those rights. There is an opportunity to improve workers’ terms and conditions, so the on-going debates on that are important.

The minimum threshold for strikes has been covered by many members already—as, of course, is the case for a number of issues at this stage of the debate. There seems to be some rank hypocrisy on the part of the UK Prime Minister—there is nothing new about that, of course. I am drawn to the words of Grahame Smith, who is the general secretary of the STUC, who says that the proposals would

“effectively ban the right to take industrial action in the UK”.

What a retrograde step that would be. He goes on to describe “some of the weakest legal protections in the developed world” for workers. That is a damning indictment of where we have got to.

I ask whose interests are served by the proposals. It is certainly not those of the people of Scotland, nor is it those of workers in general.

I believe that trade unions and staff associations play a positive role in the workplace in a preventative way, rather than as a cure. Good working relationships are good for business and for productivity. Matters reach employment tribunals because there has been a failure to operate systems. The role of ACAS is very important.

The word “disincentive” has been used in relation to the changes that have taken place to employment tribunals. Who in their right mind is going to spend a sum of money—a fee—in an attempt to recoup half that sum of money in holiday pay, for instance? It is ridiculous.

If we had been debating a different subject, and I had seen that there had been an 85 per cent drop in sex discrimination cases, a 50 per cent drop in race-related cases and a 47 per cent drop in disability-related cases, that would be a cause for rejoicing but, as has been said, the reduction is because people are having to weigh up whether their moral and legal position is worth the expenditure. Clearly, it is in the interests of people who use bad work practices that those fees continue.

The term “access to justice” is frequently bandied about in the chamber, not just in this debate, but in relation to many other matters. It is clear that workers are not gaining access to justice as a result of the changes.

Citizens advice bureaux have been mentioned. Their staff are the people who will pick up many of these issues, as we all do.

Alex Johnstone mentioned EU-wide benefits. The UK Government is supportive of TTIP. My colleague Alison Johnstone referred to that. That will be a race to the bottom, not simply for workers’ rights, but also in terms of environmental rights and free trade. That seems to be the rationale that is used to lend support to that agreement. As I say, it will be a race to the bottom, as we have seen from experiences elsewhere. We watch that situation with alarm.

The motto “Unity is strength” is often used by trade unions. Of course, there is also unity among the multinational corporations and those who subscribe to the neo-liberal agenda. Stewart Stevenson touched on that when he spoke about a human rights approach involving carers, who are a very important part of our community.

The Westminster Prime Minister has referred to “the health and safety monster”,which he wants to slay. The tactic of ridicule and misrepresentation is terribly important.

A number of members talked about workplace deaths. The 25th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster was commemorated in many ways: the most shameful way in which it was commemorated was through the change to the offshore regime that was made by the UK Government. That was a green light for dangerous workplace activities. Of course, those activities impact not only on the workforce, but on the wider community. Opportunities for the Health and Safety Executive to be proactive have been removed, so I am sure that devolution of those powers would help greatly, because of differing priorities. Politics is about priorities, and we would make ensuring that our workers and workplaces are safe one of our priorities.

I commend colleagues who have talked about blacklisting. It is a pernicious practice that exists throughout the United Kingdom. The issue of the umbrella companies is a sad indictment.

On corporate manslaughter, people have talked about the Government’s bill and Patricia Ferguson’s member’s bill that deals with industrial accidents, both of which are getting a lot of scrutiny at the moment.

It is important that we in Scotland are not complacent about the workplace. There are issues of underrepresentation according to gender, race and disability in relation to modern apprenticeships.

I welcome the memorandum of understanding between the Scottish Government and the STUC, although I wonder whether biannual meetings are sufficient. A rights-based approach must be taken. The fair work convention will go some way towards delivering that.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak.