thank you colleagues we are now back in session and we’re going to turn to first minister’s questions and before we take questions can i ask the first minister if she would like to update the parliament on covert 19 thank you presiding officer i will give a short update on today’s statistics before touching on some other issues the number of cases reported yesterday was 1190 that’s 5 of all tests reported and the total number of cases is now 101 115 566 there are currently 1025 people in hospital that’s 20 fewer than yesterday and 56 people in intensive care which is four fewer than yesterday and i very much forget to report that in the past 24 hours a further 47 deaths were registered of patients who first tested positive in the previous 28 days the total number of people who have therefore died under that daily measurement is 4373 national records of scotland has also just published its weekly update that includes cases where covert is a suspected or contributory cause of death even if it hasn’t been confirmed through a test today’s update shows that by last sunday the total number of registered deaths linked to covid under that wider definition was 6298 203 of these deaths were registered last week that’s 23 fewer than in the previous week and again i want to convey my deepest condolences to everyone who has been bereaved upsetting officer before i go any further today i want to take this opportunity to say how sorry i am for my breach of rules that i ask all of us to follow every single day i took my face mask off while briefly attending a funeral purvi last week i’m sure everyone will have seen in the media this morning a picture of me without it i want to be clear today that regardless of the circumstances i was in the wrong there are no excuses these rules do apply to me just as they do to everyone else and the rules really matter i am kicking myself very hard possibly harder than my worst critic ever could but more importantly i’ll be making sure i don’t drop my guard again i have three other points i want to update on very quickly the first is the situation in relation to cross-channel trade the news that france has lifted its ban on unaccompanied unaccompanied freight vehicles is welcome but important challenges remain in clearing the backlog as part of that it’s important that the transport of perishable goods including seafood is prioritized and the scottish government is ready to help in any way we can including with testing of drivers second point is that public health scotland has just published its weekly statistical report which includes an update on vaccinations it shows that by sunday more than 56 000 people had received their first dose of the vaccine that’s a significant achievement in the short time it has been available and the third and final point is that we will shortly publish the latest estimate of the r number we expect that it will show that our number is still around one in scotland but that is of course a concern given that it is thought that the new variant of covid could raise their number by 0.4 these final two points demonstrate where we are at present progress on vaccination gives us grounds for hope but the overall state of the pandemic is a cause of concern our immediate priority has to be get to get through these next few weeks and months as safely as is possible that will be even more difficult than we expected given that the new variant of covert does seem to transmit more easily than other strains of the virus that’s why unfortunately we are imposing such tough restrictions from boxing day onwards it’s also why the safest way for indoor christmas day celebrations this year is within your own household and in your own home please don’t meet other people indoors if you can possibly avoid us and it is why all of us however hard it is need to continue to stick to the current rules and guidelines and that does include facts so with an enormous dose of humility presiding officer let me remind you and most importantly today myself of facts use face coverings avoid cloudy places clean your hands and surfaces regularly keep two metres distant from people in other households and self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms these actions will work against this new strain of the virus and they are how while the vaccination program proceeds we can continue to protect ourselves our loved ones and our nhs let me take the opportunity presenting officers to wish you everyone across the chamber and everyone watching a healthy and peaceful christmas and i think we all hope are brighter and better 2021 thank you very much first minister first minister will now take questions i would encourage all members who wish to ask a question to press their request to speak buttons and call on ruth davis thank you presiding officer from midnight on saturday all of scotland’s non-essential businesses will be closed for a minimum of three weeks most understand why but the news is still devastating today we spoke to

ryan hutchins who runs a small sofa shop in linwood here’s what he told us ninety percent of my customers are from outside renfrewshire i had only two customers in the last three weeks my business is bleeding money to the point that i’m close to broke and have very little left to survive because of the lockdown this next three weeks lockdown will me if i don’t get help i have two children one that lives with me full-time i have 754 pounds in the bank with my rent due on january the first and other bills ryan can’t survive until some unknown date in january without receiving grant support so what can the first minister tell him first minister firstly i want ryan and everybody else and there are many of them in ryan’s position to know how sorry i am for the situation we find ourselves in if i thought there was another way to do this i would grasp it in a heartbeat nobody wants to be in this position that’s true in scotland and it’s true in the rest of the uk and in much of the rest of the world businesses are required to close by law in level four areas of course are able to apply for strategic framework business fund support businesses that are required to close are eligible for a grant of up to three thousand pound the grant level is dependent on readable value and a grant of at two thousand one hundred pounds again depending on rateable value is available for businesses that can remain open but are required to modify their operations by law these grants are provided to eligible businesses for every four weeks of restrictions and but i want to repeat what i said earlier in the week the finance secretary is reviewing what additional support we can make available to businesses because we know that this extra period of disruption and for many extra period of closure will be very very difficult to bear even with the funding that is currently in place and we will continue to do everything we can within obviously the confines of the resources that are available to us to help as far as we possibly can with jefferson i thank the first minister for that answer but i’m not sure it’s going to be enough for ryan or indeed the edinburgh shop owner who writes saying i’ve already run the payroll for this month due to the christmas holidays and he’s asking what he’s supposed to do now or the borders hairdresser saying that the new shutdown will be the final nail in the coffin for her salon who says i’ve adhered to all the health and safety measures we were advised to do before we reopened after the last lockdown but financially i will struggle to keep afloat this time or the chain of women shot clothes shops whose boss is desperate to protect their 131 jobs her shop sustained but is terrified that she won’t make it they and thousands like them have done everything that has been asked of them but they have no reserves left how long will it take for the schemes the scottish government has announced to open how long before money actually hits the bank accounts of those businesses teetering on the edge minister can i say firstly again as i said i i do understand this and it breaks everybody’s heart to hear the kinds of experiences that we’ve just heard recounted to us in the chamber today and it doesn’t help anybody in that position i know for me to say but it is nevertheless important that i see it that in doing the really difficult things that we are doing right now to suppress this virus we are providing a more sustainable recovery for the economy in the medium to long term if we allow this virus to get out of control the experience tells us this the damage to the economy is longer lasting and it is much deeper than it would otherwise be that does not take away the short-term pain and i am acutely aware of that the support that i spoke about in my original answer those funds are already open for application they are administered through local authorities we work with local authorities to get that funding to businesses as quickly as possible as members across the chamber know there are other funding streams that we have announced some of them have been in place for a while others have been announced more recently but it is exactly because i know that businesses who may have been able to cope on the funding that we have made available thus far will find that much more difficult the longer the disruption of this pandemic goes on that the finance secretary is urgently looking at what more we are able to do to help businesses in that very difficult situation i’ve been candid all along that with the best will in the world we will never be able to compensate every individual or every business for every loss that this pandemic has fostered on them but we will do our level best to provide as much support as possible and the government ministers civil servants all of us will be working throughout the christmas break to make sure that we are doing everything that requires to be done on every aspect of the handling of this pandemic ruth davis throughout this crisis even when this government has promised to help they’ve been far too slow at getting support out the door to protect jobs

the fraser of allender institute told us that for months the government sat on around a billion pounds of funding designed to help those struggling figures released last week found that in two schemes the small business grant scheme and the retail hospitality and leisure scheme over 106 000 applications were received as of december the 8th only 91 000 had been processed first minister those schemes closed five months ago fifteen thousand businesses still waiting five months on and fewer than 500 applications were processed in the periods between september and december so given that record what confidence can businesses have that schemes announced in this december will actually pay out in january first minister well i think it’s right and fair uh for us uh to be challenged to get this money out as quickly as possible and we are seeking to do that and we will continue to seek to speed up that process as much as possible many of these grant funding streams are administered through local authorities so we are working with local authorities in order to do that and it’s a is a an enormous burden on local authorities and we recognize the hard work that people working for them are doing as well i don’t accept that we sit on money we have allocated all of the money that we have at our disposal what what we have to do in the scottish government um is make sure that we are building in contingencies because uh every penny of consequential funding is welcome but we often don’t know what that is meant to cover or how long that is meant to last so we have to look ahead and make sure that we are budgeting to get us through at the remainder of the financial year but it is really important that we get every penny that we can out to businesses and that is what we are determined to do for every business across the country as far as we can that is living just as individuals are with the horrendous implications of what this virus is doing to us most small businesses understand the need for these new restrictions what they don’t understand is why they and the jobs that they support are so often treated as an afterthought by this government as andrew mcrae of the federation of small businesses said moving to tier four so quickly is a hammer blow to many of his members we are about to enter what should be the busiest time of year for scotland’s small businesses instead small firms across the country are facing christmas not knowing if they can survive till new year on the 9th of december a multi-million pound set of schemes was announced for businesses such as photographers taxi drivers the wedding sector travel agents and tour operators but people still haven’t been told when those schemes will open how they apply or crucially when they can actually expect any money to hit their bank accounts so can i ask when will these firms get the support that they need and what about the help announced on monday for those affected by the next lockdown how far into the new year will it be before applications open never mind the months before they are processed ryan hutchins and thousands of small business owners like him are calling on the first minister to actually deliver on her promises and to free up the millions of pounds that has already been passed to the scottish government when will she first minister these many of these funding streams are open for applications and businesses are applying and have been applying and many businesses have got money we are announcing new streams of funding as often as we can often we do need to put guidance in place to allow local authorities to judge eligibility we will continue to work to speed that up as much as possible it is not the case and i understand why businesses understand why individuals who are living in really extreme circumstances right now possibly think that they are their circumstances are an afterthought i want to assure people that is not the case i will ask the finance secretary to update members in writing of the different funding streams what stage they’re at when they opened or when they will open and what the time skills are for getting money to people we have announced it quickly at the start of level four from saturday if we hadn’t uh decided to impose that quickly we would face a situation where businesses may end up being closed for longer because of a virus running out of control we see similar restrictions in place across much of the rest of the uk and indeed much of the rest of europe these are horrendously difficult circumstances i take the responsibility we’ve got to try to suppress the virus and to support people as we do that very seriously and the government will work every single day to make sure that is done as quickly and as effectively as humanly possible thank you question to richard leonard thank you presiding officer back in july of this year the scottish human rights commission questioned whether what had happened in our care homes was a violation of the human rights of residents of care homes the right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment

the right to non-discrimination and even a violation of the right to life itself they said that a public inquiry was needed and that it should be independent it should determine responsibility be subject to public scrutiny and it should be prompt the government agreed why six months later our care home residents and their families still waiting first minister we work every single day with those on the front line those working so hard in our care homes to keep those residents in the care homes as safe as possible this continues to be as it is for businesses for those in care homes and their families an incredibly difficult time we have given a very clear unambiguous commitment to an independent public inquiry with human rights absolutely at its heart we will take forward the implementation plans for a public inquiry as quickly as is feasible but right now and it’s a point i made yesterday and it’s a really important point right now particularly in the light of what we are facing with this new strain of the virus my principal responsibility the principal responsibility of the deputy first minister the health secretary every single minister in the government is to focus on making sure we are taking the decisions now learning lessons at changing policy way we can to ensure that we get through this next phase of the pandemic i noticed i think i’d refer to this yesterday the chief executive of scottish care donald mccaskill when asked a few weeks about this himself said that they wanted an inquiry but realized that we cannot take staff away from the frontline duties of fighting a virus if it was it to be the case that that happened it would be to use his words a dangerous distraction that would cost lives there is no doubt about the commitment to public inquiry i i believe i may be wrong now this events may have overtaken me but i think we may still be the only government in the uk that has given that clear unambiguous commitment to public inquiry but we have to focus on saving lives now this virus has not done with us unfortunately it has just learned how to spread itself faster the responsibility i owe to the people of scotland and my government will to the people of scotland is to keep her focus on what we have to do now every single day richard leonard thank you but it’s not just the scottish human rights commission that is making this call just this week the equality and human rights commission in scotland also called for a public inquiry and to cover death in scotland’s care homes and they said it was urgent they reported and i quote them we were told of situations where there were reduced or no visits by gps and community nurses residents were not being transferred to acute settings and people nearing the end of their lives were not receiving adequate palliative care we know that the scottish government guidance until mid-may advised that anyone who was a long-term care-home resident should not be admitted to hospital but why on earth 10 months into this pandemic does the first minister think that the ehrc still finds it necessary to recommend that scotland’s care home residents must have and i quote them full and equal access to health care first minister um i i’m sorry but i just don’t accept that characterization of the scottish government advice we’ve had this exchange before it is not uh government puts in place policy frameworks in the shape of advice often on these matters but the issue of whether or not an individual whether it’s an individual in a care home or an individual living in their own home or anywhere else is admitted to hospital or not is a decision for clinicians and that is is right and proper and it should never be for politicians to second guess that at the guidance it makes the point of course that often for older people and particularly those uh needing the end of their life at the best place for them to be receiving appropriate care there is in their own homes and for many older people a care home is their own home but if a clinician thinks they should be in hospital that is exactly where they should be on the issue of the equality and human rights commission i don’t disagree with what they’re saying i don’t disagree with any of the uh the calls for a public inquiry this is not in scotland certainly not on the part of the scottish government a question of if there will be a public inquiry there will be a public inquiry this is a question of when it is sensible and safe to do that and my judgment and people are absolutely entitled to disagree with that judgment and i i appreciate that some in this chamber do but my judgment is that my responsibility right now is to focus on the immediate challenge of getting us through the next phase of this pandemic we are perhaps at

the most dangerous juncture right now than at any time since february or march and that’s where my focus has got to be and there will be a full public inquiry not just into care homes but into all aspects of the handling of this pandemic that is right and proper but right now the most important thing is to keep steering us through this pandemic as carefully and as safely as we can richard leonard well again uh the first minister says that this is not government advice it’s clinical advice but the letter issued on the 13th of march was from the cabinet secretary for health and support gene freeman the letters here is it’s got uh scottish government heading no paper so let me but let me go back to let me go back to the situation that is affecting people in care homes let me describe what daily life has been like in our care homes for the past 10 months this is what angela told me she said both of her parents live in the same care home in livingston and she said this since march they have been isolated every day on their own in their small rooms almost imprisoned for being old my mother is isolated her health deteriorating and she’s losing the will to live because there is not enough staff to support the restrictions for her covert has meant that she has lost the right to see her husband and family to practice her chosen religion and to leave her home for even a bit of fresh air first minister we understand that this is a highly contagious virus and that we must protect the most vulnerable but care home residents deserve better than this in 2020 we have seen a record number of covert related deaths in scotland’s care homes the violation of the human rights of care home residents and families torn apart from their loved loved ones so in 2021 first minister will you work with all parties across this parliament will you listen to the scottish human rights commission and the ehrc and will you set up the long-awaited public inquiry and will you also listen to the voices of people like angela so that all our older people are finally treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve first before i come on to the really important matters can i just clear up something from richard leonard’s question i did not say that the guidance was clinical advice rather than scottish government advice i questioned his characterization of what the advice said it is scottish government advice but what at the point i was making is that that advice does not countermand the decisions of clinicians if clinicians think an older person should be in hospital these are important issues but let’s not try and mischaracterize at what each other are saying in this on the issues um all of us understand that possibly there is no group in our society being more affected um or harder affected by this pandemic than people who live in care homes and their families i had occasion just last week to write for the first time in my experience to somebody i knew personally who had lost their husband in a care home there are thousands of families across the country who will have had the experience of dealing with this pandemic in a care home setting and and our hearts break for them quite literally every day i will not wait to 2021 to listen to people like angela i listen to these voices and to these views and opinions literally every single day i can always find the perfect balance for everybody in this situation because there is no perfect balance and this virus is not fair it’s not fair for people in care homes and it’s not fair for anybody else what we have to do every single day is juggle all of these difficult factors and come to the safest possible outcomes for people and we will try to do that as as best and as well as we can every day and yes in 2021 i very much hope that we will be seeing the start of a public inquiry because i hope we’ll be out of at least the acute face of this face of this pandemic and we can turn our attentions to that but i come back to this point i i do not do people in care homes or families or anybody else across the country right now any favors are good at all if i don’t focus a hundred percent with my government and and with all the people we have to work with including the care home sector on trying to deal with these issues day in and day out and that’s what we will continue to do thank you question number three patrick harvey thank you presiding officer we’re dealing with this extremely dangerous new strain of a deadly virus

at the same time as boris johnson seems still determined to drive us off the brexit cliff the first of these crises is already disrupting the border and the second threatens to do even worse a uk government source told the times that there were contingency plans in place for absolutely everything i honestly doubt if that is even possible but it’s vital that scotland should be as ready as we can be yesterday the first minister told parliament that if the situation is not resolved in the next day or so we may start to see pressure on some fresh produce after christmas can the first minister set out what types of fresh produce are the greatest cause for concern when she expects these to be seen either in relation to covered disruption or brexit disruption and what action her government is taking to ensure that those in greatest need including those on low incomes and those with young families are not left facing additional hunger or price gouging in the days and weeks ahead um so my responsibility here is to deal with the covered impacts my views on brexit are very well known and you know we are getting ever closer to the cliff edge and i still hope we can avert the reality of going off it we have seen some of the contingency plans that were prepared for brexit having to be activated in the last couple of days because of the border issues associated with covert and you know people can judge themselves whether the disruption that we’ve seen in the last couple of days uh suggests that those contingency plans in the eventuality of an audio brexit would be anywhere near adequate for what we would be dealing with my view is not but i’ll leave others to deal with that on the issues of food supplies i don’t i hope we don’t have any impact on food supplies it is positive that we are starting to see freight move again although it will take some time to get through the backlog of vehicles and as i said yesterday the scottish government is considering the ways in which we can help there’s not very much we can do to help with the backlog that already is already at dover but that is perhaps much we can do through testing and other things to stop problems occurring in the future and i’ll share a meeting of the government’s resilience committee this afternoon to take stock of the issues if there are any in terms of food supply people will have read in the papers the kind of fresh produce that might be affected if we don’t see this situation alleviate sufficiently quickly enough and it is you know fresh salad products citrus fruits for example but we hope that can be avoided and i if i think it is necessary and appropriate i will send a note around msps after the resilience meeting today to update on that we had an update from fair share earlier in the week that said they had no concerns about food for food banks and for those in at the most vulnerable circumstances but again that is something that we’ll be monitoring very closely in the days ahead patrick harvey i certainly don’t suggest that the scottish government has caused either coveted or brexit but the the scottish government does have a responsibility to ensure the well-being of those who are affected and the threat of food price hikes if we see that in the new year would come in the wake of the impact that covert itself has had on equality inequality and well-being the the scottish government’s own report on this confirms what i think most of us already knew that the pandemic is disproportionately impacting on people in poverty on low paid workers children and young people women older people disabled people and minority ethnic groups around a quarter of adults are concerned about providing for their family and one in five households with dependent children say they are already in serious financial difficulty and this is the start reality as we head into christmas and the situation is set to worsen in 2021 if we have to start that year with a prolonged lockdown so what more will the first minister and the scottish government do to support low-income households over this period and to support organizations working to tackle food poverty and does the first minister agree that scottish tax policy must actively reverse the growing level of inequality ensuring that those who have profited immensely in 2020 like the supermarkets and on right online retailers pay their fair share first um firstly i wasn’t suggesting that patrick harvey was trying to blame the scottish government and i certainly wasn’t suggesting that we didn’t have a a big responsibility to deal with the impact absolutely of kovadan and yes of brexit as well even although that’s not overmaking um we will continue to update the chamber over the recess period on any implications of what we’re seeing at the borders just now and if covet and brexit more generally we are already doing a significant amount to try to help people in the most vulnerable situations

as members should be aware we announced very recently 100 million pounds winter support package which has uh measures in it for example extra money direct to families uh who’s who have children in receipt of free school meals and that also involved extra funding for organizations working with the most vulnerable including funding for food poverty and we will keep under review the ability we have in the requirement there is to provide more support in terms of tax policy in principle i i always agree that we should have progressive tax policies where those who can be the biggest burden do and we do as much as possible to help those who need it most obviously the scottish government’s tax powers are limited in that respect in terms of brexit we have seen rightly some of the supermarkets repay the business rate support they got and that has been extra money coming back in to the scottish government’s coffers so we will continue to support that progressive approach to taxation as we look ahead as hopefully we’ll be able to in 2021 to the coveted recovery garage question four will be ready i want to thank everyone for their work over the last year particularly the key workers the nurses the doctors the training the bus drivers the teachers the supermarket workers the cleaners and more i’ve even thanked the first minister from time to time but today i also want to thank the amazing staff in this parliament who have worked so hard to adapt and to keep our democratic process running through this crisis but presiding officer we’ve had a glimpse in the last 48 hours at dover of what happens when you break an economic partnership yet the first minister wants to repeat the same mistakes by this time next year with her referendum i know that christmas is a time for sequels but we have now seen what brexit one is like yet the first minister still wants brexit to the breakup of another economic union why does the first minister want another breakup by next christmas first minister firstly on a note of christmas cheer which i’m going to try to maintain for as long as i can uh today presiding officer can i echo willy renee at least on the point of thanking many many people but thanking the staff in this parliament who’ve done a fantastic job in difficult circumstances and we’re all deeply grateful to them they don’t always get thanked but can also thank the civil servants who work and support the government who’ve also done a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances um of course what i would say to willie rennie is this the only reason right now we are faced with the prospect of a no deal brexit in scotland is because we are not independent and it has been fostered upon us against our will independence is not the same as brexit independence would see scotland joining other independent countries in the european union working together where we need to including on matters like covid and charting our own future and that prospect of chatting our own future being responsible yes at times for our own mistakes but building our own success and prosperity and steading instead of having our future voices upon us by the likes of boris johnson and his band of brexiteers it’s that positive prospect of being in charge of our own future presiding officer that sees now a sustained majority of the scottish population supporting scotland becoming a normal equal independent country really really but at the weekend the first minister said it would be unconscionable to carry on with brexit in the middle of a global pandemic oblivious to the irony that she plans to hold an independence referendum in the middle of a global pandemic i want the crisis to stop her plans would add to it i think we should put the recovery first the young people who need work the businesses who are on their knees the climate which is in a state of emergency the people waiting ages for mental health treatment and the pupils who deserve a better education we need to put them first now i know the first minister has supported independence all of her political life but holding an independence referendum now in the midst of one of the worst health and economic crisis this country has ever seen is not the right thing to do surely she can see that first minister actually i’ve worked out what willy renny is up to today he’s realized that people are really missing pantomimes so he’s decided to provide one all of his own it’s it’s actually a public service

um where where to start firstly let us not lose the the irony of this situation because actually the liberal democrats are now a pro-brexit party they’ve actually given up on their opposition to brexit i still think brexit is a mistake secondly and i’m sure it hasn’t escaped willy renny’s notice i’m not planning an independence referendum right now um in fact i put planning for an independence referendum on hold when the global pandemic struck if only boris johnson had put planning for brexit on hold when the global pandemic struck i’m not planning to have a referendum while we’re in the midst of a global pandemic because my focus is on leading the country through the pandemic but you know what as we start to recover from this pandemic as all of us across the world start to ask ourselves what kind of countries what kind of societies do we want to live in i want the people of scotland to be in charge of answering that question not the likes of boris johnson that’s why becoming an independent country is so essential to making sure we build the scotland we know is possible as we come out of this covet crisis question number five julian martin thank you presiding officer to ask the first minister what the scottish government is doing to tackle loneliness and isolation over the festive period first minister well all of us are acutely aware of the isolation and loneliness that this pandemic has caused and as part of the winter support package that i’ve just been talking about in response to patrick harvey we provided nearly six million pounds to tackle isolation and loneliness that included more than four million pounds for our connecting scotland program to improve digital inclusion for older people and money to partners such as age scotland who are tackling loneliness through their expanded helplines at 15 million pounds of the winter funding is also available to community and third sector organizations to support their work i want to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to safely check in on those in their neighborhoods and communities who they believe might be in need of a kind word or kind deed this christmas and i also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been working to provide connection and comfort to those around them over the course of the last very difficult months julian martin thank the first minister for that answer earlier this week i launched a campaign asking school age scots and their families to help by completing five acts of kindness over christmas and i know the scouts in northeast scotland are already doing this and i’m hugely grateful to them for everything they’re doing to make a difference acts of kindness could be from popping a note through the letterbox of a neighbour who lives alone to donating to a local food bank well the first minister back my campaign and join me in asking those who are able to look out for others in our communities during what will be an especially tough christmas for many scots first minister yes i will certainly do that um i think it deeply saddens all of us that this is not going to be a normal christmas and i know the change in restrictions has been a particularly bitter pill for many people to swallow so this will be a festive season like no other that any of us have experienced before but so much compassion and kindness has been evident across all communities this year and i certainly as i know everybody will take comfort in the knowledge that there will be so many people such as those that the member has just talked about there who will be doing so much to help make christmas a bit better for someone else and i welcome anything that encourages others to carry out acts of kindness large or small and i’m very happy to support julia martin’s campaign thank you question six rachel hamilton to ask the first minister what reassurances the scottish government can give to communities in the borders regarding exemptions to travel restrictions between scotland and the rest of the uk first mister well of course communities in the borders have very close social and economic connections with the rest of the uk and they are really important the regulations that prohibit travel without a reasonable excuse between scotland and other parts of the uk are necessary and essential at this time unfortunately but they do include a range of exemptions for which travel is permitted these include but are not limited to travel for work or voluntary or charitable services that are essential traveling to school or university for essential shopping for health care or for childcare or parental support services these exemptions are set out in full within our guidance on the website but for everyone’s safety we do encourage people to keep such travel to an absolute minimum at this period rachel hamilton rachel hamilton i thank the first minister for that answer for many people in communities along the border such as paxton chern’s churnside and lamberton barack pontoid is their nearest town

for essential shopping and medical appointments police scotland have said they will double their efforts along the border combine this with the current coverage in the media many of my constituents are scared to venture out for essential purposes if it takes place a few miles away in england first minister i am concerned that elderly people will go without food essential supplies and medical care because they are fearful of breaking guidance can the first minister give me and my constituencies assurances that police are aware of the special circumstances that borders find themselves in and will she consider asking the scottish government to issue borders specific advice as well as for areas such as dumfries and galloway so that my constituents and others know they can carry out essential daily tasks without fear or hindrance first minister the guidance and indeed the laws that are in place right now have been written with the particular circumstances of the borders already in mind that’s why i don’t think it is necessary to have specific guidance and for example the example that the member used of shopping where essential shopping is required over the border essential shopping that cannot be done in your own local area is one of the specific exemptions in the law and i do think it is responsible for all of us to point these things out to people nobody it should be fearful of travelling for an essential purpose all of us should be fearful not because of the police but because of this virus we’re traveling when we don’t have to travel because it it poses risks to our health but people should not be fearful for travelling for essential purposes and anybody who has listened as i’m sure many of us have already to to the chief constable set out how the police will go about enforcement of these regulations will take some assurance and comfort from that and i have confidence in how the police will do that with the travel regulations over the christmas period and if necessary beyond thank you question seven mark griffin thank you president officer to ask the first minister how the scottish government’s new clinical guidelines and definition will support people with long covet first minister the new clinical sign guidance provides helpful advice on how to care for people who have symptoms during or after getting covered this guidance of course will evolve as evidence on long covert continues to emerge the guideline will support gps and clinicians in identifying ongoing symptoms and provide a definition of best practice investigation and treatment options to support people who are living with long covet it’s crucial that decisions about treatment are based on the latest available evidence and are aligned to clinical guidance the guidance work and our deepening understanding of the symptoms and impact of long covert will help us continue to tailor diagnosis and the treatment for each individual patient’s need mark griffin thank the first minister for her answer i’ve spoken to a retail worker who contracted covert 19 and was in a coma for weeks who now has to walk with a stick and there’s an immense pain and a social care worker who also now uses a walking stick never recovered her sense of taste and smell and is referred to a respiratory clinic both women both contracted covert 19 at work i firmly believe covert 19 and long covert are industrial diseases that remain unclassified especially since public health scotland have stated healthcare workers are three times more likely to be hospitalized with it industrial injuries benefit does nothing for those who catch covet 19 at work so can the first minister say to those key workers still suffering how the newly devolved employment injuries assistance will support key workers with long covet particularly since they are female dominated workplaces which have been largely ignored by the current industrial injury scheme first minister that’s an important point i’m not able to answer that in detail right now i will undertake to take that away and look specifically within the devolved benefits that we’re now responsible for whether and to what extent we should and could be looking at providing support for those who may live with long covert for some time so it’s a very legitimate point to raise amongst the other work we are doing and trying to understand and respond to the challenges of long covert i undertake today that we will consider that and come back to mark griffin and parliament more generally in due course thank you we’ll turn now to supplementary questions claire adamson to be followed by liz smith claire adamson thank you very much presiding officer first minister the winter period often brings pressures on our health service that are well understood and that we’re used to but these can only have been compounded this year by the covid outbreak can the first minister update the chamber and my constituents on the best way that they can protect our health service

and the best ways to access urgent medical care over the festive period first minister um obviously all health boards and uh the supplies to nhs lanarkshire of course that covers the members constituency are under serious pressure right now and we continue to support health boards as much as possible the health secretary launched a redesign of urgent care programme recently which aims to ensure that people are seen safely during winter and can access the right care in the right place at the right time and we’ve increased funding for the health and care sector to help them deal with covet and i would encourage everybody to do all of the things that all of us all of us need to do to suppress this virus but also through the usual channels nhs at 24 and we are necessary and of course only where necessary through accident emergency and our ambulance service to continue to use the health service when they need it the health service is under huge pressure right now but it remains open for those who need it liz smith before by neil findlay uh thank you will the first minister join me in congratulating all those who have been involved in the very hard and successful work in persuading her majesty the queen and the commissioners that the stone of destiny should return to its spiritual home in perth with all the economic benefits that we’ll bring as this is a sentence i probably my younger days would never have predicted uttering as one of the commissioners of the regalia and i am i am very pleased that we were able to announce today with uh the consent of her majesty the queen at the relocation of the stone of destiny 2 and i would agree with this terminology spiritual home of perth i think many of us were delighted many years ago to see the stone of destiny return to its rightful home of scotland and now it will return in due course and be the centre piece of the redevelopment of perth city hall so i think it’s really good news and i want to thank those in edinburgh who have safeguarded it so well over the years i’m sure everybody will be delighted and delighted to see it well i’m sure the edinburgh members here are as delighted as the rest of us are that in in the next few years we’ll all be able to go to perth uh to see the stone of destiny thank you can i call newfoundland to be followed by christine graham neil finley sorry mr findley mr finley your microphone’s muted we’ll just try one more time in the might just come back try one more time okay what i’ll do is i’ll go to christian cream and i’ll come back to you in a few seconds in a few minutes christine graham uh thank you very much for presenting office can i thank the first minister for making clear that those living in eastern borders traveling say to morrisons in beric for groceries can be essential but can i ask now given that british transport police are responsible for policing the rail network including the borders railway how will they be liaising with the scottish government and police scotland in this matter first minister can i thank christine graham who i think has taken a a very responsible approach here standing up for our constituents to make sure that essential purposes are served but also recognizing the public health need to limit travel in the way that we are doing she’s right to point to the role of the british transport police the chief constable who joined me earlier in the week for one of the daily updates that set out then that police scotland are in very close liaison with the british transport police who are taking and this of course is an operational matter for them on the railways as it is for police scotland elsewhere but they are taking the same proportionate and sensitive approach as police scotland had and i’m very grateful to them as well thank you i’m actually going to go to sarah boy at first well i think we’d try and reconnect to neil findlay the sarah boy act to be filled by jamie green sarah boyek thank you presiding officer first minister last week we had an excellent briefing from nhs lorien but delivering all three ways to the vaccine will take a long time with six to eight months for a full rollout and although the first wave is underway by the end of march we’ll only have seen the over 65s and those who specified conditions vaccinated in phase two so what does that mean for keeping key workers safe while they still have to take safety precautions and wear ppe and what does it mean for keeping our schools open and keeping all the staff we support our um school students safe first minister i’m very happy to consider uh any specific detail that nhs lothian provided so i’m speaking here about the general overall program and our ambitions and determination here which is the the biggest and the the central constraint on our ability to be absolutely definitive about this is supply of the vaccine it is a massive logistical exercise that health boards are working extremely hard on but vaccine supplies permitting

our intention is to do the jcvi priority list which is effectively everybody over at the age of 50 by the spring if we we possibly can and then as we go into the summer the rest of the population will follow that is not an easy undertaking and will involve a lot of planning it does is involving a lot of planning and logistics but as long as the supplies come in the time frame that we expect then we are confident that we can achieve that and as i said earlier on there are more than 50 000 people in scotland who have already had their first dose of the vaccine which is very good progress given the short period of time that we’ve had supplies available jamie green to be followed by neil findlay thank you the first minister may be aware of warnings by professor lindsey patterson that plans for blended learning may only exacerbate the attainment gap that we’re all trying to close but he’s not the only one our inboxes are full of parents with genuine concerns about further loss of face-to-face teaching and they’re wondering why they’re being told that schools are safe in one hand but being asked to keep their children at home on the other so i can ask the first minister if she will finally give serious and sensible consideration to our proposals for a national tutoring program with the simple aim of helping those young people who are the greatest risk of falling behind in their education first minister there is tutoring available through the east goal initiative and we can make details of that available i don’t want young people to have to have blended learning if we can at all avoid it we have made a priority of having schools open full-time and that has happened in my view safely and successfully up until now what has changed in the last week or so of course is this new variant of the virus that we are still trying to understand we know as i’ve set out before that it appears to be more transmissible but as i said yesterday one of the things we don’t yet fully understand is whether as some scientists think may be the case it is infecting children and young people more easily than previous strains did and i think in those circumstances we have a duty to be precautionary until we’ve got greater clarity and understanding of that but we want to get schools back full-time um as quickly as we possibly can we very much hope that will be from the 18th of january but we’ve been candid with parents that we have to keep that under review in the circumstances and any period where blended learning is necessary whether that is for all schools and i very much hope that will not be the case or on a school by school basis which may sometimes be the case depending on local outbreaks of the virus we will do everything we can to make sure that those not in school for whatever period of time they’re not in school have the support that they need thank you neil findlay to be followed by emma harper and yesterday care homes were advised that under new level 4 restrictions only essential outdoor visits can take place and only one visitor is allowed for outdoor visits that’s outdoor visits in scotland in december this week the equality and human rights commission produced the scathing report about human rights abuses of older people and care homes so why is the scottish government ignored the can ignore the commission’s findings and the publication of the new care home guidance and shouldn’t effective infection control measures facilitate and not prevent safe family contact first yes they should and that’s what we try to achieve we’re not ignoring the equality and human rights commission but we are listening to the clinical advice we’re getting is the chief nursing officer and the chief medical officer who have written at this week to care home managers outlining what the level four restrictions that will come into place on saturday for most of scotland will mean for care homes these decisions are not taken lightly but all i can do is repeat again that we are right now faced with a strain of this virus that appears to be spreading perhaps 70 percent faster than previous trains we don’t yet know all of the implications of that we don’t yet know why that is the case and therefore difficult though this is for everybody affected and i am under no illusions about that we must again act on a highly precautionary basis and we talk in here rightly and properly and the government rightly and properly gets very acute scrutiny on this about the numbers of people who’ve died in our care homes about the the conditions that people living in our care homes have had to endure and all of us feel the burden of that in terms of being decision makers around this very very heavily indeed but that also makes it more important that we are very careful about the decisions we take i i very much hope that i very much hope that we get better news about this new variant that makes us all less concerned than we are right now or that in a few weeks time we’re more confident in our ability to suppress it and we can quickly get back to where we were of trying to open up care homes out to visitors but all of what we’re doing right now whether people agree with it disagree with that that is understandable and legitimate is with the intention and the desire of keeping people in care homes as safe as we

possibly can thank you emma harper to be filled by russ grier to ask the first minister what the scottish government is doing to support people with dementia and their carers during this pandemic first question the dementia and covid national plan was published yesterday at kosla have endorsed that as the result of extensive engagement with stakeholders and that includes people with dementia and their carers pre-covered estimated annual spend on dementia by health and social care partnerships it had already increased it quite significantly but the plan sets out work with kosla health and care partnerships and alzheimer’s scotland to review and assess the provision and the design of post-diagnostic services and identify best practice and also to look at the barriers that exist to further expansion of the services also details work we’ve undertaken to ensure all carers have access to short breaks that are suitable for those who are self-isolating and physical distancing through the three million pounds voluntary sector short breaks fund unpaid carers of loved ones as dementia also get more support with new funding for counselling through alzheimer’s scotland thank you ross greer to be followed by fulton mcgregor thank you my constituents in balak were frankly gutted to discover yesterday that the scottish government’s enterprise agency has extended the exclusivity agreement given to flamingoland for the development of a private resort on what’s currently publicly owned land at oklahoman our community campaign against flamingo one’s unsuccessful first proposal launched over sixty thousand objections making it the most unpopular application in scottish climbing history now we face months and likely years more of a saga which should have ended this year can i ask the first minister why her enterprise agency is so unwilling to accept that this is the wrong developer the wrong development would cause unacceptable damage to the local environment and community and that is simply utterly unwelcome within our world famous national park first um as i understand it these decisions are not really for a scottish enterprise scottish enterprise will only sell the land at west riverside to flamingo land if a new planning application is consented at loch lomond and the trosex national park authority is the planning authority and it will be them that considers any new planning application that is submitted to them and as i understand that a new proposal has not been lodged with the national park authority it’s really important that these processes are robust it’s probably important i don’t express views on them um at this stage either and i fully understand having been involved in not dissimilar issues in my own constituency in past years uh quite a few years ago now i absolutely understand uh the the concerns of the public um around some of these issues but i think it’s important that these processes are followed and it will be followed appropriately thank you fulton mcgregor to be followed by morris corey yeah thank you president officer that’s the first minister of what measures are in place to ensure that our nurserate’s children and continue to enjoy learning and having fun outdoors in the winter months and light become pandemic and president officer can i take this cheeky opportunity to pay tribute to the absolutely fantastic and amazing garlic nursery at tolberry primary in north lanarkshire which serves kids across the council area and that my own youngest son attends and wish them and all the early years workers a merry christmas first minister um i i would join with folk mcgregor in wishing his son’s nursery and a very happy christmas and thanking them for all they do given that i’ve met him a few times before let me take the opportunity to wish his son a very happy christmas in fact both of his sons are very happy christmas i’ve been challenged in the chamber to do it in gaelic but i think that would be a challenge too far for me to even begin to accept i’ll get kate forbes to give me some lessons uh later later on um the photo mcgregor raises an important point playing learning having fun outdoors is really important for everybody’s mental and physical health but particularly for that of children and even with this new virus being perhaps 70 more transmissible we still believe that the virus is less transmissible outdoors than it is indoors and that’s an important principle for all of us to bear in mind so guidance for childcare settings advises them to maximize time spent outdoors we announced a winter outdoor clothing fund to ensure that more children are able to spend time outdoors as part of their funded nursery experience and that should help reduce inequalities for children who perhaps whose parents perhaps can’t buy a suitable winter clothing just because we’re in a pandemic we also fund the virtual nature school which provides training and support to early learning and child care practitioners more than a thousand practitioners and 40 000 families have benefited from this program and i know that a further 500 teams will take part in the winter program to support the delivery of high quality or weather outdoor

experiences and morris corey presiding officer i have some good news for you yesterday a new mental health support service was officially launched at the veil even hospital in my west scotland region as a result of my working with defense medical welfare services and nhs greater glasgow and clyde demonstrating the effectiveness of the armed forces community covenant in our area this will make the value leaving hospital a rising centre of excellence in this mental health support work with several patients and the hospital staff benefiting already and immensely will the first minister join me in congratulating bob reed scottish director of defense medical welfare services margaret o’rourke of the of the operations manager of the bay leaving hospital and nhs greater glasgow and clyde in launching this excellent new service at the veda even hospital a time when we need mental health support more than ever first minister yes i’m i’m delighted to wholeheartedly agree with that and thank all of those involved in the new service at the veil of leaving hospital i’m sure it will be a shining example of of this type of service can i take the opportunity for leading officer though we’ve had different groups of people thank today can i take the opportunity to thank our armed forces and everybody who it serves many of them are used to experiencing what those of us will be perhaps experiencing for the first time this year spending christmas away from our families i recorded a happy christmas message to them uh yesterday evening but let me do it here today i’m sure on behalf of all of us we owe them an enormous date of gratitude and wherever they are right now we wish them and their families a very happy christmas and if this is my last answer just let me in by wishing you the chamber and everybody across scotland at this very difficult christmas the happiest one possible thank you very much first minister and that concludes first minister’s questions i’m going to move on shortly to straight into portfolio questions but just be a short pause while we change