‘Fairness, prosperity and education’
A QUESTION-and-answer session between the Scottish parliament and the Oban public saw more than 400 people turn out to quiz leading politicians.
Education, marine protected areas, small business, health and young people were among the topics discussed by the large crowd at Atlantis leisure in Oban on Monday evening.
First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, addressed the largest crowd the visiting parliament had seen throughout Scotland, saying: ‘You can ask us anything that you like. If we can’t answer, we will get back to you over the next couple of days.’
Ms Sturgeon said she and her colleagues had taken the opportunity to visit 24 different projects and she was impressed with what she had seen. After talking about Oban Phoenix Cinema, where she met representatives from Gigha, Mull and Iona and Argyll and Islands Tourism Co- operative (AITC), she said: ‘I’ll be back.’
Ms Sturgeon added that the Scottish government had three priorities: ‘Fairness, prosperity and education.’
Mull-based councillor, Mary-Jean Devon, asked about a recently re-introduced ruling regarding educational maintenance grants and young carers, and wanted to know if the government would reconsider relaxing the strict rules around non-payment of maintenance grants for people who may be carers.
Ms Devon said: ‘The Scottish government needs to think again and have young carers champions in schools.’ Ms Sturgeon called it a sensible suggestion and that she would take it away and discuss the matter with colleagues.
There was little comfort for Kenny MacNab, the representative of west coast fishermen.
Richard Lochhead, minister for the environment, told Mr MacNab there would be a longer ‘lead in’ period before marine protected areas (MPA) were introduced. This was to allow time to look at the disproportionate effect on trawlermen’s incomes on the west coast.
But he continued: ‘The scientific advice is that a ban on dredging is necessary. But we will have more time for an economic impact assessment. Some people say we are not going far enough.’ Christopher Chisholm asked about the length of time road were closed after four roads had been shut off on Sunday for hours on end.
Keith Brown, roads minister, argued that roads needed to be closed in order to allow police enough time carry out their work.
‘We have 3D imaging cameras that are being trialled in order to speed up the process and I hope, over time, these can be rolled out to all areas.’
While most questions were answered, some people were disgruntled that they could not ask supplementary questions.
Aisling Clark, from Oban, asked for details on educational attainment and appeared not to agree with the answer she was given. Another man, Ian Johnson, who asked about equalities in health care between men and women, was asked to hold his supplementary questions to the end of the debate.
Ian had wanted to know what the Scottish government was doing about the high incidence of death from prostate cancer, which was higher than the numbers for breast cancer.
Alex Neil, equalities minister, had said there were many areas of inequality in life and the government was doing all it could to address these matters.
The session lasted until after 9pm and saw ministers end the evening by spending the last half an hour in private conversations with members of the public over a cup of tea.