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Summary

  1. Nicola Sturgeon joins Labour in condemning reports that a million more people are struggling to pay their fuel bills

Live Reporting

By Ailsa Brown and Craig Hutchison

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all folks

    That ends our coverage of the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 11 December 2014.

    Holyrood

    Remember you can watch all the chamber business and the Welfare Reform Committee on demand at BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website.

  2. Statement conclusion

    The finance secretary concludes his statement: "Presiding Officer, my statement today marks the start of the consultation process with local government on the provisional 2015-16 revenue allocations and, once confirmed, I will bring the final figures to Parliament early next year."

    MSPs in chamber

    MSPs question Mr Swinney about the details of his statement on the local government settlement.

  3. 2014-15 additional sums

    The finance secretary says the 2014-15 the main additional sums are:

    • a further £18.5 million for Early learning and Childcare resulting from the Children and Young People Act
    • almost £16.5 million for the delivery of Free School Meals to children in primary 1 to 3
    • £15 million to allow us to fully mitigate the impact of the Bedroom Tax
    Bedroom tax protest
    Image caption: Bedroom tax protest
    • £12 million to cover the cost of the Enterprise Areas business rates relief scheme
    • £5 million to provide additional Teachers' Support resulting from the new National Qualifications; and
    • £2 million to help local authorities fund the teachers' Pay Award
  4. Revenue allocations

    Mr Swinney says: "The local government settlement maintains funding on a like-for-like basis in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 with the allocation of additional money for new responsibilities.

    Children eating school dinners

    The 2015-16 revenue allocations have been increased by £241 million since the Draft Budget 2014-15:

    • £54 million to give all children in p1 to p3 access to a free school meal
    • £44 million to fund extended pre‑school entitlement
    • £38 million for the Scottish Welfare Fund
    • £35 million to fully mitigate the impact of the Bedroom Tax
    • £6.5 million to support administration costs of the Council Tax Reduction scheme.
  5. 'Rates relief'

    The Deputy First Minister says: "Our overall package of rates reliefs provides increasing support to businesses, estimated at £618 million for 2015-16.

    shops

    "Scotland remains the most competitive business tax environment in the UK."

  6. Post update

  7. Block Grant Adjustment

    Mr Swinney says: "Parliament has been advised of the delay in reaching agreement on the block grant adjustment that comes with the devolution of tax powers.

    Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.
    Image caption: Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.

    "I have spoken to the Chief Secretary about this issue and I am anxious to resolve this before Christmas. That factor is of course material to my consideration of the changes made by the Chancellor."

  8. Council tax freeze

    Mr Swinney says eligible businesses will be £3140 better off thanks to the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

    He announces Cosla has reached agreement on the Business Rates Incentivisation Scheme.

    Small business

    The deputy first minister says the government will continue to match English poundage rates 2015-16.

    He says Scotland will continue to be the most competitive business tax environment in the UK.

    Mr Swinney announces the total Local Government Finance Settlement of nearly £10.85bn, set against the challenging fiscal environment.

    He says this is a very fair settlement, overall good governance of Scotland.

    Money

    Councils will have to secure a council tax freeze for the 8th year in a row, he announces.

  9. Cuts

    Mr Swinney says the Scottish economy has performed well, out performing the rest of the UK in unemployment rates, employment and economic activity.

    Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary John Swinney
    Image caption: Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary John Swinney

    The deputy first minister says looking forward the OBR forecasts that 60% of the UK government cuts are still to come.

    He says the Scottish government has tried to mitigate the impact of these cuts, but Scotland is not immune to them facing around£15bn in cuts over the next five years.

  10. Coming up: Local Government Finance Settlement 2015-16

    Finance Secretary John Swinney will shortly deliver the Local Government Finance Settlement 2015-16 statement.

    Gritters
    Image caption: Councils run many services including gritters
  11. 'Grass roots communities'

    Independent MSP and Local Government Committee deputy convener John Wilson thanks all the witnesses and community representatives for their evidence which informed the report.

    Closing for the committee, Mr Wilson says: "We are not just talking about greater powers for local government we are talking about greater powers for local communities."

    Deputy Convener of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee, John Wilson MSP
    Image caption: Deputy Convener of the Local Government and Regeneration Committee, John Wilson MSP

    He says we have to look at new and challenging ways to devolve powers to the grass roots communities.

  12. Government closing

    Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi says the council tax commission will retain a narrow focus on replacing the tax.

    Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi
    Image caption: Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi

    The minister says he disagrees with Ms Boyack on the pressures on local government financing, because as a share of the Scottish government spend local authority financing is currently 36.4% and when Labour were last sharing power in 2006-7 it was lower at 34.7%.

    Mr Biagi says this shows councils are "proportionately doing rather well".

  13. 'Fourth tier of government'

    Labour MSP Alex Rowley says it is important to acknowledge the role and importance of local government and the army of councillors and workers delivering services the length and breadth of Scotland.

    This report is the start of a debate, says Mr Rowley, this is an opportunity that should not be used.

    The Labour MSP says he welcomes the government's engagement with Cosla and the opposition parties on its council tax commission.

    Labour MSP Alex Rowley
    Image caption: Labour MSP Alex Rowley

    Mr Rowley says in countries with stronger local government, voting turnout is actually higher.

    He calls for the empowerment of the "fourth tier of government", community councils.

  14. 'Worrying example of centralisation"

    Conservative MSP Cameron Buchannan says the creation of Police Scotland is a worrying example of centralisation.

    Mr Buchannan says he agrees with the report when it says local authorities have the power to devolve power to communities.

    Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan

    He says it is also welcome the report calls on local authorities devolve powers to the lowest appropriate level.

    It is right to highlight there is a perception of centralised power within local authorities, constraining legal flexibility.

  15. Green Party

    Green MSP Alison Johnstone says we urgently need to create a fairer tax than the council tax.

    Green MSP Alison Johnstone
    Image caption: Green MSP Alison Johnstone

    Ms Johnstone says there is a need for fundamental reform of Scotland's democratic structures to encourage double devolution.

  16. The Flexibility and Autonomy in Local Government report findings continued:

    Strand 4 - How remote, peripheral or island communities are accommodated within the local government structures

    "We support the principle of the island authorities receiving more powers, with less controls to enable them to implement bespoke, local policies for their areas."

    Shetland

    Strand 5 - The level of legal flexibility, and autonomy from central government, which local government enjoys

    "Control or the perception of control by the centre, whether at local or central government needs to be addressed."

  17. Lib Dems

    Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie says the balance between making sure we have national standards as well as giving real local democracy, is the challenge we face.

    Mr Rennie says when the desire for politicians centrally to do away with clutter and confusion is misguided, what we need to have is lines of responsibilities and effective government with real local power.

    Willie Rennie
    Image caption: Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie

    "Now is the turn of local government to get that big debate."

    He speaks against the single police force and single fire and rescue service.

  18. The Flexibility and Autonomy in Local Government report findings continued:

    Strand 3 - The Legal and Constitutional Funding Mechanisms Available to Local Government

    Council tax demand

    " While political parties agree there is need for financial reform no one party has yet brought forward ideas as to how this should be undertaken or what a replacement for council tax should be.

    "We make a clear recommendation this issue must be addressed at the earliest opportunity involving all political parties."

  19. The Flexibility and Autonomy in Local Government report findings continued:

    Strand 2 - The level of public engagement and interaction with local government, including turnout at local elections

    "We believe, like the Carnegie UK Trust, the low level of public engagement in local politics is at least partly related to the nature of the relationship citizens and communities have with government.

    bin man generic
    Image caption: Cosla helps local councils makes collective decisions on public service policies

    "We consider adequate powers to devolve responsibilities currently exist which local authorities must begin to exercise.

    "In the event it transpires there are a few limited areas in which local authorities may be lacking powers to devolve responsibility and control to communities such restrictions require to be identified and appropriate action, at whatever level, taken to resolve."

  20. Conservatives

    Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan says the centralisation of powers from local to central government should be reversed - this, members "is the crux of the issue at hand"

    He says the Scottish Community Alliance have said attempts to empower communities had failed dismally.

    Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan
    Image caption: Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan

    Mr Buchanan says opportunities for members of the public to engage with local government can be far from obvious.

    He says some local government consultations can be "tokenistic".

    "Proper detailed debate needs to happen at all levels of public life."

  21. Labour

    Labour MSP Sarah Boyack says 2014 will go down as an important year in the development of devolution.

    She highlights the debate about "double devolution" and Powers for a Purpose Labour's Devolution Commission.

    Labour MSP Sarah Boyack
    Image caption: Labour MSP Sarah Boyack

    It is important that there is a focus on devolving power from Holyrood, says Ms Boyack.

    She says councils are facing the toughest time since the middle of the last Conservative UK government.

  22. Council tax

    Mr Biagi says the government will engage with Cosla and all political parties for a fairer tax than the current council tax.

    Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a commission to look at alternatives to the council tax. during her programme for government.

    First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
    Image caption: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

    Replacing the council tax has long been an SNP ambition but it has proved easier said than done.

    In 2007, the party advocated replacing it with a "local income tax". In practice, this would have used Holyrood's power to raise income tax by 3p to help replace the money raised by council tax.

    The parliament backed the idea of a local income tax but it proved impossible for the minority SNP administration to win enough support for its actual proposal.

  23. Lord Smith

    Mr Biagi highlights Lord Smith's foreword which states:

    "There is a strong desire to see the principle of devolution extended further, with the transfer of powers from Holyrood to local communities.

    Lord Smith of Kelvin
    Image caption: Lord Smith of Kelvin

    "This is an issue that will require significant further thought and discussion and I welcome the enthusiasm of all parties for greater empowerment of our communities."

    Lord Smith also highlighted the desire for an extension of Holyrood's electoral franchise to 16 and 17 year olds.

    Young voter
    Image caption: More than 100,000 teenagers registered to vote in the Scottish referendum
  24. 'Appetite for participation'

    Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi says the referendum saw levels of voter participation that were unparalleled in our history, the 85% of voter turnout shows an appetite for participation.

    Empowering and engaging of communities at the heart of everything we do, reflected in the programme for government, says the minister.

    Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi
    Image caption: Local Government and Community Empowerment Minister Marco Biagi

    The electorate is keenly interested in how the country is run, as evinced by the referendum, he insists.

  25. Community empowerment

    Mr Stewart says there is ample opportunity for local authorities to be more flexible, to devolve down the sharing of services and functions to communities.

    Recycling box

    He says the committee was told frequently that communities felt their opinions do not count.

    Communities must demand empowerment, take it and use it when offered says Mr Stewart.

  26. Inquiry findings:

    Contrasting the position of local government with the constitutional and legal framework in neighbouring EU jurisdictions

    Council services
    Image caption: Cosla helps local councils make collective decisions on public service policies

    "Our preliminary conclusion here is that beyond the narrow confines of academia and COSLA, people are less concerned about the ratios and numbers of councillors to wards and more interested in how functions are being exercised and the extent to which they are able to influence them.

    "Equally we see no identifiable case for increasing the number of authorities, we are not convinced of the need for structural reform of this type. Later in this report we look at whether changes should be be more concerned with appropriate powers in different areas matching local needs"

  27. 'Effective, accountable and accessible to communities'

    Mr Stewart says the inquiry was extremely timely as the "focus has turned more and more towards local democracy" as the year has gone on.

    The SNP MSP says we were extremely keen to hear from local people and hear their views from the length and breadth of the country.

    Council tax

    "We are the first committee to own an Instagram account, although I have to be honest and say I don't know how that works."

    The message heard across the country was that democracy must not start and finish at the national level or even at the doors of the council, says Mr Stewart.

    It must be "effective, accountable and accessible to communities".

  28. Kevin Stewart

    In his foreword to the report on flexibility and autonomy in local government debate, SNP MSP Kevin Stewart says:

    "Over the last three years, we have undertaken a co-ordinated programme of work aimed at adding value to the debate on how we can make local government in Scotland more effective, more accountable and more accessible to people and communities.

    Local Government and Regeneration Committee Convener Kevin Stewart
    Image caption: Local Government and Regeneration Committee Convener Kevin Stewart

    "This inquiry was the next logical step in this programme as well as having linkages to our forthcoming scrutiny of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill."

  29. Flexibility and autonomy in local government debate

    Local Government and Regeneration Committee convener Kevin Stewart is leading a debate on the flexibility and autonomy in local government.

    Snowman on top of bin
    Image caption: Refuse collection is one of the many services provide by councils

    The remit of the committee's inquiry into local government flexibility and autonomy was:

    • To examine the levels of flexibility and autonomy available to local government.
    • The aim of the inquiry is:
    • To learn lessons, and inform the ongoing debate on whether there is a need to strengthen and enhance local democratic structures in Scotland.

    The inquiry will:

    • Contrast the position of local government with the constitutional and legal framework in neighbouring EU jurisdictions;
    • Examine the level of public engagement and interaction with local government, including turnout at local elections;
    • Consider the legal and constitutional funding mechanisms available to local government;
    • Consider how remote, peripheral or island communities are accommodated within the local government structures; and
    • Consider the level of legal flexibility, and autonomy from central government, which local government enjoys.
  30. Welcome back and coming up

    Welcome back to BBC Scotland's Democracy Live coverage of the Scottish Parliament on 11 December 2014.

    Local government is the focus of the chamber this afternoon.

    Scottish Parliament debating chamber

    First up is a debate on flexibility and autonomy in local government.

    Finance Secretary John Swinney will then give a ministerial statement on the Local Government Finance Settlement 2015-16 and Autumn Statement.

  31. Minister concludes

    Mr Allan says he supports the principles of the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill and shares Mark Griffin's view that widespread support and use of BSL in Scotland will create a more inclusive and fairer Scotland.

    BBC

    That concludes the debate on closing the gap in the educational attainment of deaf people.

    BBC Scotland's Democracy Live coverage of the parliament will continue from 2.30pm with the flexibility and autonomy in local government debate.

  32. Scottish government

    Learning and Languages Minister Alasdair Allan agrees there is more work that needs to be done to close the educational gap deaf children face.

    Mr Allan says the average tariff score for deaf learners has increased by 5.4%, deaf pupils going to employment has risen by 2% and deaf school leavers who are unemployed has fallen by 6.3%, but concedes there is no room for complacency.

    In most cases mainstream schools are going to be the setting for educating deaf children and it is there that work must be done to close the educational gap they face, says the minister.

    Learning and Languages Minister Alasdair Allan
    Image caption: Learning and Languages Minister Alasdair Allan

    Mr Allan says there are 2,534 pupils in Scotland with a hearing impairment. 42 of whom are deaf blind.

  33. Close the Gap

    Labour MSP Jenny Marra praises the NDCS campaign on closing the educational gap facing deaf children.

    Ms Marra highlights the Close the Gap report.

    Labour MSP Jenny Marra
    Image caption: Labour MSP Jenny Marra

    She says this educational attainment gap does not come from a lack of ability rather from a paucity of educational provision.

    There is a lack of trained teachers, which will only get worse as half of all teachers correctly trained are due to retire in the next 15 years says Ms Marra.

  34. Educational outcomes

    Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur says it is absolutely right to be clear at the outset that there is no reason why outcomes for deaf children should be any different and their aspirations should be any less, than any other children.

    Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur
    Image caption: Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur

    Mr McArthur also praises the work of National Deaf Children's Society .

  35. Dennis Robertson

    SNP MSP Dennis Robertson says "we must get away from this perception that deaf children are different - they are not".

    Mr Robertson says children who are deaf don't need to be disadvantaged, "if we get it right from the start".

    SNP MSP Dennis Robertson
    Image caption: SNP MSP Dennis Robertson

    He says he believes that the Scottish government is committed to getting it right for every child, however "all too often we are still seeing that deaf children are being left behind and that deaf adults are not getting jobs"

    "This needs to change" he says.

  36. National Plan

    The British Sign Language Bill will mean Scottish ministers will, collectively, have a number of duties.

    They will be responsible for promoting the use of BSL, principally through the preparation and publication of a National Plan, which is to be published near the beginning of each session of the parliament.

    They must consult on that plan prior to its finalisation.

    See Hear filming in the Isle of Wight. Can see the cameraman and soundman and the presenter Memnos
    Image caption: See Hear filming in the Isle of Wight. Presenter Memnos using BSL

    Consultation will encompass those bodies and persons who use BSL or represent those who do and any other person or group directly affected by the National Plan - whether they are Deaf, deafblind or hearing.

    The Scottish ministers will also be responsible for preparing and publishing a British Sign Language Performance Review (―Performance Review‖) and laying it before the Parliament near the end of each session.

    They will also be required to designate a Minister with lead responsibility for BSL. (It is envisaged that this duty will be added to the portfolio of an existing minister rather than necessitate the creation of an additional post.)

  37. British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill

    Labour MSP Mark Griffin introduced the British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill on 29 October 2014.

    The member's bill aims to promote the use and understanding of British Sign Language (BSL), principally by means of BSL plans, which are to be published by the Scottish Ministers and specified public authorities.

    A still from an episode of Doctor Who including an in-vision signer in the bottom right-hand corner
    Image caption: About 5% of the BBC's coverage is signed either with an in-vision signer or a signing presenter, including Doctor Who

    These plans are to be reviewed and updated at regular intervals and reported on via a Performance Review report.

  38. 'Ready to succeed'

    Mr Gibson calls for investigation into the causes for this significant gap in attainment, particularly around the provision of support to children and families, the provision of additional support for learning to deaf learners, and the emotional health and wellbeing of deaf children and young people.

    Sign language

    He says that this is an urgent problem and that action is required to address and close this gap for deaf children and young people.

    The SNP MSP wants to ensure that all deaf children are ready to succeed when leaving school and have an equal opportunity to contribute to their own and Scotland's economic future prosperity.

  39. 'Urgent problem'

    Mr Gibson says that about 80% of school-age deaf children are taught in mainstream schools and that 31% of teachers of deaf children are not fully qualified to do so, suggesting that the statutory duty to provide minimum levels of teachers qualified to work with deaf children is not being fully implemented.

    He also says that there is a significant gap in educational attainment for Scotland's deaf learners, which develops early and is evident through to school leaving age and beyond.

    A man using sign language in the chamber gallery
    Image caption: A man using sign language to relay Mr Gibson's speech to visitors in the chamber gallery

    The SNP MSP highlights calls for investigation into the causes for this significant gap in attainment and says that this is an urgent problem and that action is required to address and close this gap for deaf children and young people.

  40. Educational attainment gap

    Mr Gibson praises the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) for its "tireless work".

    The NDCS is the leading UK charity for deaf people addressing barriers they face and increasing opportunities, he says.

    The SNP MSP says deaf people are as capable of achieving as much as anybody else, if given the correct support.

    SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson
    Image caption: SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson

    He highlights the educational attainment gap young deaf children face and details some of the other issues they face.

  41. Educational disadvantage and deaf children debate

    SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson is leading a debate on educational disadvantage and deaf children in Scotland.

    Child with hearing aid

    The National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) is an organisation of families, parents and carers, providing emotional and practical support for families with deaf children and is the leading provider of impartial information and individual advocacy on every aspect of childhood deafness.

    In his motion Mr Gibson says he is aware that NDCS estimates that there are up to 3,850 deaf children in Scotland.

  42. The end

    That's it for first minister's questions.

  43. Drinking and driving

    The SNP's Kenny Gibson asks about Scotland's drink drive limit cut. FM says she hopes the move will cut the problem by encouraging people to consume no alcohol before getting behind the wheel.

  44. Affording food

    First backbench question - which comes at 12.26 - from the SNP's Kevin Stewart who asks about problems with people going hungry because they can't afford food.

  45. Contingency plans

    Mr Rennie says minister must say what their contingency plans are to deal with any issues with the new tax body. FM says these are in place and Revenue Scotland is on track to go live on April 1.

  46. Post update

    Sam Shedden tweets: We need a Speed Dating style round of questions for #FMQs Ruth takes ages! Get Sturgeon to move round the room and get pelted with Qs

  47. Post update

    Colin Halliday tweets: These answers are far too long. What about those who wish to raise constituency issues? #fmqs

  48. BACKGROUND

    Scotland's new tax collection agency has been criticised by auditors over delays in recruiting staff and developing computer systems.

    Revenue Scotland is due to take over the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and the Scottish Landfill Tax on 1 April next year.

    But Audit Scotland said the new body risked not being fully ready to begin collecting the taxes.

    The Scottish government said preparations were "on track".

    scottish bank nots
  49. Post update

    Natalie Coupar tweets: 12.21pm Two questions in. #fmqs

  50. Tax body

    Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie asks about the new body to collect the new devolved taxes.

  51. Progress made

    The first minister says although there is "work to do", there has also been "considerable progress" against budget cuts.

  52. Numbers up

    RD says teacher numbers south of the border have been going up, and they've had to deal with budget cuts, just like in Scotland.

  53. Post update

    Paul Cruikshank tweets: Sturgeon is saying "Yeah, it's not as good as we wanted, but we can fix it". Can you EVER imagine Salmond saying that? #FMQs

  54. 'Disappointing figures'

    FM says the figures are disappointing. But she adds that there's a more complex picture when you delve into the statistics. Ms Sturgeon says there's no room for complacency.

  55. BACKGROUND

    The number of Scottish pupils in the early years of primary school have increased for the fourth year in a row, new statistics show.

    • The average class in Primary 1, 2 and 3 has 23.3 pupils - a rise from 23.2 pupils last year.
    • This year 22,137 primary 1, 2 and 3 pupils are in a class with 18 or fewer children in it compared with 22,992 last year.
    • The latest government statistics also showed that the number of teachers in Scotland's schools fell in 2014 while the number of pupils increased.
    • Full-time equivalent teacher (FTE) numbers stand at 50,824 which is 254 fewer than 2013.
    • The number of pupils in Scotland's schools is up 3,425 on the previous year to 676,955.
    Classroom
  56. Teacher numbers

    Ruth Davidson
    Image caption: Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson asks Nicola Sturgeon about teacher numbers

    Conservative leader Ruth Davidson (RD) asks about falling teacher numbers, which she says is down by 4,000 since the SNP came to office in 2007, and adds that the pupil/teacher ratio is going up.

  57. Labour opposition

    FM says Labour has never asked the Scottish government, during budget talks, for more cash to help fuel poverty. FM says that, whatever the SNP says or does, Labour will oppose it.

  58. Post update

    Heather tweets: Absolutely coveting that jacket - wow. #FMQs

  59. Tax cut claim

    JB says the SNP has rejected all Labour's suggestions to tackle fuel poverty, despite FM's call for consensus among the parties. JB says Scottish ministers want to give energy companies "a massive tax cut".

  60. Post update

    John Nichol tweets: They're both right. Fuel poverty in 21st Century Scotland is an abomination #fmq

  61. Energy bills

    Jackie Baillie
    Image caption: Jackie Baillie is asking questions on behalf of the Scottish Labour Party which currently has no leader

    FM asks JB to back her call to pressure energy companies to restructure billing to help those who struggle to pay. JB says Scottish ministers are failing poor people.

  62. Post update

    Jennie Kermode tweets: Grants for cavity wall and loft insulation are great but many older houses have neither. Old windows are a huge problem. #FMQs

  63. Investing millions

    FM says a 7% increase in fuel prices is driving the increase in fuel poverty. She says the Scottish government is investing millions to improve the energy efficiency, an area where Holyrood ministers have responsibility.

  64. BACKGROUND

    Fuel poverty has reached its highest level in a decade, with rising energy prices meaning that almost two out of five homes in Scotland are now suffering from the problem.

    • Scottish government figures for 2013 showed that 940,000 households across the country were classed as being in fuel poverty - a rise of about 100,000 from the previous year.
    • There were 39.1% of households in fuel poverty last year - a rise of almost four percentage points from 2012 and more than double the total of 16% that were affected in 2003-04.
    • Some 10.5% of households were suffering from extreme fuel poverty in 2013 - up from 9.4% the previous year.
  65. Post update

    Ian Colquhoun tweets: First minister's hand semaphore gets more pronounced each week #FMQS

  66. Fuel poverty

    Nicola Sturgeon
    Image caption: Nicola Sturgeon is answering questions at her weekly Q&A in the Holyrood chamber

    FM says energy price rises (not a matter for the Scottish government) is behind the problem. JB says Ms Sturgeon is always blaming someone else and adds that two million men, women and children in Scotland will be freezing this winter.

  67. Post update

    First minister's questions begins with Labour's Jackie Baillie (JB) asking First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (FM) if fuel poverty is going up or down. FM says it is going up.

  68. Ministerial response

    Deputy First Minister John Swinney
    Image caption: Deputy First Minister John Swinney

    Deputy First Minister John Swinney says the immediate concern is the impact of redundancy on staff and families.

    PACE has spoken to KPMG and no redundancies are likely this week.

    Mr Swinney say the Scottish government plans to set up Wave Energy Scotland to encourage innovation in the industry.

  69. Pelamis question

    Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm asks the Scottish government what action it has taken in relation to Pelamis Wave Power since it went into administration.

    Some of the 56 staff at collapsed wave power firm Pelamis are to be offered jobs at a new technology development body being set up by the Scottish government,

    Energy Minister Fergus Ewing made the announcement in a statement to MSPs.

    Pelamis

    The Scottish government plans to set up Wave Energy Scotland to encourage innovation in the industry.

    Mr Ewing said it would bring the best engineering and academic minds together to work on furthering wave technology.

    Edinburgh-based Pelamis, which had been testing its wave energy converters at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, went into administration last week after failing to secure enough funding to develop its technology.

  70. BACKGROUND

    Increased provision of free childcare is part of a package of reforms which was approved by MSPs earlier this year

    Increasing support for young people in care and the appointment of a "guardian" for every child in Scotland also form part of the bill.

    The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill was passed with 103 MSPs voting for it and with 15 abstentions.

    Childcare

    The Scottish government said the bill aimed to "transform" services.

  71. Children and Young People Minister

    Children and Young People Minister Aileen Campbell says she welcomes the CAS report, as the government knows and understands that childcare costs can be a significant outlay for families.

    Children and Young People Minister Aileen Campbell
    Image caption: Children and Young People Minister Aileen Campbell

    The government will invest £329m in this financial year and next to extend nursery provision for three and four year olds.

    She says if the SNP is re-elected child care provision for three and four year olds, and some two year olds, will be extended to 30 hours a week by the end of the next parliament.

  72. Childcare

    SNP MSP Jim Eadie asks the Scottish government what its response is to the Citizens Advice Scotland report, Working at the Edge...Childcare.

    The cost of childcare in Scotland is a "route to in-work poverty" for many parents, according to the report.

    Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said the average cost of putting a child aged between two and five in nursery for 25 hours a week was £5,307 a year.

    Child drawing

    This represented a rise of 8.2% in the past year, it said.

    CAS called on the Scottish government to help working families by ensuring affordable childcare was available across the country.

  73. General questions

    SNP MSP Rob Gibson gets us underway asking how the Scottish government's proposed land commission will identify landowners and plan diversity of ownership.

  74. Next up: General questions

    MSPs will shortly quiz ministers during general questions.

    Here is the list of selected questions:

    1. Rob Gibson: To ask the Scottish Government how its proposed land commission will identify landowners and plan diversity of ownership. (S4O-03811)

    2. Jim Eadie: To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to the Citizens Advice Scotland report, Working at the Edge...Childcare. (S4O-03812)

    3. Linda Fabiani: To ask the Scottish Government what consideration it is giving to Unison's campaign to bring ancillary services in-house at Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride. (S4O-03813)

    4. John Pentland: To ask the Scottish Government what support it gives to NHS Lanarkshire with recruiting medical staff for emergency and general medicine services. (S4O-03814)

    5. Willie Coffey: To ask when the Scottish Government what plans it has to boost the economy in East Ayrshire. (S4O-03815)

    6. Mark McDonald: To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with pension fund administrators regarding investment opportunities to support capital infrastructure projects. (S4O-03816)

    7. Claudia Beamish: To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to improve public transport in South Scotland. (S4O-03817)

    8. Malcolm Chisholm: To ask the Scottish Government what action it has taken in relation to Pelamis Wave Power since it went into administration. (S4O-03818)

    9. Gavin Brown: To ask the Scottish Government what progress it has made with the Scottish business development bank. (S4O-03819)

    10. Alex Johnstone: To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide a specific warning system for coastal flooding at Stonehaven and the coast north and south of Stonehaven. (S4O-03820)

  75. Coming up

    We will shortly cover general questions and then from noon we will provide extensive coverage of first minister's questions, including social media reaction to the exchanges.

    Scottish Parliament debating chamber
  76. Devolution Committee

    That concludes our coverage of the Devolution Committee.

    The committee

    Remember you will be able to watch the entire committee, on demand, at BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website.

  77. 'Dysfunctional system'

    Professor Keating says, in relation to welfare, "I am actually convinced we have a very dysfunctional system at the moment."

    Children in Glasgow
    Image caption: It is estimated that 80,000 children in Scotland are living in poverty

    He says we should using welfare spend much more effectively to reap economic benefits and almost certainly Scotland will want to do things differently.

  78. Welfare

    Professor Heald says a lot of the discussion about welfare and devolution is assuming Scotland will spend more, he says the money will have to come from somewhere else.

    A Food bank
    Image caption: A Food bank

    He says it will not be politically easy with the forthcoming spending pressures and the question is what do you spend less on.

  79. Barnett Formula

    Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone asks if, in relation to welfare, "is the Barnett Formula a potential elephant trap".

    Professor Heald says the Barnett Formula would not generally be related to welfare spending, as welfare is an annually managed expenditure.

    He says Barnett produces certain constraints on the Treasury but allows it to control spending to an extent.

    Barnett Formula

    The Barnett formula is a system of grants which dictates the level of public spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Under it, extra funding - or cuts - from Westminster are allocated according to the population size of each nation and which powers are devolved to them.

    When the UK government increases or decreases funding for departments such as health and education in England, the Barnett formula is used to decide how much devolved governments will receive.

    The formula is named after its inventor, the former Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury Joel Barnett, who devised it in the late 1970s.

  80. Smith Commission summary

    Lord Smith commission panel
    Image caption: All five Scottish political parties have two representatives to the commission

    Lord Smith's commission, which was made up of 10 party representatives, published its recommendations last week.

    It said the Scottish Parliament should be able to;

    • set income tax rates and bands
    • be given powers to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Scottish elections
    • have control over Air Passenger Duty
    • and be given a part share in VAT receipts.
  81. Intergovernmental relations

    Professor McEwen says: "The Smith Commission was not in any way transparent."

    Smith Commission, party representatives

    She goes on to say: "Intergovernmental relations will become even more important", following the Smith Commission's proposals.

    Professor Keating says there may be case for a UK wide constitutional convention,

  82. Austerity

    Professor Heald raises the issue of austerity, saying in terms of public spending cuts more than half are still to come.

    Money

    He says the downward pressures on spending in the next five years are going to be "very extreme.

  83. 'Constitution is being rejected'

    Professor Jeffery says "the constitution is being rejected" by certain people across the UK, for example the 45% of voters in Scotland who voted for independence.

    Yes campaigners
    Image caption: 45% of votes were for independence

    He says: "The constitution is under challenge not just in Scotland but other parts of the the UK."

  84. Holyrood elections

    SNP MSP and committee convener Bruce Crawford asks if "this bit of legislation can be in place by the next Scottish Parliament elections.

    Professor McEwen says it can be, if there is the political motivation, it could be passed by the spring of 2016.

  85. 'Ambitious timetable'

    SNP MSP Bill Kidd raises the issue of the timescale of implementation of the Smith Commission proposals that was promised by Gordon Brown.

    BBC

    Professor Jeffery says Professor Bell artfully referred to a Scotland Act 2015 in his submission but that would be "an ambitious timetable".

    He says there is no commitment from the UK government to have a second reading of a draft bill before the general election, it will be "extremely tight" to have an act before the Holyrood election in 2016.

    The signatories to the Smith Agreement can look for opportunities to accelerate the devolution of powers where there is clear agreement as on extending the Holyrood electoral franchise to 16 and 17 year olds.

  86. Lack of transparency

    Professor Jeffery says what is needed is regularity, transparency and a clear set of principles to underlay the constitutional architecture between the Scottish and UK governments.

    "Those arrangements are clearly not yet in place."

    The professors

    Professor Keating says there are lot of good intentions in the Smith Commission report but unless they are underpinned by the institutions then it does not amount to very much, adding there is a "lack of transparency in these arrangements".

    Professor McEwen says the Joint Exchequer Committee is "completely lacking in transparency".

  87. Revenue Scotland

    The panel discuss the criticism of Scotland's new tax collection agency by auditors over delays in recruiting staff and developing computer systems.

    Revenue Scotland is due to take over the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and the Scottish Landfill Tax on 1 April next year.

    scottish bank nots

    But Audit Scotland said the new body risked not being fully ready to begin collecting the taxes.

    The Scottish government said preparations were "on track".

    The new powers over LBTT - which is replacing stamp duty - and Landfill Tax were announced in the Scotland Act 2012.

  88. HMRC implementation

    Professor Heald says the Smith Commission proposals will give the Scottish Parliament a narrow portfolio of taxes which may pose some problems.

    He says the crucial point about the income tax proposals is that their implementation will happen at HMRC, not in Scotland.

    HMRC
    Image caption: HMRC

    For the credibility of these taxes one needs good implementation, says the professor.

    Professor Keating warns that the implementation will face challenges as we know "IT systems never work".

  89. Treasury influence

    Professor David Bell
    Image caption: Professor David Bell

    Professor David Bell of the University of Stirling says there is a need to make the way the whole system works more transparent - the Scottish Parliament is still going to be relatively exposed to decision at a Treasury level.

  90. Professor Heald

    Professor David Heald
    Image caption: Professor David Heald

    Professor David Heald's submission concludes:

    "Paradoxically, to make devolution finance work better it is not the Devolved Parliaments/Assemblies/governments that must change most but the UK Parliament and government.

    "Otherwise the income tax powers are likely to lead to parity, as any change by a Devolved Administration is vulnerable to countering - whether on thresholds, bands and rates - by the UK government.

    "The economic imbalances within England and the dominant size of England within the United Kingdom greatly complicate fiscal decentralisation and influence the ensuing political controversies."

  91. Increased interdependence

    Professor Nicola McEwen, Associate Director, ESRC Centre on Constitutional Change's submission states:

    "The emerging devolution settlement will increase the powers of the Scottish Parliament and simultaneously increase the interdependence between these powers and the policies of the UK government, notably on taxation, economic policy, welfare and energy.

    Professor Nicola McEwan
    Image caption: Professor Nicola McEwan

    "The Smith commission recognised this increased complexity in its call for the "reform" and "scaling up" of intergovernmental machinery "as a matter of urgency", including new bilateral arrangements.

    "Revising IGR doesn't require legislation, but it would require a cultural change in the relationship between the UK and Scottish governments, new forums for coordination, potential implications for IGR involving Wales and Northern

    "Ireland, and further challenges to the Scottish Parliament's capacity to scrutinise policy decision-making."

  92. 'Party-political submissions'

    Professor Charlie Jeffery, Professor of Politics, University of Edinburgh says the Smith Commission proposals are set to be transformed into a draft bill in January, then will have to go through the Commons, the Lords and be agreed here in the Scottish Parliament.

    Professor Charlie Jeffery
    Image caption: Professor Charlie Jeffery

    Professor Jeffery's submission states:

    "The Smith Commission report was a compromise of often quite divergent positions that was crafted at speed.

    "Already it has been criticised from a number of directions ,including from within parties represented in the process (though not, generally, from those directly involved in the process).

    "Those party-political criticisms have been various and divergent, including: concerns that the report undermines the notion of pooling of risk across the UK that some see as important; concerns that the report falls short of the extent of additional devolution implied by 'The Vow'; and concerns that additional devolution to Scotland is unfair without balancing measures in Wales and, in particular, England."

  93. 'Inadequate'

    Committee Convener Bruce Crawford asks the panel if they consider that the Smith Commission proposals represent a coherent package, how implementable they are and what challenges lie ahead.

    Professor Michael Keating from the University of Aberdeen and Director of ESRC Centre on Constitutional Change says the fundamental problem is the circumstances that the Smith Commission was set up in, the timescale did not make for good policy making.

    Professor Michael Keating
    Image caption: Professor Michael Keating

    Professor Keating's submission states:

    "The Smith proposals should be judged according to whether they give the Scottish Parliament the powers needed to foster grown and social cohesion.

    "By this criterion they are inadequate.

    "The main reason is that they do not stem from a mature consideration of Scotland's needs but from a pledge made by the pro-union parties in a moment of panic towards the end of the referendum campaign.

    "This included an unrealistic timetable, which precluded in-depth consideration, public debate and civic engagement. "

  94. The Devolution Committee gets underway

    The Devolution (Further Powers) Committee is taking evidence from academics on the Smith Commission report.

    Group shot

    Professor David Bell from the University of Stirling; Professor David Heald from the University of Aberdeen Business School; Professor Nicola McEwen from the ESRC Centre on Constitutional Change; Professor Charlie Jeffery University of Edinburgh and Professor Michael Keating from University of Aberdeen are giving evidence.

  95. The Smith Commission

    The Smith Commission, which took forward its recommendations in consultation with the Scottish Parliament's five parties - the SNP, Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Greens - recommended that:

    Lord Smith delivers his report
    Image caption: Lord Smith announced the recommendations of his commission to the media in Edinburgh
    • The parliament should be given the power to set income tax rates and bands on earned income and will retain all of the income tax raised in Scotland.
    • The parliament should be given powers to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Scottish elections.
    • The parliament should be given powers to create new benefits in devolved areas and make discretionary payments in any area of welfare.
    • A range of other benefits that support older people, carers, disabled people and those who are ill should also be fully devolved.
    • The Scottish government and Scottish Parliament should have a "formal consultative role" in the process of reviewing the BBC Charter.