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Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Ailsa Brown

All times stated are UK

Closing and good night

Ms Burgess says the purpose of HMO licensing is to ensure accommodation is safe, well managed and of good quality.

Officials from Glasgow City Council have inspected the premises and the license was only granted for 12 months, provided they address a number of issues raised around the living standards.

The minister says John Mason has been a tireless campaigner raising the issue of conditions in the Bellgrove in recent years, as she concludes the debate.


Remember you can watch all the chamber business and the Justice Committee on demand at

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live website.

That's it from our coverage of the Scottish Parliament on 16 December 2014.

We'll be back with coverage of the Finance Committee tomorrow morning from 10am, until then have a good night.

Ministerial closing

Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess says the Bellgrove Hotel provides accommodation to around 140 vulnerable men.

Despite Glasgow City Council not referring anyone to the Bellgrove since 2010, for a number of reasons, these men continue to allow their housing benefit to be paid to its owners.

Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess
Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess

Housing benefit is currently reserved, so there is nothing the Scottish government can do about direct payments going to the hostel's owners, says Ms Burgess.

She says the government are working with the council to ensure the wellbeing of the people in the Bellgrove, but "we cannot force these people out" against there wishes.

Topical questions

On 25 February 2014 John Mason

raised the issue of the poor standards of accommodation at the Glasgow homelessness hostel, during topical questions, following the Daily Record report of squalid and unhygienic conditions during general question time.

Homeless person

No magic wand

Mr Mason says he knows the minister and the city council do not have a magic want, but adds this is 2014 and surely something can be done for the 140 men.

'Like a Soviet gulag'

Mr Mason tells the chamber the Bellgrove Hotel is unsuitable to be used as a hostel for homeless men, saying it could be described as "grim, Dickensian, like a Soviet Gulag or similar".

The Bellgrove continues largely as it is privately owned, it continues to house around 140 residents, says Mr Mason.

Shotts Prison
Shotts Prison has better conditions than the Bellgrove says Mr Mason

Its conditions are not acceptable in this day and age.

Shotts and Low Moss prisons' conditions are better than the Bellgrove Hotel he says.


In his motion, Mr Mason says he is disappointed that the Care Inspectorate, after a lengthy investigation, concluded that it had no remit over the hostel.

Glasgow City Council's Licensing and Regulatory Committee decided on 22 October 2014 to award an HMO licence for only one year rather than the three years applied for by the owner, Careside Hotels Limited.

Mr Mason says to ensure the wellbeing of vulnerable residents, both the legislation and guidance needs to be reviewed as a matter of urgency in order to ensure that establishments such the Bellgrove Hotel are more thoroughly regulated.

Bellgrove Hotel debate

SNP MSP John Mason is leading a debate on the The Bellgrove Hotel.

Mr Mason says there has been the protracted coverage over many years regarding the Bellgrove Hotel, which is a hostel in Glasgow's east end.

SNP MSP John Mason
SNP MSP John Mason

He understands that the hostel can accommodate up to 160 men, often from vulnerable backgrounds, and usually houses around 140.

The Glasgow Shettleston MSP says he believes that it is subject only to a licence for a house in multiple occupancy (HMO) and does not require any further regulation.

Decision Time

MSPs agree the general principles of the Welfare Funds (Scotland Bill) during decision time.

Decision time

As are the financial resolution for the bill and Fergus Ewing's LCM on the Infrastructure (UK) Bill.

Renewable Heat Incentive

Business, Energy and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing moves a motion relating to the

Infrastructure (UK) Bill.

The LCM calls on MSPs to agree the the relevant provisions of the Infrastructure Bill, introduced in the House of Lords on 5 June 2014.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing

It relates to the administration of the

Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), so far as these matters fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament or alter the functions of the Scottish Ministers, should be considered by the UK Parliament.

The RHI pays participants of the scheme that generate and use renewable energy to heat their buildings.

Greenhouse gas emissions

By increasing the generation of heat from renewable energy sources (instead of fossil fuels), the RHI helps the UK reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet targets for reducing the effects of climate change.


The minister says Scotland's local authorities still paid out more in its first year, despite teething problems with the welfare fund scheme, than its predecessor scheme run by the Department of Work and Pensions.


Ms Burgess accepts there will be areas where improvement can be made, for example in defeating stigma, which will be addressed in forthcoming guidance.

The minister concludes calling on the parliament to approve the principles of the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill

'Bursting a gut'

Ms Burgess says the local authority teams on the frontline, delivering the welfare funds, are "bursting a gut to get that money out there to people".

On the issue of the 48 hour waiting time to get welfare funds out to people, the minister says it is very clear that the goal is to get the funds to those who need it as quickly as possible.


She praises local authorities for being "very proactive" in gathering the necessary information to meet the deadline.

Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone says some of the evidence received by the committee clearly indicated that some people felt there claims were held back to the end of the time limit.

Government closing

Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess says the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill will ensure permanence to the welfare funds at a time when other funds are being eroded.

Ms Burgess says families under exceptional pressure are not exempt from making applications to the welfare funds.

She says the regulations alongside the bill, which the government will consult on, will look more at families under exceptional pressure.

Welfare and Housing Minister Margaret Burgess
Welfare and Housing Minister Margaret Burgess

The minister says 44% Community care grants households with children.

On the outsourcing of the welfare fund management, Ms Burgess insists there was never any intention to outsource to the private sector.

Labour backing

Mr Macintosh says the debate has been fairly consensual and the Labour party supports the general principles in the bill.

General view of a Job Centre

The Labour MSP says he supports the use of grants rather than loans and the power to administer the grants being devolved to local authorities.

He says: "Today at least we have a relatively uncontentious bill before us."

Labour reshuffle

Labour's new social justice, communities and pensioner's rights spokesperson Ken Macintosh begins: "Can I thank the minster for her foresight in instigating a debate on welfare reform within one hour of my promotion to the social justice brief, elevating me to closing the debate".

Labour MSP Ken Macintosh
Labour MSP Ken Macintosh

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy

announced his new front bench team earlier this afternoon, with jobs for fellow leadership contenders Neil Findlay and Sarah Boyack.

Mr Findlay is handed the fair work, skills and training brief and Sarah Boyack takes on rural affairs.

Jackie Baillie will shadow John Swinney's finance role.

Jim Murphy unveils his new team to the media outside Holyrood
Scottish Labour
Jim Murphy unveils his new team to the media outside Holyrood

Jenny Marra is promoted to health and former leader Iain Gray moves to education.

Hugh Henry takes the justice role and Mary Fee is promoted to infrastructure, investment and cities.

Conservative closing

Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone says the £4m under spend in the welfare fund scheme in 2013-14 did not concern him as much as other members.

Mr Johnstone says there was "great difficulty" in getting funds in place in the early part of 2013, with some local authorities finding it difficult to make awards in the early period, as awareness of the scheme was low.

He says the spending of the welfare funds is at the level it is supposed be at now.

Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone
Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone

Labour MSP Alex Rowley intervenes saying it is "absolutely disgraceful" over 100,000 people in Scotland had to access grants to tackle poverty in 2014.

Mr Johnstone says ideally no-one should need to access the funds, a point everyone could agree on.

He says in relation to the Scottish Welfare Fund there are Crisis Grants for those faced with a disaster or health emergency or relationship breakdown which must be maintained.

The Tory MSP says Scotland should also continue with the Community Care Grants which are designed to help people carry on living independently.

Lib Dems

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie says he welcomes the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill, as "it entrenches the fund that already exists".

"This is a precursor of what is more to come" he says, adding "this is a steep learning curve".

Scottish liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie
Scottish liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie

Mr Rennie says Scotland should be striving to have a standard and practice "that is as good as, if not better than the Department for Work and Pensions".

He also urges the government to again look at 24 hours waiting time for crisis grants, rather than 48 hours.


Mr Johnstone says he disagrees with the rest of his colleagues on the Welfare Reform Committee on issues of outsourcing, he disputes the the private sector should not be involved with running the welfare funds "on a fundamental level".

Children playing on a run-down street
Getty Images

The Conservative MSP says the forthcoming government amendment preventing outsourcing, will take this decision away from local authorities, showing a lack of faith in them.

"We are undermining the decision making process of local authorities."


Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone says he has felt like the "pantomime villain" at times during his work on the Welfare Reform Committee.

Mr Johnstone says on more than one occasion the committee heard in the early days of the welfare fund, many people did not know that the new scheme existed.

Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone
Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone

"There is firm evidence applicants may have been turned away from the scheme when they should have received help."

The Scottish government scheme may have been one of the key drivers of the transfer of some to food banks, he says.

However the Conservatives will vote in favour of the general principles of the bill tonight.

'Absolutely delighted'

On the announcement of a government amendment at the Stage 2 scrutiny of the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill to prevent outsourcing, Ms Baillie says:

"I am delighted, absolutely delighted, the minister has had a change of mind."

Women holding money

"I congratulate her on listening to members on the committee, certainly not her own party's members, but other members on the committee on this. "

She concludes saying the most vulnerable of us must not be made to feel small because they are poor and welcomes the committee's call for respect to applicants to the fund.


Labour MSP Jackie Baillie says the operation of the welfare fund was devolved to local authorities and has been with a degree of mixed results.

There is 32 of them and they did things in different ways, decision making was inconsistent, some had trouble spending their budgets whilst others could have done with more money, she says.

On the budget Ms Baillie says "can I record how disappointed I was that the fund was under spent at the end of the year".

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie

Time after time we came to the chamber, asking about under spends and we were assured the money would be spent. she says.

"It's not as though there's not a need out there" she concluded and "to under spend that fund borders, to me, on the criminal".


Labour's new Finance spokesperson Jackie Baillie says her party back the general principles of the Welfare Funds (scotland) Bill.

Ms Baillie says the Smith Agreement represents the biggest transfer of powers ever and is a promise delivered.

Dignity, stigma

The provision of goods allows councils to know the award is being used as intended, says Mr McMahon.

However, he argues, being allowed a choice is essential for dignity being maintained and for the avoiding stigmatisation.

Young boys next to graffiti
Getty Images

The Labour MSP welcomes government commitment to look again at these issues.

He highlights and praises the

evidence Connor C gave on accessing the welfare fund, saying he was not recognised as a person when he applied on the phone.

In conclusion we welcome the Welfare Funds Bill and recommend the passing of the general principles of the bill.


The Welfare Reform Committee convener Michael McMahon says the most controversial aspect of the bill was the fact it could allow for outsourcing of the welfare funds.

Mr McMahon says the committee has heard "horror stories about the ATOS work assessments" and the committee wants no repeat of that.

Welfare Reform Committee Convener Michael McMahon MSP
Welfare Reform Committee Convener Michael McMahon MSP

"I am delighted the minister having heard the evidence has made the statement that she did on the issue" says the Labour MSP.

"I am delighted the minister has moved to the position she has."

No outsourcing

Effective provision of the Scottish Welfare Fund is not consistent with outsourcing provision, says the minister, so she will bring forward an amendment to prevent that ever happening.

"This bill is about putting the interim Scottish Welfare Fund on a more secure statutory footing."

Man with shoppingb ags head in hands
Getty Images

It shows the commitment to the Scottish Welfare Fund and it is about helping the most vulnerable people in our communities across Scotland, says Ms Burgess.

It will be the detail of the regulations that will set out how the government proceeds she says and calls on MSPs to back the general principles of the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill.

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) is the final stage for complaints about councils, the National Health Service, housing associations, colleges and universities, prisons, most water and sewerage providers, the Scottish Government and its agencies and departments and most Scottish authorities.

Getty Images

The independence of the SPSO will ensure that the right decisions are made for applicants to the welfare funds, says the minister.

Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill


Welfare Fund (Scotland) Bill confers duties on local authorities to maintain and administer welfare funds.

Community care grants aim to help people live independently by paying for appliances like cookers

It also confers powers on Scottish ministers to make regulations, and publish guidance setting out how welfare funds should be administered.

The intention is that the bill will be part of a package alongside associated draft regulations and guidance which ministers intend to produce which will include the relevant level of detail.

Evidence sessions


Welfare Reform Committee took evidence from people who have been through the process of applying for emergency help from the Scottish Welfare Fund.

The Scottish Welfare Fund is a crisis fund to help people needing financial aid and helps pay for expenses like food and heating bills.

It was set up by the Scottish government after the UK government abolished community care grants and crisis loans in 2013.

Ms Burgess praises those people who gave evidence on accessing these funds personally, as the committee took evidence on the

Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill .

Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill

Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess is leading a debate calling on fellow MSPs to back the general principles of the

Welfare Funds Bill.

Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess
Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess

Rent rises

Labour MSP Mary Fee asks the Scottish government what its response is to the recent HomeLet report, which indicated that the average monthly rent in Scotland has risen by nearly 12% in the last year.

Housing Minister Margaret Burgess says she would be cautious how much can be read into one months findings, pointing out government statistics showing some below inflation rises.

Labour MSP Mary Fee
Labour MSP Mary Fee

Ms Fee says a quarter of Scotland's poorest houses are now in the private rented sector, why did the minister not support Labour's call for a cap on private rents.

Ms Burgess says rent was not raised in the consultation on the Housing Bill, not by Labour during the that time, which is why the government is now having a consultation on rents until 28 December.

Big Big Debate

Mr Swinney says the prime minister and first minister met yesterday, when David Cameron says the necessary powers will be given in time for Holyrood's 2016 elections, via a Section 30 order which the UK parliament must pass by March 2015.

The deputy first minister praises youth participation in the referendum campaign, particularly the BBC's Hydro debate, saying it was "one of the best and most effective debates in the campaign".

Deputy First Minister John Swinney
Deputy First Minister John Swinney

The BBC's

Big, Big Debate in Glasgow's SSE Hydro saw politicians debate in front of an audience of nearly 8,000 young people.

The audience of 16 and 17-year-old first-time voters was drawn from secondary schools across Scotland.

Over 7,000 students gather for a debate on the referendum at Glasgow's SSE Hydro
Over 7,000 students gathered for a debate on the referendum at Glasgow's SSE Hydro

Mr Swinney says the case for extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds in every election is "unanswerable", pointing out those youngsters who voted in the independence referendum may be "somewhat disappointed" they cannot vote in the general election.


By Glenn Campbell, BBC Scotland political correspondent

The prime minister does not personally support lowering the voting age.

David Cameron thinks it is right to give young people a say in elections when they turn 18.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson takes a different view.

Having allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the independence referendum, she thinks they should be allowed to take part in Scottish Parliament elections.

All five Holyrood parties called for the relevant powers to be devolved in "sufficient time" for changes to be made for the 2016 election.

It is this recommendation - contained in the Smith commission agreement - that the prime minister intends to honour.

In doing so, he may strengthen the argument of those campaigning to extend the franchise for UK general elections.

John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon at Downing Street
Nicola Sturgeon, along with her deputy John Swinney, was at Downing Street for the talks

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have already committed to making 2015 the last Westminster election to exclude 16 and 17 year olds.

Voters aged 16 and 17 took part in the Scottish independence referendum.

A process known as a section 30 order will be used to give the Scottish parliament the power to change the voting law.

Such a mechanism was used to give Holyrood the power to hold the referendum.

Ms Sturgeon held bilateral talks with Mr Cameron in Downing Street after attending a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council, which brings together UK ministers and the leaders of the devolved administrations.

Speaking after the talks, Ms Sturgeon said there were many things she and David Cameron would disagree about, but the talks had been useful.

"I have come out of the meeting very confident that we will get the devolution of power to extend the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds in time for that to happen for the 2016 election," she said.

Topical Questions

MSPs will shortly quiz Scottish government minister's at topical question time.

SNP MSP Clare Adamson will ask the Scottish government what discussions it has had with the UK government on devolving the power to

allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Scottish parliamentary elections.

Prime Minister David Cameron is to give the Scottish Parliament the power to lower the voting age in time for the 2016 election.

David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon met at Downing Street for the Joint Ministerial Committee
Downing Street
David Cameron and Nicola Sturgeon met at Downing Street as part of the Joint Ministerial Committee

He confirmed the move in a meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Downing Street.

The UK and Scottish governments described the first face-to-face talks between Mr Cameron and Ms Sturgeon as "cordial and constructive''.

The two leaders also decided to look further at welfare reform in Scotland.

Time for reflection

As ever we start with time for reflection with Reverend Andrew Dick from St Michael's Church, Inveresk, Musselburgh.

Reverend Andrew Dick, Minister, St Michael's Church, Inveresk, Musselburgh
Reverend Andrew Dick, Minister, St Michael's Church, Inveresk, Musselburgh

Welcome back and coming up

Welcome back to

BBC Scotland's Democracy Live coverage of the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 16 December 2014.

First up this afternoon in the chamber is topical questions, which will raise the issues of giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote in time for the Holyrood elections in 2016 and increasing rents in Scotland.

Scottish Parliament debating chamber

Then MSPs will be asked to agree to the general principles of the Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill, after its first debate in the chamber.

Finally SNP MSP John Mason will lead a member's debate on the Bellgrove Hotel.

Prison inspection and monitoring order passed

The committee approves the

Public Services Reform (Inspection and Monitoring of Prisons) (Scotland) Order 2014 , with seven MSPs backing it and one against.

Group shot

That ends our coverage of the Justice Committee on Tuesday 16 December 2014, and that's lunch.

Call for approval on inspection order

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson calls on the committee to approve the

Public Services Reform (Inspection and Monitoring of Prisons) (Scotland) Order 2014 .

Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell says she does not think the order does provide a better system, far too much is being left to guidance.

Michael Matheson and officials

Labour MSP Elaine Murray says she is in a bit of a "quandary", appreciating the progress that has been made, but adding she is not yet convinced it is the best model.

Independent MSP John Finnie says he has had reservations about the order but he is reassured by what he has heard today.

Committee convener and SNP MSP Christine Grahame says she is content with the progress and says the committee should "suck it and see".

Independent Prison Monitors

Justice Committee convener Christine Grahame raises the issue of who will become the independent prison monitor.

Mr Matheson says: "The intention is that the independent prison monitors should be as reflective of Scottish society as possible."

Justice Committee Convener Christine Grahame
Justice Committee Convener Christine Grahame

Given the additional duties it is extremely difficult for someone in employment to take up the post, says Ms Grahame.

She says it is the people that makes the prison monitoring system work.


There has been criticism aimed at the Public Services Reform (Prison Visiting Committees) (Scotland) Order 2014. which would have abolished independent prison visiting committees without replacing them with another external body.

Established in 1877, these committees monitor the care of prisoners and the conditions in which they are held.

Members, who are unpaid volunteers, currently get free access to prisons to observe conditions and hear complaints from inmates as part of their work.

Prison keys

Neil Powrie, convener of the Association of Visiting Committees for Scottish Penal Establishments, said he was pleased months of campaigning had resulted in the government amending the draft legislation to replace the committees with independent monitors overseen by the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

He said: "Without unpaid volunteers monitoring all areas of jails and processing prisoner problems and issues they raise with VC members, separate to the internal prison complaints system, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) would be monitoring itself.

"That would be unhealthy for any civilised society in the 21st Century.

"The prisons are closed societies and not open to the same level of public scrutiny as schools and hospitals."

Public Services Reform (Prison Visiting Committees) (Scotland) Order 2014

In October 2013, the Scottish government opened a public consultation in relation to the

draft Public Services Reform (Prison Visiting Committees) (Scotland) Order 2014.

Unidentified shot of women walking

It sought to abolish Prison Visiting Committees, clarify the role of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland and create the roles of Prison Monitor and Lay Monitor by amending and inserting provisions in the Prisons (Scotland) Act 1989.

The Consultation ran from 4 October 2013 until 31 January 2014 and a total of 36 responses were received.


report contains the Scottish government's response to the issues and concerns highlighted in the responses to the consultation.


Prisoners submitted almost 9,000 complaints to Scotland's prison service over the past 18 months, according to data obtained by BBC Scotland.

Inmates filed 8,976 grievances about issues such as food, staff and bullying between January 2013 and July 2014.

The most complaints (2,316) were about Glenochil prison near Stirling.

Scottish prisoners filed 8,976 complaints between January 2013 and July 2014
Scottish prisoners filed 8,976 complaints between January 2013 and July 2014

The Scottish government is currently reviewing how these grievances will be independently monitored.

You can explore the complaint data for prisons near you using the

SEARCHABLE DATABASE developed by BBC Scotland.