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  1. Transport Minister Humza Yousaf discusses his portfolio with the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee
  2. Communities, social security and equalities ministers face questioning
  3. The Europe Committee leads a debate on Erasmus+
  4. A Labour MSP highlights a fundraiser for a new focus ultrasound device for Ninewells Hospital

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Louise Wilson

All times stated are UK

  1. That's all from Holyrood Live

    Student with map in European city

    That's it from Holyrood Live today, Wednesday 16 May 2018.

    Holyrood unanimously backed the continuation of the Erasmus+ exchange programme beyond 2020.

    Prime Minister Theresa May has previously confirmed the UK will continue to participate in the scheme after Brexit in March 2019.

    However, concerns have been raised that the benefits of the programme will be lost once the current phase of the scheme comes to an end in 2020.

    There was cross-party consensus about the positive impact of Erasmus+ and MSPs backed a committee report urging the UK and Scottish governments to reflect on how participation can continue into the future.

  2. Robison encouraged by University of Dundee considering MRI ultrasound research

    Ms Robison says, given the latest opinion from NICE, adoption of MRI ultrasoud for the treatment of tremor cannot be considered at this time.

    The health secretary explains the treatment can only be used in research trials.

    She accepts this will be disappointing to campaigners.

    Ms Grant intervenes saying Scotland could lead the way at Ninewells hospital and advance this research.

    The health secretary replies that international research into the safety and efficacy of the treatment is underway, which NICE will consider.

    Ms Robison says she is encouraged by the University of Dundee and NHS Tayside exploring the possibility of adding to this research.

  3. Efficacy of treatment too limited according to experts says health secretary

    Health Secretary Shona Robison
    Image caption: Health Secretary Shona Robison

    Health Secretary Shona Robison says the adoption of innovative technologies by the NHS has the ability to bring about transformative life improvements for patients.

    She cautions that any new treatment must be clinically scrutinised, but highlights draft guidance recently issued by NICE on the machine does not give rise to safety concerns.

    However, the guidance also warns efficacy is presently too limited unless there are special arrangement in place or it is for research, Ms Robison adds.

  4. SNP MSP praises 'absolutely tireless campaign'

    SNP MSP Fulton Macgregor
    Image caption: SNP MSP Fulton Macgregor

    SNP MSP Fulton Macgregor praises the "absolutely tireless campaign".

    He says having accesses to the most minimally invasive treatment appropriate is in line with the Scottish government's priorities.

  5. Background: How does the ultrasound machine work?

    Video content

    Video caption: Doctors in London have used sound waves to operate deep inside the brain.

    The machine uses high-intensity focused ultrasound to destroy the faulty electrical circuits in the brain which are causing the tremor.

    Ultrasound is sound waves which are at higher frequencies than those audible to humans.

    At low intensity, ultrasound is harmless, and widely used for health imaging, such as in pregnancy.

    By contrast, the machine at St Mary's uses 1,024 high-intensity, focused ultrasound beams which target a precise point in the thalamus.

    But how can sound waves perform surgery?

    At high intensity, ultrasound waves cause molecules to vibrate, which generates energy and heat.

    When the beams are focused on a single point, this can ablate, or destroy, tissue by heating cells to near 60C until they die.

  6. Tory MSP welcomes campaign

    Tory MSP Miles Briggs
    Image caption: Tory MSP Miles Briggs

    Tory MSP Miles Briggs expresses concern that there are waits of up to five years for the machine in St Mary's hospital in London.

    He states installing a machine in Scotland would therefore lessen some of the pressure.

    Mr Briggs praises the campaign, concluding that it can offer promise for patients with essential tremors, Parkinson's and other conditions.

  7. Campaign an opportunity for Scotland to have state of the art treatment for tremors

    Labour MSP Rhoda Grant
    Image caption: Labour MSP Rhoda Grant

    Labour MSP Rhoda Grant points out there is already a fundraising appeal underway for Ninewells Hospital to purchase a focus ultrasound device.

    This is an opportunity for Scotland to have state of the art treatment for tremors, she says.

    The Labour MSP says currently patients have to wait for years to get treatment due to the significant waiting list at St Mary's Hospital in London.

  8. Background: Public support for campaign

    An Inverness pensioner who has to travel to Newcastle to get treatment for a chronic condition backs the campaign, the Press & Journal reports...

    Steady hand

    "Mary Ramsay, 61, from Inverness has been fighting for a focus ultrasound device being provided to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee to aid tremor suffers across Scotland.

    "The equipment is set to cost £1.5m and will become only the second machine of its kind to be offered to patients in the UK.

    "Currently London’s St Marys Hospital hosts the only focus ultrasound device with waiting times stretching to a staggering four years.

    "Mrs Ramsay travels routinely once a year the 560-mile round trip to Newcastle, which will continue as the new ultrasound device for Scotland, would not benefit her situation.

    "Mrs Ramsay added: “I am not doing this for myself; I am doing it so others don’t go through the hell I did in trying to get a diagnosis and dealing with people’s ignorance.""

    Read the Press & Journal story here.

  9. Labour MSP praises constituent's campaign

    Labour MSP Rhoda Grant
    Image caption: Labour MSP Rhoda Grant

    Labour MSP Rhoda Grant says this debate has been brought forward after she met one of her constituents, Mary Ramsay, who suffers from an essential tremor.

    Essential Tremor is a nerve disorder characterized by uncontrollable shaking, or "tremors," in different parts and on different sides of the body.

    While the condition is not life threatening, it can have a negative impact on people's lives, she says.

    Mary was bullied physically and mentally in school for her tremor, Ms Grant states, and the MSP backs disability training in schools.

    Ms Grant highlights Mary has to go to Newcastle for her treatment, which has sparked a campaign to ensure patients can be treated in Scotland.

    While an focus ultrasound machine would not help Mary, she supports it because it could help patients in Scotland with essential tremors, Parkinson's and other illnesses the Labour MSP explains.

  10. Background: Doctors use deep-brain ultrasound therapy to treat tremors

    Fergus Walsh

    Medical correspondent

    Doctors in London have used sound waves to successfully operate deep inside the brain.

    They treated a man from Cornwall who suffered from uncontrollable tremors in his right hand.

    Video content

    Video caption: Sound waves operate on brain to repair man's tremor

    Selwyn Lucas, who is 52, can now hold his hand steady and said he felt "fantastic".

    The team at St Mary's hospital used MRI guided focused ultrasound to destroy tissue causing mistimed electrical signals to be sent to muscles.

    The BBC was given exclusive access to the treatment, which was performed in the imaging department rather than operating theatres, and did not involve surgeons.

    Dr Peter Bain, consultant neurologist with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, told me ultrasound brain surgery had an "enormous future" and could be used to treat other movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

    Read more here.

  11. Here is the motion...

    Labour MSP Rhoda Grant's motion:

    • highlights the campaign to raise £1.5m for a focus ultrasound device
    • states the device can be useful for patients with tremors, including Parkinson's of MS
    • notes there is only one such device in the UK - at St Mary's Hospital in London
    Motion text
  12. Now time for a debate on funding for a focus ultrasound device

    Older person's hands

    Labour MSP Rhoda Grant will now lead a debate on the campaign to raise funds for a focus ultrasound device to be installed at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee.

  13. Decision time

    Image caption: Erasmus+

    MSPs unanimously agree to "notes the findings and recommendations" of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee's Erasmus+ report.

  14. Consensus supporting Erasmus+ should send strong message to UK government

    Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee deputy convener Claire Baker
    Image caption: Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee deputy convener Claire Baker

    Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee deputy convener Claire Baker says the consensus in the chamber in support of Erasmus+ should send a strong message to the UK government.

    Ms Baker echoes SNP MSP Graeme Dey, saying: "This is surely the time to be engaging with the scheme, not leaving it."

    She highlights the change Erasmus+ has made in young people's lives, as evinced by Jack Kane centre in Edinburgh and West Lothian College.

    The Labour MSP tells the chamber Youthlink Scotland told the committee Erasmus+ funding is crucial to the youth work sector.

    She says the key concern of the committee was what happens after 2020 and where Erasmus+ will be in Brexit negotiations.

    Ms Baker concludes saying: "Erasmus+ is to valuable to lose."

  15. No viable alternative to Erasmus+ says minister

    Europe Minister Alasdair Allan
    Image caption: Europe Minister Alasdair Allan

    Europe Minister Alasdair Allan welcomes the consensus in this debate about the report and the value of Erasmus+.

    He expresses concern about the lack of clarity for the future, saying stakeholders "urgently need to know" about what will happen after 2020.

    Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton asks about engagement with the UK government on the matter.

    Mr Allan refers to regular contact between officials and notes there has also been discussion on where Erasmus fits in wider negotiation priorities.

    The minister says that if the UK is to seek an agreement on Erasmus similar to those of other non-EU members like Turkey, this needs to be arrived at soon.

    No other programme compares to Erasmus+ and there are no prospects of a viable alternative, he adds.

  16. Tory MSP says not acceptable if Brexit means no Erasmus

    Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw
    Image caption: Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw

    Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw begins by pointing out the agreement on the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee about this report on Erasmus+.

    Mr Carlaw stresses there was unanimous agreement around this report.

    The Tory MSP says Erasmus is not a policy owned by any single party.

    He details the breadth of the programme and agrees young people want Erasmus.

    "It is not acceptable to me, if the outcome of our exit from the European Union, is one in which we are no longer able to participate in the Erasmus programme."

  17. Background: More UK students 'go abroad for part of degrees'

    Students working outdoors

    In 2015, British Council figures suggested UK students were increasingly opting to study abroad as part of their degrees.

    In particular, the numbers studying overseas through the European Union's Erasmus programme more than doubled in seven years, says the Council.

    And more than a third of almost 3,000 UK students surveyed said they were interested in studying abroad.

    15,566 UK students took part in the European Union's Erasmus programme in 2014, spending up to a year in another European country as part of their degrees.

    Read more here.

  18. Risks to Erasmus+ is 'regrettable' says Labour MSP

    Labour MSP Mary Fee
    Image caption: Labour MSP Mary Fee

    Labour MSP Mary Fee says it is "deeply regrettable that Brexit casts a cloud of uncertainty over Scotland's future and Erasmus+".

    She supports the Europe Committee's recommendation that the UK's participation in it go beyond 2020.

    The exposure to different languages, culture and values are all benefits of the programme, Ms Fee argues.

    She tells the chamber the story of one of her parliamentary staff, who spent time in Sweden as a student.