Page last updated at 17:13 GMT, Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Topical question time

Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse told MSPs he was pleased that Finance Secretary John Swinney had confirmed the Scottish government were activating the Bellwin scheme following the recent severe storms, during topical questions on 18 December 2012.

The Bellwin scheme is a discretionary scheme to give the financial assistance to councils who face an undue financial burden as a result of large scale emergencies.

Mr Wheelhouse was replying to a question from SNP MSP Rob Gibson about what the government was doing to reinforce sea defences following the recent severe weather.

At the weekend gale-force winds and unusually high tides caused damage across areas of eastern and northern Scotland.

Huge waves caused up to £500,000 damage to North Berwick harbour in East Lothian as sea defences were swept away and a 15m section of the harbour wall collapsed in Lossiemouth in Moray.

The environment minister said that "Aberdeenshire council and Moray council have already made representations to the Scottish government as a result of the severe storms over the weekend and Mr Swinney has said that he looks forward to working with those councils who apply to the Bellwin scheme to ensure that resources are made available as appropriate ".

Mr Wheelhouse said he chaired two Scottish government resilience meetings over the weekend and sad that in the immediate aftermath the Scottish government were collating an assessment of the damage.

Conservative MSP Liz Smith asked Education Secretary Michael Russell what provisions the government was making with local authorities for the allocation of the additional £1 million for musical instrument tuition in schools.

Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick began topical questions by saying a few words about the "truly terrible" recent events in Newtown, Connecticut.

Ms Marwick said the "death of 20 bairns and 6 courageous teachers" was almost too much to contemplate.

She said "As a county we have suffered a similar tragedy of this nature in the past and I have therefore today written to the speaker of the Connecticut General Assembly offering our parliaments' support and the sincere sympathies of all members of the Scottish parliament".

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