ShareThis

.

.

20 December 2007

S3M-1023 Climate Change Bill [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 December 2007

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Climate Change Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-1023, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on the United Kingdom Climate Change Bill.

16:03
... ... ...
16:23

Stewart Stevenson:





The legislative consent motion is unusual in its extent. Key elements of the bill are within the legislative competence of this Parliament, but we must work with our UK partners, within the framework of European Union initiatives and with everyone throughout the world on this subject. I will deal with one or two of the points that have been raised and will try to get them all in.

David Stewart correctly said that climate change knows no boundaries. When our CO2 goes into the atmosphere, it is almost certainly blown across the North Sea to Norway, and what is in our atmosphere comes from other countries. We have a shared responsibility so, in seeking to share responsibility with the Westminster Government, we are taking a pragmatic and proper view of what we should do.

The comment was made that the bill does not cover emissions from aviation. That is true, but we are supporting the UK's attempts to ensure that aviation is included in emissions trading throughout Europe and we will continue to do that. I spoke to Jim Fitzpatrick about that and, in particular, developed with him some of the issues that there would be for smaller propeller-driven aircraft that run a number of our lifeline services. With Westminster, we will continue to track changes to the bill as they are made.

Alex Johnstone—I think, subject to confirmation—said that I was the first SNP member, as an Opposition spokesperson, to propose to our group that we should support a Sewel motion, which we did. I recall that I spoke on that. We are as pragmatic as the Government as we were as the Opposition, and I am sure that we will continue to be so as we go forward.

David Stewart and other members referred to the proposed Scottish climate change bill. I do not recognise some of the things that have been said about the progress that we are making on it. We have been working intensively on the UK bill, and we are working on our own bill. An extensive consultation document will be published next month. I am sure that members will find it interesting. I hope not only that we can all engage in the consultation process as individuals and political parties, but that we can encourage others to do so. We cannot deal with the subject on a partisan basis; we can only—

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Excuse me, minister.

There are far too many conversations going on. Take your conversations outside the chamber.

Sarah Boyack (Edinburgh Central) (Lab): I very much agree with Stewart Stevenson that we should not be partisan on the matter. Will he accept that the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has already acknowledged that the Climate Change Bill has the scope to increase the UK target from 60 per cent to 80 per cent, and that he is already considering the science on that matter? He understands that the science is pushing us in that direction. Will the minister therefore accept that that is not a matter of partisan dispute?

Stewart Stevenson: Sarah Boyack makes an absolutely proper point. This is not about competing in the UK, with the different targets that the different countries of the UK may have to set. The targets should reflect the different opportunities and challenges of each country. In Scotland, we can be the renewable energy capital of Europe and make a particularly significant contribution through that.

Alison McInnes seemed to suggest that ministers—that would be myself—would not be accountable to Parliament for the progress that is made. Each year, we intend to show what is happening on climate change and we intend that the minister will be accountable to the relevant committee and to Parliament. I suggest gently to Alison McInnes that her talking about our increased roads budget is fair enough, but I ask could she talk to Mike Rumbles about that. Earlier today, he was actively encouraging me to increase expenditure on roads.

Patrick Harvie said that the bill has a huge scope—I agree. He wants the UK Government to go further. We have just heard an indication that it might be prepared to do so, so we will work with the UK Government as it considers its targets. Over the period to 2050, the year at which both the UK and Scotland seek to achieve their targets, we will learn more about the science. We will learn more about what is possible, and we will understand more about the opportunities that exist.

In the context of the LCM, we have to ensure that we determine Scotland's response to the challenge of climate change. The Government, in setting an 80 per cent target, on which we will be consulting next year, is showing the leadership that is expected. We have been congratulated by Al Gore, and we will deliver on what we have to do for the world and for Scotland. I hope that a 104-year-old Stewart Stevenson can be around in 2050 to see us deliver on that.

16:29

S3M-1023 Climate Change Bill [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 December 2007

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Climate Change Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-1023, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on the United Kingdom Climate Change Bill.

16:03

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





We all understand the need to take action on climate change and to co-operate with other countries to do so. The United Kingdom Climate Change Bill sets a statutory target of at least a 60 per cent reduction in targeted greenhouse gases by 2050. The target relates to carbon dioxide, but the bill provides scope to alter the target level or to include other greenhouse gases in future. It will be the secretary of state's duty to meet that target, but he will look to the other Administrations in these islands to assist.

The bill ensures consultation with the Scottish ministers on setting and amending carbon budgets and on amending targets. The bill will benefit Scotland. It enables us to obtain expert advice from the new committee on climate change on our contribution to the UK target and on our own proposed target of 80 per cent. It provides enabling powers under which all the Administrations may establish trading schemes related to greenhouse gas emissions. That provides a means of establishing joint schemes—but does not require us to have such schemes—and allows us to set up what we decide is suitable for Scotland. We have no immediate plans to use those powers. The bill also provides for a UK-wide assessment of the risks posed by climate change, to which we will need to adapt.

Through the bill, we shall work with our partners at Westminster towards shared objectives and demonstrate international leadership. It is important to note, though, that the bill does not dictate the measures that we should take in Scotland. We can legislate in the Scottish Parliament for our own target and determine Scottish measures to support both targets.

I move,

That the Parliament endorses the principle of introducing for the United Kingdom as a whole statutory targets and a related framework for action to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions as set out in the Climate Change Bill, introduced in the House of Lords on 14 November 2007, and agrees that the provisions in the Bill which fall within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament should be considered by the UK Parliament.

16:05

S3M-992 Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 December 2007

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on S3M-992, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, that the Parliament agrees that the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill be passed.

15:17
... ... ...
15:57

Stewart Stevenson:





It is quite clear that a large number of members agree that tolls must go, and that is what the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill will deliver.

I was brought up in Fife and spent the first 20-plus years of my life there, so it brings me considerable pleasure to see the abolition of the tolls. I crossed the Forth road bridge on the first day that it was open; perhaps I will have the pleasure of crossing it on the first day on which it is free to do so.

A number of issues have been raised, as many as possible of which I will try to deal with in the time available. As regards the modelling of traffic, I stress that we are talking about a model. Reality might converge with the model and show it to be 100 per cent accurate but, equally, it might diverge from it. Models are merely estimates; we will of course engage in reality.

Alex Johnstone: I intervene at this point in the minister's speech because those of us who use the Forth bridge regularly are aware that the opening of the A8000 has made a significant contribution to reducing congestion and to improving flow rates on the bridge. Will the minister ensure that any analysis that is done of the removal of tolls from the Forth bridge takes into account the fact that some of the change might be due not to the removal of the tolls, but to the opening of the A8000?

Stewart Stevenson: The member makes a reasonable point. There is certainly no longer the same backing up of traffic, which now goes on to the M9 extension. Nonetheless, we do not anticipate that the volume of traffic using the crossing at the peak hour will be materially different, so we cannot use that as an excuse to fail to engage in dealing with the consequences that may derive from the abolition of the tolls.

Patrick Harvie and Des McNulty quite properly focused on the CO2 impacts of abolishing the tolls. Des McNulty said that there could be an increase in emissions of 9,000 tonnes of CO2 per year; other members have used a figure of 8,000 tonnes. It is worth saying that it has been suggested that the climate change conference in Bali cost 47,000 tonnes of CO2. It is what we do with our expenditure on reducing CO2 emissions that is important, as well as the mitigation measures that we put in place.

Des McNulty referred to the Erskine bridge. FETA has arrangements for handling separate closure for high-sided vehicles when required, and I am sure that FETA's professionals will continue to manage the bridge as effectively after the abolition of tolls as they have before it. Alex Johnstone referred, quite properly, to what is perhaps an early thought in motorists' minds that the tolls may have been abolished. I can assure him that FETA has a strategy that will go into operation this very night and continue as long as necessary to deal with any misapprehension that the bill having been passed will immediately lead to the lifting of the tolls.

Alison McInnes talked about Ferrytoll. It is absolutely vital and we fully support it. Members will have seen a reference in yesterday's announcement to our continued support for Ferrytoll. Our investment in public transport over the next three years dwarfs the cost of abolishing the tolls. The Tay bridge debt will be repaid at the end of January—I can give an assurance that that is provided for in the current budget. I hope that John Park will forgive me if I do not go on at length about the Rosyth bypass, as that is ultra vires. However, I have had preliminary discussions with Fife Council on the subject. I say to Jim Tolson that our plans over the piece should deliver an extra 1,000 places on trains from Fife.

The bridge boards have put in place new traffic management arrangements, new signage and temporary works where necessary that will allow the transition to the free crossing. I understand that they are working on the assumption that all the necessary steps will be in place to allow tolls to end around the first weekend in February. That is a reasonable assumption, although it depends on matters such as royal assent, the timetable for which I cannot influence. As I said to Helen Eadie in the stage 1 debate on 15 November, I will sign the commencement order on the first day on which I am able to do so and give the smallest gap to implementation that is consistent with the advice that I get from the boards about what we can do.

There is a clear, if not total, consensus on the bill, both among members and among those outside the Parliament who travel on our roads and bridges. I trust that Parliament will support the motion in favour of the bill at decision time tonight.

16:03

S3M-992 Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 December 2007

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on S3M-992, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, that the Parliament agrees that the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill be passed.

15:17

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):



Tomorrow is the third anniversary of the tolls ending on the Skye bridge. When the previous Administration made that announcement, it set in motion a process that has brought us—perhaps inevitably—to today's debate. By ending the Skye bridge tolls, and the Erskine bridge tolls 15 months later, it highlighted what many of us have believed and argued for many years: that bridge tolls are an unfair and iniquitous way of making a small number of people pay extra for using our roads.

Our commitment to ending that unfairness, particularly for the people of Fife, Tayside and the Lothians, forms the foundation of the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill. I am grateful to many members of this Parliament for their support for that principle.

When the bill completed stage 2 consideration on 4 December—in what might well have been record time—Patrick Harvie commented that he had expected his first stage 2 as convener of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee to be much "more demanding". The fact that the bill has proceeded so smoothly and rapidly to this point is perhaps the best indication of the broad support that it has in this Parliament and elsewhere.

However, that does not mean that we have cut corners. I am grateful to all the members of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, as well as the members of the Finance Committee, for their detailed scrutiny of and comments on the bill. We have taken note of the concerns that they have expressed and the issues that have been raised by other members. I also thank the many officials whose work has brought us to this point.

We have worked closely with the two bridge boards over the past six months to ensure that proper traffic management arrangements will be in place so that the transition to toll-free journeys will be made safely and efficiently.

We have also been concerned to ensure that the staff who are affected by the changes have been treated with dignity and respect. I understand that it has been a time of great uncertainty for many of the people employed at the bridges and I know that the boards have worked hard to keep all staff and the trade unions informed of progress over recent months.

I pay tribute to the management at the bridges and, more importantly, the bridge staff for the work that they have done to help prepare for the future operation of the bridges.

When we debated this bill at stage 1, on 15 November, I said that I would be happy to meet bridge staff to explain the thinking behind the bill and reassure them about their positions. My officials contacted the bridge authorities to offer such a meeting if staff would find it useful. Representatives of Tay bridge employees said that they did not wish to pursue a meeting and I still await a formal reply from Forth bridge staff representatives.

John Park (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): I suggest that the minister contact the transport and general workers section of the trade union Unite. I am sure that that union's representatives would be happy to meet him, as they wrote to him in the summer.

Stewart Stevenson: I take that on board and I will see what I can do.

I reassure members about the Government's commitment to continue to fund the bridges. Both are of an age at which they require constant maintenance and attention, and significant works are to come in the next few years. We have worked closely with the bridge boards to assess their funding requirements over the spending review period and beyond and we are establishing regular monitoring and consultation arrangements to ensure that those funds will be available when they are needed.

I have said that I have understandable satisfaction in bringing the bill to Parliament. Today we fulfil a commitment that was made prior to the election. The first bill from the new Scottish Government ends an injustice to the people of Scotland. It is a short and clear bill. I am delighted to move the motion.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Abolition of Bridge Tolls (Scotland) Bill be passed.

15:21

Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP