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23 September 2010

S3M-7047 Low-carbon Economy

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 23 September 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Low-carbon Economy

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7047, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on a low-carbon economy for Scotland. Very little time is available in the debate, so I ask members to be strict in their timing.
14:56
... ... ...
16:51

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

I thank all members who have contributed to the debate.

We have demonstrated today that Scotland's vast potential in renewable energy puts us in position to be the green energy capital of Europe, and it gives us a huge comparative advantage in the global shift to low carbon. Scotland is positioning itself as the preferred international destination for low-carbon investment, giving our business base a competitive advantage, making Scotland a destination of choice for overseas business, and benefiting the wider Scottish economy and our communities.

Let me say at the outset that the Government will be able to support the Liberal and Labour amendments. They address matters that we also wish to address.

I turn now to the contributions in the debate. In an intervention on my colleague Mr Mather, Liam McArthur somewhat derided the saltire prize. The initiative engages some 400 million people across the world through a partnership with the National Geographic Society that has also seen international companies expressing significant interest in Scotland. Anything of that character raises the profile of the issue because there is an enhancement effect that transcends the simple presentation of a £10 million prize. I do not share Liam McArthur's gloom; I am a perennial optimist.

Sarah Boyack said that we do not agree on everything. That is true; the fact that we continue to have tension between different ideas and points of view is fundamental to democracy. It is about challenge and developing new, good ideas. However, the interesting thing has been the degree of agreement throughout the debate. I am almost tempted to say that, in a sense, renewable energy is now a new orthodoxy because that is the way that the debate has gone.

The green investment bank is an important initiative, whatever the scale of the finance that will be available to it, because it is a different approach to finance. With its great experience in the banking sector, Scotland has a great deal to offer. If we in the Scottish Parliament get control over the fossil fuel levy funds, that will make a huge difference.

Unless I missed something, there was absolute unanimity in the welcome for the review of the network charging regime, albeit that a number of proper points were made about what must be in the review and how we must respond to it.

I am delighted that the public duty is now out. Mandatory reporting might be in tension with the spirit of partnership that we have with local government and many other bodies.

I think that I picked up from Lewis Macdonald that the Labour Party will vote for the extension or replacement of nuclear power capability, which I suspect will come as a great disappointment to many supporters and MSPs of that party.

Jackson Carlaw said that targets are less important than action. That is of course true, but targets inform action. Setting challenging targets on renewable electricity generation has been a significant driver for the success that has been delivered. The raising of the targets, which my colleague the First Minister announced at 12 o'clock, reflects the role that targets can have.

Jackson Carlaw talked about more efficient use of cars, car sharing and bus lanes. All those measures are worth considering. He also referred to Wood Mackenzie's report. It is worth saying that that report pointed to Scotland's comparative advantage lying in renewables and carbon capture and not in nuclear power, for which the intellectual property lies elsewhere, as the name EDF—Electricité de France—gives away. The nuclear power jobs are probably more of the order of 2,000 than the 10,000 that Jackson Carlaw suggested.

Liam McArthur was right to highlight the competition for money. We will need significant investment from the private and public sectors to deliver on our renewables potential. However, Scotland is a compelling proposition. Next week's conference will be key in drawing people who understand finance to Edinburgh, to engage with the comity of Edinburgh.

In his closing speech, Patrick Harvie drew attention to the fact that he is a consensual politician from time to time, and I respect that. He said that there is consensus in climate change science but not in the politics, which is probably a fair comment.

We must not miss out on the opportunity for green jobs this time round. To be frank, we must look across the North Sea at how Norway has used the previous generation of energy opportunities to build a fund that is leveraging investment into renewables. Would that we had a similar opportunity.

Lewis Macdonald made an intervention on planning. It is worth making the point that we have approved 43 consents—more than twice the number the previous Administration approved. This Administration is delivering on consents.

Rob Gibson returned to the issue of peatland, which will be an important part of the debate at Cancún, where we hope that peatland will be included in the calculations on climate change. As he said, for an investment of £10 million, we can save 2.7 million tonnes of CO2, so restoring our peatland to the carbon sink that it should be has huge potential.

I will paraphrase Cathy Peattie—she said, "Not whether, but how and when." There is no disagreement on that—that is important. I share her aspiration to continue to take freight off our roads and on to rail, our canals, our seas and our lochs. Initiatives under the Government's watch that have taken hundreds of lorries a week off the A9 up to Inverness are an example of what can be done. When I opened Raasay pier, I visited JST Services, which is extracting timber off Raasay by sea. We are supporting, and wish to continue to support, such initiatives.

Flexible working at home is an excellent idea, but its impact is complex. Heating many houses involves a lot more heating than does heating a single communal facility, but we save on transport. However, we should certainly continue to consider the idea.

Jamie McGrigor said that no conflict exists between a renewables economy and a growing economy. That is one reason why the economy will succeed. [Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): Order. There is an awful lot of noise around the chamber. Minister, you should start to wind up, please.

Stewart Stevenson: Wendy Alexander wants us to ignore budgets, but the delivery plan must be drawn up in the context of budgets and it will be done on that basis.

Scotland can demonstrate the economic benefits of acting on climate change and we are spreading that message widely. As Jim Mather said earlier, I was at a briefing for the consular corps in Scotland—I was delighted that a number of those people were able to be with us for the start of the debate—at which we set out how our low-carbon approach is boosting economic performance in Scotland and how we can do even more.

Acting on climate change will offer considerable economic opportunities. Scotland will become the international destination of choice for low-carbon investment. I am happy to support the motion that was moved by my colleague.

17:00

15 September 2010

S3M-6923 Hunterston Power Station (Carbon Capture)

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 15 September 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 14:30]
... ... ...
Hunterston Power Station (Carbon Capture)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-6923, in the name of Ross Finnie, on Hunterston—not the way forward for carbon capture. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the lodging of the application by Peel Energy Ltd to build a 1,600 megawatt coal-fired power station at Hunterston, North Ayrshire; understands that, initially, the power station is to have 400 megawatt of its gross output (300 megawatt net) processed through carbon capture and storage technology, which would leave 75% to 80% of the plant's CO2 emissions unabated for an indeterminate length of time; considers that these unabated emissions, which could amount to up to some four million tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum, are incompatible with the climate change targets set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, and accordingly believes that the development of carbon capture and storage technology should be restricted to existing coal-fired stations.

17:06
... ... ...
17:43

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

I join others in thanking Ross Finnie for the opportunity to debate the proposal. I congratulate him, Kenny Gibson and Annabel Goldie on their effective representation of their constituents' views. I think that I have mentioned every member who has a constituency interest.

As members know, formally it is inappropriate for me to discuss the specifics of an active application such as that for Hunterston, which is subject to statutory consultation and consent procedures. To do so could be seen as pre-empting or prejudging any decision that is yet to be made by my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism. Notwithstanding that, the debate and all members' speeches will be published tomorrow, so they can help to inform decisions, whether by a council or a minister.

Gil Paterson (West of Scotland) (SNP): Can you comment on generating capacity in Scotland, for Scotland? We should not be having this debate, because any new capacity in Scotland would be for export.

Stewart Stevenson: I will restrict my comments on the issue. Without drawing any particular inference for any current planning applications, I noted Willie Coffey's point that we should not generate electricity in a carbon-intensive way simply to export it.

Decarbonisation of the electricity sector by 2030 is a vital prerequisite for meeting our 2050 target of an 80 per cent reduction in emissions. The roll-out of CCS has a key part to play in meeting that important target. However, that point is qualified by how we count the numbers for our 42 per cent target, which come from the operation of the European Union emissions trading scheme. We already know what those numbers will be, and they are unrelated to what we do in the real world. That is why it is important that we continue to pressure the EU to increase its target, so that our numbers benefit from the work that we are doing on the ground to reduce the CO2 from our energy generation.

Ross Finnie pointed to errors in his motion. None of us who have participated in tonight's debate will hold those against him.

Reference has been made to the demonstrator and the decision that we expect in May next year. It is worrying to read in The Guardian the reports to which other members have referred. I hope that Ross Finnie and other Liberals will use their power to influence ministers at UK level to ensure that the £1 billion that was previously promised for the demonstrator remains available, because that will be a very important matter.

There was a bit of talk about sites of special scientific interest. I think that it is impossible for an SSSI's status to be changed while there is a planning application that affects it. I make that point based on recollection—it is not in my brief. If members care to write to me, I will be happy to provide them with the formal position.

Importantly, Kenny Gibson pointed to the fact that we must consider the use of gas. We have a successful gas-generation station at Peterhead and there are welcome indications that CCS for gas may be back on the agenda. The member also pointed to the fact that, currently, CCS is a rather inefficient way of using energy: for every tonne that is used to create energy, a tonne is expended to generate energy to capture the resulting CO2. That is an interesting point.

Like other members, Lewis Macdonald said that there is potential for 100 per cent carbon capture in the future. That will be one of the tools that will be available in our inventory to reduce carbon emissions from energy production. Annabel Goldie made the same point, indicated that the Conservatives support clean coal and welcomed the road map that the Government has published.

Both Liam McArthur and Patrick Harvie showed scepticism about whether CCS will ultimately deliver. That is a perfectly reasonable point to make, because none of us yet knows whether it will. That is why it is important that we move forward with a demonstrator.

It is important that we continue to work with the UK Government, because energy is devolved to the Scottish Parliament only to a limited extent. In particular, we should look at how the CCS levy may touch on devolved powers, to ensure that Scotland-based projects benefit and are not merely contributors. We are confident that Scotland stands to benefit from funding from the new EU new entrant reserve allocation, which will begin in 2010.

We are driving forward academic research in CCS technologies with Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish centre for carbon capture and storage. We are working with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and other European environment agencies to exchange information. And we are partnering the Scottish European Green Energy Centre to secure funding for several EU-funded research and development initiatives.

It is currently unlikely that Scotland can meet its energy needs for some years to come without some form of thermal generation. We of course expect good penetration from renewables over the next decade, although intermittency issues remain with regard to a variety of renewable energy sources. Therefore, retrofitting our existing plants with CCS will be an important part of the way forward, and we should not lose focus on that.

We recognise the challenges that lie ahead for CCS, but the opportunities for breaking new ground are considerable. We are committed to placing Scotland at the forefront of the development and deployment of CCS. That gives us a climate change benefit and it creates a commercial and economic opportunity for us. We want Scotland-based companies and researchers to be in a leading position to benefit from the multibillion-pound worldwide market. We want to promote the North Sea as Europe's principal CO2 storage hub—noting the caveats that Patrick Harvie raised. We also want there to be large-scale demonstration projects in Scotland, thereby ensuring that we secure the ancillary and research and development services here in Scotland.

Meeting closed at 17:51.

9 September 2010

S3M-6881 Edinburgh Airport (Drop-off Charges)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 9 September 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Edinburgh Airport
(Drop-off Charges)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-6881, in the name of Gavin Brown, on drop-off charges at Edinburgh airport. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament regrets the decision taken by Edinburgh Airport to introduce a £1 drop-off charge, due to start in October 2010; notes that no other BAA airport in the United Kingdom currently has a drop-off charge; considers that BAA failed to consult widely with passengers ahead of taking the decision; notes that, since the decision has been made public, thousands of residents, businesses and other organisations across the Lothians and elsewhere in Scotland have voiced their opposition to the charge; considers that for many people, including older residents and those with young children, taking public transport to the airport is not a viable option, and notes that over 71% of businesses who responded to the Midlothian and East Lothian Chamber of Commerce survey believed that the introduction of the drop-off fee would have a negative effect on Scottish business and tourism.

17:01
... ... ...
17:33

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

I join the others who have participated in the debate and thank Gavin Brown for securing time to discuss an issue that is important to the wide range of people who use Edinburgh airport. I assure Mr Brown and others who have contributed to the debate that I fully appreciate the strength of feeling that BAA's proposed drop-off charge has stimulated amongst some airport users and others who benefit from the airport's presence. If I did not appreciate that before coming to the debate tonight—and I think I did—the debate has certainly served its purpose.


I would like to pick up on some of the points that members have made. Gavin Brown delineated clearly that there has been a lack of clarity—I put it in those terms—about why the charge is being introduced and what the benefits of doing so are, and I hope that BAA thinks deeply about the contrast between what the consultation process adumbrated and what actually happened.

Among the reasons that were given for the measure was that of getting people on to public transport. It is worth picking up on what Mary Mulligan said in that regard. I have gone to the airport by public transport on a number of occasions. I have travelled to it from Linlithgow by bus, which involved being dropped off on the A8 and walking the mile. I do not intend to repeat the experience. I did check the weather before choosing that option because I thought that walking a mile in pouring rain would not be much fun. I have gone to Haymarket and caught the 100 bus. Although it is possible to get to the airport from Linlithgow by public transport, when one compares it with the option of doing the journey by car, which takes between 12 and 14 minutes, not many people will be attracted to the public transport option.

In addition, I have used the 100 service from the centre of Edinburgh, as well as the 747 service from Inverkeithing station, which goes directly to the airport's forecourt. I did not know about the Whitburn bus, but I will pursue that with interest. A range of options is available to a limited number of people, but it is clear that the car will remain a significant option that some people will be forced to choose to get to the airport.

Gavin Brown described the proposed charge as an insult to our wallets; I suspect that other members who have contributed to the debate took the insult somewhat more widely. Mr Brown ended by calling for the idea to be scrapped.

Mary Mulligan pointed, quite naturally, to the bad publicity that the proposal has generated. Whatever finesse our arguments might have, I do not think that anyone in BAA will imagine that this is where the company wanted to be or the process by which it wanted to get here. Public relations is important for all organisations that provide a service to the public, as Mary Mulligan said.

Margaret Smith said that opposition to the charge was pretty universal, and that it was being introduced to make money and simply because BAA can do so. I say openly that there are always genuine difficulties to do with how to regulate quasi-monopolies, and there are some lessons—

Gil Paterson: Will the minister take an intervention on that point?

Stewart Stevenson: Yes—the member is a specialist in that area.


Gil Paterson: The minister will be aware that BAA's London airports are regulated by the Department for Transport, whereas its operations in Scotland are self-regulated. Does the minister agree that, unless the DFT allowed it, BAA would not get away with introducing such a measure in London because the relevant act would not permit it? Will the Scottish Government consider designating airports, such as Edinburgh airport, which would give the Scottish authorities the right to regulate BAA's operations instead of their being self-regulated? I think that that is the key to the way in which BAA operates on drop-off charges and on many other issues—it fills its pockets instead of filling aeroplanes.

Stewart Stevenson: I understand the point that the member makes. The power to designate an airport is not available to me, although it has been discussed. The effect of designation would not be limited to the subject that we are discussing, so I would caution against the exercising of designation powers to get some assistance with that, because it might be less helpful on a range of other issues.

Ian McKee referred to the 2006 master plan. In fairness, I think that things can change over four years. He compared the situation at the airport with that at the Gyle centre, where Marks and Spencer operates, which is among the many places where there is free parking.

Mr McLetchie posed the question: are charges coming elsewhere? Well, just as the referendum on road charging in Edinburgh perhaps stalled any prospect of something happening on that in the near future, what has happened here may be illustrative for others. He said that the key point—I merely repeat his numbers without knowing their veracity or source—is that there is a £1 million a year revenue stream to pay for a £1 million asset. That is something that many who have listened to the debate will pick up on and perhaps use. Thankfully, he pleaded for a Government minister not to interfere. However, the minister will use the content of the debate to form part of his discussions with BAA next time he meets them, as members would expect.

Malcolm Chisholm highlighted many of the issues that others raised. He praised the trams in particular.

I welcome Robin Harper's comments on high-speed rail between central Scotland and the south-east, and on under the Channel. That is certainly important. He used the words "tedious", "mindless" and so on, and I suspect that he might have added to his list the temper of the users.

It has been a useful debate. While clearly it is a commercial matter for BAA to consider the introduction of the charges, we have an all-encompassing interest in seeing the continuing success of an important contributor to our economy. Route development is an issue in which we are very interested, and BAA must consider whether its actions promote or impact adversely on its success in future and the success that it delivers to our economy. I am interested in improvements to public transport connections to Edinburgh airport. The proportion of people who travel there by public transport is already relatively high, but clearly there are opportunities for more to happen.

I thank all who have participated in this timely and useful debate. I hope that people outside the chamber have been listening.

Meeting closed at 17:42.

Stewart Stevenson
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