27 October 2015

Standing Orders Rule Changes (Scottish Rate of Income Tax, Consolidation Bills and References to Printed and Published)

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is consideration of three motions, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on behalf of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee, on various changes to standing orders.


Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

The proposed rule changes to standing orders come from three separate reports by the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee. I shall deal with each of them in turn.

The first set of proposals for change arises from the Finance Committee’s request that the SPPA Committee consider how the provisions in the Scotland Act 2012 on the Scottish rate of income tax should be translated into standing orders. We propose some changes to standing orders to update the Finance Committee’s remit to delete the reference to consideration of “tax-varying resolutions” and insert a new reference to the Scottish rate of income tax. We also propose to delete references to motions for “tax-varying resolutions” in standing orders and insert new references to Scottish rate resolutions.

We propose a revision to rule 9.16.7, which currently states that if a budget bill depends on a tax-varying resolution and the Parliament rejects the motion for the resolution, the bill falls. The new rule 9.16.7 provides that stage 3 of a budget bill may not start until any associated Scottish rate resolution has been made by the Parliament. We have taken that approach because there is considerable interdependence between the Scottish rate resolution and the budget bill. If the Parliament rejected the motion for a rate resolution, there would be a chance for the Government to propose a fresh motion and amend the budget bill accordingly. Finally, under this heading, we propose a procedure for the cancellation of a Scottish rate resolution if that should ever be required.

The second set of changes relates to how we handle consolidation bills. Those bills take existing pieces of legislation and consolidate them into a single bill that does not change the substance of the law. The Minister for Parliamentary Business asked the SPPA Committee to look at changing the rules so that the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, rather than a specifically established consolidation committee, could consider consolidation bills.

We considered whether to recommend that change. One advantage is that considering consolidation bills would link to the law reform element of the DPLR Committee’s work, and the DPLR Committee is used to considering legislation purely from a technical perspective rather than considering the policy behind the law. Another potential advantage is that a separate committee would no longer need to be established. We therefore concluded that there should be a new option to refer a consolidation bill to the DPLR Committee, but that the option of referral to a consolidation committee should be retained.

The proposed standing orders allow the Parliamentary Bureau to decide which option for referral would be most appropriate on a case-by-case basis. For example, if the bureau decided that a consolidation bill should be scrutinised by a committee that shares a member with the relevant subject committee, it might be appropriate to refer the bill to a consolidation committee rather than to the DPLR Committee.

Finally, we looked at the current requirements in standing orders to “print”, “publish” or “print and publish” various parliamentary documents. Some of those terms are used inconsistently. For example, there are requirements to print motions in the Business Bulletin, but there is only a requirement to publish the Business Bulletin itself.

The important point about those references is that the term “publish” could refer to publishing by electronic means, whereas the term “printed” requires the production of a hard copy. In addressing those inconsistencies, the committee became aware of a number of instances in which there is no requirement to publish marshalled lists and groupings at all, while Presiding Officer determinations in most cases require only to be notified. The committee therefore decided to take the opportunity to address those anomalies, too.

As an additional tidying-up exercise, we propose that the multiple references to “notified” in chapter 9A of standing orders, which relates to private bill procedures, are replaced with a single duty to notify and publish all the determinations under that chapter heading.

I should make it clear that the changes are designed purely to bring consistency and clarity to the rules and do not dictate or encourage any changes to the current practice of publishing a range of documents in hard copy, since the term “publish” applies to either format.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s 8th Report 2015 (Session 4), Standing Order Rule Changes – Scottish Rate of Income Tax (SP Paper 813), and agrees that the changes to Standing Orders set out in Annexe A of the report be made with effect from 30 October 2015.

That the Parliament notes the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s 9th Report 2015 (Session 4), Standing Order Rule Changes – Consolidation Bills (SP Paper 814), and agrees that the changes to Standing Orders set out in Annexe A of the report be made with effect from 30 October 2015.

That the Parliament notes the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee’s 10th Report 2015 (Session 4), Standing Order Rule Changes – printed and published (SP Paper 815), and agrees that the changes to Standing Orders set out in Annexe A of the report be made with effect from 30 October 2015.


6 October 2015

S4M-14448 Island Communities

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-14448, in the name of Derek Mackay, on empowering Scotland’s island communities.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests: I am president of the Scottish Association for Public Transport—public transport is a subject that I expect to cover in my speech.

I was thinking about when I first went to an island. It appears to have been at Easter 1965, when I first went to Skye. It has been my very great pleasure to have visited islands all around Scotland.

We have talked a good deal about aviation. I have, so far, flown into 13 island airports. I flew the plane on four of those occasions; the other times I was flown commercially.

The islands are part of my and my family’s heritage. My grandfather was appointed as a schoolmaster in Lewis in the 1880s. He was an Anglophone Scot who was married to an English lady. It was not the most obvious appointment in what was a wholly Gaelic-speaking community, but that is precisely part of the disrespect that was shown to island traditions. Abolition of Gaelic was almost public policy in those days, and I regret that my grandfather played a little role in that.

Mike Russell may have missed a little trick. We are talking about islands and island authorities, but parts of mainland Scotland are almost islands in terms of their accessibility. I am particularly thinking of the Mull of Kintyre. By contrast, one could almost suggest that Skye is no longer an island, now that it is connected to the mainland, but let us pass on that issue.

I know that Dave Thompson is going to talk about air services to Skye in his speech, so I will talk a little bit about how we could change the regulatory regime to make air services cheaper, easier and more pervasive. First—I pursued this matter as a minister, but without much success—we require commercial flights in the UK to be operated by twin-engine aircraft. That is not the case in Finland, France, Greece, Spain or Norway, where single-engine aircraft can operate many of the thin routes, which reduces costs and increases frequency.

When Lord King was asked why he flew in a 747 whenever he could, he said, “Because it’s got four engines and they don’t make any six-engine planes.” What is the reliability and accident record of single-engine compared with multi-engine planes? Interestingly, the accident rate in the United States for single-engine turboprop planes is 1.99 per 100,000 flight hours, but for twin-engine planes it is 2.37 per 100,000 flight hours. In other words, it is 15 per cent higher for planes with more than one engine. Why? It is because flying a multi-engine plane with one engine not working is more complex than dealing with total failure of the engine of a single-engine plane. Fatalities are similarly greater in multi-engine light aircraft than they are in single-engine light aircraft. We should look at others’ experience and continue to lobby the Civil Aviation Authority and the UK Government.

Secondly, we should consider whether we have the right approach mechanisms. This is a technical issue, but it matters. We are talking about the reliability of air services in Scotland, so the weather has quite a lot to do with things. I was reading an incident report about a Loganair flight that had been severely affected by icing and in which there had been no injuries—indeed, the passengers may not have even been aware of the incident. Fog and low cloud are issues at our airports. In the UK we have, as far as I am aware, one airport that is using modern global positioning system technology to allow aircraft to make their approach—that airport happens to be Shoreham airport.

The United States now has 1,800 airports at which pilots can make their approach in single-engine aircraft using GPS. For example, the pilots’ chart for Provo in Utah shows that they can descend using GPS through a cloud base of 200ft, but for Wick in Scotland, which does not have that facility, we are talking about a higher cloud base of 366ft.

Of course, GPS is also very cheap. An instrument landing system costs £1 million, but putting in GPS costs the airport almost nothing and costs the operators only quite modest amounts. It is time that the CAA and others allowed matters to move on so that we can simultaneously reduce costs and improve reliability. I know that such improvements are not necessarily in the gift of the minister, except in so far as he can lobby others elsewhere, including European authorities, and not only UK authorities.

I will close by touching on something that has not yet come up in the debate, which is universal services for the islands—in particular, for delivery and collection of goods. Too many of our island communities and relatively remote mainland communities are disadvantaged by excess delivery charges by commercial operators. It is high time that that was tackled by legislation, if necessary and possible, but certainly by exposing the rip-off merchants for what they are and by seeking to persuade them that equity is required if we are going to support people in all the islands, but particularly in the three islands council communities of the Western Isles, the Orkneys and the Shetlands. They have a range of problems, but also a range of opportunities.


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