24 September 2019

SM5-18951 Common Frameworks

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a Finance and Constitution Committee debate on motion SM5-18951, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on the committee’s report on common frameworks. I invite members who wish to speak to press their request-to-speak buttons now, and I call Bruce Crawford to speak to and move the motion.

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

It is a shame that Willie Rennie is temporarily out of the chamber. On 24 May 1916, Herbert Asquith appointed the Welsh wizard, Lloyd George, to solve the problem of home rule in Ireland. That went well. The Liberals might have been on the case for 100 years, but we have not seen very much delivered on it.

If my time as a minister 10 years and more ago taught me anything, it was that the jurisdictions in these islands can work together very well when they require to do so. Arrangements existed in my ministerial responsibilities whereby I had the right of veto. That was exercised responsibly on one occasion, and members never heard about it in Parliament because they did not need to. I found myself signing off the sale of land in Birmingham on one occasion because the British Waterways Board was a cross-border authority. Therefore, we can work together perfectly well. As a minister, I also represented the UK at the Polish Government economic conference. There are plenty of case histories and opportunities for working together. We sometimes hear rather more about the difficulties.

The report’s committee is excellent and I commend it, as others have. I want to go into one or two areas regarding paragraphs 42 and 43, which are on different possible approaches to the environment. Those differences are perfectly reasonable, because the different geography and climate north and south of the border might need different solutions. In the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee this morning, we talked about invasive species. The nature of that problem in Scotland is perhaps different from that in England or Wales. Therefore, it is not too surprising that there might be rather different solutions.

We have heard a lot from colleagues of all political persuasions in the Parliament about the role for Parliament, and I broadly agree with the way that Murdo Fraser characterised the need for that role. The committee dealt with that area in particular. Its report has six paragraphs of recommendations, which end by saying:

“We recommend that Parliament should have a formal role in relation to the process”.

I am quite content to support that.

Paragraph 172 refers to the need to involve external stakeholders in the development of common frameworks, and the report also refers to the need to involve them in the compliance mechanisms that relate to common frameworks. I would go a little bit further and say that we should look at the requirements of stakeholders. My constituency and parliamentary committee interests lead me to look at both fisheries and agricultural support.

On agricultural support, it is not surprising that we need different implementations of the EU common framework, and we would expect to have different implementations of a UK-wide common framework, because in Scotland, 85 per cent of our farming is in less favoured areas, whereas in England, only 15 per cent is, and 85 per cent is not. Therefore, the geography and the nature of the land that is farmed necessitate different solutions, not only in legislative, administrative and regulatory terms, but in the financial structures of support for industries in the agriculture sector.

On fisheries, we have the sea of opportunity—I led the debate on that subject not long after the 2016 referendum. If we depart from the common fisheries policy, we are clearly going to have the opportunity of controlling the area out to 200 miles from our coast. However, we cannot forget that Scotland-registered fishing boats will fish in other nations’ waters—England’s, Norway’s and those elsewhere. Therefore, we need a set of rules that apply to our interests, which may be somewhat different from those south of the border, where shellfish are one of the most important catches.

There is nothing unusual in requiring different solutions for different jurisdictions, while agreeing what we need to do within a common framework.

One of the important things about common frameworks is not just the rules but the funding streams. The common agricultural policy gives us a view of the funding for five, six or seven years ahead. We need a similar degree of certainty in the policy areas that I have spoken about, and I hope that we will find a way to achieve that.


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