06 February 2003

S1M-3856 Organic Farming Targets (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-3856, in the name of Robin Harper, on the general principles of the Organic Farming Targets (Scotland) Bill. I invite those members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons now. I call Robin Harper to speak to and move the motion. Mr Harper, you have 10 minutes. We will have to be tight on timings in the debate.
... ... ...
Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I am minded to look at the bill's policy memorandum, which states:
"The long-term aim of the Bill is that there should be more organic food produced and consumed in Scotland".
I am happy to represent a party with clear green credentials. My colleagues in the European Parliament are allied with the Greens there.
We find ourselves in a rather interesting position today, because we shall be supporting Robin Harper's bill despite, in many respects, his best efforts in committee. We support organic farming, and we want to see the expansion of organic food production. We shall therefore support the bill on its general principles because, as Alex Fergusson said, the debate should continue.
We believe that growth of organic production is sustainable only when there is growth in demand. We must see a growth in demand if we are to succeed.
George Lyon rose—
Stewart Stevenson: I do not have time to give way.
Robin Harper is making things difficult for those who want to support him. He said that supporting the general principles of the bill would not commit the Executive to a 20 per cent target for organic farming and that targets are merely advisory. Does Robin Harper mean to say that next time I pass a 30 miles per hour speed limit, I should merely take the advice to drive at no more than 30 miles per hour?
We have to see targets, and we expect that the Executive will introduce them in due course.
Without the target, the bill in many ways would be reduced to a wish list, but at least at stage 2 we would have the opportunity to introduce something to it that would be of value. The organic action plan, produced by the Executive, is welcome after such a long period. I welcome the fact that we will see a fair reflection of the costs of organic conversion and a reasonable incentive provided. It is disappointing that that will happen only after further consultation.
We need smart targets to develop organic expansion in areas where production is particularly low at the moment. Scotland consumes twice as much organics as it produces, so there is a key opportunity. However, we need a level playing field in the UK and Europe.
Some Labour members, in particular Alasdair Morrison, have been telling people in e-mails that they will be backing the bill—I have just received a note about that. I call on him and others to back the bill and allow the debate to continue. We shall be doing so at 5 o'clock.

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