24 June 2009

S3M-4464 Climate Change (Scotland) Bill

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 24 June 2009

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
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Climate Change (Scotland) Bill
The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-4464, in the name of John Swinney, on the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill. ... ... ...

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

I thank John Swinney for the name check in his opening remarks in the debate. I also thank members around the chamber for their warm words. The contributions of a large number of parliamentarians can be seen in the bill, and those parliamentarians have been informed by widespread action and lobbying from outside the chamber.

The bill is complex, and I quite enjoy engaging with complex bills. Quite early in my business career, I was told that when a person did a job well, their reward was that they got to do it again; but I hope that the cabinet secretary does not have anything immediately in mind in that regard. We shall see.

Alex Johnstone congratulated the clerks to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, and I would like to congratulate the bill team, whose efforts on occasions could only be described as heroic. The team responded to ministers but, in addition, and through the process of engagement that we have sought to create, they responded to members of other political parties, and tried to support them. The process has been a model for how the Parliament can work. It is very much how we, as a minority Government, would wish to go about our business, now and in the future.

We ended up with a substantial area of common ground, and we now have a substantial set of proposals to which we can compare our views with satisfaction. Alex Johnstone tried to compare himself with an orang-utan; I have agreed with his wife that I will ensure that, at least in circumference, that comparison will not be true.

Cathy Peattie made a particular contribution by being here on her ruby wedding anniversary. I am only three weeks—no, four weeks, no, five weeks—away from mine. [Laughter.] But with Gavin Brown, I am waiting to see whether the most important delivery of the day has happened. He has been on tenterhooks, waiting to find out whether his next child has been delivered today. We have drawn people in from aa the airts; we have created a priority for this bill, and people have respected that.

Patrick Harvie raised questions in relation to devolved and reserved matters. However, on this particular subject, there is common purpose between the United Kingdom Administration and ourselves. That is not least because we have to be part of the UK's efforts. Our success will be part of its success.

Patrick Harvie also talked about direct action. I counsel him, very severely, that we have to behave responsibly, and that we have to take the people of Scotland with us. We must turn this legislation—[Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): Order. There is an awful lot of background noise and I would prefer less of it.

Stewart Stevenson: We must turn this legislation into real action.

Patricia Ferguson referred to Allied Vehicles in her constituency. Within the past week, I was delighted to drive one of its electric vehicles. It is interesting to note that battery technology is probably the technology that is not yet up to the mark. A lot of work will be done on that. In Scotland, we have biotech industries and some electrical engineers, and that will probably help. Patricia Ferguson also mentioned Malawi—a topic that brings home the whole idea of social justice that is at the heart of what we are trying to do.

Today has largely been a day in which we have looked inwards. However, we must now look outwards towards Scotland's comity, to countries around the world, and to the United Nations conference in Copenhagen in December. Most of all, we must look outwards to the poor and disadvantaged in Africa, India, China, Brazil and other countries all round the world.

The bill is not an economic bill, although it will have economic effects. It is not legislation to gather dust on the shelves of hundreds of lawyers; it is a moral step we take that will be important for the world.

When I had dinner with Ian Marchant a couple of weeks ago at the business delivery group, he gave me a copy of Douglas Adams's "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Ford Prefect had come from another world to look at the earth, and he was working on an entry in the guide that said that the earth was "harmless". After vigorous research, he converted that assessment to "mostly harmless".

Through this bill, let us turn the earth and humans' efforts on earth into something that is mostly harmless. Let us also remember that the answer to everything in the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy is one that is relevant to today. The answer was 42.

Stewart Stevenson
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