16 December 2010

S3M-7605 Antisocial Behaviour Framework

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 16 December 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Antisocial Behaviour Framework

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7605, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on the antisocial behaviour framework.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

It is a very great pleasure to return to a subject in which I was closely involved during the passage of what became the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004. In the stage 3 debate on the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Bill, which I opened for the Opposition, I stated that there was

"a real problem and ... a real casus belli underlying the Executive's determination to pass the bill",

but I also said that there were continuing disagreements about

"whether the remedies that the bill proposes are proportionate and appropriate."—[Official Report, 17 June 2004; c 9369.]

An issue on which the then minister, Margaret Curran, and I agreed—I always agree to recognise the wisdom of someone who accepts an amendment from me—was that research and reporting post hoc would be important to inform future generations of legislators as to whether certain provisions about which we disagreed were or were not effective in practice. It is self-evident that some of those provisions have contributed much less than the Labour Party suggested that they would in 2004.

Let me lighten Nigel Don's darkness. In an answer to me in March 2007, Robert Brown said that there had been no parenting orders. In response to the questions that he asked in spring and autumn 2008, John Lamont received the same answer.

James Kelly: The member stresses the importance of reporting and monitoring. Does he share my concern that page 36 of the report that is before us outlines the fact that there will no longer be any requirement for reporting at national level and that monitoring will take place only at local level? Surely that undermines the ability of national Government to assess the statistics on antisocial behaviour.

Stewart Stevenson: One of the clear lessons that emerged from the then Communities Committee's travels around every police area in Scotland was that success in engaging with antisocial behaviour depended on local action. Such engagement was successful when local action was taken.

On the subject of reporting, I identify for members that my amendments 95 and 96 to the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Bill, which sought to introduce sections after sections 14A and 20, both specified a reporting period of three years. In accepting an amendment from me, Margaret Curran recognised that three years was an appropriate period to assess what was going on.

Of course, there are still differences between members and parties in the chamber. With some disappointment, I heard Mr Butler suggest that an ASBO being granted is a measure of success in dealing with antisocial behaviour. I take a fundamentally different view. The issuing of an ASBO is a measure of failure to deal with antisocial behaviour. I worked very closely with Donald Gorrie, a previous member of the Liberal Democrats, and he took the same view.

Bill Butler: An ASBO is simply a court's recognition that an offence has been committed. Does the member not agree?

Stewart Stevenson: That is fundamentally correct, but that it should get to the point at which the last and only remedy available is a court intervention is a measure of possible failure in the process. I do not regard the figure of 0.1 per cent of complaints leading to ASBOs as necessarily a sign of failure. I take a different view and other members will do that, too.

It is worth saying that we have seen the courts make a range of interventions that we regard as helpful. For example, the length of sentences for knife crime has doubled in five years, from an average of 118 days in 2005-06 to 263 days now. Of course the courts have an important role to play in that area, as they do in dealing with the criminal and the antisocial lout. It is important that the courts clearly address the needs of each individual case. I quote Chief Constable David Strang:

"Each offender has a personal background and I think it's absolutely proper that the court, having heard all the circumstances of the offence and of the offender's circumstances, can impose a sentence that is appropriate."

I trust the courts. I might not always agree with them, but they have an expertise that I do not necessarily have.

Robert Brown said that there is no simple solution, and I am happy to agree with him.

Labour's obsession with ASBOs is simply unhelpful, and as it turns out, I agree that Labour's proposal is pointless, simplistic and a waste of time.

James Kelly said that I could look out of St Andrews house and see the snow. My office was actually at Victoria Quay, but we should not quibble about that.

In the past week, I have been delighted to receive, as I often do, an e-mail from a constituent; they welcomed the resolution of a local problem in one area of my constituency as a result of something that I described in a similar way at stage 1 of the bill. I said:

"The councillor had the initiative and the guts—as councillors and members of the Parliament should have—to bring community groups together, to hold public meetings"—[Official Report, 10 March 2004; c 6472.]

and to ensure that solutions were obtained. By the way, I was describing and commending the work of an Edinburgh Labour councillor. Everyone in politics has a shared duty to their constituents.

I close by making an observation about Labour's approach to the debate. There was a glimpse of a proposal from the Labour members, but we now know that it is toothless and it will simply lead to more bumping of gums. There is never a proposal of substance from Labour, never a suggestion for action, never a way forward and nothing but girn and gripe.

If that sounds like an empty phrase from me, I have found a way to measure it. It occurred to me that a word in Labour's amendment sounded familiar. I refer to the first word, which is "regrets". Labour members are no fans, then, of Edith Piaf's "Je ne regrette rien", but serial offenders. There are currently 16 motions before Parliament that contain the word "regrets"; 11 are from Labour, three are from the Green Party, and there is one each from the SNP and Liberal Democrats. There is regret among the Labour members; action is entirely absent.


08 December 2010

Statement: Severe Weather

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 8 December 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 14:01]
... ... ...
Severe Weather

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): The next item of business is a 10-minute statement by Stewart Stevenson on severe weather. As the minister will take questions at the end of the statement, there should be no interruptions or interventions during it.


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

I am grateful for this opportunity to update Parliament on recent weather events and their damaging effects on the transport network. I should begin by saying that the westbound M8 fully reopened to all traffic at 13:15.

On Monday, a combination of events—the return of many adults and children to work or school after a period of school closures and disruption from previous snow, combined with more and heavier snow that fell over a longer time than expected—contributed to a very sudden deterioration in road quality and public transport services in central Scotland. The key question is whether our response could or should have been better in these very unusual circumstances.

The fact of the matter is that if the transport system grinds to a halt and people are forced to spend the night in their cars, something has clearly gone wrong. I regret that and apologise for the failure to communicate the situation effectively to the many people affected on Monday when the extent of the problem became apparent.

Of course I am sorry that anyone should have to experience the gridlock and inconvenience of recent days and, in terms of the aspects of the problems that can be resolved by Government, I accept that responsibility rests with me. We must be clear what the issues are.

I also want to be very clear on one matter. No doubt parts of the system did not work, but that does not mean that thousands of men and women—local government workers, those on gritters and in emergency services and many volunteers—did not do the best that they possibly could in the circumstances. To those who have worked the extra hour, who have helped their neighbour, who have pushed cars and who have brought aid and assistance—thank you. [Applause.]

That said, we are looking at exceptional circumstances. There are two big issues to address: fixing the immediate problem; and considering how we as a society can adjust if this weather is to become more common.

For the benefit of this chamber and the people beyond it I will try to describe the events that led to this situation. I should add that I am more than open to the idea of a wider review of what happened and I will be attending next week's meeting of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee where these matters may be discussed.

On Monday morning, we faced a perfect storm. A highly unusual weather system came in and hit our transport system exceptionally hard. Over the past fortnight, Scottish resilience has been managing snow volumes in the central belt at significantly higher levels than have been seen in many years. The Cabinet sub-committee on Scottish Government resilience has been in operation since 24 November. Resilience arrangements were well established over the weekend of 4 and 5 December, and meetings took place on both days; indeed, meetings have been occurring on a daily basis both at ministerial and official level. Weather forecasts from the Met Office were monitored closely throughout that time as part of the resilience process. Across the whole country, strategic co-ordination groups—connecting emergency services and local authorities, which plan for all manner of contingencies—were already working on the snow situation.

On Sunday 5 December, we were aware of weather warnings in which snowfalls in central Scotland were forecast. I have been asked what forecasts the Scottish Government received and when it received them. I would like to give members some details on that.

The first indications of heavy snow were issued by the Met Office at 16:01 on Sunday. The bulletin said:

"A band of heavier snow is expected to affect higher parts of the Ayrshires and Lanarkshires giving 5-10cm of fresh snow. Higher parts of West Lothian and the western Borders could see accumulations of 3-5cm. Western areas will still see mainly rain although this could gradually turn to snow in Glasgow where accumulations of 1-3cm are possible. Elsewhere accumulations of 1-3cm are likely including in the Edinburgh area."

A Met Office bulletin that was issued at 08:01 on Monday described the weather forecast at that time. It said:

"Generally amounts of fresh snow will be in the region of 2 to 5 cm although higher areas may see a further 10 cm. Behind this band of snow it will be generally dry and clear."

Presiding Officer—[Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Order. There is too much noise.

Stewart Stevenson: The next Met Office bulletin, which was issued at 10:37 on Monday, accepted that the position had become unexpectedly severe. It said:

"The band of snow that moved southeastwards overnight extended further eastwards than forecast, which has given more significant snow accumulations than were expected yesterday across eastern parts of the Central Belt. This has caused transport disruption across parts of Scotland and has been exacerbated by ice quickly forming on roads and the fact that the snow arrived across the central belt during the rush hour ... The snow will continue to move southwards during this morning, clearing the Central Belt by mid afternoon."

We have now received accurate measurements of the snowfall during the 24 hours from 09:00 on Monday. Those measurements show that some areas clearly received more snow than the amount that was forecast. At Gogarbank in Edinburgh, 7cm of snow fell; in Penicuik, 9cm of snow fell; and at Livingston Mill in West Lothian, 12cm of snow fell. There were falls of 20cm in other areas, which was twice the maximum that was forecast. Some reports suggest more than 30cm of snow fell in East Kilbride. A North Lanarkshire Council report that was issued at 02:50 on Tuesday said:

"The heavy snowfall yesterday morning was not forecast to be as late in the morning or nearly as severe."

All that demonstrates that, although the Met Office was giving reports to the best of its ability, the snowfall was greater than it was estimated to be even after the incident had started.

Let me say a little about preparation and forecasting. We have a network of cameras around the trunk road network that are generally co-located with ice-monitoring equipment. When actual temperatures drop to 3°C, we invoke road treatment action in anticipation of icing. In that respect, we act in a similar way to the Met Office and others. Observations of current conditions are used, coupled with a view of recent changes to predict future weather conditions. Ploughs and gritters were out and applying appropriate treatments before the snowfall hit central Scotland, but access to the road network became difficult as jack-knifed lorries—as many as a dozen of them on Monday evening—and a small number of car incidents blocked key roads and junctions.

In central Scotland alone, Transport Scotland had 327 staff using 63 vehicles working round the clock. Throughout Monday night and Tuesday, more than 1,000 additional police officers and the Red Cross were active. I pay tribute in particular to the work of police officers throughout Strathclyde, Central Scotland and Lothian and Borders. We hired in extra vehicles to recover lorries, but in many cases clearance was followed too quickly by further incidents, and it became increasingly difficult to reach those lorries.

For the M8 westbound, the absence of moving traffic and temperatures below the level at which salt works allowed significant build-up of ice, despite appropriate treatment, and led to closure. As I said, the M8 is now fully opened. This morning, Transport Scotland and its contractors have given a special treatment to the M8, with double levels of salt and grit, and gritters and snowploughs operating together.

There have been problems on our railways, too. Network Rail has special squads looking after the most critical junctions. Heating blankets are supplementing points heaters and have proved largely effective, but diversion routes and sidings are not available, which means that any train failure has greater-than-usual impact. Therefore, Network Rail has restricted network capacity. Our most modern diesel rolling stock, the class 170s, are designed for operation down to -17°C. In fact, they did a bit better than that, but were frequently defeated by ice, with up to 3 tonnes per carriage.

Yesterday, 80 per cent of scheduled bus services and 55 per cent of normal train services operated. Today, our airports are open, with the exception of Campbeltown and Wick, which will open shortly. Overnight, vehicles worked continuously to keep the road network working. Police report that temperatures dropped to -17°C in places and the Met Office said that the temperature would continue to fall until 9 this morning. The Army has been helping, and we thank it. It has assisted the Scottish Ambulance Service by providing 10 four-by-fours and 50 soldiers.

A slight alleviation of the worst of the cold conditions is forecast for the next few days. I am determined that we should make the best use possible of that window of opportunity to bring services back to normal. Today, two thirds of schools are open, which is a better performance than for 10 days.

I am the transport minister and I am responsible. What happened on Monday has been extremely difficult and challenging. It should not have happened and I have apologised for the failure to communicate the position better and earlier. However, the steps to prevent it and the actions to negate it are hugely complex. The areas that I want to review are long-term strategic issues. Public communication should be improved. What went wrong with links between Met Office forecasts and information flows? Do we need to invest more in heavy-duty winter equipment? Although we deployed help and assistance quickly, should we have increased additional resources even more speedily than we did?

My focus now is to make this work and to put in place a system that is robust. If the weather is to be more severe, more often, the fact is that we need a step change. That applies to everyone in Government, every business and every household.

02 December 2010

S3M-7159 The Scottish Economy

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 02 December 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]

The Scottish Economy
... ... ...
The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7159, in the name of Jeremy Purvis, on the Scottish economy.

... ... ...

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

I start by delineating some of the areas of agreement in the debate, of which there were a substantial number. There was broad agreement that we can and must do better, that we can and should export more and that we need a structure that provides support for business, which is probably segmented into support for large growing companies, mid-range growing companies and small start-ups. There was also broad agreement that we need a banking system that provides transaction services for business and private individuals, provides access to small-scale borrowing to keep the economy going, and—this is fundamental—has local presence. Those are the fundamentals.

The Liberals have brought forward a useful debate that at least brings forward a proposal that is open to analysis and discussion. That is perhaps in stark contrast to the blank-sheet-of-paper approach to policy formulation that the Labour Party takes.

Jeremy Purvis correctly said that the Scottish economy is a tiny economy in a fast-growing world. I do not think that that is beyond a fact—it is simply true—and it highlights an important thing. Tiny and small economies take an approach that is different from that which has to be taken in large economies. Small economies can be fleet of foot and can respond more rapidly to changes and opportunities.

Jeremy Purvis suggested that we should see exports rise by 50 per cent over the next session and by 100 per cent over the next 10 years. We all wish that parameter to move ahead over those periods of time. He also mentioned China and India. It is likely that they will be partners for us rather than competitors. That is an important point. Small countries do not operate in isolation from the broader world economy or from the major and growing players in the world. That is why it is so important that Government ministers have spent time in China and India with Scottish companies that are successfully exploiting the opportunities in those countries.

Robert Brown: Will the minister help us by defining the extent to which the Scottish economy is distinct from the UK economy, particularly in light of the Irish experience?

Stewart Stevenson: It is clear that the Scottish economy is different from the UK economy in a number of respects. It is also different from the Welsh economy. Compared with the Scottish economy, a much more substantial proportion of the Welsh economy is involved in manufacturing. The Scottish economy has particular strengths in intellectual endeavours—in training and education—and, as a result, many of our universities set up outposts in other parts of the world. We do not have to be there to deliver there. There are differences in the Scottish economy, which is precisely why we need a different approach. If we had a wider range of powers, we could do even more than we currently do.

Let us consider the proposals that the Liberals have put in front of us. Some people have read those proposals and some, rather than reading them, have relied on gossip from others. If each of us took a couple of pages of the document, we would be able to read its 47 pages quite quickly. In certain respects, there is muddle in the present iteration of Mr Purvis’s proposals, but he has made proposals that pose the right questions.

Mr Purvis has talked about the difficulties in securing finance. It is fundamentally correct that there are difficulties in doing that. He has identified that a network of 13 regional banks would be the answer to those difficulties, and his motion mentions

“a single body to offer equity finance support for businesses and a single promotional, marketing and inward investment body”.

As politicians, we love to tinker with such things and we love to introduce legislation—it is fun and gives us a sense of achievement—but it does not necessarily influence the outside world in any way. However, it keeps us employed.

Mr Purvis made the important point that all of that would be self-financing, but underwritten by the Government. That is fair enough as far as it goes, but, of course, things would not be taken off the Government’s balance sheet. Liabilities would remain for the Government and, if things were not properly managed, private companies would be able to play fast and loose with public money. There is an opportunity to develop that point further. I invite Mr Purvis to consider doing so, not necessarily today, but in the future. There is a genuine difficulty that we need to consider.

Jeremy Purvis: I caution the minister that the model that I have used is, by and large, operating in the south of Scotland loan scheme, which has been in operation and self-financing for a number of years. I think that the Government entirely supports it.

Stewart Stevenson: I hope that members will not think that I shot Mr Purvis’s proposal out of the water absolutely. That was not my intention.

Let me make a broad general point. All the parties that are represented in the chamber are minorities. Minority Governments must lay out their fundamental goals, but they should work within the long-term grain of strategies. Those strategies may have been inherited from previous Administrations, and it is likely that, in a chamber of minorities, we will all have contributed to such strategies. There is certainly something in that.

David Whitton: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am really out of time for dealing with the points that I have to deal with.

There is a divergence between the principles that have been espoused and the proposals that have been made.

Rob Gibson talked about Stavanger, Seattle and Ullapool. Ullapool has changed a little bit, but not much; Stavanger and Seattle have changed.

Mary Mulligan made a very amusing speech, although I am not sure that she meant to be so amusing. She referred to housing. The previous Labour Administration built six council houses. She talked about the previous UK Government’s capital reduction and criticised it, and she said that food sales are close to zero. The rumbling sound was obviously the sound of empty stomachs around the chamber. She also talked about ring fencing of the tax on supermarkets, although I think that she meant hypothecation.

Lewis Macdonald said that the popularity of bankers is at an all-time low. Those who have looked at my register of interests will realise that I have moved from banking to politics in an attempt to improve my reputation. That has worked, which is very good. He also talked about the proposed company in Aberdeen. The important point is that with limited liability companies, that is just what we get.

Joe FitzPatrick referred to the four Gs of Dundee and showed that there are local opportunities that we all have to take.


11 November 2010

Statement: Scottish Water Bill

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 11 November 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Scottish Water Bill

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a statement by Stewart Stevenson on the proposed Scottish Water bill. The minister will take questions at the end of his statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.


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

Water is one the most abundant resources on the planet. It is also one that, through its ubiquity in Scotland, its being almost constantly in our vision and its easy availability from our taps, we Scots often take for granted. However, the idea of water's ubiquity and its easy availability to all is false. For many in the world, it is a vital commodity in desperately short supply. As available water resources become stretched, the value of water, both economically and in humanitarian terms, becomes greater. According to the United Nations, there is enough fresh water on the planet, but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and managed unsustainably. We take water for granted but disregard it at our peril.

It may not always feel like it, but Scotland is a lucky country. It is blessed by an inventive and inquisitive people, resource-rich land and sea and easy access to what the world is increasingly recognising as the next great asset—water. One of the tests for us in the future will be how we care for and use that great asset. Our Victorian predecessors, in particular, exercised clever stewardship and innovation, building drinking water and sewerage infrastructure for Scotland's people and helping to drive cholera out of our cities. To this day, we benefit from their investment, their foresight and their efforts. Scottish Water is the embodiment of that. For less than £1 a day, the average household gets wholesome water and has its waste removed and treated.

Our water is a public asset, and we are committed to ensuring that it is managed and exploited for the public good in a public agency. I believe that a majority of members continue to believe in that. Our first purpose in looking at how we should discharge our water responsibilities is to maintain that link between public asset and public good. Has our public body, Scottish Water, done well? Yes, it has. It has been the fastest-improving water company in the United Kingdom and continues on an improvement path. It delivers excellent-value services while improving quality and customer service. Customer bills are stable.

Can Scottish Water do more? Yes, it can. Scottish Water is Scotland's biggest purchaser of electricity, and there is considerable potential in its asset base to develop wind, hydro and micro-hydro power generation to the extent that all its electricity needs could be met and further amounts of electricity could be generated and exported to the grid. There is also considerable potential to develop redundant assets, such as disused sewage treatment works, into modern waste recycling facilities that support Scotland's drive to become a zero waste society. Scottish Water also holds a great deal of water knowledge and experience, which it could use to become part of a centre for the sustainable exploitation of water. We should aspire to lead the world in that.

We are confident that there are significant commercial opportunities in each of those areas—and there is more. Let us look at areas that are not so overtly commercial. Our people want to help when international disasters strike. Water is often the instrument of disaster, the carrier of disease or the cause of drought. We should aspire to a situation in which Scottish expertise and practical help can make a bigger difference.

The vision that was painted by the First Minister in his statement in September on the programme for government described an evolution for Scottish Water, not a revolution. He promised that we would bring forward legislation to enable Scottish Water to play a wider role. It is usual, as part of such a process, for discussions to take place between the Scottish Government and the parliamentary authorities about various matters relating to draft legislation.

It is true that we originally believed that we could start the move of Scottish Water into a broader role with a very limited bill. However, as we reflected further on our vision for Scottish Water, it became clear that we were at risk of underestimating the potential. Our proposals for legislation might be seen as being too limited and as not providing a sufficient basis for the continuing development of Scottish Water's role.

We can also be more imaginative in thinking about how Scottish Water could develop a role in key areas of public concern at home. For example, Scottish Water already has a close relationship with local authorities. Its retail arm, Business Stream, works with them to help them to reduce water use and therefore save money on their bills. That is only a beginning.

Scottish Water also has extensive experience in procuring large-scale capital projects. Could we find a way to use that experience more widely? Perhaps local authorities could draw on that expertise when procuring flood protection schemes and other flood management work, which would ensure the best use of public funds by taking a shared service approach.

Canals are important assets that we are retaining in the public sector in Scotland. We should be asking ourselves what opportunities there are for creating additional public benefit from all our water infrastructure, both inland and maritime.

On top of all of that, however, is the fact that water is global. It respects no borders. Climate change brings droughts to previously wet areas and floods to places that are not used to flooding. Water's ever-changing journey across the planet means that the issues are international and the solutions are global. As water supply becomes less predictable, so its importance to the economy and society becomes more obvious. There is an old adage that nobody worries about the well until it is empty. As the world begins to worry about the well, so our vision needs to be international.

Those are among the important questions that we need to examine more fully. Given the extent of the proposals, it would be wrong if we did not have a full consultation phase. Many people will have views and ideas, and I am sure that they will add to the menu that I have described today. It is important that they are heard.

We have identified some areas of uncertainty, which could be material. Significant among those are the UK Government's decision to move British Waterways in England and Wales to the third sector, and the forthcoming Scottish bill's approach to borrowing powers.

Present legislation is highly complex and is based on Scottish Water undertaking a limited set of functions. We need to ensure that that framework—its regulation, financing, corporate structure and interaction with ministers—is robust enough to deal with the wider possibilities that we have begun to identify.

We therefore decided last week that the present limited provisions should be withdrawn, and I wrote to Patrick Harvie, the convener of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, to explain that and to set out our plan to consult on proposals for legislation that is more wide ranging than was initially planned.

Later this month, it will be my pleasure to deliver on that promise when we bring forward draft proposals as part of an ambitious consultation on Scottish Water's future. I am sure that colleagues in all parties will welcome our commitment to consult on these important matters.

In setting out that there should be a water bill, the First Minister spoke about developing a legacy for future generations and said that making the best use of our precious water resources is a long-term strategy. I agree with his words, and I think that, when we discuss such a vital part of our economy, our environment and our society, we should do so in a constructive fashion.

When we talk about water, we talk about our future. It underpins much of what we do. This chamber should beware of starting a storm in a water cup, if the price of that is to block our ears and close our eyes to the important business of mapping a future for our most precious resource.

28 October 2010

S3M-7269 Renewable Energy [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 28 October 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Renewable Energy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7269, in the name of Liam McArthur, on renewable energy.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson:

This has been an interesting debate, if not a particularly consensual one. I will try to respond to points that have been raised, but I say at the outset that I have heard nothing to alter our perception that the UK Government's proposal on the fossil fuel levy is nothing but a bad and very late deal. As such, it is not appropriate.

Scottish Water has been mentioned a couple of times. I am working hard on the future for Scottish Water, and we will be excitingly engaged in that in the future.

Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): Excitingly engaged?

Stewart Stevenson: It is always exciting when I am involved.

Ross Finnie made an interesting contribution. He actually said—I am going to check the Official Report—that it is not our money. The reality is that I have a statutory instrument on the matter signed by Allan Wilson in 2005 and another from 2002 that clearly indicate that the powers to collect and attribute the money lie here. Under the proposals in front of us, control is to be taken away and given to others.

Ross Finnie: Will the minister take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I simply do not have time.

Gavin Brown quoted Scottish Renewables. Perhaps he should read more carefully what has been said elsewhere. In today's Daily Record, Scottish Renewables says:

"It would be a massive missed opportunity if this money cannot be freed up"

to support Scotland's renewables sector over the next six to 12 months. No contribution to the debate has suggested that we are even faintly near that. Indeed, on the Liberal Democrats' position, today's Daily Record leading article states:

"It is a bad deal and the Lib Dems' brassneck in defending it, as they will at Holyrood today"—

the newspaper is correct on that—

"is breathtaking."

Jeremy Purvis: If I understand the minister correctly, he is saying that the money should be Barnett consequentialled. The only area to be protected for Barnett consequentials in this spending review is health. Not one penny of that money has been committed for renewables under the Government's own preferred method.

Stewart Stevenson: I am really quite baffled by the introduction of Barnett consequentials to the debate. This is our money. It has been taken away from the control of the Scottish Government and this Parliament and put elsewhere. There is no new money. Absolutely fundamentally, and leaving aside questions of ownership and disposition, the critical thing is that it is being delayed by three years, in particular comparison with what the Liberal Democrats stated before the election. I do not know whether that was in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, but it was certainly in a document for the election, and on page 74 the Liberals said that in 2011-12—

Duncan McNeil: Will the minister take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I will.

Duncan McNeil: If we had the money, would the minister seriously spend £65 million on the development of Hunterston? What do we need to do to ensure that the west coast cluster is viable?

Stewart Stevenson: The £65 million is the total project cost, not the Government's cost. It is also worth making the point that there is a cluster approach that will ensure that we look at the opportunities. I give that assurance to the member, and we will hear more about it at a later stage because he makes an important and relevant point that it is correct to draw to our attention.

Sarah Boyack says that independence is a distraction, but forgive me if I take a fundamentally different view. If we could take independent control of the money, we could decide how to spend it, notwithstanding the issues of being in the sterling area or not, which are entirely a red herring that we need not concern ourselves with.

I say to Jackson Carlaw that soor plooms are one of the traditional Scottish sweets, and I am happy to sook them to boost my energy levels at any other time—if only we could suck the money out of the coffers of Ofgem so that we could refresh the economy of Scotland.

Sarah Boyack: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am now 30 seconds from the end. I am sorry but I simply cannot.

It is absolutely vital that the money is made available to Scotland immediately and in a way that is additional. It will enable us to start making investments in Liberal areas right across Scotland—Scrabster harbour, Orkney, Shetland and Kishorn. Liberal voters will be looking at the behaviour of their MSPs in denying them access to the money with some grave concern indeed.


S3M-7269 Renewable Energy [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 28 October 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Renewable Energy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7269, in the name of Liam McArthur, on renewable energy.

... ... ...

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

Many of us are very grateful to Liam McArthur for raising this subject. The debate gives us the opportunity to hold the UK Government's proposal on the use of the fossil fuel levy up to the light. When we do that, it is impossible not to notice the serious loopholes and fundamental flaws that riddle what is apparently a generous offer.

Mr McArthur has suggested that there is a division between the First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth. I assure him that there is not. The division on the matter is between the proposals that have now been put forward by Liberal Democrats and their manifesto, which on page 74 speaks about

"a one-off payment in the 2011 budget."

They said that they would

"give control of future revenues to the Scottish Government. This will likely lead to an increase in resources for Scotland of around £250 million in 2011-12."

That offer is very distant from that which is now before us, which would mean having a three-year period during which we are denied access to the money in any meaningful way. It is our money, as a Parliament; it is our money, here in Scotland.

I hope that I can reassure Liam McArthur that we are fully engaged on the Skykon issue. There will be a meeting today involving Scottish Enterprise and Skykon.

If we postpone the money until 2013, it will be utterly irrelevant to the issues that are faced by companies, which have needs today. That is very different from the proposition that is before us. I hope that, by the close of the debate, Liam McArthur will also be able to see that; that is, assuming that he cannot see the flaws already, and is instead choosing to draw a veil over them.

Let me restate the basics of the situation. The fossil fuel levy surplus, which is money that has been raised from renewables projects in Scotland, as funded by Scots consumers, sits at £190 million. Liam McArthur might, of course, wish to amend his motion in that respect. Indeed, in only nine days, he has resiled from a figure of £500 million, which is referred to as being fossil fuel levy money in the Liberals' press release of 20 October.

By statute, the money can be spent only on promoting renewable energy in Scotland. The money simply cannot be drawn down and spent for that purpose, however, unless the Treasury allows it to be added to the Scottish block spending limit—something that it has repeatedly failed to do. I acknowledge that, at the end of his term in office, the outgoing Chancellor of the Exchequer showed signs of movement on that issue, and we welcome that.

The motion, in common with the UK Government's offer, pivots on the risible proposition around the interpretation of "additional". Let us be absolutely clear: the offer from the UK Government, which has found such uncritical support on the Scottish Liberal Democrat benches, does not change the position of the previous UK Administration by one iota. In effect, the UK Government is saying that if we draw down our fossil fuel levy money and use it for our planned renewables expenditure during the next few years, it will use its corresponding savings—from reducing the Scottish block accordingly—to add to the green investment bank, which is not directly under the control of the Scottish ministers or the Scottish Parliament.

Gavin Brown (Lothians) (Con): How does the minister explain the enormous gulf in tone between what his Government is saying and what all the Scottish business organisations and Scottish Renewables are saying about the announcement?

Stewart Stevenson: Gavin Brown should be very careful in ascribing to business and Scottish Renewables support for the proposition that is before the Parliament. It is clear that there is significant concern about the timing of access to the money. We should have access to the money right now. By 2013, many of the key opportunities for the renewables industry in Scotland will have passed us by. That is key—

Gavin Brown: What about the Scottish Investment Bank?

Stewart Stevenson: There is a debate for members of Gavin Brown's party to have and I hope that they will address the issues.

We might see funds in three or four years' time. That does not help us with our immediate needs and opportunities. The green investment bank will fall far short of the minimum of £4 billion to £6 billion that is demanded by the renewables industry, which would have been expected already to have delivered major investments and benefits for Scotland's renewable and low-carbon sector.

It is absolutely unclear to me why anyone who is outside Liam McArthur's narrow circle should find the offer welcome. It is also hard for me to reconcile the member's enthusiastic welcome for an offer that takes money away from the Scottish Parliament and the renewables sector with the aim that the Scottish Liberal Democrats set out in their manifesto this year, which was that the release of the money would

"lead to an increase in resources for Scotland of around £250 million in 2011-12."

That is the commitment to which Liam McArthur signed up, but how it has changed since his colleagues took their places in the new UK Government. It has unravelled, to the extent that Liam McArthur's motion hails as generous an offer that takes vital resources away from the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament and away from the needs of the renewables industry.

The offer that is before us is not in Scotland's interests. We have expressed serious reservations and we asked for urgent clarification on vital aspects, but our questions have not yet been answered. The offer is a chimera; it is a conjuring trick, it is a con and it is a sleight of hand, which takes money that was raised in Scotland and locks it away to meet an existing UK Government commitment at some unspecified, but probably distant, future point. Rather than welcome such an offer, we, along with others who share our interest in the matter, will continue to fight for Scotland's interests.

I move amendment S3M-7269.1, to leave out from "welcomes" to end and insert:

"notes Scotland's massive renewable energy resources and the opportunities to turn Scotland into Europe's clean green energy powerhouse; notes the UK Government's proposals that would result in Scotland's Fossil Fuel Levy fund helping to form part of a wider UK green investment bank fund that is due to be established in 2013-14; notes the lack of detail underlying that commitment and the risk that this could delay vital funding for the renewables sector in Scotland for several years, and calls urgently on the UK Government to release these funds and place them in the control of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament in a way that can be rapidly deployed to support Scotland's renewable energy sector."


07 October 2010

S3M-7154 Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 7 October 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson):
The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7154, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 be approved.—[Bruce Crawford.]

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson:

I thank all members for their contributions, from which it is clear that the Parliament retains high ambitions on climate change. All members who spoke in this short debate spoke of the value of the working group. I single out the chair, Mike Robinson, for his efforts in keeping us on track—[Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Order. The minister is winding up the debate. I, for one, would like to hear him.

Stewart Stevenson: Mike Robinson kept us on track and provided the external objectivity that was of value to the group. I thank him very much indeed. I hope that it is seen that we have responded positively in bringing forward this new order.

Sarah Boyack said that pilots cannot give certainty. I agree absolutely with the point. That said, pilots can give greater understanding of the options that are in front of us. Not all pilots have positive outcomes. When a pilot has a negative outcome—as may well happen in some cases—it stops us from pursuing something that does not work. I hope that pilots continue to be an important part of the way in which we look at things right up to 2050.

I believe that Jackson Carlaw's wife cannot wait to get him home tonight—

Members: Whoah!

Stewart Stevenson: Laryngitis is an opportunity she has long looked for.

As I said in my opening speech, we must now focus on delivery. Since the Parliament last considered the order, we have seen examples including the zero waste plan, the Scottish green bus fund and the energy efficiency action plan, which I highlighted earlier. Each of those examples contains significant actions that will deliver emission reductions in Scotland. Of course, in the report on proposals and policies that we will produce in November, we will set out how we intend to meet our emissions targets.

Let us absolutely accept that reducing the initial targets by 2 million tonnes in the first year in the new order by comparison with the previous order and having set a trajectory that is much more challenging to 2022, we have set a very challenging way forward for all of us. It is important that we continue to keep focused on the objective of the 42 per cent reduction by 2020. It is also important that we continue to engage with people across Europe and that we get the European Union to step up to our ambitions and support us by increasing its target to 30 per cent. We face a huge challenge, but we are in a position to move forward to the delivery phase. The targets before us are the ones that we should pass tonight. I commend them to the chamber.


S3M-7154 Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 7 October 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson):
The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-7154, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 be approved.—[Bruce Crawford.]


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

Members will likely be aware that the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee voted on Tuesday for the new annual targets order. The committee's consideration of the order followed the deliberations of the working group that I established to consider the issues around the setting of the annual targets. The contributions from members of the working group were constructive and I thank everyone who participated. I believe that the forum could be a model for the facilitation of certain kinds of policy development.

The targets contained in the draft instrument are much more stretching than the targets in the previous order and require all of our current climate change policies to be delivered in full. The new draft annual targets order proposes targets for the years 2010 to 2012 that are approximately 2 megatonnes CO2 equivalent lower each year than those in the previous version of the order. Over the period 2010 to 2022, the proposed new annual targets cumulatively would save 14 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The new targets follow advice from the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change on the shape of the trajectory. The committee's original advice has been supplemented by further analysis outlining a potentially larger impact of the recession on Scottish emissions, which justifies setting more stretching targets than the committee's original analysis suggested.

The challenges that we face are considerable, not least because of the tight fiscal situation in which we find ourselves, and will become clearer in the coming months. Everyone in Scotland will need to play their part in helping to ensure that Scotland takes a lead in developing a low-carbon economy. A vital part of a low-carbon economy will be the efficient use of resources. The Scottish Government's energy efficiency action plan, published yesterday, sets out a clear plan of action to deliver energy-demand reduction and resource-efficiency measures throughout the domestic, business and public sectors in Scotland. The plan includes a headline target to reduce total energy consumption by 12 per cent by 2020. Local councils are to be given £10 million in grants to offer free insulation measures and provide energy saving advice to up to 100,000 households.

Together with existing commitments, including the target to generate 80 per cent of Scottish electricity consumption levels from renewable energy within the next decade, the energy efficiency target will be key to delivering Scotland's world-leading carbon reduction target of a 42 per cent cut in CO2 by 2020.

By improving household energy efficiency, Scots could save an estimated £2 billion by 2020 from smaller energy bills, while investment in energy efficiency over that period could directly support around 10,000 jobs in Scotland.

Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson:
I am so short of time that I cannot.

I highlight the Scottish Government's Scottish green bus fund. It has been slightly oversubscribed and we are still waiting for one company to bring forward proposals—we have agreed to accept them late—but it is definitely successful. Launched in July this year, the fund has been developed to incentivise the purchase of low-carbon vehicles by funding up to 100 per cent of the price difference between an LCV and its diesel equivalent. We expect it to deliver more than 50 low-carbon vehicles. We are pleased with the mix of bids, which have been submitted by large and small bus operators in Scotland.

It is vital that we now focus on delivery. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires that we set out a report on proposals and policies for achieving the annual targets after the targets are set. We have committed to publishing a draft report on proposals and policies for parliamentary consideration in November. Work on that is being aligned with preparatory work on the draft budget, which is due after the UK Government concludes its comprehensive spending review.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament, has rightly been the subject of widespread praise in Scotland and internationally for the level of ambition it sets out. It is important that we remain united behind Scotland's climate change ambition. Scotland is the only country that can say, year by year through very stretching annual targets, how we will drive emissions down to our 2020 target of a 42 per cent cut.

I am pleased to support the motion moved by my colleague.


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.
... ... ...

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.


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.

... ... ...

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.

09 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.

... ... ...

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.

17 June 2010

S3M-6195 Glasgow's Subway

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 17 June 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Glasgow's Subway

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-6195, in the name of Pauline McNeill, on securing the future of Glasgow's subway.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament welcomes Strathclyde Partnership for Transport's decision to go ahead with its modernisation plan; recognises the important role that the subway plays in Glasgow's transport infrastructure and its significance to Scotland, carrying an estimated 14 million passengers annually; notes that this will be the first major investment project for the service since the 1970s, and hopes that the proposals receive the support that they need to go ahead and that the modernisation keeps Glasgow moving into the future.

... ... ...

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

It is true that we are discussing the clockwork orange, but this one is a little less toxic than the cinematic version. It is clear that members throughout the chamber are deeply in love with this little toy train in Glasgow.

For Charlie Gordon's benefit, I say that, as a minister, I have travelled on Glasgow's subway on a number of occasions. Indeed, I travelled by train from Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street station and then by subway, wearing my dickey bow tie and full evening gear, to speak at a dinner in Glasgow, and I returned by the same method, without more than 60 or so Glaswegians attempting to make fun of my garb. That is less than the usual number, but people in Glasgow are gallus, engaging and very distinctive, and we can apply that description equally to the Glasgow underground.

Pauline McNeill referred to the record number of 69,000 people who used the underground during the last papal visit. I have seen that we are going to have to find parking for nearly 1,600 buses for the next one, and that is only the first indication of the issues that will engage Glasgow police, Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government during the months of preparation for the papal visit in September.

Pauline McNeill also talked about the modernisation of working practices, and it might be worth making the point to Robert Brown that no one drives the trains in the subway. The people who are at the front of the trains are there simply to open and close the doors. However, there are successful examples of improving and modernising working practices.

Pauline McNeill referred to a request from SPT for £6 million a year from the Government for 10 years to pay the interest on the money for the modernisation work. I should point out that, during our discussions, it emerged that the necessary funding would be £6 million a year for 30 years. However, we should not place too much emphasis on that as an inhibitor to making progress.

The issue of the operating hours of the subway was referred to by a number of members.

Sandra White referred to the need for a smart card system. I have talked to SPT about that. We are already using the international ITSO standard for the card for the bus concession scheme. We are extending its use, and it is being used in the smart card pilot on the ScotRail system between Edinburgh and Glasgow. I recently wrote to one of my opposite numbers at Westminster who is engaged with the subject of smart cards, and I suggested that the logical thing to do would be to adopt what is an international standard and a card that is capable of carrying a significant number of different services. For example, the card could be a library card for local authorities. Indeed, it could carry commercial services, as well as enable people to access and pay for public services. There is momentum behind that.

Patricia Ferguson quite astonished me, I have to say. She is wearing much better than I thought she was. I did not realise that she was old enough to remember the previous system. She is wearing her years well. I am afraid that, although I am pretty confident that I am substantially in advance of her in years, I came to the subway post its modernisation 30 years ago.

Patricia Ferguson: I point out to the minister that I did mention that I found the subway interesting as a child.

Stewart Stevenson: Indeed. No discourtesy of any kind was intended. Anything that I said was meant to be a compliment rather than a discourtesy. I ask the member to be absolutely confident about that.

Bob Doris talked about the tourist and conference market and made an interesting point. When most of us go to a strange city, we sniff out the local transport options, because we tend not to have taken a car with us. We tend to travel by public transport, whereas at home things might be different. Bob Doris said—I paraphrase—that the subway needs TLC. I wish that I had had an opportunity to walk through the tunnels at midnight. I hope that somebody is listening. You never know. There is probably a gap in my diary somewhere.

Pauline McNeill: It could be arranged.

Stewart Stevenson: Yes—I have a suspicion.

Bob Doris also mentioned governance issues at SPT. I will not say much about that. Whatever concerns we have about that, I think that we can successfully detach the subject of the subway from any governance issues that remain to be dealt with. We will, of course, keep an eye on them.

I am slightly cautious about alternative ownership options, because I am conscious that, in changing the ownership structure of our ferry companies, we incurred a substantial tax bill when we transferred assets from one company to another. My memory is that the bill was of the order of £11 million. Although there is something to be looked at there, we need to be cautious and ensure that we get value for money.

Bill Aitken had his schoolboy reminiscences as well, and talked about mathematics, which is a subject that is relatively close to my heart.

Robert Brown made the important point that the Government has a role in facilitating SPT's access to capital while not creating an unnecessary burden on central Government. That is exactly the kind of engagement that we are having with the subway. It might often just be a question of guarantors or the visibility of Government engagement—we will see.

Gil Paterson loves our subway. I hope that he loves other people as well. Patrick Harvie correctly pointed to the distinctiveness of the Glasgow subway, which creates its charm. Charlie Gordon pointed to the thrawn nature of the Glaswegians who would not give up the name that they treasured. Fibre optic technology is, of course, important. Christopher Harvie bravely navigated away from the subject several times but always came back. I admire that utterly.

It is too early for the Government to give a commitment to support the project financially, but I assure members that we will continue to work closely with SPT to ensure that all the options have been explored on financing, on the technical issues and on the best way in which to deliver and manage Glasgow's subway, so that it can continue for a long time to come to provide a vital transport service to Glasgow, the west of Scotland and people from further afield.

Meeting closed at 17:59.

09 June 2010

S3M-6227 Hill Tracks (Scottish Uplands)

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 9 June 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 14:00]
... ... ..
Hill Tracks (Scottish Uplands)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-6227, in the name of Peter Peacock, on hill tracks in the Scottish uplands. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes with concern the number of engineered hill tracks appearing in the Scottish uplands, particularly in the Highlands; notes that such tracks can be constructed without planning consent when justified as being for agricultural, forestry or repair purposes; further notes the growing number of concerns from hill walkers, ramblers and mountaineers and members of the wider public about the intrusion of these tracks into the natural landscape and the impact on otherwise wild land; considers that, given the importance of the Scottish uplands for current and future generations, this warrants greater scrutiny of proposals for such tracks within the planning system; recognises the legitimate rights of farmers and crofters to continue to construct tracks for their purposes on what will generally be lower-lying land than considered to be a problem in this context; notes that Heriot-Watt University reported on these issues in March 2007, and would welcome the urgent mapping of tracks by reviewing current knowledge of track location and control provisions and consideration of future possibilities for greater control of developing hill tracks and the criteria under which any greater controls might operate.

... ... ...

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

I join other members in thanking Peter Peacock for bringing the important issue of hill tracks in the Scottish uplands to Parliament. Several members have said that the issue has been around for a few years. It may be worth making the point that, as long ago as 1984, a study by Watson demonstrated that there were 1,151km of new vehicle tracks in the Grampians alone between 1960 and 1982.

The achievement of the appropriate balance between aesthetics, environmental impacts and the economic needs of those who live and work in our remote and upland areas has run through the debate. It is right that those things should be focused on. Sarah Boyack in particular rightly left open the option of dealing with the issue in a range of ways. Some of us thought that Arthur's Seat lies in her constituency, although we are open to correction if we have not properly understood where the boundaries are. The topic can be relevant even in areas in the centres of our cities. We should not think that we are talking simply about the top of the Cairngorms, west Sutherland or our remote areas.

Peter Peacock rightly referred to the substantial alliance of interests—the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, the John Muir Trust, Ramblers Scotland and others—that value our open country. Of course, a balance must be struck even there. The proportion of Scotland that is now within reach of vehicular transport is much greater than it used to be. That is a benefit for those who exercise access rights in our countryside, but it potentially comes at a cost, of course.

Peter Peacock said that there is ambiguity in the current arrangements. That is absolutely correct. The issue is not simply a planning and permitted development rights issue. It is not particularly well known that, by law, most hill tracks should be subject to environmental impact assessments.

One thing that the Government is seeking to do is to engage with the owners of land where such tracks have been constructed to ensure that they have a better understanding of the legal requirements. Confusingly, depending on the use to which land is put, two separate regimes apply—the effect is similar, but the regimes are different. In essence, any track of over 1km requires an environmental impact assessment. It is fair to say that that is neither as widely known about nor as widely implemented as it should be. That is why we are looking for that engagement.

Jamie McGrigor suggested that nature heals scars. As Maureen Watt said—the point was acknowledged by Sarah Boyack—the higher up into the hills we go, the harder the healing process. We are talking about land that is essentially sub-arctic territory, which is fragile indeed. The scars of many years back will remain for a long time into the future. We need to ensure that we protect that landscape.

Like other members, Alison McInnes spoke about national park powers. It is fair to say that no direct reference is made in the national parks legislation to the subject of debate, but that does not exclude in any sense whatever the designation of land in our national parks as scenic areas. Designation gives us the ability to achieve the protection that we seek by bringing land back inside the planning system. In the short term, designation is an option for national park areas. I am not promoting that approach as a substitute for a more systematic look at the issue, but it means that things can be done in the short term.

As ever, Christopher Harvie—well, truly eccentric. I suspect that the stone that he found on top of the hill was, in geological terms, precisely that—an eccentric brought from one place to another by the actions of the last ice age. Of course, I was not there; I did not see his stone.

Murdo Fraser made the point that hill roads are obtrusive. I find it passing strange that he continues to have concerns about a project that will reduce the number of pylons between Beauly and Denny and replace the existing pylons with those that are designed to be more unobtrusive—

Murdo Fraser: They will be higher.

Stewart Stevenson: —albeit that they will, of course, be higher. Colour, placing and design are important in the process. That opens up the general point about the need to achieve balance.

Sarah Boyack suggested that a voluntary code of conduct could be of some interest. It is one of a range of ways in which we might seek to improve the situation.

I turn to what the Government is going to do. We are working on permitted development rights. In light of the considerable correspondence and discussion that Ms Boyack and I have had on extending them to microgeneration, I know that she is in principle in favour of them. They are intrinsically a good intervention in the planning system. We are looking at a range of ways in which to regularise, systematise and simplify the operation of permitted development rights in relation to hill tracks. We also want to ensure a wider understanding of the need for environmental impact assessments and a consistent way of applying them to sites of special scientific interest, Natura sites and our remote areas in general. There are also issues in relation to scheduled ancient monuments on our hills, in which Historic Scotland would be involved. Finally, Scottish Natural Heritage is about to make further efforts to promote guidance to land managers and contractors. We expect to bring forward our next thoughts on the subject immediately after the summer recess. We are working on that.

Again, I thank Peter Peacock for giving the chamber the opportunity to debate in a quite consensual and informed way a very important subject for people right across Scotland.

Meeting closed at 17:44.

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