14.12.11: Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee
The meeting began with Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, commenting on the establishment of elections to the Crofting Commission.
“It is not often that you get much agreement in the world of crofting,” said Stevenson, adding that for the first time “crofters will be given the opportunity to have their say on who they think should be on the new Crofting Commission and how crofting should be regulated.” Stevenson said the first election was planned for March 2012, with the new commission taking office on 1 April. The committee discussed the mechanics of the electoral system, agreeing a £600 cap for individual candidates and that it would prove difficult to try and boost female participation in the elections through regulation. It also passed a motion agreeing to the draft election regulations.
The debate moved on to consider new guidance on Scottish Natural Heritage’s (SNH) code of practice on deer management. Stevenson explained that in 2009, the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill had withdrawn a statutory duty on landowners to manage deer in a sustainable manner, instead opting for a voluntary principle backed up by enforcement powers.
Stevenson said the new code would retain the voluntary principle but has been refined to make it “more usable and timely”. He continued: “The code of practice on deer management is intended to support deer managers and to provide practical guidance on what they need to do to deliver good practice.” While failure to comply with the code would “not in and of itself constitute an offence,” (SNH) “will have a duty to monitor compliance with the code and to take any failure to comply into account in considering enforcement action”.
Responding to questioning, Stevenson confirmed to Annabelle Ewing (SNP) that ministers would monitor the code and would in turn be accountable to Parliament. Elaine Murray (Lab) queried who would be held responsible for the management of deer that wandered onto homeowners’ property or became involved in traffic accidents. Stevenson responded: “We do not place a duty on everyone who may end up with deer. We are seeking to place the duty on deer managers who manage land that they expect large numbers of deer to be on.” Stevenson added that the code included a recommendation to land managers to erect fences in certain places, and that the reduction in road accidents involving deer was a priority of the regulation.
22.12.11: Environmental issues in cities
Responding to a question from Humza Yousaf (SNP) about how the Scottish Government raises awareness of environmental issues in cities, Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, highlighted the recent launch of Scotland’s environment web, an online portal providing “straightforward descriptions of the state of the environment and key messages” on progress.
Yousaf noted the weak performance of Glasgow City Council (GCC) on recycling domestic waste. But Drew Smith (Lab) queried whether GCC was operating on a level-playing field, as councils received funding on the level of recycling they achieved, which failed to take into account individual factors like the high number of tenements in Glasgow which cause a logistical problem when collecting waste. Stevenson declared he was sure GCC have “the necessary incentives to ensure that they raise their game”.
Claudia Beamish (Lab) asked for details of the Scottish Government’s spending commitments on rural priorities in 2012 and 2013. Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, said the rural priorities’ budget would be £97.9m in 2012-13 and £89.7m in 2013-14.
Beamish asked whether the cut in funding would lead to the scaling back of projects such as diffuse pollution catchments. Lochhead said that despite funding cuts, he remained “confident that the demand for agri-environment funding will be met as we move forward”.
Marco Biagi (SNP) asked the Scottish Government “whether it plans to update or publish a progress report on its climate change delivery plan”. Biagi reported that a number of environment groups had expressed concern that the current report “does not necessarily set out which groups are responsible for which actions and how each of them will be funded”.
Stevenson said discussions over the next report, which would describe how emissions targets to 2027 can be met, were at an early stage. Given the longterm nature of those targets, Stevenson said many of the policies could not be accounted for, adding that the “absolute certainty that the member seeks might not be present in RPP 2, but we have listened and we will respond”.
Finally, James Kelly (Lab) asked ministers whether they expected all local authorities to recycle at least 70 per cent of their waste by 2025.
Lochhead said he fully expected every local authority to meet the target, adding that two thirds had already reached the 40 per cent mark.
09.01.12: Infrastructure Investment Plan 2011
Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Scottish Green Party): To ask the Scottish Executive how it has assessed the climate impact of the investment proposals in the Infrastructure Investment Plan 2011. (S4W-04573) Alex Neil: As set out on page 13 of the Infrastructure Investment Plan, a high-level initial assessment of how projects and programmes are expected to contribute to the four prioritisation criteria has been undertaken. The four criteria are delivering sustainable economic growth, managing the transition to a low carbon economy, supporting delivery of efficient and high quality public services and supporting employment and opportunity across Scotland. Some projects and programmes within the pipeline are still at an outline stage, so this high-level assessment provides an initial indication of whether the project will have a positive impact on managing the transition to a low carbon economy, which will be developed further as part of more detailed business cases.