31.05.12: Land Registration (Scotland) Bill The new Land Registration Bill was passed unanimously by MSPs.
Opening the Stage 3 debate, Fergus Ewing, Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Minister said: “The Bill seeks to provide the people of Scotland with a land register that is fit for the 21st century. It will place on a statutory footing many of the sound policies and practices that have been developed by Registers of Scotland since the introduction of the land register in 1981. I remember that event because it occurred towards the end of my apprenticeship.
“The Bill will also provide for a fairer and more balanced system of land registration.
It is recognised internationally that an efficient and secure system of land and property registration is fundamental to the operation of the economy.
Registers of Scotland and the land register are a key part of that process and they support the Scottish economy by underpinning a property market that can be worth more than £24bn each year.
Registers of Scotland sets the standard in how information about land and property is captured, held, analysed and made available to the people of Scotland. I believe that emerging evidence shows that our system of land registration is increasingly of interest to other countries with whom—as I learned earlier this week—the keeper’s staff are regularly in contact. That is an accolade to the quality of our land register and our system.” By bringing registration law more closely into line with general property law, the Bill addresses legal tensions that have caused confusion and uncertainty for property owners since the introduction of the land register. The changes will ensure that the land register continues to underpin the Scottish economy.
06.06.12: Royal Highland Education Trust
A members’ debate was led by Edinburgh Western MSP Colin Keir, commending the Royal Highland Education Trust’s work to help schoolchildren understand the countryside.
The trust was set up in 1999 as an education charity of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland and is delivered by about 500 volunteers from farming backgrounds, giving children farm visits and classroom talks.
Keir said: “Urbanisation in Scotland over recent decades has meant that many children have no direct link with the countryside or experience of environmental issues. The gap in young people’s education has been identified by the Scottish Government, which has allocated funding to the trust to educate children about the importance of safeguarding our environment and the role that food plays in their lives. The policy is implemented through farm visits, work with local companies and the introduction of topics about food in the school curriculum. The Scottish Government has pledged £2m over three years, to help schoolchildren to understand more about food and how it impacts on their health and on the environment.
“Food education has a crucial role to play in improving Scotland’s health, by helping people to make healthier choices. It also makes people aware of the importance of sustainable agriculture. Educating people at a young age about food and the environment means that people have the facts at their disposal and are in a better position to make informed choices about their future. That is why every pupil in Scotland would benefit from the trust’s work. I am delighted that the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, Richard Lochhead, announced funding for the trust in March.
“Through its interaction with pupils, the trust also highlights the extensive career opportunities for young people in Scotland’s food and drink sector. The sector is increasingly successful in helping to boost the Scottish economy.
“The trust does not lack ambition. It aims to deliver its programme for farm and estate visits to 15,000 young people per year by 2015. That would not be possible without the co-operation of its partners and sponsors. Scottish Natural Heritage, for instance, contributes by teaching young people to appreciate the roles and diversity of natural habitats that are encountered on farm and estate visits. Eco-schools development officers focus on enhancing young people’s understanding of the relationship between food and the environment.”
30.05.12: Renewable energy
A panel of experts were asked their views on funding for renewables projects by the Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee.
Representatives included Dr Maitland Mackie, chairman of Scottish ice-cream firm Mackies and Andrew Buglass, managing director and head of energy at the Royal Bank of Scotland.
They were asked by Labour Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant if there was enough investment available for Scotland to meet its 2020 climate change targets.
Buglass said: “Overall, I think that finance is available for strong projects. In recent years we have been a very strong lender to the sector. Not only have we funded large projects but, in the past 12 months, we have introduced a scheme targeted specifically at smaller projects involving only one, two and three turbines. That said, although funding is available for the projects that are coming through, other challenges such as permitting access to grid and radar issues also need to be dealt with.
“We are certainly eager to continue to provide strong support to the sector. We have been lending to the sector for more than 20 years. We did our first onshore wind farm financing back in 1991—I think that was the first project-financed wind farm in the UK—and since then we have been lending consistently.
“Last year we provided more lending to the sector than anyone else did. Indeed, we provided twice as much as our nearest rival on the independent list provided. We provided 27 per cent of the total UK renewables funding and more than 40 per cent in Scotland last year. That is a significant track record, which demonstrates that money is available for good projects.” But Mackie said it was harder for smaller projects to get the necessary funding. He said: “I agree that there is plenty of finance for the huge-scale projects—the ones with 50 or 100 turbines that we see here and there—because the big companies can organise that for themselves. However, the trick that we are all missing is to get investment for the smaller people. People are having serious difficulty getting £5m, £10m or £2m for small-scale projects.
“I hope that everyone understands that the rural sector is full of people who want to have a go on a small scale—as in Mackie’s experience. The investment was the best one that my company has ever made—I had nothing to do with it; my kids, who are all in their 40s, are running the show. Our 2.5MW of wind power has revolutionised our local business and made it hugely sustainable in the current situation.
“That could happen a thousand times here and there across Scotland, if the smaller guys could get at the finance. We are talking about 1,000 3MW installations, which would require £3bn, but 1,000 3MW beasts would add about 50 per cent to the electricity supply in Scotland.”