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Helen Eadie (Labour)
I support all that was said by my colleague Sarah Boyack and I support the amendment in her name.
The first thing that hit me when I started to explore the issues that we are debating is the sheer wealth of information and knowledge that has been accumulated at various levels of Government—Europe, Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, local authorities and many other agencies. The work of the Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs and Environment Committee and the Scottish Government's advisory group on marine and coastal strategy has been invaluable in informing the debate on what future direction we should take. The membership of the advisory group is most impressive, and I congratulate the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee and the group on presenting politicians with such invaluable information and policy suggestions. In addition, MSPs have received a variety of
I represent Dunfermline East, which has a coastal area stretching from slightly west of the two—soon to be three—Forth bridges to just short of Burntisland. My constituency includes the island of Inchcolm, which is one of my favourite constituency visiting points, where I meet the island keeper and his wife.
In principle, I am highly supportive of the idea of a common European marine policy and a bill, and I recognise the need for the adoption of a holistic, multisectoral and multilevel approach to management of the marine environment and maritime affairs. I believe that, by drawing on its experience in fields such as fisheries, education, enterprise, transport and the environment, Scotland can be a leader in developing such a policy.
As someone who has Rosyth port on her doorstep and who fought so hard for such a long time for the establishment of the Superfast ferry route from Rosyth, I understand how vital the highway of the seas is to the development of policy for the marine environment. With others, I campaigned against the proposal to allow ship-to-ship oil transfer in the Forth and organised a petition to the European Parliament's Committee on Petitions on the issue. I shared in the joy at the outcome of that particular application.
The priority is to get the right balance between environmental issues and opportunities for economic development. The planning system will need to be the subject of part of the strategy, but it should certainly not form the entire focus of the strategy. Many other aspects of our marine coastal strategy need to be developed. Financial tools are equally vital.
We should not simply look at the demarcation between Scotland and England—that would be a narrow and partisan approach. Above all, a bill will offer us a genuine opportunity to make a difference. We share the waters of the North Sea with other European countries, so we should have strong interaction not just with Westminster, but with all the member states around the North Sea.
The North Sea Commission is an international organisation that represents 68 coastal regions from eight countries around the North Sea: Scotland, England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. It was founded in 1989 to facilitate and enhance partnerships between regions that manage the challenges and opportunities that are presented by the North Sea. Furthermore, the NSC aims to promote the North Sea basin as a major economic
I read with interest the variety of views that emerge when attempts are made to define the areas that make up Europe's shared waters. It is important to recognise the interaction between oceans, seas, coastlines and inland waterways. I was particularly interested to read the view that Graham U'ren expressed to the previous session's Environment and Rural Development Committee. He said:
"The practicalities of getting a properly integrated approach to a spatial plan for a regional sea involve an accommodation with the UK Government the like of which we have not seen so far. That is of no surprise to me, as our profession has been debating how we can deal with UK-wide spatial issues. We cannot get away from them—they are there anyway."—[Official Report, Environment and Rural Development Committee, 17 January 2007; c 3893.]
Before I close, I will focus on an issue on which I would like the minister to respond in his summing up. In our deliberations on the marine environment, we will be confronted by many issues. I have raised one that is key to my constituency with the Minister for Environment many times—perhaps ad nauseam. He will recall that we had a meeting that we had to abort because he had brought the wrong officials and the wrong papers. I hope that we can rearrange it soon. That key issue is what must be done to reduce the vulnerability of coastal regions to the risks of coastal erosion and flooding.
Although efforts must be made to reduce the speed of climate change, the Scottish Government must acknowledge that changes are already happening and must take action to mitigate the effects of such change. Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to the rising sea levels and flooding that result from climate change, so resources must be made available for flood prevention and coastal barriers, which will be put under ever-increasing pressure in the coming years. Public expenditure on coastline protection against the risk of erosion and flooding is inadequate and, in many cases, non-existent. Long-term public investment is required, which must be well targeted. That means that it must rely on sound and up-to-date scientific knowledge of our maritime environment and its economic benefits. Scientific studies should be commissioned to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment of Scotland's coastal areas and to identify possible solutions.
I hope that the minister will listen to my plea that