Environment (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:40 pm on 24th October 1995.

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Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East 4:40 pm, 24th October 1995

If the hon. Gentleman waits, he will hear what evidence I have to substantiate my claim. For the moment, I am talking about the impact that the bad publicity is having on potential tourism to our coasts, which are famous for their marine environment and which attract visitors.

I am grateful for a briefing that was provided to Scottish Members by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. It revealed that millions of pounds were pumped into coastal local economies by visitors. A Countryside Commission for Scotland survey of users of the south-west coast path revealed that in the past year almost £16 million was spent in the local economy by people attracted to the area by the environmental qualities of the south-west of Scotland.

Whether one looks at the problem on safety, environmental or economic grounds, one thing is clear: the Government should make it a priority to preserve the quality of our coastal and marine environment. Yet what did we find when the story first broke and the issue became a crisis in Scotland? One of the headlines in the Scottish press at the time simply read: Offices pass buck as munitions wash up on Scottish coastline. The Ministry of Defence said that the matter was not its responsibility but that of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. MAFF said that the matter was not its responsibility but that of the Ministry of Defence and the Scottish Office. No less than a spokesperson for the dynamic new Secretary of State for Scotland was quoted as saying that the Secretary of State did not feel it appropriate to comment on the devices. They all washed their hands of any responsibility for what was happening on the south-west coast of Scotland. They were all utterly clueless about what they could do about it.

We hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) that the Department of Trade and Industry hid from its responsibility in the matter.