Devolution

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:05 pm on 3rd June 1999.

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Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour 3:05 pm, 3rd June 1999

I broadly support the Scotland Act 1998 (Border Rivers) Order 1999, although I take on board some of Mr Canavan's concerns. I am sure that we will be able to address those issues, as they affect not only the Borders but freshwater fishing throughout Scotland.

I hope that today's debate will be less ill-natured than those of yesterday afternoon. We seem to have imported many of the bad habits of Westminster: butting in, shouting, waving our hands in the air and bobbing up and down like a river full of demented corks. We all said that we wanted the Scottish Parliament to display a new style of politics, so it is up to us to make that happen. I do not feel that we achieved it yesterday.

I must confess that, at first, I misread the order and understood that it concerned the Border reivers, which might have been a little more colourful. However, the order is necessary because it outlines the joint responsibilities of UK and Scottish ministers and Parliaments in respect of rivers and estuaries that flow across the border between Scotland and England. It modifies the Environment Act 1995, which relates to the conservation, management and exploitation of salmon, trout, eels and freshwater fish. It requires agreement to be reached between Scottish and UK ministers and gives the Environment Agency new powers to make byelaws in connection with such matters.

As Mr Canavan said, the order creates a new offence of unauthorised fishing in the Lower Esk that can be enforced by water bailiffs. Angling is a popular sport but it does not need to be managed for the sake of fish stocks. The order does not take away current legal rights to fish for salmon-I am sure that my constituents in the burgh of Annan, who were granted that right by royal charter by James V on 1 March 1538 will welcome that. The order refers to the burghers of Annan-however, those who make the excellent decision to visit that lovely and historic area should be aware that Annan is actually better known for the fine quality of its fish and chips than for its burgers.

The order also clarifies the rights of Scottish fishermen to fish in any part of the Lower Esk that lies on or to the north of a line in the main channel of the River Esk that represents what is called the medium filum-which I presume is the mid-point-at low water. I am not sure whether that line in the middle of the Esk also defines the boundaries of my constituency. If it does, I will not take up any challenge from my colleagues to walk around the perimeter of my constituency.

I commend the order to my colleagues in the hope that, in progressing these orders, we can press on with more exciting matters that pertain to the needs, desires and aspirations of our constituents.