I am grateful for this opportunity. I am tendering, with immediate effect, my resignation—as a bus convener of the tartan army. [Laughter.]
I hope that on this occasion I have not overindulged your favour, Sir David. I will put my question to the minister.
To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to help Scottish local authorities switch from landfill as the main waste disposal option. (S1O-688)
That was rather difficult, Sir David. I hope that there will be understanding rather than misunderstanding in my response.
The Scottish Executive has made a commitment to announce a national waste strategy for Scotland by the end of the year. We will prepare that in conjunction with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and it will be published before the end of the year. The Minister for Transport and the Environment, Sarah Boyack, has also launched a project called REMADE, which aims to develop markets for recycled materials. This will help local authorities to find markets for the waste that is recycled.
I note that the minister mentioned misunderstanding. I presume that that was the case when he voted with the Tories on social justice yesterday. The Tories might have given me the red card, but they got the red card from the people of Scotland when they were rightly thrown out on their ear after 19 years of Thatcherism.
Does Mr McAveety think that it is right that of the £40 million—and rising—that has been raised by landfill tax, 80 per cent goes to the Westminster Exchequer to reduce employers' national insurance contributions by 50p? Will not he concur that money raised in Scotland should be spent here to assist local authorities and others to advance recycling and other environmentally friendly alternatives?
As Mr MacAskill has spent the past six months voting with the Tories on virtually every occasion, it is delightful to hear him mention that I have done so. I voted with them by accident yesterday—it was deliberation on Mr MacAskill's part that has resulted in him voting with them for the past six months. I might believe in the new politics but I ain't joining that bunch.
Brothers and sisters, I do not accept that we need to adopt a partisan approach to using revenue raised in the UK. The Labour party supports the UK and a devolved Scottish Parliament. The SNP clearly rejects that. The Government will utilise UK resources where that is appropriate for Scottish needs, and we will use Scottish resources where that is appropriate for UK needs.
We will work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities through the local authorities to develop our approach to the recommendations that will emerge at the end of the year. We guarantee that we will work in conjunction with local authorities in Scotland to ensure that they meet their environmental commitments.
It is easy to say it, but it is harder to deliver.
Does the minister agree that we must respond swiftly to health concerns associated with landfill sites? Can he further reassure me that SEPA will respond swiftly and effectively to the concerns that have been raised by Greater Glasgow Health Board following its investigation into Paterson's tip in the east end of Glasgow?
I thank the member for that question and I assure Margaret Curran that I will continue to ensure that SEPA will deliver regarding any concerns raised by the local community, and that any monitoring that will take place must meet national standards and guidelines. I hope that Margaret Curran can address the issue with her local community.
On a point of order. I would like to ask a question with reference to the question that Fergus Ewing asked during open question time. I did not want to interrupt the question in view of its importance. Can you, Sir David, give a ruling on supplementary questions in regard to the extent to which they should follow the lead question? Are we to understand that the question can be entirely open?
You will be aware that the Procedures Committee shortly will bring a report to Parliament that will increase the degree of openness in questions. The committee has worked on this, having assumed that supplementaries follow the topic as defined by the original question. It would be helpful to have that guideline laid down now.
You are absolutely right that the supplementary questions should always follow the main question. Indeed, I so advised Fergus Ewing before we came into the chamber.
On a point of order. Following the First Minister's comments about the Executive memorandum that suggested that members of this Parliament and its committees will have to give more advance notice and more details of their questions to ministers, and even risk having their questions to ministers blocked, can we have an assurance that any rules or procedures that affect the accountability of the Executive to this Parliament will be debated and approved by this Parliament, not cobbled together behind closed doors by clerks, civil servants and ministers?
That is not really a point of order; it is a dangerous extension of question time. Perhaps it would help the Parliament if I said that that is one of the matters of mutual concern that the First Minister and I have discussed. Any such procedural rules would be a matter for this Parliament as a whole to approve.
I am sorry that questions and answers were so long today. We now turn, rather late, to the minister's statement on freedom of information.