National Parks (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:31 pm on 24th May 2000.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 2:31 pm, 24th May 2000

The next item of business is motion S1M-770, in the name of Sarah Boyack, on the general principles of the National Parks (Scotland) Bill. Many more members wish to speak on this than we have time for, so I appeal to the opening speakers to stay well within their time if at all possible. With that heavy hint, I call Nicol Stephen to speak to and move the motion.

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat 2:57 pm, 24th May 2000

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I am delighted to have the opportunity to open today's debate on the general principles of the National Parks (Scotland) Bill.

There has been a long wait for national parks in Scotland. The first ever national park, Yellowstone national park in America, was established by a Scot, John Muir, in 1872. It is ironic that, despite our outstanding natural and cultural heritage, which is visited and enjoyed by millions of people, we should have had to wait until the establishment of our new Parliament to set up national parks in Scotland.

It is appropriate that we are having this debate today—the European day of parks. National parks elsewhere in Europe—and around the world—take many forms. We have looked at and learned from experience elsewhere. National parks in Scotland will share elements with other national parks.

We are looking to create what is right for Scotland. The bill represents the efforts and ambitions of a large number of people who have long campaigned for national parks in Scotland. I thank all those who have worked hard to ensure that we reached the stage that we have reached.

I thank the Rural Affairs Committee, under the convenership of Alex Johnstone, and the Transport and the Environment Committee, under the convenership of Andy Kerr, for the exceptional effort that they have put in during the past few weeks to produce their reports. I also thank the Subordinate Legislation Committee and the Finance Committee.

I want to thank all those who responded to the various consultations on national parks and who gave evidence during stage 1—they have played an essential part of the process. Consultation is an important element of the way in which we develop legislation in the new Scottish Parliament.

In preparing its advice, Scottish Natural Heritage undertook extensive consultation. The bill is based on that advice. In January and February 2000, the Scottish Executive consulted on the draft bill. As with any public consultation, a number of different and opposing views were heard. Many of the constructive suggestions have been adopted but—inevitably—it has been impossible to take on board all the recommendations and proposals. No piece of legislation will please everyone. However, during consultation, we detected a widespread welcome for the bill and for the establishment of national parks in Scotland. I am pleased that the Rural Affairs Committee has recommended that the general principles of the bill be approved by the Parliament.

A number of important principles underpin the bill. National parks have a national and a local dimension. We must not overlook either of those. Flexibility is key. We must allow for the distinctiveness of a park—whether it is Loch Lomond or the Cairngorms—and we must allow scope for park authorities to decide things for themselves.

Sustainability is fundamental and has many aspects. It is about people as well as natural resources. A thriving rural economy is compatible with sustaining and enhancing natural and cultural heritage.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

Highland Council has some concerns about what is being proposed. The minister mentioned people and sustainability. Does he share my belief that it is important to ensure that ordinary working people have a viable future in national parks and that the parks are not pickled in aspic or become some sort of museum piece? We must ensure that the bill is written in a way that ensures that local economies continue to thrive.

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

I share the general concern and I assure Mr Stone that we will return to that issue at stage 2. I know that getting that balance right is key to the success of national parks.

I will deal with the issues raised by the report on general principles by the Rural Affairs Committee. Consistent with the principle of flexibility, the bill is enabling. It sets a framework for all parks and ensures that all national parks have a common philosophy and purpose. It sets out a process that must be gone through before a park can be set up by a designation order—an affirmative order, which must be approved by Parliament. Parks can vary, but only within that framework.

The bill sets out, in sections 2 to 6, the process that must be followed before a designation order is made. The intention behind that extensive process is to allow for the views of all interested parties to be reflected in the eventual designation order.

There will be sufficient safeguards in the system to ensure that no park can be set up without those views being taken into account. There is, as always, a balance to be struck. All interested parties must be consulted and their views will be taken into account. We have no interest in a process about which those affected are not confident.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Does the minister accept that, for national parks to succeed, it is essential that they enjoy the backing and support of the communities that live and work inside the parks? As Alasdair Morrison will recognise—when he is listening—the only definitive way in which to determine whether that is the case is to hold a local referendum of people who will be in the proposed designated national park areas. That is how to answer the question that the minister has identified as absolutely essential.

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

Although I agree with Fergus Ewing's first point about the support and involvement of people in the area, I do not think that a referendum is the correct way ahead.

We are examining the Rural Affairs Committee's suggestions on the consultation process that is required to create an individual national park. Appropriate consultation is vital.

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

I want to make some progress.

The Rural Affairs Committee also raised the question of marine national parks. Scotland has a rich and varied coast, and during the consultation various organisations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature were concerned to ensure that the bill would allow for the possibility of marine national parks. We had always been able to envisage coastal national parks; that is what SNH had in mind when it flagged up the possibility of marine parks in its advice to Government. Such parks would be land based, but would encompass part of the surrounding sea.

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

I will explain the point a little more and then give way to the member.

The idea of wholly marine parks emerged relatively late on. As we did not want to exclude such parks, we amended the bill following the consultation to make it clear that such national parks were possible. However, we have had no proposals for a wholly marine park. As marine parks might require a different approach, the bill contains provision for them to be set up with some modifications to the legislation. For example, those modifications will allow for the fact that the park would not fall into local authority areas, which would clearly affect the membership arrangements. Modifications would obviously be made only with the Parliament's approval. The Rural Affairs Committee has expressed concern that the power of modification is wide. The Executive accepts that and we have undertaken to consider restricting such a power to the limited parts of the bill that would need to be changed to deal with marine parks.

I will give way to Richard Lochhead.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The minister has actually answered the question that I was going to put.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

In that case, you do not need to put it. [Laughter.]

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

Thank you.

The membership of national park authorities will be crucial to their success. The Rural Affairs Committee makes it clear that local representation on park authorities should be guaranteed. We entirely accept that principle and have made it clear on several occasions that we recognise that people who live and work within the park have an essential role in its running.

However, the issue is about how best to achieve that aim. There have been many different suggestions. As I mentioned, the bill is designed to allow for some flexibility and provides for detailed matters of membership to be specified in the designation order. We are investigating how the bill might provide the reassurances that people seek on local membership without unduly restricting that necessary flexibility. For example, the right solution for Loch Lomond might be slightly different from the right solution for the Cairngorms.

Let me just make a few further points on membership. These are national parks; they will need a diversity of expertise and experience and a mix of local community and national knowledge and expertise. Furthermore, in the interests of effectiveness, we have set a maximum size of 20 members for each national park authority. However, the management of a national park is not just about those 20 members. We expect involvement of local communities and interest groups in many other ways and have framed the bill as widely as possible.

This is an enabling bill. It provides a framework within which different parks can be set up, but that reflects the distinctiveness of different areas.

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

Although I am just about to close, I will give way.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I notice that the minister is moving away from the point about representation on park boards. As he recognised, 64 per cent of the respondents were dissatisfied with the Executive's arrangements, which he said were going to be flexible. The Rural Affairs Committee asks specifically that local community interests should be guaranteed representation, but the minister's speech has not acknowledged that. Will he confirm that that would be acceptable to the Executive?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

Earlier, I drew attention to the Rural Affairs Committee, making clear its view that local representation on park authorities should be guaranteed. In my next sentence, I said that the Executive entirely accepts that principle.

This is an enabling bill, which provides the framework to make progress on national parks. It provides for partnership working and for the involvement of local communities through local membership. Most important, it provides a sound basis on which—at long last—we can provide national parks for Scotland. It is an historic bill and deserves widespread support not only in this Parliament, but throughout Scotland.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the National Parks (Scotland) Bill.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am grateful to the minister for taking my hint about using less than the allotted time.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party 3:10 pm, 24th May 2000

Today we are debating the bill that will enable national parks for Scotland. The Scottish National party believes that the aims of the bill should apply to the whole of Scotland.

This Parliament, representing Scotland here in Glasgow today, should be enhancing and conserving the natural and cultural heritage of our country. We should be promoting the sustainable use of our natural resources—Scotland has special qualities, which should be understood and enjoyed—and we should be promoting economic and social development throughout the country.

It is our belief that each national park should be established through legislation that is unique to each area. However, what has been presented by the Executive and well discussed by committees is enabling legislation. The SNP will be constructive in its attempts to ensure that the bill delivers the best possible framework for the secondary legislation that will follow, which will be specific to each area that is affected.

National parks are national assets, and we all have obligations towards the preservation of our environment. We must also look after the interests of the local communities that are affected. I take this opportunity to welcome David Green, the convener of Highland Council, who is here with friends. The Parliament should think about repaying the compliment by holding a debate on a later stage of the bill in Badenoch and Strathspey or Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.

SNP members have some concerns about the bill, which have been raised in the appropriate committees. I shall outline those concerns now, and my colleagues will expand on them. The main thrust of our concern is on matters of consultation, representation and funding.

At an early stage, once the enabling legislation is in place, proposals will be brought forward for parks to be established in specific areas. We have concerns about the process at that stage. On the receipt of a national park proposal, the reporter, who will be chosen by the Executive, must send a copy of the proposal to every local authority that will be affected, and must, under the bill,

"determine the period for which the copy proposal and requirement are to be made available for public inspection".

The stated method of publicising the proposal is

"as the reporter thinks fit".

Those powers remain with the Scottish ministers if a reporter is not appointed; as the bill stands, the length of that consultation could be merely a week.

I do not for a minute doubt the minister's integrity in this matter, but the legislation will stand in our statute book for years to come. We must ensure that an adequate consultation period is established for the future. The framework must be solid. I am pleased that the Minister for Transport and the Environment conceded that point in committee and I look forward to her specifying today the minimum period that will be required for community consultation on each national park proposal.

On the designation orders, the bill requires that the secondary legislation must be given at least six weeks of consultation before its submission to Parliament. Three parliamentary committees and other respondents to the consultation exercise expressed concern about proper scrutiny of the designation orders. The minister should take those concerns on board. She should consider the recommendations that have been made and reconsider the current proposals so that they allow for proper scrutiny and transparency.

Following consultation, a national park authority will be set up. "Set up" is indeed the correct term. Schedule 1 to the bill clearly lays down the rules for membership of the authorities. Half the members will be appointed by the Scottish ministers and half will be appointed on the nomination of local authorities. There is no provision to ensure that members of the communities that will be directly affected by the national parks are appointed or nominated to sit on the national park authorities, which will, essentially, govern the area.

We will have more quangos. The Scottish Government will take on the role of the Secretary of State for Scotland prior to devolution—the role of making appointments. It has been argued that the local authority nominations will provide for local representation, but the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has conceded that the local authority appointees are likely all to be local authority councillors. What about the community councils? What about those who live and work in national parks? There is no guarantee that they will be represented. Instead, local interests will be relegated to membership of advisory groups and committees of the park authorities. [Interruption.] There must be something about Alex Johnstone's seat.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

There is something about the Conservative party, you mean—it is in a state of collapse. [Laughter.]

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I will move on.

The number of advisory groups and committees to be established will be determined by the park authorities. The number of advisory groups and committees could, therefore, be limited, which would also cut local people's ability to voice directly their opinions on the governance of their communities. Surely that cannot be acceptable. The bill makes assumptions about community membership and involvement but does not specifically support it. The minister said in committee that we might be able to add some "local flavour"—as she put it—to the national park and designation orders through consultation with local people. That is not enough—the minister must think again. Flexibility is fine, but the rights of local communities should be enshrined in legislation.

I know that my colleagues will speak about those issues in greater depth, so I will move on to funding. We cannot, I admit, know the precise cost of each park and I know that we must rely on projections. It seems to me, however, that the complete picture has not been fully scrutinised—neither have all reasonable questions been answered. The Executive has pledged to pay the entire cost of the parks. Will the funding come from the funding for other rural and environmental plans, or will the local authorities in the areas suffer cuts so that the parks can be funded? What about the additional costs that local authorities might incur—for example, for their roads infrastructure and higher-quality development requirements? Do the figures that we have been shown include the funding that might be necessary for national park authorities to buy land immediately they are established? Those questions must all be answered. The main question, however, is whether there really will be new money.

The matter of planning and development is also relevant to local authorities. The bill must be clear about which body is responsible for planning functions. Will it be the local authority or the national park authority? Those who live in the park areas and whose livelihoods will be affected have expressed valid concerns. We must get this right and I urge the minister again to take on board the concerns that have been raised and the recommendations that have been made by committees in that regard. It is of the utmost importance that the economic well-being of those who live and work in the parks is protected.

Planning and economic issues might result in disputes. It is intrinsic to the bill that conservation will prevail, under what is commonly referred to as the Sandford principle. We should ensure from the start that in cases of conflict a clear policy is put in place and that a recognised system of conflict resolution can be followed. There must be a measured and reasonable process that can be gone through during conflicts to avoid hostility between local people, local authorities, park authorities and the Parliament.

I am also concerned that, on matters of environment and conservation, we might be in danger of focusing all our efforts on national parks. In "Making it work together: A programme for government", the Executive promised to introduce a whole new system of nature conservation in Scotland. We must ensure that such aims remain for our country as a whole.

My final point concerns marine national parks. Scottish Natural Heritage had to come clean and admit that it did not start by considering a purely marine park. The minister told the Transport and the Environment Committee:

"Our legislation will be targeted at a terrestrial concept, and at terrestrial law, which might not be appropriate for marine parks."—[Official Report, Transport and the Environment Committee, 8 September 1999; c 21.]

I believe that there is genuine recognition, including from the minister today, that not enough consultation has been carried out on the concept of marine national parks, especially where there is no terrestrial element.

The Rural Affairs Committee considered this matter in great detail, and I know that members of that committee will make contributions to today's debate. I ask the Executive to examine marine national parks in much greater detail before Parliament is asked to consider the bill at stage 2.

There are many questions to be answered before the bill reaches its next stage. I urge the Executive to consider members' concerns fully, to answer the questions that are asked today and to allow this enabling legislation to be the best that it can be.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 3:20 pm, 24th May 2000

I apologise, Presiding Officer, for any damage that may have been done to the equipment when I knocked my microphone off my lectern.

As convener of the Rural Affairs Committee, I believe that it is entirely appropriate that, although I am speaking from the Conservative front bench, I should begin by saying a few short words about the hard work that has been done during the preparation of the stage 1 report on the National Parks (Scotland) Bill by the clerks to the committee and by committee members themselves. I share concerns about the short time scale within which we had to prepare the report, but I begin by commending the members and staff of all committees that have contributed to the report. The elected members of this Parliament should not be afraid of hard work, and no one on the Rural Affairs Committee failed to rise to the challenge. I pay tribute to members of the clerking teams for the Rural Affairs Committee and for other committees for the effort that they put into meeting that time scale, which can be described only as above and beyond the call of duty.

I draw the attention of members to page 2, paragraph 7 of the report, which states:

"The Committee wishes to express dissatisfaction with the extremely tight timescale set for the consideration of stage 1 of the bill. This report contains a number of questions to be answered by the Executive, which may have an impact on the timetable for completion of the Bill."

The first sentence indicates the concern of members of the Rural Affairs Committee that we felt at times that we had been limited in the extent to which evidence could be gathered for preparation of the stage 1 report. The second sentence indicates that the committee still has concerns about the time scale set out for stage 2. It is appropriate that I should take this opportunity to indicate that the committee will, once again, devote its time and energy to meeting the required time scale for the second stage. However, I must point out that, if at any stage during the further consideration of the bill our time scale proves to be too short, I will be prepared to request that the Parliamentary Bureau consider granting additional time to allow for a full and detailed consideration of amendments.

As a Conservative, I am delighted to extend a cautious welcome to the bill.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I am always cautious. The bill represents an opportunity to restore Scotland's natural heritage to a prominent place in Scottish society. Section 1(3) sets out the aims of the national parks and includes, in paragraph (d), the aim

"to promote economic and social development of the area."

We commend the inclusion of that aim among the main aims, but qualify that commendation by expressing minor concerns about section 8(6), which prioritises paragraph (a) of section 1(3) over the other paragraphs in section 1(3). We firmly believe that the economic and social development mentioned in paragraph (d) and the enhancement of cultural heritage mentioned in paragraph (a) have a great deal in common. However, the concept of zoning introduced by the Transport and the Environment Committee offers an appropriate vehicle for the adoption of differing emphases on those aims according to the requirements of an area.

Another concern that was raised by the Rural Affairs Committee and is shared by the Conservative group is about the way in which the bill has been introduced as an overarching piece of legislation so that individual parks will be set up through subordinate legislation. As a result, with regard to individual designation orders, the power of the Parliament may be limited to annulment of the order. We urge the minister to consider how that concern might be addressed. Some members believe—Linda Fabiani has expressed this eloquently—that the Parliament should have a means whereby it could contribute to the individual designation of national parks.

Conservative members also share the concerns that have been expressed over representation on park authorities. Given the aim that is set out in section 1(3)(d), which I have praised so highly, it is in my view essential that we ensure that membership of the national park authority adequately represents those who live and work within the area of the national park. While I believe that schedule 1 makes a valiant effort to ensure broad representation, it must be noted that, as became obvious during the evidence-gathering sessions conducted by the Rural Affairs Committee, the demand for places in the national park authority, which we have already heard will not exceed 20, might be such that local authorities will be unwilling to give up any of their 50 per cent allocation in order to ensure genuine local representation.

As for the other 50 per cent of the places, I already have a long list of representative interests that I feel should be included among those considered by the Scottish ministers—I am sure that Sarah Boyack has a substantial list as well. I dare say that, in these days of consensual politics, her list and mine might even overlap. Unfortunately, that still gives no guarantee that local people who live and work in the park area will be represented on the park authority. I urge the minister to consider that and to clarify this matter.

It may have come as a surprise to those who have read the Rural Affairs Committee report quite how much of it—almost three pages—is devoted to marine national parks, especially as section 29 of the bill extends to only three lines. That reflects the concern that marine parks, which were not mentioned in the draft bill, may have been an afterthought and may not have been subject to proper and appropriate consultation.

Although, for sound reasons, the Conservatives support the inclusion of section 29, I believe that, in light of the report, further clarification is needed on those questions that are raised but not answered by the inclusion of the section. I urge the minister to consider section 29 again in the light of comments in the report.

Conservative members also have concerns over issues raised by planning and the cost of maintaining the park. My colleagues will expand on the views of the party on those issues. However, with the qualifications that I have set out and that my colleagues will set out, the Conservatives accept the general principles of the bill.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour 3:28 pm, 24th May 2000

In the 1940s, Tom Johnston, the Glasgow socialist who was Secretary of State for Scotland in our previous coalition Government, commissioned a report from Lord Cooper that led to the establishment of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.

At that time, national parks were often seen not as a support for social and economic development of rural areas, but as an alternative. For example, Lord Cooper's report said:

"If it is desired to preserve the natural features of the Highlands unchanged in all times coming for the benefit of those holidaymakers who wished to contemplate them in their natural state . . . then the logical outcome . . . would be to convert the greater part of the area into a national park—and sterilise it in perpetuity."

Tom Johnston rightly rejected that option in favour of creating jobs and bringing power to the glens. However, because of the well-founded suspicion in rural Scotland that many people from elsewhere saw the countryside either as a playground or as an unspoiled wilderness, rather than as a place where people lived and worked, Scotland has had to wait an extra 50 years for the benefits of national parks.

We have come a long way since 1948, and I believe that the proposals in the bill provide the opportunity to draw on the experience of others in creating national parks that are suitable for the particular needs of rural Scotland. We need national parks that protect both our natural heritage and our cultural heritage—with the potential, for example, to give a proper place to the use of the Gaelic language—and that promote actively the social and economic development of the communities of people who live and work in the areas.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Does the member agree that the definition of the Sandford principle set out in section 8 of the bill is opaque and virtually meaningless? Given that, if there is a conflict between economic development and the needs of the environment, the latter will take precedence, how does the member feel that the Labour national parks model will meet the needs of people who live and work in national parks?

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

That is a important question, which the Rural Affairs Committee—of which I am a member—considered very carefully. We came to the view that both section 1 and section 8 of the bill provide a proper balance between conservation and social and economic development. I believe that the bill, far from being opaque, makes it clear that there is a subtle balance to maintain. The principle of giving greater weight to conservation, outlined in section 8, does not overturn the bill's fundamental principle of providing a balance between the four aims of national parks that are set out in section 1(3).

As members will know, the Rural Affairs Committee is in the middle of its first full inquiry, into the impact of changing employment patterns on the local economies of rural areas. I believe that the creation of national parks, rather than bringing perpetual economic stagnation, as was once feared, will provide new opportunities in the areas concerned—opportunities to diversify tourism on the basis of our natural assets and opportunities for the whole range of food-producing industries. The Rural Affairs Committee report cites the submission from Scottish Quality Salmon, which welcomed the proposal for marine national parks because of the marketing advantage that the label "national park produce" would bring. That opportunity is not confined to the fishing and fish farming sectors, but can be taken advantage of by our farmers and crofters. The flourishing agriculture in the national and regional parks of France demonstrates the opportunities that exist.

As has been mentioned, all the committees that considered the bill have made recommendations, which I know ministers will consider. Several of those recommendations relate to the balance between conservation and development and to the balance between national and local interests. As Nicol Stephen said, it is important that we get those balances right.

However, the overwhelming message from stage 1 of the bill—as from the pre-legislative consultation—is that we should welcome this historic step. In my view, it will not be long before rural communities are not asking what they have to fear from national park status, but lobbying for the opportunity to join in.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat 3:32 pm, 24th May 2000

I agree with what the Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning said in his opening remarks. At long last—50 years late—Scotland is to get national parks. The prize irony is that although a Scotsman, John Muir, invented the concept of national parks, Scotland is one of the last countries to designate one—in such illustrious company as Albania and Iraq, the other two countries that are yet to do so.

I agree with the convener of the Rural Affairs Committee that a tight timetable has been imposed. I would have liked the committees to be able to make a bigger contribution at the pre-legislative stage; we want to ensure that we get this right.

There are many definitions of national park. Nobody could disagree with one that seeks the designation of our finest landscapes so as to conserve and enhance our natural and cultural heritage. That is how we ought to proceed. However, I have some reservations about the bill. I say that as a member for the region that contains virtually the whole of one proposed national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and part of another, the Cairngorms.

We should encourage national park plans in which conservation prevails. The plan should contain proposals for sustainable economic development that are compatible with conservation and with the economic and social development of local communities. Recreation should be identified as a purpose of national parks. I agree with the Transport and the Environment Committee's report: if we are to designate national parks using a definition that lets conservation prevail, it is important—as Alex Johnstone said—to introduce zoning to achieve a balance between conservation and economic development.

I am concerned about the planning powers of the national park authority. I feel that the authority should have primacy as the planning authority and that the national park plan should have the weight and status of a development plan. I do not want any splitting of planning responsibilities.

It is important that the national park authority work closely with the relevant local authorities. I agree with Scottish Natural Heritage:

"The great potential for national parks to integrate the work of existing bodies may not be realised" unless one establishes the primacy of the national park authority in terms of planning powers. There is no point in having a weak national park authority.

The representation on national park authorities has already been mentioned. It may come as no surprise to the minister to learn that I believe that the Association of Community Councils in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park area takes the right approach. It believes that membership of the authority should be in three equal parts. The first would be nominated by local authorities. The second would be representative of communities. I know that the minister has expressed concerns about direct elections: she feels that they may not lead to a wide enough spread from across communities on the national park authority. However, that worry could be overcome. If community councils were grouped together as mini-constituencies, and people were elected from each one, there would be a membership spread right across the national park area. The third part of the national park authority would, of course, comprise the direct nominations of the minister.

I have some sympathy with Linda Fabiani's views on funding. I hope that money will not be diverted from other parts of the departmental budget. As a member of the Finance Committee—which, at the moment, is overwhelmed by definitions of additionality—I hope that the national parks will be allowed to retain money that they raise through commercial activity, and that it will not be deducted from their core funding. There should be true additionality.

I also have sympathy with the points that have been made about designation orders. The consultation period should be extended to 12 weeks. All of us who serve on committees—I serve on two, as do many members—know how overwhelmed the committees are. If a designation order is laid and the committee is already embarked on a programme of inquiries and discussing other legislation, it may not have time to fit in enough meetings to examine and take evidence on each order. It would be much more realistic—I hope the minister will listen to this—to have a 12-week period; otherwise, some of us will lodge an amendment for there to be an affirmative procedure, which allows designation orders to be amended.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour 3:38 pm, 24th May 2000

It gives me great pleasure to speak—not as a minister, I hasten to add, but as someone with a special constituency interest—in support of the National Parks (Scotland) Bill that has been proposed by the Executive and to commend the minister for introducing it so early in the life of the Scottish Parliament.

Many members will know that my constituency includes a substantial portion of the first proposed national park—Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my Westminster colleague, John McFall, and to the Friends of Loch Lomond, some of whom are here today. They have campaigned tirelessly over many years for national park status for the area.

Without a doubt, the area is one of outstanding natural beauty. It is enjoyed by many people across Scotland and, indeed, the world. The Friends of Loch Lomond recognised that, and they sought to conserve and protect the environment for future generations to enjoy. For me, this bill and this debate are a tribute to their vision and commitment.

Designation as a national park will allow for the protection and management of the area, balancing local interests with the wider public concern of protecting what is clearly a significant national asset. It is essential that we safeguard our natural heritage for future generations. However, that is not the sole aim. The social and economic well-being of park areas is also important. I am clear about the need to harness the economic development potential offered by designation as a national park, but recognise that any development must be truly sustainable. We must balance the need to protect the environment with the need to create employment opportunities. We must ensure that that is done sensitively to ensure that we do not compromise the long-term sustainability of the natural qualities of the area.

We recognise that tourism continues to be important to the economy—£2.6 billion a year, supporting 178,000 jobs. The potential to create tourism-related employment in the context of the national park is evident. Already, local agencies are working together to maximise those opportunities. One such example is the Lomond shores project at Balloch, which is a world-class visitor attraction at the gateway of the future national park.

I shall deal briefly with the planning function. Having spent a short period of my life in Windermere, I am aware of the need for the park authority to have responsibility for planning and development control functions in the area. I welcome the fact that the bill allows for national parks in Scotland to be planning authorities. By doing that, we will avoid some of the mistakes that have been made in England. Is it also the intention to enable the park authority to regulate water traffic, in particular high-speed power craft? That would be a significant advantage in Loch Lomond and would assist in maintaining a sensitive balance between recreational opportunities and environmental protection.

The bill provides us with a unique opportunity to conserve our natural heritage through integrated planning and management of areas of outstanding beauty. It is long overdue and much welcomed. I commend the bill to the chamber. When the minister introduces subordinate legislation to designate Loch Lomond and the Trossachs as the first ever national park in Scotland, my colleague Sylvia Jackson and I will celebrate, as will people in our respective constituencies.

Photo of Irene McGugan Irene McGugan Scottish National Party 3:42 pm, 24th May 2000

We have had extensive discussion of section 28; we now move on to talk about section 29—marine national parks.

Scottish Natural Heritage admitted that marine national parks were not initially examined. Indeed, in her evidence to the Transport and the Environment Committee last year, the Minister for Transport and the Environment accepted that the bill would be targeted at a terrestrial concept. Section 29 is, therefore, something of an afterthought that has been tacked on in response to public consultation on the draft bill and, I suggest, without proper thought to the issues around marine parks.

Not surprisingly, a number of reservations about section 29 were expressed to the Rural Affairs Committee. In particular, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation felt that insufficient information had been provided to allow an informed debate on marine national parks at this stage. The federation felt that it was difficult adequately to address fundamental issues such as the purpose of marine national parks, the areas in which it is appropriate to establish marine national parks and whether there is a need for them in Scotland. Evidence overseas suggests that marine parks are usually established to protect areas of outstanding marine species diversity, a good example being the barrier reef. Further clarification is required to allay the concerns of fishermen about a further tier of regulation on top of the complexities of existing marine legislation.

Many organisations envisage marine national parks with a strong terrestrial connection. Some concern was expressed that the phrase "wholly or mainly" might preclude the flexibility of applying section 29 to areas that are mainly land, but have a component of sea. While the SNP believes that the concept of marine national parks is important and that some coastal communities might wish eventually to explore it, at this stage public debate has focused on terrestrial parks and it is vital that there is equitable application of any benefits of national park designation.

We strongly recommend further consultation with the likely users and competent authorities and much more detailed consideration of the network of existing legislation and the complexities of designating and managing a marine national park so that appropriate amendments that more adequately include marine interests can be lodged at stage 2.

The Rural Affairs Committee also considered local representation in some detail. That was appropriate since in the responses to the first consultation that was the area that was most commented on. Sixty-four per cent of respondents called either for direct elections or for more local representation. Serious problems have been encountered in national parks elsewhere as a consequence of failure to involve local people. A sense of local ownership must be created and nurtured and local communities in designated national park areas must be given the opportunity to play a major role in planning and managing their park at strategic and local levels.

The SNP advocates a firmer commitment to including community representatives on park authorities rather than leaving that to chance through local authority nomination or appointment by ministers. In evidence to committees there was overwhelming agreement that local interests must be adequately represented on national park authorities. The means by which that is to be achieved is open to further discussion and amendment, but community involvement must be guaranteed and we urge the Minister for Transport and the Environment to give that serious consideration.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative 3:46 pm, 24th May 2000

I begin by declaring an interest as a farmer and landowner. I am very much in favour of the creation of national parks. As demand for access to scenic and popular areas expands, it is sensible to manage it to protect and cherish those most valuable parts of Scotland. I believe that national parks will provide an opportunity for conservation, tourism, farming and recreational development to co-exist and that they will engender pride in the areas concerned at local and national levels. However, I have some reservations on representation and planning.

As an illustration I will describe circumstances that affect me, and many others, in Ayrshire. For eight years we have fought tooth and nail against Scottish Power, to stop the Scotland-Northern Ireland interconnector passing through South Ayrshire—land through which Scottish Natural Heritage said the line should go underground in parts because of its beauty. The project will put 200 80 ft towers through Ayrshire's most attractive parts.

Last month, SNH announced it wished to create two sites of special scientific interest in Ayrshire, to protect hen harriers. The point of the example is that having had no input into those processes and having had the amenity and capital value of their farms reduced it would be easy for affected landowners to feel resentment towards Government planners and SNH. Similarly, the lives of those who are about to be included in national park authorities are about to change, whether they want it or not. For the parks to work, it is vital that affected farmers and landowners are represented on the park authority's governing body, as the committees have suggested. I suggest that up to 25 per cent of the ark authority should be made up of farmers and landowners.

Of equal importance is that local authorities should retain the full range of planning functions because they are answerable to the electorate.

Photo of Lewis Macdonald Lewis Macdonald Labour

Are farmers and landowners the only local interest that should be directly represented? If not, how much of the representation should be given to other interested parties?

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I was coming to that. The point is that in the Cairngorms national park, for example, 97 or 98 per cent of the land will be contributed by landowners for that function.

It is of equal importance that local authorities should retain the full range of planning functions for the simple reason that they are answerable to the electorate. Ultimate planning authority should not rest with the national park authorities, because, fundamentally, such bodies are less democratically accountable.

It is important that local communities are represented through direct election to park bodies. That must be in addition to farming and local management interests.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

If John Scott would give 25 per cent to farmers and landowners, how much would he give to farm workers and people who work on the land? Assuming there are more of them than there are farmers and landowners, they will get at least 25 per cent. What percentage will be given to local communities? Has he added up all the percentages?

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

Alasdair Morgan may be right: I have not added up all the percentages, but he would not dispute that it is in the interests of farm workers for the farm to be prosperous.

The parks can work well only if local communities and landowners want to make them work. They will not work if policy is imposed from the top down through ministerial appointments, with no democratic accountability—quangos. Nor will they work if there is inadequate funding, so special provision must be made. A good agri-environment scheme should be implemented with new money, which should not be taken from other areas of Scotland—we must not rob Peter to pay Paul.

Finally, as this is a long-term project, the concept must be developed gradually and at a pace that takes everybody with it. I am not sure that that is happening at the moment. The dash to get the bill through risks compromising these ideas and the good work of the committees, which I commend. A more relaxed approach would create better legislation.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour 3:50 pm, 24th May 2000

I thank the opening speakers for what has generally been a positive and constructive debate that has highlighted various issues. It is some time since I moved the first members' business motion, which invited the Parliament to agree that the first national park should be at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Much has happened since then.

I would like to highlight some of the issues that have been raised today from the perspective of the constituency of Stirling—which, like Jackie Baillie's constituency, will make up a considerable part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs park area—and that of groups such as the interim committee and the Friends of Loch Lomond.

Keith Raffan rightly suggested that recreation should be included as a purpose of national parks. The definition of cultural heritage has also been raised. Lewis Macdonald raised perhaps the most important issue about aims when he talked about the balance between sustainable development and the integrative and mutually supportive nature of the four aims.

However, we must also realise the importance of the Sandford principle. The Transport and the Environment Committee has proposed some useful ideas about the zoning of national parks. There may be areas in which the Sandford principle should be of prime importance.

I will address the composition of the national park authority, which has been raised more and more in the later speeches. Much has been said, particularly by SNP members, about how the 50:50 model will not permit the appropriate representation of people who live and work in the area. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities tried to overcome that problem by suggesting that the 50 per cent that would be nominated or appointed by the minister could contain up to 20 per cent from local representation.

The alternative model proposed by the Association of Community Councils has many good points. Not many people have mentioned that model, in which a third of the members of the authority would be community representatives. Using that model, an electoral college would be one way in which representatives from community councils could be elected. I know that one of the committees has been taking further evidence on that from Frank Bracewell, a constituent of mine who is here today.

Whichever model is finally chosen, it is clear that we need to have council representatives because they provide important services in the area. We must also have community representation, so that there is ownership and involvement. It is also important to have members who have specialist national knowledge, so that any national park has a national reputation. All three elements of representation are vital.

There is an additional point about the role of advisory committees, the way in which they will relate to the national park authority and how they will be composed. There is a lot of scope there, particularly in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, where the interim committee has reporting groups that have done valuable work. They could continue in an advisory role.

The other big issue is planning. As Keith Raffan said, development control as well as local plan level control is important. It is vital that we have strong national park authorities. It is also vital that national park authorities talk to local authorities, particularly if they are taking part in examining new structure plans. It will not be a big bang—national parks overnight. We should be working towards them now and, to a certain extent, the interim committee in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs has been doing that.

Finally, I want to mention another important point that has been raised by many constituents and groups—byelaws. They relate in particular to speedboats, pleasure boats, navigation on water bodies and—as members will have read in the papers—jet skis and safety. It is clear that we need comprehensive and self-contained byelaw powers for the national park authority and should not rely on the transfer of existing powers that may well prove inadequate.

Finally, can I say—

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

That is your second "finally". Please wind up your speech.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

I just want to take up the point made by Lewis Macdonald and others that it is important, in the enabling bill, to allow flexibility and not to restrict national park authorities such that they cannot develop strong planning powers and individuality.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party 3:57 pm, 24th May 2000

I would like to begin by declaring a potential interest; with my wife, I have owned a matrimonial home in Drymen for the past 16 years.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Time flies as one enjoys oneself.

We all recognise that for national parks to succeed, they must have the support of those in local communities who live and work in the area, who must be able to earn a livelihood. We should all be concerned to find the right legislation as the precursor to successful national parks in Scotland.

I would like to address some specific concerns of my constituents about the proposed Cairngorms national park. They are concerned that the proposals are flawed and do not answer several important questions. I think that every community council in Badenoch and Strathspey responded to the consultation paper and I understand that every community council said the same thing: unless they are guaranteed representation, they will not feel part of, or have ownership of, the national park.

I was delighted to hear Sylvia Jackson address that point and recognise that there is a third way—characteristically for a Labour member. Having said that, I hope that when she replies, Sarah Boyack will give more detail than Nicol Stephen did when he opened. He did not say in what way the views of the consultees will be reflected in the Executive's response.

The proposal that 50 per cent of national park board members should be appointees of the minister will not find favour in Cairngorm. If one went on a whistle-stop tour of the history of political patronage of the Labour party, one would find that it is indubitably the case that it is littered with examples of appointments that were chosen for political affiliation. One thinks of Ken Collins of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Lord Gordon—friend of Labour—of the Scottish Tourist Board, and Colin Rennie of the North of Scotland Water Authority. What guarantee does anybody have that Labour will not appoint its cronies and supporters to national park boards? None whatsoever. I would be happy to accept an assurance from the minister now that she will not appoint a Labour sympathiser or ex-Labour politician to the board.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

We have made an absolute commitment that the best people for the job will be appointed. We will use the Nolan principles. I will come back to this point in my speech, because it is an issue that every member has raised.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Mr Ewing, your remarks should be relevant to the subject that is under debate.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Indeed, Presiding Officer. There are yes and no answers, and a variety in between.

My constituents are concerned about the Sandford principle. This bill does not give any idea of how conflicts will be defined. There is no hint whatsoever. I ask the minister, if the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds objected to a proposed development, would that create conflict? If the board supported the development, there would be a considerable loss of support in the Badenoch and Strathspey area, as the sad and unnecessarily protracted example of the funicular railway demonstrates.

Many of my constituents feel that the balance between the rights of the local people and existing quangos such as SNH is skewed in favour of the latter, and should be addressed. I am concerned that if the minister decides that SNH, the RSPB, the World Wide Fund for Nature, the John Muir Trust, and the Ramblers Association have, as of right, a position on the board—and I say this in all seriousness and sincerity—that would be the cause of loss of support in the Cairngorm area.

The fundamental question that my constituents ask is, "How will national parks affect me?" They do not know the answer to that, because the minister has not told them in all her proposals, in the lengthy consultation period, or in the glossy bumf. We do not know the answer to that question, because she has not defined the Sandford principle.

In conclusion, I support Mr Raffan's proposal that recreation should be specifically recognised. That would let people see that there is a benefit to be derived from national parks, as well as its promoting the local tourism industry. I suggest that the rights of the disabled should be enshrined in the bill at the outset, so that they are recognised from the beginning and not tacked on later. I hope that the minister will address the fear that the national park set-up in Scotland might just become another quango. If she does not, I fear that they will not succeed, as we wish they should.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat 4:02 pm, 24th May 2000

In October this year I will have been married for 10 years, but I will not be asking Fergus Ewing to remind me of that fact.

I broadly welcome this bill and the remarks that all members, particularly those on the front benches of all parties, have made, which were constructive. Alex Johnstone acknowledged the difficulties of the time scale for committees, but there has been broad agreement in committees on the proposed measures. That is welcome. No doubt there will be a great deal of haggling at stage 2, but there has been much agreement.

There has, however, been concern about the difference between primary and secondary legislation and whether it is right to designate using secondary legislation. A balance must be struck. If there are two areas to be designated, filling up a considerable proportion of the parliamentary year designating areas that have already been through a large exercise would not be the right balance to strike with regard to the legislative programme of this Parliament. The points that were made about consultation and the mechanisms that are to be used for that are important.

John Scott said that he wants a more relaxed approach, but the Conservatives will be the first to criticise the Executive if it fails to implement the measures in the time that it set out. Perhaps the Conservatives would not be the first to complain: the SNP would be the first.

Linda Fabiani was right about the need for adequate consultation. Other members have rightly mentioned that as well. The Rural Affairs Committee made an important point, to which I hope the minister will return in due course, about investigating the mechanisms involving the affirmative instrument and whether it can be subject to amendment.

Like other colleagues, I wish to raise the issue of marine national parks. Nicol Stephen mentioned it in his opening remarks and dealt with it to a large extent. However, concerns about the issue have been expressed by a large number of bodies. Ian Jardine of Scottish Natural Heritage, in evidence to the Transport and the Environment Committee, said that marine national parks were something of an afterthought. They were not in the original proposals and have not been considered in the round. It is therefore incumbent on the Executive to introduce some proposals to tighten up the relevant section and to ensure that it accommodates the concerns that exist.

I suspect that many people who use the sea for recreational and work purposes are unaware that we are proposing to create national parks. As there have been no suggestions about which areas should be so designated, it is not surprising that people have not woken up to that possibility. I take the example of Fair isle in my constituency, which could be a national park. There is a great desire in that community, which is an active and committed community, to set up designations that give them much more control of their local waters. However, when we consider the level of fishing regulations and the measures that apply to inshore and pelagic white fish activity, the whole purpose has to be carefully teased out and clarified.

As Lewis Macdonald rightly illustrated, marine national parks could be an advantage for selling produce—shellfish and so on. He mentioned the quality mark for salmon. That links to John Scott's point. Just as for national park areas on land, there could be advantages for farmers and crofters in the affected areas, in the sale of produce linked to the designation. There is marketing potential there.

I will pick up Sylvia Jackson's point about the Sandford principle, because it is important and has been slightly glossed over so far. Surely the pre-eminent concern of most in the chamber would be the social and economic needs of the people who live and work in the relevant communities. A balance must be achieved. I suspect that that is why there was a slight difference between the two committees that considered the bill. The Transport and the Environment Committee recommended that further attention be given to that issue at stage 2, while I understand the Rural Affairs Committee was generally satisfied with the proposals as they are constituted. It is all about balance, which is why the Transport and the Environment Committee considered zoning as a mechanism to deal with that point. It can achieve that balance. It can be used as a mechanism by planners and in relation to national park plans. It can ensure that local people are not disadvantaged, which is what concerns Fergus Ewing.

I endorse the proposals and hope that Parliament does so this afternoon.

Photo of Janis Hughes Janis Hughes Labour 4:07 pm, 24th May 2000

I thank the clerks to both committees, who helped us to prepare the bill for Parliament. As has been mentioned, we had strict deadlines to work to and it would not have been possible to get to this stage without their hard work. The detailed scrutiny of the bill carried out by both committees demonstrates the willingness on the part of the Parliament to bring Scotland into line with the rest of the world with regard to national parks.

Whether Scotland should have its own national parks is not a particularly contentious question, but certain aspects of what should be in the bill may be. One of the main controversies of the bill has been over the stated aims of national parks. It is on that controversy that I shall focus today. It has been mentioned by a couple of other members and alluded to by Tavish Scott.

One of the main arguments for the Transport and the Environment Committee has been whether the Sandford principle—that when there is irreconcilable conflict between conservation and recreation, conservation must prevail—should be adopted in legislation. That has been further confused by the inclusion in the bill of the aim of promoting economic and social development. That aim, peculiar to national parks in Scotland, is important, but as has been said, it is imperative that a balance is struck between the promotion of economic development and environmental protection.

The Transport and the Environment Committee has concluded that the bill should include a reference to the Sandford principle in section 1, which would then apply to all aims. We believe that it is only correct that everything that is done in a national park should be done in a manner that is consistent with meeting the stated aim of conserving and enhancing the natural and cultural heritage of the area. Surely the main reason for having national parks is to protect our most beautiful areas. It is vital that Scotland guards her finest landscapes and her environmental resources. Indeed, Scottish Environment LINK has said that Scotland could be accused of shirking its international responsibilities. Scottish landscapes are not replicated anywhere else in the world. The same is true of the biodiversity and habitats to be found in Scotland.

I do not disagree with the aim of promoting economic and social development in any national park. It is positive for Scotland to aim for economic prosperity in a national park area. Unlike some other members, I do not think that the two aims are incompatible. I believe that an area of protected, unbridled natural beauty would greatly enhance the tourism industry and improve the Scottish economy. Perhaps zoning would be a way around some of the problems that we have discussed today. I hope that we will consider that further.

This bill is long overdue and will finally give Scotland a nature network to be proud of. It is the culmination of decades of hard work and campaigning by many environmental groups and environmentally minded people. I hope that the bill will be amended to ensure that protection of the environment is guaranteed. After all, we have a duty to future generations. The Haida Indians say that we do not inherit the land from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children. This bill is a step towards ensuring that we hand over the land in the best possible condition.

Photo of Brian Monteith Brian Monteith Conservative 4:11 pm, 24th May 2000

I am pleased to speak in this debate as a member for Mid Scotland and Fife. The minister mentioned that there had been a long wait since the creation of the first national park. I agree, but that wait was caused by lack of consensus about what kind of national park to have and, indeed, whether national parks were necessary. It is not surprising that there has been no consensus. People who live in the national parks in England and Wales have doubts about the management of those parks.

When John Muir created the first national park, his aim was to protect the wilderness. However, a national park around Loch Lomond will contain not only wilderness but communities that need to survive economically and socially. Local economies must be allowed to develop. Only through economic development can rural economies thrive.

We should have reservations about the use of subordinate legislation to create additional national parks. There has been a large amount of consultation so far and I am concerned that the use of subordinate legislation might restrict the amount of consultation and parliamentary scrutiny that would be involved in the creation of new national parks. We must be careful that recreation and amenity benefits are not at odds with local social and economic needs. If local communities are to survive, it is essential that they are allowed to make a major contribution to the development of their areas.

People often raise the issue of the perceived lack of resources with me. They say that the bill appears to earmark resources for administration, park rangers and so on. When committing resources from the public sector, we must bear in mind such humdrum but important matters as lay-bys, viewing points, car parks and toilets. Although the private sector—publicans, hoteliers and other representatives of tourist resorts—undoubtedly will invest in and provide attractions for people, if the public sector does not match such investment with public facilities, local people will see only congestion and erosion. That would be the antithesis of the aim of setting up the national parks. I went to Lake Windermere once for peace and quiet, and had my holiday completely ruined by the constant noise and interference from water traffic. This bill needs further development if we are to avoid such problems.

National parks must not become Brigadoon or Disneyland, where heather and tartan are set in aspic; they must ensure the commitment and vitality of their local communities. As a member for Mid Scotland and Fife, I will be expecting such issues to be resolved in the further stages of the bill.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour 4:15 pm, 24th May 2000

I too welcome the bill, which has been 55 years in arriving and fulfils one of Labour's manifesto commitments at the Scottish parliamentary elections. It has been a very interesting experience being a reporter at stage 1 of this bill, and I want to thank the conveners of the Transport and the Environment Committee and the Subordinate Legislation Committee for allowing me to sit in on their discussions and evidence sessions. Despite the very tight time scale that the Rural Affairs Committee report mentions, the committees have worked extremely hard to fulfil their obligations to consult on this issue at stage 1.

Like Janis Hughes, I want to thank the clerks and also the Scottish Parliament information centre, which has complained to me that it is always forgotten in the thanks, for all their hard work in assisting the committees to meet their deadlines and obligations.

The formulation of this legislation was the subject of extensive consultation by SNH and the Executive and I was pleased to note that some of the issues that were brought to the Executive's attention during the consultation resulted in changes in the bill as introduced. Such issues included the necessity to consult community councils; the need for the minister to consider including representatives of particular interests on the national park authority, although perhaps not to the extent suggested by John Scott; the possibility of establishing more than one advisory group; and the ability of the minister to modify the act in the case of marine parks.

Although the committees involved in stage 1 have generally recognised that this is a good bill whose time has come at last, some suggestions have been made that I hope that Sarah Boyack and her colleagues will consider, as they might make this good bill even better.

The bill deals with primary enabling legislation and the detail appropriate to each proposed national park will be set out in the designation orders. As those orders need to be responsive to local circumstances, the primary legislation cannot be over-prescriptive. Designation orders must be created through an inclusive and consultative process that enables the whole community, including the community of interests, to have maximum ownership of the national park and that minimises conflict between the different stakeholders. However, the diversity of possible national parks presents challenges about consulting on the designation orders and the ability to amend them.

Although I welcome the specific inclusion of consultation with community councils in the bill as introduced, it was clear from the evidence taken by the Rural Affairs Committee that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities does not expect to appoint anyone other than local councillors as its representatives. COSLA seems to think that ministerial appointments would take care of the representation of community groups; however, the minister must also recognise national and, where appropriate, sectoral interests. The sums do not add up. Although I was pleased to hear that the minister is prepared to consider whether the direct allocation of some places on the national park authority might be desirable, it would be inappropriate to dictate in the primary legislation how that representation would be selected.

The Rural Affairs Committee was also concerned by the fact that there is currently no possibility of amending the designation orders, which would, for example, set the boundaries of the national parks. As the bill stands, such aspects would be subject only to affirmative action. I appreciate that the ministers may not want to set a precedent whereby every piece of subordinate legislation would be debated in Parliament, which would bog us down immeasurably. However, because of the diverse nature of national parks, from the totally terrestrial to the entirely marine, there is merit in considering some form of super-affirmative procedure, as has been suggested by the Subordinate Legislation Committee.

I was going to say a little about marine parks, but much has already been said about that issue. Some suggestions for possible locations for Scottish marine national parks would help to illustrate the way in which the concept might operate in principle, and might allay some of the fears that fishermen's interests have expressed to the Rural Affairs Committee.

I am happy to support the principles of this bill and look forward to consideration of it at stage 2.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 4:20 pm, 24th May 2000

I support the comments of my colleague Linda Fabiani, who regretted the method by which this legislation is proceeding. It is within the prerogative of the Executive to proceed by way of enabling legislation. The difficulty here—and I shall outline two specific problems—is that we are dealing with matters in the abstract. At present, there appear to be only two areas in the frame for the creation of national parks, both of which are accepted as being distinct and diverse, and the issues that have been highlighted by individual members will have to be revisited on another occasion, perhaps with a democratic deficit.

It is right and appropriate, in certain instances, for the Executive to proceed by way of enabling legislation. However, in this particular instance, when we are talking about the creation of only two national parks and all members accept that we are not talking about a multiplicity of national parks, it might have been better to consider primary legislation for each location—given that they are distinct and diverse—instead of proceeding by subordinate legislation. Other members, including Alex Johnstone, Keith Raffan and Dr Elaine Murray, have commented on that.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

If Kenny MacAskill is going to quote me, he should quote me correctly. I did not say that I was against subordinate legislation: I recognise the purpose of subordinate legislation. What I am talking about is the way in which the designation orders are laid, and I am asking for a sufficient consultation period during which they can be amended.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I do not want to misquote Mr Raffan, who has had the opportunity to set the record straight. I will continue to explain why I think that the way in which subordinate legislation allows scrutiny is inadequate.

The first problem concerns marine parks, and has been touched on by Linda Fabiani and Irene McGugan. Rightly or wrongly, the issue of marine parks has been regarded as an add-on. The difficulty is that we do not know how such parks would operate or what the mechanism for creating them would be. In questioning during the Transport and the Environment Committee, the civil servants were unable to explain the interaction of that mechanism with EU directives and regulations, with retained and devolved powers, and with whatever else.

In the creation of marine national parks, whether terrestrially related or wholly marine, I have some sympathy for the environmental interests that would have to be consulted and satisfied. I have received representations from organisations such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the World Wide Fund for Nature, and I appreciate where they are coming from.

If section 29 is totally worthless and cannot be implemented, it would be wrong to keep it in the bill. Either it can be implemented, and marine national parks are worth while, or it should be jettisoned. We should not live a lie and go down the road of trying to delude people that marine national parks can be implemented, offering warm words and fine support for them when it may not be possible to introduce them.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

Does Kenny MacAskill agree that the removal of section 29 would not prevent the creation of marine national parks, but would simply prevent the minister from modifying the bill to enable the legislation to take account of the specifics of marine national parks?

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I do not disagree with that. However, I want the information to be beefed up. At present, I am dissatisfied with the way in which we would introduce marine national parks. That process must be thought through. If there is a problem, it would be better to address it now rather than to introduce the legislation only to find out that section 29 is inoperable and have to go back to the beginning two, three, four or five years down the line.

The second problem, which was touched on by Keith Raffan, is the potential democratic deficit. The nature of our electoral system is to have checks and balances. We have an Executive that can be checked by the Parliament, and a Parliament that can be checked by the judiciary. The difficulty with subordinate legislation is that it creates problems for parliamentary scrutiny. There is a role for subordinate legislation—I am convener of the Subordinate Legislation Committee—but I have no wish to foist on the Parliament numerous debates on amnesic shellfish poisoning orders or whatever else. Clearly, such issues are not the subjects of dispute between parties. They are matters on which there is broad consensus in the chamber and it would be wrong to waste chamber time on examination of such matters.

Some matters will be pivotal and there will be difficulties when individual areas and party political groupings take different positions. In such cases it would be wrong to use a system in which the only options for members or party groups are acceptance or rejection. When we are doing something as fundamental as creating a national park, we must ensure that there is a procedure regarding subordinate legislation that will allow open, full and frank debate. If, for example, people in Dr Sylvia Jackson's constituency accepted that there should be a national park, but that a specific area should not be included in it, it would not be fair to say to members that they had either to accept or reject the whole park.

There will be strange and unusual circumstances in which issues are clearly matters for debate, in which there is no consensus and there is a need for amendments to designation orders. I seek an assurance from the minister that a mechanism will be created that will allow for full debate and amendment procedures, and that such debate and changes will take place in the chamber with more options than to either accept or reject the legislation.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

If Andy Kerr can keep his speech short, that will allow some time for Rhoda Grant to speak.

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour 4:26 pm, 24th May 2000

I am breathless after the previous speaker, but I will try to do that.

The Transport and the Environment Committee spent valuable time discussing the bill with a number of organisations. I was pleased that all the organisations support the concept of national parks, but some share the concerns that some members have brought up today about certain aspects of the bill.

There is a clear legislative need for the bill. As members know, there is pressure on our natural heritage and the voluntary arrangements that we have do not work. They go only so far in relation to how we handle the issue of national parks. I also welcome the increased focus on our national heritage that the bill brings. I visited a school to talk about saving the rainforests and the discussion turned to Scottish issues and the fact that we do not have national parks, despite, as members have said, the fact that the inventor of national parks came from Scotland. We are effectively filling a gap with the legislation.

I am in favour of beefing up the inclusion of the Sandford principle in the proposed legislation. The principle of zoning can take care of any contradictions that might occur, and if national parks are properly zoned, the Sandford principle will be a powerful tool in the appropriate areas.

The legislative approach of the bill will work. I share some of the concerns that have been expressed by members, but I do not accept that the doom and gloom that Kenny MacAskill suggested will come about. We need a beefed-up process—perhaps it would be useful to extend the consultation period to 12 weeks. The minister might consider those suggestions to be valuable.

There is caution about the level of democratic scrutiny that is enshrined in the bill and caution about secondary legislation and how it will be scrutinised. There is also, in particular, caution about the role of the committees, and I would argue that ministers should listen to those concerns.

Members have also mentioned planning powers. We must ensure that development control and local planning are not split. We must also ensure that national park plans are meaningful and that national bodies such as the Ministry of Defence must take cognisance of those plans. I would like the minister to deal with that.

Many members have mentioned power boats and marine craft, especially in relation to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs park. There is a strong case for giving powers to create byelaws to national parks authorities.

We are moving forward and I am in favour keeping the clause, that is, section 29. I do not agree with the doom and gloom expressed by Kenny MacAskill and others. The Scottish Coastal Forum said in its submission of evidence on the bill that it wanted the section retained, because that would mean that marine parks were still in the game and that we would be able to develop them.

I welcome the bill. I holiday frequently in the Cairngorm area and I look forward to entering a national park there with my family one day.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour 4:28 pm, 24th May 2000

I will try to keep my remarks short. Many of the important issues have been discussed, so I will concentrate on two topics: Gaelic and marine national parks.

There is a continuing debate as to whether Gaelic is the culture of the whole of Scotland or just of the Highlands and Islands. I would contend that our native language should be part of the culture of the whole of Scotland, although I recognise that that heritage has been lost in many areas. Interestingly, Airdrie now has Gaelic road signs, because of a recent visit of the Royal National Mod. I believe that Gaelic should be part of the cultural heritage of the national parks. It would give us a strong cultural identity—something that Ireland has recognised and used to its advantage, with tourism benefits.

I listened to the evidence given to the Rural Affairs Committee on marine national parks, but I still believe that there is a strong case for marine national parks to be included in the legislation. In New Zealand, marine national parks have been used to conserve fish stocks. The younger fish mature in the park, forcing the more mature fish out of the boundaries. That has benefits for local fishermen, creating a bountiful catch on the boundaries of the park.

Marine national parks could also protect species. In the Moray firth, we have a colony of dolphins that are under pressure because of activity in the area. No real studies have been conducted into what is causing the problems for those dolphins, apart from some research by a voluntary group working in the area. A marine national park could undertake those studies, discover what is damaging the dolphins and draw up a plan for their protection that takes into account the social and economic factors in the area. Dolphins are a tourist attraction and the area would lose a great deal from the local economy and the natural environment if the dolphins were to go. They could be protected by a marine national park, working on sympathetic development and issuing guidelines to those who use those waters. It is in no one's interests to lose them.

I have sympathy with the Scottish Fishermen's Federation when facing the unknown. However, I ask the minister to proceed with the legislation to allow wholly marine national parks on the basis that fishing interests would be widely consulted and would be represented on the park board should such a park be instigated. We must ensure that local interests are represented, giving people ownership of the park and thereby the motivation to make those parks a success.

Legislation shaped today must reflect the needs of tomorrow and those needs must include the preservation of our cultural heritage. I urge the minister to include both marine national parks and Gaelic in the legislation.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

We move, exactly on time, to the winding-up speeches. I call Mike Rumbles to speak for the Liberal Democrats. You have four minutes, Mr Rumbles.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 4:31 pm, 24th May 2000

I am delighted to sum up on behalf of the Liberal Democrats in support of the motion calling on the Parliament to approve the general principles of the National Parks (Scotland) Bill.

As we have heard, this is an enabling bill, which brings forward the development of Scotland's first national parks. It represents a positive policy on the environment and fulfils a manifesto commitment of both the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Labour party. It relates to growing concerns about how Scotland's natural heritage assets are cared for and to a greater realisation that the economy of many rural areas is now founded on the qualities that attract visitors.

For too long, Scotland has been making a living out of the best of its natural heritage—especially through tourism—without investing sufficiently in the care and sustainable development of that precious resource. A new basis is clearly required to allow for the positive protection and development of those areas. The bill sets out a coherent framework for the integrated management of our outstanding natural areas. However, as the report from the Rural Affairs Committee shows, the committee has a number of reservations about the detail of the bill. We have heard about some of them, especially from the convener, Alex Johnstone.

I would like to take this opportunity to outline what the Liberal Democrats believe to be the main points of contention. For us, the principle of anchoring local support from the people who live and work in the parks is fundamental to the success of the entire project. There has been general agreement about that. It is entirely right that the principle of direct representation of local community interests should be guaranteed and distinct from local authority or ministerial nomination.

During the consultation process, of the 343 responses to the Executive's proposals, 55 per cent were concerned about appointments to the boards. That was the biggest single issue mentioned in the consultation process. Of the 190 respondents who raised the issue, 64 per cent were dissatisfied with the Executive's proposals. That included some 20 per cent who called for direct elections to the boards. Wow! A touch of democracy.

The Executive's reaction to that is somewhat less than appropriate. A commitment to include community councils, as consultees, when ministers consider appointments to the boards is a little underwhelming. Setting up new quangos only compounds the problems of the democratic deficit and is hardly the best way forward. The Liberal Democrats want direct elections to the boards by local people. If that is not acceptable to the Executive, a commitment should be given to accept the unanimous finding of the Rural Affairs Committee

"that the principle of direct representation of local community interests should be guaranteed, and distinct from both the local authority nominees and those directly appointed by Ministers."

I look forward to the minister making a commitment to do that.

Moving on from that most important point, I will register what I believe is the almost indecent haste with which the bill is being dealt with—I certainly would not call it detailed scrutiny. This is the first legislation that the Rural Affairs Committee has worked on.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Yes, we are.

Not enough time has been given, to allow for a thorough examination of the proposals. I ask Sarah Boyack to note paragraph 7 of the Rural Affairs Committee report, which Alex Johnstone highlighted. It states:

"The Committee wishes to express dissatisfaction with the extremely tight timescale set for the consideration of stage 1 of the bill. This report contains a number of questions to be answered by the Executive, which may have an impact on the timetable for completion of the Bill."

Those questions include a number of points about marine national parks, which I will not go into, but which have been mentioned today. There has not been enough time to explore those issues properly. In addition, clarification is needed on the length and purpose of the period between publication of the statement on a park proposal and the laying of the draft designation order.

There is a need for more answers from the Executive. The Liberal Democrats welcome the general principles of the bill, but the Executive must lodge amendments at stage 2 to address the major issues identified in the Rural Affairs Committee report.

The most important point for the Executive to take on board is the need to guarantee the principle of direct representation of local community interests, distinct—and I emphasise the distinctiveness—from local authority nominees and those appointed by ministers. I urge the minister to lodge specific amendments at stage 2 to address that issue.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 4:36 pm, 24th May 2000

I repeat the welcome that Alex Johnstone gave, in opening for the Conservative party, for the principles and broad thrust of the National Parks (Scotland) Bill.

I make that positive statement at the outset, because I will be critical in a number of respects. My first criticism is that the bill was a matter for the Transport and the Environment Committee. Secondly, it deserved much more time in all the committees that dealt with the legislation. It is my contention that the Executive has mishandled the introduction and processing of the bill.

Nowhere is that more clearly demonstrated than in the fact that three committees of this Parliament have composed detailed, substantial and—although I modestly claim a small part in it—remarkably intelligent and constructive reports. Those three committees made a series of substantive points, which they thought were material, at stage 1, to improving the bill.

Nicol Stephen, who opened the debate, has no specific brief in this area, so perhaps he should not be criticised. However, his speech was remarkably light in dealing with the specifics of the committee reports. It is a great pity that as member after member, from every party in the chamber, has made specific points and asked specific questions, only once—when she was insulted by Fergus Ewing—has Sarah Boyack deigned to give us an answer to those questions.

What was the point of three detailed reports coming to a stage 1 debate, when we might get some answers in the concluding speech? The Executive's case should have been set out.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

No. We agreed on this when we talked earlier.

The Executive's response should have been available to the Parliament at the outset of the debate, so that we could debate what the Executive will do.

Many members have made a point about local representation on the national park bodies. We are told that there will be representation for local communities. How? Will it be through the Executive's nominees or through the councils' nominees? Will local communities be represented only by councils? We deserve to hear the answer to those questions in the minister's concluding speech.

Kenny MacAskill and Dr Murray asked about the Subordinate Legislation Committee's proposal for a super-affirmative procedure, which would give Parliament the right to influence subsequent designation orders. I thought that Nicol Stephen might have responded to that proposal in his opening speech. I hope that the minister will do so in her concluding speech, but it should have been made clear at the outset. We should have known what we were debating this afternoon.

Members have made a series of detailed and specific points about planning and byelaw matters. Jackie Baillie asked about byelaws. Why did we not hear about that issue in the opening speech, because it featured heavily in the discussions of the Transport and the Environment Committee?

The Transport and the Environment Committee also devoted a great deal of time to planning matters. Will the national park plan be given equal status with the local plan when it comes to structure plan determination and the handling of major planning applications? What is the Executive's response to that? Again, we should have known that at the start of the debate. Will the minister now give a response, as we have not had one so far this afternoon? Does she accept the recommendation of the Transport and the Environment Committee that whoever has the planning powers, be it local authorities or the national authority, development control and local planning should be exercised by the same authority? That was central to much of the evidence that the committee took, and it is an important part of the recommendations that it made.

Does the minister accept the principle of zoning?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I have done so repeatedly in committee.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I am sorry, but I have not seen a considered Executive response to the report of the committee of which I am a member, or to the lead committee's report, or to the report of the Subordinate Legislation Committee. When he spoke at the beginning of the debate, Nicol Stephen did not answer many of our questions, and I think that he should have. Let us hear the answer to the question about zoning. Will we have the Sandford principle for prime conservation areas and accept that other parts of the plan authority areas should be subject to different zoning? Those are important questions.

If I may return to the issue of local representation, Sylvia Jackson referred to Mr Bracewell's proposal. Is that something that the Executive will contemplate?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Will the member wind up, please?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

How will the Executive build in local community representation? I am glad that Nicol Stephen is smiling—presumably he knows the answers to all those questions. It is a pity that at the beginning of the debate he did not share the information with anyone else.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Is the member sure that he will not take an intervention?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

By all means—I could do with a glass of water.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Is not the purpose of the minister's summing up at the end of the debate to provide the answers to the questions to which Murray Tosh refers?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The purpose of having a minister open the debate is for them to respond to what the committees have said. If not, what is the point of the committees producing recommendations? The purpose of having the minister close the debate is to allow them to respond to the points that were made in that debate and to take the argument forward. We have been debating the Executive's policy without knowing what it is in relation to a huge range of highly significant issues. I suggest that when the Executive timetables debates in future, when it arranges the timetable for bills, when it allocates work to committees and when it sets deadlines, it ensures that it gives itself adequate time and opportunity to respond to committees' recommendations before the stage 1 debate.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I must conclude. [MEMBERS: "Give way."] All the questions that I and other members have posed have been asked in the most constructive way possible. We welcome national parks and we want them to succeed.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Mr Tosh, you must come to a close.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

A huge number of important issues have been raised in Parliament by outside bodies, and I welcome the fact that we will now at last hear what we should have heard at the beginning of the afternoon. Let us hope that we like the answers and that we can agree to vote for the bill when we get the opportunity to do so.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 4:43 pm, 24th May 2000

Many points have been raised that have been similar to one another, which gives some weight to Mr Tosh's remarks. Perhaps, if some of the obvious points had been conceded at the beginning—as I am sure they will be at the end—members could have looked into other parts of the bill.

One question was raised only by Kenny MacAskill: why are we having this enabling legislation? The whole purpose of enabling legislation is to deal with a situation in which many similar bills are coming down the track and there is no point in discussing each one separately. How many national parks bills will come down the track? Two? Three? It strikes me that we could discuss each one of them in the chamber. After all, every railway built in Scotland was the subject of its own bill in Parliament.

The element of flexibility that this enabling legislation has introduced means—as other members have mentioned—that everything that is brought before us will be the subject of a statutory instrument. Even if we introduce some super-affirmative procedure into the statutory instrument procedure, that will not allow us to lodge amendments and debate them. It will allow us only to suggest amendments to the Executive—which it might graciously accept, or not, as the case may be.

One of the other main issues of contention concerned how much local representation there should be on the national park bodies. I agree with the many members who said that, unless there is some democracy in those bodies, and unless local people are on the committees, the bodies will not succeed. They can proceed only with the consent of the people on the ground. Although these are national areas, we have to take the local people along with us. The minister said:

"We entirely accept that principle".

However, we need to have some indication of how that principle will be put into practice. What will be written into the bill on the subject of local membership? It is not good enough to leave that question up to councils—especially in areas such as the Cairngorms, where there is a central, relatively uninhabited area that is surrounded by a whole host of councils, each of which could send a councillor who had nothing whatever to do with the area. We need an answer to how we will get round that difficulty.

I shall now talk about consultation and the lack of time for the various committees to consider the legislation. We do not have a second chamber in this Parliament. If we make a mistake, that mistake will be there for a very long time. That is why we run a terrible risk if we proceed too quickly. I do not know what the Government's rush is. Perhaps it is to please Mike Rumbles and to get his commitment on the statute book before the summer recess. We have heard that we have waited for 40 years; we could surely wait until after the summer if that would mean the difference between getting it right and getting it wrong.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I know that Mr Morgan is trying to credit me with all of this, but one of my main points was that we were indeed rushing the bill. If he checks the committee report, he will see that I felt that there was no need to rush.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I am glad that we agree on that at least.

A point was raised concerning something that was incorporated in the bill late on—the idea of wholly marine national parks. As was pointed out, such parks could have been designated even without section 29. When the various interests came to the Rural Affairs Committee, the people against marine national parks could not tell us where any of them would be, and the people in favour of marine national parks could not tell us where any of them would be. As nobody knows where we will put a marine national park—if we ever get one—why the urgency of inserting this particular section in the bill at this time? As was pointed out, because of the late insertion of the section, there has been virtually no consultation. The Government needs to revisit that point, otherwise, we are creating dangers for the future. The bill already gives ministers vast powers; the section gives them even vaster powers to change things.

Another important point raised concerned the objectives in section 1. As I understand it, the Sandford principle has nothing especially to do with the environment; it simply says that, in the event of a clash between different objectives on a list, the one at the top should take precedence. The Sandford principle does not apply in all cases—it did not apply to the SNP manifesto at the general election. [Laughter.] That is an in-joke.

The Transport and the Environment Committee wanted the Sandford principle to be incorporated in section 1. The balance in the bill is certainly better—the idea of zoning has attractions—but we must get it right. If there are clashes between objectives, particularly those of economic development—providing jobs for the people who live in the park—and protection of the environment, it has the potential to make a mess of the whole idea of national parks and to sour their reputation for the future, which is not what we want to do.

Linda Fabiani and Keith Raffan brought up funding. We do not want the national parks to become yet another burden on local authorities, which have increasing burdens and decreasing incomes to deal with them. We also want national parks to have the ability to keep any revenue that they gain.

We give the bill a cautious welcome. We feel that it could have been approached in a better way. The devil in legislation is usually in the detail. The devil here is not in the detail, of which there is precious little; the devil will be in the statutory instruments that follow. That puts a lot on the shoulders of the minister who will now reply.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 4:51 pm, 24th May 2000

I add my thanks to the committees, which have contributed a great deal to the debate. I thank the Transport and the Environment Committee, the Subordinate Legislation Committee and, in particular, the Rural Affairs Committee for its considered review of the bill and for the number of recommendations that it made. Nicol Stephen kicked off by thanking the wide range of people who were involved in the consultation on the bill, many of whom gave evidence to two committees. I reiterate that thanks and thank also those who have campaigned for national parks in Scotland for a long time, many of whom are in the gallery today.

I want to pick up on many of the points raised this afternoon. First, let me clarify that we are discussing the general principles of the National Parks (Scotland) Bill. I heard the comments made by Murray Tosh in his impassioned speech. Many of the detailed issues that members have raised today are correct and will be debated at stage 2. I will touch on some of those points in my summing up.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I will not take an intervention from Mr Tosh. He made his points extremely eloquently, and I will address them in my speech.

Tavish Scott began by emphasising the agreement that there is around the chamber, but there was a focus on the areas of disagreement, so those listening to the debate will not have focused on the extent to which there is a huge amount of consensus on the bill. It is important to say that at the outset.

Several points were made about national parks. I detected reluctance on the part of some members who asked about the extent to which we need national parks. There are already pressures on the areas that have been identified. We discussed that when Sylvia Jackson raised the issue of national parks nearly a year ago.

The key purpose of national parks is to ensure integrated management. The aims set out in the bill enable us to focus on the key priorities that national parks should address. Lewis Macdonald spoke eloquently on that issue. Many members spoke about the need for balance. Janis Hughes and Keith Raffan, in particular, focused on the need to get the balance right. We need to get the balance right, not just in the bill, but in the national park plan, in the boards that are put together to run the national parks and in the consultation exercises. The bill is not a one-off statement of principles; we need to imbue all the work of the national parks with those principles.

One issue that has been raised by every single member in the debate is the involvement of communities. That issue came up extremely strongly in the consultation exercise. We have already amended the bill to reflect the importance of local communities, which several members recognised.

There are particular issues in relation to the preparation of a national park plan where it will be critical to involve communities in the process. Some important questions about that have been raised today. We have said that we need to involve communities in the process of drawing up the policies and management strategies that the national parks will implement. We have suggested "planning for real" techniques as a practical way to involve local communities.

As I said in committee, we see zoning as an important way of reflecting diversity; there is a need for sensitive management plans across each national park area. The guidance that we will prepare as Scottish ministers will give focus to those matters, to address effectively issues such as Gaelic, and to ensure that zoning is picked up in every national park area. We have discussed that in committee; when we debate the bill at stage 2, it will be important to get that right.

To return to the fundamental point that almost every member who spoke today has raised, at stage 2 we need to look in more detail at ways of strengthening the involvement of local communities in the national park boards, and I make a commitment to do that. In today's debate, I counted four variations, I think, on how we could do that. The principle is clear; working out the detail, as several members have said, is critical. I reiterate my commitment that we will come back to the matter at stage 2 and debate it in detail.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Will the minister clarify whether the principle of zoning will be written into the legislation as well as the guidance? [Interruption.]

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Before the minister responds to that question, I ask members to be quieter. It is becoming very noisy in the chamber.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

It is my view that the guidance is the appropriate place to request national park authorities to examine zoning in the context of the national park plan and to identify how they think it will be appropriately applied to each national park plan.

The issue of marine national parks was raised by several members. That demonstrates the worth and power of our pre-legislative process. When Scottish Natural Heritage carried out the consultation on national parks, before this Parliament was established, that issue was not raised in the same way as it was when we looked at national parks in the Parliament. It is very important that we get section 29 right. Kenny MacAskill said that if it was totally worthless, we should get rid of it. Our challenge is to make sure that the bill addresses the concerns of the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Scottish fishing industry.

I read the debate that took place in the Rural Affairs Committee with great interest. We need to do further work on that area. In particular, I make a commitment to tighten up the insertions to section 29—a point raised by Tavish Scott—through amendments at stage 2. I accept that point but emphasise that the purpose of pre-legislative consultation is to enable issues that have not been raised through initial consultation or incorporated in the draft bill to be addressed. The principle of the bill is important and should be adopted; we will discuss the detail at stage 2.

Sylvia Jackson and Jackie Baillie made impassioned speeches on byelaws. I again make a commitment that the points raised will be addressed at stage 2, when we will discuss the exact nature of the byelaws and appropriate powers.

Several comments were made about the process of setting up new parks; we will focus on the comments by the Subordinate Legislation Committee. In the Transport and the Environment Committee, Linda Fabiani referred to the time for consultation; I gave a commitment to insert in the bill extra time for consultation to ensure that people have a proper opportunity to look at the designation orders, so that they are given full consideration and the process is transparent.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Will the minister be more specific on that concession on consultation on the designation orders? She referred to extra time. Does she mean 12 weeks rather than six?

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I said six weeks, in response to a question from Linda Fabiani at the committee. This is an issue for which 12 weeks might be more appropriate, given the nature of some community organisations, which might meet quarterly rather than monthly. I know that this is a critical issue, and that those groups would meet to keep to any deadline, but we need to return to the matter at stage 2.

The process of setting up national parks is critical. It is vital, as Andy Kerr said, that we reassure people about fairness and transparency.

I will speak briefly about finance, which was raised by several members. The points that were made have been addressed in discussions in the Rural Affairs Committee and the Transport and the Environment Committee. On several occasions, I have made it clear that national parks will receive their core funding directly from the Scottish Executive—the bill will provide for that. National parks can, of course, seek additional funds from other sources, such as the national lottery, for particular projects. They will also be able to raise and retain revenue through various marketing activities. We look to international experience of how that can be done.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I have to wind up.

In discussions on the budget in the Transport and the Environment Committee, we have been clear about the extent to which resources are available. Discussions are already taking place in the potential national park areas.

We have focused on the areas on which we disagree. That is entirely appropriate, because it is critical that we get right the detail in the National Parks (Scotland) Bill. We have waited a long time for national parks. The communities in the national park areas need to know that their comments and contributions are fully reflected in the final bill. Today we have focused on the principles and we have had a very good debate. It is important that at stage 2 we address all the detailed points that have been made by the committees. I think that there will be an extremely constructive debate at stage 2. We might not achieve complete consensus, but the process of scrutinising the bill and the subsequent subordinate legislation will allow us to ensure that we get the principles right for the whole of Scotland and the detail right for individual national parks.

This is a huge step forward for us. We are joining the nations around the world that have national parks. The debate and the amendments that we will make to the legislation emphasise the fact that local people need to feel part of the process. At stage 2, we will debate the detail of how we do that.

This has been an excellent debate. We have moved a significant step closer to establishing national parks in Scotland. I commend the bill to Parliament.