Section 1 — Conservation of salmon and sea trout

Salmon Conservation (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:15 am on 11th January 2001.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 10:15 am, 11th January 2001

We come now to amendment 2, which is grouped with amendments 3, 11, 4 and 5. I point out that if amendment 2 is agreed to, it will pre-empt amendment 3. I invite Jamie McGrigor to move amendment 2 and speak to the others in the group.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Before I start, I will make a declaration of interest. I am part-owner of a fishing syndicate on the River Awe, a member of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, a trustee of the Awe Fisheries Trust and a member of the Awe Fishery Board.

Amendment 2 qualifies the vague and ambiguous word "otherwise" in section 10A(3)(b). It will restrict Scottish ministers' powers to make regulations, and ensure that they will not be hasty and ill thought out. In the bill as it stands, Scottish ministers can make regulations when a person or body applies to them or if they think that it is necessary. That gives Scottish ministers far too much autonomy.

Amendment 2 restricts ministers to making regulations only when a person applies to them, or in a case of extreme emergency. The amendment is vital to ensure that fisheries are not unnecessarily overburdened. The best people to manage fisheries are district salmon fishery boards—local people for local areas—and we do not want to see ministers interfering when they know little about an area, and when they may be under the influence of a pressure group, the interests of which run contrary to those of fisheries.

I would rather that other members spoke to their own amendments.

I move amendment 2.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat 10:30 am, 11th January 2001

I will speak to amendments 3 and 4, which are in my name. The purpose of amendment 3 is to clarify the bill, which has some difficulties in new section 10A(3). Ministers might make a regulation to conserve salmon, perhaps by restricting angling. If the stocks of fish recovered after some time, I do not think that it would be possible for such a regulation to be revoked, because the bill would require that to be done on the grounds of conservation. If the revocation would allow more fish to be killed, it would defeat the purpose in the bill.

I stress that—backed by the district salmon fishery boards—it is my personal view that a change is necessary as I have outlined it in amendment 3. I know that the minister has had every intention of trying to satisfy the wishes of the DSFBs. My colleague Mike Rumbles moved an amendment on the matter at stage 2, which was incorporated as new section 10A(3A). However, the difficulty is that the provision is so obscure as to require future interpretation. What we have is a difference of opinion between two sets of lawyers. Both have the same intention, but interpret the consequences of the words differently. I believe that amendment 3 would not create the situation that I described, which would be prejudicial to angling interests.

Angling is particularly important in some rural parts of Scotland. For instance, the River Tweed brings an annual income to the local community of about £14 million. We must make legislation that will stand the test of time. I have every reason to suspect that the present ministers fully understand the concerns and would never allow a situation to develop that would prejudice angling interests, but I cannot be sure that the words would not later be taken incorrectly or against their initial spirit.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative

It is always nice to see—as new section 10A(3) shows—that the Liberals are as joined-up in their thinking as ever. I notice that Mr Rumbles has not objected to the removal of the subsection that his amendment, which was accepted at stage 2, inserted. Doubtless, there is good reasoning for that. The Conservatives are minded to support Euan Robson's amendments.

New section 10A(6)(a) is too widely drafted. Even in its amended state, it says merely that the information that is required must be specified and given within a set time. That means that there is no limit to the nature or frequency of the information that is requested and that proprietors will be bound by law to provide any information that is so requested. That is perfectly fair, but in these days of ever-increasing bureaucracy and form-filling—and given that the Scottish Executive forever proclaims its determination to decrease bureaucracy and form-filling—it is only right and fair that the provision should be tightened.

Amendment 5 would place a reasonable limit on the frequency with which information is requested from proprietors. We must remember that proprietors include not only large landowners, but small farmers, crofters, fishing associations and the netsmen at the mouths of the river. I am happy to speak to the amendment, which would ensure that information was requested no more than once a month. The amendment would ensure that demands were held at an acceptable level for the proprietors and allow the provision of the information that is necessary under the bill.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Before I call the minister, I have a point for Mr McGrigor. You spoke only to amendment 2 and did not speak to amendment 11. If you wish to do so, procedure requires that you do so now.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

As no one in fisheries management would want fishing to be prohibited, except in dire emergencies, we would like the regulations from the Scottish ministers to be unable to stop fishing at any time, except during the close season. District fishery boards already have powers to alter close seasons, which are perfectly sufficient for a local board to control the season in its catchment area. Amendment 11 would minimise the impact on the fisheries and ensure that they were not closed indefinitely, which would greatly harm the areas that depend on them and the local angling tourism.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

Amendment 2 is a variation on amendment 28, which was debated at stage 2. That amendment would have allowed ministers powers to make regulations themselves only in an emergency. Amendment 2 restricts ministers' powers to make regulations in the absence of an application to situations in which

"a salmon population or fishery is severely threatened and it is necessary to do so for the conservation of salmon without delay."

In responding to a similar amendment at stage 2, I drew attention to the fact that adopting the proposal would remove the thorough consultation procedures that must precede the making of regulations in all other circumstances. Amendment 2 would not do that, but it is not clear whether the requirement to make regulations without delay would allow full and detailed consultation. As I said at stage 2, the bodies that represent owners of fishing rights and anglers sought my assurances that such consultation processes would remain in place. The meaning of "without delay" is not at all clear. Amendment 2 gives no more information than the amendment that was discussed at stage 2 on who exercises the judgment to declare an emergency and on the criteria on which the judgment would be based.

I will now deal with the availability of powers for Scottish ministers to make regulations when no board has made an application. As I advised the Rural Affairs Committee at stage 1 and again at stage 2, it is important to remember that it is essential that ministers have the power to initiate measures when, for any reason, a board is not prepared to make an application. Many boards do excellent work, but some could do more. What are we to do if such boards decide, in the face of evidence that measures are required, to do nothing? In other cases, boards may find it difficult to secure agreement to apply for restrictions. That is when ministers can step in.

As I told the Rural Affairs Committee, ministers need to have such powers for other important reasons. In some parts of the country, no district salmon fishery boards have been formed, but alternative fishery management structures exist. The River Clyde Fisheries Management Trust is a partnership of 17 angling clubs. If the Clyde wants to implement conservation measures, it will present its case to ministers. Why should it be denied access to what it needs to manage that important recreational fishery, which is enjoyed by thousands of central belt anglers, simply because there is no district salmon fishery board?

It is also appropriate for ministers to make regulations in other instances, even if there were no dire emergency. For example, the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards asked for the bill to include provision to ban the sale of rod-caught salmon. If we were forced to rely on applications to make regulations, we would have to make 52 sets of regulations—and parts of the country would still remain uncovered. The provisions that allow boards to seek information will mean that Scotland-wide regulations must be made.

It is clear that we need back-up powers to step in when salmon are under threat, and we need powers to apply regulations throughout Scotland. Full consultation will be part of the process. I give the reassurance that ministers' powers will be used very rarely. Nevertheless, I know that they are needed. I hope that Mr McGrigor will feel able to withdraw amendment 2.

Amendment 3 concerns an issue that has been raised in a couple of forms during the bill's passage through Parliament. I have some sympathy with it. As a consequence, to reach some compromise, I accepted an associated amendment that Mike Rumbles lodged at stage 2. I understand that those with an interest—particularly the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards—continue to have concerns, which they outlined in a letter to me on 28 December. I subsequently met a delegation to hear its members' concerns at first hand, but I am afraid that what they propose, and what Euan Robson seeks to do with the amendment, would change the bill's focus.

I looked carefully at Euan Robson's amendment, but it does not achieve the primary focus of the bill, which should be on conservation and not purely on the management of fisheries. I have made it clear on a number of occasions—and it is worth repeating—that in order to protect the fisheries, we must first protect the fish. Without fish, there can be no fisheries. I have given full and detailed consideration to this issue, to the point where I have compromised and accepted an amendment to the original drafting of the bill. I therefore ask Euan Robson not to move amendment 3.

On amendment 11, Jamie McGrigor has commented throughout on the implications for the business of salmon fishing where exploitation may be restricted. The amendment clearly seeks to minimise the amount of disruption, by calling for any prohibition on fishing to be restricted to that which takes place during the close season. However, it is not clear what he means by close season. The salmon fisheries legislation refers to weekly and annual close times. Within the weekly and annual close times there are periods when it is permitted to fish for salmon by rod and line. It may be, however, that the amendment refers only to the annual close time and the period within that when angling is permitted.

Assuming that that is the case, and setting aside the problem with the wording, the amendment would pose severe problems for fishery managers. We all know that each river is different and that the salmon they support are different. However, the situation is even more complicated than that. Each river may support many populations of salmon, each of which return at different times throughout the year. The amendment could prevent managers from providing protection to especially vulnerable stock components, simply because they did not return during the annual close time.

No one is considering the closure of fisheries. The aim is to ensure that fisheries are maintained. What would happen if a particular stock component required the ultimate protection: no fishing? If those fish happened to return during the period when netting is permitted, the amendment would prevent the prohibition of fishing for them, either by nets or rods. I urge Jamie McGrigor not to move amendment 11. Not only is the drafting deficient, but it places unnecessary and possibly dangerous restrictions on the ability of managers to manage their resource.

Amendment 4 seeks to remove the amendment lodged by Mike Rumbles at stage 2, which provides the linkage between conservation and management. That linkage has been subjected to detailed scrutiny throughout the passage of the bill; Mike Rumbles's amendment was accepted by the Rural Affairs Committee as clarifying that conservation and management are in no way incompatible. The focus of the bill is on the conservation of fish, so that there will be sustainable fisheries. I must repeat that Mike Rumbles's stage 2 amendment has ensured that regulations made for conservation but which involve the management of salmon fisheries will serve the best interests of both fish and fisheries. I therefore urge Euan Robson not to move amendment 4.

As I said in the stage 2 debate with regard to the intervals at which information of the type specified here should be provided, I can understand Alex Fergusson's desire, as expressed in amendment 5, to limit the burden placed on proprietors. Nobody likes to fill in endless return forms, but rational management requires information—not too much, but enough and of the right type—to let managers develop sound proposals. The level of detail indicating how often information should be supplied is a matter more properly dealt with in the appropriate regulation, rather than on the face of the bill, which merely provides the enabling power to make regulations. As with all regulations, full consultation will be necessary, and the burden on proprietors will be one of the factors that will have to be taken into account. I hope that Mr Fergusson will be prepared not to move amendment 5.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party 10:45 am, 11th January 2001

The principal problem here is that section 10A(3) confers on Scottish ministers the widest possible powers, which are almost entirely unfettered. It provides that the Scottish ministers

"shall have power to make regulations . . . if they consider that it is necessary or expedient to do so for the conservation of salmon."

The objection in principle is that the wide drafting of those powers is unacceptable.

I am mildly reassured by the fact that we are no longer watching a Government, but an Executive; while we may worry about Governments abusing the massive powers that they possess, we know that Executives do not possess sufficient powers for us to be concerned about such abuse.

We are aware that Mr Andrew Wallace, the director of the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards, and a plethora of the landowners to whom Alex Fergusson referred, have been involved in a late lobbying exercise. The fact that, at this late stage, there are issues of such substance and such real concerns—which have been raised by many members in the debate—about the technical drafting of the bill illustrates that the procedure that is being pursued in it cannot be said to be beyond criticism. We should not find ourselves in this position—we should have better drafting.

The minister's response to amendment 2 is that it is necessary for ministers to have unfettered power; it is a case of "Trust me, we're the Executive. We will not abuse those powers because we will use them only in extremis—in an emergency." Mr McGrigor, not unreasonably, says, "Well, if that is your argument, why not write it into the bill?" We are not unsympathetic to that argument.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

Mr Ewing keeps talking about the "unfettered power" of ministers. Surely he understands that ministers are subject to scrutiny by the Parliament and that any order introduced under the bill would be subject to approval by the Parliament. Will he stop using the word unfettered, as it does not make any sense and is inaccurate?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

It is touching to hear that a former minister, who is unfettered by the responsibilities of current ministers, has such faith in current ministers. If he really believes that that is a satisfactory answer to whether ministers should have such wide-ranging powers, I can only say that I disagree with him in principle. Statutory instruments should not be so unfettered. The role of primary legislation is to set out the principles; the role of statutory instruments is to set out the detail.

Amendment 2 is defective because Mr McGrigor uses the phrase "severely threatened". Surely powers are justified when salmon stocks are threatened, not just when they are severely threatened. The minister apparently agrees, although she did not mention that particular argument. The phrase "without delay" should be defined. We will not support amendment 2, although we believe that it is well intentioned. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves here; quite frankly, it might be better if we went back to a stage 2 debate on the issue.

Mr Robson said that should an order be made that closes a river in Scotland so that salmon cannot be fished for for five years, there should be absolute certainty that if stocks recover and the bill becomes law, it will permit the revocation of that order. If that is not the case, not only lairds, but every fisherman who fishes for salmon in Scotland, will be prejudiced. I see Mr Robson nodding in support. I urge him to move—and press—amendment 3. If he does, the Scottish National Party will be behind him.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I shall speak to amendment 4. It is important that all members in the chamber are aware of the background. Right through stage 1 and stage 2, it was felt that the Executive's drafting of the bill over-emphasised the conservation of salmon. It was argued that the bill ignored the management of the fisheries on our salmon rivers.

The minister accepted a compromise at stage 2. Amendment 4 would remove that compromise, which would be a retrograde step. Euan Robson's criticism is that section 10A(3A) is not in the clearest language—he said that it is possible that it is obscure. I am on my feet now to make absolutely certain that there is no doubt at all about the wording inserted by my amendment, which was accepted unanimously—I remind members of that fact—by the Rural Affairs Committee when we considered it at stage 2. I hope that Fergus Ewing heard that.

Section 10A(3A), which was inserted during stage 2 by my amendment 1, states that the regulations

"also have effect in relation to the management of salmon fisheries for exploitation."

I believe that the minister is correct to say that amendments 3 and 4 would shift the emphasis of the bill to simply conserving salmon as a basis for sustainable exploitation.

Everybody has the same intention: to conserve salmon. When the salmon are back in our rivers to a reasonable level, there should be no restrictions at all on the effective management and exploitation of our rivers for salmon. Everybody is agreed on the purpose. The only problem is that some people feel that there is a difference of legal opinion on the amendment in my name that was accepted at stage 2. It is important that we are absolutely clear about the intention. Any interpretation of my stage 2 amendment must be absolutely clear and I hope that I have made it so.

I have to say that it is a little bit rich for Fergus Ewing to make the statements that he has just made, as section 10A(3A) was before him for scrutiny at stage 2 and he supported it.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

I have no interests to declare in salmon conservation other than having three important salmon fishing rivers in my constituency.

I want to return the debate to reality—having been prompted to speak by Fergus Ewing's rather extreme remarks.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

I think that unfettered remarks is a very good description of them. Let us get back to what we were talking about. We were talking about ministers making regulations. We should remind ourselves that, in doing so, ministers must

"have regard to any representations made to them by any person having an interest in fishing for or taking salmon, or in the environment."

Ministers will not just sit there, writing regulations and passing them with reference to nobody; they have to refer to local people. There seems to be a perception that ministers will have nothing better to do than fiddle around in the fishery interests of various Scottish rivers for no reason, or that district salmon fishery boards will require fisheries to give them daily information updates. That is unrealistic.

Members of Parliament are elected to do a job of work for our constituents. If a regulatory order is proposed for a fishery in my constituency, ministers will make that regulatory order, it will be placed before the Rural Development Committee and before Parliament, and it will be my job to ensure that it has been subject to proper consultation. That is why we are here, and I feel that the political point scoring that we have heard this morning is irrelevant to what we are discussing.

I back up what Mike Rumbles said about amendments 3 and 4. His amendment was unanimously accepted by the Rural Affairs Committee at stage 2. At the time, Euan Robson withdrew his amendment and said that he might revisit it later. However, the unanimous opinion of the Rural Affairs Committee was that that amendment—amendment 12—would give rise to what Rhona Brankin described as "unnecessary duplication" and would place exploitation interests above those of conservation. That was not the balance that we felt was appropriate.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I call Jamie McGrigor to respond and to indicate whether he wants to press amendment 2 to a division.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

All the amendments in this group are designed to improve the bill and I would be disappointed if any of them was withdrawn or not moved.

The Conservatives like amendment 3, because it clarifies what the purpose of the regulations made by Scottish ministers would be. We need practical proposals that marry conservation and sustainability and we do not want fisheries to be closed down unnecessarily. Euan Robson's stage 2 amendment was good because it explained what Mike Rumbles's stage 2 amendment, which most people did not understand, meant.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

Is Mr MrGrigor saying that everybody who was present at the Rural Affairs Committee meeting at which Mike Rumbles's amendment was agreed to—including Richard Lochhead, Alex Fergusson and other colleagues—did not understand what was going on?

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

I am not suggesting that. I am saying that most people said afterwards that they did not understand what his amendment meant. Mr Robson's amendments clarify matters, which is a good thing.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Jamie McGrigor said that people did not understand my stage 2 amendment, to which everyone on the Rural Affairs Committee agreed. I want to be sure that Jamie himself understands it. The purpose of that amendment—now in the bill as section 10A(3A)—is that the regulations shall

"have effect in relation to the management of salmon fisheries for exploitation" in addition to conservation. Does Mr McGrigor accept that all committee members were happy with that amendment at stage 2, when it was considered carefully? In fact, the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards is keen that the purpose of that amendment should be included in the bill.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

I accept that the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards is keen on that, and I agree with it, but members preferred Mr Robson's amendment to Mr Rumbles's because they thought it was clearer. That is the point that I am making.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

The committee that was called the Rural Affairs Committee and which is now called the Rural Development Committee.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

Could Mr McGrigor clarify which committee, sitting where, composed of whom and at what time agreed to Euan Robson's amendment?

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

The committee did not agree to Euan Robson's amendment at stage 2 because it had already agreed to Mike Rumbles's amendment.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Members could not agree to Euan Robson's amendment because he withdrew it.

I think that we are getting on to a red herring here— [Interruption.]

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Order. Please proceed, Mr McGrigor.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

The purpose of amendments 2 and 11 is to ensure that there are local controls rather than what Fergus Ewing referred to as unfettered power, which is what the bill is about. It is not about conservation, but about management. It gives the Scottish Executive unfettered power, which is not required anywhere else in the UK, to do exactly what it likes. That is what amendments 2 and 11 are intended to curb.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

If amendment 2 is agreed to, amendment 3 is pre-empted. The question is, that amendment 2 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 1

For: Aitken, Bill, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Scanlon, Mary, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben
Against: Adam, Brian, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, Mr John, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Paterson, Mr Gil, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Thomson, Elaine, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 11:00 am, 11th January 2001

The result of the division is: For 13, Against 84, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 2 disagreed to.

Amendment 3 moved—[Euan Robson].

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 3 be agreed to. Are members agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 2

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Harding, Mr Keith, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robson, Euan, Scanlon, Mary, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Against: Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, Mr John, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 38, Against 56, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 3 disagreed to.

Amendment 11 moved—[Mr Jamie McGrigor].

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 11 be agreed to. Are members agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 3

For: Aitken, Bill, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Harding, Mr Keith, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Scanlon, Mary, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben
Against: Adam, Brian, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, Mr John, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Paterson, Mr Gil, Peattie, Cathy, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Radcliffe, Nora, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Thomson, Elaine, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 14, Against 83, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 11 disagreed to.

Amendment 4 not moved.

Amendment 5 moved—[Alex Fergusson].

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 5 be agreed to. Are members agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 4

For: Aitken, Bill, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Harding, Mr Keith, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Scanlon, Mary, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben
Against: Adam, Brian, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, Mr John, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Paterson, Mr Gil, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robison, Shona, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Thomson, Elaine, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen
Abstentions: Robson, Euan

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 14, Against 83, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 5 disagreed to.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

I should have declared an interest at the start of my previous contribution: I am a River Tweed commissioner. I have declared the interest on previous occasions and apologise for the omission.

The purpose of amendment 6 is to draw attention to the fact that a lot of work is being done in various places to conserve riparian habitat. Such conservation can take several forms, such as the fencing of riverbanks, reafforestation of certain areas, withdrawal of forestry from riverbanks and the unblocking of obstructions to migratory fish. However, there are parts of Scotland where little habitat improvement is taking place.

Studies show that habitat improvement can do more for salmon conservation than many other types of measure. If the in-river habitat for fish, in particular small fish, is improved, more fish will be sent to sea as smolts and more will return to the river. In a number of places, in particular on the River Tweed, improvements to habitat have been shown to have brought about a tremendous recovery in fish stocks. Spring fish in particular in the River Tweed have been helped by a major programme of habitat improvement.

The bill currently says nothing about direct habitat improvement. The purpose of amendment 6 is to allow Scottish ministers to intervene in certain circumstances if no habitat improvement is taking place. Clearly, it would be unwise and unwelcome if ministers intervened when work was well in hand—there are many places where work is progressing dramatically and effectively—but there are some areas where little is being done. The scope of this amendment is reduced compared with the scope of the amendment that was introduced at the Rural Affairs Committee, some of the definitions in which members had some difficulty with.

As a useful start to a wider habitat improvement programme, I thought it desirable that Scottish ministers should have a specific power to tackle recalcitrant district salmon fishery boards that are doing little towards habitat improvement. That is the limit of the power proposed by amendment 6—it simply requires boards to produce a plan or plans for habitat improvement.

Some members have raised with me the question of funding. I have deliberately omitted any reference to the funding of habitat improvement plans for the simple reason that improvements can be achieved in a number of manners—through voluntary effort, through the efforts of proprietors and angling clubs, by application to the lottery or through some form of public funding. The funding is not the point; the point of amendment 6 is to allow ministers to intervene for the production of a plan and to stimulate activity in areas where there is none. The amendment proposes a simple, straightforward and fairly limited measure, but will inject into the bill a direct conservation element, which would be welcome.

I move amendment 6.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

Amendment 6 is a slightly amended version of the amendment that Euan Robson lodged at stage 2. It seeks to provide regulations that would require the production of plans to improve river and riparian habitats.

As I made clear at stage 2, checks and balances on the ability of boards to introduce regulations are already in place under existing legislation. As I repeated to the Rural Affairs Committee and to Parliament, the bill inserts sections into the Salmon Act 1986. Where any regulations that stem from those insertions are to be introduced, a case will have to be made. That is true whether there is an application by a board, or two proprietors, or a proposal by ministers.

I understand that the Scottish fisheries co-ordination centre requires its members, some of whom are district salmon fishery boards, to collect habitat data to common standards around Scotland.

While I welcome the positive nature of amendment 6, I am not at all sure that all district salmon fishery boards have the resources or the expertise to carry the requirement through. I understand and appreciate that many boards, including the one for the Tweed, where Mr Robson is closely involved as a Tweed commissioner, undertake to produce such plans, but I am reluctant to make that a statutory requirement and I trust that Mr Robson will feel able to withdraw amendment 6.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

As Rhona Brankin said, this amendment has been altered—I would say radically—since we debated the thrust of the idea at stage 2. It is fair to say—perhaps Mr Robson will concede this—that the previous version was defective for technical reasons. The debate therefore focused on the technical objections rather than the merit of the idea behind the amendment.

The SNP agrees that while the amendment is of limited benefit it is nonetheless a useful possible method of conserving salmon. We therefore feel that it should be supported. The minister said that a reason for voting against amendment 6 is that some district boards would not have the resources to produce a plan. That is a fair point, but the amendment does not require every board to produce a plan; it says that ministers may require the production of a plan, so that point would be taken into account.

Reference has been made to the fact that information about habitats is already provided in certain circumstances. It does not seem to be too onerous a requirement that the information should be provided anew in another form.

For those reasons, we recommend support for this worthy, albeit limited, amendment.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

A great deal has already been done by the seven west coast fishery trusts to connect their work on this matter with that done by the boards. The Tweed Foundation has also done a lot of work on it.

The Conservatives agree with this amendment; it is proactive and an obvious conservation measure. It must be remembered that the financial aspect could be onerous for the smaller boards, but if they exist they should carry out such measures.

The Executive should consider boards in conjunction with grants that are given to farmers for water margin improvements under the countryside premium scheme, as those tie in with a great deal of what boards would like to do for habitat improvement. That could be examined in a more holistic way—if I dare use that phrase.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I ask Euan Robson to wind up and indicate whether he is pressing the amendment.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

I welcome the support of other members, but I have to say that, on reflection, this amendment is too limited. The debate has focused attention on the matter and we ought to return to it at a later date. The amendment is limited because I had to reduce its scope for this occasion. I much preferred the scope of the earlier version, because there are places in Scotland where there is no district salmon fishery board. Perhaps the need for a conservation programme is greatest in those places.

The issue could be returned to at a later date, perhaps in the green paper that the minister mentioned earlier or through other measures.

I seek leave to withdraw amendment 6.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Mr Robson seeks leave to withdraw the amendment. Does any member object?

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

In that case, there will be a division. The question is, that amendment 6, in the name of Euan Robson, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 5

For: Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Harding, Mr Keith, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jenkins, Ian, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McGugan, Irene, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Scanlon, Mary, Sturgeon, Nicola, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, Welsh, Mr Andrew
Against: Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Kerr, Mr Andy, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, Mr John, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party 11:15 am, 11th January 2001

The result of the division is: For 40, Against 58, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 6 disagreed to.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

We move to amendment 7, in the name of Alex Fergusson, which is grouped with amendment 10.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative

All the evidence that we received as a committee—I think that I am right in saying that every organisation that gave evidence referred to its concerns about this matter—and a considerable amount of representation that I, and I am sure other members, have received demonstrates the concern about time limitation for regulations laid under the bill. Despite that, the bill lacks any commitment on that.

During the stage 1 debate, Rhona Brankin said:

"Whether regulations controlling exploitation are made in response to an application or on the ministers' initiative, the intention is to make them time-limited."—[Official Report, 23 November 2000; Vol 9, c 7.]

I am sure that I do not need to remind the minister which road was paved with good intentions. In this instance, good intentions and promises are not enough. A firm, robust intention should be included in the bill.

My amendment demands such a commitment to time limitation, but I believe that it does considerably more than that. If we are striving, as the bill purports to, for the conservation of salmon, we must recognise that all regulations should be subject to frequent review. It therefore makes sense that time limitation should go hand in hand with regular review; that is what my amendment seeks to achieve. It ensures that each regulation laid under the act would specify a period for which the regulation would remain in force. It places no limit on that period, but ensures that the issue would be revisited annually to make certain that the regulation was still relevant. That is a logical part of a monitoring process. I fail to understand why there would be any difficulty in implementing such a logical step.

The Executive has rightly stated that this is an enabling bill, which is part of a much larger picture. However, rather than being burdensome, annual reviews should be seen as part of an on-going process that would help to create effective measures in the conservation of salmon. My amendment addresses time limitation and demands that the regulations remain alive during that time to ensure that the conservation of salmon is an on-going and successful process.

My colleague, Jamie McGrigor, lodged the other amendment in the group, amendment 10. I hope that members have noticed that, as always, the Scottish Conservatives seek to provide a balance and give a choice on time limitation. [Interruption.] I see that there is general approval from members, for which I am grateful.

I believe that my amendment 7 is an improvement on Jamie McGrigor's amendment 10, in that it offers a continual review, which I believe would be important for the proper implementation of the regulations. My colleague's amendment 10, which will fall when mine is accepted, offers a softer choice. I accept that the five-year limitation is part of the life-cycle of the salmon, so I see its logic. None the less, I commend my amendment to the chamber.

I move amendment 7.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

My reason for suggesting that regulations should not remain in force for more than five years is that a period of five years covers the life-cycle of the salmon from egg to adult. Experiments can therefore be completed within that time scale. However, I have much sympathy with my colleague Alex Fergusson's amendment 7, which requires that the regulations be reviewed every year. Indefinite regulations would be enormously damaging to the management of salmon and sea trout fishing and to those whose livelihoods depend on income from angling tourism.

In the salmon world, things can change rapidly, as shown by the dramatic increase of runs of salmon in some Scottish rivers last year. Local variations in salmon runs mean that blanket measures, such as those in England, would not be appropriate. Every fishing body that I know of has asked for time limitation. It is incredibly important that it be included in the bill.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

Alex Fergusson's amendment 7 seeks to ensure that the bill states that regulations must be time-limited and subject to annual review. Although I appreciate that the amendment is well intentioned, it would require all regulations to be time-limited. In some cases, that might be inappropriate—for example, in cases that require information to be provided. As I advised the Rural Affairs Committee at stage 2, new section 10D(2)(a) already provides for time limitation if appropriate. In addition, any regulations made under the bill, as with those made under all acts of the Scottish Parliament, may be revoked, amended or re-enacted. All regulations made under the bill may be time-limited. That was made absolutely clear at stage 2. It will be for the details of any proposed regulations to determine what the optimum time will be for keeping in place any conservation measures imposed by those regulations. The details will, of course, be subject to rigorous local consultation before the regulations are made.

As for reviews, I expect that applicants will be the first to check the effects of their conservation measures on salmon stocks and fisheries. They, and not Scottish ministers, are surely best placed to know when the time is right for reviewing regulations in the light of evidence suggesting that certain measures may no longer be required. We would assist in that process through the provision of scientific support to river managers from our scientists at the freshwater fisheries laboratory. I trust that Alex Fergusson will feel able to withdraw amendment 7.

As I said, new section 10D(2)(a) provides for time limitation and, in addition, any regulation made under the bill, as with those made under any act of the Scottish Parliament, may be revoked, amended or re-enacted. As for details of the time during which a regulation should remain in force, it must be borne in mind that, when a regulation is to be made, whether by application or by ministers, full consultation is necessary. The proposal must be described and statements provided on why the proposal is necessary or expedient and on its general effect.

Different regulations may require to be in force for different periods; such details should be dealt with in the regulations. Boards would want some regulations, such as the collection of catch statistics, to remain in force for longer than five years. The value of such information increases as the data set grows.

Inserting a reference to time limitation in the bill in the way that amendment 10 proposes makes for a highly prescriptive regulation-making power, when the object of the bill is to provide as much flexibility for fishery managers as possible. The bill allows for time limitation. Managers can make a case for the time limits that they want when they make their applications, and ministers will have to justify the time limits that they want during the necessary consultation. Amendment 10 is not necessary and fishery managers would find it restrictive rather than helpful.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

I am sorry—I have finished. I urge Jamie McGrigor not to press his amendment.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The minister has covered many of the arguments that I intended to make in opposing amendments 7 and 10. Time limitation has been a difficult issue for the Parliament, but the minister has pointed out that the bill allows a time limit to be put on regulations. In most cases, that ability should perhaps be used.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative

I fully accept that the bill allows for the introduction of time limitations, but is the Scottish National Party happy that the intention of the minister is good enough? Personally, I would accept any intention of the present minister; however, she will not remain in this particular post for ever. Is Mr Lochhead happy to say that a good intention is good enough? A good intention is all that is in the bill.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

Mr Fergusson accepts that the current minister will keep to the intention; I can assure him that that will also be the case when there is an SNP minister.

Some regulations should not be time limited. We do not want to be in a position where, for example, regulations on information that has to be collected annually have to come to the Parliament annually and we have to have an annual consultation process. That would not be practicable. The first half of Alex Fergusson's amendment 7 is fine, but the second half gives the SNP a problem.

Jamie McGrigor talked about a three-year period during the stage 1 debate on the bill, but his amendment 10 refers to a five-year period. There is no consistency.

Both amendments are flawed, and we will oppose them.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative

I listened to the minister with great interest. I do not disagree with what she said. However, I repeat that I do not believe that good intentions are enough in this case.

In response to Richard Lochhead, I would say that I have not asked for things to be brought to the Parliament annually. I have simply asked that each regulation be reviewed annually to ensure that it is still relevant to the conservation of salmon. I introduced an amendment at stage 2 to that effect, but I altered it in recognition of the difficulties that might have been involved.

I really believe that amendment 7 will greatly strengthen the bill. Any bill that is passed on the conservation of salmon must be as strong and robust as possible. My amendment would ensure that that is so.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 7 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 6

For: Aitken, Bill, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Harding, Mr Keith, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Robson, Euan, Scanlon, Mary, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben
Against: Adam, Brian, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, Mr John, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Paterson, Mr Gil, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robison, Shona, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Sturgeon, Nicola, Thomson, Elaine, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 16, Against 84, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 7 disagreed to.

Amendment 10 moved—[Mr Jamie McGrigor.]

Members:

No.

Division number 7

For: Aitken, Bill, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Gallie, Phil, Harding, Mr Keith, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Munro, Mr John, Scanlon, Mary, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben
Against: Adam, Brian, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Grant, Rhoda, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Paterson, Mr Gil, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Sturgeon, Nicola, Thomson, Elaine, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 15, Against 80, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 10 disagreed to.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

We move to amendment 12, in the name of Rhona Brankin, which is grouped with amendment 13.

I must point out to members that if amendment 12 is agreed to, amendment 13 is pre-empted and will not be called.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

In the various debates on the bill, I have heard concerns that where proposed regulations are introduced on the initiative of ministers, affected district salmon fishery boards might not be consulted. I have given the assurance that it is inconceivable that boards would not be consulted and repeat that assurance today.

During the stage 2 debate, Mike Rumbles lodged an amendment that made specific reference to boards in the consultation provisions that apply where ministers propose regulations without an application from a board. However, there were technical difficulties with the drafting of that amendment which meant that its effect on the existing consultation regime was unclear. However, I was aware of the level of concern and undertook to consider the possibility of introducing an Executive amendment to address the matter.

As a result, Mike was gracious enough to withdraw his amendment.

I have carefully considered the matter and have decided that it would be appropriate for an Executive amendment to be lodged to introduce express reference to boards into the existing consultation regime. That regime is set out in paragraph 3 of schedule 1 to the Salmon Act 1986 which provides that the Scottish ministers shall consult such "persons" as they consider appropriate. The amendment makes it clear that the word "persons" shall be construed as including, in particular, such district salmon fishery boards as the ministers consider appropriate for regulations. Ministers will have to consider the district or districts affected by any particular proposed regulations. Clearly, where there is no board for an affected district, none can be consulted; however, where there is a board in an affected district, it will be appropriate to consult that board.

I move amendment 12.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative

We have all heard that the conservation of salmon is a national issue. However, as we have been told time after time in committee and during today's proceedings, the issue is often best addressed at local level. I believe that strongly, and my experience tells me that that belief is absolutely correct.

The Executive lodged amendment 12 in response to representations made—understandably—by the ASFB. It was forecast in evidence at Tuesday's Subordinate Legislation Committee meeting, at which a Scottish Executive rural afffairs department official stated:

"The minister listened carefully to the representations that were made at the second stage 2 meeting of the Rural Affairs Committee. Yesterday, she indicated to the association that she is minded to lodge an amendment for Thursday's stage 3 debate"— that is, the amendment that she has just moved—

"to cover that point and to reassure the association that whenever it is proposed to introduce a regulation, the minister will consult the district salmon fishery boards."—[Official Report, Subordinate Legislation Committee, 9 January 2001; c 394-95.]

That is an absolutely solid commitment that, whenever a regulation is laid, the appropriate river board will be consulted.

However, my difficulty is that such a commitment is not made in the minister's amendment. Despite her reassurances, the amendment does not commit the Executive to consult the river boards. In fact, it contains an escape clause, and I do not think that good and robust law should allow such a way out. The issue should be clear cut in the bill in a way that leaves no room for doubt. My amendment 13 removes any such doubt by committing the Executive to consult the relevant district salmon fishery boards—where they exist—and allows for wider consultation whether or not a board exists. Everyone agrees that local involvement is essential; my amendment guarantees such involvement.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

True to her word, the minister has introduced this amendment at stage 3. She said in the stage 2 debate that she would do so if I withdrew my amendment and I am absolutely delighted to see that that has happened.

Consultation with district salmon fishery boards is the second of the two main themes that caused committee members some disquiet—the first was tying in conservation and river management. In committee and again just now in the chamber, the minister has given an absolute guarantee that those consultations will take place. I see Alex Fergusson shaking his head—however, the minister has clearly given that guarantee. I am pleased that the minister has introduced her amendment 12, which the Liberal Democrats will support.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The minister's amendment 12 provides a statutory undertaking and declaration that the persons to be consulted shall include

"such district salmon fishery boards as the Scottish Ministers consider appropriate".

Alex Fergusson's amendment 13 specifically states that the board to be consulted is the one "which would be affected". Surely it is a matter of simple logic that any consultation on a proposed regulation should be undertaken with the board that would be affected by the regulation. For that reason alone, it is a simple proposition of elementary logic that Alex Fergusson's amendment be preferred.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I should point out that when I lodged a very similar amendment at stage 2, Fergus Ewing did not support it. We again see him supporting certain amendments at stage 3 that he opposed at stage 2. Being caught out a second time doing something at stage 2 and the opposite at stage 3 does not do his credibility one jot of good.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. The amendment that Mike Rumbles is talking about was not this particular amendment—it was another one.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

I want to reiterate Fergus Ewing's comments. The minister's amendment 12 will give the Scottish ministers total control over who would be consulted on proposed regulations. That gives too much power to the Scottish Executive and does not restrict it in any way whatever. The amendment does not force the Executive to consult anyone it does not wish to, which could lead to an extremely biased consultation process.

On the contrary, Alex Fergusson's amendment 13 requires the Scottish ministers to consult any district salmon fishery board affected by the regulations as well as anyone else considered appropriate. That would ensure that the Scottish ministers actually consulted the board involved. That is very important as that particular board will be the most affected; as it will know its own area and will have a broad base of membership, it will be able to ensure a reasoned response.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

Under the existing provisions, ministers are required to consult a board affected by proposed regulations. My amendment 12 introduces an explicit reference to boards in the existing consultation regime applied by the bill, in the situation where ministers act on their own initiative.

Although I understand the intention behind the wording of amendment 13, my amendment sits more squarely with the consultation regime set out in schedule 1 to the Salmon Act 1986. For that reason, I hope that Alex Fergusson will not press his amendment.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I remind members that, if amendment 12 is agreed to, amendment 13 is pre-empted. The question is, that amendment 12 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 8

For: Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Kerr, Mr Andy, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, Mr John, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen
Against: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Campbell, Colin, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Harding, Mr Keith, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McGugan, Irene, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLeod, Fiona, McLetchie, David, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robison, Shona, Scanlon, Mary, Sturgeon, Nicola, Tosh, Mr Murray, Ullrich, Kay, Wallace, Ben, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 59, Against 41, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 12 agreed to.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

I call Fergus Ewing to speak to and move amendment 14, which is grouped on its own.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

The purpose of the bill is to conserve salmon. At stage 1, the minister pointed out that salmon stocks in Scotland

"have declined to an all-time low".

She added:

"The bottom line is that fewer fish are surviving the marine phase of their life."—[Official Report, 23 November 2000; Vol 9, c 334.]

That point was made by virtually all the consultees in the bill process and by every witness who gave oral evidence to the Rural Affairs Committee. The minister highlighted the gravity of the situation when she quoted statistics that show that, in

"1960, 1,443 tonnes of wild salmon was caught in Scotland"—[Official Report, Rural Affairs Committee, 7 November 2000; c 1289.]

and that, by last year, that figure had been reduced to 198 tonnes: a reduction of 85 per cent. It would seem—to use Jamie McGrigor's phrase—that salmon is already under threat, if not severe threat, in Scotland. The same can be said of trout, as there has been an 86 per cent decline in trout catches over the same four decades. Those are massive reductions, which highlight the scale of the problem that we face.

Amendment 14 seeks to address what all the witnesses agreed was the bill's main task: the conservation of salmon against the threats that are posed to them during their marine phase. The amendment was debated at stage 2, and the minister gave two responses. Her first response was that

"the bill is about conservation of salmon in the freshwater phase".—[Official Report, Rural Affairs Committee, 12 December 2000; c 1544.]

However, I have the benefit of having read a letter to which the minister has referred, from Mr Andrew Wallace. In paragraph 7 of that letter, Mr Wallace points out that, although the bill will cover the whole land mass of Scotland,

"it is clear from the 1986 Act that the new sections 10A-10E will extend to 'Scotland' which, as is usual in our legislation, includes its territorial sea."

I invite the minister to comment on whether the bill will cover the marine phase of salmon, contrary to the impression that was given at stages 1 and 2 of the debate.

Amendment 14 proposes the establishment of a body that will consider all the numerous threats to salmon, including predators, threats to habitat, environmental concerns, drift-netting off the north-east of England and the potential threat of sea lice, about which there has been great controversy following the broadcast of a BBC documentary programme. Irrespective of the success of the amendment, I hope that the minister will call for what is sought by all those who are involved, no matter what their political views—that is, an independent inquiry into the potential threat that fish farming may pose to wild salmon stocks.

The purpose of the body that is proposed by amendment 14 is to ensure that the advice that all political parties feel is necessary for the production of an action plan is obtained. Why is it necessary for such a body to be convened if, as the minister pointed out at stage 2, there are already numerous bodies that provide advice? I refer to the minister's comments at stage 2, when she named the bodies that are involved: the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, the Fisheries Research Services, the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency, the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, the Natural Environment Research Council and various others. Those bodies are all having different cycles of meetings and saying different things to different groups of people, rather than uniting to address what everyone acknowledges is an extremely serious problem. That is not good enough. Given that Scottish salmon are nearly facing extinction, it is time to address that problem.

I hope that, if the minister does not agree to amendment 14, she will say whether the Executive is planning any steps to tackle the acknowledged threats to salmon in their marine phase. If not, there will be a striking similarity between the Government ministers—with regard to the marine phase of the salmon—and King Canute in his marine phase, some years ago.

I move amendment 14.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour 11:45 am, 11th January 2001

This issue was raised by Mr Ewing and debated at stage 2, when he said that he might lodge the amendment again at stage 3. The amendment seeks to establish a commission to advise ministers on the causes of freshwater and marine mortality.

As I said in the stage 2 debate, it is not clear what benefit would be gained from establishing such a commission, as the tasks that it would be given are already being carried out. We receive advice on such issues from Fisheries Research Services, from the freshwater fisheries laboratory in Pitlochry and the marine laboratory in Aberdeen. There is close co-operation between our FRS scientists and local fisheries biologists, and a Scottish fisheries co-ordination centre has been established at the freshwater fisheries laboratory. That initiative has allowed the development of means to gather information from around Scotland, which is collected to common standards.

Ministers receive advice on seal populations from the Natural Environment Research Council, which is the statutory advisory body on the status of seal populations and their management. Specialist advice on the effects of predation by birds, such as saw-bill ducks and cormorants, is received from Fisheries Research Services and the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency.

As I have pointed out before, the remit of a Scottish commission would be too narrow. The problems that salmon face are not confined to Scotland, but are to be seen in all the salmon-producing countries around the north Atlantic. Our scientists work in the international arena, sharing and developing knowledge with fellow experts from other countries that are affected by the decline in salmon stocks. The advice that was received earlier this year from the ICES advisory committee on fisheries management, on management of the southern European salmon stock complex—our salmon are included in that group—was that, for one-sea winter salmon and multi-sea winter salmon, reductions in exploitation rates are required for as many stocks as possible.

Oceanographers and marine biologists at the marine laboratory in Aberdeen are considering the implications for fish, including salmon, of changes in the north Atlantic and the North sea. They are not working alone, but in collaboration with scientists from many other countries.

Amendment 14 goes beyond the scope of the bill, but addresses proposals that are being addressed actively in any case. I hope that Mr Ewing is reassured and convinced that the tasks are being undertaken elsewhere, and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The minister has sat down, Mr Ewing.

We now move to open debate on amendment 14.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Having caught Fergus Ewing changing his mind between stage 2 and stage 3 on two occasions this morning, I admit that he is quite consistent on this amendment. At stage 2, he made the same argument, which was rejected by the Rural Affairs Committee. I hope that the Parliament will also reject his argument this morning.

I am surprised by Fergus Ewing's enthusiasm for the establishment of a new quango. The proper place for considering whether to hold an investigation into the fish farming industry is the Rural Development Committee, as that committee, together with the Transport and the Environment Committee, is already paying attention to the issue. That is the route that we should go down, rather than setting up a brand new quango—a new commission—just like that.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Fergus Ewing usually gets it wrong and he got it majestically wrong today.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Are you giving way, Mr Robson—sorry, Mr Rumbles?

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

The Conservatives are quite sympathetic towards Fergus Ewing's amendment, but we think that the Salmon Conservation (Scotland) Bill is the wrong place for it.

The points contained in Mr Ewing's amendment must be debated with all the issues of fisheries management at a later date, in the context of protecting and promoting fisheries.

Has anyone read the Scottish salmon strategy task force report? That report contained a lot of recommendations, and, to be honest, I am quite surprised that the Executive does not appear to be following those recommendations. There seems to be little point in having a further commission, which would be extremely expensive, when such a report is before the Executive.

The task force report, which was completed in 1995, made a lot of excellent recommendations and cost a lot of money. There is absolutely no point in paying for another report. Why does not the Executive act on the recommendations in that report? I do not say that that report is excellent simply because I know that Lord Nickson is sitting in the VIP gallery—I say so because the then Scottish Office accepted at the time that it was an excellent report. I do not understand why its recommendations were not acted on much more positively.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

After amendment 14 is disagreed to, Mr Ewing may take some comfort from reading the annual reports of the freshwater fisheries laboratory in Pitlochry. The laboratory is doing much of the work that is encompassed in amendment 14.

I suggest to the minister that it might be sensible to give wider publicity to the excellent work of the laboratory, because it is not given due credit for all that it is achieving.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I listened with interest to members' comments. I regret that amendment 14 has not attracted more support and that the minister has not provided responses to the substantive points that I raised. In the circumstances, I believe that there should be a vote on my amendment.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The question is, that amendment 14, in the name of Fergus Ewing, be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 9

For: Adam, Brian, Campbell, Colin, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robison, Shona, Sturgeon, Nicola, Ullrich, Kay, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra
Against: Aitken, Bill, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Gallie, Phil, Gray, Iain, Harding, Mr Keith, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Johnston, Nick, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, Mr John, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

The result of the division is: For 26, Against 68, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 14 disagreed to.