Parliamentary Bureau Motions

– in the Scottish Parliament at 1:12 pm on 12th December 2002.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 1:12 pm, 12th December 2002

The next item of business is consideration of two Parliamentary Bureau motions. I ask Euan Robson to move S1M-3702, on the approval of a statutory instrument.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the draft Cairngorms National Park Designation, Transitional and Consequential Provisions (Scotland) Order 2003 be approved.—[Euan Robson.]

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative 1:17 pm, 12th December 2002

In moving and speaking to the amendment, I seek only to draw Parliament's attention to the deep reservations that the Rural Development Committee continues to have on matters relating to the designation order for the Cairngorm national park. The wording of my amendment is an exact amalgamation—

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

I would like Alex Fergusson to clarify that he refers to the majority of the Rural Development Committee.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative

I am happy to give that clarification.

I seek to draw Parliament's attention to the reservations that the majority of the Rural Development Committee continues to hold. The wording of the amendment is an exact amalgamation of the two amendments that the committee debated last Tuesday. One of the amendments, lodged by John Farquhar Munro, was on the inclusion of a Gaelic name. That amendment was passed unanimously. The other amendment, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on the boundary issues, was agreed by nine votes to two.

I would not have lodged this amendment had the Executive deliberated on our findings before lodging its motion. However, it chose to lodge its motion when the committee was deliberating. Given the degree and depth of the committee's concerns, I was left with no choice but to lodge this amendment, if the concerns are to be understood by the whole Parliament, as I believe that they should be.

One of the most troubling aspects of the designation order is that the dissatisfaction surrounding the proposed boundaries of the national park has increased, rather than decreased, as time has gone on. That is the wrong way round. When the dissatisfaction is expressed by bodies as august and respected as the National Trust for Scotland and the North East Mountain Trust, as well as by the Executive's advisers, Scottish Natural Heritage, it is right that we should sit up and listen. That is exactly what the committee did.

We went to Kingussie to take further evidence on the subject, following which we sent our recommendations to the minister—at his request. Our recommendations were that his original proposals should be expanded to include the five local authority areas, as recommended by SNH, plus the parish of Laggan. At that time, that recommendation was unanimous. Had the minister stuck to his original proposals, he would no doubt have had plausible reasons for doing so, but he chose to put forward a halfway house solution by proposing a park boundary that takes in four local authorities plus the parish of Laggan, but excludes the areas of highland Perthshire, which are referred to in the amendment.

That would be equally understandable if he could give a robust answer to the question why he chose to omit that area from his proposals. Sadly, despite repeated questioning on the issue at the Rural Development Committee meeting on Tuesday, he consistently failed to do so, which is why the committee voted by nine votes to two to express its regrets and why I want Parliament to do the same.

The only reason that we were given for the decision was that it would make for better governance of the national park, although governance—good, bad or indifferent—is not one of the criteria for the establishment of a national park. That suggests to me and, I believe, to most of the committee members, that the decision is based not so much on practical or factual evidence, but on political expediency, which is no basis on which to establish Scotland's second national park.

I move amendment S1M-3702.1, to insert at end:

"but, in doing so, notes amendments S1M-3621.1 and S1M-3621.2 which were approved by the Rural Development Committee on 10 December 2002 and therefore regrets the exclusion from the boundaries of the Cairngorms National Park of those areas of Highland Perthshire and Drumochter, including the forest of Atholl, Beinn a 'Ghlo and Blair Atholl, all of which were recommended for inclusion within the park's boundary by Scottish Natural Heritage in its report, prepared for the Scottish Executive, on the proposal for a National Park in the Cairngorms, and is concerned that, if these areas remain excluded, the attainment by the park of World Heritage Status may be put in jeopardy, and further regrets that the Order does not include the Gaelic translation of Cairngorms National Park which is Pàirc Nàiseanta a' Chàirn Ghuirm."

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour 1:20 pm, 12th December 2002

I am pleased and not a little proud to commend to Parliament, on behalf of the Executive, the draft Cairngorms National Park Designation, Transitional and Consequential Provisions (Scotland) Order 2003 and the draft Cairngorms National Park Elections (Scotland) Order 2003.

As members know, the designation order, which is the basis for the establishment of Scotland's second national park, has been the subject of extensive consultation in the past two years. During that time, there have been exhaustive discussions on all the details of the park, particularly on the boundary and the involvement of the national park authority in planning matters. As we have heard, parliamentary committees considered the matters in detail and took evidence from a wide variety of witnesses. As a result of that and of further discussion in the Executive, we have produced the orders that are before members today.

I will remind members of the conditions that had to be satisfied—which Parliament laid down—before we established the exact content of the designation order. The area had to be of outstanding national importance either because of its natural heritage or because of a combination of natural and cultural heritage. The area had to have a distinctive character and a coherent identity and the designation of the area as a national park had to meet the area's special needs and be the best means of ensuring that the national park aims were achieved in a co-ordinated way. The national park aims refer to conservation, sustainable use, understanding and enjoyment of the area and the sustainable economic and social development of all the communities that are involved.

It was never going to be easy to balance those conditions and aims. Nevertheless, we have achieved a balance through which, in my view, the biggest national park in Great Britain will be capable of being managed in a co-ordinated and sustainable way by a national park authority that will exercise its significant planning functions in full co-operation with the four local authorities in the area. I realise that some members are disappointed that certain areas have not been included within the national park, just as other members were disappointed about areas that were not included in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park. Nevertheless, although we started from a point at which there was no consensus about what the national park should look like—indeed, there was outright opposition from some people who did not want to be included in the park—we have reached a point at which all those with an interest can welcome the park's establishment and work together positively to make it a success.

Further delay in the production of finalised proposals would not necessarily lead to a greater degree of consensus and would be a serious risk to the momentum for the establishment of the park. If we pass the designation order, as I believe we should, we will fulfil Donald Dewar's desire for and vision of a second national park in Scotland. I commend the designation order to Parliament.

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

I will put the question on that motion at question time. I ask Euan Robson to move the second motion, which is S1M-3703, on the approval of the other statutory instrument.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the draft Cairngorms National Park Elections (Scotland) Order 2003 be approved.—[Euan Robson.]

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

As no one has asked to speak against the motion, I now suspend the meeting.

Meeting suspended until 14:30.

On resuming—