National Waste Strategy

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 13 March 2003.

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Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative 2:30, 13 March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive how it will deliver its national waste strategy. (S1O-6605)

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

The national waste plan, which I launched on 24 February, forms the keystone in the implementation of our national waste strategy. It is built around a major commitment of funding by the Executive to transform Scotland's record on waste reduction, recycling, composting and recovery.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

In the national waste plan, the minister claims that a target of recycling 25 per cent of municipal waste can be achieved by 2006. Given that it will take at least one year to get planning permission for the many recycling points required, pollution prevention certification will take another year and building the structures involved will take two years—that makes a total of four years—does he agree that the buildings cannot be built in time to meet that target by 2006 and that therefore the target is unachievable?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

No, I do not agree with John Scott. It is interesting that he allots, on the basis of speculation, one year for each part of the process. Some local authorities may have to strike a balance on improved waste recycling and decide whether it is better for the environment to have waste landfilled in its existing condition or whether it is better to reduce landfill. Those will be difficult decisions for local authorities to take, but I do not accept the premise of the question.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

Can the minister confirm that in 1999 there was, as part of the national waste strategy, a target to reduce municipal waste production by about 1 per cent per annum? Can he also confirm that, in the national plan that has just been announced, the revised target for municipal waste reduction is to achieve zero growth by 2010? A lot of good stuff is in the strategy, but does he not accept that its credibility has been undermined by the fact that the Executive has given up on reducing waste in Scotland?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I do not accept that. We are continuing to try to reduce total waste—that is part of the strategy and of the targets that are set in the plan. We have made no pretence of the fact that the exercise will be difficult. Bruce Crawford and I both know that we have one of the worst records in dealing with waste in the whole of Europe. The task is substantial. The targets that are set out in the plan aim to achieve a considerable reduction in our production of waste and a substantial improvement in the amount of waste that will be recycled.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

In relation to the implementation of the national waste plan and in light of the changes that are being made to the landfill tax credit scheme, can the minister reassure me that the funding for research and development work—particularly work related to how electronic waste can be dealt with, which is taking place in my area—will be safeguarded? Will the plan allow for the continuing involvement of community businesses as well as the voluntary sector?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I will answer the last point first. As Sylvia Jackson knows, we have announced that, as an interim measure, we will give interim support to the voluntary sector groups that are engaged in recycling products. That funding is being channelled through Entrust and will be available for a year.

On the restructuring of the landfill tax credit, we still await confirmation of the precise amount that the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated in his speech would be channelled back to the Scottish Executive. We are confident that if we receive our proportionate share, we will be able to protect the projects to which Sylvia Jackson refers.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

The minister may not be aware that at least one of Scotland's community recycling schemes is considering laying off staff as a result of the change in category C funding. Can he explain how reducing community recycling will contribute to meeting the recycling targets?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I can only repeat what I said in response to Sylvia Jackson's question. We have moved swiftly towards giving community bodies interim funding, which we are channelling through Entrust. I would be extremely disappointed to hear of any voluntary body laying off staff. That was not the intention; our clear intention was to put the money in place, starting on 1 April. We made a clear announcement on the matter, and, as I said, we are channelling the funds through Entrust. If the member is aware of a particular case that seems to be slipping through Entrust's net, I would be pleased to hear from him.