After section 40

Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:52 pm on 26 March 2003.

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The Lord Advocate (Colin Boyd):

The purpose of amendment 1 is to reinsert a necessary provision that was omitted by mistake at stage 2. The Parliament's standing orders, in relation to consolidation bills, provide that stage 3 amendments are not admissible unless they are necessary to ensure that the bill is an accurate restatement of the law. One of the amendments that was approved at stage 2 had the effect of removing from the bill a provision of the Salmon Act 1986, namely section 12(1), which provides for what is to happen in cases where there is only one proprietor of salmon fisheries in a salmon fishery district. The amendment repairs that mistake. Without it, the consolidation would not be an accurate restatement of the law.

The Scottish Law Commission recommended that the consolidated provision should be amended to provide also for the case where there are only two proprietors in a salmon fishery district, and it was thus proposed for the provision to be adjusted to reflect that recommendation. However, the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Bill Committee rejected the Law Commission's recommendation, and the section containing the amended provision was simply deleted at stage 2. That had the effect of removing the original provision as well as the Law Commission's recommended provision. The amendment therefore restores a simple consolidation of section 12(1) of the 1986 act.

The standing orders do not permit any debate on the question that a consolidation bill be passed. I do not want to circumvent that standing order, but it would be remiss of me not to put on record the effort that has been put into this, the first consolidation bill of the Scottish Parliament, by the Scottish Law Commission and by the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Bill Committee and its staff. Between them, they have produced a consolidation that I have no doubt will be of great benefit to those who operate the legislation and to those who wish to amend it in future.

I move amendment 1.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

The amendment refers to a salmon fishery district in which there is only one proprietor. Will the Lord Advocate explain what effect, if any, the amendment will have on the implementation of the Freshwater and Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1976, which is consolidated in the bill? The 1976 act was supposed to improve access, but in fact, the so-called protection orders have in reality turned out to be more like exclusion orders. They have inhibited, or even prohibited, ordinary anglers from accessing many freshwater fisheries in Scotland.

The Executive has given a commitment to review or repeal the 1976 act. What is the point of consolidating something that is recognised as bad law and that will be repealed? I would appreciate the Lord Advocate's assurance that the 1976 act will be repealed at the earliest opportunity, and that a white paper that sets out the Executive's alternative proposals will be published before the dissolution of Parliament on Monday.

In the meantime, I intend to vote against the bill. I do not believe in consolidating legislation that makes it more difficult for ordinary anglers to fish many of the rivers and lochs in Scotland.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The amendment, referring as it does to the salmon fisheries boards, applies to the salmo salar species and salmo trutta in its migratory variety. However, as my colleague Dennis Canavan has spoken about salmo trutta in its non-migratory variety—more commonly known as brown trout—I am sure that I will also be allowed to say a word or two on that subject.

It is a matter of deep regret that in 1976 the ordinary men and women of Scotland were denied their traditional rights to fish for brown trout wherever they liked, provided that the their equipment was incapable of catching salmo salar or salmo trutta in its migratory form.

It is a grave disappointment that a consolidation bill does not permit the amendments that would undo that injustice. I support Mr Canavan's request that the Executive moves as a matter of urgency to remedy that injustice.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

As the convener of the consolidation bill committee, I rise to contribute to the debate. I also wish to deal specifically with the Lord Advocate's amendment, and I congratulate him on introducing it. As he says, the amendment will consolidate section 12(1) of the 1986 act. That consolidation is necessary to ensure that the bill is an accurate restatement of the existing law. Otherwise, that section would not be consolidated.

The advice that we have received from the legal adviser to the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Bill Committee is that this is an admissible amendment under rule 9.18.7 of standing orders. I am pleased to support amendment 1.

With your indulgence, Presiding Officer, I would like to address some wider issues. I hear the comments that Mr Canavan and Mr Stevenson have made on policy matters. The role of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Bill Committee was simply to consider consolidation of the existing law, but in our stage 1 report on the bill we suggested that it might be advisable for the Executive to examine the wider policy issue of salmon fishing as a separate item. However, it was not within the committee's remit to consider policy changes. I trust that members will understand that.

As convener of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Bill Committee, I record my thanks to the members of the committee, who participated in this process and considered the issues thoroughly. If members reflect on the fact that some of the legislation that we were consolidating dates back as far as 1607—I refer to the Theft Act 1607—they will understand why a consolidation bill was necessary and, indeed, desirable. We struggled with issues such as haaf-net fishing, cruives and fixed engines on the Solway, and I think that we did our job well. I thank the clerks and, especially, our legal advisers Iain Jamieson and his deputy, without whom we would have found the process even more impenetrable than was otherwise the case.

We support amendment 1, in the name of the Lord Advocate. I shall be happy to vote to pass the bill.

Photo of George Reid George Reid Scottish National Party

Some of the arguments that have been made have been rather wide of the amendment, but I have been indulgent because members did not speak for too long.

The Lord Advocate:

I will answer the question that Dennis Canavan put to me about the effect on the 1976 act. The amendment will have no effect on the operation of the 1976 act. I regret that I cannot give the undertaking that he sought to publish a white paper before dissolution on Monday. He asked what the purpose of the consolidation is. It is simply to restate the law as it stands. He can rest assured that I will pass on his comments on the substantive law to the minister responsible, whoever that may be, after the election.

Amendment 1 agreed to.