Ministers and Junior Ministers

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 9:54 am on 21st May 2003.

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Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green 9:54 am, 21st May 2003

I am very glad to speak on behalf of Scotland's other green team. I welcome in particular the appointment of the new Minister for Transport and wish him well in his term of office.

The transport portfolio has had a bit of a rocky history in the short life of the Scottish Parliament. We started with a Minister for Transport and the Environment—a combination that Robin Harper welcomed as reasonable—and Sarah Boyack was a minister with whom we felt we could work, despite disagreements. We were disappointed when transport was added to the enterprise portfolio, because we felt that that gave transport completely the wrong set of priorities. We are glad to see that transport now has a portfolio of its own and we hope that the Minister for Transport will recognise the links between not only transport and the economy but transport and the environment and, importantly, transport and the nation's health.

This green team read the partnership agreement with a lot of interest as it promised plenty of green policies. Those policies, I can tell readers who would not recognise a green policy, were marked with a little tree. The transport section contained quite a piece of woodland and the Green group could certainly support proposals in it. It is unfortunate that that little woodland seems destined to be crossed by a large motorway. If the new Minister for Transport is to retain any environmental credibility, he must make it clear that his transport strategy does not include the proposed M74 extension. Those few miles of motorway would cost more than the Parliament building is costing, cause immense destruction to the communities through which they would pass, increase traffic and pollution, and do nothing for the 60 per cent of households in the area that do not have a car. If the minister supports the M74 extension, his environmental credentials will be in tatters and his woodland will have been clear felled.

There are pledges in the transport section that the Greens will support and I welcome the fact that transport has at last been given a minister to itself. However, we are deeply disappointed that the environment has not been given a separate minister. The environment is as much about urban issues as it is about rural issues and it should not be combined with rural development, which merits its own minister, given the crisis in our countryside. In almost every country there is a dedicated minister for the environment. The fact that there is no such minister in Scotland says something about the Executive's green credentials, as, I am sorry to say, does the fact that the incumbent Minister for Environment and Rural Development—the man who continues to allow genetically modified crops to grow in Scotland's open environment—retains his post. Members can expect to hear more about that from the Green benches. [Interruption.] Excuse me, but I have lost my page. I will continue without notes.

We hope that Mr Finnie will earn his trees and will not allow them to be clear felled. He could do that, right now, by insisting on the destruction of the GM crop trial that is flowering in a field in Fife. He could put an end to the experiment whereby the people of Newport-on-Tay, and their children, are becoming guinea pigs in an experiment to breathe in GM pollen. He could end that now and improve the Executive's credentials at a stroke. I suggest that he do so.