Marine Environment

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 19 May 2004.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid None 2:30, 19 May 2004

Good afternoon. The first item of business is a debate on motion S2M-1327, in the name of Allan Wilson, on the sustainable management of Scotland's marine environment, and three amendments to the motion.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

This is the second time in a comparatively short period that we have discussed the marine environment—recently we discussed Scotland's beaches, and before that we discussed Scotland's bathing water quality—and I hope that the complaints from the nationalist benches that such matters are not important enough to be discussed will not be repeated. I am sure that they agree that while repetition is the essence of learning—and I hold out hope for my nationalist colleagues—these are not repetitive debates. They address complementary parts of a bigger and vital issue, which is how we sustainably manage our marine environment for generations to come, so that future generations who follow us in this chamber—or in whatever chamber it happens to be—get the benefit of our decisions on the future sustenance of our marine environment.

The previous debates gave us an opportunity to celebrate specific successes and to take some pride in them, as they are benefits in which everyone in Scotland can take pride. They also gave us time to confirm that there is no room for complacency about "The Day After Tomorrow", to coin a phrase—I see that Alasdair Morgan got it—and that continued, prolonged and co-ordinated effort on specific and more general fronts is needed to maintain those successes. The debates have shown that the various strands of activity in and around our seas are intertwined, but that we need to separate strands and occasionally consider them in isolation.

Today's debate allows us to take a timely wider view, coming as it does just ahead of world environment day on 5 June, which this year has a seas and oceans theme. It gives us the opportunity to think about how better co-ordination of activity and overall management of our marine and coastal environment might best be achieved for the longer-term benefit of nature and our people.

I remind members—Roseanna Cunningham and Rob Gibson in particular—that during the debate on bathing waters in December I promised to bring the Executive's proposals on the development of a strategic framework for the marine environment to the chamber for debate at the first opportunity. Members will know that I am a man of my word. The Executive's consultation paper on that strategic framework was launched by the First Minister on 19 April and, as promised, I have brought members a debate within a month. [Applause.]

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

It is a bit early for Christmas, but I acknowledge the sentiment.

The motion emphasises the importance of our marine environment on a number of fronts—ecological, economic and social. More than 70 per cent of the earth's surface is covered by oceans and seas, which are a major reserve of biodiversity and natural resources. In Scotland alone, the territorial waters over which this Parliament presides cover a greater area than our territorial landmass. That is something to contemplate.

Our seas and coastal areas provide food, energy and mineral resources, routes and harbours for shipping and tourism opportunities, all of which are vital for our economic and social needs. However, our seas and coastal areas are also unique and vital habitats in their own right—they support a diverse and abundant range of marine species. It is our responsibility to manage social and economic activity in a way that protects, conserves and enhances the wider marine environment.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

The minister referred to our ability to manage. Will he advise me whether he has studied the parts of articles 12 and 13 of the draft European constitution that relate to marine resources and environmental issues and considered what effect the new constitution will have on the Scottish Parliament's and his ability to manage?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

We will come on to debate how we might best manage our marine resources. One of the propositions that we put to the people in the most recent Scottish Parliament elections, which is contained in the partnership agreement, is that we might do that by means of establishing a coastal or marine national park. That lies within our provenance—Scottish parliamentarians may or may not decide to establish such a park. I believe that a park would make a real and lasting difference to marine and coastal conservation from which future generations would benefit. I do not want to be dragged down the cul-de-sac that Phil Gallie wishes me to go down, but we must use the powers that the Parliament has to best effect for the benefit of future generations.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Will the minister take a supplementary question on that point?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

No, I will just move on.

Members:

Very wise.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

To give a more vivid picture of the value of our marine environment, I point out that Scotland's marine and coastal waters support more than 40,000 marine species, including some of international significance such as basking sharks and leather-back turtles. Our seas support 14,000 fishing-related jobs—which is an issue that concerns all members—as well as providing 60 per cent of the total United Kingdom landings and 90 per cent of the UK's total marine aquaculture production. Our seas provide £57 million of revenue from and 2,500 jobs in marine wildlife tourism. There are 5.5 million passenger movements and 90 million tonnes of freight movements through Scottish ports. I will hear no siren voices about the importance of the issue to our wider economy. Our seas also contribute to the £21 billion of UK offshore oil and gas production and have the potential to support 6,000 to 8,000 jobs in marine renewable energy by 2015.

For members who have not read it, I commend Scottish Natural Heritage's recently published report, "The Seas Around Scotland", which is part of the natural heritage trends series. The report is an ideal summary of the current state of the natural resources around our shores—it also has a very nattily put-together cover, which comes free of charge.

Important though the statistics are in setting the scale of the value of our seas, they also make it clear that the potential for human impacts on the marine environment is huge. We have debated the environmental impacts of the fishing industry many times; only two weeks ago we debated the impact of litter; and last year we returned many times to the question of shipping-related pollution following the grounding of the Jambo near the mouth of Loch Broom last June. Those are important matters, but we need time for sober reflection to take stock of what we have been doing, to seek to minimise the potential for negative impacts on the marine environment and to consider the future.

With that in mind, we published the consultation paper that I mentioned, which the First Minister launched in April. The paper makes progress on our partnership agreement commitment to consult on the best strategy for protecting and enhancing Scotland's coastline, including the options of establishing a national marine coastline park and marine national parks. The main thrust of the consultation paper is to propose a clear strategic vision for Scotland's marine environment; to explain how the Executive's current range of marine-related activities interrelate; to explain the overall policy objectives that those activities serve in supporting that vision; to consider whether changes are needed to the specific legislation that deals with the consent regimes for developments in coastal and marine areas; and to seek views on what might be the appropriate mechanism for the future good governance and sustainable management of our marine environment.

The paper is not prescriptive. I know that some members in the chamber bemoan the amount of consultation that is undertaken, but I, for one, do not, because I want to hear a wide variety of views from both inside and outside the chamber. I want to hear about the effectiveness of the current range of marine-related legislation, the potential for marine spatial planning, the form that a strategic framework might take and how often it should be reviewed.

There is much more that I wish to go into, but that I do not have time to cover in my opening statement. I hope that the debate will flesh out some of the issues. We have always had plenty ideas, and consulting on a marine strategic framework brings all that innovation together. It will mean that the results and outcomes of current initiatives are drawn together properly and acted upon in a coherent way.

I hope that all those involved in current activities, in particular those at the local and voluntary levels, such as the various coastal partnerships and those involved in voluntary work in our coastal communities, will be reassured that developing a strategic framework is a means of acknowledging, maintaining and building on their efforts, not a threat to what they are doing and will continue to do. I regard it as being a key feature of any marine strategy that everybody is able to engage fully in its development and implementation.

We want to go further than—dare I say it—preaching to the converted. We want to involve everybody in our coastal communities and everybody who values the vital natural and national resources that our coastal waters and seas contain. We want to send the message that the strategy involves them, they should have an opinion on it and, if they do, they should express it to us.

I am grateful to a number of the environmental non-governmental organisations, particularly WWF Scotland, RSPB Scotland and the Marine Conservation Society, which have helped in developing and distributing a leaflet that we have produced on Scotland's seas and in distributing our strategy. That kind of partnership working helps to formulate the involvement that I am talking about and fosters more detailed work, such as the work that will arise from the consultation when it unfolds later in the year.

I know that some members will be tempted to press me to give a commitment to introduce a consolidated marine act—for which the SNP amendment calls—and to create a Scottish minister for the sea. On the former, I am sure that members will have lined up arguments both for and against such an act, to which I will listen carefully. I also want to hear the views of people outside the Parliament, who have only recently been given the opportunity to have their say. I have to keep an open mind on that, which is why I cannot accept the SNP or Conservative amendments.

On the latter point about the post of minister for the sea, I say modestly that the post already exists and there is no vacancy. The marine environment is a key element of my portfolio and I am proud to have it. I hope that we in the Executive exercise our functions in that respect in a way that will conserve and preserve our marine environment for future generations.

I move,

That the Parliament recognises the considerable ecological, economic and social importance of Scotland's marine environment; notes that the seas and oceans are the theme of this year's United Nations World Environment Day on 5 June; acknowledges the range of initiatives already taken by the Scottish Executive to protect and enhance all of Scotland's coastline and marine waters, including the Partnership Agreement commitment to consult on the options of establishing a national coastline park and marine national parks; endorses the Executive's continued input to the United Kingdom marine stewardship report process, to the development of a European marine strategy and to OSPAR; welcomes the strong lead being taken by the Executive to set out a clearer vision and more coherent strategic framework for Scotland's marine environment in its recent consultation paper, and supports the Executive's objectives of improving the co-ordination of activity to support, and developing a mechanism for, the future good governance and sustainable management of Scotland's marine environment.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Is the point of order germane to the debate or can we take it later? Is it so urgent that it must be taken now?

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Please state briefly the case for its urgency before you come to its substance.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

It concerns the trip around the new Holyrood Parliament building tomorrow that has been arranged for the press. It has come to my notice only in the past quarter of an hour that a bona fide person commissioned to report on it for the leading professional magazine Building

Design has been banned from taking part by the Parliament's press office.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Right. You gave me notice of that just as I came into the chamber. I will get back to the debate just now and have inquiries made of the press office. I hope to get back to you before 5 o'clock.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party 2:44, 19 May 2004

I welcome the debate. We have been asking for it through the Environment and Rural Development Committee and in the Parliament, and it is good to finally get it.

I reassure the minister that I, for one, got his reference to "The Day After Tomorrow". For the uninformed in the Parliament, it is the latest Hollywood blockbuster, which is based on climate change and will be coming to a cinema near you in the very near future. No, I am not on any retainer for the producers either. It is interesting that climate change and similar issues are forming the basis for such films.

Most of us live near the coast—for anyone in Scotland, it is almost impossible not to. Thousands of us, including fishermen, make our livings from the sea, millions of us travel on ferries every year, and millions of tonnes of waterborne freight passed through Scottish ports in 2001. It might surprise members to know that Perth has a busy harbour, which handled 218,000 tonnes of foreign and domestic freight traffic last year alone. There will be many similar small harbours right round Scotland's coast. Therefore, there is a delicate balance to be struck between the importance of economic activity in and around our waters and environmental imperatives. The oil and gas industry is undoubtedly a major and extremely important contributor to the Scottish economy, but, like everything else, it has its environmental costs.

Oil and gas are not, of course, the only sources of energy in our seas; there is a massive marine renewable energy resource waiting to be tapped, which brings with it the potential for 24,000 new jobs related to marine energy and wave power. However, because Scotland is fast losing offshore fabrication capability, we may lose out on those benefits unless rapid Government action is taken to fast-track offshore wind development and to encourage the offshore industry to diversify into that field.

The issue is not only a failure to provide any support for offshore wind power to justify investment. It is just as important that the Executive ensures that the roll-out concerns for offshore renewable energy be examined so that we do not end up in the boorach that we have with onshore wind power at the moment, with communities up in arms, developers putting in applications for every possible hilltop and everybody feeling that they have no strategic guidance to direct what is happening onshore. Let us not have that happen offshore. We have a chance to plan well in advance.

Scotland's marine environment will continue to be economically important only if it is managed sustainably. Scotland's seas and estuaries contribute most of the total estimated £17 billion that the environment contributes to the Scottish economy: a staggering £14.3 billion. Eco-tourism is an important and growing sector of the Scottish economy, not least because of the money that it brings into some of the more remote and economically disadvantaged parts of our country. The fact that marine wildlife tourism contributes more than 2,500 jobs and £57 million of revenue to the Highlands and Islands alone tells its own story.

Scottish waters support hugely diverse marine species, many of which need protection, and 33 of the United Kingdom's 65 possible marine special areas of conservation are Scottish. The Darwin mounds were discovered only in the summer of 1998—it is astonishing to realise that—and they were almost immediately acknowledged to be under threat of destruction. Of course, it is understandable that, as we had been working the seas in complete ignorance of the mounds, no protection was in place. Thankfully, on 22 March this year, fisheries ministers in Brussels finally agreed to give the Darwin mounds permanent protection, which was the final fulfilment of a promise that was made as far back as 2001. That is a really useful development, but it is a salutary thought to consider what else in our waters has an equally precarious future and of what else's existence we remain ignorant. It is always useful to remember that.

The Executive has launched a consultation on the possible establishment of a national coastline park and marine national parks and I welcome that. As most legislation for the protection of sites and species is designed for use on land, there is still no legal basis for designating and managing areas of nationally important marine habitat and species, so a national coastline park and marine national parks could be an answer to that problem.

I have no difficulty with supporting the opening portion of the Executive's motion, which

"recognises the considerable ecological, economic and social importance of Scotland's marine environment", but, as the minister might expect, we begin to differ when it comes to the actions that are required to rectify the problem.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

Speaking as one of the fisheries ministers who were present at the March council, when we enshrined the protection of the Darwin mounds, I wonder whether there is a contradiction in Roseanna Cunningham's stated position—in not wishing marine conservation to be a European Union competence, yet welcoming the fact that European fisheries ministers got together in March, within the context of the European Union, and decided to designate the Darwin mounds as an area for special protection.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I do not think that the Scottish National Party has ever been against international co-operation. Welcoming a single decision does not necessarily mean welcoming the entire basis for the decision-making process behind it for ever and anon. Not all the individual decisions will be welcome.

I am far from convinced that enough is being done by the Executive, even within the powers that are available to the Scottish Parliament, or indeed that the Scottish Parliament has all the powers that it needs to meet all the laudable aims that are set out in the Executive's motion. Of course, environmental issues are no respecters of borders or boundaries. Scotland is part of the Atlantic arc—Europe's western seaboard—which sweeps from the Hebrides to Andalucía, and we must continue to work with communities, for example in the west of Ireland and those that border the Bay of Biscay and the Gulf of Cádiz.

The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic—the OSPAR convention—is an international treaty charged with preventing and eliminating pollution of the marine environment in the north-east Atlantic. As my amendment makes clear, we must continue to be involved in it. However, to speak about the United Kingdom Government, marine stewardship and OSPAR in the same breath, as the Executive motion does, beggars belief.

All contracting parties to the OSPAR convention must

"take all possible steps to prevent and eliminate pollution".

Despite the UK being a signatory, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd continues to be allowed to discharge 8 million litres of radioactive waste a day into the Irish sea, which is supposed to be covered by the convention. The Sintra agreement, which was drawn up by the OSPAR commission in 1998, has committed to eliminate discharges of hazardous and radioactive pollutants by 2020, but I believe that the UK Government should stop that discharge now, so that it will meet the Sintra agreement obligations.

Scotland's seas are governed—I use the term "governed" in the loosest possible sense—by a mishmash of international, European, UK and Scots law. There is no strategic overview and, at present, no way of achieving a strategic overview, much less a planning framework to co-ordinate the work of the many bodies that have responsibility for aspects of marine management.

More fundamentally, there is almost no mechanism to encourage any sense of ownership or responsibility or to enable local management. At least 13 UK bodies have some marine responsibilities. Some of those extend out to 3 nautical miles; some to the 6-nautical-mile limit of Scottish waters; some to the 12-nautical-mile boundary of UK territorial waters; and some to the 200-nautical-mile continental shelf. Their competencies often overlap or compete. At least 85 acts of Parliament relate to marine and coastal activities. The minister, quite rightly, drew our attention to the publication from Scottish Natural Heritage; equally, I draw attention to the WWF Scotland publication, "The Tangle of the Clyde", which shows just how complicated the situation is. Frankly, it is a dog's breakfast.

If, as the Executive claims, it wants a more coherent, strategic framework, with improved co-ordination of activity, it seems that a starting point would be a piece of comprehensive legislation to deliver integrated management and proper spatial planning. More to the point, if the Executive is serious about working towards good governance of Scotland's marine environment in the future and improved co-ordination of activity, then the Executive parties should support my amendment and my call to have those matters that affect the marine environment that are currently reserved to Westminster devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

If we want good governance, we need to unfankle the tangled legislation that is currently in place. For example, how can Scotland possibly develop a workable mechanism for the sustainable management of our marine environment if oil tankers can travel willy-nilly through some of Scotland's most sensitive sea areas while navigation issues are reserved and so beyond the remit of this Parliament? How effective can marine national parks be if half of the foreshore and almost all the sea bed, to a distance of 12 miles, are owned by the Crown Estate? Highland Council recognises the ridiculous contradiction of that position and is campaigning for a review. MSPs should support Highland Council in its campaign. SNP MSPs certainly will. Will the minister?

I move amendment S2M-1327.1, to leave out from "acknowledges" to end and insert:

"supports continued involvement by the Scottish Executive in the development of a European marine strategy and in OSPAR; notes that the regulation and management of Scotland's coast and seas is fragmented with no coherent regulatory or planning framework and that, despite Scotland's unique variety of marine wildlife, there is no legal basis for designating and managing areas for nationally important marine habitats and species; believes that there is a need for legislation to deliver integrated management of all aspects of Scotland's marine environment; welcomes the consultation on the establishment of a national coastline park and marine national park, and, in recognising the importance of improving the co-ordination of activity to support, and develop a mechanism for, the future good governance and sustainable management of Scotland's marine environment, calls for control of all matters impacting on the marine environment that are currently reserved, including the Crown Estate Commission's ownership of the seabed, to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament."

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 2:54, 19 May 2004

Scotland's marine environment supports a huge number of diverse species and habitats and a huge wealth of economic activities, including oil and renewable energy developments, shipping, tourism and recreation, aquaculture and, most especially, fishing, which my colleague Ted Brocklebank will address later in the debate.

More than 77 acts govern activities relating to the marine and coastal environment in Scotland. Many people cite such a situation as outdated and fragmented and would like the creation of a single marine act to encompass all the challenges that face the marine environment. The Conservative party supports a sustainable development policy that is aimed at empowering the individual, increasing choice and creating incentives to be environmentally responsible, while reducing the power of bureaucracies. Current environmental legislation tends to work in the opposite way, empowering Governments and quangos, which often brings people and the environment unwillingly into conflict. The Conservatives understand the call for a single marine act and we tentatively support such a move, as long as it is approached in a balanced way and is not exploited by those who wish to impose their centralised solutions on the Scottish people. However, I will strongly resist any moves to remove the sea bed from Crown Estate management.

The environmental lobby claims that the current management of the marine environment is out of date and fragmented. While the structures and legislation may be fragmented, I do not necessarily agree that the legislation is out of date; rather, it has evolved organically over time, according to need, so it is likely to be largely fit for purpose. Therefore, I disagree with calls for radical reform and fundamental changes to our marine laws, policies and governance, as they are probably unnecessary. If there is to be a single marine act, all that is required is a process of consolidation, to ensure that the legislation is simplified and easily understood.

The green lobby would like an integrated approach, in which environmental, social and economic objectives are linked. However, an integrated approach might mean that we lose the ability to prioritise when difficult decisions arise, as they will when groups come into conflict on access to the marine environment. That relates particularly to the oil industry, which, it is argued, is largely unsustainable and difficult to fit into a sustainable management policy. I fear that there may even be a hidden agenda among some groups. They must ask themselves what role they see themselves having in the structure and process. I suggest that environmental groups may take their place alongside other sectoral interests whose role I seek to protect. They may see themselves taking an overarching position, dealing directly with an arms-length supervisory and regulatory body and pushing for environmental considerations to be given greater priority than economic or social ones.

I strongly disagree with calls for a lead body to be put in charge of planning maritime affairs in Scotland. I do not want a kind of SNH of the sea, increasing Government bureaucracy. Another quango is not the answer. The functions that require to be controlled or regulated at a Scotland-wide level should remain directly in the hands of Government, under the supervision of the minister who is accountable to Parliament. What else is the Executive for?

That which can be devolved should be devolved, and the current roles performed by local government, the Crown Estate, fisheries management groups and many others should be retained. The reserved powers regarding oil and gas should remain with the United Kingdom Government at Westminster, so that it can develop policies on a national level. Truly to improve the sustainable management of Scotland's marine environment we first need to regain control of our fishing waters by withdrawing from the common fisheries policy. Ted Brocklebank will deal with that in greater detail.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

Is that withdrawal from the common fisheries policy to be unilateral, as favoured by Mr Brocklebank, or negotiated, as favoured by Mr Howard?

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

It will be negotiated on a unilateral basis.

I move on to deal with the motion and the amendments that are before us. The Executive motion contains a great deal that is worthy of support and the Conservatives will agree to it if it is unamended by the end of the voting process. However, our amendment would omit the second part of the Executive motion, which we dismiss as the usual self-congratulatory material that the Executive puts forward. It is not the Conservatives' job to congratulate the Executive; the Executive does quite enough of that for itself.

There is much common sense in the Scottish National Party amendment, but unfortunately the SNP has gone down its usual road of suggesting that further changes to the devolved settlement should be made. It is unlikely that the SNP will find Conservative support for such a move.

Robin Harper has lodged an extremely sensible and worthwhile amendment, which the Conservatives would have found it easy to support but for our concerns about the deadline of 2006 that the amendment sets. Such a deadline might introduce a sense of urgency that might deliver a marine national park, but there is a grave danger that the park would be created without adequate and proper consultation and consideration. The Conservatives are not averse to the idea of a marine national park—we retain an open mind on the subject—but we will resist the temptation to support an amendment that puts a deadline on progress on the matter.

The Conservatives take the view that the process that is being undertaken is worthy of welcome. The establishment of a marine strategic framework is desirable. We would also support the formal consolidation of existing marine legislation, to tidy up and simplify the law, should that process be undertaken. However, I have expressed the Conservatives' grave concerns about such a process and I hope that the Executive will regard my contribution as the first indication that the Conservatives would defend those concerns during the course of that process.

I move amendment S2M-1327.2, to leave out from "endorses" to end and insert:

", but believes that the consolidation of marine legislation is only desirable if it can be achieved while protecting economic and social stakeholders, particularly in the fishing, aquaculture, energy and tourism sectors."

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 3:02, 19 May 2004

I thank the Conservatives for going as far as they have gone in giving credence to our amendment. However, I have the same concerns about the Conservative amendment as I do about the Executive's presentation of the issues in the chapter "The value of Scotland's marine environment" from the consultation document "Developing a Strategic Framework for Scotland's Marine Environment". In that chapter, food, ports and shipping, energy and tourism are considered before wildlife and habitats. However, if there are no fish, there will be no fishing; if the ecology is not preserved, there will be no marine tourism; and if proper attention is not given to the sea bed, there will be no development of energy resources off our coasts, because we will not have done the proper science to allow such development to take place. We must get it right; ecology must come first.

I welcome the debate and the Executive's consultation document, despite the concerns that I have expressed. I welcome the fact that, as the minister said, Barcelona has been chosen as the main host for this year's world environment day and I note that the theme for the day will be "Wanted! Seas and Oceans—Dead or Alive?" The question is, of course, rhetorical; we would prefer the seas and oceans to be alive.

There is much to support in the Executive motion. Our amendment would clarify the motion and take it a little further—or a lot further, according to the Conservatives. I remind the Conservatives that the first national park was set up within two years of the passing of the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000. There is no reason to suggest that we could not do the same thing for our seas.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

Does the member acknowledge that, although a national park was set up within two years of the 2000 act, work to establish national parks had been going on for generations? We would be establishing a marine national park from scratch, which might take more than two years.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

A marine park would hardly be created from scratch. As we have observed, more than 13 different organisations are concerned with the preservation of our marine environment in one way or another, plus all the NGOs. A lot of research has been done and a lot is known, so setting up a marine park would not take that long.

The marine environment is fantastically intricate and complex and it transcends political and administrative boundaries. That is why we need an ecosystem approach. I draw members' attention to the definition of that approach in the consultation's glossary, which mentions

"integrated management ... based on knowledge ... to achieve sustainable use ... and maintenance of ecosystem integrity."

A sound knowledge base is vital, which means that, in addition to other forms of investment, we need to invest in science. We must recognise that management needs to be adaptive—local monitoring and learning are key aspects of knowing about and adapting to ecosystem dynamics. I emphasise that people should be considered as part of the marine ecosystem, too, and not just as externalities. I would like to hear more about the Executive's ideas for local management committees in that respect.

The need for stakeholder participation seems obvious, but it is less clear who the stakeholders are. That is an important starting point. Similarly, local communities barely get a mention in the framework document. In the Executive's vision of sustainable marine management, local communities are mentioned only in the context of aquaculture. Mention is made of the need to balance

"the needs of local communities with potential implications to the marine environment", as if the two are necessarily at odds. They do not need to be.

My colleagues and I have called repeatedly for a single, integrated act on the marine environment, to overarch the current plethora of legislation that Roseanna Cunningham mentioned. The consultation on a strategic framework is welcome up to a point, but I humbly suggest that the great shortcoming of a strategic framework, as distinct from a strategy, is that is will lack targets and goals—there will be no mechanism for delivery or compulsion. The Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 is a model piece of legislation in that respect. Indeed, it is particularly relevant, as a marine act could carry on the good work of the 2003 act, which hits the buffers three miles from the shore.

National parks can be good for fisheries as well as for tourism and biodiversity and they offer another means of introducing no-take zones such as those around New Zealand and in many other parts of the world. Such zones have proved to be beneficial to fisheries, so fishermen are extremely keen on them. We should seek to learn from the experiences of other national parks at home and abroad. Will the minister consider issuing a direction to the Scottish sustainable marine environment initiative to explore those options?

Another area in which we should apply lessons that have been learned elsewhere is the development of marine renewable energy. The potential of offshore wind, wave and tidal energy is truly enormous. Let us get it right first time and establish early on a genuinely participative stakeholder process—such as the one in Copenhagen, where the city owns half the wind farm—and a strategy to which all are signed up. Let us not repeat the piecemeal, developer-led approach that we have seen with onshore wind, which is a "boorach" in Roseanna Cunningham's terms and a "guddle" in mine.

We need to review the role of the Crown Estate, which brings me to aquaculture. I referred earlier to the shortcomings of having a strategic framework as distinct from a strategy. We need to consider the long-term impact of aquaculture on the coastal environment and I register my concern about the recent allocation of European Union money—about £1.5 million from financial instrument for fisheries guidance funds—to promote the healthy image of farmed salmon. I greatly hope that the money will be spent on validation rather than on assertion. I note that the health concerns initially arose largely as a consequence of the effect of pollution on feedstock.

The Greens welcome the debate and the consultation and we endorse and support the call for the Parliament to recognise the ecological, economic and social importance of Scotland's marine environment.

I move amendment S2M-1327.3, to leave out from "in its recent" to end and insert:

"starting with its recent consultation paper; notes the need for encouragement and support to community initiatives seeking sustainable local management of marine resources; supports the Executive's objectives of improving the co-ordination of activity to support, and develop a strategy for, the future good governance and sustainable management of Scotland's marine environment, and calls on the Executive to, as a first step, establish a marine national park by the end of 2006."

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat 3:09, 19 May 2004

The degree of consensus in the motion and the three amendments is striking. We all accept the importance of the marine environment for ecological, economic and social reasons. We all recognise that there is a plethora of bodies, laws and regulations that are concerned with the marine environment and we all agree that they somehow have to be brought together within a coherent framework.

The ecological importance of the marine environment is incontrovertible. Around 8,000 species of marine wildlife live in Scottish waters. We have the most northerly population of bottle-nosed dolphins and a third of the world's grey seal population. We have a sixth of all seabirds that breed in Europe and 33 of the 65 possible marine special areas of conservation are in Scottish waters.

The economic importance of the marine environment to Scotland is also incontrovertible. As Allan Wilson said, 60 per cent of UK fish landings are landed in Scotland, with a value of around £328 million. Shellfish fisheries in the Clyde alone are worth £15.5 million and our aquaculture industry is worth £700 million—50 per cent by value of Scottish food exports. Furthermore, 6,500 jobs are directly or indirectly involved in aquaculture, more than 4,500 of which are in areas with fragile local economies where there is little alternative employment. The industry also provides affordable, nutritious food—a fact that should not be overlooked.

Our commercial ports and shipping make an important contribution to the economy and our ports are important to the leisure market. We see tour ships delivering high-value tourism to deepwater ports in Orkney and at Peterhead, which otherwise would never see that kind of high-spending tourist. Shipping also takes freight off the roads—a fact that we tend to forget and an idea that could be developed much further. Following the success of the Rosyth to Zeebrugge ferry, why are we not looking to create more North sea crossings, especially to the Baltic states, which are now in the EU? In the middle ages, trade across the North sea with the Baltic countries made loads of millionaires in Aberdeen. It would be nice to have a few more from that source.

Our debate the week before last highlighted how much we value beaches and coasts for recreation. I am not talking about an esoteric value; our beaches and coasts have a high monetary value. Coastal tourism is estimated to put £375 million into the economy, with whale watching alone contributing £11.8 million.

I have not yet touched on energy, including oil and gas extraction and the development of renewable energy from offshore wind, wave and tidal resources.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Nora Radcliffe will have noted the minister's failure to address the points that I raised on the draft European constitution. Given the well-informed and valid points that she has just made, is she aware of the effects that articles III-130 and III-137 of the draft constitution could have on all the management issues that she is claiming the Scottish Parliament should take account of?

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

I ask Phil Gallie to expand on what those numbers mean. I do not deal in numbers. Can he tell me what he is getting at?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Article III-130 refers to qualitative management of water resources. Article III-137 refers to transport links and sea passages and the European Union's ability to control which carriers operate where.

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

The transport starts in Scotland but it ends up somewhere else. We have to work within the EU, using the influence and levers that we have, to get agreement on those things. I do not see how we could do that in isolation. It would be ridiculous to do that.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

We have done it another way for years, by managing the resources ourselves.

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

Well, we have managed them within the EU for many years and we have received lots of other benefits from the EU. All the things that I have mentioned emphasise the range of pressures on the marine environment and the importance of managing their impact.

The second strand that we are all agreed on is the plethora of bodies and regulations. In "The Tangle of the Clyde", which Roseanna Cunningham mentioned, the schematic illustration of governmental marine responsibilities looks like a chandelier. Underneath that are the various areas of jurisdiction, which Roseanna Cunningham also mentioned: the foreshore, with high-water and low-water marks; UK territorial waters to 3, 6 and 12 miles; and UK fisheries limits to 200 miles. A few pages further on, we see a list of the legislation that impacts on the Clyde estuary alone—it is in tiny print because there is so much of it. The number of acts of Parliament that apply to coastal areas is a staggering 85.

Such complexity must be a barrier to understanding and implementation as well as to the sensible and effective management of an important resource that is being exploited by a wide range of sometimes competing interests. That is why there is consensus on the urgent need for a clear vision and a coherent strategic framework. The Scottish Executive consultation paper starts the process of developing such a framework and is published in the context of on-going initiatives at various levels, some of which are mentioned in the motion. They include OSPAR, the European marine strategy and the UK marine stewardship process.

In Scotland, the Scottish coastal forum has done a huge amount to promote, foster and encourage integrated coastal zone management. Its spring 2004 report is an impressive catalogue of fora and initiatives that are already in place, working well, demonstrating best practice and giving us a lot to build on. However, although there are good foundations, I believe that it behoves us to do the groundwork properly as we proceed. I know that legislation is in place that would enable us to create a marine national park, but I would like a lot more work to be done to establish exactly what we have in our coastal waters before we decide where we want a marine national park and why. There are a lot of gaps in our knowledge and I would prefer us to direct our efforts to filling in some of those gaps than to rush to create a trophy national park in a matter of months. If it were not for that proposal, I would have taken on board the Green amendment, the other part of which I think is eminently acceptable.

The partnership agreement commits us to consult on a national coastline park. I welcome that, although I am slightly sceptical about how a single coastline national park would work. I think that it might be too diffuse. My gut feeling is that a single coastline strategy would be more appropriate, with more concentrated action in those areas that are identified as suitable for national park status. Consultation will open up the discussion, thrash out the issues and inform subsequent discussion.

In conclusion, there is agreement that there is an important job to do and we have started on the process of accomplishing it. I welcome that.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 3:17, 19 May 2004

This debate marks another step forward in thinking about how we can modernise the legal framework and the promotion of a long-term sustainable Scotland. We should look at our marine environment not as a resource to plunder, but as a potential resource that is capable of sustaining a rich and varied natural environment and of enabling economic development and supporting local jobs across Scotland. Sometimes those interests will be in conflict, but the whole point of the debate should be about how we manage them in the long term, for local communities and for the wider national interest.

I could not believe Alex Johnstone's opposition to an integrated approach. The whole point of the debate about sustainable development is to flush out the arguments. Sometimes there are trade-offs and sometimes we have to say no to people, but we must at least flush out the arguments and have a proper debate about them. We must consider issues such as tourism and nature interpretation, fishing and aquaculture, transport demand, renewable energy and projects around our towns and cities—which nobody has really talked about today—in relation to ports or coastal developments, which are essential for our economy. We need a framework in order to consider those issues.

The challenge is to get the right framework in which to hold that kind of debate, to get the right economic development in the right place at the right scale, and then to monitor the carrying capacity of our marine environment so that we can assess the cumulative impact of change. Robin Harper was absolutely right to say that we cannot have development without considering long-term environmental protection in the seas and oceans. It would be irresponsible to look at the two things separately.

We are at a starting point in trying to deal with the longer-term challenges of climate change. We must consider what areas of Scotland we want to preserve for all time, what areas of land we will build expensive coastal defences to defend over time, what areas we think should be allowed to go back to the sea and what areas we should manage to allow them to become salt marshes again. Those questions raise many community and society issues, but we do not have a governance structure that allows us to hold such debates and to consider the costs involved.

Some members have mentioned renewable energy, which represents a huge opportunity for us. However, the issue is not about setting out a framework for how things will happen in 10 years' time. Proposals are coming forward now, so the debate on how we can grasp the opportunities needs to take place now. We must have in place a strategic environmental assessment that ensures that such developments are long term, viable and good for the country.

There are challenges and opportunities, but our problem is that we have a raft of pieces of legislation from different eras. Over time, the legislation has been amended, so it now contains many different processes. We will never be able to reduce complex decisions to a simple process, but we should be able to simplify the way in which we deal with these issues. The Executive's consultation will let us have that debate. It will allow us to consider what the right framework is and how we should consolidate the legislation on our marine areas to take the debate forward.

The consultation paper identifies the many problems that we face—pollution, the loss of biodiversity, coastal erosion, the impact of unregulated tourism—and the many reasons why we should concentrate our minds now on framing new legislation and creating a new national framework.

We must also recognise the good work that is taking place. It would be wrong if we used today's debate just to moan about the imperfect legal framework that we start off with. A lot of good work is happening in our coastal communities, in developments such as the coastal partnerships and in fishing and aquaculture management, which I know Alasdair Morrison will mention in the context of the Western Isles. A lot of good work is being done, but we need a coherent, overarching framework.

The briefings that I suspect every member received show just how much good work is going on and explain the on-going debate. In particular, I draw members' attention to the joint paper from the Royal Town Planning Institute and RSPB Scotland on spatial planning. We need to consider in detail some of the issues concerning the boundaries between planning on land and planning at sea. We need to ensure that we get that right. We have also been given a lot of evidence about the good work that the coastal partnerships are doing.

Before deciding how to vote today, I read through all the amendments. I agree with the sentiment behind the Green amendment. I also agree with Robin Harper on the need for local community management and integrated management of our fisheries. However, I honestly cannot support giving ourselves a deadline of one and a half years to achieve the target of establishing a marine national park.

Back when the Parliament was first established, we debated whether one bill should cover both Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms proposed national parks. Even though a national park for Loch Lomond and the Trossachs had been debated for a decade or so, we decided to give attention to both proposed national parks, despite the fact that they involved distinctive groups of local stakeholders and different arguments. We should do the same with marine national parks. Instead of having a one-size-fits-all solution, we need to think about the issue a bit more carefully.

The more Roseanna Cunningham explained the SNP's position, the more she tied herself in knots. There is a fundamental contradiction in the SNP's argument. Having one border will never fix all the problems in our marine areas. We need to deal with the issues at European, United Kingdom, Scottish and local authority level.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

We would remove the UK from the equation.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

Exactly. I just do not understand the obsession with removing the English from the equation.

Photo of Roseanna Cunningham Roseanna Cunningham Scottish National Party

I said that we would remove the UK from the equation.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

Why should we not involve the Welsh, Northern Irish and the English as part of the UK? There is a big argument in favour of the need for UK involvement. I do not sign up with the nationalists on that. Disappointingly, the Tories, too, displayed a lack of understanding of what is meant by good governance and sustainable management.

The point of today's debate is to bring people together so that they are not excluded and have a meaningful involvement in how we shape Scotland's future around our coasts and seas. The Executive's consultation paper gives us a chance to do that. The motion is concrete and people should support it.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 3:23, 19 May 2004

To explore the details of today's debate, it helps to have a particular sea view in mind when thinking about how an integrated marine policy should work. Few MSPs represent an area that has no coastline, so most of us should find it quite easy to do that.

I was able to survey the waters of the Pentland firth from Dunnet head last Monday, when the Caithness walking festival offered me an ideal site from which to reflect on that sea area, which sustains a large bird population of fulmars, guillemots and puffins, along with whales, dolphins and lots of other sea life. The firth narrows from eight miles at the west end to two seaworthy miles at the east end, where three ferries ply across from Caithness to Orkney.

I also watched a large bulk carrier, which ploughed east towards the narrow channel into the North sea, like so many do and so many more could if the Scapa Flow international container hub is set up. In March 1999, an accident took place in those stormy narrow seas involving the chemical-carrying ship Multitank Ascania. That incident showed how congestion can lead to ecological disaster. The well-trained crew and emergency services dealt with the crisis, but not before an exclusion zone of 5km had been set up around the anchored, burning ship, which was full of vinyl acetate, and 600 local residents had been evacuated. It takes a very long time to sort out the environmental effects of marine disasters, which occur all along our coasts and right down to Spain. It also takes a long time to settle human affairs in such areas. A taxi driver told me yesterday that a cousin of his has just received compensation from the Braer disaster in Shetland. An overarching approach to marine affairs is required, so that such matters are better integrated.

I return to my view from Dunnet head. Across in Orkney, the marine energy test centre seeks to harness the tides and the waves. The white-fish landings at Scrabster are strong at the moment and lobster pot buoys are dotted along the sea close inshore. How are all those interests to be regulated and integrated, especially given that not far to the west lies the Dounreay nuclear decommissioning site, from which radioactive particles have historically washed on to beaches such as Sandside and swept through the Pentland firth by the strong currents, deep into North sea crevices?

Further west again are the maerl beds, which, at the Darwin mounds, the EU has begun to protect. However, those are not the only beds to have been dredged out. I am glad that at Lamlash, on Arran, a local attempt is being made to protect the undersea maerl beds from destruction. If we are to give people powers to offer such protection, we need to have an overarching view of how it should be done.

As many other members have noted, there is a plethora of laws and regulatory authorities. About 80 laws govern the cleanliness of our seas and beaches, navigation and fishing, but there is no strategic plan like the onshore plans for local authorities that are regularly updated to show their development and conservation aims. There must be offshore plans that link with those, because onshore activity can have devastating effects on nearby sea areas. It is essential that offshore planning is integrated with land use.

In the far north-west of Sutherland, the threat—however unlikely it is to be realised—that a superquarry will be set up at Loch Eriboll is blighting the development of the loch for shellfish cultivation. Would-be shellfishers must sign a waiver noting the possibility that a superquarry will have an effect on the quality of the waters and that pier facilities may be required. Something must be done to resolve that situation, as the blight remains.

Meanwhile, the Crown Estate commissioners scoop up a steady income from developments beyond the high-water mark. Like the Royal Navy press gangs of the past, the CEC takes a toll on our resources, without locally elected people having any overall controls that would allow them to plan for and monitor the land and adjacent sea area. Offshore wind farms and tidal machines will also grease the palms of the CEC if we do not cut out those pirates who extort £80,000 a year from the Cromarty Firth Port Authority, for example, thereby weakening its development potential.

Ports and harbours need funding to tackle accelerated low-water corrosion, which the Executive does not yet recognise as a huge national problem. These are coastal matters that relate to both land and sea. It should be noted that the nearby Cape Wrath area suffers from Ministry of Defence and NATO bombing and shelling exercises throughout the year—even into the tourist season, in early July—which can result in an increased number of dolphin and whale deaths, and much else besides. MOD rights of passage, the use of submarines and offshore exercises need to be included in the spatial planning of our sea areas and lochs.

The examples that I have given show that the consultation that is under way must go much further. Good governance and sustainable management require a national framework. We probably need a demonstration marine national park to show what can be done. Local decision-making powers are essential, but those can be created only if there are national powers of integration over all uses of the sea—as is evident from the area around Dunnet head.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative 3:29, 19 May 2004

In speaking in this debate, I must say that my primary concern is the same as everyone else's: the future of the marine environment around the Scottish coastline. We have without question one of Europe's richest and most diverse coastlines, which has been created by a combination of tectonic plate movement and Atlantic wave erosion. The British coastline is certainly one of the most magnificent in Europe, and Scotland's coast is perhaps the best. It contains richness in every sense to sustain Scottish people, with natural resources that range from oil and other forms of energy to fishing and conservation areas.

Our North sea oil industry has been a boon to the British economy for the past 30 years and our fishing industry has sustained communities all around our coastline for generations—Ted Brocklebank will say more about that in a moment. Our energy-harvesting capability in the marine environment can only grow and the potential for conservation and tourism is being recognised only now. Indeed, there are many Scottish marine assets. However, we must address the fact that they are neither widely appreciated nor adequately managed.

First, we need to note and catalogue those hugely diverse assets. We need to find out whether they are in decline, as our fish and oil stocks are, or whether their future prospects are improving, as is the case with energy harvesting and marine ecotourism. Having evaluated those assets, we must then begin to plan how we can best maintain and indeed exploit them, preferably in a sustainable way. We must consider consolidating the legislation to provide clarity for all users of the marine environment. Moreover, we must learn from worldwide experience and think about creating a marine national park. The obvious focal point of any such park would be the Darwin mounds and the cold water corals, which until recently have been under threat from damaging fishing techniques.

We must also develop the potential for tourism that a marine national park would create. Indeed, now that we have land-based national parks we should perhaps think about extending the concept into the marine environment. To do that, we must consider whether we should designate areas of our marine environment for different purposes.

I ask members to picture in their mind's eye a map of Scotland. In the North sea, we have fishing, oil and tourism. In the Moray firth, we have dolphins, oil, fishing and tourism. In the Pentland firth and the Minches, we should be planning to harvest tidal energy while maintaining our fishing industry. To the north and west, we should also seek to maintain that industry while considering conservation measures and thinking about how we can move tourists into those fragile mainland areas to allow them to discover those unrivalled environments. Aquaculture is vital to those areas and the sooner that we can achieve integrated coastal zone management in them the better.

We also need to protect the environment and the shipping lanes in the north-west. In the firth of Clyde and the Solway, in addition to sustaining our traditional fishing activities, there is the potential to grow tourism activities such as sailing. Offshore wind farming, which is effectively already in place in the Solway firth, must be contained and not allowed to proliferate at random. For those reasons, we must start to manage our assets better.

We also need to reduce pollution, and instead of extracting what we can get from our seas we need to examine and manage for the future our current assets. However, as Alex Johnstone has pointed out, that should not be done in a heavy-handed or bureaucratic way.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The member said that we have to start managing our offshore wind farms better. However, given that the only such farm has not yet been developed, how precisely does he plan to do that?

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The member will appreciate that the bill for the wind farm in question has been passed, although he is right to point out that wind farm has not yet been developed. However, I do not want the north-west of Scotland covered in offshore wind farms. Perhaps he does.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

But how does the member plan to manage offshore wind farms better?

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

As I have said, I believe that a sympathetic and sensible planning regime must be established. That regime should be lightly regulated but, as Sarah Boyack pointed out, it should acknowledge where we are while taking a view on where we want to be. Our Scottish marine environment is still largely in good shape; however, given the ever-increasing pressure on it and its natural resources, it would be only prudent to consider intelligently its future use. Previous generations have been sustained by our seas and their contents. However, to preserve that capability for future generations, we must now plan and protect what we have.

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour 3:34, 19 May 2004

As I am the MSP for the Western Isles, members will not be surprised to learn that a great deal of my constituency work load consists of issues that relate to the marine environment. Many of my constituents depend on that environment for their livelihood. Many islanders and visitors also enjoy, for leisure, the sea and the sea lochs that are such a dominant feature of life and work in the Hebrides. The protection of that pristine environment must remain a priority for the Executive. Ensuring the continued viability of the marine environment around and in the Western Isles will require decisive action and continued focus. The Executive has committed itself to legislation on inshore fisheries, and it is consulting on the specifics of that legislation. I will touch on that matter later.

I want to highlight the need for protection from large, oil-laden tankers that currently travel up and down through the Minches. A tanker foundering in the relatively calm and shallow waters of the Minch would be disastrous for the islands in my constituency and for communities on the west coast. The Executive and the UK Government must continue to liaise and work closely together to put in place proper pilotage systems for the Minches. The current voluntary arrangement—which is all well and good—in which tankers, prior to entering the Minches, report to the Stornoway coastguard is certainly an improvement on that of previous years. However, we must formalise the arrangement further so that all ships that are laden with potentially ruinous cargoes are properly escorted or piloted through the Minch.

As the minister will know, aquaculture is one of the mainstays of the Western Isles economy. There is no need for me to repeat the statistics that Nora Radcliffe recited earlier on the significant sums of money generated by that industry and the significant numbers of people who are involved in it. The strategic framework for aquaculture is already helping to support the industry in ways that will ensure that it becomes sustainable, diverse and competitive. I thank the minister for his efforts over recent weeks in relation to safeguards and the European Commission.

The industry appreciates that Government support is not unconditional. Every fish farmer and mussel farmer I meet readily accepts that they must continue to change and adjust to address the environmental and social challenges that they face. They do so willingly and they already work sensibly in partnership with the Executive and its agencies. Nevertheless, they are, sadly, under constant siege by shadowy forces that tell and print as fact what are simply barefaced lies about the reality and working practices of fish farming. In recent months, we have seen the more irresponsible members in the chamber align themselves with those forces, who would empty our islands and communities of all the people and families who rely on aquaculture.

I urge the minister to examine closely the excellent collaborative work that the industry and all the relevant agencies in the Western Isles are undertaking on the relocation and size of fish farms and how the needs of the environment and the industry can best be addressed. I firmly believe that the work undertaken by the recently established Western Isles fish farming task force could be the best way forward for the industry in Scotland. I hope that the minister's officials are keeping up to date with that significant progress.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Will the Executive give help to fish farmers who have to relocate their fish farms?

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

I hope that Jamie McGrigor will discover for himself the excellent collaborative work that is happening in the Western Isles between companies and all the agencies that have a locus in fish farming. That work is about reducing the costs, whether of environmental impacts or of moving to larger fish farms. The minister's officials are involved in that work and I am sure that the minister will be happy to share the relevant information with Mr McGrigor.

I now turn to inshore fisheries. The Executive must also continue to support that area. We need legislation to protect the conservation-minded inshore fishermen of the Western Isles. We have already seen the benefits of adapting and changing the law in relation to inshore fisheries, with the making of a Scottish statutory instrument to protect scallop-fishing grounds from large boats with large dredges. Of course, I cannot mention scallops in the context of the Western Isles without mentioning the Green Party's rampant hypocrisy on the scallops issue. I do not question the sincerity of the Green Party in relation to the environment, but its crass stupidity on the scallops issue exposed its lack of understanding. [Interruption.] I hear animated voices from the nationalists' seats. It is significant that the nationalists are sitting with the Green Party today, as that was exactly their position when they sold out west coast fishermen six months ago, while we acted to protect the environment, fishermen and processors.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

Is it the case—as was predicted—that because of the new regulation several owners of large scallop boats have downscaled their boats and bought more of them to fish scallops, so that there are now more boats fishing—and overfishing—for scallops than there were before?

Photo of Alasdair Morrison Alasdair Morrison Labour

Once again, that is absolute nonsense. As recently as last Thursday I visited a factory in Grimsay, on North Uist. The owner of the factory, who also owns fishing boats, is delighted with that regulation because it has stabilised the number of scallops that are landed, the price has increased and the jobs at sea and on land have been protected by the Executive and by the members of the committee that approved that regulation.

Before I wish the minister well in his efforts to protect the marine environment and deliver what is clearly written in the partnership agreement, I make a plea to him. Indeed, I urge these words of caution on him: please do not sterilise the marine environment, which so many people use for leisure and economic activity. Protect it, but do not sterilise it. As I said, I fully endorse the approach that he has outlined. Let us protect the marine environment, but let us make the right choices so that the communities who have lived with and around that environment on a sustainable basis for centuries can continue to do so for many more years.

Photo of John Farquhar Munro John Farquhar Munro Liberal Democrat 3:41, 19 May 2004

If I had seen Alasdair Morrison earlier, I could have saved myself from having to write my speech, because what he said is almost a carbon copy of it.

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate and I give my full support to the Executive motion. We must do all that we can to protect and preserve our marine environment. However, as Mr Morrison said, as we protect our marine environment we place too many restrictions on onshore developments, which are being delayed or restricted due to the lack of appropriate pollution-control equipment to protect the marine environment. Scottish Water, which has a responsibility to provide that infrastructure, claims that the costs of providing it in remote, rural coastal areas are prohibitive. That may be so but, as a consequence, planning permission for private and commercial developments is regularly delayed. We must consider that issue when we protect the marine environment.

On the west coast, much economic benefit results from tourists, who are attracted by our clean and untouched marine environment. I welcome the stance taken by the Scottish Executive to promote that vision for marine tourism. However, I believe that it has missed one crucial point with regard to the protection of our marine environment on the west coast—the continuing threat posed to the Minch by industrial traffic and other hazardous cargoes.

We must remember that the many consultations and strategies that we have established for marine national parks could be lost overnight. If an oil tanker or some other ship carrying hazardous cargoes goes down in the Minch, those consultations and strategies will all have been in vain—that would be sad. Many ships with hazardous cargoes pass by Scotland's coastline every day. It is estimated that a fifth of all UK crude-oil traffic passes through the Minch and many people, not only in my constituency but in communities up and down the coast, from Durness to the Mull of Kintyre and from Barra head to the Butt of Lewis, want to see something done about that.

We have already had two very close shaves in the Minch in the past two years. There was the well-publicised grounding of the nuclear submarine HMS Trafalgar, which hit a lump of rock off the north end of Skye despite the fact that that vessel had all the navigation aids imaginable.

There was also the unfortunate incident involving the cargo ship Jambo, which hit a rock, spilling her cargo of zinc sulphide into the Minch, when it was seven miles off course, off the Summer Isles in Loch Broom.

The Minch is particularly vulnerable to pollution because it is very sheltered and the water flow is very poor. Even a minor incident could have a long-lasting impact. It could take years for an oil slick or other hazardous leak to be dispersed.

In the many answers that I have received to parliamentary questions on the issue, the Executive has always replied by saying that shipping is governed by the International Maritime Organisation and that the Executive is working with the UK Government to ensure that shipping in places such as the Minches and elsewhere is regulated as effectively and safely as possible. I have seen little evidence of any improvement in safety in shipping through the Minch since I left the merchant navy—although it is perhaps a safer place since I came ashore.

My preference is to have a tanker-traffic route west of the Hebrides. There is an established route on the charts west of the Hebrides that could take such shipping, but I understand from Mr Morrison and others that there might be opposition to that suggestion from some quarters. As a compromise, I would like all ships with hazardous cargoes that travel through the Minch to be required to carry transponders so that they can be identified and located instantly. In addition, I support the Highland Council's proposal to insist that all such vessels be required to carry a pilot, whether their passage is northwards or southwards.

As we have heard, the west coast has a first-class marine environment, which the Scottish Executive is right to protect. I commend the Executive's proposals but ask it to take that one extra step to address the hazardous cargoes that pass through the Minch.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party 3:46, 19 May 2004

Today's debate, which marks the beginning of an important journey for Scotland, should have begun a decade ago. I say that not to criticise the Executive, but to congratulate it; it has at last started us down the road to securing the future of the seas that surround Scotland for the generations that will follow us. The journey will not be easy; tough decisions will have to be made and you can bet your boots that someone will be prepared to put the boot in and criticise us if we are thought to be having an impact on their unsustainable practices. If that criticism does not arise, whatever strategy is deployed, whatever policy is put in place and whatever action plan is implemented, today's debate on securing the future of the seas will, in effect, be a waste of time, because the debate should be controversial, provocative and far reaching. I say that because the future health of Scotland's marine environment will say everything about who we are and how much we care for the planet on which we live. The seas that surround us are of incalculable worth economically, socially and spiritually.

What do we really know about the value of the seas? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is, "Not very much"; we certainly know a great deal less than we should. The truth is that we live in dreadful ignorance of what could be Scotland's number 1 ecological and economic asset. Our knowledge of the treasures of the sea, its complex ecosystem and how it works is at about the same level as was our knowledge of terrestrial forests at the end of the 19th century. That is why it was so important for the minister to set up the marine sub-group and to establish it within the framework of the sustainable marine environment initiative. The group has begun the job of filling the huge knowledge gap that exists—it is undertaking a project that is aimed at examining the nature, scale and potential of the social, economic and environmental resources in Scottish waters. That work must continue.

The journey along the road to creating a sustainable marine environment for Scotland's territorial waters must be undertaken here, as no one else can do that for us. However, we cannot achieve our goals unless action is also taken on a wider, international front. That is why the work that the European Union initiated on integrated coastal zone management between 1996 and 1999 was so important. It helped to provide technical information about sustainable coastal zone management and started to stimulate a debate about how best to manage coastal zones, which led to the laying down of a requirement for member states to develop and produce national strategies by 2006. In his closing speech, I would like the minister to tell us how close we are to meeting that target.

The challenges that face us with regard to the health of our seas are significant, but they are not insurmountable. The issues go beyond the basics that are laid out by the Executive in its strategic framework document. I would have liked it to contain much more about challenging the industrial practices that result in dilute acids and organochloride compounds being discharged into the sea; learning from the environmental nightmare of polychlorinated biphenyls; ensuring that we get early control of the synthetic chemicals that mimic natural hormones; acting faster in the control of the highly toxic red-list substances that do not degrade in water and which accumulate in living organisms; and getting real about dealing with the release of radioactivity into the environment.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

I am interested to know where organochlorides are discharged into the sea.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

Organochlorides come from many chemical processes that go on around the land that we live in, and they are discharged into the sea on many occasions. The website of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs gives a full explanation. The situation is well recognised by the Government, but we have not seen much about it in the framework document.

If the Executive is going to get serious about improving the seas, it should stand shoulder to shoulder with the Irish Government and tell Westminster where to get off when it comes to the environmental tragedy and disgrace that is Sellafield. It should also state unequivocally that it will allow no more Dounreays in Scotland, demonstrating that by saying no to new nuclear power stations.

The marine environment is a large and complex system that involves many overlapping and conflicting interests. We have already heard that a plethora of Government departments—at least 13—and 85 acts of Parliament cover issues to do with the seas. Scottish Environment LINK says that radical reform is needed, that the marine environment is neither integrated nor co-ordinated and that the piecemeal development of marine regulations is to blame. The result is a complex management structure—that is shorthand for an absolute flaming mess. We have to manage an incoherent framework that is not cohesive and which does not effectively deal with what we should be dealing with. If we wanted to create a disaster, what we have at the moment would be the recipe for delivering it. Let us change it.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative 3:51, 19 May 2004

Of course the Conservatives support a sustainable marine development policy and understand the call for a single marine act. Others have discussed marine oil developments, aquaculture, marine renewable technologies and how our ecosystems should interrelate. In the short time that is available to me today, I will make one or two brief points about the management of our inshore fisheries, including shellfish fisheries.

My views on the urgent need to withdraw from the common fisheries policy are well known. The CFP has failed at every level: it has failed to conserve fish stocks; and it has failed to preserve the jobs of our fishermen and processors. Today, we are talking about that derogated area, which is under our national control. On a future occasion, I hope to go into more detail on how countries that are not party to the CFP, such as the Faroes, operate their overall fisheries more effectively than we do, but today I will confine myself to a few remarks on how they run their inshore fisheries.

Only vessels up to 9 tonnes are allowed within 6 miles of the Faroese coastline. No trawling is allowed within 12 miles of the shore. All vessels more than 24m long have compulsory satellite tracking, so that the Faroese know exactly what is going on in their grounds. Having dedicated zones for very small vessels, for medium sized vessels and for larger vessels not only helps the biodiversity of the local fishery, but means that there is a level at which young fishermen can break in to the industry, even if they have little capital. By encouraging diverse catching methods, including longlining, pair trawling and the midwater trawl, the Faroese ensure the sustainability of all stocks, coastal and otherwise.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I welcome Ted Brocklebank's comments on the Faroese, from whom Scotland has a lot to learn. Can he explain to the chamber and to the country why his party has suddenly taken an interest in the future of our fishing communities after 20-odd years? For 18 of those years, his party was in Government. Why does Michael Howard make fleeting visits to Scotland to say that fishing is his number 1 priority, when not once out of 130 questions to the Prime Minister at question time in the Commons has he mentioned fishing?

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

That intervention was not worth while and was not worthy of Richard Lochhead, given that SNP members are such jumping-on-to-the-bandwagon people when it comes to saying that they want out of the CFP. He should get his own house in order before he talks about ours.

As I said, having dedicated zones for small vessels helps young men to break into the industry. The Faroese operate a days-at-sea regime with the compulsory landing of all catches. That means no discards, no black fish and clear evidence of what has been caught. Since adopting that system in 1996, the Faroese have topped every north Atlantic fishery league, including those for economic improvement, fishermen's annual earnings and sustainable biomass levels.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

No, I want to get on.

Ross Finnie has accused CFP sceptics of being afraid to confront the scientists, but far from being afraid to face them, the Faroese take account of all the scientific evidence and then decide how they will manage their fishing industry. They have discarded international scientific advice in six of the past seven years in favour of their own local science. In the only year in which the Faroese followed the advice of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, the spawning mass declined, but in each of the years in which they set aside that advice, the spawning mass went up.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

Does Ted Brocklebank think that we should also learn from the Faroese whaling policy?

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

I believe that countries should organise their own fishery systems. If that policy is right and appropriate for the Faroese, the matter should be left up to them. I will say more about how we should manage our local fishery.

The Faroes now has the highest spawning biomass of any north Atlantic country—Greenland comes second, Iceland is third and Norway is fourth. None of those countries is a party to the CFP. The UK comes in at number 8. The body that calculates the biomass is ICES, which is the very body that recommends the cuts. It is little wonder that Jørgen Niclasen, the former Faroese fisheries minister, has said:

"Stocks appear to have gone down in the North Atlantic in direct relation to the countries where the number of fishery scientists has gone up".

It would be foolhardy to ignore the scientists, but we must change the questions that we ask them. That is true just as much for the inshore waters as it is for the deeper waters.

Much can be learned from Shetland, which has some experience of local fishery management through the Shetland Islands regulated fishery regime. Since that regime came into force, the Shetland Shellfish Management Organisation has implemented a number of regulations to prevent over-exploitation of stocks within a 6-mile limit. The management plan is underpinned by local data collection and stock assessment that is carried out by Shetland's North Atlantic Fisheries College, which I recently had the privilege of visiting. There is much to commend the idea that has been jointly proposed by the local council and industry members of a Shetland inshore fisheries management area that is based on the shellfish example but which stretches out to a 12-mile limit. That could well be the model for future inshore zonal management around the Scottish coast. The people who know most about sustaining inshore fisheries are the local stakeholders, which includes the environmental interests.

I firmly believe that genuine local management schemes of that kind, not the talking shops that are envisaged in the European Commission's so-called regional advisory committees, offer the most potential to help to regulate fisheries and thus to bridge the damaging divide that has developed between fishermen, scientists and managers. Post-CFP, that is what the Conservative party will introduce.

Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green 3:57, 19 May 2004

I will concentrate mainly on the marine framework consultation, which covers many of the issues that have been raised today. As Robin Harper mentioned, under our North sea conference commitment, we are due to implement this year the ecosystem approach to marine management, which will require marine ecosystems to be the starting point of deliberations. However, it is unfortunate that the consultation document puts wildlife and biodiversity last in its section on marine values, after food, energy, ports and shipping and tourism, which suggests that the Scottish Executive's thinking about the sea needs to be turned on its head. As Robin Harper pointed out, the choice is not between the environment or development: if something is environmentally damaging, it is unsustainable, which means that it cannot continue and is ultimately doomed, economically and in every other way. However, I welcome the statement in the consultation that the proposed strategic environmental assessment bill will extend to Scottish territorial waters.

The Green party has stated that we want marine national parks. I do not accept members' comments that the target of two years for the introduction of the first such park will mean that it is a rushed job. Local grass-roots groups are well on the way towards formulating what local people and users of the areas would like from marine national parks. I have met three such groups in my region. Like all local groups, they are strapped for cash and are not well funded, but they have done a great job in bringing together all sorts of users of the marine environment, including people who make a living from tourism and inshore fishing and recreational users. That is a good model of something that has started from the bottom up and that could be built on. I do not want somebody to come in from the top and squash that work—we should build on those initiatives, not brush them aside.

I am concerned about the proposed national coastline park. I am sorry to say that I missed that proposal in the partnership agreement, although I know that it was there because it says so in the consultation document. I am not sure who has been asking for such a park and why. In particular, are coastal communities and the rest of us in danger of getting a national coastline park instead of a marine national park? It sounds to me like a bit of a cop-out, rather than something that would truly protect the whole marine environment. We cannot separate the coastline from its adjacent marine area. I would be interested to hear what the minister has in mind for the park, because I cannot quite visualise it and I have some concerns about it.

Some members have talked about what we put into the sea. The Greens have talked about zero waste in the context of municipal waste. I propose a zero-waste approach to sewage. We need to develop 21st century systems that treat our sewage properly and discharge clean water rather than raw sewage into our marine environment. I am thinking particularly of situations such as that in Campbeltown where there is a nice new treatment plant, which I believe works—George Lyon will know all about it—and a pumping station that does not work. Whenever the system is overwhelmed with surface water when there is heavy rain—which is not infrequent in Kintyre—raw sewage overflows and has to be pumped out into the harbour. Members who are familiar with Campbeltown Loch will know that it is like a lagoon as it has a narrow entrance. It is just awful to have raw sewage pumped out into such a tourist spot, where there are pontoons for tourist boats to tie up at. There are too many situations like that and I am sure that members know of others. Scottish Water is funded only to play catch-up and is running to stand still instead of keeping up with what is expected of sewage treatment in the 21st century.

Having mentioned Campbeltown, I will leap to something that Nora Radcliffe said about increasing the use of shipping as a mode of transport. The Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry, which is presently in abeyance, is a good means of getting in and out of Campbeltown, which is at the end of a long peninsula otherwise reached only by road. I would like the Executive to pledge a lot of support for that service.

There is a lot of concern about coastal development consent regimes and all the different regulations that apply to projects such as fish farms and energy developments. Rather than making specific piecemeal improvements, for which the consultation document calls, it would be much more useful to have an integrated review of all those regulations. A single marine act could be argued for in that case and I am glad that the minister has indicated that he is at least not entirely hostile to that.

I turn to one or two things that are not in the consultation document, a couple of which should be included and a couple of which are reserved matters but are still relevant to the debate. The first omission, which others have mentioned, is the Crown Estate. I do not see how we can have a consultation on the marine environment that does not mention the Crown Estate. I have talked to representatives of the Crown Estate. It is a large landlord that has had a regulatory role in licensing fish farms and so on, but it does not really want to have that role and so is quite happy for that to be taken over. However, it still wants to be a landlord and still wants to collect the rent. As far as I can see—someone can correct me if I am wrong about this—its role seems to be entirely extractive. It is taking money out of fragile communities and not putting anything back. As Rob Gibson said, that really has to be tackled, because an unfair burden is being put on fragile communities.

Secondly, I see no mention of giving the Scottish Environment Protection Agency more powers to regulate marine pollution, including biological pollution such as algal blooms and sea lice. SEPA should have powers in that regard and the issue should be taken seriously. Perhaps the aquaculture people would be a bit unhappy about SEPA having more powers to regulate sea lice, but I think that they would probably agree with the need for that. I am possibly one of the shadowy people who criticise fish farms from time to time although it is not often that I get described as shadowy. I do not deny the economic importance of aquaculture but, like everything else, it has to be carried out in an environmentally sustainable way.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 4:04, 19 May 2004

Many Scots make their living from the sea, whether in the oil industry, fishing, fish farming, leisure and tourism services or the operation of ferries. We are on the threshold of having many more opportunities to use the sea for economic development, just as we are becoming increasingly aware of how precious the marine environment is to us and how its excellence brings economic benefit to us in marketing our fish and shellfish and promoting our tourism. It is of paramount importance that we have a strategy in place that promotes sustainable development in an integrated way.

A fair amount of my time in the previous session of Parliament was taken up with investigating the relationship between aquaculture and the rest of the marine environment, as I was one of the reporters on the subject, along with Robin Harper, on the former Transport and the Environment Committee. When the committee entered the fray, it seemed that firm lines had been drawn in the sand between environmentalists, fish farmers and wild-fish interests. There were outrageous stories in the press and communities in the west Highlands were engaged in civil war. All that obscured the fact that there were large areas of mutual interest that could be explored. We do not want to have to go over the same ground when it comes to developing offshore renewable energy or examining more critically present usage of the sea.

The ministerial working group that produced the strategic review of aquaculture brought together all stakeholders: fish farmers, wild-fish fisheries, NGOs, local enterprise companies and local authorities. It worked out forums and protocols that would minimise friction and bring us a sustainable aquaculture industry, which I believe we now have. The experience of that working group and in particular the related transfer of planning power over aquaculture from the Crown Estate commissioners to local authorities point the way to how to address the larger picture and engage communities and stakeholders in drawing up a strategic framework for the inshore marine environment. The transfer of aquaculture planning powers focused the minds of local authority planners on the need to plan for offshore development and embrace integrated coastal zone management. That is crucial in the development of our strategy on the marine environment as a whole.

Highland Council has piloted community input into marine development on the west coast of Skye and has drawn my attention to the way in which small communities in Norway decide how they wish the marine environment to be used, which is much the same as the way in which local plans on land are constructed with grass-roots community input and then worked up by the local authority. Over time, local authority planning departments will be able to build up capacity to cope with the marine environment in much more breadth and depth of detail than they do at the minute. Eleanor Scott also mentioned the way in which we should engage people at grass-roots level. In future, we will have to decide on where we should position aquaculture developments, offshore wind farms and wave and tidal energy projects, as well as how we manage our inshore fisheries and leisure facilities. The groundwork for that has already been done and a model has been supplied in the way in which we addressed aquaculture.

As other members have done, I ask the Executive what it considers the Crown Estate commissioners' role to be. In the consultation document, the Crown Estate is mentioned as a consultee, but no mention is made of its role in planning or of the rental that it charges for the use of the seabed. Many people would welcome clarification from the minister on that.

Another aspect of the development of the marine environment and our coastal communities is the environmental and infrastructure pressure that it will place on our ports and harbours. That, too, must be seriously addressed in any strategy.

There are particular issues in the west Highlands—I mention in passing, as Eleanor Scott did, the problems of the waste-water outfall at Campbeltown. The consultation document also mentions the introduction of double-hulled oil tankers as an environmental safeguard. That is a good thing, of course, but the document does not deal with the financial impact that it has on local authorities. The piers at, for example, Bruichladdich on Islay or Portree on Skye need to be upgraded. Where will the money come from? The Minister for Transport tells me that freight facilities grants are not applicable.

I draw the Executive's attention to the pressure on Oban harbour as an example of my concerns of what could build up over the years. I am sure that the Executive is aware of the conflict between Caledonian MacBrayne and the fishermen over the proposals for a new linkspan to serve the communities of the Argyll islands. That is only one of the problems that Oban harbour has. It has to cope with lighthouse ships, an increasing number of CalMac ferries, fishing boats, well boats for the aquaculture industry, cruise liners, diving boats, small pleasure boats, sea-life cruises, local yachtsmen and increasing numbers of visiting yachtsmen, particularly from Europe, whom we want to attract to west coast waters. The harbour cannot cope with those pressures as it is, and serious investment is needed to provide berthing facilities to all who require them now and in the future, when we will no doubt add boats servicing offshore renewable energy projects to the list.

I realise that the Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development cannot deal with those questions, but I would welcome a commitment from him that he will convey those concerns to the Minister for Transport, who is responsible for non-fishery ports. The business of addressing port development seems overly difficult and bureaucratic. I want the sustainable development of our ports and harbours to happen in conjunction with the sustainable development of our marine environment.

I hope that the Executive will give strong national guidelines on how we deal with the marine environment and with our harbours and ports and I hope that the details will be left to local authorities, in conjunction with communities, as long as they have up-to-date socioeconomic and scientific information on which to base their decisions.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 4:10, 19 May 2004

In his opening speech, the minister referred to the vastness of the sea and to some of the problems of litter and pollution that are caused by the fact that far too many people treat the sea as a bottomless dump where, once everything is out of sight, it is out of mind. That attitude of treating the sea as an endless sink for all our wastes is often exhibited by individuals, but I fear that it is also exhibited by Government and Government organisations.

My friends Roseanna Cunningham and Bruce Crawford both referred to discharges from Sellafield, which is in effect a Government plant. Those discharges particularly affect shellfish, not just along the Cumbrian coast but right along the Solway and up the west coast of Scotland and they will continue to do so for many years to come, long after Sellafield is closed down.

I wish to address the attitude of the Ministry of Defence. I could not detect a mention of the MOD in the consultation document, but I think that it needs to be consulted, simply as a Government department. Over several decades, the MOD's attitude has been to treat the sea as a dump for everything that it has found a bit unpleasant. I will cite three examples relating to Dumfries and Galloway.

One example goes back to immediately after the second world war. I accept that that was a much less enlightened era on the part of everyone. Huge quantities of surplus munitions existed and it was felt that the best way to get rid of them was by taking them to a particularly deep trench of the Irish sea, called Beaufort's dyke. One of the problems, particularly on a Friday night or in a rough sea, was that the people who were taking the high explosives and phosphorous devices out to Beaufort's dyke, which is a fair way off the coast, did not really fancy going out there; they wanted to get back to the pub or to get away from the rough seas, so they just dumped the things as soon as they were out of sight of land. We are suffering the consequences of that now, as phosphorous devices have been washed up on the Ayrshire coast for many years and they will continue to be washed up there for many years to come.

That was many years ago, but it was symptomatic of a mindset that existed among certain people, including certain officials in the Ministry of Defence, which I think exists to this day: if we dump something in the sea, it does not really matter, particularly if it does not exhibit any visible pollution.

The second example that I want to deal with is much more recent. I refer to the Luce bay maritime bombing range in Wigtownshire. At the time of the Kosovo conflict, which was not all that long ago, it was decided that the Royal Air Force, which normally used and tested cluster bombs at low level, and whose pilots had been trained to do so, would no longer do so. Although war might still be acceptable to some people, it is no longer acceptable to politicians to incur the losses among RAF personnel that often result from flying at low level. It was therefore decided to bomb from a high level. However, as cluster bombs are not designed for high-level bombing, the RAF had to test out whether the bombs would work effectively if dropped from that level.

Cluster bombs are old technology, despite the fact that we have been reading a lot about them in the press recently. The MOD had run out of test bombs, so it had to drop high explosive—the real thing—in Luce bay. That was fine and the high-explosive test bombs were dropped. Cluster bombs divide into about 70 bits, each of them highly explosive—that is their whole purpose. Once they were dropped and it was discovered that they worked fine, the question arose what to do with them after that. It is almost impossible to find them all. That is far too difficult to do, even if the bombs are stable. Therefore, the bombs that were found had to be covered over with concrete, and that concrete will have to be renewed every so often, until the end of time—or until the MOD forgets about them. In addition, a small fishing exclusion zone was placed around each bit of concrete.

That is a classic example of the MOD's total lack of concern for the marine environment or for those who gain their livelihood from it. We are now in an even worse situation, in that the MOD has closed the range and ended permanent employment there. Although the MOD has retained the right to fly in whenever it wants to drop something, the area has lost the few jobs that went with the range. We are left with all the disadvantages but none of the advantages that might have meant that some members of the local community would have been prepared to accept the range on an on-going basis.

The third and last example of the MOD's cavalier attitude towards the marine environment is what happens at the firing range at Dundrennan, further east along the Solway coast, where the MOD test fires depleted uranium shells. Given the restrictions on my time, however, I will not be able to go into this example in quite the same detail. To date, 7,000 of those shells have been fired into the Solway, but the MOD has not managed to retrieve any of them. It sent a test rig out to search for the shells but managed to lose the test rig as well.

Depleted uranium shells have a half-life of 4.5 million years. We are told that we should be grateful for that because it means that they are not very radioactive. On the other hand, that means they will be slightly radioactive for 4.5 million years. That is not the kind of attitude that we should be requiring from our Government in this day and age. It beggars belief that 7,000 depleted uranium shells can be dumped less than a mile offshore. If someone dumped 7,000 cans of past-their-sell-by-date baked beans in a lay-by, the council would be down on them like a ton of bricks, but it seems that it is okay to dump 7,000 DU shells.

If there is to be sustainable management of our marine environment, everybody has to sign up to that and be liable under its regulation. That requirement has to include the MOD, which has treated the sea as a repository for its junk for far too long.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour 4:16, 19 May 2004

Nothing is more important than sustainable development. The debate takes me back to others that have been held on different aspects of sustainable development. A number of debates were held on national parks and the setting up of the first national park at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. I am well aware of the issues that have been raised in respect of the need to balance the socioeconomic and environmental considerations. I continue to go along with the sentiment that was expressed in the national park consultation document that, ultimately, the environmental considerations are the most important ones. Every member who has spoken in the debate seems to be in tune with that sentiment.

The partnership document includes a commitment to

"a national coastline park and marine national parks", but I agree with my colleague Sarah Boyack that Robin Harper was a little quick off the mark in his attempt to establish a marine national park within the timescale that he outlined in his amendment. We want a good job to be done; I think that, in the end, Robin Harper accepts that.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

We are not suggesting that the whole of Scotland should become a marine national park or that we should address the whole of our marine environment in one go. We are talking about one tiny wee national park that would serve as an example and from which we could learn. That is what we set out in our amendment.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

Robin Harper will remember that, in her reply to his intervention, Sarah Boyack made the very good point that when we set up the Cairngorms national park and the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park, it was important that we first laid out the general principles from which we could move on to address individual parks. Following on from Sarah Boyack's argument, if the Green party is going to go down that route, I suggest that the timescale will be longer than that which Robin Harper wants us to accept.

I want quickly to address some of the many points that have been made in the debate and to introduce some new ones. There is no debate about the richness of Scotland's firths and coasts and inshore water and we have discussed its wildlife, biodiversity, breeding sea birds and so forth.

Many members commented on the diversity of uses of our marine environment. In particular, Alasdair Morgan spoke about his constituency concerns with regard to the Ministry of Defence. I accept that his concerns are real and have to be taken on board; as a former chemistry teacher, I am only too aware of the dangers of phosphorous compounds.

Rob Gibson made some good points too when he spoke about the various shipping disasters, including the Braer disaster. He spoke also about another disaster in which vinyl acetate was spilt. I think that it was Bruce Crawford who mentioned dilute acid spills. There are grave concerns about navigation.

Members have made other points about activities that are related to, for example, wave and wind energy. We need to consider such matters in a more integrated way, taking account of aquaculture and the other industries that use our waters. The main message that has come out of the debate is that an integrated approach is currently lacking. Of course, as the minister said, the point of the consultation is to bring together all those aspects so that we can take a much more integrated approach.

Sarah Boyack and the minister mentioned the seminar that RSPB Scotland and the Royal Town Planning Institute in Scotland held yesterday—I am sure that some MSPs attended it—to launch their report "Making the Case for Marine Spatial Planning in Scotland". The report, which is the result of independent research by David Tyldesley and Associates, makes good points about how marine planning should be developed, just as planning in relation to land has developed—although there will obviously be differences in how we tackle marine spatial planning because there are differences between the marine environment and the land environment. The report makes the point that the UK has already started to consider the matter as a result of the marine stewardship report, "Safeguarding our Seas—A Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of our Marine Environment". In 2002 a Scottish coastal forum seminar took place, but we need to build on that and really get going.

The minister has indicated that he is supportive of marine spatial planning. Members have the briefing paper from Scottish Environment LINK, which recommends that marine spatial planning should be a statutory process and gives details of that—I see that Robin Harper is nodding; he knows that that would be a productive approach. I could say quite a lot more, but I think that it is time to wind up. The briefing paper makes suggestions about how we should approach the matter. The essential point, which the SNP keeps missing, is that international, European, regional and local planning must come together to contribute to a marine spatial planning policy.

I am running out of time, so I finish by saying that I welcome the consultation document and the report from RSPB Scotland and the RTPI. I ask members to support the motion.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green 4:23, 19 May 2004

The debate has been interesting and there has been a good deal of consensus, particularly on two issues. First, we agree that the marine environment is important—who can argue with that? Secondly, we agree that there is a problem that centres on the need to review the legislation and perhaps to consider creating a single marine act in the months or years ahead.

Several members, especially Roseanna Cunningham and Nora Radcliffe, have waved a copy of the excellent document produced by WWF Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, "The Tangle of the Clyde". The document provides a good analysis of the problems of competition between narrow sectoral interests in the marine environment. If we are to unpick that tangle, we will need a vision and I hope that the consultation on a strategic framework for the marine environment will provide that vision. Vision is needed if we are to address economic, environmental and social objectives in an integrated way and an ecosystem approach must be at the heart of that.

Four things will help to unpick the tangle. First, we need a lead body on marine issues. I disagree with the Tories about that, as it is important that a lead body should exist to oversee activities in the marine environment. However, I agree with the Tories that such a body would have to report directly to a marine minister. Perhaps it is time for Sergeant Wilson to be upgraded to Admiral Wilson and to become our first minister of the seas.

The second thing that we need to unpick the tangle is a marine strategy. Perhaps the minister will address that point in his closing remarks. I am not sure of the difference between a strategic framework for the marine environment and a marine strategy. My understanding is that a strategy comes out of a framework and has targets, an implementation plan, timescales and a review mechanism. That is what we need in order to take the vision on, to deliver it and to ensure accountability not only between the Executive and stakeholders, but between stakeholders.

The third thing that we need is spatial planning—we have heard a lot of discussion about that this afternoon and Sylvia Jackson talked about it a moment ago. There are many good reasons why we need spatial planning, and fin-fish aquaculture is a good example. We are in an environment in which narrow sectoral interests compete against one another. Although it may be okay for Alasdair Morrison to defend the narrow sectoral interests of the aquaculture industry, I hope that ministers will take a much more balanced view and will seek to balance the aquaculture industry with the salmon fishing industry, which is at least as important as the salmon farming industry in terms of jobs and the environment.

Another issue that relates to spatial planning is renewables. We have huge potential for offshore renewables—many members mentioned that in the debate, including Sarah Boyack, Roseanna Cunningham and the minister. At this point, I will pick on the Tories, because they assume that if wind farms go offshore, there will be no environmental impacts. However, offshore wind farms could have, and probably will have, environmental impacts. The key question is how we manage those impacts and the way to do that is with spatial planning. Sarah Boyack and others are right—we need to learn from what has happened with onshore wind farms and we need proper spatial planning for the development of renewables on the coastline of Scotland. Lastly on spatial planning, Rob Gibson and Alasdair Morgan spoke eloquently about the MOD's complete lack of accountability for its activities in Scotland, especially in the dumping of waste and used shells and in the bombing ranges. The MOD must be brought into a spatial planning regime.

The fourth thing that we need to unpick the tangle of the seas is local management. In whatever structure we have, we need to incorporate the people who base their livelihoods on the sea, whether that is in fishing, tourism or conservation. The work of the firth partnerships has been crucial in creating local management and discussion around our important marine environment.

How do we take the process forward? A marine national park is one way, because rather than fiddling about with legislation, we need to establish a culture of integrated working along our coastlines and in our marine environment between various bodies and stakeholders. That will take time to achieve, but we need to start now by getting people to work in an integrated way. If we establish a marine national park sooner rather than later, we will start to unpack those issues and to explore and establish positive ways of working. Let us jump in and try it. The only debate seems to be about when the marine national park will happen, but given that it is included in the partnership agreement, we are talking about a difference of only four months. We are asking for a marine national park to be established by 2006 and the Executive is saying 2007. Surely we can get something going before the end of the session and we can then start to get back to the communities with which Eleanor Scott and many other MSPs are in contact, which are demanding a marine national park right here, right now.

Alongside that, we need to conduct a legislative review. I urge MSPs today to support our amendment. Let us take the first step on integrated working. Let us opt for a marine national park, and let us at least start the process.

Photo of George Lyon George Lyon Liberal Democrat 4:29, 19 May 2004

The debate has been revealing, with many excellent contributions. Indeed, we now have a new Tory position on the common fisheries policy, as explained by Alex Johnstone, which is unilateral negotiation. In most people's language, I think that that means, "We are leaving whether you like it or not." The Tories' policy on Europe is now revealed. It beggars belief that they can sustain their argument that they do not intend to leave the European Union.

I welcome the Scottish Executive's consultation on establishing either a national coastline park or locally managed marine parks, and on the strategic framework. The Liberal Democrats' view is that a single national coastline park is not the right way forward. Managing Scotland's entire coastline and marine waters from Edinburgh makes little sense and I do not see how that proposal could be supported. Locally managed marine parks, such as that which has been talked about for the waters off the coast of Argyll, have some merit, although I remain to be convinced that this is the next step that must be taken—as the Greens are insisting—by 2006. I am not against such parks in principle, but there are other issues that need to be tackled long before we introduce another organisation to manage our coastline waters. The marine environment is very important to my constituency for marine environmental tourism, fish-farming and the fishing industry—all of which have a vital role in ensuring the economic success and prosperity of my constituents. The question is how we can balance the interests of those three or four groups. I will give a couple of examples of what needs to be tackled before we begin the bigger discussion about a new organisation such as a marine park.

First is the management of our inland coastal waters. One of the big disputes in the Clyde is between the static-gear fishermen and the trawlermen. There are huge problems and conflicts that need to be resolved and managed, and that is of major concern to both sides of the industry. Gear conflict is a significant problem in the Loch Fyne fishing waters, with accusations on both sides of towing of gear. Some court actions have now been taken, as the breakdown between the two sectors has led to the police becoming involved. It is clear that the conflict can be resolved only by local agreement. We cannot implement a national agreement and force it on the parties.

That is not to say that the Scottish Executive does not have a key role to play. If nothing else, it needs to haud the jaickets while the discussions are going on. The situation may also require further powers to be created so that, if a local agreement is reached, the Executive will have the powers to enforce it. I wonder whether the minister could update us on the progress that the Scottish inshore fisheries advisory group has made on the issue. That will be important in trying to resolve the conflict between the two sides of the industry.

The other major issue that needs to be tackled as quickly as possible is the regulation of the fish-farming industry. There is an urgent need to make progress on the relocation of fish farms away from the mouths of estuaries. New sites must be provided in deeper, faster-running waters to help to break the disease cycle and to allow proper fallowing regimes that will help to improve the environment below the cages. That agenda is vital in getting the balance right between the interests of environmental tourism, the wild fish interests—there is concern about the drop-off in salmon stocks—and the fish-farming industry, which recognises that it needs to move to a system of rotation around the cages to break the disease cycle, especially the lice problem.

I believe that that agenda is being frustrated by the number of bodies that currently regulate the sector—nine at the last count. There is a commitment in the partnership agreement to reduce the number of those bodies. I ask the minister to reveal, in summing up, what progress has been made towards meeting that objective. That is fundamental if we are to make progress on meeting the concerns of the environmental sector and the needs of the fish-farming industry. I suggest that we make a start by getting rid of the Crown Estate and giving control of the sea bed back to this Parliament. Perhaps the minister can comment on that in winding up.

Before embarking on the creation of another body to manage coastal areas and marine waters, whether from Edinburgh or through local management, surely the first step must be to simplify what is already there. Then we will be in a position to take the next step towards developing marine national parks. I therefore ask the minister to update members on what progress he is making to deliver the commitments that are already agreed between the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats and to simplify the management of our inshore waters and marine environment.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative 4:35, 19 May 2004

Recently, we had a debate on Scotland's bathing beaches, in which I highlighted the splendour of some of the Hebridean and north isles beaches that, sadly, the majority of our population never sets eyes on. Now, I have another chance to talk about the rest of our truly amazing coastline and the marine environment.

There is plenty of it. The coastline of Argyll alone, believe it or not, is longer than that of the whole of France. No wonder other European countries are jealous of what we possess, and they are equally jealous of the fishing grounds that lie off our shores. Our coastal seas, apart from supporting huge numbers of species of wildlife and exotic flora and fauna, have also been a mainstay of the existence and prosperity of generations of individuals and communities dating back thousands of years. I have often visited the shell middens that can be found in Hebridean sand dunes—huge piles of sea shells that are the remnants of man's fodder from earlier times—and I have visited fish markets from Stornoway to Peterhead, where evidence of our rich marine bounty lies in ice boxes at the start of the processing chain that gives so many people in Scotland their livelihoods and their nourishment.

I would like to think that, despite the ravages of common fisheries policy management, Scottish people have managed our seas reasonably sensibly and sustainably. Fishermen know that if they trawl the same line of mud too often it may decimate the future prawn stocks, and that if they take too much out of one shoal of fish they are liable to decimate fish stocks in the area for some time.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Will Jamie McGrigor take the opportunity to correct a statement made by his colleague, Mr Brocklebank? If he casts his mind back to the debate in January 1972, he may recall that Donald Stewart of the SNP opposed fishing being part of our accession to the European Union. That, of course, was our historic opposition, long before Mr Brocklebank had even decided which party he was in, far less which policy he would have.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

I really do not see how that has anything to do with the speech that I am making.

Sustainability is about leaving enough for future generations, and that is what has been wrong with European management. It has been a question of far too many people fighting for the biggest slices of a cake that is limited in size. That kind of management has shown scant regard for the future and that is why it must now be changed. Local people with practical knowledge and a stake in the management of our coastal waters are much more likely to manage the marine environment well if they know that there is a future not only for young fish, but for their young fishermen and fish farmers.

As sustainability is, at present, the new black, I had better also use the other fashionable word: biodiversity. In layman's terms, of course, that means recognising what is around us and making the most of it while leaving something for the future. Environmentalists want that and fishermen want that, so why has a rift developed, with some conservationists distrusting some fishermen and vice versa? I am certain of one thing—that the fishing people who have lived and worked in our coastal regions for generations, and the harvests that they have taken from our coastal waters, have not destroyed the environment. In fact, scientists and environmentalists should take more note of the practical wisdom and experience of those already in situ.

Generally speaking, the damage to environments, shore based and marine, comes from concentrated industries and monocultures. I refer specifically to the land-based monoculture of thousands of acres of Sitka spruce. When it grows up in canopies, it is destructive, because it blocks off the light and food from everything below. Far better is a mixture of different kinds of trees in smaller plantations. In the marine world, we have witnessed the growth of fin-fish farming, which threatened to turn farmed salmon into the monoculture of the marine environment. However, I am glad to say that such fishing now seems to be diversifying into different sorts of fin-fish and shellfish aquaculture, as well as salmon.

The waters of Loch Fyne used to hold huge native oyster beds but, sadly, they no longer exist in any quantity. Nowadays, farmed oysters from Loch Fyne can be consumed in the famous Loch Fyne oyster bar, either in the restaurant or—as plotting Government ministers do—in the car park.

It is always much healthier to have variety, but in the marine world variety is truly the spice of life. Different modes of exploitation defend their own interests and, in so doing, protect species that depend on them.

Another exotic word that I believe in is subsidiarity, which should apply to the management of coastal waters. Subsidiarity is the principle that a central authority should have a subsidiary function and should perform only those tasks that cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. When we have withdrawn from the CFP, we will be wise to consider the Faroese system, which Ted Brocklebank mentioned, and how we might return the practical management of our fisheries to local levels.

People attack different methods of fishing. Some will claim that trawling for prawns takes too big a haul and that prawn creels are the answer, but the trawlerman will complain that creel boats fish 24 hours a day and are allowed to fish far too many creels. Fishermen will always use the best method that is available—the best legal method, I should say.

The best form of control is effort limitation that includes horsepower limits for vessels and takes the size of the vessel into the equation. The secretary of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, Hamish Morrison, recently told me that, if oil hits $50 a barrel, many fishermen might stop bottom trawling and return to less energy-demanding methods of fishing that are less based on the power of the boat. Therefore, the future may change quicker than we think.

I am all for conserving our rich marine environment. It existed before the common fisheries policy and it can exist again. However, let us never forget the part that people have always played within the marine mosaic. What is the point of a fishery if it is not sustainable enough to produce a harvest?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 4:42, 19 May 2004

Allan Wilson made his customary attack on the SNP when he opened proceedings, but I will surprise him by saying that I very much welcome today's debate, which has been quite well attended by members from across the parties. It may be dark and Gothic here in the Hub, but the sun is shining outside and I am in a good mood, so I will not rise to the bait that he dangled in front of me. One thing that I will say is that we have waited five years for this debate.

The fact that over half of our MSPs represent areas that have a coastline is a valuable asset because it means that many members take an interest in our marine environment. Today's debate is a much better use of our time than the two debates on beaches that we have had in the past few months. We have finally been given the opportunity to debate an important subject.

It is fair that many members referred to their constituencies, given the number of people in Scotland who, down the centuries and today, have been and are dependent on our marine environment. As a member for North East Scotland, I represent a constituency that includes Aberdeen, which is Europe's oil and gas capital. We have working harbours in Aberdeen, Dundee, Montrose and elsewhere. Up until recently—I doubt that this is still the case—the Buchan fishing ports were the biggest white-fish ports in the whole of Europe. We also have many other fishing communities and former fishing communities on our coastline.

As several members mentioned, the marine environment is also being put to new uses, such as renewable energy and marine wildlife tourism, which is growing. That is why the marine environment will continue to be an important topic of debate. Other members highlighted the social value of the marine environment. As Scotland's national Parliament, we must remember that the marine environment has shaped Scotland's national identity to a great degree and has inspired much of our culture.

Finally, we need to remember the marine environment's wider environmental importance, which is perhaps the crux of today's debate. As several members reminded us, Scotland's seas contain over 8,000 species of wildlife. That represents 50 per cent of our country's biodiversity.

We should welcome the European legislation that has flowed from Brussels over the past 30 years. To a great degree, Europe has made successive Governments and the Scottish Parliament get their act together by providing leadership. As Alasdair Morgan pointed out, one of the impetuses behind that legislation has been to try to force society and the human race to change how we treat our seas and rivers. We must not use them as bins. In what was an eloquent speech, Alasdair Morgan highlighted the MOD's appalling track record on that.

Key to any successful strategy for managing the marine environment is the level at which decisions are taken. That was a strong theme throughout many of the speeches that we heard today. We must take the right decisions at local, national, European and global level. The local level is very important, because—as many members have said—we must resolve local conflicts. That can be achieved by bringing stakeholders together. The SNP welcomes some of the initiatives that have been taken in the first five years of the Parliament's existence, particularly those relating to fisheries and areas such as aquaculture. We also welcome the current consultation on inshore fisheries.

The Parliament has a very important national role to play. First, we must address the complexity of the 85 acts and 13 bodies that regulate our marine environment. The current set-up is far too complex and confusing, and it is not efficient. As a national Parliament, we must address that. A marine act may be one way of doing so.

Secondly, we must ensure that the Parliament has the powers that it needs to influence the marine environment. We must take appropriate powers from elsewhere in Europe and bring them to Scotland, so that we can take the appropriate decisions at this level. If those powers come to the Scottish Parliament, we can further devolve them to our local communities. Many members would support that.

The theme of the common fisheries policy has cropped up, of course. I believe that all members think that it is ludicrous that in a large Europe of 25 states decisions about the future of our fishing communities—

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

I was interested to hear that the SNP's resident memory man, Stewart Stevenson, had to go back to the days of Donald Stewart to find someone who had proposed coming out of the CFP before the present mass conversion. Can Richard Lochhead explain to us why the SNP's Westminster leader, Alex Salmond, has withdrawn his private member's debate on fisheries, scheduled for this Friday? Why has he instead chosen to debate the European constitution? Surely such an obvious electoral ploy does not say much about the SNP's long-term commitment to the fishing industry.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I inform the member that, all being well, the debate on fisheries will take place in the House of Commons on 16 July. Perhaps Conservative members in the House of Commons could sign the SNP motion to ensure that that happens—we would welcome the Tories' support.

The common fisheries policy is an important issue. Subsidiarity—ensuring that the right decisions are taken at the right level—is another theme that has been raised. A few months ago, the Scottish Executive ministers and Labour and Liberal members of the Parliament said that the previous reform of the common fisheries policy was satisfactory, but even they have changed their position. They are now talking about having powerful regional management and regional bodies that have teeth. That is a change in policy. No doubt, it has something to do with the elections to the European Parliament, which are only a couple of weeks away.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I would love to take an intervention, but I cannot as I have only two minutes left.

Members from all parties recognise that the common fisheries policy is not working—that is why it must be scrapped.

I turn to the leaflet advertising the Government's consultation, which is entitled "Scotland's Seas: your chance to have your say" and indicates that the consultation process will run until July. Much of this debate has revolved around the themes that are outlined in the leaflet. The leaflet contains seven bullet points that indicate why the seas are so important to Scotland. The first relates to biodiversity, the second to "fishing-related jobs" and the third to the fact that we land so much fish in Scotland. We do not have enough power over the last two areas, because decisions about European fishing policy are taken in London.

The fourth point states that our seas support

"£21 billion of UK offshore oil and gas production".

As we are all aware, decisions about that are also taken in London. The fifth point refers to the fact that there are

"5.5 million passenger and 90 million tonnes of freight movements through Scottish ports".

Ports legislation is also reserved to London, as are matters relating to the shipping that passes through Scottish waters.

The sixth point refers to the fact that 90 per cent of UK-farmed fish, with a value of £700 million, comes from Scotland, but the Crown Estate Commission is also reserved to London. The final point deals with tourism, for which this Parliament has responsibility.

Of the seven reasons that the seas are so important to Scotland, five relate to issues that are decided in the London Parliament, rather than in Scotland's Parliament. That is why the SNP takes trying to acquire powers for the Parliament so seriously—so that we can implement a proper strategy for protecting Scotland's marine environment. All that we require is leadership from the minister—for which we will continue to press—and for the Executive to join the SNP in seeking to acquire the necessary powers for the Parliament, so that we can make a real difference to protecting our marine environment.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour 4:49, 19 May 2004

Inevitably, this has been a wide-ranging debate. It is difficult for me to know where to begin and how to respond.

I am grateful that there has been no nationalist whingeing about why we are discussing this issue again. I should be grateful that SNP members have learned from their mistakes—we should welcome all conversions, and I welcome that of Richard Lochhead.

I welcome Jamie McGrigor's very recent conversion to obeying the law. I think that he can say goodbye to signing up as a deckhand on the SS Swinney as it sails off into the sunset to challenge the CFP. I also welcome his conversion to conserving biodiversity. At my request, the Scottish biodiversity forum has been developing proposals for a strategy on protecting biodiversity. The strategy and implementation plans will be launched on 25 May.

Contrary to Robin Harper's assertion, the Executive puts ecology first. In fact, we do so in the motion under debate. The only response that I would make is that ecology also involves people; it is not a one-way street.

To Mark Ruskell, I say that we take a balanced approach to aquaculture. The Greens—especially Robin Harper in his speech—have taken an imbalanced approach. FIFG support is for generic salmon market development. The Food Standards Agency, which is the acknowledged expert in the field, advises that levels of contaminants in farmed salmon are no threat to human health and that the report that Robin Harper mentioned has been widely discredited in the scientific community. As a result, I make no apologies for my defence of the aquaculture industry.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

Does the minister agree that the Green members' response was absolutely measured? We never used the word "toxic" and, contrary to certain accusations, I did not respond irresponsibly on the radio, on television or in the press. All we ask is that the Executive should make the science clear and ask the FSA to report to us. We are still waiting for those figures.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

My criticism of the Greens was that they naively jumped into a vacuum in the absence of scientific evidence that supported their case. Indeed, I think that they were also duped by the people who put together the money to produce that widely discredited scientific report. I shall put it no more strongly than that, because I agree with everything else that the Greens' amendment sets out, apart from the imposition of a 2006 deadline.

It is unfortunate that George Lyon is no longer in the chamber, because I wanted to tell him that tomorrow we will publish a consultation paper on the strategic review of in-shore fisheries, which will be developed jointly between the Executive and the Scottish in-shore fisheries advisory group. The paper will embody all the themes that have been referred to this afternoon, including sustainability, stakeholder participation and proportionate regulation. We will examine the matter not just at EU level, but at an internal level, for example in the form of no-take zones. Lamlash in my constituency was mentioned in that respect. As part of our consideration, we intend jointly to examine the Clyde, which George Lyon's constituency and my constituency share.

It is unfortunate and disappointing that some members—principally on the Conservative benches—have missed the point of the debate and have chosen instead to trot out the usual mantra that withdrawal from the CFP offers a solution to everything and anything. As members know, I do not believe that, and it is a mistake to put it above all the benefits that being a member of the EU brings. I am always suspicious of those who claim that if we could only do things like some other country—usually a small one—everything would be okay. In this case, the small country is the Faroes.

That is Mr Brocklebank's cue.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

Has the minister actually visited the Faroes to have a look at its industry? Not only that, has he visited the Shetland island of Whalsay, whose people have regularly invited him to come and have a look at the disaster that the CFP has created for them?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I have not been to the moon, but I know that it is not made of cheese. Mr Finnie and I are open-minded about practices on the Faroes. As Mr Brocklebank knows, the number 10 strategy unit visited the Faroes to examine those very practices; we are considering the unit's report in that context. Applying Faroese practices does not mean withdrawing from the CFP. To suggest otherwise is illogical and a non sequitur.

As Sylvia Jackson and other members said, there are balances to be struck between reserved and devolved matters. In that context, I mentioned the Jambo earlier. John Farquhar Munro and Alasdair Morrison expressed concerns about shipping traffic. The Executive continues to liaise with the UK Government in our efforts to ensure that shipping in the Minches and elsewhere around Scotland is regulated as effectively and safely as possible. On that point, I part company with Roseanna Cunningham and the SNP. [Interruption.]

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Order. There is far too much noise when the minister is speaking.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

Roseanna Cunningham suggests that we take control of all marine-related matters that are currently reserved, but the SNP has not thought that through. If we did as the SNP suggests, we would, in effect, be seeking to unpick the devolution settlement in terms of the Government's wider responsibility to renegotiate international agreements, which would not necessarily benefit us. For example, merchant shipping acts, which are reserved, provide the legal basis for the national contingency plan for marine pollution from shipping and offshore installations. Many members mentioned that, because it concerns them. Those shipping acts give effect to international conventions and national contingency plans, and provide for co-ordinated, effective, UK-wide responses to marine pollution emergencies.

As Sarah Boyack said, ignoring the English dimension—or taking the UK out of the picture, as Roseanna Cunningham said—would not provide an effective solution to co-ordinating effective action against marine pollution incidents in international waters.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

No. I have only two minutes left.

Bruce Crawford said something that was half right—members will not hear me say that every week. We must consider our research. Clearly, climate change will have an important effect on sea levels and marine biodiversity. With our support, the UK is on course to meet its Kyoto target. Through the Scottish climate change programme, which we shall review later this year, we are contributing to the UK's Kyoto obligation and to a reduction in our domestic greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland have fallen by 3 per cent since the base year. That achievement is set against a 23 per cent growth in the Scottish economy since 1990 and it compares favourably with that of other EU member states. We can be justifiably proud of that.

I thank all members for their contributions to the debate. I have tried to deal with as many of the points that were raised as I could in the available time. If I have not got through them all, I will try to get back to members about them.

I will finish with a question that is topical and, to a certain extent, rhetorical. What about the day after tomorrow? We should all be working for a Scottish marine environment that is clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse and which, through sustainable management, will continue to support the interests of nature and of people. I have heard nothing in the debate that would gainsay that. I look forward to Parliament's subsequent endorsement of that vision, so that the day after tomorrow will be one that future generations, too, can enjoy.