Around £200 million in Scottish Water's current investment programme will provide benefits in addressing current development constraints. An additional £41 million has been allocated specifically to relieve such constraints in rural areas and for first-time connections and water quality improvements.
In a letter to me dated 22 November, the minister criticises local authorities for not raising the issue of development constraints as part of the quality and standards II programme. Does he accept that that position is disingenuous? After all, local authorities bought into Scottish Water's priorities, which the organisation then changed. Does he accept that more needs to be done before the implementation of Q and S III to relieve the pressure on many local authority areas and—certainly across my constituency—many individual settlements to allow the Government to achieve its principal objectives of economic growth and the development of affordable housing?
I certainly agree with the principle of seeking to promote economic growth and affordable housing. I should put the comments in my letter of 22 November to John Swinney into context, because I was acknowledging that no one—by which I mean Scottish Water as well as local authorities—had predicted the degree to which development constraints would become an active consideration in that programming period. Because of that recognition, we will address concerns about development constraints in preparing the investment programme for Q and S III. We are encouraging Scottish Water to work with local authorities and other local partners to address some short-term constraints that they will want to be tackled before Q and S III is implemented in two years' time.
Some of my constituents in the north-east, particularly in the southern part of Aberdeenshire, face major problems because, although they have had outline planning permission for a housing development, another development is taking place in their community and Scottish Water now says that the previous outline permission cannot go any further because of water constraints. That is an issue right up Deeside. We also have problems with water extraction from the River Dee for domestic and industrial use. Are there any means by which the minister can encourage Scottish
The problems to which David Davidson refers are not dissimilar to those that John Swinney mentioned. We recognise that such problems exist throughout Scotland and we recognise that action needs to be taken to tackle those problems. That is why we will seek to address issues of development constraint, which occur not only in one particular locality but throughout Scotland, when we make an announcement early in the new year on the priorities for the investment programme going forward.