Section 2 — Responsible authorities

Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:35 pm on 9th November 2005.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 2:35 pm, 9th November 2005

Group 1 is on responsible authorities to which section 5(4) applies. Amendment 3, in the name of Rosie Kane, is in a group on its own.

Photo of Rosie Kane Rosie Kane SSP

Section 2(1) sets out a broad definition of responsible authorities, but that definition is significantly narrowed in section 2(4). Section 5(4) uses the narrower definition to exclude private companies that produce strategies that are not covered by the mandatory requirements of the European strategic environmental assessment directive.

Although that is open to interpretation, there is doubt about the extent to which companies will produce documents that set a framework for development consents, thereby making strategic environmental assessments a mandatory requirement. Amendment 3 would mean that all companies that carry out public work would have to undertake an environmental assessment of that work. If the amendment is not passed, a double standard will apply. Private companies such as Scottish Power or one that was building a private finance initiative school would be exempt from assessing the environmental effects of their work, whereas public companies such as Scottish Water would not be.

Big business's agenda is to put profit before people. We welcome the fact that public companies will be subject to SEA, but it is crucial that private companies undergo the same scrutiny, given that they are motivated by profit.

I move amendment 3.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

It is right that when a private body exercises functions with a public character, it should be captured by the provisions of the bill. I do not believe that it is right to leave that to ministers' discretion.

Let us take the example of a utility company such as Scottish and Southern Energy plc, which is developing the Beauly to Denny power line across Scotland. Under the bill, we would have an environmental assessment in relation to which side of Stirling the line might pass, but there would be no statutory requirement for SSE to produce a strategic environmental assessment. That is important, because it is about addressing why we need an overhead power transmission line in the first place. Whatever position a person might take in that debate, it is important that the reasoning for such a project is laid out explicitly at the outset.

I am disappointed that the Tories are going to vote against the bill and that they will probably vote against amendment 3. They are quite happy to parade around Perthshire telling people that there is no point in having pylons or transmission power lines, but they should stick to those principles in the chamber and support an amendment that would ensure that the fundamental reasoning behind the Beauly to Denny transmission line is laid bare.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

An amendment with a purpose similar to that of amendment 3 was rejected by the Environment and Rural Development Committee at stage 2. I remind members that private bodies exercising functions of a public character are already responsible authorities under the bill. The nature of such bodies is that they are responsible authorities under the bill only because they are given public functions by legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions. Such bodies are already caught by the bill, so they will be required to carry out SEAs for those plans and programmes that are required to deliver public functions. Therefore, we can see no purpose in extending the provisions in the way that amendment 3 suggests.

Furthermore, the bill already provides a power to ensure that, if it should ever be necessary, any other body or any of its functions can be required to meet SEA obligations. We believe that our approach, which is more targeted than the one that is proposed in amendment 3, will be more effective. That position was supported by the Environment and Rural Development Committee at stage 2. I ask members to resist amendment 3.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

In winding up, Rosie Kane should state whether she wishes to press or withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Rosie Kane Rosie Kane SSP

I will press amendment 3, in the hope that MSPs will support it. The current definition is far too broad. It needs to be much clearer than it is in the current draft of the bill.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 3 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

There will be a division. In line with the new protocol, I suspend the meeting for five minutes.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—

Division number 1

For: Adam, Brian, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Frances, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Rob, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McFee, Mr Bruce, Morgan, Alasdair, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Welsh, Mr Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 30, Against 73, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 3 disagreed to.