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
I move amendment 3.
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.
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.
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