Section 3 of the bill identifies the three consultation authorities. Although each of those bodies has a significant range of skills, it would not be fair to suggest that between them they can address adequately all the information that is required for the environmental reports. In particular, we question the extent to which any of the consultation authorities can deal adequately with issues relating to human health or population. We suggest that including NHS Health Scotland, the national body for the promotion and protection of public health in Scotland, would allow the expertise contained therein to be brought to bear on providing information that is required for the environmental reports. That would give a further layer of protection to communities whose health has been blighted by developments or that have concerns about how their health may be affected by developments.
I move amendment 4.
I was disappointed that the Executive decided to reject the amendment that I lodged at stage 2, which, in giving ministers the flexibility to choose additional consultation authorities, would have mirrored the point that the minister made about flexibility in identifying responsible authorities. As a result, there is now a gap in the bill's provisions on consultation authorities, especially with regard to health. I support amendment 4.
We understand perfectly the principle of the concern that is expressed by Rosie Kane, supported by Mark Ruskell—namely, that there might be gaps in the knowledge and data of what are described as the consultation authorities. I wholly agree with Rosie Kane that the present named consultation authorities—the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Scotland—have a huge range of expertise that will cover a large number of situations.
I make it absolutely clear that the Executive accepts that, in a number of cases, there may be gaps. However, let us be equally clear that, where there are such gaps, the responsible authorities, if they are going to discharge their duty under the bill to identify, describe and evaluate the likely significant environmental effects, will have to seek advice elsewhere. It does not seem to me to be practicable to specify every possible other source of advice. That is why we have not specified
We believe that that flexible approach is much more practical than prescribing the sources of advice. We want to assist the responsible authorities to identify the appropriate additional source of advice in each case. We consider it to be more effective and more appropriate to make practical and administrative provisions than to make statutory provisions. We believe that that solution has two benefits. First, it highlights the many additional sources of advice that cover all the issues that might arise, not just those on health. Secondly, it avoids placing an inappropriate burden on a single body by requiring it to scrutinise every strategic environmental assessment, regardless of whether that is relevant to their field of expertise.
I assure the Parliament that comprehensive guidance will be produced. We are already developing a list of data and advice sources and we are collaborating with NHS Health Scotland on health matters to produce comprehensive guidance on strategic environmental assessment health issues. I believe that the bill as drafted provides a practical solution that will facilitate the assessment of environmental issues, including those that relate to health. Accordingly, I ask the Parliament to resist the amendment.
We want the amendment to pass, because then we would get a full range of expertise on environmental effects and so ensure the protection of the environment. If the amendment falls, health experts will not give their advice on the health aspects of development. For example, experts could expose the dangers to children with asthma of increased levels of benzene or particulates from toxic waste dumps that could result from the construction of the M74 northern extension. Health is an enormous issue in relation to the environment; it can often be a litmus test of where failings exist. Given that the minister admits that there are gaps, members should support the amendment and fill in those gaps.
Division number 2
For: Adam, Brian, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Curran, Frances, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Rob, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McFee, Mr Bruce, Morgan, Alasdair, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, 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, 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