After section 19

Part of Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:30 pm on 9th November 2005.

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Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat 3:30 pm, 9th November 2005

I thank the minister for his kind remarks and welcome the Executive's acceptance that annual reporting is a good idea, at least for the first five years while everyone gets to grips with implementing the bill. There are slight differences between what the Executive and I propose. I will compare and contrast.

My aim was that a brief summary report that focuses on compliance should be laid before the Parliament once a year. That would enable parliamentary scrutiny and enable us to check implementation. It would also be an opportunity to follow up any concerns that had emerged. My amendment 10 includes Scottish ministers, the consultation authorities and responsible authorities, whereas the Scottish Executive's amendment 8 specifies Scottish ministers and undefined "other activities". We agree that there should be flexibility and a sunset clause, but my amendment would allow ministers to come back to the Parliament after five years and either modify or repeal by way of order the requirement for annual reporting. I thought that that proposal would fulfil the twin objectives of flexibility and guaranteed scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament.

If I have a criticism of the Executive's amendment, it is that it is a bit woollier than mine because it states that

"the Scottish Ministers must consult with such persons as they consider appropriate" on the reporting arrangements that should be continued after the five-year cut-off point. That proposal could be taken to slightly absurd extremes—Scottish ministers could, in effect, consult themselves and then decide to proceed. However, I am happy to accept that that is highly unlikely to happen.

In some ways, I prefer my amendment 10, but the Executive's amendment 8 meets—and in some respects exceeds—what I wanted. Therefore, I will be happy not to move amendment 10.