After section 19

Part of Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:45 pm on 9th November 2005.

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Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 3:45 pm, 9th November 2005

At an earlier stage, in the committee debates, we heard strong arguments for setting up a body that would act as the gateway for people to use to expedite the process. Safeguarding the gateway for up to five years would send out the signal that the Government wants to make it possible to get quality environmental assessments undertaken and to create consistency in a way that helps people to see a transparent means whereby the Executive is welcoming people to undertake best practice.

We have removed from the amendment that was discussed at stage 2 any suggestion that that body ought to be an arbiter. We think that the gateway is a suitable place to provide support and advice on best practice and to host the pre-screening register, which was discussed earlier. Co-ordination, support, advice and monitoring through the gateway will ensure that the standard of reporting and environmental assessment activities is consistent.

It was suggested, in early evidence to the committee, that monitoring the kind of assessments that are being done just now is an important function to get much better work done. We have argued, earlier in the debate, about the way in which bodies over which we have no control might well have an impact on the environment. There are many bodies that are within our control and we want to ensure that they follow best practice.

The Executive will have an overview and will be well placed to make recommendations through the gateway to ministers. That would be an obvious way of saying that the Executive considers this process to be up front and out there—a statement that strategic environmental assessment is something that it takes seriously and which will kick in before many of the decisions that are taken in future policy directions.

It is, therefore, the Scottish National Party's belief that a gateway of the sort that I propose in amendment 2 should be included in the bill. We look to the Executive to accept the amendment in the spirit in which we accepted its earlier arguments about pre-screening and the need to have quality and consistency.

I move amendment 2.