After section 19

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour 3:45 pm, 9th November 2005

Amendment 2 is very similar to one that was disagreed to following a considered debate by the Environment and Rural Development Committee at stage 2. At stage 2, we clearly stated our commitment to the gateway, saying that it is here to stay. Furthermore, we committed ourselves to go back to the committee if we were considering changing the arrangements. I am sure that amendment 8 on SEA reporting underlines our on-going commitment to SEA.

To operate effectively, the gateway must be dynamic in nature and it must be enabled to respond to needs that are, as yet, unknown. That will be done best and most flexibly through administrative provisions. Statutory provisions, on the other hand, might risk constraining the development of the gateway and prevent it from operating as effectively as it might.

Our commitment to the gateway is further demonstrated by the fact that it is already operational. A team of Scottish Executive civil servants is dedicated to SEA duties in support of Scottish ministers. That team is unique in the United Kingdom and it performs valuable functions such as the provision of advice; the development of SEA guidance, including user templates; the gathering of statistics; liaison with consultation authorities; and management of the review of SEA practices to develop good practice.

In suggesting an audit and monitoring role, amendment 2 seems partly to reflect concerns over quality control. I offer reassurance on that point, because quality control is already addressed in several ways. There are statutory provisions to ensure the publication of SEA documents and for consultation to allow for public and expert consultation authority scrutiny.

Statutory provisions will allow ministers to direct that an SEA be carried out, even after the plan has been adopted. There are also statutory provisions for monitoring the significant environmental effects of plans and programmes after adoption to enable responsible authorities to take remedial action should there be any unforeseen adverse effects. The gateway can assist quality control and the smooth operation of SEA by acting as the administrative hub for SEA.

We are whole-heartedly committed to effective administration, provision of support and quality control. We believe that those are best served by robust, practical and flexible administrative provisions that can respond and develop to meet emerging needs. I therefore urge members to resist amendment 2.