Amendment 92 will enable regulations to be made under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 to govern procedures for inquiries, hearings and reviews under that act. In particular, the amendment is intended to enable comprehensive regulations to be made governing the handling by Scottish ministers of appeals and called-in applications.
At present, the procedures for inquiries, hearings and written submissions are governed by different rules and regulations, reflecting the fact that only one type of procedure is normally used in any one case. Through regulations made under the bill's provisions, we intend that ministers should decide the most appropriate procedure for each appeal or call-in, depending on the nature of the material that needs to be examined and the complexity of the issues raised. Oral procedure—whether for a formal inquiry or a more informal hearing process—will normally be reserved for the complex elements of a case in which issues cannot be resolved by consideration of a party's written submissions. In many cases, the procedure will involve a combination of inquiry, hearing and written submissions. It therefore makes sense to have comprehensive regulations that cover all the options. Those who are involved with appeals—whether planning authorities, appellants or the community—will thus have a single reference document setting out their rights in the process and the obligations that they are required to meet. I therefore ask members to support the amendment.
I move amendment 92.
Amendment 92 agreed to.
Several years ago, I attended a mediation conference in Baltimore, Maryland, along with senior members of the legal profession, the Faculty of Advocates, the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Scottish Consumer Council, to study the operation of mediation in that state across a whole sphere of activity. It was being used not just as we are used to it being used in Scotland—in family law courts and sometimes contracts—but in large commercial contracts, in planning and in neighbourhood disputes. It was used throughout Maryland and was promoted by the leaders in that state. I make it plain that I am that dreadful thing: a convert.
I also make it plain that mediation is not arbitration. The two must not be confused. Arbitration requires a third party to come to a decision—a judgment—that is then imposed on the other parties and is binding. Therefore, in their perception, there is nearly always a winner and a loser, as there is in court judgments. That is not mediation. Mediation involves trained mediators sitting with parties at dispute and in conflict to seek, by consensus, a binding resolution. The perception in mediation is that there are no winners or losers; as Del Boy would say, "Everyone's a winner." It saves grief, money and time.
I commend this enabling amendment to the minister as a progressive step. The minister says that there will be a culture change in the way in which we go through the planning process. In my view, amendment 153 would enhance that culture change and could lead to further mediation in other areas in Scotland.
I move amendment 153.
Amendment 153 would give ministers a power to make regulations to promote the use of mediation. There is no doubt that mediation is a useful tool—a non-adversarial approach that helps to build consensus and to improve relationships around potentially difficult issues. Although mediation can be a useful process in areas such as family law, where couples might agree to use an independent third party to help them to discuss and resolve areas of conflict, there is little evidence of the benefits that it could bring to the planning system. That is why we have said that we will run a pilot to see whether formal mediation can be applied effectively to the planning system and to evaluate its potential impacts and costs.
Mediation is just one of a number of tools for involving communities in the planning process. The planning advice note on community engagement proposes a number of engagement techniques, including mediation. I do not wish one method—especially a method that is relatively untested in the planning system—to be given prominence in the bill, potentially at the expense of others. It could also be counterproductive to require in law something that should be approached on a voluntary basis, with the agreement of both sides. I do not support amendment 153 and urge members to reject it.
As I have indicated previously in the chamber, there is a vast amount of evidence that mediation works. I suggest that the minister considers the successful operation of mediation in Maryland, the state to which I referred. Major commercial companies use mediation because it saves them a great deal of money and time.
Amendment 153 does not make mediation mandatory but leaves it to the discretion of Scottish ministers, who
"may by regulations make provision to promote the use of mediation".
The amendment does not make the minister promote mediation, but simply leaves it open to him to take up that opportunity—or not, as the case may be. His response is rather unhappy—I was hoping that we would move forward with culture change. If we want to get away from conflict in planning, mediation is the way in which to do that. I am sorry that the minister will not support amendment 153.
Division number 28
For: Adam, Brian, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Fox, Colin, Gibson, Rob, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Martin, Campbell, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Turner, Dr Jean, Watt, Ms Maureen, 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, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Fraser, Murdo, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Peattie, Cathy, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan
Abstentions: Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James