Before section 50

Planning etc (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:00 pm on 16th November 2006.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 4:00 pm, 16th November 2006

Group 30 is on report on implementation. Amendment 156, in the name of Sarah Boyack, is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

We would all agree that the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation that the Parliament will pass. Amendment 156 is a probing amendment that is designed to try to get a feel from the Executive as to what it intends to do in future to review the legislation. The fact that the Communities Committee spent a marathon amount of time scrutinising the bill, with lots of input from members who were not on the committee, and the fact that 20 MSPs have lodged amendments for stage 3 consideration, tell us that there is huge interest across the Parliament in the successful implementation of the bill.

Many of us will have attended meetings in our communities on local plans and planning applications over the past year, so we know that there is also great interest in planning outside the Parliament. The bill is complex and implementing it will require additional resources and a big change in culture in our local authorities and in our development industry. If implementation is to be successful, we will need to follow through on that interest. We will need trained planners who are equipped to lead that process of engagement and, I hope, empowerment of local communities.

It will be important that we monitor the success of the bill as a Parliament. Through development plans, we have sought a much more effective system of providing a framework for the protection of the environment. That will require a greater investment by those local authorities that have not hitherto made that a priority, so we will want to keep an eye on that. We must consider how the election of local authorities under a different system will affect the planning system, given the new procedures for neighbour notification, the delegation of decision making and some of the notification procedures that the Executive has put into the new framework. Implementing the bill will also require the revision of a lot of Executive guidance, and I hope that implementation will focus on the outcomes as well as the processes. We must examine how the planning process delivers better outcomes.

I would like the minister to take the opportunity, in responding to amendment 156, to outline the timescales within which she envisages that the Executive will review the bill. We have had a lot of discussion in Parliament about the importance of post-legislative scrutiny. To make the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill a success, the Parliament will have to review its implementation. I would like to hear how the Executive sees the implementation of the bill.

In amendment 156, I suggest a timescale of three years. I note that, in a letter to the Communities Committee, the deputy minister suggests that it will take two years just to revise and issue some of the guidance, so she might think that a three-year timescale is too short. However, I believe that we need to start to review the bill within five years, and certainly within a decade, of royal assent. Perhaps the trick is to have a programme from the Executive that is similar to the programme that was built up for the bill's introduction.

As I said, amendment 156 is a probing amendment, but it makes an important point about post-legislative scrutiny. I certainly hope that the Scottish Parliament will spend more time in the next session on scrutiny of how acts have been implemented than it spends on new proposals. That will be absolutely crucial for the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill.

I move amendment 156.

Photo of Susan Deacon Susan Deacon Labour

Although I do not support the detail of amendment 156, I absolutely support the sentiments that Sarah Boyack has just articulated.

I ask the minister, in responding, to comment specifically on the resourcing capacity that will be put in place to drive forward the implementation process, nationally and locally.

Members have copies of the deputy minister's letter to the convener of the Communities Committee. I have some concern about the emphasis that it places on secondary legislation and guidance, and I seek an assurance that the Executive will place appropriate emphasis on the human dimension of leadership, dialogue, training and other such methods of driving momentum behind the process.

I also ask the minister whether a process will be put in place to ensure that the various stakeholders and the range of organisations that have an interest in the bill will now turn their minds to what happens after it is passed. In that regard, I welcome the contribution from the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, which is indeed looking beyond the bill. I would like to see more external organisations doing so from here on in.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

One of the things that I have learned in this job is that planners are human. Therefore, their energy and enthusiasm will ensure that the human dimension of planning and the crucial role of communities are recognised.

I take Susan Deacon's point that there is also a challenge for stakeholders. Some of them have engaged with the process as the bill has gone through Parliament, but others were content to stand on the sidelines and shout. It is crucial that everyone who has an interest in the matter engages with the process.

Sarah Boyack is correct to say that there has already been a significant amount of engagement in the Parliament and through the committee process. It sometimes felt as if everybody and their granny was at the committee when we considered the bill. There is no doubt that people engaged seriously with the process. I acknowledge the role of Sarah Boyack, who ensured that she voiced her concerns on behalf of her constituents.

Sarah Boyack's amendment 156 would require ministers to report to Parliament on the implementation of the legislation, particularly in respect of actions taken by ministers and planning authorities.

The Communities Committee discussed the issue in detail at stage 2. It was recognised across the committee that an important principle is involved and that it is essential to keep a careful eye on the implementation of legislation to ensure that a gap does not open up between what has been claimed and what is delivered. However, it became clear in that discussion that a single snapshot report was not the best way to address the issue and that such a provision would be too prescriptive.

We already have examples of fixed dates that were set for reporting back to the Parliament on an issue proving to be inappropriately timed. For example, we reported back on the right to buy before we got to the stage at which the changes that had been implemented in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 could be followed through.

It is, of course, essential that ministers maintain an open and constructive dialogue with the Parliament on the implementation of policy and legislation in general. Parliament has a clear role in scrutinising implementation.

In the case of planning, we fully intend to keep the Communities Committee, the Parliament and all interested parties up to date with progress on the many aspects of planning modernisation. There will be an extensive programme of secondary legislation, and we have responded to concerns raised by the Subordinate Legislation Committee in that regard by putting in place the safeguards that it wanted.

Members will appreciate that implementation of the programme will take a number of years. However, I am happy to put on record our commitment to ensuring that, if the bill is passed, Parliament is kept properly and fully informed of progress made in implementation. I have already written to the Communities Committee to give an indicative outline timetable for implementation. As I said, much of this will come back to Parliament in the form of secondary legislation. There will also be on-going monitoring reports on the national planning framework.

Many other planning documents, such as Scottish planning policies, will be discussed with the committee. We have had productive engagement in that regard. We are also happy to discuss further with the Communities Committee how best to ensure that Parliament is kept properly informed and engaged. We already have a good record in engaging—

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I want to make this point, because it is crucial.

In not supporting amendment 156, we are committed to engaging with all those who have an interest in the matter. The bill is the product of such engagement. Our officials are to be congratulated on the way in which they have engaged up to now. I would rather build on that approach and encourage and develop an on-going dialogue in which we continue to monitor and debate the transformation process with all interested parties through to the end. At the heart of the bill is the fact that we want the legislation to work, so we will ensure that there is close monitoring and reporting as we progress.

I identify absolutely with the views that Sarah Boyack expressed when she clarified the purpose of amendment 156, but I urge her not to be prescriptive about the timescale and to ensure that the continuing dialogue is sustained. I urge her not to press amendment 156, but to recognise that the policy position that underpins it is one that the planners will take forward.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Ms Boyack, I ask you to indicate whether you are pressing or withdrawing amendment 156. You have no time to wind up on it.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

On the basis of the minister's response, I seek leave to withdraw amendment 156, if the Parliament is happy to let me do so.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Do members agree that amendment 156 be withdrawn?

Members:

No.

Division number 30

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Brocklebank, Mr Ted, Brownlee, Derek, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Fabiani, Linda, Fox, Colin, Fraser, Murdo, Gibson, Rob, Goldie, Miss Annabel, Gorrie, Donald, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Kane, Rosie, Leckie, Carolyn, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, Martin, Campbell, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Petrie, Dave, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, John, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinburne, John, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Murray, Turner, Dr Jean, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew
Against: Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baker, Richard, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Eadie, Helen, Ferguson, Patricia, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, 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, McMahon, Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Murray, Dr Elaine, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Radcliffe, Nora, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, 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

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 53, Against 60, Abstentions 1.

Amendment 156 disagreed to.