First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 7th December 2006.

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Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 12:00 pm, 7th December 2006

To ask the First Minister what steps are being taken to ensure that the risk of flooding for communities is reduced. (S2F-2603)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

We have increased resources for flood prevention in Scotland from £4 million in 1999-2000 to £42 million in 2007-08, so there has been a tenfold increase in resources since devolution. Funding is made available for flood prevention schemes submitted by local authorities that meet the Executive's criteria. Since 1999, 20 such schemes have been completed, and recently we increased the grant rate to meet 80 per cent of the eligible costs and encourage more local authorities to submit schemes.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The First Minister will be aware that the past week has been an anxious time for many communities that are at risk of flooding, given the number of flood warnings that are in place. He might also be aware that the number of severe flood warnings in 2005 exceeded the total number in the previous five years, since the warnings system was put in place.

Does the First Minister agree that it is now time to carry out a thorough review of flood prevention in Scotland with a view to expediting the process for getting schemes up and running and making sure that the appropriate funding is in place? Is he aware that in Moray, even with an 80 per cent contribution from the Government, the need to find the remaining 20 per cent from taxpayers' money is crippling the local authority, which has to divert money from other budgets? Does he agree that that is unacceptable and that the system puts an unfair burden on Moray, which has severe flooding problems?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

We had a review and we now have a national flooding strategy, which is the right thing to have. It was important to put that in place. It is absolutely right that we have increased the budget tenfold in the past eight years, and it also right that spending on flood prevention at the local level is initiated by local authorities. They should be in touch with their communities and should make decisions democratically and locally before they come forward with appropriate technical proposals. The funding is split 80:20 to reflect the funding split for local authorities in general revenue, with 80 per cent coming from Government grants and 20 per cent being raised locally. That is the right split.

One of the worst things that could happen in the next few years for local authorities such as Moray Council would be for the local government budget in Scotland to be reduced by £1 billion, as Ms Sturgeon proposed recently, with a capped local income tax. That would reduce the resources that are available to Moray Council and others and it would probably lead to flooding schemes not going ahead.