Environment

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:43 pm on 21st February 2007.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative 4:43 pm, 21st February 2007

It was not until late yesterday afternoon, or last night, that I discovered that I was to speak in this debate. Although I was not exactly thrilled at the amount of notice given to me by my esteemed friend and colleague, Bill Aitken, I was pleased to be asked to take part in a debate on the environment. I believe that we should take every opportunity to debate the environment—at that stage, I was very pleased that the Scottish National Party had lodged a motion on the issue. Members will understand that, at that stage, I had not seen the motion, which seems to be more about energy than about the environment. While I fully admit that the two are linked, they are not entirely the same.

The SNP has been somewhat duplicitous and opportunistic in the way it has brought this motion to the chamber. I was looking forward to debating whether we are going the right way about developing renewable energy. I was looking forward to debating whether Chancellor Gordon Brown's recently implemented £10 surcharge on flights is really a beneficial environmental measure or just another stealth tax—I think it is the latter. I was looking forward to debating the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and some of its conclusions, such as the terrifying prospect of summer sea ice in the Arctic ocean disappearing by the end of this century, which is only 93 years away.

I was looking forward to a positive motion and debate, in which I would begin by declaring my entry in the register of members' interests that shows that I receive an income from a wind farm development, part of which is situated on land that I am fortunate enough to own. However, I do not think that I need to do so, because, in the context of a debate on the environment, the terms of the SNP motion that is before us today are something of a disappointment.

There are positives, but in my opinion they lie exclusively in the first two amendments that are printed in the Business Bulletin. I disagree with Bruce Crawford. I expected the Executive amendment to be a bit over the top on self-congratulatory rhetoric—I was not disappointed—but at least it is positive in tone. I am sorry that the Green amendment fell into the SNP nuclear trap, but I suppose that separatists should always stick together. I commend Alex Johnstone for the positive nature of his amendment. I hope, but doubt, that it will get the support it deserves. I ask Chris Ballance to note that the Conservative amendment mentions energy-saving technologies and, therefore, energy efficiency. I support it because it reinforces the Scottish and national Conservatives' absolute commitment to addressing the problems of climate change as a major priority.

Alex Johnstone made our position on nuclear power clear. I reiterate my view that it would be irresponsible to close the door on nuclear for ever. It must remain an option for the balanced production of energy that we all agree is needed, even if we have differences on how that balance should be achieved. I say to Jim Wallace that if that is nailing my colours to the mast, I am happy to bang in another nail.