After section 17

Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:12 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 3:12 pm, 1st March 2007

Group 2 is on the prevention of entry into Scotland of Gyrodactylus salaris. Amendment 1, in the name of Ted Brocklebank, is grouped with amendments 1A and 15.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

This Parliament passes laws on all sorts of things, but only rarely can we honestly say that it is faced with an issue as important as that of Gyrodactylus salaris, the infamous salmon parasite that has devastated fish stocks and river systems on the continent. Although GS has not yet appeared in Scotland, it might be only a matter of time until it does unless we take action to combat the threat. At present, if anglers take a fishing trip to Norway, there is nothing to stop them, upon their return to Scotland, continuing to fish with equipment that might be contaminated. The threat is obvious, but what should we do about it?

Let me quote directly from the Executive's document on GS, which was produced for ministers by experts at the institute of aquaculture at the University of Stirling and Glasgow Caledonian University business school. According to that document, which I have with me, the cost to the economy if GS became widespread would be £34.5 million per year in lost household income, £44.8 million in lost expenditure, and a staggering £633 million in net economic value lost. The document also estimates that almost 2,000 full-time equivalent jobs would be lost annually.

What does the excellent document suggest that we should do to prevent such an economic and ecological catastrophe? I quote:

"The probability of GS entering the UK could be reduced considerably by the provision of disinfection stations at ports".

It also says:

"The total estimated cost of these measures ... is £6m".

That cost is small in comparison with the net economic value of £633 million.

Furthermore, the measures that are outlined in amendment 1 were enthusiastically endorsed by every member of the Environment and Rural Development Committee in its stage 1 report. At that time, the deputy minister was convener of the committee. Paragraph 99 of the report states:

"The Committee does not see why more robust measures should not also be developed at ports of entry—such as a requirement to make a declaration at customs points if carrying fishing gear or other water-sports equipment".

We know who the convener of the committee was, so why, when Ted Brocklebank heeded the committee's recommendation and duly lodged an amendment at stage 2, did the deputy minister reject it and her Labour and Liberal Democrat colleagues on the committee vote it down?

The measures that are outlined in amendment 1 may not be enough to stop GS, not least because it could arrive via England or Wales, but they would send a signal to the United Kingdom Government that we are deadly serious in combating that parasite and that similar measures must be implemented across the country.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

That is entirely at your discretion.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

For the sake of other members, will Mr McGrigor explain precisely how proposed new section 5DA(1) of the Diseases of Fish Act 1937 is intended to work? How would persons entering Scotland from outwith Great Britain declare the items in question on entry into Scotland?

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

Presumably, if someone came to a Scottish airport, they would declare the items there. We would not have the power to make them declare the items at a UK airport, but the same measures could be introduced at Westminster by a Sewel motion or some such method.

Members will agree that £6 million is a small price to pay to ensure that we do all that we can to prevent the awful GS parasite from getting here. We may not succeed, but surely we have a moral obligation in Scotland to give it our best shot.

I move amendment 1.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I will speak to amendments 1A and 15. I agree with Jamie McGrigor, not only with regard to the fact that the Parliament makes lots of laws but on some of his other points, too.

I lodged amendment 1A because, if the Parliament chooses to support Jamie McGrigor's amendment 1, the SNP's amendment will strengthen it by ensuring that the minister reports back to the Parliament within a year of the act coming into force on exactly what measures have been taken in conjunction with other UK authorities to stop GS coming into the country. I lodged the same amendment as stand-alone amendment 15, so that it can be voted on separately if the Parliament does not support amendment 1.

We can all agree that, if GS arrives in Scotland, it will be utterly devastating first and foremost for our rural economy, particularly for our freshwater fisheries, related tourism and jobs, and for the other industries that use our rivers, particularly the whisky industry and, increasingly, the renewable energy industry. It will also damage Scotland's image, which will be done no good whatever if we have rivers in which all the wildlife has been killed.

I, too, will quote from the Environment and Rural Development Committee's report on the bill, which says that the Association of Electricity Producers said in relation to the River Tay:

"If such an incident were to happen, we would have an on-going containment problem for evermore. Instead of thinking of ways of treating or containing it, we should be putting our minds to preventing it from entering our water system in the first place."—[Official Report, Environment and Rural Development Committee, 24 October 2006; c 3576.]

That shows that prevention is better than cure. I was going to quote the committee's recommendation in paragraph 99, with which we agree, but Jamie McGrigor did that.

On the damage that would be done to the whisky industry—as the representative of Moray, it is close to my heart—I have an e-mail that the whisky industry sent following the recent GS contingency planning exercise. The industry says:

"the exercise made it clear that if GS comes to Scotland then eradication will not be quick even if chemicals are employed ... Repeat dosing of watercourses would mean repeated disruption to distilling activities and a higher likelihood of a negative impact on international consumer confidence. This has re-inforced our view on the importance of focusing on preventative measures."

It also says that the Government's assessment of the economic damage that would result from an outbreak of GS

"makes no mention of the broader impact ... on the Scotch Whisky brand reputation internationally and consumer confidence."

I highlight that e-mail to the Parliament to reinforce the fact that the issue affects not just freshwater fisheries and anglers, although they are extremely valuable economically and for jobs, but other industries that use our river systems for their own ends, such as the renewable energy and whisky industries. It is imperative that we support the taking of steps at ports of entry, which the committee and the wider sectors that the debate affects support. It is also imperative to ask ministers to report to Parliament within one year of the act coming into force, to ensure that the issue is a priority for the Government.

I move amendment 1A.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I do not disagree with Jamie McGrigor's point that Gyrodactylus salaris is an extremely important disease to deal with, and the Executive has no difficulty in agreeing that its potential impact is serious. Therefore, I do not necessarily disagree with Richard Lochhead, either. However, my concern is that although Jamie McGrigor and Richard Lochhead highlighted the disease's importance and the need to be alert to it, neither of them established whether the risk is high or how the disease is most likely to be transmitted.

The expert reports to which Jamie McGrigor was keen to refer in relation to the disease's importance make it clear that experts and scientists have assessed as "extremely low" the risk of Gyrodactylus salaris entering the United Kingdom via fishing and boating equipment. Of relevance to that assessment is the knowledge that where the disease has occurred in Norway, equipment has never been implicated in the parasite's transmission between rivers. I and the Executive take seriously this extremely important matter, but transmission has not occurred by the means that amendment 1 or amendment 1A suggests. We must ensure that people who engage in fishing are as aware as everybody else is of the high risk.

Amendment 1 is not particularly workable. Often, points of entry from infected areas are not staffed by customs officials and, when they are, it is impractical to check every passenger. More important, the veracity of any declaration—if one were given—could not be established. That view is shared by HM Revenue and Customs, which was approached about the matter, and by the salmon angling representatives on the Gyrodactylus salaris task force that we established to develop our contingency plan.

Our preferred approach is to raise the ante by making all those who engage in relevant activity far more aware of the potential risks that are attached to the disease and of the considerable impact that any outbreak would have on Scotland's economy. Therefore, we have arranged a campaign, to which we are devoting additional resources. We are engaging with all people who come to Scotland and who book holidays here to advise and inform them of the danger that is associated with their bringing in the disease.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I appreciate the fact that the minister has strong views on Ted Brocklebank's amendment. However, the SNP's amendment 1A simply asks ministers to report back to Parliament within one year. Surely he has no objection to that.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I am addressing the amendments in the order in which they were spoken to. I know that Richard Lochhead is anxious for me to respond to his amendments, but he must not get excited. I am dealing with the substance of Mr McGrigor's point. Public information is the important thing; therefore, I hope that Mr McGrigor will withdraw amendment 1.

I turn to amendments 1A and 15—I hope that this will calm the SNP front bench. It is entirely reasonable to expect that Parliament will be informed at any time of steps that are being taken to resist the importation of serious diseases such as gyrodactylosis. However, that is something that people would expect at any time. They would expect developments to be reported and they would expect ministers to report the fact should incidences of the disease arise in mainland Europe. The public should be informed of that—indeed, there may have to be a reassessment of the risk that has already been identified. Therefore, although that is perfectly plausible and, as a minister, I have no difficulty in undertaking to provide that information to Parliament, I do not think that that is a matter to be enshrined in statute. I do not believe that the matter requires statutory underpinning within the bill; therefore, I invite Mr Lochhead to withdraw amendment 1A and not to move amendment 15.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Because the lead amendment is subject to amendment, we will have two winding-up speeches. Mr McGrigor will wind up the debate on amendment 1 and Mr Lochhead will wind up the debate on amendment 1A.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

I listened closely to what Mr Finnie said, but I still think that we should take further measures to strengthen prevention of the parasite ever reaching Scottish rivers. For years, the Atlantic Salmon Trust and others have issued leaflets about Gyrodactylus salaris, and I feel that the Parliament should be strengthening their arm. I re-emphasise to members the fact that amendment 1 would merely insert into the bill the cross-party recommendation of the Environment and Rural Development Committee—a recommendation that was also cited in the expert report that was commissioned by ministers last year.

Gyrodactylus salaris has destroyed river systems in Norway. If it ever came here, it would not only destroy our rivers, but could badly damage the whisky industry, fish farming, the recreational angling sector and associated tourism all over Scotland. We simply cannot allow that to happen. That is a nightmare scenario, and we should do our best to prevent it from happening. I therefore urge members, despite the assurances from the Executive, to back amendment 1, in the name of Ted Brocklebank, and amendments 1A and 15, in the name of Richard Lochhead.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I, too, will press my amendments. It would be good to place in the bill an obligation on the ministers to report back within one year of the act coming into force. That is not a huge demand, and the minister has already said that he would be prepared to report back at some stage. Let us ensure that that happens, given that the issue is crucial for the industries involved.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 1A be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 2

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Brownlee, Derek, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Petrie, Dave, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, John, Stevenson, Stewart, Swinney, Mr John, 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, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McMahon, Michael, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stone, Mr Jamie, Swinburne, John, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 43, Against 59, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1A disagreed to.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 3:30 pm, 1st March 2007

The question is, that amendment 1 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 3

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Brownlee, Derek, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Petrie, Dave, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, John, Stevenson, Stewart, Swinney, Mr John, 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, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McMahon, Michael, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stone, Mr Jamie, Swinburne, John, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 43, Against 57, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 1 disagreed to.

Amendment 15 moved—[Richard Lochhead].

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The question is, that amendment 15 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 4

For: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Baird, Shiona, Ballance, Chris, Brownlee, Derek, Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Davidson, Mr David, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Fraser, Murdo, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Johnstone, Alex, Lochhead, Richard, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Mitchell, Margaret, Morgan, Alasdair, Neil, Alex, Petrie, Dave, Robison, Shona, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, John, Stevenson, Stewart, Swinney, Mr John, 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, Finnie, Ross, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Godman, Trish, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Gorrie, Donald, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McMahon, Michael, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stone, Mr Jamie, Swinburne, John, Wallace, Mr Jim, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

The result of the division is: For 43, Against 59, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 15 disagreed to.