After section 17

Part of Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:15 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 3:15 pm, 1st March 2007

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.