Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:27 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 4:27 pm, 1st March 2007

I also pay tribute to the clerks, and to all the stakeholders who gave such good submissions in response to the consultation on the bill and to the committee. The Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development will today find herself in the strange position of summing up in support of the motion to pass the bill, having been convener of the committee that scrutinised it.

Scotland's natural environment is very precious. The bill is about protecting it and promoting and protecting two vital sectors in Scotland. On aquaculture, the Scottish National Party welcomes the steps to prevent escapes, to control parasites and to put in place the new inspection regime. We have tried to emphasise to the minister the importance of cutting down on red tape in that sector. That is an on-going theme, to which we urge ministers to pay close attention, so that the industry is not held back because of even more red tape.

On the freshwater fisheries element of the bill, speaking as the member for Moray, which contains the Findhorn, the Lossie and, of course, the Spey, I know only too well the value of the freshwater fisheries sector to Scotland. Anglers, managers and others who are associated with the sector bend over backwards to conserve fish stocks in those rivers; they do what is best for biodiversity and the environment. I believe that elements of the bill will help them to achieve that and to develop that valuable sector.

It is vital that we do all that we can to prevent GS from arriving in Scotland. If there were an outbreak and we had to kill all life in our rivers to contain it, that would be devastating. The SNP has used the debates on the bill to convey to ministers the fact that it is about the future not just of anglers but of tourism and renewable energy, including hydroelectricity and other renewable technologies that make use of our rivers. It is also about the future of the whisky-distilling sector, to which I referred during consideration of amendments.

There would be enormous ramifications across many sectors in Scotland if there were an outbreak of GS. That is why there has been such an emphasis on trying to prevent it from coming to Scotland in the first place and on ensuring that we take appropriate measures at our ports of entry. Future ministers will be held to account in relation to the measures that they take and the negotiations that they hold with the United Kingdom authorities in that regard.

The minister mentioned that the information campaign will begin on Monday. I recall that the minister's study found that it would cost £6 million to run the campaign. It would be good if the Deputy Minister for Environment and Rural Development, when she winds up, could detail how that will be funded. Will £6 million be made available? If so, over what timescale? If not, how much will be made available?

During the stage 3 proceedings, Dennis Canavan raised the important issue of freshwater fisheries management. We are 60 days away from the third election to the Parliament. After each of the previous elections, ministers have made commitments to address the issue. Our current system is archaic. As other members have said, we have to replace it with a modern, up-to-date system. We have to keep in place what is good about the existing system but fix what can be improved. We have to think about having a catchment area basis for managing our freshwater fisheries. It does not make sense to have one set of management structures for salmon and sea trout and others for other fish in our rivers. It makes sense to consider the issues holistically.

We welcome the bill and will support it at decision time.