Secretary of State for Scotland (Meetings)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green 12:00 pm, 15th March 2007

To ask the First Minister when he will next meet the Secretary of State for Scotland and what issues he intends to discuss. (S2F-2786)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I expect to see the Secretary of State for Scotland again soon. We will discuss issues that are important to Scotland.

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

In the wake of the publication of the United Kingdom draft Climate Change Bill, Sarah Boyack hurriedly announced plans for a Scottish climate change bill that is intended to apply to devolved matters. Seven weeks before the election, will the First Minister tell voters whether the Scottish climate change bill will set binding annual targets on the Executive to reduce climate change pollution and, if not, why not?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

It would probably be inappropriate for me, as head of the coalition Government, to outline today Labour's plans for the election. However, I reassure Shiona Baird that the commitment to a climate change bill from the Labour Party was announced not on Tuesday, but several weeks ago, on the day that David Miliband was in Scotland. I assure the member that she will find the content of the proposal interesting when she reads it in three weeks, when the election campaign gets under way fully. The Administration has a strong record on climate change. The two parties in the coalition have worked together on the issue. The climate change programme that we have outlined has received praise, at home and elsewhere, and we have a record of action on the issue that stands any test of scrutiny.

There is a proper debate about whether there should be annual targets or targets across a number of years. This week, the UK Government announced targets that would be across five years—between 2008 and 2012. Some people criticised that and said that there should be annual targets but, this week, Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the Sustainable Development Commission and who we would all accept is an absolute authority in the UK on such matters and has been for at least two decades, said:

"I think the NGOs have got this wrong ... What the Government has gone for are ... five year budgets rather than one year targets. We think that is a more sensible and practical way of driving change ... to be honest, the notion of the one year target is just a bit of macho breast-beating ... and I don't think that the government has got this ... wrong."

I am prepared to go with Jonathon Porritt's view on the matter. If we in Scotland look to set targets, we should set targets that are beyond one year.

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

I thank the First Minister for that reply, but I disagree with him on his record in the Parliament. Does he agree that his Executive's green thread has snapped? The evidence is that on environmental justice, the Executive has failed; on waste reduction, it has failed; on energy efficiency, it has failed; on road transport reduction, it has failed; and on climate change action, it has gone nowhere. Does he agree with the Greens that Scotland needs binding annual climate change targets now? Yes or no?



Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

My colleagues have answered the question for the member.

I shall go through our record. The Green party describes our record on waste as a failure. In fact, the recycling of waste in Scotland has gone from 6 per cent five years ago to 25 per cent today. The use of clean energy in Scotland has gone from less than 9 per cent in 2001 towards our ambitious target of 40 per cent of renewable energy generation by 2020, and we met our 2010 target five years early. We have an ambitious climate change programme for Scotland. The official figures indicate that net Scottish greenhouse gas emissions fell by 12 per cent between 2001 and 2004.

Public transport now accounts for 70 per cent of our transport budgets. Two years ago, 150 million fewer car miles were driven on our roads. Five years ago, there were 65 million journeys by train in Scotland; last year, there were 75 million. In those and in many other areas of climate change and environmental issues, this nation, Scotland, is leading the rest of the United Kingdom. We are proud to do so, and we look forward to continuing after May.