Greener Scotland

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:39 pm on 13 June 2007.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 2:39, 13 June 2007

The next item of business is a debate on a greener Scotland.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 3:22, 13 June 2007

Scotland's environment is vital if we are to have a healthy and sustainable existence. Today's debate is therefore about how we can create a greener Scotland and deal with the fact that we are living beyond our environmental means, and about the fact that we need a greener Scotland so that we can become a wealthier, fairer, healthier, safer and stronger Scotland. The debate is about how we in Government can use the levers that are at our disposal—funding, guidance, legislation and example—to support and build on the efforts of the many people in Scotland who care about our environment and who are taking early action to protect it; for example by volunteering, recycling or buying locally.

We want to create a Scotland in which there is economic stability and social justice; a Scotland that has a cohesive co-operative society in which people live fulfilling lives; a Scotland where protecting our environment is seen as being in the national and global interests; a Scotland where people are committed to contributing to securing the environment for the future; and a Scotland where people know how to engage effectively in decision making.

We want to create a Scotland where people enjoy a clean and attractive countryside and healthy and thriving wildlife and habitats; a Scotland where people walk, cycle or use public transport as the norm because they are clean, efficient, safe and accessible forms of transport; a Scotland where people live in well-made, energy-efficient homes, most of whose power comes from renewable sources; and a Scotland where people are mindful of the environmental impacts of the ways in which they spend their money and leisure time.

We want to create a Scotland where we recycle as much of our waste as we can; a Scotland where our businesses and industry are highly resource-efficient and competitive; and a Scotland that has a global reputation for innovation involving new greener technologies, minimisation of waste and harnessing of renewables and clean energy technologies. In that Scotland, our people and businesses will have changed their ways and, as a result, our children and grandchildren will also be able to expect to experience that fulfilling way of life.

That is our vision, but where are we now and how will we get there? It is clear that we cannot afford to be complacent. We know that people around the planet are living beyond their natural resources, which creates climate change and other pressures that affect our people, our economy and our environment. There is a lack of due respect for nature, but it is everyone's responsibility to have such respect. The challenge is to translate people's awareness and concern into changed mindsets and action: we need to encourage individuals, businesses, communities, countries and the international community to recognise their duties and obligations. We all need to change our behaviour.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

The minister has acknowledged international obligations and Scotland's obligations. In my speech, I intend to mention the recent achievement at the G8 summit, at which President Bush agreed for the first time to participate in a new agreement on carbon emissions. Will the minister join me in congratulating the United Kingdom Government on its role in achieving that agreement?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I have many disagreements with the current UK Prime Minister, but we all at least acknowledge his sincerity in trying his best to put climate change on the international agenda. Our job in Scotland is to play our role in that. Since the Scottish Parliament's establishment, Scotland has made good progress, but I call for Scotland to do more from that good base. The Scottish Government will offer leadership and will support others in following it.

We have made it clear that Scotland wants no nuclear power stations—a nuclear-free Scotland is an important part of our vision of Scotland's future. We are also committed to taking action to protect our marine environment. As a first step, we will change the law on ship-to-ship oil transfers near environmentally protected sites. Tomorrow, I will provide a briefing for MSPs to outline our progress on that important issue. All members are invited to that briefing.

An exploration of how we can use our resources to work better for a greener Scotland will be integral to the next Scottish spending review. We will ask the council of economic advisers to consider how we might measure environmental resource depletion and well-being alongside gross domestic product, so that we will know to what extent our economic performance is sustainable.

We intend that the Scottish Government and our partners—including local authorities, public bodies and the national health service—work to become exemplars on environmental issues. I can announce that we will work with those partners to develop and publish a detailed programme to improve the Scottish public sector's environmental and sustainability performance.

The Government acknowledges the good work that is being done throughout the public sector—reductions in energy and water usage and the design of new buildings to high sustainability standards being examples—but we can build on that. I make it clear that we are not doing enough or going forward fast enough. Across the public sector, we need to cut energy and water use, reduce waste, reduce travel emissions and support biodiversity. We need to support green innovation in matters such as renewables and the hydrogen economy. Alongside that programme, the Government will produce guidance for the public sector on how to build into procurement corporate social responsibility as part of a green procurement action plan, which we will publish later this year. The action plan will guide public bodies on how to assess and improve sustainability in their procurement while delivering value for money.

The Scottish public sector must show leadership through not just steady improvement, but a transformation in performance. Cultural change and behavioural change are also critical—education is the key to achieving them. We will drive forward in our schools, colleges and universities the action plan for the United Nations decade of education for sustainable development. We will build on the it's our future campaign by recruiting ambassadors for change, including leaders from the voluntary sector, business and politics. We will develop and implement a training programme to equip the public sector and its partners with the capacity to deliver greener policies and services. We will learn from best practice in countries such as Denmark, Norway, Finland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The public sector in Scotland has the opportunity to take a lead on environmental issues, so we must seize it.

We have identified a programme for a greener Scotland over the life of this session that will focus on five key themes. The first theme is climate change. Unchecked climate change will have serious direct consequences not just for Scotland's environment, including its biodiversity, but for our economy and our people. For instance, we know to our cost the impact of extreme weather patterns on our communities. That is why we have placed climate change at the heart of our economic decision making and why we will ask Parliament to support a climate change bill that will set ambitious targets to reduce emissions. Next week, we will announce to Parliament our objectives for the bill and we will discuss its detailed content with parliamentary representatives and others in the coming months.

Our second theme is sustainable places. Healthy communities need healthy places—they need clean air, green spaces and they need places where people want to live and work. We will work with partners and communities to build on the many good projects around Scotland, in order to support more sustainable places, especially in our most deprived neighbourhoods.

The third theme is people and nature. The importance of our relationship with the natural world is at the heart of our concern for a greener Scotland, so by spring 2008 we will have developed plans to deliver the next phase of the Scottish biodiversity strategy, and we will look closely at how we should best approach the commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2010.

Environmental volunteering is central to the theme of people and nature. Such volunteering has an important part to play in building connections between people and nature. It offers benefits not only to those who volunteer, but to key priorities such as community participation, social justice, regeneration, health, biodiversity and good citizenship. An implementation group including representatives from public environmental bodies, local authorities, non-governmental organisations and business has been considering how the Government can assist the environmental volunteering sector. I am grateful to those representatives for their contributions.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour

The cabinet secretary did not mention that it is clear that the voluntary sector must be involved in such a body. Perhaps he will do so. Does he intend to engage with that sector, which has a long track record—the past 20 years, at least—in good environmental work throughout Scotland?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I agree that the voluntary sector is key and I assure the member that that is at the heart of our thinking. I will deal with that matter in more detail.

We accept the implementation group's recommendations to increase the quality and quantity of the volunteering experience in order to deliver even greater benefits by assisting volunteer managers to become better equipped to handle the range of responsibilities that are placed on them, by removing logistical barriers that small voluntary organisations face, and by helping to raise general standards. To answer the question that Cathy Peattie asked, we will appoint a voluntary sector based project officer to co-ordinate much of that work.

Earlier today—during a visit to Tay house care unit at Murraypark nursing home at Corstorphine hospital—the Minister for Environment and I witnessed at first hand the benefits of volunteering. We pay tribute, as all members will want to do, to the work of those volunteers, who are improving access for residents to the unit's garden. The project's environmental, health and social benefits were clear for all to see.

Our fourth theme is consumption and production. We must tackle overconsumption and the throwaway society, which means that we must tackle both what we buy and what we use.

Our fifth theme is people and landscape. Our landscape and our environment have made us what we are as a nation and a people. We cannot have landscapes without people. Communities are rooted in the land on which they live and work. Therefore, everything that we do must focus on sustaining living and vibrant communities. The concept of landscape and people will be central to our approach.

In conclusion, we are depleting our natural resources faster than we can replenish them—we would need three planets to continue to meet our current demands. Our challenge is to move towards one-planet living and a one-planet economy, and to balance what we give and what we take now and for the future. We need to unleash the power of Scotland's people, who rightly demand information and engagement and who wish to make informed choices. The Scottish National Party's five themes will, over the parliamentary session, provide the focus of our efforts to deliver a greener Scotland.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour 3:33, 13 June 2007

We welcome the opportunity to debate a greener Scotland.

We all know that the threat from climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge that the world faces. Climate change could result in environmental disaster and—as Sir Nicholas Stern has pointed out—it could also result in economic disaster. If it continues unchecked, it is likely that there will be an exponential growth in the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, with an expected warming of 0.2°C per decade.

That is why, when we were in government, we set out in "Changing our Ways: Scotland's Climate Change Programme" how we would respond to the urgent social, economic and environmental challenge of climate change. That programme quantified for the first time Scotland's equitable contribution to the UK climate change commitments—the Scottish share of carbon reductions. That was pioneering work, so I ask the minister to clarify whether that approach to defining a Scottish share of carbon reductions will continue. It is hugely important for Scotland to accept its responsibility in that respect—indeed, I believe that the Government accepts that responsibility, and I am sure that all parties support that approach.

I welcome recent G8 developments and am encouraged that Richard Lochhead also welcomes them. For the first time, it has been agreed that a new global climate change agreement should succeed the current Kyoto treaty, and that a substantial cut in global emissions should be at the heart of that agreement. The most important change has been in the United States of America's position: for the first time, President Bush has signalled that he wants the US to be part of the new global agreement.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am slightly puzzled. Does Rhona Brankin not recognise that President Bush has continued his opposition to binding cuts in carbon emissions, which was the overriding demand from the G8 this year, as it has been for several years? Is he not pursuing exactly the same strategy of subterfuge and obfuscation that he has pursued for many years? Does the member not accept that the US will come on board only once that man is gone?

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

I think that it is rather churlish of Patrick Harvie not to acknowledge the significant progress that was made at the G8 summit. I very much welcome the hard work that has been put into that, and the role that the UK Government has played in securing that substantial progress. That is the world context and Scotland must play its part in reducing carbon emissions by working constructively with the UK Government. I am sure that the minister will do that—it will be required, given that the UK Government will introduce a climate change bill. Indeed, there is a draft bill at the moment.

The previous Government had some early success. The data show that greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland fell by about 16 per cent between 1990 and 2004, while our economy grew by 32 per cent. Tackling climate change is compatible with growing the economy, but the challenge for us is to decouple economic growth from energy growth and to decrease energy demand while decarbonising and decentralising energy supply. The previous Executive put in place a set of mechanisms to drive forward the climate change programme. I would be grateful if, in replying to the debate, the minister were to clarify whether the Executive will continue the work of, for example, the climate change analysts group and whether it will support the work of the marine climate change impacts partnership. Will it continue the work that we started with Scottish local authorities? I think—given the minister's comments—the answer will be yes. The local authorities committed themselves to the climate declaration earlier this year. Will the Executive also continue the work that we set in train with the Scottish business community and support the it's our future campaign?

I welcome the SNP's conversion to Labour's manifesto commitment to incorporate well-being in terms of measuring sustainable economic development. I also welcome the SNP's intention to produce legislation on climate change.

I would like to raise a couple of other important issues with the minister. First, I raise the concerns that many people share over the SNP's plan to merge the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, which has potential ramifications for us all. I ask the minister what plans he has to proceed with the merger of SNH and SEPA. Will the Executive ensure that any review will form part of a strategic analysis of environmental governance and that it will consider enforcement, participation, independence from Government and levels of bureaucracy? Will ministers guarantee that no changes will be made to SEPA and SNH behind closed doors, and to bring the matter first to Parliament? We are very much committed to a greener Scotland, but ministers cannot continue to use debates to avoid accountability. The proposals to merge SNH and SEPA is potentially problematic. We have major concerns about it and need reassurance that Parliament will have an opportunity to debate the matter.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

Can I continue, please?

Secondly, I will comment on yesterday's court decision on Kinfauns castle. Access legislation and the right to roam were key to the legislation of Labour in previous Governments. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was the centrepiece of our legislative programme and has put Scotland at the forefront of right-to-roam legislation. The Ann Gloag judgment is, therefore, hugely worrying. We know that some people are seeking to challenge the intent of the access legislation. I call for the Scottish Executive's law officers to emphasise to all sheriffs in Scotland that the Scottish outdoor access code is an integral part of the land reform legislation and must be taken into account in all relevant court cases. I wrote to the minister today to that effect. Parliament clearly intended the code to be used as a reference point in such court actions, so it is extremely disappointing that the sheriff in the Ann Gloag case did not take adequate account of it, especially of the advice in section 3.16 on access to land surrounding large houses. Will the minister agree to ensure that the advice that I seek is forthcoming?

Labour believes passionately in the groundbreaking access legislation. Our message to all the people who worked with us and supported us in Parliament is that Labour members will raise the issue at the very first meeting of the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee. They will call for an urgent review of access legislation to examine whether the Ann Gloag judgment fundamentally undermines the intentions of the land reform legislation. If that is found to be the case, we will call on the Executive to propose urgent changes to the legislation during this parliamentary session.

Labour is passionate about a greener environment. We welcome the opportunity to debate the issue but, as I said, ministers cannot go on forever using debates without motions. We look forward to debates on motions on which we can make decisions. It is not good enough to hide behind debates such as this one; I am sure that the minister will reassure me that the Executive will bring motions and, indeed, legislation to Parliament. That would be good. Perhaps he will also tell me when he is going to introduce marine legislation.

However, we welcome the opportunity to debate the green agenda on this occasion and will do so on many future occasions.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative 3:42, 13 June 2007

I begin by declaring an interest as a farmer and as chairman of Ayrshire Farmers Market Limited. I welcome today's debate because it gives each party the opportunity to tell Government its priorities in the debate about climate change, energy, transport and the use and care of the rural and marine environments. What makes the debate important and gives it a sense of urgency is undoubtedly climate change, which is one of the most compelling reasons for reconsideration of policy and changes in policy direction.

The minister outlined his proposals and the need for a climate change bill. The Scottish Conservatives would welcome such legislation in the Scottish Parliament as well as at Westminster, and although we appreciate that the separation of powers in respect of climate change between Westminster and Holyrood will be complex, given the interplay of reserved and devolved issues, that is not a reason for not making a start. Perhaps the sooner we get started, the better. I welcome the announcement of the minister's intention to make early progress with a bill.

We would also support in principle the creation of a coastal and marine national park, provided that it was appropriately sited and implemented only after proper consultation of local people. Such a park will only work if local communities want it to succeed and if they can see benefits from it—community buy-in is essential. I would be grateful if the cabinet secretary could tell us what stage he is at with that proposal.

We would also like to see the extension of a scheme to boost the microrenewables sector and to incentivise householders, communities and small businesses to install energy creating and saving technologies. Will the cabinet secretary tell us what progress the SNP is making on its similar proposals? I welcome his comments about creating public sector environmental efficiencies.

It is essential that we reduce our carbon footprint. If we accept that as a key parameter, our policies will flow naturally from that position. We would have encouraged the development of carbon capture and storage at the Miller oil field off Peterhead, and we deplore the Labour Government's lack of leadership and direction in failing to grasp a unique opportunity to give Scotland and the United Kingdom a world lead in the technology through the proposals of BP and Scottish and Southern Energy. Although I know that Scottish and Southern Energy took the decision to withdraw from the scheme on economic grounds, I urge the First Minister, if it is within his power, and even at this late stage, to do all that he can to resurrect the project.

Sustainable, secure energy supplies that deliver adequate base-load capacity are essential, but they must be delivered economically. Although we support wind farms in principle, we believe that a moratorium should be placed on their development until the renewables obligation certificate scheme has been reviewed and a national location strategy for siting wind farms has been developed.

Wave and tidal energy will be vital and must be developed in the future, as must clean-coal technology. We will support anything that the Government does in that regard. Biomass, too, has a future if the economics can be made to stack up. Also, if the Westminster Government were to decide to replace existing nuclear power stations in Scotland on a new-for-old basis, we would not oppose that.

Energy savings and efficiencies in the home must be encouraged because UK electricity demand is rising by 2.1 per cent a year and 25 per cent of our carbon emissions are generated in the home. Every man, woman, boy and girl in Scotland can help to reduce our carbon footprint. We support awareness-raising campaigns to show how individuals can help in their own way. I welcome the minister's comments today on the voluntary sector.

I turn to transport. There is a case for investigating the costs and environmental impacts of high-speed rail links between Glasgow and Edinburgh and between Scotland and London. More frequent modern rail links—such as a 20-minute service between Ayr in my constituency and Glasgow—would encourage people on to trains and reduce traffic congestion in Glasgow, especially on the Kingston bridge. Support for Stagecoach and other bus operators in their drive for better, quicker and cleaner travel by coach is essential if we are to reduce congestion, particularly by encouraging local authorities to find appropriate spaces for park-and-ride facilities in and around town centres.

I turn briefly to our rural and marine environment. Again, our objective in delivering a greener Scotland should be to reduce, where possible, our carbon footprint. Local farm food and local fish and shellfish should be supplied locally, which would reduce food miles. I welcome the NFU Scotland campaign—what's on your plate?—which was launched today and supports the call for people to buy local and eat local. Movement of shellfish around the world and back is not sustainable in the long term, in the same way that importation of beef of doubtful provenance from Brazil makes no sense. The alleged lack of traceability, the alleged illegal use of hormones and the potential for bringing foot and mouth disease into Scotland begs the question, why is the European Union not doing more to provide EU and UK farmers in respect of the level playing field that they deserve in supplying food to consumers, who believe that all that they find on supermarket shelves is produced to EU standards of traceability and welfare? I would welcome any comments that the minister feels able to make on that difficult subject. In short, if we are to support our farming industries, we must develop country-of-origin labelling, with the food production standard of each country clearly documented, and with greater transparency about the provenance of the food on our supermarket shelves.

Our fishermen, too, deserve a better deal than they have had in the past. The Scottish Conservatives want more national, regional and local control over fisheries.

Finally, I offer a word on waste. Even greater efforts must be made to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. I welcome the positive start that the previous Administration made, but it is essential that we work harder and faster to reduce the 1.7 million tons of biodegradable waste that go to landfill every year.

I have outlined some of the Conservative party ideas that we will press to have delivered in this session. We believe that those ideas will create a cleaner and greener Scotland. I commend them to the minister and Parliament.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 3:48, 13 June 2007

I welcome Richard Lochhead back from his first fisheries council meeting. In his press release, which I have with me, he said that he found it a valuable experience to "observe" the way the UK government handles the arrangements for those meetings. I had thought that Richard would be here today fresh from his victory in persuading Ben Bradshaw to give up his seat at the top table to him. After all, has Richard not spent the past eight years campaigning for that? I thought that he would have used all his charm and persuasion skills to lead from the front. Did Richard not tell all members of the Scottish Parliament in this and previous sessions that the most important issue for the environment and for Scottish fisheries was that a Scottish minister should lead the UK delegation?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I realise that charm and persuasiveness are a couple of issues that may divide us, but perhaps we can be united on another issue. Does the member support Scotland's having the lead role for the UK in the fisheries negotiations, which are vital for Scotland's coastal communities?

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I am asking the questions. Will the minister tell us in his summing-up how he is getting on in respect of what he thinks is the most important issue in those negotiations? I ask for an update on how well he is achieving his objectives. That is what we want to know.

I move to the substantive issues in the debate, as opposed to the inconsequential ones. The Liberal Democrats welcome the Executive's previously announced pledge to resist new nuclear power. However, it cannot be serious about delivering a greener Scotland while it plans to cut public transport projects such as the Edinburgh trams, the airport rail link, and while it—Richard Lochhead in particular—also opposes land-based renewables.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The member said that I, in particular, am opposed to land-based renewables. Can he name one such project that I have opposed?

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I will write to the minister with a list of projects in his Moray constituency in particular. He should await my letter.

The Liberal Democrats are, without doubt, the greenest of the main parties. [Laughter.] I urge members not to take my word for it: assessments of the parties' manifestos by Friends of the Earth and WWF Scotland made that clear. [Interruption.]

I see that I have sparked some interest in the debate; it was very quiet until this point; I am enjoying it.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats want 100 per cent of our electricity eventually to be produced by renewable means. Building of state-subsidised nuclear power plants will not only produce vast quantities of waste material, but it will—which is more important—sap investment away from Scotland's renewable energy industry. That is what we need to focus on. I am glad to see that the minister is backtracking on his previous opposition to land-based renewables.

I am delighted to give way to the Greens.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am pleased to have given Mike Rumbles such delight. Does he agree that the Friends of the Earth assessment of party manifestos made several stinging criticisms of the Liberal Democrats, not least of their utterly unsustainable record on transport infrastructure, such as approval of the M74 northern extension?

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I am so glad that the member mentioned the M74. Let us look at the Greens' position. It is good to see the Greens taking part in today's debate—they were missing entirely from the first environment debate. The Greens claim to oppose the M74 extension that Patrick Harvie just mentioned. They claim to oppose the abolition of tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges and the scrapping of the Edinburgh trams. However, they guarantee support for the SNP budget that would pay for all those measures. What for? Is it so that Patrick Harvie can have a chair on a committee?

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Is it in order for Mike Rumbles knowingly to mislead Parliament about the nature of the agreement between the Greens and the SNP?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Of course it is a point of order.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Patrick Harvie certainly knows that that was not a point of order. It was a debating point—a rather poor one, at that. It is obvious that the Greens have been neutered and are feeling it. They have lost their ability to speak out with any credibility. [ Interruption. ] I hear an aside from the Conservatives. I notice that John Scott made no mention of nuclear power today.


He did.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Did he? Okay. [ Interruption. ] John Scott claims that nuclear energy is safe. I must not have been concentrating on his speech, for which I apologise to him.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Mike Rumbles has no answers and admits that he does not listen. He is doing well.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Will the minister be quiet?

This has been a short debate on green issues and one without a conclusion. What a surprise. Of course, it should be no surprise to anyone that, once again, the minister has brought a debate to Parliament without giving us the opportunity to decide on any issues. It seems to me that the new SNP Administration's strategy is straightforward: it brings as little as possible before Parliament for a vote in case it loses, and it wants to turn Parliament into a docile beast—little more than a debating society. I have news for the minister: that is not the role of Parliament. On the Opposition benches, our role is to hold the Government to account. That is certainly what we intend to do.

Getting by until the summer recess without any votes is a short-term strategy for the SNP and—of course—it will work in the short term. However, we cannot have this dumbing down of Parliament when we return in September. There will have to be real, not subject, debates, with real votes that the SNP Administration had better be prepared for.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

We move to open debate. We will start with five-minute speeches, but members should be well warned that we will probably have to move to four minutes. In fact, those who are winding up might even have to lose a minute each.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 3:55, 13 June 2007

As we will have to move in stages towards the greener Scotland that we all seek, this is perhaps the right time to set new targets and to audit the steps taken by the previous Executive. I hope that the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, of which I am to be a member, and the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee will carry out some of that work. After all, we have to find out whether previous measures actually worked. I want to establish, in particular, whether involving the community in planning and decision making has been taken far enough.

In order to create a greener Scotland, we will have to set the mood and allow people to become involved. After all, the people who bandy about words about wind farms and many other developments do not acknowledge the need to do the ground work that will allow people to see the issue in the round. For example, the Department of Trade and Industry in London commissioned a study on co-operative energy that focused on the lessons to be learned from how co-operatives in Denmark and Sweden organise much of the local energy output. If we could send study tours from all over Scotland to Denmark and Sweden to see how they have made a fist of those issues, we might have a much more positive situation in parts of the country where people have attitudes that are not shared by the vast majority and there has been a lot of nimbyism.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

Taking the name of other members in vain will not solve the problem. Perhaps the member should join a study tour with people from Perthshire and discuss with them the situation in Denmark and the DTI report, which is an excellent example of how information can be shared throughout the country.

The Golspie Recycling and Environmental Action Network, which was set up in 2001, provides an example of how the voluntary sector can help us to move ahead. The network has a service level agreement with Highland Council under its waste strategy to operate a kerbside collection service for recyclates. However, because of the time that it has taken the council and the civil servants to work out the funding for the area plan, the network has encountered enormous problems and much of its effort has been taken up with trying to fit in with the situation.

That situation is why we need to audit area waste plans and find out whether they work. On too many occasions, bodies such as GREAN have been left with not enough time to collect the tonnage of waste that they have to collect and, because the process is so cumbersome, they have lost out on much of the cash that they could have had.

GREAN is a good example. It offers a service to 3,000 of the 4,000 households in the area—90 per cent of which have taken it up and 75 per cent of which present a kerbside box for collection once every three weeks—and collects a wide range of items, including paper, card, food and drinks cans, plastic bottles, textiles, glass bottles and jars, bicycles and lawnmowers, which it then sells on. The Government must ensure that there are markets for many more items than are currently collected—and, indeed, that are collected only in certain parts of the country. For example, we have to find markets for materials such as plastic, and ensure that mixed plastics are not simply shipped out to China. Such a move would allow us to take forward the process that I have been discussing.

If we are to take advantage of the opportunity that Scotland has to become a green energy capital, we must ensure that social enterprises, local authorities and the many other bodies that are involved view waste as an enterprise issue rather than just an add-on. GREAN creates many jobs for people of all abilities, including people of very low ability, so it is essential that the organisation's work is considered in the round and not simply from the point of view of meeting the waste directive's needs. If we are to make Scotland greener, we must adopt a holistic approach. GREAN is looking to the new Government to offer a lead. I hope that in his closing speech the minister will respond to my points.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour 4:00, 13 June 2007

I very much welcome today's debate on a greener Scotland, which, as the minister outlined in his opening remarks, covers a great deal of territory. I am sure that other members have faced a similar dilemma in selecting what to speak about.

I have decided to focus on the marine environment, which is a policy area in which the Executive will face some of its most significant green challenges. The health of our seas and what happens in them is fundamental to our planet's existence. The seas are the basis of life on earth. They are home to myriad species, many of which are known and catalogued, but many of them have yet to be discovered and catalogued. Our seas are abundant with life, but throughout history humankind has treated them badly. For generations we dumped all types of waste into our oceans, in the belief that they had infinite capacity to treat the waste effectively and to recover. We now know that that is not the case.

We also know that, not just here but worldwide, we have overfished our seas and put whole species in danger. A diet that includes fish is a vital foundation for human existence, so achieving sustainable fisheries is vital to all our futures. I want my grandchildren—assuming I have some—to be able to enjoy eating cod, haddock, whiting, plaice and all the other species that I have had the pleasure of eating over time. However, it is argued that 16 out of 21 Scottish fish stocks are already beyond sustainable limits. We know, too, that some fishing practices threaten our sea beds and the life that they support.

To most of us, our seas always appear the same, but we know from scientific evidence that much of what is happening below the surface is negative. We are losing biodiversity in our seas, and we must halt that decline if we are to have a healthy future. For most of us, what happens in our seas is largely out of sight and out of mind, but we in the Parliament have a duty to expose what is happening beneath the surface. If we fail to do that, we will fail future generations.

Scotland's seas are truly extraordinary. They support many important species, including 45 per cent of the EU's breeding seabirds. They also support many thousands of jobs, not just in fishing and aquaculture but in wildlife watching, leisure, energy supply—to an increasing extent—and other marine industries. However, there are growing pressures on our fragile marine environment, and we need new approaches to ensure that the many modern uses of it do not conflict with each other. Sustainable management of our seas and coasts is crucial if we are to continue to reap the rewards of healthy, productive and biologically diverse seas. A marine act for Scotland would be one means of addressing those issues, and I look forward to finding out about the Government's proposals in that regard in due course.

The advisory group on marine and coastal strategy reported just before the elections and set out a way forward on managing Scotland's seas. Its report mirrors many of the points that the Parliament's Environment and Rural Development Committee made in its session 2 report on the marine environment, to which the Parliament will need to return to consider more fully issues such as marine spatial planning and the form of marine management that will leave us best placed to carry it out in future. We must assess the territory over which it would be right for such planning to operate. For example, should it extend out to the 200-mile limit?

The Government and the Parliament must have marine ecosystem objectives. We must examine the role that nationally important marine areas could play in protecting Scottish specialities such as seagrass and our flame shell reefs, and we must consider how we can ensure that our marine nature conservation is based on objective science.

A major challenge for the Executive is to ensure that an ecosystems approach is taken to fisheries management that is based on sound science. It must put independent science at the heart of decision making. Our approach should be guided by the management principles that underpin the common fisheries policy—a precautionary and ecosystems approach. The Scottish National Party wants to withdraw from the common fisheries policy, but I sincerely hope that it does not want to withdraw from those key principles as well.

The Executive's environmental credentials will be judged on whether it can resist its predilection for supporting certain fishing interests above science and taking a precautionary approach. The recent decision to suspend strengthening of the fisheries protection fleet is an ominous sign that the Government does not regard fisheries protection as a priority.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

The member is winding up.

You must wind up now, Mr Peacock.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I would have taken the intervention otherwise.

Decisions on how we manage our coasts and seas must be made with the involvement of local communities and others who will be affected by those decisions, which includes environmental groups, wildlife watching tour operators and everybody else who works in, lives near or simply enjoys the marine environment. Involvement should not be restricted to fishermen representing particular interests.

Photo of Joe FitzPatrick Joe FitzPatrick Scottish National Party 4:06, 13 June 2007

First, I will take a second to acknowledge the work of my predecessor, Kate Maclean. Kate was respected for her work with groups and on committees and will be missed by many in the Parliament. I am sure that all members join me in wishing her well for the future.

I will concentrate on the urban aspects of energy use and production in a greener Scotland. Those of us who live in cities are responsible for the overwhelming majority of energy use, whether in industry, our homes, our institutions or through transport, so we have a responsibility to find ways to reduce our energy use. Many homes in Scotland are still without proper insulation or use inefficient heating systems. I hope that the Government intends to continue to tackle that by extending grant schemes, and I hope that we will redouble our efforts to advertise them, particularly in areas where fuel poverty remains a concern.

As a Parliament that is committed across the parties to a greener Scotland, we need to determine whether there are ways that we can reduce energy consumption. One of the first things that we need to do is examine ourselves and the Parliament. I was surprised, to say the least, by the number of energy-guzzling light bulbs that we have around the Parliament. Replacing such light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs would be one of the easiest ways to save energy, and with a short payback time, so why has it not been addressed in the Parliament?

People are becoming increasingly aware of the need to be energy efficient but, in some cases, it is increasingly difficult to make choices that best serve the environment. I am talking about domestic appliances that, on the face of it, provide easy access to information on energy ratings by having such information stuck to their side. However, that information may be misleading. The energy rating system has encouraged washing machine manufacturers to move towards cold-fill-only machines to gain the maximum efficiency. Clearly, the most inefficient part of a washing machine is the heating of the water. If they use only cold water, the overall efficiency rating is driven up, so we have the strange situation whereby a washing machine that is rated AA for energy efficiency—which is high—can be less efficient than an older, inefficient washing machine that has a warm fill. We need to address that issue and ensure that we provide people with the proper information so that they can make real choices.

Although I am convinced that the biggest contribution that urban society can make towards reducing CO2 emissions is to reduce its energy consumption, I am also convinced that we can make a real contribution to green energy production. Much of the debate about renewable energy centres on harnessing the power of the wind to provide energy for our cities. That debate is often polarised as one in which people are either for or against large-scale wind farms in areas of natural beauty. I challenge that by suggesting that, with the correct support and investment, there are many possibilities for wind generation in our cities.

In Dundee, the Michelin tyre factory has successfully installed the UK's largest corporate wind energy project. The twin 2MW turbines generate around 8 million kilowatt hours of clean, green energy per year, which covers around one third of the plant's energy needs. Generating the energy on site reduces transmission costs and improves the efficiencies of the system so, as well as reducing CO2 emissions by more than 3,000 tonnes, Michelin has increased the efficiency of the Dundee factory and protected jobs in a highly competitive market.

The project required considerable investment on the part of Michelin. The turbines are close to two housing estates, and are a few hundred yards from my father's house, where I grew up. As with anything new, people were concerned. They said, "They will be noisy, I won't be able to sleep at night and they will interfere with our television reception." Rather than run away in the face of public hostility, Michelin engaged with the residents of the area to win support from the vast majority of people. There will always be some people who will object to any major development, and some people remain unconvinced, although the turbines are turning and they cannot be heard above the background noise, and any problem with TV reception has been dealt with. Whether the turbines are an eyesore or a thing of beauty is a matter of opinion, but I for one am proud that Michelin has chosen to site them in Dundee and I congratulate the company on its long-sighted view. Large turbines will not be appropriate for every factory location, but Michelin has proved that an urban location is not in itself a reason to discount them.

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour 4:11, 13 June 2007

I wish to mark the moment in the history of Scotland when we have seen the passing of Harry Ewing—the noble Lord Ewing of Kirkford. Harry Ewing was a great architect of the Scottish Parliament. He was not a founding father like Donald Dewar and many of the key players who brought this Parliament into being, but he deserves to be acknowledged in this Parliament today by all colleagues. [ Applause. ]

Harry Ewing was born in Cowdenbeath and he was a close family friend. I apologise to members as tomorrow I will be at his funeral, because he was such a close friend, and I will be unable to participate in the business of the Parliament.

I congratulate the minister, Richard Lochhead, and his colleagues on their new roles in the Scottish Government. I am sure that they will understand why I do not rejoice in that, but nevertheless I congratulate them. I wish them well and I hope that they make something of the job that they now have to tackle.

Over the years, the Scottish Parliament has debated on a number of occasions how we plan for a green Scotland. It is clear from those debates that politicians seem to be united in protecting our planet. However, it is vital not only that we agree but that we work out how we will proceed. That is where we differ—on our strategies and our plans to achieve that common goal. For some in the chamber, the previous debate on this subject, in September 2006, was the first time that they had brought the issue to the chamber—indeed, only a couple of Conservative members are in the chamber at the moment—but late converts to the green agenda are always welcome. However, adopting a tree as a new logo will not be enough.

Our debate should be about what is done by Government. It should also be about working together with people throughout Scotland. We need not only Government but individuals and industry to contribute to tackling the green agenda. The challenge to industry and commerce is enormous. The prospect of a total change in public opinion on the need to address climate change offers huge opportunities to our young people and to people in academia, research and development, and manufacturing. The practice that follows from the change in public opinion will be key. I say to the minister that fine words are great, but each of us in Scotland must ask ourselves how we have changed what we do in order to make a difference.

The green jobs that could emanate from pursuing the strategy that we have set out offer Scottish business huge opportunities. I see that Tricia Marwick is in the chamber. Jobs are being developed in Methil in Fife Central and in my constituency of Dunfermline East. Throughout Fife there are tremendous examples of the new type of renewable energy projects that can be developed. I had great joy in showing members of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body the progress that has been made in developing those jobs in Fife. One of the first wind farms in Fife will be in my constituency. That will be good for the economy and good for the environment, by helping to tackle climate change.

I will highlight a wonderful new development in Edinburgh. Freecycle is a scheme whereby people offer, ask for and exchange goods on the internet. Money does not change hands but, for example, a box of chocolates or a bottle of wine might. That tremendous new development is taking place in Dundee, Edinburgh and Fife.

I am sad about one issue in today's debate—the Green party's incredible present position. I will read from a letter that was published in The Inverness Courier:

"How incredible, the Green Party getting into bed with the SNP, a wholly owned subsidiary of the North-East fishing industry, who will now be looking forward to plundering our declining fish stocks.

How incredible, Patrick Harvie of the Green Party, perhaps the parliament's best known gay rights campaigner, leaping into bed with the SNP, the party funded by Scotland's best known anti-gay rights campaigner.

How incredible, the Greens, the party opposed to a new Forth Road Bridge, rushing to give support to a party committed to a new Forth Bridge.

How incredible, the Green Party, a party committed to more railways, supporting the SNP, the party committed to cancelling Scotland's most important new railway project."

I hope that Rob Gibson will persuade his colleagues in the new Government that we should continue with the plans for new tram lines in Edinburgh.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I am afraid that all speeches will now have to be limited to four minutes.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 4:16, 13 June 2007

How happy I will be to vote for the SNP's policy to legislate against homophobic hate crime—something that the Labour Party refused to do, despite promising it for so long. And how persistent I will continue to be in challenging and opposing the SNP's unsustainable transport measures, just as I was persistent in challenging the Labour Party's.

A debate on a greener Scotland is bound to cover more than one ministerial portfolio. I was interested in the SNP's first ministerial portfolios. I am pleased that the ministers who are responsible for the environment will work within a single department that considers the economy, energy, transport and climate change. It is important to link cause and effect.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am afraid that I have only four minutes.

Having different ministers pursuing incompatible policy objectives, as happened in the previous session of Parliament, is not acceptable. The Executive in the previous session had a sustainable development policy but it sat well outside its main economic strategy. As Helen Eadie suggested, that Executive had a green jobs strategy, but it was a poor relation of its wider approach to employment.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

In a moment.

That Executive had a number of ministers whose job was to bang the drum on climate change, but at the same time others were pursuing policies that were leading to increased carbon emissions. In short, that Executive had a green thread, but it was little more than decorative embroidery. I say to Mike Rumbles that if anyone has been neutered it is the green-thread apologists who have just lost power in this Parliament. I will happily let him intervene now.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

I am grateful to Patrick Harvie for giving way when he has such limited time. So that there is no doubt, will he confirm that the Green party will not support an SNP budget if it aims to hit all the public transport projects that the Greens are so in favour of—the Edinburgh trams and the airport link, for example?

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I have made it clear that if the SNP wants a budget to be passed it must produce one that will gain the genuine support of the majority of members in the chamber. For me, such a budget would include those transport projects.

Mike Rumbles knows now, because I have pointed it out to him, that we have made a commitment to work together on agendas that we and the SNP genuinely share. That will be a refreshing change after eight years of "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours." I have some questions for the SNP, and I will echo some points that Peter Peacock raised about fisheries. There are also points to raise about incompatible objectives. The new Government will have to answer those questions. For example, will the minister responsible for tackling climate change—who also has responsibility for transport—continue the practice of subsidising aviation, despite the massive subsidies that aviation already receives? Will the minister responsible for energy fully support the deployment of renewables, including onshore wind? Will the minister responsible for external affairs ensure that Scotland assists developing countries with adaptations and mitigation measures, in addition to meeting existing international development objectives? Will the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment make it a priority to improve environmental governance, rather than pursue a simplistic deregulation agenda?

There are many other questions, and the Executive will have to answer them before it can be judged. I am open to working with the Executive where common ground exists, but the judgment will come after we have actions, not only words.

Where a genuinely shared agenda can be found, I hope that all parties will be willing to work together. Ultimately, though, a truly green Scotland cannot be based on the idea of everlasting economic growth on a planet of finite resources, because that approach would result in social and environmental harm, caused not only by climate change but by pollution, habitat loss, biodiversity loss, overharvesting and so on. Any steps towards a greener Scotland are to be welcomed. I look forward to pursuing that across party lines.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 4:20, 13 June 2007

I welcome the fact that the SNP Government has chosen to have a debate without a motion on a greener Scotland because it gives us an opportunity to talk about a range of issues, including some that a few of us may not even have thought about before.

The key point that I will make is that Scotland is different but it is the same. Scotland relies on international agreements and the behaviour of many other countries in Europe and elsewhere in order to ensure that our future is safe and environmentally sound, yet Scotland has the power to contribute towards that international achievement. That is why, when we consider the concept of a Scottish climate change bill, it is so important that we do not make the mistakes that could be made.

Several members have used phrases such as "taking the lead" and Rhona Brankin talked about defining Scotland's share of what is required to mitigate the effects of climate change. The problem with that is that Scotland is different; there are things that we can do here that cannot be done elsewhere and there are things that we can do more of here than can be done elsewhere. For instance, Scotland is ideally suited to exploiting renewable energy technology and we must take advantage of such opportunities. However, it is possible for us to make mistakes that could damage Scotland. The idea that Scotland's correct strategy on any area of policy should be to set an example means that we could ultimately find ourselves setting higher standards, setting higher hurdles and requiring achievements in the Scottish economy that undermine our potential to achieve the sustainable growth that is essential for our economic well-being.

It is therefore important for the Conservatives in supporting a Scottish climate change bill that such a bill should complement the action of any Government at Westminster and any agreement that is achieved in Europe or worldwide. It is a great pity that there will be no opportunity in the near future to change the Government at Westminster, as I genuinely believe that David Cameron's proposals in opposition for a climate change bill at Westminster are superior to anything that has been proposed by the current Labour Government. It would then be the role of the Scottish Executive—of whatever colour—to ensure that its policies and bill on climate change dovetailed into the climate change bill at Westminster to ensure that we do better what we can do better and do more of the things that Scotland is best suited to do but that we do not make the mistake of tying one hand of Scotland's economy behind its back simply to set an example.

Scotland's public services must be supported by sound economic growth. I am increasingly of the opinion that green economic growth—sustainable economic growth—is possible. We can have the high-quality public services that a green economy can provide, but we must not make the mistake of expecting Scotland to take the lead at its own expense.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat 4:24, 13 June 2007

Another week, another debate without a motion. Given the difficulties in squaring the various positions within the SNP on issues ranging from public transport to onshore wind energy, it perhaps proved too difficult to come up with a motion that would command the support of a majority in that party.

Let me start in the spirit of consensus, and we will see where we go from there. I welcome the debate and I congratulate Joe FitzPatrick on an excellent maiden speech. I look forward to working with him on the Finance Committee.

As I mentioned two weeks ago in response to the statement by the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism on the UK Government's energy white paper, Liberal Democrats applaud the Executive's pledge to resist new nuclear power stations in Scotland. Not only would building state-subsidised nuclear power plants produce vast quantities of waste that we do not know how to deal with, it would suck investment away from Scotland's renewable energy industry. That investment is vital if we are to make a breakthrough in marine and other renewables technologies. Building new nuclear power plants would also put at risk our ability properly to fund the development of microrenewables and ambitious energy efficiency initiatives.

Members are no doubt already tiring of hearing me refer to the enormous potential of Orkney, where leading-edge work is taking place not only in wave and tidal energy but in biofuels, biomass and fuel-cell technology. It is in the interests not just of Orkney but of Scotland for that work and similar work across the country to receive the level of support that is possible only if we do not embark on nuclear new build. For example, if we are to achieve a more decentralised system of energy generation—I believe that we can and should do that—that will require significant investment in infrastructure, including interconnectors.

If the Executive is to achieve its goals on energy, it will need to have the means as well as the ends. It is no use for the cabinet secretary to call for Scotland to aspire to be the world leader in renewable energy while his colleagues call for a tax on wind power and a cap on future wind developments and demand that anything that has a visual impact should be deemed not green. The potential impact of such an approach on investor confidence in the renewables sector could be horrific. I yield to no member in my determination to have wave and tidal energy play a major role in Scotland's future energy generation mix, but onshore wind is the proven technology and it will remain a core component of that mix for decades to come. Anything that undermines confidence in that market risks damaging the development of renewables as a whole.

Although I encourage ministers to think out of the box, I put in a plea that that should not lead to the honeycombing or detonation of any so-called sad and lonely islands in my constituency. Swona and Stroma might appear sad and lonely to the casual observer who has been sent up by the SNP to think the unthinkable, but blowing them up would set a dangerous precedent for other less-than-ecstatic islands. I am bound to say that that would also risk making the Pentland Ferries crossing decidedly unpleasant in a westerly gale. Perhaps that is what is meant by the title of the debate.

Significant further investment in microrenewables will be needed. Positive strides have been made in the past few years, but further incentives and funding are necessary. I urge the minister to commit to measures that will help to drive demand up and costs down.

On the critical issue of energy efficiency, I am encouraged by what ministers have been saying. As with microrenewables, much has been achieved on energy efficiency, but our performance must continue to improve if we are to strike a better balance between supply and demand.

I understand that we might have an opportunity before the recess to consider in more detail the proposals for a climate change bill. Such a commitment, to which the cabinet secretary alluded, will receive willing and constructive support from this party. The need to cut carbon emissions year on year is surely now beyond dispute. The SNP made much of the need for binding annual targets while it was in opposition. The SNP manifesto states:

"In government we will introduce a Climate Change Bill with mandatory carbon reduction targets of 3% per annum".

We questioned that commitment, believing that having four-year targets to allow the Government to be held to account over the parliamentary session, coupled with annual reports to the Parliament, provided the sensible way forward. I would welcome the minister's view on that commitment.

Photo of Tricia Marwick Tricia Marwick Scottish National Party 4:29, 13 June 2007

I congratulate my good friend Joe FitzPatrick on his first speech. Like him, his speech was gracious and informative. I look forward to hearing many more of them in future.

I add my condolences to the family of Harry Ewing. Like me, Harry Ewing was born in Cowdenbeath, so I always followed his political career with interest. I was delighted that, when he became a lord, he called himself Lord Ewing of Kirkford which, as Helen Eadie will know, is an area of Cowdenbeath. Harry Ewing was a giant of the Labour movement and he will be sadly missed by his many friends in Fife and beyond.

I thank the cabinet secretary for his speech and, in particular, for his reference to ship-to-ship oil transfer off Methil in my constituency. I look forward to his briefing tomorrow and I know of his determination to find a way out of the legislative mess into which we have been led.

I welcome the opportunity to participate in the debate and to highlight the progress that is being made in Central Fife, for example by the energy park in Methil and by important businesses such as Tullis Russell, which has been producing paper in Markinch for nearly 200 years, and Diageo. On Monday, I had the great pleasure of visiting Diageo's Cameronbridge distillery in Windygates to find out more about its £40 million expansion plans. There has been whisky production on the site for almost 200 years. Those companies are two of the oldest in Fife, if not in Scotland, and I am delighted that they are both pushing ahead with plans for biomass energy projects. They are setting a necessary example to some of our newer businesses.

Tullis Russell has proposed a £100 million biomass project, which will reduce Scotland's emissions by 20 per cent and contribute 6 per cent of Scotland's renewable energy targets. When I was in Brussels last week, there was real excitement about the Tullis Russell plans. The project is of precisely the kind that Scotland needs and I know that the SNP ministers have been working hard with the company to make its plans a reality. That is in contrast to the previous Executive, which did nothing to help Tullis Russell to bring its plans to fruition.

Diageo is determined that the Cameronbridge distillery expansion will generate environmental benefits. It expects to be able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through bioenergy options. I was surprised to learn that the distillery at Cameronbridge uses a quarter of all Scotland's wheat production. Without getting technical about whisky production, I can tell members that, after the process is completed, the spent grain is disposed of. That grain will be used in the new biomass plant. I cannot be alone in hoping that there will be emissions from that plant and that the air around Windygates will be filled with whisky fumes—alas, I fear that that will be a vain hope.

Diageo also wishes to open up a disused railway line from Methil to Cameronbridge to enable rail freight to be carried, which will reduce road transport by up to 2 million heavy goods vehicle miles a year. However, it is proving difficult to get agreement from Network Rail on the matter.

Tullis Russell and Diageo are doing their bit for the environment. In fact, they are leading the way in Scotland and I am delighted to offer them all the support that I can. However, it is vital that individual companies are given the support of Government, Government agencies and agencies under the direction of ministers. We need to ensure that those organisations match the ambition of our companies and make it clear that we will not accept it when obstacles or bureaucracy are used as excuses for inaction.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 4:33, 13 June 2007

In the previous session, the Scottish Parliament focused on climate change and the various committees will be able to return again and again to the climate change programme that is in front of us. A particular challenge for the delivery of our climate change objectives that was set out by Rhona Brankin today—as well as a couple of weeks ago, when we spoke about environmental issues in the chamber—is the role and capacity of SEPA and SNH. Those are vital Government organisations, which raise the standards of our environmental performance and provide best-practice information and scientific information that is key in assessing potential climate change impacts and how we mitigate climate change. Although both organisations often make life very difficult for decision makers, that is part of their job. Given the challenges that we face in tackling climate change, we need their expertise as well as that of NGOs.

I noticed that in its manifesto the SNP set a target of an 80 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. That is extremely ambitious, which is why I question the SNP's wisdom in distracting our key organisations from their work on pollution, tackling climate change and promoting biodiversity and green space—in fact, on all the five key areas that the minister set out in his opening remarks. I know that SEPA and SNH staff are already nervous and uncertain about their future. Given the direct questions from Rhona Brankin this week and previously, it would be helpful if the minister could set some of those fears to rest in his closing speech and give a clear commitment on his intentions in relation to SNH and SEPA. There are other ways to make energy efficiency savings than by ripping up both organisations and merging them. That is a challenge for this Executive.

We need to be rigorous and systematic in reducing our carbon emissions. We have to do it in ways that complement our targets on social justice and tackling poverty. That is why I was pleased to hear the range of comments by MSPs around the chamber in support of higher energy efficiency standards in buildings, an expansion of microgeneration and, crucially, an expansion of decentralised energy networks. There are all sorts of exciting community-ownership models that enable local communities to set their own targets, recycle money back into their communities—in a way that targets it at members of the community who most deserve it—and expand support for energy efficiency. The Government needs to take radical action. A lot of progress is being made but, in combination with the move towards zero-carbon housing, there are some exciting challenges.

I say to Rob Gibson that we do not need to go to the continent to see some exciting projects. We can see them in Edinburgh Central, Glasgow, Berwickshire and elsewhere in Scotland.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I am in my last minute.

Let us praise the work that is being done locally. Yesterday, I visited some excellent projects in my constituency. I saw the new allotments that are being created in Edinburgh and some excellent mental health community projects that involve people in the development of their area. I draw members' attention to the Edinburgh community back green initiative, which has revamped communal tenement back greens that had been abandoned and had become depressing eyesores. The initiative involves on-site community composting—which is not a straightforward thing to organise, given SEPA's rules—planting fruit trees, recovering garden spaces for residents and cutting through the awkward management and ownership issues that surround tenemental properties. The next phase will involve moving to community microgeneration. There are some exciting opportunities in that regard. The initiative, which is a model from elsewhere in Scotland, is working in seven sites in my constituency and I urge the minister to consider such bottom-up projects and think about how they can be incorporated into the work of the Executive.

Photo of Jim Hume Jim Hume Liberal Democrat 4:37, 13 June 2007

I welcome Richard Lochhead's speech and take particular interest in the green procurement action plan that he mentioned, especially given my interest in local food procurement, which is being debated next week. I recognise that the minister acknowledges the fact that the depletion of natural resources is unsustainable. However, his desire for Scotland to be the world leader on renewable energy is, perhaps, a little bit rich given that he has fought against many wind farms.

Tricia Marwick mentioned Diageo leading the way. I hope that it does so by pledging, at last, always to use Scottish malting barley in its Scottish whisky.

In coalition, the Liberal Democrats made huge strides on renewable energy. We set the target of producing 40 per cent of our electricity from renewables by 2020 and the target of 18 per cent was met three years early. We invested around £100 million in renewables and energy efficiency support over the past three years, which puts us ahead of any other part of Britain and Ireland. Further, we provided support for more than 600 small renewable energy projects in Scotland. Liberal Democrats have delivered record recycling rates, which trebled under our governance, record renewable energy levels and public transport initiatives. My party has a proven track record in delivering green policies. We know what we are talking about and we know what is achievable.

Today, many of us have talked about renewable energy potential, which is hugely important. However, as a priority, we must address energy demand. In the UK, the demand for electricity for power is only 15 per cent, which is significant, but the demand for electricity for heat is 52 per cent, which is by far the biggest demand on our limited energy market. Insulation and energy efficiencies can go a long way towards addressing that situation. We believe that better energy efficiencies can be achieved through having tighter building regulations for new buildings and by providing serious encouragement for existing buildings to upgrade. By combining that with microgeneration in all new homes in Scotland, we can look forward to a greener, more environmentally sustainable future.

We therefore believe that the Scottish Executive must introduce a new energy efficiency and microgeneration strategy with targets. Combined with the greater use of renewables from not just one source but many, that will go a long way to address the energy gap. Some people try to balance a greener Scotland with economic growth as though those were different matters, but they are not. The key wording is "sustainable development". Without that, economic decline will happen fairly soon.

I said that heating places the main demand on our limited energy supply, but the second biggest demand comes from transport. That leads me to ask how the SNP Administration can shelve vital public transport plans—the tram project in our capital, the main airport rail link and the Borders railway—and simultaneously tackle climate change in a serious way. Although the Liberal Democrats welcome the new Executive's pledge to resist new nuclear power stations and its commitment to publish a bill on climate change, I share Mike Rumbles's concern that the Administration cannot deliver a greener Scotland while it cuts public transport plans and opposes renewables. We need joined-up thinking and decisions from the few cabinet secretaries whom we have. Perhaps that is something for the minister for everything to do.

Photo of Nanette Milne Nanette Milne Conservative 4:41, 13 June 2007

We live at a crucial time for our environment. In a rapidly developing world, the cumulative impact of mankind is having a significant effect on finite resources, on the landscape around us and, above all, on our climate. It is incumbent on us to use fewer of the earth's resources and to take more responsibility for the environmental impact of our actions so that future generations can meet their needs without the burden of undue environmental costs.

We can all do our own little bit as individuals, but the Government can help by adopting policies that make it easier for us to make that effort. I commend the SNP for making a greener Scotland a strategic aim of its Government and for focusing today on the local environment by making a significant commitment to help the many volunteers throughout the country who give freely of their time to keep their communities clean and attractive.

I say to Mrs Eadie that, like all parties, we too are committed to tackling climate change. We will not agree with the SNP on every policy or issue, but we will co-operate where possible in facing up to this major challenge to our future. Accordingly, we look forward to the cabinet secretary's statement on climate change next week. We will listen carefully to what he says.

We want more to be done to promote energy efficiency in Scotland, because that is undoubtedly the cheapest, cleanest and safest way to achieve our climate change commitments. People must be educated about energy efficiency and given practical help to encourage them to achieve energy savings, especially at home, where 25 per cent of our carbon emissions are generated. We therefore commend Scottish Gas for its efforts and particularly for making available an online energy efficiency home audit through which people can get advice on how to reduce their energy use.

In our manifesto we proposed a £12 million eco-bonus scheme. Such a scheme would boost the microrenewables sector and give households, communities and small businesses an incentive to install modern, energy-creating and energy-saving technologies. I am pleased that the Minister for Environment told me last week that he is willing to consider such a scheme.

As the cabinet secretary said, our children need to learn about energy saving and sustainability. I note with pleasure the installation of wind turbines and solar panels on two of my local schools. I also congratulate the pupils of Milltimber primary school in Aberdeen on receiving a regional award for their work on a greenhouse that is made from recycled bottles. I wish them well for the national finals in London next week. A global spin-off from the pupils' work is their decision to help the environment by reinvesting some of their £1,000 prize money in sponsoring a solar power project in Mexico.

We are concerned that the previous Executive's policy allowed wind power to get ahead in the market to the detriment of other technologies, which resulted throughout the country in mounting local opposition to large developments. As John Scott said, we seek new planning guidance on the siting of onshore wind farms.

I do not have enough time to elaborate on other issues, but John Scott, who has been a leading champion of local food promotion for several years, told members how important that is to us. We need to safeguard our farmers and smaller local shopkeepers in the interests of our economy, our health and our environment.

There are many facets to a greener Scotland, such as waste reduction and management and carbon capture, on which I have not touched, but I look forward to addressing all those issues as we work together to create what I hope will be a sustainable, healthy and attractive future for our country.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour 4:45, 13 June 2007

I have listened with interest to the debate. Given Patrick Harvie's welcome for John Swinney's gargantuan department, it is perhaps a pity that John Swinney, Stewart Stevenson and Jim Mather could not attend the debate, but I am sure that each of them will read what has been said.

From what has been said and what is in Friends of the Earth's commentary on the party manifestos, there appears to be broad consensus in the Parliament on the scale of the challenge that we face in dealing with climate change. Clear targets on emissions are essential and environmental considerations must be given a much higher profile in policy making.

These things are not new. We should acknowledge the significant progress that was made under the previous Administration. Jack McConnell's first major speech as First Minister was on sustainable development. Rhona Brankin and other Labour members ran through some of the coalition Government's achievements, as did some Liberal Democrat members. The most significant of those achievements was the 12 per cent reduction in Scottish greenhouse gas emissions between 2001 and 2004. Progress to reduce those emissions has gathered pace in subsequent years because of actions that were taken. I sincerely hope that the new Administration will continue to pursue some of those actions.

Under the Labour-led coalition, resources were deployed to progress environmental objectives. Measures included the strategic waste fund to accelerate recycling and the priority transport projects, eight out of 10 of which were targeted at improving public transport. Labour introduced legislation on land reform and planning, which enhanced individuals' rights and provided additional environmental safeguards.

It is worth repeating one key point that Jack McConnell made in his speech on environmental justice:

"Bringing about real change and truly developing Scotland in a more sustainable way means building sustainable development in everything that we do."

We must all try to live up to that.

If the new Administration's commitment to take forward the agenda were judged merely on the basis of window dressing—putting the word "sustainable" in John Swinney's job title and giving Stewart Stevenson responsibility for climate change—we might not have too many disagreements with the Administration. However, more than that is required.

We support some SNP proposals, including its intention to introduce a climate change bill, to which we made a commitment in our manifesto. However, the test that we will apply to the new Administration is not whether its rhetoric is sufficiently ambitious. We have no interest in outbidding other parties on percentage targets for 30 or 35 years from now. The SNP will be judged on what it does now and in the immediate future. We will assess resource allocations and policy priorities on whether they contribute to or detract from sustainability. We will watch carefully the balance that is struck between spending on roads and spending on public transport, and between meeting renewable targets and protecting the countryside's uniqueness, and we will consider whether the SNP's energy-saving proposals are realistic and deliverable.

Under Labour, 70 per cent of transport expenditure was directed to public transport, and relieving road congestion was the top priority. In its first few weeks, the Administration has sought to strike out two key public transport projects. It has said that upgrading the A9 is a priority but it has not provided any proper costings or evaluation or produced a prioritisation exercise. The removal of tolls on the Forth road bridge was announced before studies had been received on the congestion impact of such a policy and without due consideration of funding options for a replacement crossing.

Patrick Harvie's impassioned defence of his selling out of his principles was perhaps conditioned by his embarrassment at some of the new Administration's decisions.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

No. I do not think that we need to hear another set of excuses.

The Administration's choices will not be compensated for by the introduction of a climate change bill; it is arguable that they make a mockery of it. The first task in addressing climate change is the reduction of carbon emissions, directly and indirectly. Promoting public transport is one way to achieve such a reduction; another way is promoting renewable energy as an alternative to burning fossil fuels or relying on increasingly expensive imported gas.

In Government, Labour was well on its way to reaching its target of generating 18 per cent of Scotland's electricity from renewable sources by 2010, rising to 50 per cent by 2020. The progress that was made was ahead of that which was made elsewhere in the UK, and it compared favourably with progress elsewhere in Europe. We must be realistic and pragmatic, but that progress must continue. The largest commercial wave farm in the world, which the previous Administration supported, has a generating capacity of 3MW. If we take only capacity into account, more than 300 similar units would be required to make up for the decommissioning of Hunterston. If the intermittency factor—which affects wave generation and, in particular, wind generation—is included in that calculation, the multiplier will increase: it will double or treble. However, SNP members, including Rob Gibson, have been prominent in opposing local wind farm proposals. Indeed, their arguments have been ambiguous, and talking about a community veto while arguing that the SNP will increase the renewables target does not represent a sustainable balance. There must be a realistic programme. Ministers should think about setting energy targets in the local strategic plans that are required for local authority areas. Those targets could sit alongside new housing development or transport proposals and could provide a process for managing new developments throughout Scotland.

Some interesting speeches have been made. John Scott made excellent points about food—I refer in particular to his advocacy of the NFU Scotland's local food initiative—and Peter Peacock made excellent points about the need for an ecosystems approach to managing the marine environment. I recommend that Mr Lochhead takes a marine ecologist rather than fishermen to the next meeting of the European Union fisheries council. Joe FitzPatrick paid a generous and welcome tribute to Kate Maclean. Like him, I wish her well.

This debate is the first in a long series of debates on the future of our country and how we can make it greener. We must progress in a spirit of partnership, but we will be watching the SNP.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 4:52, 13 June 2007

I am pleased to have the opportunity to close this debate on a greener Scotland. We deliberately chose the subject debate approach so that a wide range of views could be heard. I remind Liam McArthur—he may not be aware of this—that subject debates were vigorously pushed by another Liberal Democrat, Donald Gorrie, who wanted members to have a chance to think about issues and debate them properly.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

No, thank you. I will not.

It seems strange that the Liberal Democrats now oppose subject debates.

I pay tribute to Joe FitzPatrick, who made his maiden speech in the debate. Those of us who know him know that he is thoughtful, principled and rooted in his community. That was reflected in his speech, on which I congratulate him.

I was heartened by the speech that was made by someone to whom I referred two weeks ago as "Disgusted of Midlothian". She is a mite less disgusted these days, but there was a curious conundrum in her speech and in Des McNulty's closing speech. If it is true that the Labour and Liberal Executive did everything so well and successfully for eight years, how come the people of Scotland did not want it to continue to do what it was doing? What a strange political thought. Perhaps the Labour Party and the Liberals should ponder that at some length and in silence.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

Not just now, thank you. I have only seven minutes.

I was slightly concerned by Ms Brankin's comment that her party would instruct Labour members on the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee. That does not seem to me to recognise the primacy of parliamentary committees. I hope that she will rethink that approach.

Before I come to more pleasant issues, I will address what Mr Rumbles said. It is interesting that the school of leadership to which he belongs in dealing with his remit is the same Liberal Democrat school of leadership as that to which Nicol Stephen and Ming Campbell belong—that is, there is no leadership at all. I was sorry to hear his speech; I hope that his speeches improve.

There have been positive contributions from across the chamber. Peter Peacock, to whose thoughtful points on the marine environment we must listen—even if we do not agree with all of them—certainly made a positive contribution.

Tricia Marwick offered her thoughts on the ways in which large businesses can be involved in protecting the environment. I assure her that we are working hard to ensure that Tullis Russell succeeds in its aims. John Scott and Nanette Milne gave us their thoughts on the primacy of producers and the need for local food and local consumption to be much more closely associated. We also heard Patrick Harvie's thoughts on a shared green agenda for the environment. I pay tribute to him for his speech, in which he identified something that became a strong theme: the need for us to work together rather than to indulge in—I hear it in voices off—the old politics that has failed the people of Scotland.

I move on—[Interruption.]

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

In the debate, the best exemplar of the new politics was the speech from Sarah Boyack, who brought some real substance to the debate. I assure her of two things. First, better environmental governance will not distract attention from real priorities; it is intended to focus attention on real priorities. I assure her that the days of such things being done behind closed doors are gone: we will bring the matter to the chamber to be discussed fully. Secondly, I offer encouragement on the ideas that she raised regarding community microgeneration. Last week an oral question was asked in the chamber on individual microgeneration. As Rob Gibson rightly pointed out, there is a need for every individual to be involved in the issues that we have debated this afternoon. This is not about politicians; this is about people, and we will do everything that we can to encourage such schemes.

The really important audience for this debate was not in here—it was out there. We know how strongly young people in Scotland feel about environmental issues. More than 81 per cent of those who responded to a recent Young Scot poll said that they were worried about global warming, and the Scottish Youth Parliament's recent manifesto, "our scotland", includes a series of demands on green issues. Young people are passionate about green issues. We need not just to help them to translate that passion into action, but to learn from them. We must listen to what they say on green issues, encourage their involvement and give them and everybody else opportunities to develop skills and confidence so that they can make a difference not just to Scotland, but to the planet.

We will build on existing initiatives, including the 2,531 eco-schools in Scotland. The Liberal Democrat manifesto contained the ambition that every school should be an eco-school—we will endeavour to make it so. Eco-schools are giving young people in Scotland the opportunity to learn about sustainable development, to put it into practice in their local environment and to share their ideas and experiences. Young people— indeed, all people—are at the heart of our approach. As Richard Lochhead said in his opening speech, much good work is already being done across Scotland, and I agree with Rhona Brankin and Des McNulty that some of it came from the previous Executive.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

No. The minister is in his last minute, I am afraid.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I would have given way otherwise.

Sustainable development is a global challenge. We in this chamber have no monopoly on the answers. This Government wants Scotland to play its full part, setting an example and learning from and sharing good practice and experience internationally to create the frameworks that will help us to deliver. Richard Lochhead has already blazed a trail in Europe, and I look forward to attending my first environment council meeting in Luxembourg on 28 June. I shall endeavour to get from Scotland's first world heritage site, St Kilda, to Luxembourg as quickly as I can—by public transport, of course.

This Government's vision for Scotland is based on the values of success, social and physical well-being and interconnectedness. However, a greener Scotland is not an end in itself; it is an integral part—along with our four other strategic objectives—of how this Government will make life better for all the people of Scotland. A greener Scotland must be achieved not just by this small team of ministers, the larger ministerial team and the entire chamber, but by everyone right across Scotland. It is a job for all of us. We are all in this together.

Photo of Rhona Brankin Rhona Brankin Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Is it in order for a minister such as Mike Russell to indulge in personal abuse as a substitute for answering questions? Are you aware that he has yet to respond to one question in his performance in this Parliament?

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I am not sure that I was here for the part of the debate to which you refer, Ms Brankin, but that is a matter entirely for the minister.