Question Time — Scottish Executive — Finance and Sustainable Growth – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 14 June 2007.

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Photo of Derek Brownlee Derek Brownlee Conservative 2:15, 14 June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive on what date it plans to introduce the Better Regulation Commission's one in, one out rule in relation to new regulations. (S3O-172)

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

With immediate effect, this Scottish Government will ensure that there is no gold plating and no early unnecessary introduction of European Union regulations. Further, any new regulations that are introduced should start from the premise that they will not increase the administrative burden on business. Next week, I will meet the chair of the industry-led regulatory review group to ensure that those principles impact positively on business in Scotland. We will encourage departments to undertake regulatory impact assessments of acts of the Scottish Parliament or Scottish statutory instruments that have a significant impact on business. We will seek assistance from the regulatory review group, business stakeholder groups and business generally to help us prioritise those regulatory impact assessments.

Photo of Derek Brownlee Derek Brownlee Conservative

That all sounds good, but the Scottish National Party manifesto made a commitment to introduce a one in, one out rule. If the minister is worried about getting such a rule through Parliament, I am sure that we would be happy to support him on it.

Will the minister consider whether the Executive can publish annually an assessment of the cumulative net cost to business and to the public sector of the regulations that have been introduced?

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

The member has accurately understood our direction of travel. We will make progress when we meet Professor Russell Griggs next week There has been considerable bean counting in this Scotland of ours and I am concerned that Mr Brownlee's suggestion would add to that burden. We need a reinvention of trust and a progressive realignment of regulations. I detect, from the nature of his question, that there will be good will for that approach. I will certainly seek to mirror that good will and to achieve the end that the regulatory review group has set out.

Photo of Wendy Alexander Wendy Alexander Labour

We are still looking for the start date for the one in, one out policy. The proposal was in not only the SNP manifesto but our manifesto and the Conservative manifesto, so I confirm that, as soon as the Government gets around to determining the start date, we will all be delighted to join the minister.

I know that the minister is genuinely fond of appropriate targets. Small business has asked us to reduce the administrative burden associated with targets, as well as to introduce the one in, one out policy. Will he enlighten us as to whether he intends to reduce the administrative burden that faces small businesses and whether annual targets will be introduced on that basis? Perhaps once he has had the opportunity to consider the matter—following his discussions with Professor Griggs—he could write to me about the merits of setting such targets.

Photo of Jim Mather Jim Mather Scottish National Party

We guarantee that we will get on with doing the work. I have given the direction of travel.

The view is fairly jaundiced on arbitrary numeric targets, which formed the landscape of the previous Administration. Arbitrary numeric targets are famous for the key reason that they tend to divert resources to meeting targets while other things fall apart. Considering what we can do to make Scotland more competitive and to achieve a higher level of sustainable growth is a much more worthy objective. I see better regulation as a key component of that.