Sites of Special Scientific Interest (Designation)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Rural Affairs and the Environment – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 25th October 2007.

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Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party 2:15 pm, 25th October 2007

To ask the Scottish Government whether it has any plans to review the procedure for designating sites of special scientific interest. (S3O-985)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

The sites of special scientific interest system in Scotland was thoroughly reviewed by the previous Administration prior to the introduction of the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. There are no plans for a further full review, but I continue to have discussions regarding designation and public involvement in the process—issues about which I am profoundly concerned.

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I draw the minister's attention to the problems experienced by a constituent of mine in the Bonnybridge area. During the assessment period used by Scottish Natural Heritage to consider whether to designate part of his land as an SSSI, it used a battery of experts to put the case together to support the application. However, as an individual landowner, he had no support or advice from any experts. Does the minister agree that there is a need to ensure that there is equality of arms in dealing with such issues? Finally, can the minister confirm that a compensation system is available to farmers who lose access to part of their land?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I am familiar with the issues raised by Mr Matheson; indeed, I have made a commitment to meet him and his constituent shortly to discuss the matter. There is considerable concern where there is no equity in the process. It will be necessary to consider that point as we have that discussion.

I confirm that a goose scheme is in operation on the island of Islay and in the Outer Hebrides. I am not aware whether it could apply to his constituent, but there is of course precedent for compensation where land cannot be used because of goose depredation.