Marine Environment

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 20 March 2008.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 2:15, 20 March 2008

The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-1602, in the name of Richard Lochhead, on Scotland's marine environment.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 2:57, 20 March 2008

The sea has defined and shaped Scotland and sustained our communities and nation since time immemorial. Our relationship with the sea has helped to forge our nation's identity, our culture and our economy, and generations of Scots have, down the centuries, played a leading role in maritime history, trade and communications.

Today, however, it is accepted that we need a new relationship with the sea. In the 21st century, we accept that we cannot simply take from the sea or dump things into it without understanding the consequences for our marine environment and the need to safeguard precious resources for future generations. With the increasing and competing demands that are being made on our seas, it is time to modernise and streamline the management of our marine environment.

Scotland has a unique coastal and marine environment, and the seas around us are essential to our wellbeing. The marine ecosystem stabilises temperature, absorbs CO2 and is essential to life as we know it. The scale and importance of Scotland's marine area cannot be overstated. We have 10 per cent of Europe's coastline. If we measure Scotland's area out to the 12-nautical-mile limit of territorial waters, more than half of Scotland is water. About a fifth of Scotland's population live within 1km of the sea and the vast majority live within 10km.

Scotland's seas are unique. Our seas are oceanic and deep, whereas those of the rest of the United Kingdom are enclosed and shallow. Our seas have a good or excellent environmental status, whereas those of the rest of the UK are compromised or severely degraded. Large areas of the Scottish coast are inaccessible, sparsely populated and underdeveloped, whereas the coasts of the rest of the UK are intensively developed, readily accessible and heavily populated. Our uniqueness can be illustrated by the impact of marine climate change. Warming has been faster in the English Channel than in Scottish waters. However, we still expect marine climate change to impact on some sectors, such as aquaculture, which is a predominantly Scottish industry.

Our seas generally might be unique, but our important marine environment is spectacularly unique. Our seas are among the most biologically productive in the world, containing over 40,000 species. They are among the richest in Europe for marine mammals. We have about 70 per cent of Europe's population of grey seals and about 35 per cent of the European Union's population of common seals. More than 20 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises can also be seen around the Scottish coastline, and the international importance of our seabird populations is well documented.

It is no wonder that Scots feel an enormous responsibility towards our marine environment, which manifested itself during the recent furore over proposals for ship-to-ship oil transfer in the Forth. We are all aware of the current anxiety that is being caused by the proposal for oil exploration in the Moray Firth and its potential impact on the UK's most northerly dolphin population. Members will be aware that I have written to the UK Minister of State for Energy, requesting him to heed the concerns of Scottish Natural Heritage on that important issue.

The community-driven Lamlash Bay initiative, which is establishing a marine reserve off Arran, further demonstrates the commitment of Scots to preserving their local marine environments. That grass-roots project is the first of its kind and it shows that, with hard work, it is possible to develop a regime for marine protected areas that minimises conflict and achieves a good outcome, not only for our marine environment but for all the communities that use our seas.

The Government and the Parliament have a duty to recognise that, in 21st century Scotland, the sea remains a hugely important natural resource, on which many communities, jobs and industries depend. The breadth of economic activity ranges from the domestic production of oil and gas to the smallest scale of enterprise, such as the dive-boat operators who exploit the wealth of Scotland's historical wrecks in Scapa Flow. Scottish ports handle 110 million tonnes of cargo and 10 million ferry passengers every year.

As members are well aware, our fishing interest is considerable. The Scottish fishing zone is the largest of any EU nation. We catch just over 8 per cent of the total EU fish catch, which was worth more than £370 million last year. Aquaculture represents another vital industry to Scotland, producing around 150,000 tonnes of product annually, which is worth more than £280 million to the Scottish economy.

Scotland's seas are central to the economic and environmental wellbeing of the Scottish nation. The Scottish Government and Parliament are determined to improve the stewardship of our seas to ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the benefits. That is why there is widespread support for a marine bill for Scotland, the process for which is under way.

As a minimum, the marine bill will need to transpose the EU marine strategy directive into domestic legislation. However, there is widespread support throughout our nation and throughout the Parliament for any new legislation to go much further: to provide for planning at both strategic and local levels; to provide a more focused conservation effort; and to simplify the regulatory system for the marine environment by taking a comprehensive look at all marine legislation. After all, more than 85 acts of Parliament and other laws emanating from Europe, London and here currently apply to our seas. On top of that, we have international obligations such as those that are highlighted in the Greens' amendment, which the Government will be accepting.

The current management regime is not fit for purpose. It is cluttered, it is difficult to navigate and it is unlikely to cope with the increasing demands on our seas in the 21st century. The marine bill will therefore place sustainable development at the centre of Scotland's strategy.

A balance must be achieved between environmental protection and resource utilisation. Where activities are unduly damaging or the marine environment is particularly vulnerable, action and protection are vital. Marine planning that is based on an ecosystem approach is an essential tool to deliver sustainability in Scotland's seas. The planning system will be essential for improving our conservation effort and for protecting some areas of outstanding environmental importance. I will not shirk from what is required to deliver the protection that the world-class environment of our marine waters deserves.

Scotland has already made a significant contribution to protecting its marine and coastal biodiversity. At present, Scotland has 49 special protection areas that have one or more species of seabird that qualify for protection. We also have 31 special areas of conservation for seals and bottle-nose dolphins, as well as important habitats such as reefs and lagoons. Further, our rich marine heritage is now fuelling growth in marine wildlife tourism. Our scientific advisers are developing advice on what additional areas may be needed to complete our contribution to the European network of Natura 2000 sites.

Better management and protection of our ecosystem is essential if we are to ensure that the seas continue to deliver benefits for future generations of Scots. One benefit is fishing. Scotland is a proud and successful fishing nation, and many of our key stocks are being fished sustainably. That was confirmed at my meeting on Tuesday with EU fisheries commissioner Joe Borg, who said that Scotland's fishermen are now viewed as being at the forefront of fisheries conservation in Europe, thanks to the many innovative measures that are being implemented in our waters.

Our coastal waters and our inshore fishermen face some particular pressures. From the holiday maker to the commercial fisherman, people place many competing and quite often conflicting demands on Scotland's inshore fisheries and coastal environment. That is why we are piloting inshore fisheries groups and placing fishermen at the heart of the management process. Sea fishing remains at the forefront of our mind as we develop our policies on marine planning and marine conservation.

Marine energy is a new benefit and an illustration of a new industry that will increasingly and necessarily make demands on our seas. Another technology with the potential to transform the way in which we generate power is carbon capture technology, which will help us to tackle climate change.

Westminster's proposals for a UK marine bill have already been presented in the form of a white paper setting out plans for legislative reform. Given that I have just outlined the unique qualities of our own marine environment, it will come as no surprise that I have misgivings about the proposed UK approach. We have our own unique challenges and opportunities. Scottish waters are different. We are pressing the UK to respect subsidiarity and ensure that decisions are taken at the right levels and as close to home as possible. Everyone I have spoken to in Scotland believes that most decisions in the seas round Scotland that affect Scottish interests should be taken in Scotland, although our interface with the UK, the EU and the international community remains vital.

That is why we will reiterate our support for Scotland's legislation to apply out to 200 miles from shore, rather than the artificial 12-mile boundary. Accordingly, we will accept the Liberal Democrat amendment. We will support our coastal communities, our industries, including our fishermen, environmental organisations and others by continuing to put that case to the UK Government. Parliament has the opportunity today to speak with one voice and to back Scotland's case.

I will continue to work constructively with the UK Government to find a mutually beneficial way forward. However, I must say that I look forward to the day when then Opposition parties lodge amendments calling on the UK Government to work constructively with the Scottish Government.

As members know, in January I launched the sustainable seas task force to examine how smarter licensing, planning, protection and marine management can be achieved, and to prepare the way for our consultation paper on the bill. To date, the task force has shown that there is a remarkable degree of consensus on a range of issues. In particular, it has highlighted the lack of a consistent knowledge base in relation to what is on the sea bed and in our waters.

I believe that now is the time for Scotland to manage our seas in a manner fit for the 21st century. In January, I announced that I want 2008 to be a year-long celebration of Scotland's seas. A number of trail-blazing initiatives are already under way in Scotland's seas to protect our marine environment, and they will all ensure that our precious resources can be enjoyed today and by future generations.

The jewel in the crown will be Scotland's first marine bill. I look forward to working with Scotland and all parties in this chamber to make it a reality.

I move,

That the Parliament welcomes the Scottish Government's commitment to consult on proposals for the sustainable management of Scotland's seas and coast, including coherent framework measures for marine planning, conservation and sea fisheries, and believes that this will enhance Scotland's stewardship of the seas, support sustainable development and provide protection for the marine environment, so ensuring that future generations of Scots will be able to enjoy the many social, cultural and economic benefits that the seas deliver.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 3:09, 20 March 2008

The bottom line, which came across strongly in the cabinet secretary's speech, is that we have had a lot of discussions to date. There has been a huge amount of stakeholder involvement over the years, before last year's election and since, about how we can better protect and manage our marine environment. I strongly agree with the cabinet secretary that, with the UK marine bill being imminent, we need to ensure that Scotland does not fall behind the overall UK debate.

We assumed that today's debate would coincide with an announcement on moving forward with the Scottish marine bill. However, instead it deals with a consultation on a possible consultation. Therefore, we will give our views on how we should move forward collectively.

"Seas the Opportunity: A Strategy for the Long Term Sustainability of Scotland's Coasts and Seas" was published in 2005. It established a good starting point for the discussion on where we might go with a marine bill. The report by the advisory group on marine and coastal strategy, which was published two years later, focused on the need for better policy leadership and good governance for Scotland's seas. I am sure that we can all agree that that has to be the starting point for Parliament.

AGMACS was an inclusive group. It included the national industry bodies, national stakeholder organisations across a range of interests, environmental non-governmental organisations, fishing groups, regulatory agencies and experts on key aspects of marine science. The Environment and Rural Development Committee's marine inquiry also took place before the election. I was involved at the start of one and the end of the other. I was struck by how much consensus there was on the overarching principles that we could all sign up to. That is a powerful inheritance for the new ministers.

I therefore push for speedy progress on the bill, because I think that the principles of the bill will not be the difficult issue. The difficulties relate to how the legislation will work in practice. We must think through how marine spatial planning works in practice and how we get on board all the stakeholders who were happy to sign up to the AGMACS report when we move to either a national planning framework approach or a more localised planning approach.

I am keen that we get to that stage. When we were in office, the Labour Party signed up to AGMACS's recommendations and our enthusiasm for them has not dimmed in opposition. We want to get to the stage of debating how the recommendations are delivered in the bill and how they can be implemented. That is why we lodged our amendment which, on this occasion, is not critical of the Government; it is more of an encouragement to the Government to keep the process driving forward and not to lose the momentum that the AGMACS report established. There is a huge appetite for progress.

We want to give parliamentary support to the minister to accelerate the process but, crucially, we also believe that the Scottish Government should work constructively with the UK Government and other Administrations in the UK. As well as working with the UK Government directly, it has to work with the Northern Ireland Executive and possibly the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that a system is produced that is driven from the top but is also bottom-up and deals with the bit in the middle effectively.

It is not only about the drafting of the legislation. If there is to be coherence in marine legislation, implementation, too, is important. I remember that, before the election, we all used to say that there were 85 marine acts. We need more coherence and we need a more joined-up approach. There will be three marine bills, but that will not be the end of legislation on marine matters. There will still be issues to do with oil and gas and maritime transport. We must get the marine bills that are before us moving together and we must ensure that they link in with all the other legislation.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Does the member agree that, in such a complicated scenario, which raises both devolved and reserved issues, it would be much better, simpler and more effective for everybody if one organisation dealt with the planning system for marine spatial planning? There should be one organisation and one system.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

The marine management organisation is where we should sort that out. That is why I would like to get on to debating the bill, because the MMO will need to have a UK level but it should also have a Scottish level. There are different models that we could use; the AGMACS recommendations accepted that there is more than one way to make the system work. I hope that the MMO will be accountable to us in the Parliament, so that there will be a Scottish MMO as well as a UK MMO. That is entirely possible and it is what we should look to achieve.

We have taken our marine environment for granted. The marine bill gives us an opportunity to examine how we manage the potential conflicts and the potential opportunities that come from better and more intelligent strategic planning. We need to find better ways of protecting and managing our marine life, because we must protect species and the habitats that maintain them. That is why the recommendation from AGMACS that we should base our marine nature conservation on scientific advice, with specific measures for species conservation, policy and site protection is crucial. We need to meet our biodiversity commitments, both at the Scottish level and at UK level. It is crucial that we also take into account socioeconomic considerations, so that we get sustainability in our seas.

We must draw together a Scottish set of marine ecosystem objectives. I would like the minister, when he sums up, to talk about the progress that has been made. AGMACS hoped for progress to be made in 2007—it will be interesting to see how that has gone. That needs to work in both the regional seas round Scotland and the wider UK waters.

We need to ensure that we have the right vehicle for marine spatial planning. We support the AGMACS suggestion that the Scottish marine management organisation should have responsibility for marine nature conservation and fisheries to 200 nautical miles and that it should be nested in a UK system or framework. We think that that would ensure the benefits of both worlds under devolution. We would be part of the wider UK system but could also play to our strengths. In our most recent debate on fisheries, it was clear that when we link sustainable development to fisheries and marine conservation, we achieve sensible outcomes. That is the way we should go.

There is more than one way to deliver that outcome, which is why we are not specific in our amendment—I hope that Mike Rumbles will not be overly specific at this stage either. We need to give the minister breathing space to negotiate the best way to make it all happen in practice. We should be looking to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to work in partnership with the Scottish Government and to devolve the responsibilities to us without a big constitutional stand-off. That would make sense.

We need to consider the statutory basis of marine spatial planning as recommended by AGMACS. It suggested a three-tier approach involving a top level led by the UK MMO, with a connection to Scotland so that we are involved in the discussions. The pilot involving the UK Government, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Ireland is the right model to examine—we need co-operation among the devolved and other Administrations. We also need a bottom tier that is genuinely local. I hope that we can build on the partnerships that already exist in Scotland and ensure that local stakeholders' expertise is brought to the fore in the priority areas.

We need a joined-up approach because, whatever we put in our marine bill and whatever is in the UK and Northern Ireland bills, that is unlikely to be the end of the story. We should ensure at least that those three bills join up. The work done on the proposed climate change legislation gives us a model for making progress. The UK bill is ahead of ours. A climate change consultation paper is out in Scotland, but the two bills are not progressing in sync through the Parliaments. However, it is possible to ensure that they link together. That is the model that we are looking for with the marine bill as well.

We are dealing with a complex situation, but the bill needs to signpost how the process will work. It does not need to be overly detailed because some of the detail will come in secondary legislation after the main bill is passed. We need to reach the point of testing it among stakeholders and through the parliamentary process.

We are keen to get on with the work because, until we get the bill, we will not get our national network of marine protected sites or the delivery of the governance structures to ensure that our marine environment is properly protected and able to enjoy the sustainable development that we all want. We will not get a marine and coastal national park until we get the marine bill—that was one condition that ministers put on developing a marine national park. It was evident last week that ministers are now thinking about where we go next on national parks. I hope that the marine element is not missed out.

We need to have a bit more urgency and to reach the point at which we can debate the powers in the bill. We support ministers in doing that work and will engage constructively in the process. We think that AGMACS provided a good framework, and we look forward to seeing the consultation on the bill. However, we stress that we need an intelligent, joined-up and mature discussion throughout the UK. Although our waters are special, they are part of wider waters as well. There are unique aspects of the Scottish environment that we need to protect, but we must also join up with our colleagues throughout the rest of the UK and Europe, because the seas are a wider resource for Europe's environment as a whole.

I move amendment S3M-1602.2, to insert at end:

"calls on the Scottish Government to accelerate the timetable for the Marine Bill, and further calls on Scottish Ministers to work constructively with the UK Government and other administrations to ensure that an integrated and joined-up approach to new legislation and its implementation are achieved."

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat 3:19, 20 March 2008

It is crucial that coastal and marine-based activity is managed in a sustainable way that integrates socioeconomic and environmental factors for the long-term benefit of our people and our natural heritage.

We support the introduction of a Scottish marine bill to provide a coherent framework for managing our seas. As we have heard, powers over the marine environment are a mixture of devolved and reserved. It is essential that, in introducing a Scottish marine bill, our Government seeks the agreement of Westminster—and I would ask Westminster to seek agreement with the Scottish Government—and that the Scottish Parliament has exclusive jurisdiction out to the 200-nautical-mile limit over marine conservation and marine spatial planning, building on its current powers over sea fisheries and offshore renewable energy.

A system of marine spatial planning must be established as part of an effective and co-operative framework that covers Scottish, UK and European interests. Of course we must co-operate. I will, in a moment, deal with why Labour's Sarah Boyack in particular has missed the most important point, which is that we need such jurisdiction to ensure that there is a simple solution in a complicated area.

The Liberal Democrats accept that producing a marine bill is a complex process; indeed, that is undeniable. However, I have a little bit of criticism to make. For some reason, the Scottish Government seems to have been incredibly slow in bringing forward its proposals. Back in June last year, Richard Lochhead said:

"I hope to announce plans for a new single piece of streamlined legislation to protect marine and coastal environments soon."

That was some nine months ago. We are still waiting to see the consultation, never mind a draft bill.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed to ensuring that the wide range of those with interests in the marine environment, including our fishing and tourism industries, those with energy interests—especially in the North Sea—environmental non-governmental organisations and local communities, work effectively together towards shared objectives. We have been disappointed that there is apparently no commitment at the UK level to move towards what we consider is essential for effective marine management. My Liberal Democrat colleague in the House of Commons Chris Huhne has described Gordon Brown's reluctance to devolve to the Scottish Parliament power over the seas from 12 to 200 miles as the "main obstacle" to the marine bill and

"another example of Mr Brown failing to let go of power."

It is vital that the Westminster legislation dovetails with the forthcoming Holyrood legislation so that there is harmony all round in planning our use of the sea.

I disagree with Sarah Boyack. We do not need two MMOs—we do not need a Scottish MMO dovetailing into a UK MMO. That is not done with fishing, over which we have our own jurisdiction.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

There is quite a range of UK bodies that have clear accountability to the Scottish Parliament. There are different models that we can use. Is Mike Rumbles suggesting that oil and gas responsibilities should be devolved to Scotland?

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

No, I am not, despite SNP members tempting me to say that I am. I am suggesting that we should have devolved responsibility for planning in the marine spatial environment. Further complications in an already complicated scenario are not needed.

I will now speak specifically to our amendment. Currently, the Scottish Parliament has partial control over the enforcement of nature conservation through the work of the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, but it has no role at all in the designation of sites beyond the 12-mile limit. Bringing full jurisdiction over marine conservation to the Scottish Parliament would result in significant advantages in respect of stakeholder engagement, management and parliamentary scrutiny. That is what the Liberal Democrats advocate. However, to be effective, powers to designate and manage new forms of marine protected areas, including—I hope—a new marine national park, must be included in the Holyrood bill with the clear purpose that such powers will be used to meet Scotland's global obligations, to which Robin Harper's amendment refers. I am happy to confirm to Robin Harper that we will support his amendment to our amendment. The Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that Scotland should have responsibility out to the 200-mile limit as part of the Scottish zone for marine spatial planning, fisheries and marine nature conservation, including the network of marine protected areas. However, the Scottish Government working closely and constructively with the UK Government is crucial to the success of the whole process.

Although I find nothing in the Labour amendment that is not also in the Liberal Democrat amendment, it is not true the other way round. The Liberal Democrat amendment is far superior in its content because we explicitly call for competence out to the 200-mile limit. The Labour amendment does not replicate that. We also disagree with the stance taken by Sarah Boyack in her speech. I therefore urge Parliament not to support the Labour amendment. I do not believe that Sarah Boyack has gone far enough to defend the environment.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour

I was absolutely clear that we fully support all the AGMACS recommendations. We did not have to put that into the amendment because there are a lot of recommendations. I was absolutely clear about that point.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Sarah Boyack does not want to go down the same route as the Liberal Democrats. In this case, she is not as environmentally friendly as we are, and it is important to make that distinction. I urge Parliament not to support the Labour amendment at decision time but to support the far clearer Liberal Democrat amendment.

I move amendment S3M-1602.1, to insert at end:

"believes that Scotland should have responsibility out to 200 nautical miles as part of the Scottish zone for marine spatial planning, fisheries and marine nature conservation including the network of marine protected areas, and calls on the Scottish Government to work constructively with the UK Government to reach agreement on this."

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 3:26, 20 March 2008

I am delighted that the marine environment is being discussed in the chamber. I will support Sarah Boyack's and Mike Rumbles's amendments, which are not mutually exclusive.

Scotland's seas have been abused and neglected for far too long, and there can be no doubt that a marine bill is overdue. However, we need to see what we and the marine environment are going to get out of it. Surely the idea is to provide a degree of protection that is consonant with the survival of our marine environment while allowing controlled use of that environment, and reducing use where appropriate.

In the face of environmental change and global warming, it is ever more urgent to get on with it. We must have a robust marine environment that can withstand the changes that it has already been identified will encroach on our waters because of climate change. There is no doubt that this is a critical time for Scotland to ensure that sustainable development is placed at the heart of how we approach our seas, and to ensure that protection of our marine environment is central. The Green party's amendment asks the Parliament to acknowledge our international obligations under the 1992 Oslo-Paris Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-east Atlantic and the 2002 world summit on sustainable development.

The Scottish and UK Governments have international commitments to halt the loss of biodiversity and protected rare wildlife sites within the next five years—the next five years. The OSPAR convention aims to establish an ecologically coherent network—not just one or two areas—of well-managed marine protected areas by 2010. The WSSD commitment is to the establishment of marine protected areas, including representative networks, by 2012.

The Liberal Democrat amendment is quite right to raise the network of marine protected areas as an issue, but we should also acknowledge that establishing such areas is not just an additional good thing to do when we are progressing the proposed marine bill; it is part of our international obligations. The commitments represent our global obligation to the seas. The previous First Minister attended the world summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg to underline Scotland's commitment to those goals. I was there, and I tell members that he did that.

I attended the summit on behalf of the Scottish Green Party. It was clear that progress had been slow, and that the exploitation and abuse of our marine environment, whether in Scotland or other parts of the world, simply could not continue. The summit did not do as much as it could have done. In fact, after the summit, many people evinced a great deal of disquiet about the fact that the summit did not go as far as it should have done, particularly with the seas. Although some progress has been made during the past decade or so, now is the time to up the ante.

Organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have emphasised that the 2010 and 2012 deadlines are fast approaching. Given that progress in establishing European marine sites in UK waters has been desperately slow, I would like to hear from the minister exactly how he intends to meet those deadlines. He must reassure us of his commitment to the OSPAR convention and to the WSSD. In that context, however, I congratulate the minister on having at least written to Westminster about the plight of the dolphins in the Moray Firth.

In addition to the constructive work that should be done with the UK Government, Scotland has an opportunity to develop its own robust and progressive marine legislation. The convening of the sustainable seas task force will be significant in putting a framework in place. We often hear of sustainable this and sustainable that, but sustainability—dangerously—can be open to interpretation. I remind the cabinet secretary that the Parliament voted for the wording "the precautionary principle" to be included in a previous motion on the exploitation of our seas. I would like to hear a clear commitment from him that he recognises the principles of sustainable development as outlined in "Seas the Opportunity: A Strategy for the Long Term Sustainability of Scotland's Coasts and Seas". I want to hear that the Government believes that those principles still apply in the marine context. They are an important basis for the work of the sustainable seas task force.

To sum up, the Greens have long advocated the introduction of marine legislation to protect Scotland's marine environment. Our success in halting ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Firth of Forth was a significant part of that picture; a single coherent marine bill will be another step—the step—in the right direction. Scotland's seas are extraordinary, as the cabinet secretary said. We have some of the most precious marine wildlife. The Scottish National Party Government might face some tests of its environmental credibility—for example in protecting dolphins from oil and gas exploration in the Moray Firth—but it is safe to say that the Greens will continue to campaign for genuine protection for our marine environment. We look forward to the forthcoming legislation.

I move amendment S3M-1602.1.1, to insert after "marine protected areas":

"sufficient to meet Scotland's international obligations under the Oslo Paris Convention and World Summit on Sustainable Development".

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative 3:32, 20 March 2008

Today's debate on Scotland's marine environment is welcome and has been surprisingly consensual thus far, notwithstanding the best efforts of Mike Rumbles to make it otherwise. Like Sarah Boyack, I had assumed that today's debate would launch the consultation on the marine bill. This proactive engagement tells us that the bill is long overdue. Although the bill will be a complex piece of legislation, it is certainly time that we made a start on it.

The need for a Scottish marine bill is well documented. We welcome the Scottish Government's intention to tidy up the legislation soon, on the basis that the present legislation is too fragmented. Given the forthcoming UK legislation, Scotland must also try to bring together the various disparate pieces of legislation into a single coherent framework for the management and protection of our seas and coastal waters. An important point is that the legislation must dovetail with the proposed UK marine bill, which must in turn take account of existing European and UK legislation.

Apparently, Scotland's seas are currently regulated by more than 80 pieces of legislation, as the minister said. The list of issues covered is huge, and ranges from shipping and navigation to defence, oil and gas extraction, nature conservation, renewable energy, fishing, pollution control, ports and planning. Relevant EU legislation includes the common fisheries policy, the birds directive and the water framework directive. International law includes the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as several other international agreements. Pulling together all those pieces of legislation will be a Herculean task, so it is easy to see why addressing the issue was previously put into the tray marked "too difficult".

A start must be made by examining which actions are most needed. First, we need to protect the interests of those who make their living from the seas, especially our commercial fishermen and seamen. The legislation must be balanced and proportionate. We must also protect and enhance our marine environment to sustain marine biodiversity, tourism and—importantly—sea angling. With 40,000 species to be found in our seas and coastal waters, it is vital that we strike the right balance.

The AGMACS group that was set up by the previous Executive reported in March 2007 that we need new powers to extend Scotland's responsibilities in the seas. It noted that we need a statutory marine spatial planning system and an integrated system of coastal zone management, and it advocated the creation of a new Scottish marine management organisation with responsibilities out to the 200-nautical-mile limit.

Our own former Environment and Rural Development Committee stated that the governance of the marine environment should be simplified, and that a single integrated regulatory system for all marine activities in Scotland is essential. It is self-evident that that has to be properly integrated with the regulation at UK Government level to avoid overlaps and division between jurisdictions. Gaps in legislation must be filled, for example the recently exposed inadequacies in Scotland's ability to protect its marine environment from ship-to-ship oil transfer in the Firth of Forth. In addition, all parties appear to agree that we need to consider the creation of an integrated network of marine protected areas. Scottish Environment LINK and the RSPB have pressed strongly for that for some time.

Today's debate paves the way for the consultation on our own Scottish marine bill, and that must begin with a close look at developing the concept of marine spatial planning. For example, the Pentland Firth should be noted as the future area of choice for tidal power, which is the most reliable source of renewable energy if a cost effective way can be found to harness it. The Solway Firth should be designated as our first marine national park for the simple reason that there appears to be a desire for it in the area, to protect that unique part of Scottish inshore waters. I know that the Presiding Officer—indeed, perhaps even the Deputy Presiding Officer—campaigned vigorously for that in the previous session of Parliament. I might be taking the Deputy Presiding Officer's name in vain, so forgive me.

A strategic overview of what goes where should be established as soon as possible, as that will simplify the future planning process. The complexity of jurisdiction within and without the 12-nautical-mile limit, and out to 200 miles, needs to be simplified and rationalised. At the very least, Scotland must not give up control of areas that it already controls. AGMACS has suggested that a three-tier structure would facilitate effective spatial planning, which seems to be eminently sensible.

Developing the concept of ecosystem resilience and enhancement within marine national parks should be a key priority—it already works well in Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Marine ecosystem objectives, or MEOs, should be considered as part of the legislation, assuming that community buy-in can be achieved. Commercial and recreational fishing interests must be reasonably respected. The Government will need to be proactive and positive about that if a whole-ecosystem approach is to be established.

In order to facilitate that, the concept of a Scottish marine management organisation—an SMMO—could, and should, be considered. Such an organisation could have wide-ranging co-ordinating powers, and could be responsible for planning and the enforcement of devolved activities in Scottish waters. It could be answerable to the Scottish ministers and be responsible for licensing, co-ordinating with a UK MMO and providing a central point of marine expertise.

Much good work has been done by various organisations over the past 16 years, which has brought us to this point today. The sustainable seas task force will meet for the first the time in April and report thereafter, and it will, I hope, support existing proposals and further develop the concepts that are being explored in today's debate. I note the minister's remarks in that regard. Thereafter, we can start getting this long-overdue legislation onto the statute books, and consider which legislation within the current plethora we can repeal. Scottish Conservatives look forward to that work, and we will play an active and constructive part in the process.

Photo of Dave Thompson Dave Thompson Scottish National Party 3:39, 20 March 2008

The marine bill debate raises a number of issues, including the need for enhanced environmental protection that respects the rich diversity of our marine life; the need to protect local workers and economies from heavy-handed and intrusive legislation that threatens their livelihoods; and the need for us to respect the communities that a marine bill will affect. I remain optimistic that we can craft legislation that respects those diverse interests. The example of our two national parks is helpful in that regard.

I was sceptical at first. I worried that the national parks would stifle development and be detrimental to our local communities. The national park boards are not perfect, and questions over planning issues still need to be resolved, but, in general, planning controls have been applied in such a way as not to threaten the diverse interests in and around the national parks. That should give us all confidence that a marine bill can achieve the same balance between economic use of the seas and protection of our marine environment. The success of the national parks is in no small measure due to the locally elected elements on the boards—there is a strong case for having wholly elected boards. In that respect, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of taking local communities with us in developing the marine bill.

The potential benefits of a consolidated marine bill are clear, but at the top of the list must be simpler rules and regulations for the benefit of all, and a stronger, more sustainable marine environment to hand on to future generations. I am confident that, with appropriate protections, the industries that share the waters—fishing, shipping, tourism, leisure, renewable energy, oil and gas—can remain rich and robust. I am hopeful that we will be able to get even more out of our seas than we do at present without detriment to them. It is essential that the bill does not place one interest above another. It would be remiss of us to save the fish while killing the local economy or to support the economy at the expense of our marine life.

Should the marine bill make provision for marine parks, it must not impose them on communities that do not want them. For instance, there is strong opposition to the imposition of a marine park on the west coast. Community interest must be the paramount consideration, because marine parks will work only where they are wanted. I was, therefore, interested to hear John Scott suggest that there is local support for such a park in the Solway Firth.

Local communities have a great deal at stake. More than 70 per cent of Scots live within 10km of the coast, and an estimated £4.5 billion in revenue is provided by marine activities on or immediately near our shores. We must, therefore, secure the support of our coastal communities for the proposed bill and show them that responsible legislation can provide a net benefit to them by supplementing instead of subtracting, protecting instead of pillaging, and building instead of breaking. In addressing our objectives for a marine bill, we must include safeguards for fishermen and others who rely on their trade to feed their families, as well as safeguards to protect our marine environment. There is no doubt that many people will be worried about the effects of a marine bill. We must reassure them not only that they will not be harmed, but that more work can and will be created.

Let us take the Highlands and Islands as an example. Highlands and Islands Enterprise estimates that 2,800 jobs are directly supported by sea fishing and that another 2,200 are indirectly linked. Many more people are employed in fish farming, tourism, sea angling and so on. Those are all important jobs that sustain our local communities, and we must build on them in a marine bill.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

I appreciate the importance of caged fish farms. However, does the member agree that escapes, such as recently occurred in Loch Etive, can be detrimental to the biodiversity of local fish species?

Photo of Dave Thompson Dave Thompson Scottish National Party

I agree that escapes from fish farms can be a serious problem. We must ensure that they are kept to a minimum.

Marine parks could, however, bring many benefits for local communities, which would have all the diversity and beauty of Scotland's marine environment at their disposal. Imagine what a marketing tool it would be and the tourism boom that would follow—the new hotels that would be built and the new restaurants that would be filled. Imagine the livelihood of the local communities being enriched, not impoverished. Imagine a park that built on and highlighted the rich environment for the benefit of all, while ensuring the solvency of our fishing industry and the protection of our waters—all under the control of locally elected residents.

Such a vision does not require too much imagination, but securing the commitments that I have mentioned for our environment, our fishermen and our local communities would be a real achievement for a marine bill and would protect and enhance one of Scotland's most treasured assets.

Although, as I said at the beginning of my speech, I was sceptical at first, and although improvements still need to be made, the introduction of national parks has shown that we can balance the needs of the economy and the environment. If the marine bill can consolidate the current plethora of legislation and allow for the establishment of community-led marine parks where they are wanted, it will be well worth supporting.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour 3:45, 20 March 2008

Like other members, I welcome this debate and hope that it allows ministers to accelerate the progress of what, in its attempt to rationalise all the institutional arrangements, will inevitably be a fiendishly complex bill. I also hope that, given that the UK Government is slightly ahead of us in developing its own marine bill, we will be able to dovetail our legislation with its framework. Indeed, briefings that we received today from various non-governmental organisations, such as the RSPB, stressed the importance of working with the UK and Irish Governments and other bodies.

I have spoken before about the importance of, and the challenges involved in, providing better care for and protection of the marine environment, and I do not intend to repeat myself this afternoon. However, the proposed marine bill will unquestionably provide us with an opportunity to make progress on a range of fronts.

As other members have pointed out, AGMACS created a framework for the bill, and its approach received broad agreement from a committee in the previous parliamentary session. Of course, any bill that comes before Parliament provides an opportunity to adjust Scotland's institutional landscape, and the bill will be no different. I have no doubt that in the bill, ministers will seek to create a Scottish marine management organisation, which will lead to better co-ordination, better coherence in policy, better prioritisation and a better approach to investing in the future.

Bills also allow new concepts to pass into law, and I hope that the proposed bill will provide for marine spatial planning, marine protected areas and nationally important marine areas. However, the bill will also allow us to be more ambitious than simply seeking to adjust institutional arrangements or to introduce new planning concepts, important and vital though such matters are.

As we move further into this century, human damage to the sea becomes ever more apparent. We are losing biodiversity and inflicting physical damage on the sea bed in many stretches of our coast. Moreover, as our population grows, the pressures on the sea and the potential for damage increase.

As we are constantly reminded, despite our own puny efforts we will never conquer the sea's powerful forces. However, we have learned to navigate the seas and to use them to travel relatively safely around the globe. We have also learned how to exploit them for oil, wind power, tidal power, leisure opportunities and—most important—food. Such exploitation has to be managed and controlled if we are to secure the long-term future of our seas and our planet.

Not so long ago, man's ability to destroy the marine environment was kept in balance; in other words, our activities did not outstrip the sea's ability to cope. However, as technology has improved over the past 50 or so years, so exploitation has increased. At some point in the past century, the balance flipped and mankind has now started to cause real damage to the marine environment. The damage is most noticeable in fish stocks, but it is also happening in a less visible way to the sea bed.

When the balance flipped, the interests of those who were benefiting economically from managing the seas began to dominate the debate, which is perfectly understandable. As Dave Thompson says, people's jobs and communities depend on the marine environment. It is therefore natural that human interests have long dominated the debate. However, if we are honest, we will admit that some of our activities in the marine environment are unsustainable. We will have to address that.

The coming bill is an opportunity to rebalance the forces that impact on our seas and to protect the marine environment much more successfully than in the past. That will require more than simply laws on institutional and planning arrangements. It will require ministers, the Government and all its institutions to have specific duties to care for the seas—binding duties on ministers to secure the protection of the marine environment; duties to act sustainably, which Robin Harper spoke about; duties to take a precautionary approach; duties to pursue ecosystem health objectives; and duties to secure scientific evidence that will help to guide decisions, and to have regard to it. Unless a bill contains those obligations, in the long title and its provisions, it will fall short.

We have to embrace new thinking. That will mean more no-take zones and more marine ecosystem objectives. It will mean marine protected areas and possibly marine national parks, which Dave Thompson mentioned. It may mean designating nationally important marine areas. It will mean that more fishermen have to adopt the best conservation practices of our inshore fleet. It may mean that we have to put our dolphins ahead of our short-term oil needs. It will mean ending some of the dredging of our sea lochs.

It will also mean new economic opportunities. If we get it right, there will be more opportunities for sea angling, leisure and tourism around our coastline, and more people will be involved in shellfish production and in sustainable inshore fisheries. However, in addition to the practical arrangements, the bill will have to contain points of principle and a visionary approach. I hope that the Government will ensure that that is the case. If it is not, we will seek to amend the bill accordingly.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party 3:52, 20 March 2008

I have a constituency that has extensive coastline and sizeable island and coastal communities, so I welcome this important debate on Scotland's marine environment. Current legislation on marine issues is a complex and untidy mix of reserved and devolved powers. Peter Peacock described it as "fiendishly complex".

The power to legislate on marine issues is partially devolved. The Scottish Government has devolved powers over issues such as nature conservation to 12 nautical miles, licensing of deposits in the sea, except oil and gas, and coastal protection works to 12 nautical miles. It has powers over renewable energy—wave, wind and tidal—in the Scottish renewables zone, which is similar in extent to the Scottish fisheries zone, over fisheries within the Scottish fisheries zone, and over pollution control from land. It has powers over cultural heritage within 12 nautical miles, tourism, ports and planning for coastlines and for aquaculture up to 12 nautical miles out.

The mix of competences is arbitrary and unnecessarily complex and ignores the distinctive nature of Scotland's marine environment. That is why the Scottish Government seeks to have marine powers fully devolved.

In early January 2008, a new task force was set up to consider proposals for legislation to protect Scotland's marine and coastal environment. That body will represent the main users of coastal seas.

On Arran in my constituency, the cabinet secretary announced an important and significant initiative on 21 January. He launched the 12-week consultation on the Lamlash Bay community conservation area—which is otherwise known as the no-take zone in Lamlash Bay. It is intended to protect maerl beds—the coral-like seaweed that forms a nursery for young fish—and to promote the regeneration of marine life, including scallops. When an initiative on a similar scale took place in New Zealand, it was found that the number of scallops that were produced increased by up to 50 times. The initiative will be extremely significant for Scotland: it could be a template for zones in other parts of Scotland, allowing us to regenerate depleted marine stocks.

The great thing about what happened in Arran was that it originated in the community: the Community of Arran Seabed Trust pursued the issue for more than a decade. It is significant that, as Dave Thompson mentioned, a marine bill would provide communities with the opportunity to take greater control of their lives.

Scotland's fisheries zone, which is within 200 miles of the coast, covers 127,000 square miles of sea and nearly a quarter of EU waters. When the Parliament was established in 1999, it was 133,000 square miles—I recall that certain parties in Parliament voted to surrender some 6,000 square miles of Scottish seas.

As the cabinet secretary said, Scotland's seas have an exceptionally varied character with wonderfully diverse geological features, such as steep cliffs, deep-sea lochs, islands, rocky reefs, sea caves, sandy beaches, machair, lagoons, salt marshes, estuaries and firths. Scotland's waters are home to at least 8,000 species of plants, invertebrates, fish, birds and mammals. That includes many species of cetacean—whales, dolphins and porpoises—and globally significant populations of some birds and animals. The cabinet secretary talked about the seal population in particular. Scottish waters are among the most rich and diverse in the world. Species such as the basking shark and the leatherback turtle are of global significance, as are Scotland's sea bird populations.

In 2000, the Scottish coastal forum estimated that the annual income from marine activities in the area between 1km offshore and 1km inland was £4.5 billion a year—not including oil, of course. Marine fish farming in the UK is confined entirely to Scottish waters and provides additional income for many fragile rural communities. The Scottish Federation of Sea Anglers estimates that recreational sea angling is worth more than £150 million a year to the Scottish economy through associated retail trades and tourism. Sea angling's future is reliant on the quality of fish stocks. Even whale watching, which people may think is not of great significance, supports some 2,500 jobs and £57 million of revenue annually.

It is therefore vital that we protect our marine species, habitats and ecosystems, whether they are of Scottish or international importance, and that we have a comprehensive network of marine protected areas. It is also important that we have a statutory system of marine spatial planning in Scotland and a lead decision-making body. Through the use of marine spatial planning, we must stop the free-for-all and ensure that aquaculture, oil, gas, renewable energy, fishing, shipping and nature conservation are no longer regulated and planned separately. Issues such as energy, and particularly oil and gas, should be incorporated into any devolved settlement.

On the timing of the marine bill, Mike Rumbles said he was disappointed that it was taking the SNP Government about nine months to progress the matter. The previous Labour and Liberal Administration was in power for 96 months and did not produce the consultation programme that we are moving forward with. I thank the cabinet secretary for his hard work, and wish him all the best in moving the issue through Parliament.

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour 3:58, 20 March 2008

I support all that was said by my colleague Sarah Boyack and I support the amendment in her name.

The first thing that hit me when I started to explore the issues that we are debating is the sheer wealth of information and knowledge that has been accumulated at various levels of Government—Europe, Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, local authorities and many other agencies. The work of the Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs and Environment Committee and the Scottish Government's advisory group on marine and coastal strategy has been invaluable in informing the debate on what future direction we should take. The membership of the advisory group is most impressive, and I congratulate the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee and the group on presenting politicians with such invaluable information and policy suggestions. In addition, MSPs have received a variety of communications from external organisations such as the Scottish Wildlife Trust, urging us to support the view that a Scottish marine bill should be developed.

I represent Dunfermline East, which has a coastal area stretching from slightly west of the two—soon to be three—Forth bridges to just short of Burntisland. My constituency includes the island of Inchcolm, which is one of my favourite constituency visiting points, where I meet the island keeper and his wife.

In principle, I am highly supportive of the idea of a common European marine policy and a bill, and I recognise the need for the adoption of a holistic, multisectoral and multilevel approach to management of the marine environment and maritime affairs. I believe that, by drawing on its experience in fields such as fisheries, education, enterprise, transport and the environment, Scotland can be a leader in developing such a policy.

As someone who has Rosyth port on her doorstep and who fought so hard for such a long time for the establishment of the Superfast ferry route from Rosyth, I understand how vital the highway of the seas is to the development of policy for the marine environment. With others, I campaigned against the proposal to allow ship-to-ship oil transfer in the Forth and organised a petition to the European Parliament's Committee on Petitions on the issue. I shared in the joy at the outcome of that particular application.

The priority is to get the right balance between environmental issues and opportunities for economic development. The planning system will need to be the subject of part of the strategy, but it should certainly not form the entire focus of the strategy. Many other aspects of our marine coastal strategy need to be developed. Financial tools are equally vital.

We should not simply look at the demarcation between Scotland and England—that would be a narrow and partisan approach. Above all, a bill will offer us a genuine opportunity to make a difference. We share the waters of the North Sea with other European countries, so we should have strong interaction not just with Westminster, but with all the member states around the North Sea.

The North Sea Commission is an international organisation that represents 68 coastal regions from eight countries around the North Sea: Scotland, England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. It was founded in 1989 to facilitate and enhance partnerships between regions that manage the challenges and opportunities that are presented by the North Sea. Furthermore, the NSC aims to promote the North Sea basin as a major economic entity within Europe by encouraging joint development initiatives and political lobbying at European level. I believe that the Scottish Government should undertake to engage much more intensively with the NSC and its partners in the context of shared waters. At one stage, I was vice-president of the organisation, so I have detailed knowledge of how it has worked.

I read with interest the variety of views that emerge when attempts are made to define the areas that make up Europe's shared waters. It is important to recognise the interaction between oceans, seas, coastlines and inland waterways. I was particularly interested to read the view that Graham U'ren expressed to the previous session's Environment and Rural Development Committee. He said:

"The practicalities of getting a properly integrated approach to a spatial plan for a regional sea involve an accommodation with the UK Government the like of which we have not seen so far. That is of no surprise to me, as our profession has been debating how we can deal with UK-wide spatial issues. We cannot get away from them—they are there anyway."—[Official Report, Environment and Rural Development Committee, 17 January 2007; c 3893.]

Before I close, I will focus on an issue on which I would like the minister to respond in his summing up. In our deliberations on the marine environment, we will be confronted by many issues. I have raised one that is key to my constituency with the Minister for Environment many times—perhaps ad nauseam. He will recall that we had a meeting that we had to abort because he had brought the wrong officials and the wrong papers. I hope that we can rearrange it soon. That key issue is what must be done to reduce the vulnerability of coastal regions to the risks of coastal erosion and flooding.

Although efforts must be made to reduce the speed of climate change, the Scottish Government must acknowledge that changes are already happening and must take action to mitigate the effects of such change. Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to the rising sea levels and flooding that result from climate change, so resources must be made available for flood prevention and coastal barriers, which will be put under ever-increasing pressure in the coming years. Public expenditure on coastline protection against the risk of erosion and flooding is inadequate and, in many cases, non-existent. Long-term public investment is required, which must be well targeted. That means that it must rely on sound and up-to-date scientific knowledge of our maritime environment and its economic benefits. Scientific studies should be commissioned to undertake a comprehensive risk assessment of Scotland's coastal areas and to identify possible solutions.

I hope that the minister will listen to my plea that there be no housing or other developments on flood plains.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 4:05, 20 March 2008

At this stage of a debate, most of the arguments have usually been made. In this debate there has been consensus among members on the broad principles. Therefore, we should dig deeper into the issues and acknowledge the complexity of some of the work that we intend to take on.

In the light of the inquiry into the marine environment that was undertaken by the Environment and Rural Development Committee in the previous session, the report by AGMACS considered the restoration of biodiversity in our seas. I represent the Highlands and Islands—a huge amount of Scotland's seas lies to the west, north and east of the region. The committee discussed what should be done in the long term to restore the eco-balance in the Minch. The prawn stock in the Minch is huge, precisely because biodiversity in the area has been destroyed. There used to be other species, such as cod and haddock, in profusion, but mismanagement of fisheries led to a situation in which one stock is the remaining source of income. The situation in the Minch illustrates the depth of the problems that we face when we consider Scotland's maritime environment's long-term sustainability. We cannot solve the problems in one or two sessions of Parliament; it will take a generation.

However, this Government aspires to tackling the issues. If we are to do so, we must find a mechanism that will work. I am delighted that the Community of Arran Seabed Trust project is approaching statutory underpinning as a result of the current consultation, as Kenny Gibson said. People on Arran want to protect the seabed. However, in other countries the application to the sea of planning structures that are designed for the land causes problems. People live on land; they do not live on the sea. In the Armorique regional natural park in Brittany in France there are signs in the harbours that say, "No to a marine park". Such problems arise because we need a different approach to management of the sea.

In some countries, such an approach might be pursued by a ministry that deals with the sea. We are talking about having an overarching organisation in Scotland, but we must be careful to consider the powers that we have. Mike Rumbles said that it has taken too long to get to this stage, but we should consider how many civil servants we have and how many more people would have to be recruited to run a marine organisation.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

My point was about expectations. The cabinet secretary said nine months ago that he would announce plans for a bill soon, and I wanted to urge him forward.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

I thank the member for his friendly intervention. My point is that the number of people that the Government can deploy on such issues is limited, so we should welcome progress after nine months—as opposed to what previously happened in 96 months—as Kenny Gibson said.

Two or three small examples show the need for collaboration—I will not mention COAST again, which is an obvious example in that regard. In Scapa Flow, ship-to-ship oil transfer takes place safely in enclosed waters, where people also dive to explore wrecks, as a member said. The pristine environment is looked after by the local planning agency—primarily Orkney Islands Council. Marine management can be done in a way that fits our overall picture of what should be happening.

The Stavanger 2008 North Sea project, which is associated with Stavanger's year as European capital of culture, demonstrates that we should celebrate our marine heritage, which stretches back through trade—and Viking raids before that. It is clear from the huge interest in boat festivals, for example, that we can use people's interest in the sea to encourage them to think about the sustainable use of the sea in the future.

In the short time that is available to us in the debate, I hope that we can put into some kind of perspective the issues that relate to marine parks, as I said earlier. If we are to have co-existence between the dolphin and the forms of marine energy that we have to explore in the Moray Firth close to where I live, we must do that while ensuring the sustainability not only of the dolphin but the human population. An essential part of human life is having safe and secure sources of power. That is the case not only in terms of tidal power in the Pentland Firth but also in respect of the undersea cables that carry the tremendous source of power that is tidal energy to other places that need it. If we do not explore marine energy options, we risk losing the communities on our coastline that enjoy the marine environment. The dolphins have to be looked after, but only in the context of a balanced structure that allows the human population that lives around these shores also to be nurtured.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green

Does Rob Gibson acknowledge the real difference between the amount of disruption that is caused by, for instance, an offshore wind farm close to or in the Moray Firth and that which is caused by oil exploration?

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

We have to sort out such issues. In order to achieve balance, we will have to put in place an organisation such as we are discussing. In the meantime, we will have to ensure that exploration for, and production of, energy through offshore wind farms goes ahead. We have to recognise that all forms of marine energy exploration will have an effect on the marine environment; we have to balance effect and gain.

It is essential that Scotland co-ordinates control over our seas. The map of the UK territorial waters looks like a leaky sieve—so many jurisdictions are involved. It is high time the Scottish Government was given the major role in ensuring that control of Scotland's seas is co-ordinated in Scotland. Other parts of the UK should deal directly with our Government in respect of our seas.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour 4:12, 20 March 2008

I disagree slightly with Kenneth Gibson's allegation that the previous Executive did absolutely nothing about our marine environment for about 96 months. I appreciate that he was absent from Parliament for 48 months during the second session, but over the past eight years, we seized the opportunity, set up the advisory group on marine and coastal strategy and held a consultation on the marine national park. It is not the case that the previous Executive took absolutely no action. It is not my intention to argue that ministers in the SNP Government are not travelling in the correct direction: they are, but they could go further and faster in protecting and promoting Scotland's marine environment.

Members of all persuasions have expounded eloquently the case for the marine bill. I apologise for being totally parochial in my speech, but I will concentrate on my constituency interests in the Solway Firth, which boats a diverse and important marine environment, as it does an important terrestrial environment. The warm waters of the gulf stream bring into the Solway Firth species that are rarely seen in Scottish waters, such as the sun fish. Basking sharks are also fairly frequent visitors to the area.

The extensive mudflats and sandflats are home to famous cockle beds, as they are to a wide variety of wading birds. They act as a refuge for overwintering species such as barnacle geese and hooper swans and are the stopping-off point for other migratory species. The sand dunes support many species that are of botanical interest. The Solway is the only part of Scotland to be home to all native amphibians and reptiles. The waters of the Solway Firth also are home to a wide range of micro algae. I understand that there are 800 species in UK waters, of which the Solway supports 300. It also supports many rarer seaweeds, which may be of less attraction to human visitors, but are important in attracting bird life and other wildlife to the Solway Firth, and therefore to the biodiversity of the area.

Those are some of the reasons for the previous Executive selecting the Solway Firth as a potential candidate for a marine national park. I am disappointed that the present Government appears to have ruled out further consideration of the results of the consultation on the marine park. However, I raised the matter in last month's members' business debate on recreational sea angling and was encouraged to hear the Minister for Environment say in his response to the debate that the matter might be revisited once "robust marine legislation" had been put in place.

Mr Rumbles and others suggested that the marine legislation might have to have an aspect of the national park legislation within it, but that is not my understanding. My understanding is that the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 would cover a marine national park, although there would have to be secondary legislation. I do not think that a marine national park would have to be part of a marine bill.

We need to know the Government's timetable for producing robust marine legislation. Thereafter, when will we return to consideration of the previous Executive's consultation on establishing a marine national park? As I said in the debate on sea angling, there is considerable support in Dumfries and Galloway for pursuing consideration of making the Solway Firth a marine national park. Some 12 per cent of organisations that responded to the previous Scottish Executive's consultation favoured the Solway Firth as the preferred location. That is a higher percentage than supported any other proposed designation.

Solway Heritage stated in its response to the consultation that a national park could provide a vehicle for bringing together the many different interests in the marine and coastal environment. It could represent the sustainable interests of the Solway as a whole and seek resolution of any conflict between those interests. In the reopening of the cockle fishery in the Solway, we have seen that such conflicts can and do arise.

Dumfries and Galloway markets itself as a natural place, and becoming Scotland's first marine national park would help to reinforce the brand. It would be another strand to the region's tourism offer. The Solway Firth is accessible to visitors—be they human, animal or fish—and although many of us would argue fervently for improvements to the region's transport links, the Solway Firth is near enough to the central belt, Northern Ireland and northern England to attract visitors on short breaks and day trips. The national park would raise the region's profile as a tourist destination.

There is opposition to the creation of a marine national park in some areas that might in the past have been perceived as the front runners.

However, that should not prevent fair consideration of areas where there is more agreement about the potential of marine national park designation, such as the Solway Firth. Neither I nor the Labour Party wishes to foist a marine national park on an unwilling coastal region. I am not even saying that the Solway Firth must become Scotland's first such park. What I ask is that ministers continue to keep the door open for the establishment of a marine national park on the Solway.

Many organisations in Dumfries and Galloway that are concerned with the marine environment believe that the Solway Firth is a serious contender and that the case for its designation should be considered further. My plea to ministers is, first of all, to let us have sight of the promised robust marine legislation. There is an interest in and an appetite for seeing that legislation and progressing it. Thereafter, let us return to consideration of the merits of having a marine national park in Scotland.

Photo of Jamie Hepburn Jamie Hepburn Scottish National Party 4:18, 20 March 2008

Members will need to forgive me if my voice crackles a little today. It comes from urging Partick Thistle on to its well-deserved draw at Ibrox last night. That is nothing to do with the debate, but it is well worth mentioning. I am sure that Karen Gillon, especially, will agree.

The Central Scotland region, which I represent, is not known for its rugged coastline or the views of the ocean that are afforded by its islands and peninsulas, although I heartily recommend to all members a visit to Broadwood loch in Cumbernauld. I leave the more poetic descriptions of our maritime heritage and coastal environments to my colleagues who have the privilege of representing such areas in the Parliament. However, being a member for a land-locked region does not mean that I have no interest in Scotland's marine environment, nor is it the case that the careful management of our maritime resources does not concern my constituents. The motion talks of our "stewardship of the seas", and that responsibility is shared by us all, no matter where in the country we are from.

In last week's debate about national parks, I spoke of the importance of preserving our natural environments for the benefit of future generations. That is clearly as true of our marine environment as it is of our environments on land, and our decisions in the Parliament today will leave a legacy for all those who depend on the seas in years to come. I was interested to hear members touch on the idea of a marine national park. I agree that the concept needs continued and careful consideration.

A well-managed marine environment benefits not only coastal communities and those who work at sea, but others as well. The ripples of successful maritime policy can be felt well inland and around the world—from the manufacturing company that supplies renewable energy technology to the seafood restaurant in a city centre; and from tourists building a coastal stop into their itinerary to parents on a school run filling up the car with petrol from the North Sea. The Scottish coastal forum estimated that, in 2000, the annual income from marine activities in the area between 1km offshore and 1km inland was £4.5 billion. Scotland's oil provides at least £23 billion annually to the UK economy.

It is worth dwelling for a moment on the significance of the North Sea oil resource. Scotland's oil was described in 1975 as being the "future of Britain" by the then Secretary of State for Energy, one Anthony Wedgwood Benn, who was being fêted by some MSPs yesterday. Scotland's oil now regularly comes in at more than $100 a barrel, despite predictions in 1999 by the late Donald Dewar that the price would remain at $10 to $12 for the foreseeable future.

We now know that Professor Gavin McCrone, in his secret report to the UK Government in 1974, argued that an independent Scotland with control of its own oil resource would produce a

"chronic surplus to a quite embarrassing degree".

Of course, the Government of the day, including Tony Benn, suppressed that report and argued the contrary—that the oil revenue was insignificant for Scotland's future.

However, over the past 30 years, some $200 billion-worth of oil has been extracted from the North Sea, yet Scotland—and indeed the whole of the UK—is yet to match the prosperity and quality of life of our Scandinavian neighbours, who have managed their maritime and natural resources so effectively. The debate on Scotland's oil will continue, no doubt, as part of the national conversation on Scotland's constitutional future, so I will leave my contribution on the subject at that—for now.

That leads me to the wider substantive issue of the debate: the appropriate place for decisions about and implementation of maritime policy in Scotland. I welcome the Government's commitment to engagement with the communities and interests that depend on the seas, and its determination to ensure that the policy framework for managing the marine environment is fit for purpose in the 21st century.

The Scotland Act 1998 bequeathed to the Scottish Government and its predecessors a complex and conflicting range of jurisdictions and responsibilities over the marine environment. As was mentioned earlier, Scotland is defined in the 1998 act as the land and territorial waters to a distance of 12 nautical miles, but Scottish ministers have responsibility for regulating fisheries and renewable energy beyond those limits to 200 miles. Even within the 12-mile limit, activities including shipping and navigation and issues such as safety at sea are reserved to the UK Government. I fully support the Scottish Government's call for powers over maritime policy to be fully devolved—along, of course, with all the matters that are reserved in schedule 5 to the 1998 act. Until that day comes, however, I am happy to continue to support the Government's initiatives to make the most of the powers that it has to ensure the best possible approach to marine policy.

The impact of climate change brings a particular urgency to the debate. The coastal environment will change, and sea levels are predicted to rise. As a member of the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee, which is undertaking an inquiry into flooding, I have heard that Scotland could be better placed to avoid some of the effects of that phenomenon, but we must still consider the impact that flooding will have on our coastal communities. I am sure that that will form part of the Government's thinking on the flooding bill that it will introduce in due course.

Our seas have the potential to contribute so much to life, even in the land-locked parts of Central Scotland, and in a way that meets the Government's ambitious aims for our country. For example, the seas can help us to become greener—Scotland has been left too far behind in marine renewable energy. We can become healthier—careful use of our fish stocks should contribute to improving Scotland's diet. Our country can become richer, smarter and fairer as we invest in new technologies for and new understandings of our marine environment.

Today's debate has allowed us to reflect on those matters, and I know that the Scottish Government will consider them as it prepares its forthcoming legislation. I commend the Government motion.

Photo of Robin Harper Robin Harper Green 4:24, 20 March 2008

This has been an interesting and important debate. As I reflect on what has been said in relation to the UK position, I note that our SNP colleagues—quite rightly in many ways, and certainly as a source of continuous enjoyment for themselves—enjoy tweaking the noses of Westminster politicians whenever they deem that appropriate. As the marine bill is developed, it will be terribly important to enter into discussions with the UK Government in a constructive and careful way, so that the bill is balanced.

The picture that is beginning to develop, particularly if control is extended out to 200 miles, means that it is extremely important that we recognise the international side of the issue—which is why I included in our amendment the references to the WSSD and the OSPAR convention—as well as the European and UK side, and, of course, the part that we should play in controlling the waters that are contiguous to Scotland.

There are a lot of reasons for that. One of them is that, just as fish do not know boundaries, neither do the minute organisms in our seas. There are parts of our marine environment about which we know very little. An enormous amount of research is being done in deep-sea marine environments and it is recognised that we are hauling fish out of the deep north Atlantic without knowing very much about the ecology that supports them.

Even in the marine environment that we know a lot about, one of the effects of global warming at the moment is the disturbance of quantities of the copepods that exist in the southern North Sea, with the result that southern varieties of those minute organisms are drifting into other parts of the North Sea. The fish that would normally eat the variety of copepod that is being replaced are moving northwards with the new copepods, and other species of fish are moving in. We need a regulatory process and framework for our seas that will be able to cope with such changes in the environment.

That is one of the reasons why the precautionary principle—and, perhaps, the Sandford principle—should be applied to our marine environment as well as to our terrestrial environment. If the marine environment is not protected in a way that ensures that it is at least robust and can survive a certain amount of change, it is going to be ever more susceptible to the damage that is beginning to be inflicted by climate change and which will, without doubt, be inflicted over the next 30 or 40 years.

I was glad to hear that the cabinet secretary has written to the UK Minister of State for Energy about dolphins. I would like to explore the issue of the combined threat to the marine environment of oil exploration and offshore wind power. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that offshore wind power has tremendous possibilities. In many people's minds, it represents a preferable alternative to the large number of wind projects that are presently queuing up to be built in Scotland's beautiful environment, from north of here to Cape Wrath. We will be able to learn from the research that is being done in the experimental stations in Orkney what we can and cannot do in our marine environment.

There is no doubt that any marine development comes at a cost. We need legislation that minimises the effects of developments in our marine environment but at the same time allows developments that will be of value in preserving our environment—I refer, in particular, to offshore wind—to go ahead where their impact will be minimal. I congratulate the minister on bringing the debate to the chamber and look forward to many future debates on the subject as the preparation of the bill continues.

Photo of Jim Hume Jim Hume Liberal Democrat 4:30, 20 March 2008

The debate has highlighted our marine and coastal environment, which contains many special and some unique landscapes of national and international renown. As has been said, we have distinctive habitats, such as sea lochs and maerl beds. We have heard that Scottish waters are among the most diverse in the world: they support 44,000 forms of life or, as the cabinet secretary said, "life as we know it"—an interesting quotation from, I think, "Star Trek". It is perhaps no coincidence that we know less about the seas than we know about our solar system, hence the importance of conserving them.

Photo of Jim Hume Jim Hume Liberal Democrat

I wish they would beam me up, Mr Russell.

Liberal Democrats welcome any proposal for a marine national park, which was mentioned by Sarah Boyack and John Scott. Elaine Murray mentioned that the Solway Firth in the west of my region is one of the five contenders to be the location of a marine national park. I hope that a marine national park will happen when the marine legislation has been worked up, and I seek an assurance from the cabinet secretary that those plans have not been put on the back burner.

Biodiversity in our seas is important, and the coastline is important economically because it supports communities, be it through fishing, aquaculture or tourism. The cabinet secretary mentioned that there are 16,000 jobs in fishing and aquaculture and that Scotland produces about 90 per cent of UK farmed fish and shellfish.

Recreational diving opportunities also attract many thousands of divers every year. In the east side of my region, the area around St Abbs and Eyemouth has flora, corals and shipwrecks—including, I believe, a sunken U-boat—to visit. As other members have said, the oil and gas industry supports 164,000 jobs.

As Robin Harper and John Scott said, there is cross-party agreement that Scotland's seas should be managed coherently and in a way that addresses social, economic and environmental factors. The difficult part, of course, is working out how that can be achieved in practice.

As a Liberal Democrat, I welcome the prospect of a Scottish marine bill that will complement UK legislation, complex though that process is, as all members have said. I hope that such a bill will be introduced soon, and I share Mike Rumbles's disappointment that proposals have still not been introduced, despite the cabinet secretary's upbeat words in June last year.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

Why will the Liberal Democrats vote against an amendment that seeks to speed up the process? That is exactly what the member is calling for.

Photo of Jim Hume Jim Hume Liberal Democrat

We are happy to speed up the whole process and look forward to prompt delivery.

As Mike Rumbles stated, several key issues should be addressed in bringing forward a Scottish marine bill. The Scottish Government must seek Westminster's agreement to the Scottish Parliament having exclusive jurisdiction over marine conservation out to the 200 nautical mile limit, and, as many members have said, there needs to be an integrated system of marine spatial planning. Those will build on our current powers over sea fisheries and offshore renewable energy. A bill that included a limit of only 12 nautical miles would not be a marine bill; it would be more of a beach bill. I am glad that the SNP supports our amendment.

It is vital that the Westminster and Holyrood bills complement each other. The Scottish Government needs to work constructively with the UK Government. The cabinet secretary was a little quick to name and blame Westminster, and I assure him that the people of Scotland are fed up with the SNP line of blaming Westminster for all that is wrong. I look to him to give us details of and assurances about discussions. Perhaps the Minister for the Environment will refer to the issue when he winds up, but is the cabinet secretary making progress on obtaining the essential control over our seas out to 200 nautical miles?

I would like licensing arrangements to be aligned with proposals to protect the marine environment under the proposed bills. There are concerns that gas and oil have already been removed from the remit of the marine management organisation that will be set up under the UK marine bill, and there is no guarantee that its remit will include carbon capture and storage.

We want MMOs—as they may be called—to be fully involved stakeholders. Ensuring that that will happen will involve many different Administrations. Sarah Boyack mentioned Wales, and Rob Gibson mentioned others: Northern Ireland, southern Ireland and the Isle of Man, which has not always played ball in the past.

Licensing for offshore storage of natural gas and carbon dioxide needs to take full account of the environmental risks and should integrate with future provisions for managing and protecting the marine environment.

Liberal Democrats welcome a better, more streamlined approach to marine conservation and management. We welcome the introduction of a Scottish marine bill, and we look to the cabinet secretary for assurances that that will happen sooner rather than later. The Scottish Government should not delay the delivery of better marine management, and I sincerely hope that, in co-operation with Westminster, the cabinet secretary will make every effort to secure more devolved power for the Scottish Parliament. I look for support from throughout the chamber for the Liberal Democrat amendment.

Photo of Nanette Milne Nanette Milne Conservative 4:36, 20 March 2008

We welcome this afternoon's debate, which has been consensual, by and large. Like others, we agree that no more time should be lost in finding the best means possible of simplifying the management of our seas and coastline in order to secure a sustainable future for the many social, cultural and economic benefits that are derived from them. That will allow future generations of Scots to be able to benefit from what has been, and still is, taken for granted by so many of us.

Although I am not and never have been a water baby, I have a huge respect and admiration for that grey North Sea, which has sustained the development of my home city from a small fishing port to the thriving energy capital of Europe that it is today. I am sure that, unless their livelihoods depend directly on it, most of the time many Aberdonians give little thought to our coastal waters except to admire their beauty on calm days, to wonder at their power in the teeth of a south-easterly gale or simply to bemoan the fact that so many warm summer days in Aberdeen come to an abrupt end in the late afternoon as the notorious coastal haar descends upon us.

We take for granted much about our maritime situation. The sea has always been there, it is vast, and it appears to be constant. We pay little heed to what goes on in or around it or to the damage that we have done to it by exploiting its many resources or by polluting its depths with the by-products of our modern daily lives. It is only in recent years that we have realised that, if we are to protect our marine environment and allow it to thrive far into the future, we will have to give looking after it as much thought and planning as we have given to developing our landmass.

I am ashamed to say that, until this week, I did not know that Scotland had 11,000km of coastline or that its seas are among the most biologically productive in the world, with, as we have heard, more than 40,000 species of life within and depending on it. It is clearly important that we protect that world-class marine environment for the future.

Having come to the Parliament more recently than some members, I had no idea until fairly recently of the extreme complexity of the legislative framework that regulates Scottish waters. That complexity is now recognised as being so great that it no longer allows coherent governance of the marine environment. Therefore, we are delighted that the cabinet secretary has put maritime law reform high on his agenda and that he intends to continue engaging with the draft UK marine bill in a way that I hope will be ultimately productive. We also welcome the fact that he intends to consult soon on the Scottish marine bill, which he plans to introduce in the near future.

If the Scottish and UK Governments and the other devolved Administrations, which Sarah Boyack mentioned, all work together effectively, there are excellent opportunities to deliver to our mutual benefit the sustainable development of our seas, which we all desire. We have been promised a Scottish marine bill that will deliver a simpler regulatory system for the marine environment, more action on marine nature conservation, a strategic national approach to marine management and greater local control over marine and coastal areas. I have no doubt that the Government will consider with interest the ideas of bodies such as Scottish Environment LINK about how those aims can be achieved.

I am no expert on the marine environment, but I recognise its importance to the many and varied interest groups that rely on it. I was therefore pleased that when Richard Lochhead set up a sustainable seas task force, he included representation of many bodies that have a legitimate interest in the seas. I am talking about organisations such as the RSPB and the WWF; commercial fisheries interests, given that the livelihoods of stakeholders in those interests depend on sustainable fish stocks; sea angling and other leisure interests; aquaculture and energy interests, including oil, gas and shipping businesses, which are massively important; many statutory agencies, such as Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency; and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. All those interest groups were tasked with considering what the Scottish Government needs to do to deliver the sustainable management of our seas and coasts, with the goal of developing a set of viable proposals for Scottish marine legislation.

The previous Executive's AGMACS group, which several members have mentioned, also included many stakeholders. It, too, made valuable recommendations—in particular that there should be an overarching strategic spatial plan for the marine environment, with a devolved marine management organisation for Scottish waters. Much work has therefore already been done to try to overcome the complexities of marine regulation and management, but it is clear that much more work needs to be done.

It is crucial that any new Scottish legislation is made to dovetail with emerging UK legislation in order to ensure the coherent management and protection of our seas and to avoid adding to the existing complexities of maritime law. All sectoral interests must be considered, but, given the stresses on our fishermen in recent years, it is particularly important that all plans for greater marine protection are progressed in close co-operation with our commercial fishermen to ensure that they are among the first to benefit from improved conservation measures. John Scott has said many times recently that the interests of recreational sea anglers must also be high on the agenda, given the invaluable support that they provide to many fragile coastal communities.

This has been a welcome debate. We look forward to the introduction, in due course, of Scottish and UK legislation that will allow us to manage and protect our marine interests long into the future, and which will take due account of the legitimate interests of our commercial and recreational fishermen and all the communities whose prosperity depends on the health of our coastal waters.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour 4:42, 20 March 2008

On the whole, the debate has been constructive and consensual. Key themes have certainly begun to emerge. The UK marine bill is due within the month, and it is imperative that Scotland does not fall behind in such a crucial area of environmental policy. I welcome the debate that we have had.

Many members have mentioned the AGMACS report. We should not underestimate the importance of the blueprint that that report left us. That blueprint was developed through consensus and its production involved the widest possible range of stakeholders. As Sarah Boyack said, Labour is signed up to the AGMACS recommendations, and we are as enthusiastic as ever to see them delivered as soon as possible.

I hope that the Government views our amendment as constructive, as it simply seeks to inject some sense of urgency into the process and encourage constructive working with the UK Government and other Administrations to deliver a coherent and joined-up system. I am not talking only about the drafting of the legislation; I am also talking about its implementation, which is perhaps the most important dimension of any legislation. The legislation should be more than a series of worthy statements; it should be a workable document that enables the effective management and protection of our marine environment.

I am happy to support the Greens' amendment and, despite Mike Rumbles's best efforts, I will probably also support the Liberal Democrat amendment. It was good to hear Jim Hume make a great case for the Labour amendment. I look forward to his voting for it at decision time. I am reassured to find myself on the opposite side of the argument to Mike Rumbles. I was beginning to wonder whether I am going a bit soft in my old age. It is good to see normal hostilities resume between Mike Rumbles and the Labour Party.

I read the Labour and Liberal Democrat amendments again, very closely, to ascertain the logic of Mike Rumbles's argument against the Labour amendment. He argued that progress has been too slow, but he wants members to vote against an amendment that wants progress to be accelerated.

Photo of Mike Rumbles Mike Rumbles Liberal Democrat

Sarah Boyack made it clear that Labour does not want what we want; Labour does not want to let go of power up to the 200-nautical-mile limit.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

I will leave Mike Rumbles to read the Official Report tomorrow and reflect on his attempt to mislead members about what Sarah Boyack said.

I will go back to what is happening in the two amendments, because Mike Rumbles seems to be very keen that we should not do that. The Liberal Democrat amendment focuses exclusively on the 200-nautical-mile issue. It urges constructive engagement exclusively on that issue. In their speeches, both Liberal Democrat members argued that the issue is about more powers for Scotland, but their amendment does not mention powers; it talks about responsibility, which is distinct from powers. They do not always mean the same thing. The Liberal Democrats should be clear about what they mean. Is the issue one of powers or one of responsibilities? We cannot have the responsibility without having the power. The Liberal Democrat amendment should have been clearer about what the Liberal Democrats are looking for. It does not ask for the powers to be devolved to Scotland.

The Labour amendment goes much further, and is additional to the Liberal Democrat amendment. It does not seek to remove it, and we will vote for it at decision time. I do not know how we could be clearer about our position on the 200-nautical-mile issue.

We recognise that the debate is about far more than a line on a map and that we cannot operate in isolation. Mike Rumbles agreed that powers over oil and gas should continue to be retained by the UK Government. We want to have a constructive dialogue about how those powers are exercised in Scottish waters; the Liberal Democrat amendment seeks to have that dialogue—and that power—removed. That is a bizarre proposition from someone who believes that they are arguing from a constructive position. Ship-to-ship oil transfer was a classic example of an issue on which dialogue must take place—but the Liberal Democrats appear to be suggesting that they do not want dialogue at all.

Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

If Labour members are so uncertain about the Liberal Democrat amendment, why are they going to support it?

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

The amendment clearly asks for responsibility up to 200 nautical miles, but Mr Rumbles appears to be confused about what that actually means.

Even at this stage, the Liberal Democrats should reconsider their futile argument. However, if they want to stand carping on the sidelines, so be it. It will not stop them; it never has in the past.

There are other good examples of dialogue between our two Governments and other Administrations being fruitful. I think particularly of the climate change bill: a UK bill and a Scottish bill are being drafted and worked on together. Consultation on our proposed climate change bill is giving a clear idea of the Scottish ministers' direction of travel. It would seem that there has been constructive engagement between ministers at UK and Scotland level on that issue. It is a good model. The Minister for Environment and I have always managed to engage in constructive dialogue and I urge him and his cabinet secretary colleague to adopt that model for future discussions with the UK Government and other Administrations.

Today's debate is an excellent opportunity for ministers to drive the agenda forward and set us on a clear course to implement a bill that meets and lives up to the goals and recommendations in the AGMACS report. As others have said, it is true that, in the past, we have not paid due attention to our marine environment, taken it for granted and assumed that it will always be there and that our actions on land and at sea will have little impact on it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Examples from across the world and here at home show that our actions can destroy habitats, endanger ecosystems and rob future generations of the beauty that we enjoy.

Developing the governance of a marine environment fit for the 21st century will be challenging. Dave Thompson made a good speech about how the national parks debate has shown that a dialogue can take place and be constructive, even when different interests and desires are involved.

I agree with the cabinet secretary that the EU fishing negotiations show that environmental concerns can live side by side with industrial interests when both sides listen to each other and work constructively together. If we can carry that forward in this process, we will be on the right road.

We are not opposed to the Scottish Parliament having responsibility for fishing and nature conservation up to the 200-nautical-mile limit. The issue is one of pragmatic policy development rather than of a constitutional argument about where we draw lines on maps. As Robin Harper rightly said, fish and birds do not worry about lines on maps but move between different jurisdictions freely and easily—as does pollution. It is therefore essential that we have constructive dialogue.

No matter who ultimately has responsibility up to a particular line on the map, there must be co-ordination and consensus. Conflict is in no one's interests. We therefore urge the Government to engage in constructive dialogue with DEFRA to bring about the most appropriate solution for Scotland in the interest of all stakeholders. Whatever we do must be done in a joined-up way because the Scottish marine bill will inevitably need to fit in with the UK bill as well as, probably, a Northern Ireland bill and, certainly, with legislation that is introduced by our colleagues in Wales.

Today's debate has been worth while and constructive. I hope that all the amendments will be agreed to and that the consultation paper will enable us all to work together. I also hope that the bill will be introduced as soon as is practically possible so that our marine environment can receive the right protection and enhancement for the years ahead. We on these benches will work with the cabinet secretary and the minister to achieve just that.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party 4:52, 20 March 2008

I had intended to start by saying that the debate has been tremendously useful and consensual, but then I witnessed the previous exchanges. I think that the Government is just giving up and voting for everything. We will support everybody and just hope that, at the end of the day, everyone will agree. I might commend the two Liberal Democrat speakers on the strongest attempt that I have ever seen to stop others voting for their amendment. Even so, despite their speeches, we will persevere and vote for their amendment.

I will vote for the Labour amendment, but I might point out that, in the lexicon of Opposition terms, the last weapon is time. When an Opposition starts arguing that the Government is going too slowly, essentially it agrees with everything the Government is doing. The reality is that we are going fast and we intend to go faster if we can. It is not as if Richard Lochhead is sitting idly looking at the sea and wondering what to do. His record speaks for itself. Over the past 10 months, he has been involved in a range of trail-blazing measures within and outwith Scotland: the conservation credits scheme, which was a first; the Lamlash Bay scheme, which was a first; the work on ship-to-ship oil transfers; and the strong representations—which I am glad Robin Harper, having failed to mention them in his opening speech, acknowledged in his summing up—he is making on the issue of bottle-nosed dolphins in the Moray Firth. Those are in addition to all the other actions in which Richard Lochhead has been involved at home and abroad. A great deal of work is going on.

I am pleased to say that the sustainable seas task force has already held a series of workshops to investigate the detail—the frightening detail, as Mr Peacock rightly said—of the planning, conservation and streamlined licensing issues, which include the creation of a Scottish marine management organisation and the co-ordination of science, research and data storage. The task force is taking forward the recommendations of the report on the marine environment that was published by the Environment and Rural Development Committee in the previous parliamentary session as well as the work of the advisory group on the marine and coastal strategy—AGMACS—which we have heard so much about. Those matters are being, and will be, driven forward. At the end of the process, we will have the most robust consultation paper and we will then move into the most robust piece of legislation.

We will keep the process moving and—this is why we support the Labour amendment—we will accelerate it as much as we can in so far as doing so is consistent with having legislation that will last and do the job. That is the balance that must be struck. We do not want rushed legislation—or bad legislation; we want legislation that will stand the test of time. Therefore, we will accept the Labour amendment and, of course, the Liberal Democrat amendment and the Green amendment.

I was struck by the number of times members mentioned the need to balance the environmental and the economic opportunities. Peter Peacock talked about new opportunities emerging in that way. It is important to realise that the environmental improvements that we need, and that are taking place, lead to economic improvements. For example, cleaner waters are already leading to our shellfish industry being poised for enormous growth, which it can achieve because the circumstances are right. Scottish fishermen working in the most sustainable way possible means that the long-term economic future of fishing communities is being guaranteed by the Government.

I will strike only one critical note, regarding Helen Eadie's speech. I apologise to her for the confused meeting that we had in my office—although it is not always possible to be entirely clear in meetings with Mrs Eadie—but this debate is not about coastal flooding. I may have brought the wrong papers to a meeting; Mrs Eadie brought the wrong speech. The coastal flooding debate takes place in relation to the flood prevention bill, and I am happy to have that discussion with her.

I am positive about the Solway Firth. I met the Solway Firth partnership—a group that is well known to the member from Dumfries—on Monday—[Interruption.]

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Order. There are far too many conversations going on.

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I am familiar with the desire for a marine national park within the Solway. We need to discuss the way in which the community can express its support—or at least have the chance to do so—as the community in Harris is now beginning to express its support. When we are in a position to take a marine national park forward—after the marine bill has been introduced—I will encourage, as should the member for Dumfries, the community on the Solway to push that issue forward.

I come now to the nub of the matter. There are three strong reasons for supporting a new marine bill, the motion and all the amendments. The first is that the Scottish marine resource is priceless: it is one of the greatest and most important marine resources in the world and we need robust legislation to protect and enhance it in the 21st century.

The second reason is that the legislation that we currently possess is vastly overcomplex—the cabinet secretary mentioned the 85 acts and laws that apply. The chart that I am holding up is meant to explain the links between international agreements, EU commitments and UK legislation on marine protected areas. There are nine boxes in it, and nine different organisations and pieces of legislation with responsibility for that alone. Special areas of conservation and special protection areas in Scottish waters require four boxes to explain the organisations that are involved. The marine legislation is essential to make sense of all that, and to provide efficient government and efficient intervention.

The third reason is the 200-nautical-mile limit. It has been helpful to hear the strong pleas not just for the Scottish Government to co-operate with the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Government, but for those Governments to co-operate with the Scottish Government. That point needs to be borne in mind and reported outwith the chamber. It takes two to tango and we are ready to tango. We are—if I may mix metaphors rather outrageously—in our wetsuits, ready to take part in this dance. That might not be an attractive proposition for a Thursday afternoon, but I am trying to be as accurate as possible.

It is essential that the other Governments come to the issue with serious intent and a willingness to debate, discuss and compromise. If they do not, all the good will in this chamber and from this Government—we guarantee good will—will count for nothing. I hope that members in the chamber will, with one voice, say that we wish the bill to be effective and to solve the problems that we have laid out. This Government will take serious cognisance of that. We are willing to co-operate in every way possible with the other Administrations to make it work. I hope that they will pay heed to the unanimous view of the chamber and come to the table willing to co-operate.

I commend the motion and all the amendments to the chamber. We may take an historic step this afternoon towards achieving the marine legislation that we need, if members respond to the demands of the people of Scotland.