National Planning Framework

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 5th March 2009.

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Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party 2:15 pm, 5th March 2009

The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-3584, in the name of Duncan McNeil, on behalf of the Local Government and Communities Committee, on "National Planning Framework for Scotland 2: Proposed Framework". The debate is fully subscribed and there is no spare time, so I will stop members at the end of their allotted time.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour 2:56 pm, 5th March 2009

I am pleased to open today's debate. This is the first time that a proposed national planning framework has been subject to scrutiny by the Parliament and its committees.

The Local Government and Communities Committee welcomes the opportunity that it has had to debate a significant document and to contribute to the process. I thank the committee clerks and Scottish Parliament information centre researchers for the help that they have given to the committee. I also thank the other two committees that have contributed to the debate through their reports—the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee and the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee—and all those who made written submissions or gave oral evidence.

The Local Government and Communities Committee recognises that the proposed national planning framework is an evolving document and will be subject to further scrutiny and monitoring through continuing dialogue between the committee and the Scottish Government. It is clear from our report that the committee is generally positive about NPF 2, but we believe that lessons can be learned for the future.

The first lesson relates to accessibility. We know that planning is a complex subject, and we welcome the efforts that the Scottish Government has made to make the document more user friendly and accessible, but it appears that even experts have found it difficult to wade through. For example, Bob Stewart of the Scottish Society of Directors of Planning said:

"it is not an easy read, even for a professional with some 42 years' experience. It will be refined as we go through the process, and as we do so it would be helpful if it was improved and simplified."—[Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee, 14 January 2009; c 1551.]

Planning is an extremely important subject. In order to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, future NPF documents should use clear, jargon-free language to ensure that the public are well informed about the key issues and feel able to engage in the consultation process. Although I am sure that the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he described the document to the committee as "a rattling good read", he did say that he would be happy to consider comments about language and presentation and to learn from them.

We also believe that there are lessons to be learned on the consultation process. We acknowledge the Scottish Government's efforts to engage with stakeholders and the general public through an extensive consultation programme, but community groups that responded to the committee's consultation raised concerns about the level of consultation locally. As some of the impacts of NPF 2 are likely to be felt most at that level, it is vital that local communities are engaged in the consultation process. We therefore recommend that the Scottish Government consider ways of further improving the consultation process so that local communities can be more effectively engaged in the future. We suggest that local authorities could have a role to play in maximising awareness at a local level, and we encourage the Government to look at that possibility.

One of the more contentious aspects of NPF 2 is the list of projects that are to be designated as national developments. The committee's focus was primarily on process issues, not on the merits or otherwise of the national developments—other committees have considered them—and we have commented on the consultation. A number of concerns were raised in evidence about the lack of consultation on the revised list of national developments. In particular, people were not clear about how the list was developed and revised and why some projects had been included and others had not. That complaint was not limited to local community groups; again, I quote Bob Stewart of the Scottish Society of Directors of Planning:

"local authorities and others made a considerable number of suggestions about alternative national projects. The process of sifting those projects has not been transparent and it is not clear how we arrived at the projects that are listed in the NPF."—[Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee, 14 January 2009; c 1547.]

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

No. I will plough on because I have limited time; I am sure that Patrick Harvie will get another opportunity.

We know that the Scottish Government carried out a strategic environmental assessment of all the national developments and that there was consultation on that assessment, but we do not think that it was clear to the wider public that that was an opportunity to comment on the revised list of national developments. We therefore believe that there should have been a separate consultation on the revised list. We also think that the Scottish Government should have been clearer about why suggestions for national developments were accepted or rejected and that individuals whose suggestions were rejected should have been properly debriefed.

My final point on the process is to reinforce the committee's plea for more notice to be given of the laying of the next NPF so that committees can properly plan a programme of scrutiny and engagement. Sixty days is extremely tight, and the more notice that we are given, the better.

Turning to the substantive issues in the document itself, we focused on the flexibility of the framework, its impact on the planning system and the funding, timetabling and delivery of national developments. Given the current economic climate, we believe that it is essential that the framework is flexible enough to respond to ever-changing circumstances, and we welcome the Government's assurance that the document is not a fixed blueprint.

The construction industry in particular has been badly hit by the current economic situation. The committee heard evidence from the industry that it is crying out for infrastructure projects to be brought forward to stimulate the industry and the economy and to help keep capacity. Michael Levack of the Scottish Building Federation told us:

"we are losing capacity in a serious way—by the day. It is very difficult to predict what the next six months or year will hold. I am always surprised when people speculate that there will be some recovery in the economy during 2009. Personally, without wishing to wear the black hat and sound a note of doom and gloom, I think that it will be 2011 before we see any improvement in the situation. That is why we are constantly calling for some infrastructure projects to be brought forward, to allow us to retain capacity in the industry."—[Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee, 14 January 2009; c 1540.]

The Scottish Government said to us in evidence that it will bring forward construction projects in which it has control over the timetable, and it cited the Forth crossing and strategic rail enhancements as two examples. The committee believes that, given the current economic situation, the Scottish Government should consider opportunities to bring forward projects that are publicly funded. We recognise that some projects are either wholly or partly funded by the private sector, and for that reason we also recommend that the Scottish Government engage with the private sector to consider the opportunities of bringing forward further projects. The issue is an important one for many people, and we would welcome reassurances from the Government that it will pursue those discussions.

The Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 requires ministers to set out in the framework a statement of need for any development that it designates as a national development. Although that does not automatically remove the need for planning permission or other consents to be obtained for a development, it means that a planning authority cannot reject an application for a national development that is listed in NPF 2 on the ground of need. Parliament needs to be clear about the significance of NPF 2 in that regard.

The committee believes that the Government needs to provide further clarity on the funding and delivery of national developments to ensure that they are not simply aspirational but firm commitments to build. I have mentioned the effect of the economic climate on the construction industry. If no clarity is given on the timetabling of the national developments and associated infrastructure, the Government will simply add to the uncertainty and leave the industry and others unable to plan ahead and make projections. There will also be an effect on local communities: people need to know when a national development is likely to come on stream locally.

The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee expressed concern about the delivery and funding of the national developments. The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change also said that

"The framework does not represent ... a single penny of public funding".—[Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee, 21 January 2009; c 1579.]

On that basis, the committee struggled to see how the national developments in the NPF, which is essentially a planning document, link to the Scottish Government's future expenditure proposals. We seek clarity from ministers on the funding of national developments in relation to those expenditure plans: we have agreed to take further evidence from the Government on that, but some clarity today would be very welcome.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I am sorry, but I must stop you there, Mr McNeil.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Local Government and Communities Committee's 5th Report, 2009 (Session 3): National Planning Framework for Scotland 2: Proposed Framework (SP Paper 218), together with the Official Report of the Parliament's debate on the report, should form the Parliament's response to the Scottish Government on the Proposed Framework.—[Duncan McNeil.]

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour 3:08 pm, 5th March 2009

I welcome today's debate on the national planning framework. When Labour was in Government, we recognised that Scotland's future economic success depends on coherent policies and the early identification of projects that are of strategic national significance.

The need for crucial developments should not have to be argued over repeatedly at successive stages in the planning process—that way lies expensive and unnecessary delays. We introduced the first national planning framework and the subsequent planning legislation that enabled a revised framework to be placed on a statutory basis. We welcome the opportunity that the debate has given the Parliament to comment on the revised document, which is now informed by strategic environmental assessments of the various projects.

As Duncan McNeil stated, we have heard criticism that the consultation process was geared towards statutory bodies and larger organisations and not to the wider public. Some people fear that the national planning framework could fast-track controversial decisions without proper scrutiny—I refer in particular to airport expansion. Labour does not support such a move.

Little feedback has been given to people in various parts of Scotland who made unsuccessful bids for projects to be included. The Local Government and Communities Committee heard about the lack of timescales, prioritisation and information about financing—complaints that will be familiar to members from the debate in December on the strategic transport projects review. I hope that the Government will take on board those process criticisms. It is important to highlight any deficiencies that we have found in the framework document, given that this debate is the only chance that members have to influence its content.

Too much of the document is taken up with listing the challenges that Scotland needs to address—contextualisation and not evidence-driven policy consideration. For example, paragraph 52 sets out the main elements of the Government's spatial strategy to 2030, but they are expressed only as intentions. That is worthy enough, but it is lacking in detail.

It seems remarkable that urban design should feature hardly at all in the Government's development strategy and that tackling poverty and disadvantage, especially in local authority areas with high concentrations of deprivation, is not given greater prominence. I hope that those omissions can be corrected.

The real meat of the document is the annex of designated national developments. Labour's amendment, which we hope will be supported throughout the chamber, adds the high-speed rail link between Scotland and London to the list. That takes forward the unanimous recommendation in the report that the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee published last Friday. The evidence taken by the committee showed that huge economic and climate change benefits could be gained from a high-speed rail link between Scotland and London—and beyond, since there is already a high-speed link to the Channel.

I am aware that the Scottish ministers have been in discussions with Lord Adonis, the UK rail minister, about high-speed rail; indeed, Lord Adonis will speak to members of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee next week. It is important that all parties in Scotland signal our commitment to such a link by supporting the inclusion of high-speed rail in the national planning framework. We are a long way from working out the details of a scheme, identifying a route or estimating the costs but, if our amendment is accepted at decision time, I hope that the minister will soon be in a position to put forward a statement of need and that a high-speed rail link between Scotland and London can be added to the list of designated national developments.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I welcome the change in mood music with the appointment of Andrew Adonis as my opposite number at Westminster, and I look forward to working with him on this important subject, on which I think there is at last a sense of common purpose, although considerable detail has to be worked out.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour

That is a welcome comment.

Labour believes that NPF project 10, entitled "Improved Rail Connectivity in the West of Scotland", which is one of only two projects from the strategic transport projects review that are also in NPF 2, should incorporate terminal capacity for high-speed rail as well as for Glasgow crossrail and that those rail improvements should be prioritised.

Edinburgh to Glasgow rail improvements feature in the strategic transport projects review, as does new track between Inverkeithing and Halbeath, which is vital in speeding up rail services between Edinburgh and the north and north-east of Scotland. We believe that those two projects should be brought forward as quickly as possible, and we would welcome an indication from the minister of the timetable for delivery.

Our amendment recommends that both interim and long-term targets for reducing emissions are fully taken into account in land use and energy policies. If we want to reach the 80 per cent target and, in particular, if we want to adopt an interim target that delivers vital early action on emissions, that must be fully reflected in the list of strategic priorities. Given the urgency of the need to reduce carbon, it is disappointing that practical steps aimed at securing the behavioural changes needed to deliver a step change in energy efficiency in homes and workplaces are not given designated project status in the annex alongside energy generation projects—instead, they are confined to the body of the document. Substantial gains are to be made from energy efficiency measures for buildings. Gathering what the Royal Society of Edinburgh described as "low-hanging fruit" must be a strategic priority if we are to maximise our opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions during this planning period.

On generation and transmission, project 8 is a new clean coal power station and transhipment facility at Hunterston, and project 9 is new non-nuclear base-load capacity at existing power stations. The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee argued that technology-specific references should be removed from those project descriptions. Labour would be strongly opposed to any new coal-fired station at Hunterston or anywhere else that did not incorporate effective deployment of carbon sequestration measures from the outset, but low-carbon technologies should not be excluded from the planning framework, especially if we end up relying instead on unproven clean coal technology.

Other countries have greatly expanded their provision of segregated urban walking and cycling routes, and many European cities are consequently much safer for walkers and cyclists than our towns and cities. Active travel, whether for commuting or leisure, must have a much more prominent place in our thinking, whether in urban design, allocation of road space or planning requirements for housing, retail and workplace developments. I am not sure whether that is best done by including a Scotland-wide designated project, by creating incentives or through better regulation in the planning system, but we must consider carefully how we promote carbon neutrality, whether in transport, urban design, housing or microgeneration—all of which could help us to address climate change.

In the time available I have not been able to speak about all the development projects and policy issues in the framework. I have sympathy with the comments that Patrick Harvie has made about the lack of opportunity to amend the document, which deserved much more debating time than was allocated to it. We should ensure that nothing is read into the inclusion of projects in the framework that short-circuits the debates in committee and the chamber that will be necessary when decisions on implementation are made.

I hope that members will agree to the proposal to include high-speed rail links in the list of national developments and to the other proposals in the amendment in my name.

I move amendment S3M-3584.2, to insert at end:

"supports the inclusion of the high-speed rail link between Scotland and London on the list of designated national developments; recommends that the Scottish Government ensures that both interim and long-term targets for reducing emissions are fully taken into account in land use and energy policies, and considers that local and national land use planning must facilitate walking and cycling in urban as well as rural areas."

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative 3:15 pm, 5th March 2009

This is an important debate, although the motion is framed in neutral terms. It simply draws attention to the report of a parliamentary committee and suggests that that report and the Official Report of today's debate should form the Parliament's response to the national planning framework consultation document.

Such a response is not sufficient given the importance of the national planning framework and, in particular, the designation of national developments. The importance that is attached to the designation should not be underestimated, as the Local Government and Communities Committee emphasised in its report. I was pleased that Duncan McNeil underscored that point.

Designation enables ministers to intervene at any stage of the consideration of a relevant planning application to expedite the decision-making process. Moreover, designation is the means by which the principle of the need for a development is established. As a consequence, subsequent consideration of detailed planning applications for national developments will be concerned only with matters such as siting, design and the mitigation of environmental impacts, and will not be concerned with the principle of the need for the development. That consequence of designation merits far more than a bland motion of referral.

It is right and proper that the Parliament should debate the principle of proposed national developments; it is equally right and proper that the final framework that the Government publishes should reflect Parliament's decisions in that regard. Some organisations that made representations to the committee, such as Friends of the Earth Scotland and the John Muir Trust, expressed concern that the public might take objection to the exclusion of full scrutiny of the need for a particular development when a planning application is lodged. I do not agree. It is entirely appropriate that our national Parliament should approve what is or is not a national development and that the Parliament should decide the issue of need after extensive and genuine public consultation. However, we can do that only if we debate and decide on issues of need and matters of controversy and principle. Last week, Patrick Harvie made that point, with which I very much agree, even though he and I disagree on the specifics.

On the specifics, I turn to the excellent recommendation of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, which said:

"the Committee believes that it is too early ... to be technology specific in the case of candidate national developments N° 8 and 9", which relate, respectively, to a new power station and transhipment hub at Hunterston and to new base-load generating capacity at other existing power station sites. In essence, the committee said that it is not appropriate in the national planning framework to rule out a nuclear option, for example, as part of the diversity of energy mix in electricity generation, which is essential if we are to sustain security of supply.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

I will cover that issue in detail in my speech, but I point out now that the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee did not make such a recommendation. The member should refer to the whole recommendation in paragraph 71 of the committee's report and not just select a bit of it.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I was quoting from paragraph 71, and I was pleased that the member endorsed the recommendation. I note that at least one member of his party dissents from his belated interpretation of the plain English in paragraph 71, but we will hear more later of the member's rather muddled thinking, which is emerging in the light of the whipping from the rest of his colleagues in the Liberal Democrat group, to which he might have paid a bit more attention at the outset.

The committee's sensible approach was echoed in a report by the First Minister's Scottish Council of Economic Advisers, which said that there should be an independent assessment of the full economic costs and carbon emissions abatement potential of the various energy options open to Scotland—an assessment to which the Scottish Government is now committed. It is clear that the finalisation of NPF 2 will pre-date the publication of that independent assessment so, if the independent assessment is to be truly independent, it is reasonable at least to concede the possibility that it might recommend the construction of a new nuclear power station in order to generate essential base-load capacity.

That being the case, logic dictates that NPF 2 should not be technology specific, so that the issue of need is dealt with irrespective of the technology or technologies that are recommended as a result of the Government's independent assessment. It is regrettable that that simple, elementary logic is beyond the wit of the present Scottish Government, which has an overweening and wholly unjustified confidence that the independent assessment will conclude that it is right. That reflects a rather dogmatic attitude that NPF 2 should reflect only the Government's policy and not the decisions of the Parliament. I do not accept that: this Parliament should decide what is or is not a national development.

The Parliament should approve the national planning framework, which is why I lodged my amendment. I was going to congratulate Iain Smith on his good sense in putting his name to the recommendation of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, even though his party has reservations about nuclear power, but it is now clearly historical good sense.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I am afraid that the member's time is up.

Amendment S3M-3584.1 moved,

"As an amendment to motion (S3M-3584) in the name of Duncan McNeil, insert at end 'and endorses the recommendation of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee that the Scottish Government removes any technology-specific references from candidate national developments 8 and 9, and calls on the Scottish Government to amend the descriptions of these national developments to reflect this in the final version of the National Planning Framework for Scotland 2.'"

Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat 3:21 pm, 5th March 2009

I thank the Local Government and Communities Committee for its report and the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee and the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee for the useful commentary that they have added.

As other members have said, the statutory national planning framework includes national projects for the first time, but its significance goes way beyond the identification of a clutch of national projects. The framework will be judged to be successful if it brings about change in communities throughout Scotland, protects and enhances the quality of the natural and built environments and helps to build safer, stronger and healthier communities.

When people think about planning, they focus too often on the local, tangible parts of it and miss the bigger picture. For me, the bigger picture is the role that inspirational planning can play in creating a healthier and happier society. I expect much of today's debate to focus on infrastructure, but we should not forget the importance of place making or designing with nature. We can learn much from the past. For example, we can look to Patrick Geddes, the garden cities movement or the great social reformers who knew how the environment impacted on the health of our communities.

Today, our communities face many threats that planning could help to address. Harry Burns, Scotland's chief medical officer, has pointed out that the health benefits of good planning are often not taken into account because they are difficult to quantify. Those benefits can include personal fitness, good mental health and shorter hospital stays—a range of benefits that would save society money in service costs, sickness benefits and the like, as well as create a happier community.

There might not be disease from poor sanitation and overcrowding these days, but what about our epidemics of heart disease, obesity and alcohol abuse or the growth of asthma? What can the planning system do to tackle those things? It can do a great deal more than it has done to date, and I hope that NPF 2 will encourage a greater focus on the spaces that we create, the quality of the built environment and the links to the natural environment.

I turn to the detail of NPF 2. It is commendable that the Government has not succumbed to pressure to identify scores of national projects—subsidiarity is important in planning, and it would be entirely wrong to develop a heavy-handed, top-down approach—but I would have been happier if there had been a clearer process for consultation on the selection of national projects. Six of the 14 recommendations of the lead committee relate to consultation and engagement.

Improving the level and quality of public participation in planning has been one theme of the planning modernisation process. Reconciling development and local sensitivities is always difficult, but a much greater role for community involvement in the planning process is key to the reforms that have been working their way through the system for some time.

Greater community engagement earlier in the planning cycle requires much greater public awareness of why planning matters, but it also requires standards to be set to ensure that the quality of engagement in the planning system can command trust and commitment. The shortcoming that the committees identified must not be repeated. I urge the Government to accept that and to make a commitment that any future iterations of the framework will involve meaningful engagement.

As the document represents the Government's vision for Scotland's development to 2030, it is legitimate to ask how it helps to deliver other policy imperatives, such as a reduction in carbon emissions. It is also pertinent to check whether the investment plan and the STPR are in step and will make the vision a reality. Some witnesses told our committee that there was an inherent tension between the development objectives in NPF 2 and its climate change objectives. The Sustainable Development Commission said:

"Our particular concern is that the document will lock us into a higher carbon future, which will mean that in other aspects of policy we will have to make even more radical cuts in emissions".—[Official Report, Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, 6 January 2009; c 1222.]

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency suggested that a step change in policy would be required and said:

"it would be desirable to see Government at least aspire to stabilise road traffic growth as a complementary measure to support land based transport emission reductions via improved accessibility and modal shift."

Sustrans and Transport Scotland drew attention to the framework's deficiencies on cycling and walking, which Des McNulty pointed out. Safe and attractive walking and cycling routes ought to be an integral part of all development proposals; the framework should recognise that and give clear guidance to local authorities to develop active travel strategies in local plans. High-speed rail, on which the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee has just concluded an inquiry, must be a higher priority, too. I support Des McNulty's amendment, which addresses those two points.

The public transportation elements of the new Forth crossing are of fundamental importance, and I agree that NPF 2 should make specific reference to the multimodal corridor.

I turn to the energy proposals. The use of the phrase "carbon capture ready" is meaningless and could allow the construction of new, unabated coal-fired power stations, which would add significantly to carbon dioxide emissions. That must not happen. The costs of development of carbon capture technology will be great and, as ever, some certainty in the market would help. The Government must reflect on how it could best harness the knowledge and expertise in Scotland—particularly in the north-east, with its geologists and subsea experts—to accelerate the development of such technology.

It is worth considering the merits of establishing the principle of a strictly enforceable emissions performance standard for new combustion plant. An EPS would set the maximum allowable level of CO2 emissions per unit of electricity or heat generated by new fossil-fuelled plant.

Photo of Alison McInnes Alison McInnes Liberal Democrat

Such a standard would help us to deliver our climate change targets and would ensure that Scotland took a genuine lead in the global development of carbon capture and storage in the coming decade.

Let us be clear: any discussion of new nuclear power stations distracts from the need to invest in renewable solutions for Scotland. I want a green future for my country, and my colleague Iain Smith will develop that argument.

I move amendment S3M-3584.1.1, to insert at end

"and reaffirms that in accordance with paragraph 152 of the National Planning Framework for Scotland 2 proposed framework document it does not support the construction of new nuclear power stations in Scotland."

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party 3:27 pm, 5th March 2009

The Government's bringing forward—[ Interruption ]—amidst the squabbling that is going on to my right of the proposed national planning framework is entirely consistent with the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006. NPF 2 was laid before Parliament on 12 December for a period of consideration of 60 days. It builds on the first framework, which was published in 2004. Its preparation has involved an extensive programme of participation, involving members of the public, communities and a wide range of stakeholders in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

The proposed framework takes forward the spatial aspects of the Government's economic strategy and will form a key part of the modernised planning system. It will provide a national policy context for development plans and planning decisions, and will inform the continuing programmes of Government, public agencies and local authorities. Its preparation has run alongside the preparation of the strategic transport projects review, to ensure that there is consistency in the overall framework of future planning.

I would like to thank the Local Government and Communities Committee, the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee and the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee for their careful consideration of the proposed framework, and I welcome their broad support for the strategy. The Government will reflect on a number of the points that they made.

I will begin by addressing participation. A number of the people who participated in the preparation of the framework have expressed dissatisfaction with aspects of the approach to engagement. I can assure Parliament that engagement with the public and local communities has played a vital part in the development of the framework, in accordance with the statutory participation statement, which is the first of its kind in Scotland. The Scottish Government made every effort to ensure that the participation arrangements made participation accessible to all interested parties.

We have consulted widely in the past two years, which is reflected in the proposed framework that has been laid before Parliament. Two rounds of engagement took place—one before and one after publication of the discussion draft—in addition to the consultation on the framework. The public have also been involved in the strategic environmental assessment at several stages.

I hope that, on reflection, members will appreciate that a vast amount of consultation has taken place. We all accept that more consultation could always happen on all issues, but we must reach conclusions at some stage. As Mr Stevenson said in response to Mary Scanlon at question time, Planning Aid for Scotland concluded

"that the methods used to raise awareness and seek comments have been wide-ranging and have incorporated a variety of consultation methods".

It commended

"the efforts made to engage harder-to-reach and diverse sections of society in the discussion of the overall vision."

I hope that Parliament will take heart from that.

Concerns have been expressed about the process of selecting projects as national developments. The 12 infrastructure projects that are identified as national developments were selected after wide consultation and on the basis of an assessment against a clear set of criteria that I announced in Parliament in September 2007. The results of that assessment have been published.

Engagement on the identification of national developments involved two rounds of consultation and a further consultation on the potential environmental effects of candidate national developments as part of the strategic environmental assessment process. The parliamentary stage of the process provides a further opportunity for consideration and debate, which will ensure a high level of scrutiny.

It is important to be clear that the purpose of designation as a national development is to help to deliver key elements of national infrastructure that are subject to discrete consent procedures. It establishes the principle of the developments. Many important projects—for example, regeneration in key locations such as the Clyde gateway, many projects that are identified in the strategic transport projects review, environmental projects such as the central Scotland green network and home insulation programmes—do not require national development status to secure their delivery.

Some have questioned how well the framework strategy and national developments sit with our commitment to tackle climate change and reduce emissions. Far from being at odds with our commitments on climate change and sustainable development, the NPF supports them. As I said, the framework has been subject to rigorous strategic environmental assessment.

Members have talked about energy. The Government's position on the nuclear question is clearly understood. We will support the Liberal Democrats' amendment to the Conservative amendment and we will reflect on the points that have been made when finalising the national planning framework. I am aware that Scottish and Southern Energy expressed concerns to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee about some of the wording on energy issues in the proposed framework and I have asked my officials to address those concerns in finalising the document.

The next step is for the Government to reflect on the debate. It is wholly appropriate that the Government listens to the debate, which parliamentary committees have led. We will consider the issues that committees have raised and reach conclusions, as is consistent with section 3B of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, which was inserted by the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006, which the Parliament supported. That will ensure that we have in place a framework that represents Scotland's future development and structures our interventions to bring it about.

Photo of John Wilson John Wilson Scottish National Party 3:34 pm, 5th March 2009

When we evaluate the Local Government and Communities Committee's report on the "National Planning Framework for Scotland 2: Proposed Framework", it is important to recognise that the committee restricted its comments to the Scottish Government's consultation on national planning framework 2 and to the key principles behind the proposals. My role has been to examine the proposed framework as a member of the committee, especially in the three evidence-gathering sessions at committee meetings. I will talk in depth later about the committee's detailed findings.

It is important to consider carefully the reasons for introducing national planning framework 2.

Anyone with even a little knowledge of planning knows that it is complex, especially in terms of local government. For example, in my experience, there are real problems with planning enforcement—I should perhaps call it a perceived lack of enforcement—on the ground.

The lack of planning officers, which is key, was identified in the evidence sessions and is noted in the committee's recommendations. There is a requirement for on-going training in planning departments in local authorities and other bodies. Local government will no doubt make representations on the cost implications of the framework.

As the committee's report states, there is a requirement for an assessment matrix of candidate national developments and for less use of jargon. I cannot help but notice that The Sunday Times Scotland has already commented that the "matrix" terminology is not exactly jargon-free language.

A great deal of the committee's discussion—this is reflected in the report—was about how 12 national projects were identified at the end of the process whereas only nine projects were included in the original proposals. More flexibility is required in bringing projects on stream. As the committee recommends, it is vital that we have openness and transparency, which are critical to the process, especially in developing any lists of developments of national interest.

Various contributions were made during the NPF 2 consultation about the efficiency of the planning system. However, the briefing from the John Muir Trust provides a cautionary note on the process. It states:

"It is critical that the National Planning Framework does not become a vehicle for fast-tracking controversial decisions".

Planning decisions must be part of the democratic processes in this country. Quite rightly, they should not be party political.

As the committee's report states, there is clearly a debate on the rationale behind choosing what is and is not a national project, therefore I am glad that the committee will provide an overview of "Delivering Planning Reform". The report states:

"The Committee will keep a watching brief on developments in the planning system ... and it may decide to take further evidence from the Scottish Government at a later date".

In our evidence-gathering sessions, the considerable amount of time that we spent questioning witnesses proved to be useful in drawing out important points that needed to be scrutinised. As highlighted in an earlier discussion on costs, I indicated to the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change that

"The projects will not come without any cost to the public purse. What level of public funding will be made available for the other issues that may arise from the projects in the national planning framework?"

The minister answered my question by stating:

"The framework does not represent a commitment to a single penny of public funding, because it is a planning document."—[Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee, 21 January 2009; c 1579.]

There has been a wider debate both inside and outside the Parliament on the Government's national project aspirations. The committee seeks further clarification on funding issues. It is worth reinforcing the point that many of the national projects that have been identified will rely on private finance.

The committee recommends that

"the NPF2 Action Programme should contain a timetable for the delivery of national developments."

As detailed in the report, the committee seeks some certainty in that regard. To provide context to the debate, NPF 2 needs some crossover with expenditure proposals if we are to have the necessary degree of joined-up thinking.

Getting to the heart of the matter on moving Scotland forward, I am glad that the Scottish Government's participation statement confirms that it will set out a detailed monitoring and evaluation process.

I welcome the general principles that are contained in the Local Government and Communities Committee's report. I thank the committee members, clerks and those who provided evidence for ensuring that we had a meaningful debate on the issues surrounding the development of a national planning framework for Scotland.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour 3:39 pm, 5th March 2009

I support the Labour amendment, but I want to speak to two other aspects: the position of Edinburgh in the national planning framework and the extent to which public participation was satisfactory.

I believe that the national planning framework ought to be modified to take account of Edinburgh's position as capital city and its significant role as an engine of economic growth for Scotland. It is the only city in Scotland whose population is going to expand considerably over the next few years, and the national planning framework must reflect the resulting pressure on infrastructure such as housing and transport. I therefore support the City of Edinburgh Council's proposed additions after paragraph 185 of NPF 2, which include reference to the tram as a key element of transport infrastructure. There should also be an addition at the end of paragraph 74 to emphasise that the housing investment programme must reflect the geography of affordable housing need that is described in that paragraph and the surrounding paragraphs.

It is not just Edinburgh in general that is not given proper recognition in the national planning framework, but the waterfront in particular, much of which is in my constituency. The waterfront should be included in the list in paragraph 57 of key locations that offer substantial strategic growth potential.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Bearing in mind the fact that we are talking about a spatial planning document, can the member tell me whether he has in mind any planning issues associated with Edinburgh's waterfront? If so, I hope that I will be able to respond.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

There will be lots of planning issues. The whole point of the national planning framework is to identify sites of national strategic importance. I believe that the list in paragraph 57 does that and that the waterfront should be added to it. I also believe that it should be in the list in paragraph 184 of areas where co-ordinated action is needed in the national interest.

It is astonishing that, in the assessment matrix document, we are told that the waterfront is not an infrastructure project. The fact of the matter is that the waterfront requires a substantial infrastructure package, and national planning framework documents should reflect the infrastructure that is needed. That will involve road networks, drainage, public rail and the tram—which I have already mentioned—as well as new lock gates at Leith for smaller vessels and the renewal of coastal defences. I could go on.

The council has been in discussions with the Scottish Government about the matter and has estimated that public infrastructure investment of just under £500 million is required for the waterfront to realise its full potential. It also estimates that that public sector spending would unlock private sector investment of £6 billion. Tax increment financing has been proposed by the council as a way of financing that infrastructure. I hope that the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth will sympathetically consider the council's proposals. The main point at issue is the fact that the framework should recognise the waterfront as a key location for which infrastructure development is crucial.

Finally, the following words should be added to the fifth sentence of paragraph 186:

"and help to regenerate adjacent communities."

In describing the waterfront—albeit inadequately—NPF 2 does not recognise the waterfront's important role in regenerating the existing communities in Pilton, Granton and Leith.

The cabinet secretary referred to participation in his recent speech and invoked Planning Aid for Scotland in defence of the consultation process. All that we can say in response to that is that there are different views, which are reflected in the committee's report. For example, although Veronica Burbridge of the Royal Town Planning Institute believed that the early stages of the consultation were satisfactory, she pointed out that the consultation was completely unsatisfactory in relation to the national developments. Those developments are crucial, because their need will be established by the framework, and there will be no other opportunity for communities to involve themselves in the discussion of need.

There are, of course, stronger critiques of the participation work. The Buckingham, Hamilton and Ruskin Association is quoted on page 17 of the committee's report. Most significantly, my constituent Clare Symonds undertook a comprehensive analysis and critique of the whole process, which was presented to the committee. Members should take that critique very seriously. The fact is that we are in the early stages of doing planning consultation and participation satisfactorily. Great strides have been made in planning legislation to flag up the importance of consultation and participation, but we should be realistic and accept the fact that we do not yet know how to do that in a totally adequate way.

The recommendations in Clare Symonds's report should be taken seriously. Some say, "Oh, but she only talked to 11 people," but the 11 people were involved. Also, Ms Symonds made 54 freedom of information requests. Her conclusions stand up to scrutiny. For example, she points out that the participation statement says that there should be wide representation of all groups, including groups from the community sector and various equality groups. She does not feel that that criterion was met.

The participation statement should have made clear at an early stage how people could get involved. It failed on that front. There are lessons to be learned; let us learn them.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 3:45 pm, 5th March 2009

It is interesting to come to this debate following the brief inquiry of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, and to consider the issues from that particular and peculiar point of view. I am a member of that committee, and I would like to discuss a couple of issues, based on our experience.

Any Government that introduces any kind of national planning framework opens a can of worms that leads to the kind of criticism and debate that we are seeing today. Once any list is drawn up, there will be no shortage of politicians who believe that some things have been included that should not be included, and that some things are not included that should be included. So here we are, having the debate.

Following the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee's inquiry and the evidence that we heard, I feel that some question marks hang over the consultation and participation. I will not take a position on either side of the argument; all I will say is that opinions were expressed about both the effectiveness and the lack of effectiveness of the consultation process. Rather than panic about that, politicians and the Government should continue to consider what a consultation process should be. Previous Governments have gone to great lengths to consult to death about everything. We have now evolved a structure for consultation. It seems to follow a recognisable and acceptable pattern, but, in the end, just as many people as ever feel that they have not been consulted. Perhaps we rely too often on the usual suspects.

Getting people to participate in consultations—ordinary people who will suffer from the disadvantages or benefit from the advantages of any decisions—continues to be as difficult as ever. I ask the minister to take seriously the comments on consultation in the Local Government and Communities Committee's report, and in the contributions to it from the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee.

Moving on—and to participate in the same old arguments about what should and should not be on the list of national developments—I must mention high-speed rail. I do so not only because it is mentioned in the Labour Party amendment, but because in recent months it has become a topic of considerable discussion in the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee and beyond.

The need to develop high-speed rail is, of course, of national importance in a United Kingdom context. High-speed rail links from London to central Scotland are as important for the people of London as they are for the people of central Scotland. The links will displace air travel between the two points, thus improving the quality of the environment at both ends of the railway line, not only here in Scotland.

I understand the point that the Labour Party makes in its amendment, and I am happy to support it, if for no other reason than to ensure that high-speed rail is made a higher priority than it has been. The Conservative party supports that basic change in thinking.

Another point that came out in evidence to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee was that there is inconsistency between some of the objectives in NPF 2 and the climate change objectives that the Government has expressed generally and specifically in the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill, which the committee is currently considering. I do not object to there being inconsistencies, because, in the present difficult economic times, there may be more than one example of situations in which we have to choose between our climate change imperatives and the need for short-term recovery in the Scottish economy. However, I object to a Government that denies that a choice is being made and then tries to steer away from that particular argument.

There is no better example of that than the Government's clear decision to pursue clean coal technology—by suggesting that there should be coal-fired power stations with carbon capture readiness, whatever that means—rather than consider replacing our nuclear power stations. It is wholly inappropriate that that decision is clearly written in the framework document. As a consequence, I support the Conservative amendment.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Does the member accept that the opposition to nuclear power is a response to the environmental concerns that he has expressed?

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

I do not accept that at all. John Swinney has made it clear that he believes that the reasoning behind the decision is clearly understood. I clearly understand what the Government wants to achieve, but I do not understand the reasoning behind it. Nuclear power has delivered a great deal for Scotland. A new generation of nuclear power stations will deliver base-load capacity in a way that is cleaner, safer and more efficient than any other technology. Until the minister produces clear evidence that we can have a new generation of coal-fired power stations and that they will be guaranteed—

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I am afraid that the member's time is up. [ Interruption. ] The member should sit down. Members should not carry on talking when I start talking.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 3:51 pm, 5th March 2009

I welcome this stage in the development of our national planning framework. I recognise that, inevitably, it is imperfect and that, as we are undertaking Parliament's first real attempt to scrutinise the framework, there will be criticisms. I will deal with one or two of those criticisms.

I do not believe that the framers of the planning legislation thought that Parliament would be asked to endorse every national planning development. However, it just so happens that we have a minority Government and that it suits the politics of the occasion for people to seek that. That concerns me. We have a Government that is elected to govern and the legislation was set out to allow that to happen, with wide scrutiny.

Talking of scrutiny, the criticisms of the way in which the consultation was carried out are important. Dr Iain Docherty, in evidence to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, stated:

"For many years, Governments—not just in Scotland but in the United Kingdom and further afield—have struggled to build consultation processes that are genuinely public and that bring in a wide variety of voices."—[Official Report, Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, 6 January 2009; c 1225.]

We all agree with that. However, as Malcolm Rifkind alluded to with regard to Clare Symonds's report, she spoke to very few people. The intemperate language in that report did not help the consideration of how the process should proceed.

I welcome the major document that is before us, as it is an all-Scotland one. Some people have put their interests ahead of others in proposing developments that they think should be in the framework. However, at long last, we are seeing measures that will support the clean energy developments in the far north. The development of the Pentland Firth as an area for co-ordinated action on clean energy can go ahead. The planning framework points to the importance of that development in relation to our efforts to reduce emissions and tackle climate change. If we do not go ahead with that development, in the medium to longer term, we will have bigger problems than we think.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

Not at the moment, thank you.

The Scapa Flow transhipment development in Orkney puts the north of Scotland—which was ignored by many transport projects of the past—into the planning framework for Scotland for the first time. That kind of thinking might allow us to be a Parliament for the whole of Scotland, now that we have a Government for the whole of Scotland.

We can see from the approaches that have been taken to upgrading the railways towards Inverness that that has been ignored until now. To suggest that the Halbeath exercise, which is important if we are to link up parts of the central belt with points further north, should be added should not take away from the fact that we need to deliver quickly the time savings that can be made on journeys between, for example, Aberdeen and Inverness and Perth and Inverness.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

I do not have time.

On the development of the high-speed rail network, the Scottish National Party's manifesto mentioned that positively. Across this chamber, we have people who believe that the high-speed rail network should be a priority. However, that is one very good example of the fact that projects come along out of phase with the creation of the national planning framework, as is the rebuild of the Beauly to Denny power line.

On that issue, I point out to people who lobby us from organisations such as Highlands before Pylons that the transmission of electricity from the north of Scotland to the centre and the south relies on land transmission and, eventually, on undersea transmission. We cannot have one without the other, because the process of expanding our clean power development relies on those upgrades. I am delighted that the east-coast upgrades and the one from Dounreay to Beauly are included in the NPF.

We are beginning to get a rational view of what the parts of Scotland that have often been ignored can contribute to the national picture.

With regard to the Conservative amendment's call for the removal of any technology-specific references, I should say that I led the minority in the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee that stood by the non-nuclear policy. It is great to see the potential that there is for us to have a Scottish planning framework, not a north British one, which is what the Tory amendment smacks of. We should play to Scotland's major strengths. With 40 per cent of Europe's renewable energy sources in Scotland, why would we not make them our priority? We have heard a lot of arguments about base-load. In that regard, I point out that we will be having an energy inquiry that will be able to deliver on that issue. Having moved on from smokestack socialism, we can also leave behind north British planning views and get on with creating a Scottish picture that plays to Scotland's strengths. I welcome the framework's essential focus on that end.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour 3:57 pm, 5th March 2009

A number of areas of the region that I represent feature in the national planning framework. Scapa Flow remains a site of not only national but international importance. The same features that made Scapa Flow a haven during wartime also give it peacetime potential, as it has deep water, is sheltered and is also to the north of our nation. The trans-shipment hub that is sought for Scapa Flow would be enormously important and of international significance. It could bring important development to Scotland and to Orkney in particular. I am pleased that the area is a priority in the NPF.

The Cromarty Firth was a significant wartime base for the same reasons that Scapa Flow was. It has continued to offer major economic development for the Highlands, particularly since the 1970s. It has an oil terminal, a rig construction base, rig repair facilities and now a cruise ship port, all of which feature in the local economy. Further, despite that development, it has some of the cleanest waters around our coast. However, the Cromarty Firth is not reaching its full potential by any means. It has a significant amount more to offer.

Nigg, within the Cromarty Firth, sits at the heart of the largest skills base in the UK's energy sector. Within easy travel distance of Nigg, we have Scotland's hydro, wind and nuclear expertise. We do not have a lot of time in which to ensure that the skills of the current generation of experts transfer to the next generation. If the right kind of development takes place, Nigg and the wider Cromarty Firth can help to ensure that that transfer happens. There must be high-skilled development, not just breakers yards. The Nigg dry dock is of national importance, as it is the only facility of its kind in the United Kingdom. Indeed, it is arguably the best such facility in Europe. We need a socially responsible owner of that facility if we are to develop its full potential.

I am disappointed that the Cromarty Firth and Nigg do not feature more strongly in the NPF. I hope that the Government will nevertheless address those issues and allow developments to happen.

Another area, Argyll and Bute, would like to have featured more in the NPF. I have had representations from the local council on that, particularly in relation to its disappointment at the fact that the subsea cable from Hunterston to Carradale does not feature in the NPF. The council believes that it should, and I hope that the Government will re-examine the matter.

If such a cable—and if cables elsewhere in the Highlands and Islands, which are mentioned in the NPF—existed, Argyll and Bute and the wider Highlands and Islands would be offered the chance to contribute even more fully to meeting the national renewables objectives. Subsea cables in general need to be given the priority that they deserve. There are potential environmental benefits from the subsea system in comparison with landline transmission in the longer term.

The Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and the west coast of the Highlands all have the potential to make a greater contribution to renewables targets, but that energy needs to be transported. I hope that the Government will give the necessary priority to subsea infrastructure over time.

I have received representations on the big issues—the potential of Scapa and the Cromarty Firth, and of Argyll and Bute and the wider Highlands in relation to subsea cables—seeking their inclusion in the national planning framework. Part of people's motivation in seeking inclusion in the framework is to ease the path of development.

However, that contrasts substantially with the opposite views that I have heard from a number of my constituents, who are deeply concerned about the impact on their community of its being mentioned in the NPF. They feel that that is a way of shortcutting planning procedures and full democratic scrutiny. I refer to the mention in the NPF of the A96 corridor between Inverness and Nairn, and the Tornagrain development in particular. I have personal reservations about that development as an adjacent resident. Lest anyone feels that I have not declared an interest, I make that clear to Parliament.

Inverness has been one of the most successful communities in Scotland in recent decades. It needs to continue to expand, which means that more land is needed for development. The A96 corridor has been identified by Highland Council as a strategic corridor for development, and that is recognised in the NPF. However, that is where the problem lies for the constituents who have made representations to me. They are deeply concerned that their right to take part in and influence planning decisions is to some extent being compromised by the very existence of a mention of Tornagrain in the NPF before the area has even been approved as a zone for development in the local development plan.

My constituents feel that the consultation on the national planning framework, which other members have mentioned, is inadequate.

Photo of Peter Peacock Peter Peacock Labour

I would be grateful if I could get through this issue—perhaps the minister will pick up on it when he replies to the debate.

My constituents believe that if the purpose of the NPF is effectively to ease the passage of certain specific developments that figure in the final framework, the consultation is not adequate. There is a genuine dilemma: if figuring a development into the NPF is a means of easing the planning process, some will feel that their rights are compromised. For others, however, the attraction of having a development mentioned in the NPF is the easing of that process.

The genuine concerns of some of those whom I represent need to be addressed if the status and worth of the NPF are not to be undermined. I would be grateful if the minister could clarify the Government's position on that. Can my constituents expect that the local development planning process will continue, unaffected by the mention of the development in the NPF? Will the potential for a public inquiry also be unaffected? Does the mention of a specific development in the NPF predetermine that the local development plan will contain that development? Will such a mention be a material consideration for ministers when they finally reach a decision on specific applications? I would be grateful if the minister could answer those questions.

I have not had time to mention the Western Isles and the A82, as I would have liked to have done, but I will come back to those issues on another occasion.

Photo of Jim Tolson Jim Tolson Liberal Democrat 4:04 pm, 5th March 2009

National planning framework 2 is one of the most important documents that the Government will bring before the Parliament—it is certainly much more important than any waffle about an independence referendum.

One of the main issues that arose in the evidence sessions in the Local Government and Communities Committee—of which I am a member—was the severe lack of consultation. I know that the minister will say that the Government has bent over backwards on consultation. However, it is not only members of the Opposition in the Parliament but many groups and individuals outwith the Parliament who have expressed their deep concerns about the poor consultation. In that respect, the Government does not seem to be a listening Government.

It is a disgrace that the Government gave only one day's notice of the publication date of the discussion draft. To make matters worse, it published the document just before the Christmas recess. Such a blatant attempt to minimise the flak would have had captain Salmond, first officer Swinney—who has left the ship—and the rest of the motley crew shouting from the rafters if it had happened when they were in opposition.

Before the Government protests too much, I remind it that it is a minority Government that is beginning to display publicly qualities that many of us in the Parliament have known that it possesses for some time. Complacency, secrecy and failure are sure-fire ways for a Government to be rejected by the electorate and put on a fast train to opposition.

The only area in which the Government has admitted to any prioritisation is the replacement of the Forth road bridge. I am sure that it is no accident that that project had the number 1 slot in both the discussion draft and the proposed framework. That is quite right—not because the new bridge will fall within my Dunfermline West constituency, but because the loss of, or reduced access to, the present Forth road bridge would devastate the economy of eastern Scotland. However, the Government should not be afraid to get things right for fear of getting things wrong. There is no excuse for refusing to give at least an indicative prioritisation of the other national developments.

Some of the Government's actions would be funny if the issue was not so serious. For example, the Government's plans to finance the replacement Forth crossing have taken it from the hugely discredited Scottish Futures Trust to holding out the begging bowl to Westminster for money that is not even available. Only yesterday, the Westminster Government offered the new bridge a £1 billion lifeline, yet after begging for that money, the Scottish Government has been strangely silent. Is that political posturing or poor governance? I will let you decide, Presiding Officer.

Another of the Government's national priorities lies within my constituency—the proposed international container terminal at Rosyth. Given that four of the 12 priorities in the proposed framework relate to container facilities, one might reasonably ask why there is such a focus on container traffic, particularly during a global recession.

On a recent visit to the Forth Ports Grangemouth facility, a senior manager told me that container traffic in Scotland is forecast to grow from the present quarter of a million units a year to nearly two million in a decade. It was strange that he admitted that point to me while giving me a presentation on why the Grangemouth facility should grow at the expense of the Rosyth proposal. I do not deny that there is room for expansion and that there should indeed be expansion at Grangemouth. However, if someone speaks out strongly against Babcock Marine's Rosyth proposal, that might reflect their concerns about a new kid on the block rather than an acceptance that more than sufficient expansion is likely in Scotland.

With an easily accessible deep-water facility, Babcock's proposal would make good use of a facility that was originally designed to refit Trident nuclear submarines, but it would also greatly benefit the Scottish economy if we had container facilities feeding the central belt from both the north and south sides of the Forth. There is also potential to create some much-needed employment locally. Those are the main reasons why I have supported Babcock's proposal in the Parliament.

I noted recently that Cathy Peattie had submitted a large number of parliamentary questions in which she questioned the need for a container terminal at Rosyth. Today, I read with interest the minister's answers, which were published earlier this week. At no point in his answers do I detect any concern about the need for a container terminal at Rosyth. I therefore ask the minister to clarify when he sums up that Babcock Marine's proposal for a container terminal at Rosyth is a vital link in ensuring the future growth of Scotland's economy, and that to regard the proposal otherwise is narrow-minded and self-serving in the extreme.

The Government's NPF 2 is a vitally important document for Scotland's future, but it could have been a lot better if it had been properly consulted on. The earlier publication of information such as the matrix would have made analysis of NPF 2 more effective. I hope that the Government will show a little humility and admit that its report card on NPF 2 should read, "Could have done better."

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party 4:09 pm, 5th March 2009

The second national planning framework outlines a vision of the Scotland that we want to see develop in the next 25 years, with sustainable economic growth at its heart. The document was two years in the making, and although there are, no doubt, lessons to be learned regarding the consultation process, much effort was made to engage with the widest possible audience of stakeholders and the public.

NPF 2 will play a crucial part in modernising Scotland's planning system. The Confederation of British Industry Scotland estimates that

"Scotland's cumbersome planning system costs the country £600 million a year", so there are clearly serious issues that need to be addressed.

Designation of a development as nationally significant is not a means of fast tracking or avoiding scrutiny of controversial decisions, but a means of streamlining the process. It allows one line to be drawn under one aspect of the debate—general need—but the details of each proposal will still be open for much further public scrutiny as the process continues.

The seven transport projects that are included in the 12 national developments will play a vital role in improving Scotland's creaking infrastructure, enhancing public transport links as well as developing our potential to move from road to rail and sea. They are also crucial to maintaining and building Scotland's international connectivity, without which we cannot hope to compete with our European neighbours.

The need for a replacement Forth crossing has already been debated at length. Almost everyone agrees that it is vital that that economically important link is retained for the economy of the east coast of Scotland. We cannot allow the maintenance of a crucial transport link to be left to chance; I agree with that part of Jim Tolson's speech, although little else. The proposal emphasises the need to move away from the private car to public transport, with the creation of a dedicated public transport crossing.

One of the most controversial developments that the document proposes for the Lothians is airport enhancements. Edinburgh airport has become Scotland's busiest airport, but its current infrastructure is not fit for purpose—it is in no way an international business and tourism gateway of which we can be proud. The focus of that national development in NPF 2 is on improving surface access to the airport, especially by public transport. We should be clear about the fact that the document includes no proposals for building a second runway.

Although it is important to have transport hubs that are fit for the 21st century, it is also important that Scotland's aviation and shipping emissions are included in the statutory targets that will be set by the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill; there will be no special pleading for aviation. I welcome the Scottish Government's commitment on the issue.

Photo of Shirley-Anne Somerville Shirley-Anne Somerville Scottish National Party

I am afraid that I must refuse, as I have already been told that I have one minute less than I thought I had.

One of the most important elements of the framework is what is omitted from the document—nuclear energy. I am delighted that the Government has reiterated its belief that there is no place for nuclear power in Scotland's future. As Alison McInnes pointed out, the construction of any nuclear power station in Scotland would inevitably drain funds away from the research and development of renewable technology. At a time when Scotland has the opportunity to set itself up as a renewables powerhouse of Europe, with the development of natural resources and scientific and engineering skills to harness our potential, how sad it is that some politicians in other parties want to throw that all away.

Nuclear energy has both high costs and high risks; it is not the solution that will deliver a low-carbon future. We can and will achieve secure, clean, low-carbon energy by harnessing Scotland's vast green potential and tackling climate change without adding to the burden of toxic radioactive waste.

In 2006, the Labour-led Executive stated in response to a parliamentary question on future national planning frameworks that it

"will not support the further development of nuclear power stations while waste management issues remain unresolved."—[Official Report, Written Answers, 11 April 2006; S2W-24498.]

With the costs of dealing with existing waste soaring, and with Greenpeace research reporting that waste from the new generation of nuclear reactors is up to seven times as hazardous as that from previous reactors, where does Labour stand now? We expect the Tories to be taken in by the nuclear lobby, but what about Scottish Labour?

I know that many Labour members are uncomfortable with the leadership's obsession with nuclear. As Labour's environment spokesman Sarah Boyack stated in a parliamentary motion,

"the argument for new nuclear build in the United Kingdom has not been made".

SNP members continue to believe that; I hope that Sarah Boyack and a number of her colleagues, who, to be fair, have stood up in that debate in the past, will support the Scottish Government's position today.

In summary, the national planning framework is a well-considered document that makes an important contribution to tackling the economic, social and environmental challenges that Scotland will face in the coming years. By ruling out nuclear power and powering ahead with renewables, we can build a greener future for Scotland.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour 4:14 pm, 5th March 2009

I support the Labour amendment.

The Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee states that it is

"essential that further work is carried out in advance of the preparation of the next NPF to develop initiatives to increase the levels of engagement by the wider public" and that

"Such steps would ... have potential to benefit for public consultation exercises across all policy areas."

The Local Government and Communities Committee report notes, committees

"considered the key objectives of the NPF2 as they relate to economic growth, sustainability and the contribution to climate change targets."

There can be few more pressing matters globally or locally than the current state of the economy or our climate for the next century. Those matters are so important that few aspects of Government policy or action can be divorced from them.

Many of the proposed developments are important because of their contribution to economic growth, which may be combined with social benefits, as with the Commonwealth games. However, other issues are more contentious. There are clearly question marks around the sustainability and wisdom of expanding airports while tackling climate change; and the pros and cons of different forms of energy generation are guaranteed to raise the debate's temperature, as we have heard.

Any policy or development that can tick the boxes of being good for the economy and good for the environment must surely be a priority. I would place in that category measures to transfer passenger and freight traffic to more environmentally friendly forms of transport; enhance rail and shipping facilities; integrate transport; and promote and improve roads and pathways for walkers and cyclists. I therefore support moves to improve cycle paths, enhance pedestrian access, extend rail provision and further develop freight hubs, such as the port of Grangemouth in my constituency.

Grangemouth is already the busiest port in Scotland, but I understand that it has significant spare capacity and room for growth. For example, the port would benefit from improved links to the motorway network, as would local people and the local economy. I am proud to say that the community in Grangemouth has come together with local businesses and elected representatives to push for such improvements. That is an excellent example of people working together, and I hope that the minister will accept my invitation to discuss with them the importance of Grangemouth to the economy and environment of Scotland.

Committee witnesses were asked for their views on the sense of duplicating existing provision at Grangemouth with a new container terminal at Rosyth. It may well be that, with the right support from the Scottish Government, sufficient container traffic will be generated to justify both. However, I note the unhelpful response to my parliamentary question on research into the increase needed in container capacity:

"No such research has been undertaken by the Scottish Government. It is for the ports industry to respond to anticipated demand based on market conditions and commercial considerations."—[Official Report, Written Answers, 2 March 2009; S3W-20711.]

What is the point of a national planning framework if the assessments and the important decisions are to be left to the whim of the market—a solution that has become laughable and discredited in recent months?

There is something to be said for the suggestion in the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee's report on NPF 2 that there should be

"an open, Scotland-wide consideration of need for port expansion, taking into account existing facilities, their location and future capacity as part of this process."

My committee therefore called on the Scottish Government

"to continue dialogue with Forth Ports ... and ... take into account the views of all interested parties."

The national planning framework is welcome, but it is important that it does not become a wish list. The environment cannot wait until 2017. The improvements in the NPF that are essential to action on climate change must be tackled as soon as possible. Scotland and the rest of the world simply cannot wait.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 4:18 pm, 5th March 2009

This morning, the Parliament debated a motion titled "Scottish Government Failures". Understandably, it prompted some scathing speeches from Labour members, and some glowing ones from the SNP about how near to perfection the Government is. The reality, of course, is somewhat different. Governments have strengths and weaknesses, and even some of the worst have a few saving graces. However, the clearest signs of failure in government in the face of the climate crisis, the economic crisis and the impending energy crisis are, I am sad to say, shared across most of the political parties in the chamber, and many of them are to be found in the annex to NPF 2.

During the previous session of Parliament, I argued for a number of changes to the planning legislation that underpins the national planning framework and gives ministers the power to designate national developments. In particular, I wanted a more intensive period of parliamentary scrutiny, reflecting the importance of the national planning framework and its impact on communities throughout Scotland. I also wanted a process of examination in public to allow the arguments to be put in a formal manner before a plan is adopted, recognising that, even with the best public consultation processes—which, of course, have not been used in this instance—many people will not even be aware of the framework, let alone make a response to it. Crucially, I argued that the power to make the final decisions should remain with the Parliament and not be handed to ministers. Despite raising the prospect of a future minority Government, I was unable to persuade the Government of the day that it should take seriously that fear.

Much of the document, as ministers describe it, is a mere expression of Government policy. That is not the case, however, with the proposed national developments. They represent the Government's clear intention to give planning status to those developments in a way that has not been done before.

I recognise the work of the Local Government and Communities Committee in producing the report. My committee and the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee also contributed to the scrutiny process. However, I have to say how disappointed I am and how much I disagree with the Local Government and Communities Committee's decision not to comment on the national developments in its final report, or even in the motion that is before us today. Doing so would have allowed members to vote on the issue.

Just weeks after the Parliament passed overwhelmingly what all parties agreed was a business-as-usual budget in climate change terms, we look set to give majority approval to a report on a framework that contains the most environmentally damaging developments that Scotland has seen in at least a generation. We will have new coal-fired power stations, but without the carbon capture and storage systems that I am sure the minister wishes he could offer. The new stations will merely have car parks that are big enough to fit such systems if ever they should prove workable.

The additional Forth road bridge is now explicitly a road-only crossing and an addition, not a replacement, for the existing bridge—at a time when the chief engineer at the bridge is saying clearly that his confidence in its preservation is high. It is clear that the new crossing will result in an increase in total road capacity over the Forth. No minister will find it politically possible to keep the existing bridge as a public transport-only crossing once angry queues start to grow at the entrance to the new crossing.

Airport expansion is a crucial issue. I admit that we are not talking about new runways, which the Liberal Democrats in charge of the City of Edinburgh Council are now demanding. Nonetheless, the Government is planning increased capacity to cope with rising levels of air travel, and that in the face of climate change.

Every political party seems now to be proud of its environmental rhetoric. Every party also seems likely to sign up to the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill in the coming weeks and months. The question remains, however, whether any party, other than the Greens, is willing to put a stop to the Government's disastrous proposals that will so undermine that effort.

The Labour Party's amendment is admirable and I will, of course, support it. That said, Labour members have put themselves in the same position as their colleagues at Westminster, which is to both support high-speed rail and try to force through an additional runway at Heathrow airport. The Labour Party's answer seems to be to ask for more of everything—an answer that will ultimately prove to be nonsensical.

I cannot agree that the report, which contains no final judgment on the national developments, should form the basis of the Parliament's response to the Government. I deeply regret that the Parliament has been given no opportunity to approve or disapprove the national developments by way of a vote. Members who oppose the national developments should say so openly and those who support them in the face of the climate crisis should not get away with quietly nodding them through.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat 4:23 pm, 5th March 2009

The debate has been an interesting and valuable one on an important issue.

Given that the Parliament demanded the right to scrutinise the national planning framework, it is right for it to do so. That scrutiny has taken place not only in today's debate but at the three committees that considered and reported on the framework document. I am happy to add my appreciation to that of other members for the work of the lead committee, the Local Government and Communities Committee, as well as the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee and, of course, the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, of which I am convener. I place on record my committee's thanks to those who gave evidence and to our ever-excellent clerking team, who helped to produce an excellent report in a very short timescale.

However, I have to say at the outset that it does nothing to enhance the reputation of the Parliament for any MSP to quote selectively from, paraphrase, or reinterpret recommendations of committees of the Parliament. Let me be clear that the recommendation of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee is not as stated in the Conservative motion, nor can it be interpreted in the way that David McLetchie and other Conservative and Labour members have done in the debate and in the press.

For the record, the full and unadulterated recommendation of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee is this:

"At this stage, the Committee believes that it is too early for the Scottish Government to be technology specific in the case of candidate national developments N° 8 and 9 as the preferred technological solutions have still to prove their commercial viability on a large-scale. We recommend that the Scottish Government makes reference to the policy objective and principle behind these projects in the NPF2 report itself and removes any technology specific references from these candidate national developments".

I highlight that it recommends that the Government

"makes reference to the policy objective and principle".

Let me spell it out: no new nuclear power in Scotland is a policy objective that is clearly spelled out in paragraph 152 of the NPF 2 document. Renewable energy targets are a policy objective and reducing carbon emissions is a policy objective, but carbon capture and storage is not—it is a potential means to achieve the policy objective, but it is not a policy objective in itself.

It is self-evident that a new coal-fired power station, such as the one proposed for Hunterston, or new or refurbished power stations at Longannet, Cockenzie or Boddam, cannot meet the policy objective of reducing carbon emissions, and hence meeting climate change targets, unless the carbon that they create can be captured and stored. However, the technology for carbon capture and storage on a commercial scale is as yet unproven, and the committee was concerned that NPF 2 appears to include as candidate national developments coal-fired power stations that need only to be carbon capture ready rather than carbon capture operative—Patrick Harvie made a fair point about that. That could have the impact of increasing carbon emissions in Scotland.

That is why we challenged the technology-specific nature of the candidate projects, why the recommendation in paragraph 71 of our report has to be considered in full and in the context of our full report, and why it cannot be interpreted as opening the door for new nuclear power in Scotland.

I will now turn to more general matters, but I will start with Hunterston as an example. One of the weaknesses of the process that we have just gone through is the lack of transparency in how projects become candidate national developments. Hunterston was not on the radar when the draft NPF 2 was published for consultation last year, as it was not one of the then nine candidate developments set out for consultation. The public therefore had no opportunity to comment on whether Hunterston is an appropriate national development before its inclusion in the document that was laid for formal consideration in the Parliament. As David McLetchie highlighted, once a project is included as a national development, its need for national development status is taken as a given, but the case has not yet been tested by public consultation.

We must be entitled to ask where the project came from, what consultation the Government carried out before proposing it as a national development, what strategic environmental assessments have been done and what alternatives were considered. For example, a programme of decentralised power generation and combined heat and power schemes, as opposed to following the traditional approach of large centralised power generation, might be a more appropriate model for the future.

I presume that similar issues could be raised in relation to other candidate national developments that appeared between the discussion draft being published and the proposed framework being laid before Parliament. I would welcome the minister's thoughts on how such schemes find their way on to the list.

I would welcome an explanation from the minister of why west of Scotland strategic rail enhancements are deemed to be national developments but east of Scotland ones are not. Indeed, why is the most important strategic rail enhancement—a high-speed rail link to London—not included as a national development?

I agree with Local Government and Communities Committee's conclusion that it

"is not clear whether some national developments that are listed are simply Scottish Government aspirations rather than firm commitments".

A weakness of NPF 2 is that, throughout the narrative, there is confusion between the committed and the aspirational. We need to get the action plan published and I can only hope that it will clarify some of the issues to do with what is committed and what is aspirational and that it will set clear timescales for when the Government expects developments in the framework to take place.

Finally, I take the opportunity to thank the Conservatives for their amendment this evening, as it gives the Parliament the opportunity, by voting for the Liberal Democrat amendment, to once again reaffirm its opposition to new nuclear power stations in Scotland.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative 4:29 pm, 5th March 2009

Methinks the member doth protest too much.

In broad terms, we welcome NPF 2 and we hope that it will live up to the aspiration that it will

"play a key role in co-ordinating policies with a spatial dimension and aligning strategic investment priorities."

We welcome, too, the reports of the Local Government and Communities Committee and two other parliamentary committees.

Planning has been important in Scotland for a number of years. CBI Scotland thinks that the system costs the Scottish economy £600 million every year. The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee took evidence from the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland, which said that only 45 per cent of planning applications in Scotland are turned round within two months, although the target is to turn round 80 per cent of applications in that time. Members should contrast that record with the position south of the border, where approximately 70 per cent of planning applications are turned round within two months. Much more needs to be done and NPF 2 is an important part of moving the process forward.

In the Conservative amendment, we fully endorse the position that the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee took in relation to national energy developments. Iain Smith read out the committee's recommendation most eloquently and it is crystal clear. The committee recommended that the Government remove

"any technology specific references from these candidate national developments".

That clear statement was supported by the committee's comment that it

"believes that it is too early for the Scottish Government to be technology specific in the case of candidate national developments N° 8 and 9".

There is no play on words in the recommendation, the meaning of which is perfectly clear. Even more important, the recommendation is almost directly aligned with the evidence that the committee heard. Mr Smith listened to three hours of testimony from representatives of CBI Scotland, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the Scottish Trades Union Congress, all of whom said the same thing about the technology-specific references in NPF 2. What the committee voted to put in its report reflected the evidence that it heard. Mr Smith should be sincere and accept that he perhaps made a mistake and voted the wrong way in the committee, as opposed to trying to weasel his way out of the situation by giving the recommendation a range of rather bizarre meanings.

Photo of Iain Smith Iain Smith Liberal Democrat

Let me say on the record that I made no mistake. I knew exactly what I was voting for, and I was not voting for new nuclear power stations in Scotland.

Photo of Gavin Brown Gavin Brown Conservative

I accept that the member was not voting in favour of new nuclear power stations in Scotland. However, he was voting in favour of the removal of technology-specific references from the document—that is entirely separate. As he said, he knew exactly what he was voting for.

The recommendation reflects a balanced approach to a balanced energy mix. It would be unwise to rule out nuclear power at this stage, for a range of reasons. I will not go into those reasons now; that debate is for another day. I will say only that Scotland is currently a net exporter of electricity and I want the situation to remain that way.

The call in our amendment for the removal of technology-specific references in relation to projects 8 and 9 is particularly important given what the Council of Economic Advisers, whose members were all hand picked by the Scottish Government, has said. I commend the Government for setting up the council and I urge it to listen to what the experts say. They are an extremely impressive bunch of people, who have experience in industry and academia—some are world renowned in some quarters. The council made it clear in its annual report in December 2008 that a full, independent review of energy options is required. The council had called for such a review last June, but the Government sat on its hands for seven months before announcing in January that it would commission the review. If the Government had listened to the council last June, we might already have a report on energy and we might be capable of making a balanced decision. I ask the Government not to prejudge the review, which was suggested by serious business and economic advisers. It is ludicrous to include technology-specific references in relation to projects 8 and 9 before we have the result of the independent review; if that is done, the review is in effect redundant. I urge the Government to remove the references.

It is worth stressing, as the Local Government and Communities Committee did, that there is an issue to do with the delivery of projects. There is no priority or timetable for completion in the document. When that point was put to him in the Local Government and Communities Committee, Mr Stevenson said:

"If the funds become available and there is the commitment in the private sector and capacity in the civil engineering sector, all of them can proceed in parallel."—[Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee, 21 January 2009; c 1589.]

If everything is a priority, in practice nothing becomes a priority. I ask the minister to give us greater clarity on that when he sums up.

We broadly welcome much of what is in NPF 2, but it is inappropriate to have technology-specific references. Therefore, I support the Conservative amendment.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The debate has been interesting and has produced a degree of consensus, which I perhaps had not—

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I have to apologise, Mr Stevenson. I should have called John Park.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I am sorry. My eyes are playing up. I call John Park, who has six minutes.

Photo of John Park John Park Labour 4:35 pm, 5th March 2009

I thought for a minute that I had inherited Harry Potter's invisibility cloak, but never mind.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Mr Park can sum up for the Government.

Photo of John Park John Park Labour

I was going to welcome the opportunity for Mr Stevenson to close on behalf of the Labour Party.

I add my thanks to the committee members and the clerks for pulling together a considerable piece of work. There is much to welcome in the Local Government and Communities Committee report and the national planning framework itself. I declare an interest in that five of the proposed projects are within 15 miles of my doorstep: at Rosyth, Grangemouth, Edinburgh airport and Longannet and—I hope—over the Forth.

Those of us who represent industrial areas in particular recognise the importance of early community awareness of large-scale projects of the nature that we have discussed today. As Duncan McNeil and Des McNulty said, concerns have been raised about the limited consultation, which was largely confined to statutory consultees and larger organisations. People want to understand the implications, both positive and negative, for the area in which they live. That is why I believe that early engagement with wider community interests is vital. I heard the point that John Swinney made, but I have received correspondence on this matter from constituents. There are already concerns among the general public about the lack of consultation, which Malcolm Chisholm highlighted far more eloquently than I can.

We need skilled people to make the projects happen. The projects that are set out by the Government are significant and we need to ensure that we have the skilled workers to build the infrastructure. There are concerns in the construction sector that we are losing out on a new generation of workers. The skills gaps that existed a year ago, when we went into the current economic downturn, will be just as bad, and perhaps worse, when the economy starts to pick up. The type of projects that we are talking about will drive that recovery.

Cathy Peattie made a good point when she expressed concern about the available capacity for a container terminal at Rosyth and developments at Grangemouth. In close proximity to the development at Rosyth will be a new Forth crossing and there will be two new aircraft carriers. In response to Rob Gibson's comment that the NPF 2 is a Scottish solution, I point out that UK contracts are coming into the mix. We have to consider the people whom we are going to need to deliver these projects. Work is going to be carried out at Longannet and there will be a new Forth crossing. That is a huge planning challenge and a huge challenge in terms of finding the people whom we will need to meet it. That is why we need to ensure that we sustain the number of skilled workers in employment. We cannot afford to lose capacity. I am pleased that the recent budget focused on that area. That issue is not just a Scottish issue; it is a UK and Europe-wide issue. That is why we have to consider ways of involving employers in some of the decisions. Although I acknowledge the policy base of the document, it is understandable that concerns have been raised about the lack of clarity on funding, timetabling, prioritisation and the utilisation of skills.

We saw a similar approach taken in respect of the strategic transport projects review, which has provided more questions than answers. It is important that the Government fleshes out all the proposals in a way that will ensure that Parliament can play its role in the future.

I support fully the committee's recommendation that the Government should encourage greater engagement with the private sector, which will be vital to maximise the framework's effectiveness. We welcome that suggestion. That relationship should also seek to deliver wider economic objectives on skills, climate change and innovation.

Labour will support the Scottish Conservatives' amendment to the motion, but not the Liberal Democrats' one. In our view, it makes no sense to rule out any viable form of energy production at this stage. I am increasingly concerned that the debate on nuclear power is focused more on the comfort blanket of subjective opinion polls than on the real issue of security of supply. I agree with David McLetchie and Gavin Brown, who both argued that there should not be a presumption against any form of energy production, which is a good point, given that the Scottish Government is tendering for a project to provide an independent view of the viability of the various energy sources that are available.

I was pleased that the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee's report, which was published last Friday, recommended the development of a high-speed rail link between Scotland and London. As Des McNulty pointed out, the report highlights the huge potential of such a link for our economy and for the climate change agenda. I welcome the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change's keenness to work with the UK Government on the issue. I am sure that other members agree that it is only through such co-operation that a project of that nature will ever get off the ground, never mind be realised.

We await clarity on the proposals, both on the priorities and on the financial resources that will be required to deliver them. We also need clarity on the skills and the people whom we will need to deliver such projects. Collaboration with the UK Government is necessary on that issue, too.

Labour members look forward to holding the Government to account on those matters and on other aspects of its plans in the coming months. I am pleased to close the debate on behalf of Labour by declaring my support for the amendment in the name of Des McNulty.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 4:41 pm, 5th March 2009

It has often been said that one can never have too much of a good thing.

I thank Parliament for the speeches that have been made by members of all parties. It has genuinely been a debate in which there has been a large measure of agreement, if not unanimity. Nonetheless, members have raised quite a lot of substantive points, and I will attempt to deal with as many of them as I can in my concluding remarks. Those that I do not deal with will be taken account of as part of our review of everything that has been said in the Parliament. Peter Peacock asked if I could respond to any points that I did not deal with in my summing up by writing to him. I would be happy to do the same for anyone else who wishes me to, by interacting in what I hope is a consensual and inclusive manner.

Let me put the national planning framework in context. It is about taking forward the spatial aspects of the Government's economic strategy and fleshing out a number of our commitments on climate change, renewable energy and waste management. It sets a long-term vision for the spatial dimension and provides the opportunity to align strategic investment.

A number of members, starting with the Local Government and Communities Committee's convener, Duncan McNeil, raised the issue of consultation. I fully acknowledge that lessons can be learned every time we interact with the people whom we serve, and we will seek to do that. I make the general point that only on a few occasions has a Government sought to contact all the community councils in Scotland, even though they are statutory bodies. We had substantial engagement. Duncan McNeil asked for a debrief of inputs, which it is proper for us to consider.

In response to the point that the framework needs to be more flexible, I make the point that it contains 12 projects, four of which are public sector and eight of which are private sector. To some extent, we are creating a spatial framework for the future but, by and large, they ain't our projects. Others will have to progress them. Will we attach the appropriate priority to each of the projects as they come forward? Yes, of course we will. We have given pretty clear indications on the Forth crossing, the west of Scotland rail enhancements, the strategic drainage project in Glasgow and the 2014 Commonwealth games, for which we are responsible. The timetable for our projects is relatively well understood.

Des McNulty talked about finance and timing. Raising that is perfectly proper, but the document is of course about planning, so it would be unusual for it to talk about finance, which we will deal with in another way.

Des McNulty also focused on the west of Scotland rail infrastructure. I agree that including that in the framework is right because, if we are to deliver the infrastructure to include high-speed rail and the additional capacity that we want in the west of Scotland, significant infrastructure changes will be required in the Glasgow area.

Like other members, Des McNulty made a plea for more references to cycling, walking and microgeneration. We will see whether the final document can pick up those comments. He also suggested that opportunities for discussion had been lacking. I suspect that we will never stop feeling that we have more to say about this major subject.

Alison McInnes picked up on the north-east's expertise in carbon capture and on the geographic advantage of Peterhead power station, which is in our shared constituency. That power station is adjacent to the Miller sour-gas field, whose pipework makes it particularly appropriate for the sequestration of carbon dioxide.

Malcolm Chisholm—not Malcolm Rifkind, which one of my colleagues inadvertently called him, to my alarm—made several points. I make the general comment that many of Malcolm Chisholm's concerns relate to matters in which the planning system is already engaged. He threw in the lock gates at Leith. I must bring my family into every debate—that is compulsory—so I mention that my grandfather Alexander MacGregor was a lock gate keeper at Leith, so I might know more about the subject than the member imagines.

Malcolm Chisholm referred to Clare Symonds's interviews of 11 people who were involved in the consultation. We must give weight to what she said, because it was augmented by further research, but we must acknowledge that thousands of people were involved in the consultation.

Alex Johnstone, among others, mentioned high-speed rail. Several hundred flights a day take place between central Scotland and London. Everywhere that high-speed rail is introduced, the number of such flights withers. I suspect that we would be no different.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I am sorry—I do not have time.

Rob Gibson said that the framework was, inevitably, imperfect. I say that it is better to aim for perfection and miss than to aim for mediocrity and hit it bang on. I do not accept that the framework is imperfect, but we will always seek to do better—I see that that comment got the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth.

Rob Gibson also talked about Pentland Power, which is important.

Peter Peacock raised a wide range of issues, to some of which I will have to respond in writing. Scapa Flow is very important. He made interesting points about the Cromarty Firth. On the A96, I will supplement my answer at question time. The reference to Tornagrain does not short-circuit the planning process, because the project is not designated as a national development. We will consider everything that has been said about that.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

My intervention will be almost as brief as was the minister's reply to me at question time. Given that I received a one-word reply of "Yes", I seek further clarity in writing about Tornagrain.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

If the member wishes to have that, I am happy to write to her. We will pursue that later.

Shirley-Anne Somerville said that no second runway at Edinburgh airport is proposed. We will see, but we do not provide for that in the framework.

Patrick Harvie said that the replacement Forth crossing will be road only, but that is not the case. We have designed the hard shoulders for other uses in the future.

Iain Smith referred to high-speed rail. We are certainly happy to think about his comment.

We had huge consultation on the document, which was interesting. We have had a terrific debate. Jim Tolson managed to make a similar speech to a previous speech, in which he said that one day's notice of publication of the discussion draft was given. The discussion draft was published in January 2008—one year ago. As with the STPR, the consultation has not been slim.

Ladies and gentlemen, Presiding Officer, I thank the three committees for their work and look forward with interest to how we will vote at 5 o'clock.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party 4:50 pm, 5th March 2009

The subject matter of today's debate presents problems for the person summing up. The opportunities that it presents for anecdote and stand-up comedy are slight—although I am sure that Jamie Stone might be up to even such a challenge—but the more substantial issue is that the debate has emphatically not been on the kind of planning questions about which our constituents generally write to us. Although constituents sometimes write to us about national projects, local planning matters are generally what grip people's attention in our respective communities. That said, I know that I have received e-mails from organisations as varied as RSPB Scotland and licensed trade bodies about the issues that are raised in the Local Government and Communities Committee's report. For instance, I have been given arguments for a framework to deliver a landscape-scale ecosystem that would link the urban areas of the central belt in a green corridor.

Although the evidence that we took inevitably strayed at times into discussions on the merits of individual projects, the remit of the report—and the remit of my remarks—is very much about process. Therefore, I welcome today's opportunity to debate the committee's report on the "National Planning Framework for Scotland 2: Proposed Framework", which is a significant document that maps out Scotland's development as far into the future as 2030. Although 21 years might not represent a long time to a giant turtle or to the House of Lords, for elected politicians whose horizons are notoriously short such a timescale represents a welcome degree of foresight. Moreover, the decisions that are reached on the projects in NPF 2 will be with us for much longer than 21 years.

The committee's experience of considering the national planning framework was generally positive, although there are certainly lessons to be learned, given that this was the first time that the Parliament has gone through the process. The report states clearly:

"The Committee welcomes the production of the second National Planning Framework. It acknowledges that the NPF2 will play a key role in co-ordinating policies with a spatial dimension and aligning strategic investment priorities."

This is the first time that a national planning framework has been subject to consideration by Parliament and its committees. The Local Government and Communities Committee is grateful to both the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee and the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee for their detailed consideration of the issues in their reports and for their important contribution to the process. The committee would also like to thank all those who made written submissions.

As I said, the committee's report is generally positive. The committee

"welcomes the fact that the National Planning Framework is now on a statutory footing and is subject therefore to scrutiny by the Scottish Parliament and others. As an evolving document, the Committee acknowledges that it will be open to further scrutiny and monitoring and the Committee will take the opportunity to do so through continuing dialogue with the Scottish Government, the public and with stakeholders."

An extensive consultation programme was undertaken by the Scottish Government to engage with stakeholders and the general public. While recognising that point, the committee also acknowledges that it was perhaps inevitable that, given the subject matter, the consultation was not likely to engage community groups in quite the same way that a local development plan might. However, the committee's report is clear on the importance of engagement, despite the relatively low level of response from the public. The report also stresses the need to make such material comprehensible if public consultation is to be meaningful—necessarily difficult though much of that material is.

Another lesson that the committee felt could be learned for the future relates to developing the list of national developments. As has been said, the committee felt that the Scottish Government should engage with those who suggested national developments whose inclusion in the framework was ultimately rejected. I note that the minister has indicated that he is open to that idea. Indeed, one of the report's recommendations is that the Scottish Government should continue to

"publish in future an Assessment Matrix of Candidate National Developments against the National Development Criteria, but that this should provide more detailed analysis and reasons why candidate national developments were accepted or rejected".

The committee looks forward to hearing how the Scottish Government intends to improve the consultation process and public awareness more generally.

As I said, rather than consider the specific national developments—we are grateful to the other committees that reported on those—the committee has indicated ways in which the process of selection might evolve. For instance, our report recommends that more information be provided on the status of individual national developments in terms of their relative priority.

In his opening speech, the convener emphasised the committee's view that, when possible, publicly funded infrastructure projects might be brought forward. I know that that reflects much of the Government's thinking.

I also draw attention to the contributions of other committee members. David McLetchie pressed the nuclear button, but I will resist the temptation to respond to that, as I am speaking on behalf of the committee. Malcolm Chisholm made a plea for projects in his constituency and created the opportunity for the minister to refer to his ancestors. Alex Johnstone raised questions about consultation and about high-speed rail and nuclear issues. Rob Gibson responded to some of the criticisms of the consultation, especially those from Clare Symonds. Peter Peacock highlighted Scapa Flow and subsea connections in Argyll and elsewhere. Jim Tolson nursed some metaphors about report cards and fast tracks. Shirley-Anne Somerville highlighted transport issues relating to Edinburgh airport and opposed the nuclear option as a solution for altering Scotland's carbon footprint. Cathy Peattie made the case for transport improvements in Grangemouth. Patrick Harvie called for more intensive parliamentary scrutiny of the framework in future and opposed aspects of the report.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am grateful to the member for referencing some of the points that I made. I also asked why we are faced with a motion that does not allow members to vote for or against the national developments in substantive terms, in the way that the Communities Committee in the previous session agreed. Why has the committee chosen to lodge a motion in these terms?

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

I can only say that I have summarised Patrick Harvie's concerns and there is an opportunity for the committee and the Government to respond to them.

The committee will consider the final framework when it is laid before Parliament. Likewise, we look forward to a continuing dialogue with the Scottish Government on NPF 2 and other improvements to the planning system that seek to make it more streamlined and proportionate. As did the convener, I commend the report to Parliament.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

That concludes the debate. I have no option other than to suspend the meeting until 5 o'clock.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—