Section 25 — Activities below specified threshold of environmental impact

Part of Marine (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 10:00 am on 4th February 2010.

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Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour 10:00 am, 4th February 2010

The amendments in this group relate to activities that are deemed to have a sufficiently low impact on the environment that they do not require to be licensed but will be registered instead.

At stage 2, I lodged an amendment that would have required ministers to make regulations for those activities that will be registered rather than licensed. That amendment was resisted by the cabinet secretary and rejected by the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee on the convener's casting vote, and I have not lodged the same amendment at this stage. I still believe, however, that if ministers make regulations providing for licensable marine activities that fall below a specified environmental threshold, there are certain matters that should be covered by those regulations.

Amendments 16 and 17 would require definitions of what being registered means, what the specific environmental threshold is and what falling below that threshold means. If the bill is to provide a mechanism by which licensable activities are not to require a licence, clarity about the criteria used to assess whether the activity should be registered is essential.

Amendment 19 would replace the requirement for the Scottish ministers to

"consult such persons as they consider appropriate" with a requirement to consult persons who represent conservation and commercial interests. Scottish Natural Heritage would also have to be consulted, as would other persons that the Scottish ministers considered appropriate.

At stage 2, I lodged but did not move a similar amendment, which the cabinet secretary said was unnecessary because he would consult such groups anyway. That might be so, but there is no harm in making such a requirement clear in the bill, as other amendments that we have agreed to today will do.

The bill team expressed concern that amendments 16 to 18 would require the regulations to be rewritten every time a minor amendment was made. I do not think that that is a problem. If the definitions do not change, all that will be needed will be to cut and paste the appropriate part from one regulation to another. Committees consider many statutory instruments that involve minor variations to general text that does not change from one year to another. I do not think that there is an insurmountable problem in that regard.

I have been advised that consequential amendments might be required as a result of amendment 19. If the minister advises what should have been included I will decide whether to move the amendment.

I move amendment 16.