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Environment and Climate Change (European Union Referendum)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th October 2016.

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Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

I repeat what the member’s leader said:

“No means we stay in, we are members of the European Union.”

People were, unfortunately, misled by a number of people, including by the leader of the Scottish Tories.

I was delighted to know that Stewart Stevenson was the species champion for the spiny lobster; I was also delighted to have his testimony, which this chamber has heard, that there was always a lack of support from the UK Government on climate change. That should make us even more nervous going forward.

John Scott made a reasoned speech; I disagreed with it. There was an alarming indication in it about what a future Tory tactic would be. John Scott was demanding that this Government addresses and funds every possible application under pillar 2. The tactic now seems to be that the Scottish Government, having been criticised over many years for not replacing every cut from Westminster, is now to be criticised if we cannot replace every funding shortfall from Europe. That would be unreasonable. I hope that Mr Scott, who is not an unreasonable man, will reflect on that.

I will address Gillian Martin’s points on the wider issues regarding research. It is vital that we look at every issue in the Brexit debate not simply as a self-contained devolution issue; we must reflect on the wider issues. The wider issues of freedom of movement and funding for research depend on us being part of and engaging with the EU. The problems that we will have in researching the environment will grow enormously unless we are engaged fully with Europe.

Mr Lindhurst summed up in what I would describe as a calm manner. He said that it is important that we do more and that we have more engagement, but he did not explain how. I got a little bit confused by his contribution. It appeared to me as though he was saying that we should give up the European Union birds directive that protects, for example—if I may mention it again—the corncrake, but that we should sign up to the CITES convention that protects elephants. Those are not mutually exclusive, but it seems rather confusing to prefer elephants to corncrakes and to use that as a reason for leaving the EU.

Finally, I cite Gillian Martin. She said to the Tories very memorably—it was the most memorable line in the debate—that if they do not like hearing about grievances they should stop causing them. That is the reality of the Brexit situation. The Tories have put us in this situation; they should stop making it worse. They should come to the table with ideas and debate it sensibly. We have not heard that so far, and Scotland and the chamber are the losers.