As Mr Simpson points out, the bill includes a provision for the introduction through regulations of an infrastructure levy, but that levy would be spent locally and not nationally. Beyond that, as I have pointed out in previous discussions with Mr Simpson, I do not feel that we are currently in a position to knowledgeably introduce that infrastructure levy. That is why we will continue to work on that issue.
I draw members’ attention to the recent analysis that has been posted on the Scottish Government website. I have asked my officials to continue to work on the issue, and that will be the case.
As I said in my statement, in terms of performance reports and additional costs, I would look to increase planning fees if we see a movement in performance. I have already done so since I took up my post. I have made it clear that I want planning authorities to invest that money in their planning services. Many authorities are doing that and we are seeing much better performance in that regard.
A number of the issues that have crossed my desk since I have been in post have been about performance. The Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 contained provisions to look at performance more closely and allow further ministerial intervention if that was required. I would hope not to use that power, but the reality is that if an authority is not performing well, our options should be open.
Mr Simpson’s final point was about the training of councillors and councillors having to sit an exam. Councillors who are on licensing boards have to undergo statutory training and sit an exam at the end of it. A number of people believe that that has led to improvements in the decisions about licensing. A lot of people are not entirely happy with the current lack of training for elected members. The bill will allow for such training, and I do not see what problems that would cause. The most important thing is that decision makers should understand the reasons why they take the decisions that they are taking.