With the clear links to animal welfare, environmental damage and human health concerns of rampant bracken control, the only safe method for my constituents to control it in some areas is aerial spraying of Asulam. In light of the urgency of the situation—the time for application to use the product is running out—and with no clear indication from the Health and Safety Executive as to what its four-nations approach will be, will the First Minister personally intervene now and allow NatureScot to issue the licences required to use Asulox to control bracken, given that there has been no change in the scientific advice since last year, when licences were granted?
The Scottish Government’s position on the authorisation of pesticide products is based very much on the regulation and scientific evidence—which was where Jim Fairlie rightly put the emphasis in his question—provided by the Health and Safety Executive and the independent UK Expert Committee on Pesticides. As the United Kingdom’s regulator of pesticide products, the HSE is responsible for assessing emergency authorisation applications on behalf of Governments across the UK, including the Scottish Government.
We have considered, and we have promptly responded to, the HSE’s recommendations on the application for the use of Asulox during the 2023 season. As the application is for use across the entirety of the UK, it will be for the Health and Safety Executive to communicate its decision to the applicant, which it will do once the other Governments across the UK have responded. That is an established process for the determination of emergency applications, and it is important that we continue to respect that process. NatureScot therefore cannot act until the applicant has been informed of the decision.
However, I take seriously what Jim Fairlie has said, and I will examine whether we can do anything further. I place on the record that, if other Governments across the UK could respond to the Health and Safety Executive, that might allow it to come to a prompt decision.