22 December 2011

(S4O-00525) Climate Change Delivery Plan

Marco Biagi (Edinburgh Central) (SNP): 7. To ask the Scottish Government whether it plans to update or publish a progress report on its climate change delivery plan. (S4O-00525)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

The “Climate Change Delivery Plan: Meeting Scotland’s Statutory Climate Change Targets” was published in June 2009 and it described four transformational outcomes that are necessary in order to achieve Scotland’s long-term emissions reduction targets. The delivery plan was followed in March 2011 by “Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2010-2022”, which is the Scottish Government’s first statutory report on proposals and policies setting out specific measures for reducing greenhouse gases. The measures draw on the transformational outcomes described in the delivery plan. A second RPP will be published next year, describing how emissions targets to 2027 can be met.

Marco Biagi: I very much welcome that answer from the minister. A number of respected environmental groups have expressed concerns that the current RPP, although it is a fine document, does not necessarily set out which groups are responsible for which actions and how each of them will be funded. Can the minister give some insight into whether that will be addressed in the next RPP or in other statutory reports that are required by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009?

Stewart Stevenson: Discussions on the next RPP are at an early stage. It is certainly true that the Government is not the sole source, or even the major source, of funding for many of the policies and proposals in RPP 1. I expect that in the next report on policies and proposals, that will be the case as well. It is important to realise that there is a break between policies that are committed to by the Government and funded appropriately, and proposals that will, of course, be dealt with at a later stage, which in the case of the next RPP will perhaps be after 2020. The absolute certainty that the member seeks might not be present in RPP 2, but we have listened and we will respond.

(S4O-00524) Greylag Geese (Orkney)

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD): 6. To ask the Scottish Executive what assessment it has made of the impact of greylag geese in Orkney and the effectiveness of the measures to limit the damage to agricultural land that the birds cause. (S4O-00524)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

The impact of greylag geese in Orkney was examined in the report on the “Orkney Greylag Goose Feasibility Project”, which was commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage, and in the Scottish Government’s “2010 Review of Goose Management Policy in Scotland”, which was published in February 2011. The Orkney study concluded that, due to a number of factors, including the dispersed nature of wintering flocks, it would be premature to consider a standardised scheme across Orkney.

Following the 2010 review, Scottish Government and SNH officials are working with local farmers on goose-management issues to improve scaring techniques and to streamline the licensing procedure for the control of geese in the close season.

Liam McArthur: I thank the minister for his reply and for his letter of 11 December, which gave some helpful pointers. I would be grateful for clarification—if not now, then subsequently—on a couple of issues that he has not mentioned. He made no mention of extending the open season, which suggestion has been raised in the past. In a letter in July there was reference to consideration of sustainable harvesting of species. It would be helpful to know whether there will be sale of goose meat. The minister said in the letter of 11 December that the national goose management review group is considering a range of options for managing goose populations. More detail on that would be helpful for my constituents.

Stewart Stevenson: I am glad that Liam McArthur has had that letter, which is an extensive one.

On extending the open season, we would prefer in the first instance to rely on licenses to allow farmers to scare geese off by shooting some of them during the close season. That approach is available now and it is relatively straightforward. I acknowledge that there are particular and special problems in Orkney that do not exist on the same scale elsewhere because of the dispersed nature of the goose population and the fact that some 10,000 geese are now resident there all the year round. However, we certainly want to continue to work with local farmers and others to ensure that we have adequate numbers of licenses and trained people to continue shooting during what is currently the close season.

Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con): Scaring techniques in an offshore archipelago like Orkney tend to result only in moving geese from one island to another. The island of Islay has a very good scheme to manage geese. Would the minister commit to further studies on the impact of the greylag geese in Orkney with a view to introducing an appropriate management scheme in the future?

Stewart Stevenson: Jamie McGrigor makes a perfectly reasonable point about the nature of the Orkney islands. In that respect, the techniques that are applied in Islay will not necessarily transfer readily to Orkney. The key will be the simplification measures that we are undertaking to ensure that it is easier to shoot geese, as appropriate. The programme of shooting could be co-ordinated so that movement of geese such as the member referred to is not simply a consequence with no real benefit.

(S4O-00522) Cities (Environmental Issues)

Humza Yousaf (Glasgow) (SNP): 4. To ask the Scottish Government how it raises awareness of environmental issues in cities. (S4O-00522)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

On 28 November 2011, the Scottish Government and a range of partner organisations launched Scotland’s environment web, which brings together information on Scotland’s environment in one place and in an easily accessible format. The site provides straightforward descriptions of the state of the environment and key messages that highlight our progress in protecting it in a way that is relevant to all areas of Scotland.

Humza Yousaf: On the back of Gil Paterson’s question, I wonder about Scotland’s largest local authority, Glasgow City Council, which is among the poorest performers when it comes to recycling household waste. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency released figures at the tail end of last month that show that only 26.8 per cent of the more than 66,000 tonnes of household waste that were produced in the second quarter of this year was recycled. How can the Scottish Government work with Glasgow City Council to ensure that recycling is given higher priority in our biggest city, and that much more of our household waste is recycled?

Stewart Stevenson: Zero waste Scotland is working closely with Glasgow City Council to give it every possible assistance. I am sure that the council will value that and that zero waste Scotland’s assistance will help it to deliver on the ambitious targets that have been set for waste reduction across Scotland.

Drew Smith (Glasgow) (Lab): Raising awareness is an important part of promoting environmental sustainability in our cities and elsewhere, but funding is also an issue in relation to recycling rates. Does it remain the case that local authorities are funded on the volume of recycling that is currently taking place rather than according to the support that is required, in particular for the tenemental housing in Glasgow, which creates a logistical problem?

Stewart Stevenson: It is clearly important that councils throughout Scotland and everyone in industry and business step up their efforts on recycling. There is a financial benefit to everyone involved when they reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. I am sure that Glasgow City Council, to which the member referred, and other councils, have the necessary incentives to ensure that they raise their game.

(S4O-00520) United Nations Climate Change Conference

Gordon MacDonald (Edinburgh Pentlands) (SNP): 2. To ask the Scottish Government what impact the outcomes of the recent United Nations climate change conference will have on Scotland. (S4O-00520)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):
The outcome at Durban represents a significant success for the European Union in that, for the first time, the major emitter nations have been brought together behind a timetable for a global climate treaty to be agreed by 2015 and in force by 2020. There is an opportunity now to build on that success, which has boosted certainty about the global low-carbon future, in which Scotland, as the green energy capital of Europe, can have a competitive advantage. However, there will be many challenges for the global community in the years ahead in delivering on the commitments that were made at Durban.

Gordon MacDonald: With Scotland being a world leader in the climate change agenda, what lessons and experience was the minister able to share with conference delegates?

Stewart Stevenson: One of the key elements of my message in my meetings with other leaders was that despite being a developed modern nation we can set ambitious climate change targets. Our target of a 42 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020 is—with that which is now set in the United Kingdom—the highest legally enforced target in the world. Our agenda of creating new industry from the opportunity that is presented by renewable energy has attracted widespread interest, and we will continue to engage with as many people internationally as we reasonably can.

Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): How, specifically, will the outcomes of the Durban conference impact on the Scottish Government’s target of reducing CO2 emissions by 42 per cent?

Stewart Stevenson: Under the land use, land-use change and forestry agenda, some progress was made in taking forward the inclusion of wetlands—or, in our case, peatlands—in the calculation for sucking in carbon dioxide and reduction in methane emissions. Early in the new year, we will host in Edinburgh a meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s panel on wetlands. We have the specific prospect of improvement in that situation and reward for the work that we are already undertaking to restore peatlands.

24 November 2011

(S4O-00398) Common Grazings

Jean Urquhart (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): 10. To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the role of common grazings with regard to the future of crofting. (S4O-00398)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

We recognise that common grazings are an important part of crofting and bring economic, environmental and social benefits to the Highlands and Islands. We promote their use through better regulation and financial support. One of the Crofters Commission’s key objectives, in its corporate plan for 2011 to 2014, is to encourage better shared management of common land.

Financial support is provided through the single farm payment and the Scottish rural development programme. The reform of the common agricultural policy will provide the opportunity to look again at how support for common grazings is provided.

Jean Urquhart: With reference to the review of the common agricultural policy and the draft proposals for non-historic direct payments post-2013, unintended consequences of the change could be abandonment and further economic decline. Will the minister agree to work with stakeholders to find a mechanism to ensure that common grazings receive equitable payments per hectare of land managed?

Stewart Stevenson: We regard common grazings as an important part of the economy of the Highlands and Islands. There are 921 such grazings. We will see a different kind of oversight through the election of members to the Crofters Commission next year. The appropriate order is before Parliament and I believe that it will be considered in committee shortly.

Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): The minister is aware that the most recent crofting acts put burdens on grazings clerks to report on the crofting activities of other tenants. Will he review that in light of the disharmony that it causes in crofting communities?

Stewart Stevenson: It is clear that one of the huge benefits of changing the way in which we manage crofting is that we have good, accurate maps. We are strongly encouraging crofters with a shared interest in the grazings to collaborate on that, and the early feedback is that that approach is working well.

(S4O-00394) Pibble Mine (Site of Special Scientific Interest Designation)

Alex Fergusson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con): 6. To ask the Scottish Executive what its position is on Scottish Natural Heritage’s proposal to remove the site of special scientific interest designation from Pibble mine in Wigtownshire. (S4O-00394)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 grants Scottish Natural Heritage the power to denotify all or any part of a site of special scientific interest where it considers that its natural features are no longer of special interest.

In the case of Pibble mine, the importance of the sole natural feature of interest was reconsidered as a result of the British Geological Survey’s geological conservation review, and it was judged that the site no longer met the qualifying criteria for notification as an SSSI.

Alex Fergusson: The minister is correct, but the British Geological Survey’s review was published in 1998, some 13 years ago—one might have thought that action would have been taken by now. The same review recommends the removal of the designation of several other SSSIs, yet only Pibble mine is currently to have it removed.

Is the minister aware that Pibble mine lies on the site of a proposed wind farm development, and that the other sites that the review mentions do not? Does the minister believe that that is just a coincidence?

Stewart Stevenson: SNH has notified and confirmed 10 SSSI denotifications in full and four in part, and has notified but is yet to confirm a further four denotifications in full and two in part.

With regard to the evaluation of Pibble mine, if the information had been available when it was designated, it would never have been designated in the first place as the number of points that it scores falls well below the designation level.

(S4O-00392) Agri-environment Schemes

Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) (Lab): 4. To ask the Scottish Executive how it assessed the future demand for agri-environment schemes when developing the current draft budget and spending review. (S4O-00392)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

We took a range of factors into account, such as demand under the current and previous programmes and the views of key stakeholders. A key part of the process was to ensure that funding is available to deliver key benefits to Scotland’s environment, such as biodiversity.

Funding continues to be available and results from the two previous agri-environment rounds show a consistent level of approvals. We have already announced that a full agri-environment funding round will take place in 2012.

Elaine Murray: Does the Government have contingency plans if there is a surge in applications towards the end of the round? The minister may remember that that happened with the rural stewardship scheme as it came to an end. Can he reassure members that demand will not be managed down by changing criteria or cancelling schemes?

Stewart Stevenson: We very much value the contribution that the schemes have made to date. For example, we have invested £33 million in hedgerows since 2008 and we have seen a significant improvement in biodiversity from that expenditure. We wish to ensure that in managing the issues that the member referred to, such as a surge in applications, we continue to deliver important benefits for biodiversity.

(S4O-00390) Hunterston Coal-fired Power Station (Opposition)

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP): 2. To ask the Scottish Government whether it acknowledges the level of opposition to the proposed coal-fired power station at Hunterston. (S4O-00390)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

I confirm that, to date, 20,583 letters of objection to the Hunterston development have been received. Those will be taken into consideration in determining the application.

Kenneth Gibson: Given the level of statutory and public opposition, what steps can be taken to persuade Ayrshire Power to withdraw its application and save everyone the cost of a public local inquiry?

Stewart Stevenson: As it is an active application that the Government may have to determine, I cannot speak specifically to the question that has been asked. However, in general, it is important that, in relation to any planning application, those who feel that their interests would be disadvantaged were it to be approved continue to pursue their objections and ensure that everyone is aware of them.

Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con): Will the minister confirm that onshore wind farms are productive for only around 25 per cent of the time and that, as the Institution of Civil Engineers stated earlier this week, coal-fired power stations will be essential to secure the energy supply in Scotland in the future?

Stewart Stevenson: It is interesting to note that even when the nuclear station on the west coast of Scotland was out of operation for a while it caused us no problems whatsoever. There has been much debate about the transmission of electricity across the Scotland-England border. It is worth making the point that in December last year, 97 per cent of electricity that crossed the border did so in a southerly direction. With the increase in renewable energy in Scotland, that percentage can only rise.

17 November 2011

(S4O-00385) Climate Change

Graeme Pearson (South Scotland) (Lab): 7. To ask the Scottish Executive what it is doing to tackle climate change. (S4O-00385)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 sets the framework and targets for tackling climate change in Scotland. The report on proposals and policies sets out how the statutory annual targets for reductions in greenhouse gases will be met to 2022. The report builds on the work that we have already undertaken to reduce emissions from various sectors including energy supply, homes and communities, business and the public sector, transport, rural land use and waste. A further report for the period 2023 to 2027 will be published next year.

Graeme Pearson: The First Minister and others have long heralded the impact of the climate challenge fund in reducing carbon emissions by 700,000 tonnes, but in response to a freedom of information request the Scottish Government confirmed solely that community groups have reduced their CO2 emissions by 125,866 tonnes. Although those communities are to be congratulated on their reductions, has the balance of 570,000 tonnes been delivered and, if so, how was it done?

Stewart Stevenson: It would be astonishing if the balance had been delivered, because the 700,000 tonnes relates to the 461 projects that have been funded by the climate challenge fund, some of which have just started, while others continue to start. The proportion of projects that are complete accounts for 125,000 tonnes of saving. The member must not make the mistake of comparing entirely different questions and assuming that the answers will be the same.

(S4O-00384) Greenpark Energy (Licence to Extract Shale Gas)

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green): 6. To ask the Scottish Executive what criteria were used by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in granting a licence to Greenpark Energy to begin hydraulic fracturing to extract shale gas. (S4O-00384)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

SEPA’s specific obligations under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 are to consider the risks to the water environment. Those are the only environmental factors considered by SEPA.

Alison Johnstone: The minister may be aware of a report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research setting out concerns about ground and surface water contamination as a result of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the recent Caudrilla Resources report on the impact of the process in Blackpool, which stated that it is “highly probable” that fracking triggered the seismic tremors there.

Those concerns and others have led some states in the United States to place a moratorium on fracking operations. Quebec has suspended fracking, New South Wales has introduced a moratorium, and—

The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Scott): Question, please.

Alison Johnstone: France has banned fracking. Is the minister listening carefully to the evidence, and will his Government take action at the very least to support a moratorium on fracking in Scotland?

Stewart Stevenson: The member should be aware that consents cover the installation of equipment to monitor microseismic activity, so we are looking carefully at the implications of fracking in Scotland. Let me also say that the Greenpark Energy consent is for coal-bed methane rather than shale gas, as described in the question, although I accept that the same equally applies to that particular gas.

Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) (Lab): The place in question is in my constituency. What sort of consultation would the minister expect to take place with the community about the application of such techniques? All that happened in Canonbie was an application to drill boreholes to find out how much coal gas is there. With a technique as controversial as hydraulic fracturing, would the minister expect that there should be consultation with and information for the community? People will be quite frightened by some of the information that has come out in the past few days.

Stewart Stevenson: I accept that things have been said that could cause some difficulties in people’s minds. However, the scientific position is that the monitoring that is part of the controlled activity regulations—CAR—licence will ensure that we monitor the effects. The member’s constituents should be aware that we are tracking the issue with considerable care. The issue is dealt with through the planning system; as I said, SEPA’s responsibilities relate to the water environment.

3 November 2011

(S4O-00300) Flood Defences (Perth and Kinross Council)

Liz Smith (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): 3. To ask the Scottish Executive what assessment it has made of flood defences in the Perth and Kinross Council area. (S4O-00300)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

In 2007, all the existing flood defences in Scotland were assessed as part of the establishment of the Scottish Government’s flood defence asset database. There were only a few flood defences where minor problems were identified, one of which was at Bridge of Earn. Perth and Kinross Council was given the report and I understand that appropriate action to resolve the maintenance issues that were identified has been taken.

Liz Smith: If the forecasters are correct, it seems to be likely that we are in for another difficult winter, which continues to cause concern to communities that are most vulnerable to floods, some of which the minister has just acknowledged. What discussions has the Scottish Government had with local authorities to ensure that the maximum possible assistance is being given to those communities when it comes to preventing flood damage this coming winter?

Stewart Stevenson: Difficult winters are, of course, something with which I am familiar.

We have a regular programme of engagement with local authorities. Later this month, I shall meet the Association of British Insurers on issues relating to flooding. We have a series of programmes to ensure that we are working in tandem with local authorities in their discharging of their responsibilities.

Nigel Don (Angus North and Mearns) (SNP): How do the minister and his department interact with local authorities to ensure that flood schemes are prioritised and that money is made available the many years ahead that are necessary if local authorities are to be able to plan for their schemes?

Stewart Stevenson: Nigel Don will be aware that, in 2008-09, the finance for addressing flooding was wrapped up in the money that was provided to local authorities. We are in discussions with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities about the money that is available for flood schemes. I am sure that that will be of interest to the member.

29 September 2011

(S4O-00223) Diffuse Pollution (South Scotland)

Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab): 10. To ask the Scottish Executive, in light of the four recent negative Scottish Environment Protection Agency beach monitoring reports in South Scotland, what financial support it will provide specifically to help farmers tackle diffuse pollution. (S4O-00223)

Actually, there were two recent negative Scottish Environment Protection Agency beach monitoring reports in South Scotland and four in the whole of Scotland. I apologise for that.

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency is working closely with stakeholders and land managers across Scotland on measures to control diffuse pollution in catchments, with funding available through Scotland rural development programme rural priorities.

Claudia Beamish: I highlight just six farms in my region of South Scotland that are within a 3-mile radius of a farm at Broad Field on the Clyde, which have heavily invested in storage capacity to mitigate the effects of diffuse pollution. They have indeed had the support of SRDP grants. I seek reassurance on behalf of my constituents there and elsewhere that that support can be maintained, as there are now also pressures given the cost of spreading machinery and the issue about fencing that the minister mentioned in answer to a previous question. There is also a concern for tourism—

The Presiding Officer: Will you get to the question, please?

Claudia Beamish: Will the minister please reassure the farming community and tourism sector on the issue?

Stewart Stevenson: We continue to place a high priority on this issue. In addition to providing financial support through the SRDP, we are engaging with people who can make what are in some cases fairly simple changes to activities or who can relocate activities in a way that contributes to a significant reduction in diffuse pollution in catchment areas.

(S4O-00222) Glasgow City Council (Environmental Improvement)

Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (Lab): 9. To ask the Scottish Executive what recent discussions it has had with Glasgow City Council concerning environmental improvement initiatives. (S4O-00222)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

Recent discussions with Glasgow City Council on environmental improvement initiatives have focused on delivering an excellent green legacy from the Commonwealth games, sustainable transport, and supporting forestry and community projects.

Patricia Ferguson: Is the minister aware that, where land can be shown to be contaminated, a local authority has a duty to identify potential hazards and, where necessary, to remediate the land in question? That is particularly important where there are houses on the land. It is intended that the cost of such work should be recouped from the polluter. Can the minister advise my constituents and Glasgow City Council who should pay for such remediation if the polluter is a company that went out of business almost 100 years ago?

Stewart Stevenson: To be candid, the honest answer to that question is that I am not sure, but I will seek to get an answer to the member. I would not wish to mislead her and say that I can identify the inheritors of the debts of a company that went out of business 100 years ago.

(S4O-00220) Forestry Commission Scotland (Leased Farmland)

Roderick Campbell (North East Fife) (SNP): 7. To ask the Scottish Government how much farmland is leased to Forestry Commission Scotland. (S4O-00220)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

Forestry Commission Scotland manages a total of 11,306 hectares of leased land, including 320 hectares of land at Loch Katrine that continues to be used for agricultural purposes. In 2010, FCS launched a land-leasing scheme aimed at creating productive woodland in partnership with farmers. Although a number of applications have been received and are being progressed, none has reached final agreement.

The Presiding Officer: I call Roderick Campbell. [Interruption.] One moment, please. The member’s microphone is not on. [Interruption.] Maybe you could just shout, Mr Campbell.

Roderick Campbell: How far does the minister believe that land leased to Forestry Commission Scotland will go towards meeting the planting target of 10,000 hectares a year?

The Presiding Officer: I hope that you got that, minister.

Stewart Stevenson: Yes, Presiding Officer, I got the essence of that quite clearly. After all, someone who is engaged in the courts will be used to projecting their voice.

It is clear that leasing can play an important role. The cost of afforesting a hectare of ground under leasing arrangements is about 50 to 55 per cent of the cost of purchasing and then afforesting that land. Therefore, it is a useful supplement to the other efforts that Forestry Commission Scotland is making to meet our target of moving from 17.5 per cent of our country being afforested to 25 per cent.

(S4O-00218) Scottish Environment Protection Agency (European Bathing Water Directive)

Margaret McDougall (West Scotland) (Lab): 5. To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to meet the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to discuss the European bathing water directive. (S4O-00218)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

Scottish Government officials are in regular contact with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and other stakeholders on the protection of Scotland’s bathing waters.

Margaret McDougall: As I am sure the minister is aware, some beaches are granted abnormal weather waivers if they fail water-quality tests following heavy rain. Those waivers are given predominantly to east-coast beaches, rather than west-coast beaches, because of the reliance on rainfall data, which is difficult to obtain for some local areas. Does the minister agree that more transparency is needed about how waivers are granted and about the data that is used in considering whether to grant a waiver?

Stewart Stevenson:
Margaret McDougall is perhaps aware of my previous difficulties with weather forecasting, which is certainly an imperfect science. She makes an interesting point, to which I confess I have not given great consideration before. I will talk to my officials about it.

It might be worth saying that I have sought to discuss with officials whether our approach to monitoring our beaches, which involves a uniform number of inspections of each beach, is appropriate. I have asked whether we should move to a risk-based system in which we inspect beaches that have a history of intermittent or regular failures.

I have discussed the subject with my officials. What Margaret McDougall said will add something of value to future discussions.

John Scott (Ayr) (Con): Given the challenges of diffuse pollution facing Ayrshire beaches, will the minister guarantee that by 2012, in the most difficult circumstances, all the public authorities—SEPA, local authorities, public health boards, Scottish Water and Scottish ministers—will be working together during such short-term pollution events?

Stewart Stevenson: Diffuse pollution is recognised as a substantial contributor to bathing water quality failure. SEPA officials have been walking up some of the watercourses that feed into beaches and in many cases quite simple steps to deal with the situation have been identified, including, for example, moving cattle feeding troughs further away from watercourses, to ensure that they are less contaminated by diffuse pollution. I believe that our various agencies and officials are working well together; I look forward to Scotland’s beaches and bathing waters performing better in subsequent years; and I hope that I have given the member the necessary reassurance.

(S4O-00215) Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority (Meetings)

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): 2. To ask the Scottish Executive when it last met representatives of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority and what issues were discussed. (S4O-00215)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):

The Scottish Government has regular meetings and discussions with representatives of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority on issues regarding its operations.

Jackie Baillie: I am delighted to hear that. The minister will therefore be well aware of the concerns raised by the community in Luss regarding the use of the visitor centre for commercial purposes. He will be aware that the national park authority dealt with that property, but has now leased it out. That is having a detrimental impact on the future viability of other local businesses, which I am sure the minister regrets.

Will the minister suggest to the national park authority that it takes action quickly to resolve the matter before any local businesses close?

Stewart Stevenson: I understand that the business to which the lease has been attributed is based inside the park area, so it is at least contributing to the local economy. There is a meeting on 28 October—which will involve the chief executive—to discuss some of the concerns that have been raised on the subject. I encourage all those who have issues with the lease to engage in that process.

Without commenting specifically on the Luss visitor centre and other centres, I point out that the programme has been a successful initiative by the park authority to raise further money, which has been reinvested in communities such as Luss. There are benefits to it, albeit that there are remaining concerns that must be resolved at the October meeting.

30 June 2011

(S4O-00086) Scottish Water (Coastal Pollution)

Roderick Campbell (North East Fife) (SNP): 5. To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with Scottish Water in connection with coastal pollution in Fife. (S4O-00086)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): The Scottish Government has regular discussions with Scottish Water regarding its operations and the delivery of its capital investment programme.

Roderick Campbell: The minister should be aware that there is a Scottish Water waste pumping station adjacent to the shore in Pittenweem, which is designed to transport waste to the treatment works at Pathhead. Overflow pipes from that facility are designed to carry material into the sea during those periods when the pumping system is over capacity. Given the worsening problems with effluent leakage from those overflow pipes—

The Presiding Officer: Can you get to a question, please, Mr Campbell?

Roderick Campbell: —directly on to the beach, will the minister undertake urgent discussions with Scottish Water?

Stewart Stevenson: We are looking at including waste sewage in the programme for Scottish Water from 2015. The previous programme focused on internal sewage flooding, but it is increasingly important that we regard external flooding as important. Ministers are already in discussion with Scottish Water on that subject.

23 June 2011

(S4O-00080) Flood Risk Management (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley)

Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP): 9. To ask the Scottish Government how it will improve flood risk management in Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley. (S4O-00080)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): We are helping to protect communities throughout Scotland from flooding by working with our partners to implement the Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 and by providing funding through the local government settlement for local authorities to continue to invest in flood protection schemes.

Willie Coffey: I thank the minister for that answer and also welcome the Scottish Environment Protection Agency consultation that will take place in potentially vulnerable areas. It highlights two areas in my constituency where the average losses are estimated at £16 million a year. Will the minister ensure that residents and businesses in my constituency are encouraged to participate fully in the consultation and that their concerns are fully considered as part of any decision-making process?

Stewart Stevenson: The SEPA consultation to which the member refers is very important and I encourage people across Scotland to respond to it. Through the identification of potentially vulnerable areas, we can see that perhaps as many as one in 20 homes and one in 14 businesses may be exposed to flooding risk. Individual members in constituencies can play their part in encouraging people to respond to the SEPA consultation. We will similarly play our part.

(S4O-00074) Animals (Abandonment)

Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab): 3. To ask the Scottish Government what action it has taken to prevent the abandonment of animals in Scotland. (S4O-00074)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): The Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 contains a specific offence of abandonment. A person who is responsible for an animal and who abandons it in circumstances that are likely to cause unnecessary suffering, or who leaves it unattended without making adequate provision for its welfare, is subject to a penalty of up to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to £5,000.

Neil Bibby: In these tough financial times, bills are getting harder to pay, and vets’ bills can be a shock to families’ monthly budgets. The minister might well recall the successful campaign with the slogan, “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.” Will he reassure me that he will work with animal charities and others to raise awareness of abandonment throughout the rest of the year?

Stewart Stevenson: I very much support the campaign for dogs for life—and cats and a wide range of domesticated and pet animals. It is important that we make adequate provision for those that we take into our homes. We take over responsibility for such animals, as we do for everyone in our houses.

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