14 June 2012

(S4O-01129) Proposed Water Framework and Industrial Emissions Directives

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP): 1. To ask the Scottish Government what representations it has received regarding the impact on businesses of the proposed water framework and industrial emissions directives. (S4O-01129)

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): The Government has regular dialogue with businesses over the development and implementation of policy. The water framework directive is a well-established policy and officials recently met the chemical industry and others as part of our development of a forthcoming consultation on the implementation of the industrial emissions directive.

Angus MacDonald: Some concern has been expressed recently by industries in my constituency regarding timescales for implementation of both directives. Given that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said a few months ago that the impact on industry would be minimal, will the minister highlight to his United Kingdom Government counterpart and European Union officials the fact that, given that the current economic downturn is creating significant challenges in the petrochemical and agrochemical industries and the fact that the costs involved in implementing the directives can be considerable, there has to be a degree of give and take—

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Mr MacDonald, I need a question.

Angus MacDonald: Will the minister ask that industries that require extra time be given it in order to comply with the directives?

Stewart Stevenson: As recently as 19 April, I wrote to the UK Government to support the UK negotiating strategy on the implementation, and asking that it be proportionate and that timescales be appropriate in order to avoid unnecessary and disproportionate cost.

Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): The Scottish Government’s consultation document on proposals for an integrated framework of environmental regulation says that, in order for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to become the sort of regulator that we need, consideration should be given to having a single permitting procedure which, it is argued, will simplify the range of current procedures. Can the minister clarify what sort of procedures we need? In the week of the Rio+20 conference, can he assure us that there will be no risk of private enterprises being able to opt out of regulation and being able to undertake their own regulation of our natural resources—specifically, water?

Stewart Stevenson: It is up to private enterprises to obey the law and regulations. To that extent, they have to be internally self-regulating, and everyone in the company has to understand that. The role of bodies such as SEPA in regulation is in inspecting those processes and the outcomes. None of the changes that we are considering will change the basic principles of the duties within the company, or our role in monitoring what they do in order to deliver the desired outcomes.

Stewart Stevenson
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