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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Health Inequalities (Report), Urgent Question, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Transforming Scotland’s Vacant and Derelict Sites


Transforming Scotland’s Vacant and Derelict Sites

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-06302, in the name of Emma Harper, on transforming Scotland’s vacant and derelict sites. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I invite members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons now.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes with concern reports that Scotland has almost 9,500 hectares of vacant and derelict urban land, and that just over one quarter of Scotland’s 5.4 million population is estimated to live within 500 metres of a derelict site, with this percentage increasing in communities on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD); believes that Scotland’s stock of vacant and derelict land is a legacy of the nation’s industrial past, with many of these sites, including across the South Scotland Region, such as the George Hotel in Stranraer, former Interfloor Factory in Dumfries, Central Hotel in Annan and N Peal Building in Hawick, being in their derelict condition for many years; notes research, including from the Scottish Land Commission, University of Glasgow and Green Space Scotland, which shows that vacant and derelict sites can harm the wellbeing of communities, with findings reportedly showing that these sites can contribute to poor mental health, feelings of a lack of safety, anxiety and a persistent low mood; further notes reported concerns from communities around the traceability of the ownership of vacant and derelict sites, which, it understands, are often owned by absentee landlords and corporations as part of property and financial portfolios; considers that Scotland has a huge potential to lead the UK in transforming these sites into useful community assets; notes the view that focussing on these sites as a vehicle for delivery could help to enhance policy coordination across civic Scotland by concentrating effort and resources where they are most needed to benefit communities; welcomes the Scottish Land Commissions report, Transforming Scotland’s Approach to Vacant and Derelict Land, Recommendations from the Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce; notes calls on the Scottish Government to set out its progress towards implementing these recommendations, and to outline its engagement with the Scottish Land Commission’s joint Vacant and Derelict Land Taskforce; further notes what it sees as the role of communities, as, it understands, has been seen in Heathhall, Dumfries and Galloway, in calling on Dumfries and Galloway Council to address the former Interfloor Factory, and notes the view that communities across Scotland should become involved in taking transformative action to ensure these sites dealt with as a priority.


Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I am pleased to open this members’ business debate, and I thank the members who have signed my motion, which allows us to debate Scotland’s vacant and derelict sites. I thought that the motion would attract support from all parties because it is relevant to most communities in Scotland, as one third of the population lives within 500m of a derelict site. Therefore, I am a wee bit hingin-luggit that no Conservatives supported it. However, I see that there are three Conservative members in the chamber, so if they give speeches, perhaps they could explain why they did not sign the motion.

I want to thank the Scottish Land Commission for all that it does to facilitate change in the situation with regard to Scotland’s vacant, abandoned and derelict sites, and to bring about practical solutions for the public sector. A paper by the Scottish Land Commission provides real examples of areas where work has been done, under the headings, “Places to live”, “Places to power”, “Places to grow”, “Places to play”, “Places to connect”, “Places to learn”, “Places to renew”, “Places to work” and “Places to imagine”. In particular, I thank the Scottish Land Commission’s chair, Andrew Thin, and its head of policy, Shona Glenn, for meeting me and for their continued engagement with my office.

As I said, almost one third of the Scottish population currently lives within 500m of a derelict site, which is a legacy of Scotland’s industrial past. In the most deprived communities in the Scottish index of multiple deprivation, that figure increases to 55 per cent. Fixing urban dereliction could play a major role in addressing health inequalities and improving wellbeing, but the benefits do not stop there. Tackling urban dereliction could also help us to solve some of society’s biggest challenges. The benefits of addressing derelict land are obvious, yet we still see heels being dragged when it comes to bringing about the change that is needed.

The Scottish Land Commission has said that, for far too long, the issue of repairing, renewing and renovating brownfield derelict sites has been dumped on the “too difficult” pile. We need to change the narrative and recognise the massive opportunity that presents itself to us.

Understanding and assessing the impacts of blight on people who live near derelict land provides a powerful evidence base to help communities and decision makers to act. In addition to the obvious impacts of derelict sites, including the visual disturbance and embarrassment that is experienced by people who live next to them, there is also substantial evidence about the negative health implications of dereliction.

In 2016, the findings from joint research by the Scottish Land Commission, the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, the University of Glasgow and other partners were brought together in a report that, for the first time, identified the major causes of Scotland’s excess mortality. It is interesting that the point that I am coming to follows the debate on health inequalities that we had earlier this afternoon.

One of the factors that was identified was an adverse physical environment that is caused by living in and around dereliction. The study found that living close to or next to such areas leads to poor mental health, feelings of being unsafe, anxiety and persistent low mood.

Across Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, we have many derelict sites—the George hotel in Stranraer, the former rubber and Interfloor factory in Dumfries, the Central hotel in Annan, the Mercury hotel in Moffat, and the N Peal and Glenmac buildings in Hawick.

In my engagement to try to get action, I have had responses from site owners and local authorities. However, The local authorities’ response is that they do not have the powers to deal with derelict sites. I checked that, and the Scottish Parliament information centre has confirmed that local authorities have available to them several options for action on derelict sites.

Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

The council in Dumfries and Galloway has been run by the Scottish National Party and Labour for more than a few years, now. Why are you letting down the people of Stranraer who have had to live next to the George hotel for all these years?

Emma Harper

Ah dinnae think that Ah am lettin anybody doon, actually. I am coming to the issues that we want to address. I think that it is very clear that there are actions that could be taken.

In the SPICe briefing that I received, options were available. There are various funding sources. The Scottish Land Commission even has its “handy table” of funding sources on its website, including for public sector bodies. In summary, local authorities can issue to a property owner, lessee or occupier a wasteland notice that requires them to take specific actions to improve the condition of their building or land. If that responsible person refuses, the local authority can carry out the work itself and claim back the cost from the owner under the Town and Country (Planning) (Scotland) Act 1997.

Will the member give way?

I will be happy to give way, as there is a lot of interest in the subject, if there is time, because I have a lot to cover.

I can give you the time back, Ms Harper.

Stephen Kerr

My intervention is very brief. My colleague asked a question in relation to an example that is cited in the motion. Given what Emma Harper has just said, why has the council that is controlled by your party not done that in the case that was mentioned by my friend?

Please speak through the chair.

Emma Harper

Thanks for that intervention. Ah am no a cooncillor—so I am laying out what I see from the research that I have done for the past year, so that we can help to inform and educate, and to have people understand that there are actions that can be taken. I would like to proceed. Thank you.

The local authorities can do things such as issue a wasteland notice to the property owner—I have said that. If the responsible person refuses, the local authority can carry out the work itself, through the Town and Country (Planning) (Scotland) Act 1997. Also, under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003, councils can issue a dangerous buildings notice. The local authority or community can, under the Land Reform Act 2003, make a compulsory purchase of a building or land, to take action on it.

With regard to owners, I have written to the owners of many derelict sites, and I have had a single response, which is kind of disappointing. The Land Commission has recommended that we improve how we identify owners of vacant and derelict sites, such as through a public register, which I would support.

I also support the introduction of compulsory sale orders, as has been recommended by the Scottish Land Commission. I would welcome an update from the Government on progress towards bringing forward legislation to enable CSOs.

I therefore ask the minister how we can better enable local authorities—for example, through national planning framework 4—to use current legislation to transform our vacant, abandoned and derelict sites. I also ask the minister how communication with the owners of derelict sites can be improved.

One of the other common misconceptions that I would like to highlight in dealing with derelict buildings is historic-building listing. People perceive that no action can be taken on some derelict buildings due to their listed status at grade B or C for historical or cultural reasons. That is my experience with the former factory in Dumfries, which is a grade B listed site of historical architectural significance.

However, local authorities have the ability to seek removal of, or change to, a site’s current listed status. In effect, they can de-list a property. That process is governed by Historic Environment Scotland, and it is an option that can take only eight weeks if there is a strong case to back up the change to the listed building’s status. Local authorities, developers and communities must become more aware of that option so that action is taken on derelict sites.

The issue of derelict sites and buildings is complex, and I would need more time to explain, and give specific examples of, the work that I have done over the past year, including work on contaminated land with assistance from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. I have also been working with Heathhall community council in Dumfries to petition Dumfries and Galloway Council to act on the total eyesore that is the Interfloor factory site—and that is just the start.

The issue of transforming Scotland’s vacant, abandoned and derelict land is central to health and wellbeing and to community empowerment, and it is vital that we pay attention to it. I look forward to hearing colleagues’ contributions.


Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

I thank Emma Harper for bringing the debate to the chamber. There is nothing more depressing than walking or driving past empty properties that in many of our towns and communities have simply been left neglected and allowed to crumble away over months and years.

The problem of tackling abandoned buildings and derelict land is not restricted to one region; I recognise that the same thing is happening across the whole of Scotland. However, as we have heard, a prime example is the George hotel in Stranraer. A once proud-looking building in the heart of a thriving town, the hotel was a popular meeting point for locals and visitors alike, but when business fell away and it was closed—

Would the member possibly take a wee intervention?

Finlay Carson

No, thank you. Let me get into my speech.

The building was allowed to become an absolute eyesore, and it was left to fall apart. After years of neglect, and after much pressure, the SNP and Labour-led Dumfries and Galloway Council finally bought the building in 2017. However, the local authority has done nothing with it, despite—as we heard from Emma Harper—having a so-called strategy and the ability to act on neglected properties.

Will the member take an intervention?

I am happy to give way.

Emma Harper

Thank you—I really appreciate the member taking an intervention.

We agree that the George hotel is a total eyesore, and it is fabulous that we are highlighting that in a debate in the chamber. Nonetheless, would Finlay Carson agree that action has finally been started to address that building and to have the community decide what it wants to do wi it?

Finlay Carson

I would very much like to agree, but action is far too slow, and the council has failed in its responsibility to bring it forward. Dumfries and Galloway Council has a strategy that is often reviewed, but it has always failed to deliver for our communities.

An application has been submitted for money to be made available through the United Kingdom Government’s levelling-up scheme to provide millions of pounds of funding for redevelopment, and it is hoped that a decision will be forthcoming to give the building a new lease of life.

Sadly, however, that is an exception, rather than the norm. Just last week, the windows of another abandoned building in Stranraer fell out, which has forced boarding up of the property. It was lucky that nobody was injured.

It is fair to say that action is needed to ensure that vacant and derelict sites are given a new lease of life quickly and—critically—with a greater pace of engagement with the local community. Although it is vital that property owners and community groups have the opportunity to consider options for reuse or temporary reuse of vacant and derelict land, the need for consultation cannot be allowed to become a way to kick action into the long grass.

What hope is there for the likes of Stranraer, with a Labour and SNP administration in charge? There was £6 million of ring-fenced money set aside when the ferries moved, but not one penny has been spent by that ineffective and dysfunctional administration. Despite Wigtownshire having overwhelmingly rejected those parties in the elections this year, the electorate has been disgusted to see that a grubby deal between the SNP and Labour has allowed them to continue in the council administration.

All that said, any strategy that looks to address the problem of empty buildings and land has to be welcomed, and Dumfries and Galloway Council has just recently refreshed its approach. Although the new strategy is not exactly groundbreaking in any shape or form, it cannot be faulted—provided that the local authority acts more quickly and responds with renewed energy and urgency, rather than sitting back and allowing buildings to fall into disrepair. On this occasion, action definitely speaks louder than words, and simply talking about what could or should be done does not get things done.

The SNP and Labour council administration has neglected the economic development and planning department, which has resulted in delays in planning and building control. Those delays are significant and present a real risk to developments getting off the ground. We know that there is a shortage of qualified planners across Scotland, with the shortage being amplified in rural local authorities, so we need to see action to get those posts filled in Dumfries and Galloway and across rural areas in order to have a viable planning system that supports redevelopment of derelict buildings and vacant land, rather than slowing or stopping their reuse. That will, I hope, allow councils to become more engaged—in particular, in identifying sites that might be suitable for greening, growing, planting or even biodiversity opportunities.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee and Parliament passed new land reform measures to help communities to intervene to prevent derelict buildings from hampering economic sustainability. However, those powers are simply not being used or promoted to the extent that they could be. We must prioritise development on brownfield sites and previously used land, especially for new housing developments across all sectors, although I would like to see a lot more being done specifically to build more low-cost social housing.

In our 2021 manifesto, the Scottish Conservatives called for the introduction of

“Compulsory Sales Orders for long-term unoccupied properties”.

In many cases, unoccupied properties are dilapidated and are becoming a blight on our communities, which is why we believe that CSOs remain the best course of action. Similarly, the Scottish Conservatives proposed a relaxation of planning laws to allow redevelopment of unoccupied business premises in our town centres as affordable housing.

Could you conclude, please, Mr Carson?

Finlay Carson

That would not only increase footfall in town centres, but would turn them into places where people go.

In conclusion, I stress that having a strategy is totally worthless unless the commitment, resources and funding are all provided to take this growing problem seriously, before it gets totally out of hand.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I thank Emma Harper for lodging her motion on an issue that is of deep concern to all our communities. The Parliament’s Economy and Fair Work Committee has just completed its inquiry into town centres, and the challenge of vacant and derelict buildings and land was a common thread that ran throughout the evidence that we heard from across the country. That reflects the fact that the problem is increasing: it is not simply a historical legacy of our declining industrial base; there has also been a more recent decline in our town centres.

I am pleased that the committee agreed to visit my home town of Dumfries during that inquiry, so that members could see for themselves the buildings that are mentioned in Emma Harper’s motion. Ironically, on the day of the committee’s visit, a major arterial route through the town, English Street, had just been closed off because a derelict, long-empty and long-neglected building had been deemed unsafe. That is a stark example of the fact that landlords and developers are not queuing up to invest in town centre properties.

Emma Harper

The Treasure Cave building on English Street, which Colin Smyth mentioned, was the only one in relation to which I received a response from the owner. From that, we were able to engage with and seek support from the local authority so that it could proceed with the demolition of the building. Getting engagement from the owner of that site was an interesting challenge, but something has now been done.

I can give you the time back for the intervention, Mr Smyth.

Colin Smyth

Thank you, Presiding Officer.

There were challenges with that building. First, it was incredibly challenging for the council to track down the owner. Secondly, I highlight—with all respect to the owner—that there had been years of neglect of the building from an owner who had been absent. All that we have achieved so far is to demolish the building, but there is—sadly—still no sign of the site being developed into anything else in the near future.

That highlights the point that I was making: developers and owners are not queuing up to invest in our town centres. We have seen the rise in out-of-town developments over the years, and the tide of online shopping becoming a tsunami during the Covid-19 pandemic. That really has taken a toll on the high street, which makes properties such as the one that I have cited not viable for new developments. There are too many such properties, and too many empty shops across towns like Dumfries. That example has also exposed the challenges that local councils face in taking action against the—often absent—landlords who allow the properties to fall into such a state of disrepair.

I do not think that the powers that councils have go far enough. Craig Iles, from South Ayrshire Council planning department in Emma Harper’s region, told the Economy and Fair Work Committee during our inquiry:

“The expectation of the powers is greater than what the powers actually are.”—[Official Report, Economy and Fair Work Committee, 25 May 2022; c 30.]

If a council wants to undertake work on a building, it needs to show that it has a plan for that building, that the work is in the public interest and that it can afford it. Whether it is the issuing of an amenity notice, a defective building notice or a dangerous building notice, or the compulsory purchase of a property, councils currently often simply do not have the resources that would be needed to take such action.

Finlay Carson raised the issue of planning. Research by the Royal Town Planning Institute Scotland has shown that, as of June 2021, right across Scotland, budgets for planning services had been reduced by 42 per cent since 2009, and nearly a third of planning staff had been cut. It is clear that, often, there are not the staff or resources to pursue landlords, especially given that such action often ends with a council having to fund repairs on a property at a stage when it has fallen into a state of disrepair. The council then tries to claim the money back from the owners, which is incredibly challenging and can, on occasion, end up with the council owning the property.

That is a concern that I have about Emma Harper’s motion and its mention of the former Interfloor factory. In my view, there is little chance that the council will be successful in claiming back from the current owner any money that it spends on that building, certainly at the level of investment that would be needed to make a difference, and therefore the council could end up owning the factory.

Funding a future purpose for a site that will have had 110 years of industrial pollution is way beyond the resources of a local authority. The scale of the challenge involved with such sites means that we need a strategic national approach, with Government intervention through agencies such as Scottish Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise to invest in clearing sites to make them suitable for future use.

On occasion, that occurs at a local level. Finlay Carson mentioned the George hotel. I can tell him that the council bought that hotel within a few months of the current administration coming in, after years of the Conservatives doing absolutely nothing—that includes Mr Carson, who was a councillor at the time. The council took action by buying the George hotel, but the cost of buying that modest building and turning it into something suitable is enormous, never mind what the cost would be for a site that is the size of the former Interfloor factory in Dumfries. Councils need support to ensure that they can actually invest in projects. Where the project involves a site on the scale of that factory, however, I think that we need major Government intervention to clear such sites and make them fit for purpose.

I conclude on a positive note. On its visit to Dumfries, the Economy and Fair Work Committee met with Midsteeple Quarter, which is a new community benefit company—I declare an interest as a local resident who is a member of that co-operative. Midsteeple Quarter is taking on the neglect of absent landlords by taking back our High Street, shop by shop, and investing in those properties to deliver the mix of uses that our town needs: not just quality retail space that is suitable and affordable for local businesses, but community space and—crucially—new housing, so that we once again have people living in our town.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

You need to conclude, Mr Smyth.

To support that company and others, the Government needs to recognise that the costs of turning derelict town-centre properties into housing, for example, will always be more expensive than building on greenfield sites, and councils therefore need support to make such redevelopment happen and really start to tackle the blight of derelict properties on our high streets.


Jackie Dunbar (Aberdeen Donside) (SNP)

I congratulate my colleague and friend Emma Harper on securing this vital debate on a subject to which, I am sure, every member in the chamber, and indeed everyone across the country, can relate. Derelict sites blight our communities and have an impact on public health, and they are not representative of the modern, post-industrial Scotland that we are aa bidin in today.

The potential for reusing vacant and derelict sites, known to some as empty brownfield sites, is huge. It is difficult to think of a single major area of Scottish public policy that would not benefit from a concerted national effort to bring those sites back into use. Focusing on those sites as a vehicle for delivery could help to enhance policy co-ordination across civic Scotland by concentrating effort and resources where they are most needed, as a tangible example of the place principle in action.

Transforming Scotland’s legacy sites requires innovation and technical skills across a variety of professional disciplines, from ecologists, demolition teams and architects through to space planners, construction experts and renewable heat engineers. With the right strategic leadership, we could use this opportunity to develop the skills and commercial expertise that Scotland needs in order to shift to a sustainable growth path and deliver a green recovery. By focusing on vacant and derelict land, we can do that in a way that will help direct resources and support to the parts of the country that need it most, thereby ensuring that those who were left behind by the last chapter in Scotland’s economic history are at the forefront of the next.

As a member of the Parliament’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee, I am, of course, interested in climate action. As we know, climate action needs to be a collective endeavour, but barely half of those who are living in our most deprived communities—which are the communities with the highest concentrations of vacant and derelict land—see it as an urgent priority. If we really want to make climate action a collective priority, tackling our legacy of vacant and derelict sites is key in getting the climate message through to everyone.

Will the member take an intervention?

Yes, of course. Can I get my time back, Presiding Officer?

You can get the time back, Miss Dunbar.

Finlay Carson

Will you set out where the Scottish Government has got it wrong in the past 15 years? You are only now suggesting that the Government should do something, although legislation was passed during the previous session of Parliament

Please make remarks through the chair.

Jackie Dunbar

I have not been here for 15 years. I am a former councillor and have been trying to get derelict sites sorted. I am sure that the minister will be able to speak about the time that he has spent here in Parliament.

When we pause to think about it, we know that many of Scotland’s derelict sites are part of our industrial past.

Does the member agree that the challenges that we face with vacant and derelict land were caused by the de-industrialisation that was inflicted upon Scotland in the 1980s-

Please make your comments into the microphone, minister.

—by a Government that we did not elect?

I thank—

That is just clutching at straws.

Should I sit down again, Presiding Officer?

Please speak, Ms Dunbar.

Jackie Dunbar

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I thank the minister for his intervention. I agree that a lot needs to be done and that there is a lot that we could do about what has been foisted on us since the 1980s, but this is not a debate on independence.

Like many across the chamber, I have a constituency—Aberdeen Donside—that has fallen victim to derelict sites. I have been trying to see action on one of those for many years, including during my time as ward councillor. The Logie shops on Manor Drive, near the Haudagain roundabout and just off the newly named Brian Adam Road, have lain empty for well over 20 years. Quite frankly, the site is an eyesore. I have raised the site’s derelict condition with Aberdeen City Council and am pleased that it has agreed to carry out a safety assessment, of which I await the outcome. Before anyone stands up to intervene, I say to members that I contacted Aberdeen City Council both when and after the city had an SNP administration—I take no prisoners with regard to who is in administration. I will be urging the local authority to use the powers outlined by Emma Harper MSP, so that decisive action can be taken on that building once and for all.

The public sector—including Aberdeen City Council—can lead the way in identifying the potential for sites to be transformed into assets that provide real benefit to local communities. It would be great to see a community orchard in that place, which is small but could have huge benefit. Those transformations could include much-needed green space for health and wellbeing, growing spaces, community facilities and housing and business use. I therefore ask the minister for a commitment that the Scottish Government will work with local authorities, as it already does, as much as possible and will provide as much support as it can to see derelict sites addressed in communities across the country.

I again congratulate my colleague Emma Harper on bringing forward this debate. Addressing derelict sites—including across Aberdeen Donside—brings numerous benefits and we must see national action to bring about meaningful change.


Ariane Burgess (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I welcome the opportunity to debate an issue that is a particular challenge in rural areas where a vacant or derelict site can be a long-term eyesore in the heart of the community. I thank my colleague Emma Harper for securing the debate. As her motion rightly notes, in many cases those sites reflect decades of decline in our communities and symbolise the loss of industry and essential infrastructure.

Across the region that I represent, the Highlands and Islands, there are 188 registered vacant and derelict sites. They include disused railways, in a region that is crying out for improved public transport; abandoned auction marts and agricultural buildings, at a time when land prices make it challenging for new entrants to the agricultural industry; and even family homes, at a time when home ownership is increasingly unaffordable.

By failing to enable the redevelopment of these sites—and many of them are developable—we are not only wasting the embodied energy in these buildings but squandering an opportunity to improve oor communities.

If they were brought back into use by communities, these sites would offer tremendous potential to respond to their changing needs. For example, the community in Gairloch, supported by the Communities Housing Trust, has transformed a derelict site in the centre of the village into 25 homes with a range of tenures, and a community hub that is Scotland’s first public passive house building. The award-winning mixed development represents a great model of what is possible for communities across Scotland with the right support and funding and a partnership approach.

In Applecross, residents purchased a vacant site from NHS Highland, using the community asset transfer process and funding from a range of sources. Now, with the help of the Communities Housing Trust, instead of a vacant site, the community has three accessible homes next door to the general practice surgery.

From April next year, the devolution of powers over non-domestic rates and empty-property relief to local authorities could enable local councils to disincentivise absentee landlords, who far too often neglect the maintenance and security of vacant and derelict sites, as we have already heard.

Public bodies need land assembly powers—such as compulsory purchase and compulsory sale orders—that are effective, efficient and fair, in order to support the delivery of much-needed regeneration and infrastructure and the reuse of vacant land and property. Currently, implementation of these powers is patchy, with councils being understandably cautious about taking on ownership of sites that are often in very poor condition.

Councils should be encouraged by the numerous successful projects across Scotland that have seen vacant and derelict sites taken on and redeveloped by communities. There is a real opportunity for local and national government to build partnerships with charities, co-operatives and membership organisations, which often have an inspiring vision for the new neighbourhoods that they want to shape.

It is also important to note that many councils are willing to exercise purchase powers, but do not have community groups with the capacity and confidence to undertake what are significant, specialist long-term projects. That is why the Scottish Greens have been making the case for more long-term support for revenue costs for community organisations and highlighting the importance of key enablers in the sector, including the Scottish land fund and the Communities Housing Trust. That is why the Bute house agreement commits the Scottish Government to doubling the Scottish land fund by the end of this parliamentary session, to prioritise bringing vacant and derelict land and property back into productive use with rural repopulation as a vital objective.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

Due to the number of members who still wish to participate in the debate, including a few who have been moved to press their buttons since the debate started, I am minded to accept a motion without notice under rule 8.14.3 to extend the debate for up to 30 minutes. I invite Emma Harper to move the motion.

Motion moved,

That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[Emma Harper]

Motion agreed to.


Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

I very much thank Emma Harper for securing the debate. I enjoyed listening to her eloquently setting the scene in her opening speech. It was a great contribution on the challenges and opportunities that derelict and vacant land brings to communities.

In my short contribution, I want to highlight a scenario in my constituency that, on the face of it, seems like a golden opportunity to transform a derelict site for community benefit. However, when we look under the surface, we see that it is more challenging.

As the daughter of a greengrocer, I am utterly loyal to community wealth-building approaches. Like many colleagues, I am lucky enough to represent an area that has independent shops, coffee shops, makers, designers, artisan bakeries and so on—you name it. There are lots of different members of the community who are invested in bringing character and life to local spaces. Equally, what we define as vacant and derelict land can contribute to that character and life.

The Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities place principle sits at the heart of addressing the needs of communities and realising their full potential. Places are shaped by the way in which resources, services and assets are directed and used by the people who live and invest in them.

Aberdeen city, much like the rest of the UK, has a legacy of land contamination resulting from past industrial use, including in the historical oil and gas sector. Having said that, I note that the self-same energy sector is considered by some to have avoided the emergence of a bigger cohort of derelict and vacant land in the north-east over the years. Nevertheless, in circumstances involving contaminated land, local authorities are required

“to ... remove unacceptable risks to”


“and the environment”


“to seek to bring damaged land back into beneficial use”.

On that point, I highlight a scenario in my constituency. I have been working with constituents who live adjacent to an area of land that is owned by the local authority but which has, over many years, been leased as an industrial site. The oil and gas downturn led to the site being vacated and flattened, but the lease remains in place.

The site is now contaminated. In recent years, however, it has emerged as a natural habitat, hosting a range of animals and bird life. Local residents derive real pleasure from it, and there is a feeling of attachment and wellbeing connected to the space. Perversely, the leaseholder’s annual maintenance, which is to be applauded, can nevertheless remove some of the emerging habitat that is attracting wildlife into it. Efforts to date to explore how the status of the site can shift from contaminated land to community asset have proved to be very difficult, which perhaps demonstrates a lack of synergy, with the aspirations of community wealth building set against the legislative and policy framework around vacant and derelict land.

I welcome the Scottish Land Commission’s report “Transforming Scotland’s Approach to Vacant and Derelict Land”, and I note the recommendations around

“Aligning Policy to Support Delivery”,

including the recommendation that

“action should be taken to make it easier to overcome ownership barriers to land reuse.”

I completely agree with that recommendation.

However, in the case that I outlined, the issue is made more complex by the leased status of the land and by the understandable hesitation around—as I anticipate—its status changing. Realistically, that is a very difficult situation for community members to grapple with. I am therefore interested in hearing the minister’s thoughts on that particular scenario, and I would be pleased to engage further on the issue down the line.

I am grateful to Emma Harper for bringing the debate to the chamber, and I look forward to working on the issue in my constituency in the future.


Paul Sweeney (Glasgow) (Lab)

I thank Emma Harper for bringing the debate to the chamber. As a trustee of the Glasgow City Heritage Trust, I have a strong personal passion for the issue. Indeed, Glasgow has long been synonymous with its architectural beauty and the grandeur of its buildings, which make it one of the most handsome urban cityscapes in the world. It is testament to previous generations of enlightened Glaswegians that we remain blessed by the legacy of geniuses such as Alexander “Greek” Thomson, James Miller, John James Burnet and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. They were able to flourish in the city of Glasgow due to a potent combination of inspired patrons, including the Corporation of Glasgow, who understood the enduring value of good design, and the design rules that were devised by the first city architect, John Carrick, which ensured that Glasgow followed a rigorous plan that was driven by the Glasgow City Improvement Trust and gave rise to a dense grid of the tenement streets that are so fundamental to our city’s identity.

Although we admire and adore the product of that architectural golden age and need to do everything that we can to preserve and protect it today, it is true that current planning law would not enable it to be built today—in fact, it would prevent that from happening. That is one of the great ironies: the things that we cherish and the communities that we like the most in our city are unable to be replicated because of current planning law. It is a great disappointment that we have not been able to address that in national planning framework 4.

The work of organisations such as the Glasgow City Heritage Trust, which was established 15 years ago, in 2007, is pivotal.

Emma Harper

I fed into the national planning framework draft strategy on tackling vacant and abandoned land and buildings. Does the member agree that we need to continue to consider those issues and make sure that powers are created to tackle problem eyesore sites?

Paul Sweeney

I absolutely agree with the member. A major issue is that previous generations had plot-based development rules for planning. A city plan was laid out and the city was built up progressively. Private investors were invited to build it up in that planned sequence by the city architect, in this instance, or the city improvement trust, and many of those developments were sponsored by the city.

However, today, our planning system is fundamentally discretionary. All the bases on which buildings are designed and developed are left in the hands of developers. There is no code of design, no code for how a building should look in relation to the community and no code on the materials that should be used. It is very arbitrary, and buildings are often value engineered to the point of not being well designed at all, which is a major concern.

There are perverse incentives at the heart of our planning system that drive perverse behaviour. For example, in Glasgow, 108 of our more than 1,800 listed buildings are on the buildings at risk register for Scotland. That is quite a high rate. A major impediment to bringing back into use the buildings that are at risk, which are of architectural and heritage value, is the fact that to do so incurs a VAT rate of 20 per cent, whereas knocking the building down and building it from scratch incurs no VAT. That is a perverse incentive—it is what is known as a conservation deficit—and it often militates against bringing potentially fantastic buildings back into use.

As members have done in the debate, I could rhyme off a list of such buildings in Glasgow, not least the Springburn winter gardens in Springburn park, which I have been desperately trying to bring back into active use for more than 10 years, but I continue to be frustrated in that goal. One of the major impediments relates to the VAT issue and the conservation deficit. The usual way to deal with that is to apply for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the regeneration capital grant fund or the UK Government’s levelling up fund, as Glasgow is doing for the People’s Palace. The fundamental problem with that is that it is a lottery, and there will always be losers in such a process.

I do not understand why the Scottish Government cannot think more laterally about the issue and say, “These buildings have long-term value. How do we measure the value of these restored assets? How do we guarantee these buildings as incredible, irreplaceable and precious parts of our built heritage?” It needs to recognise that throwing grants at the issue on an arbitrary lottery-type basis will not work and will not be sustainable in the long term.

The Glasgow City Heritage Trust’s annual budget barely touches the sides of the scale of the problem in Glasgow: 70,000 tenements need £3 billion-worth of repairs. At the rate at which the trust is funded, it would take 2,000 years to do that. We need to seriously up our game in Scotland on how we resource this. A national plan should not involve throwing money at projects that will not work or be viable; it should involve providing initial investment that can, over 100 years, be earned back. Revenue from council tax, non-domestic rates and rent would come back into the city and the urban community. Property values would rise in the area, and communities that would otherwise suffer terribly would be reinvigorated, because a higher proportion of the buildings that are at risk are in the poorest districts of our towns and cities.

In that regard, it is important that the Government considers ways of dealing with the conservation deficit problem in Scotland—it should not simply extend the grant funding—because it is a major issue that holds up the potential rejuvenation of thousands of amazing architectural edifices in our cities and towns.


Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley) (SNP)

I thank my colleague, Emma Harper, for bringing the issue to the Parliament’s attention. It is high time for this long-standing and difficult problem to be tackled and solved. The debate has come at a good time. In recent years, I have been trying to do some work on the issue in my constituency. My focus is on empty or abandoned shops, but there are a number of pieces of land that are no better than waste ground. Sadly, some sites in current use have little or no maintenance to keep them in good order.

We all know particular buildings—usually empty shops—that do not exactly contribute positively to the look and feel of our cities, towns and villages. Some of them are, in fact, middens—a good Scots word, which I am using deliberately because that is what they are. Their owners should be ashamed of themselves but sadly, they are not, which is one of the key problems. As Emma Harper has said, those properties are often owned by uncontactable individuals or corporations who do not give a jot about our towns—they might never even have visited them—and who hide behind agents who allegedly manage the properties for them. Some properties are in local ownership, but it is very difficult to get hold of the landlords to ask them to take some action, even to clean up the properties.

I recently went on a walk through my town of Kilmarnock with two council officials—to whom I was very grateful—and we saw many of those examples for ourselves. What became clear was how little falls under the jurisdiction of the local authority: members have referred to the local authority’s powers to act over dangerous buildings and so on, but local authority powers in relation to amenity or filthy buildings are limited, and work usually ends up costing the public purse although it is the owner’s responsibility to act.

Where does the answer lie? Neither I nor my council colleagues are convinced that it lies in granting more powers—in relation to amenity or otherwise—to the planning authorities. That always seems to end up in legal disputes, especially when we are talking about subjective matters that deal with attractiveness or ugliness. Who would define what those things actually mean? Ultimately, the owners usually do not have funds or resources available to take any action to remedy the situation.

The recent work on developing our national planning framework will be a powerful tool for local communities to take forward plans to revitalise our towns and create community spaces, as we have done successfully in Kilmarnock already. However, I do not think that NPF4 can solve the problem, so those awful sites will remain and will continue to let us all down.

We need new thinking around some kind of clean-up fund, or town centre or community bond fund. We could ask local traders and those absentee landlords, if we can ever track them down, to put a small amount of money aside in a voluntary fund that would include some public money, too, if that was possible. We could also encourage public donations. The solution might lie in promoting a voluntary town centre clean-up fund to which everybody could contribute.

After all, our towns, cities and villages belong to the people who live in them all their lives, and it is in everyone’s interest—people, traders, absent owners, and probably the local authority—to work together to be part of the solution to that particular problem. All our buildings and parcels of land should have a positive purpose and really contribute to the vitality of our towns.

Will the member give way?

I am just coming to the end of my speech, but I would be pleased to hear what the member has to say.

Paul Sweeney

I thank the member for his speech so far, which has been really interesting. Does he recognise that the solution to the problem that he describes might be a heritage levy on new development areas, such as conservation areas, which could help contribute to the common good?

Built Environment Forum Scotland identified another potential solution, around having common sinking funds for residential and—potentially—commercial properties, so that common repairs are well funded in advance, instead of a massive amount of money suddenly having to be spent in reaction to the failure of a building or structure.

Willie Coffey

They are all potentially good ideas. We have talked about some of them with council officials. We wanted to gauge what their reaction might be to the setting aside of advance funding for those kinds of purposes. That solution might work, and I hope that some of those plans come to fruition.

I hope that my speech has given the minister and members some food for thought.

I thank Emma Harper for bringing the issue to our attention and sincerely hope that we can make real progress on it in the coming years, because our cities, towns and villages deserve nothing less.


Stephen Kerr (Central Scotland) (Con)

Listening to many speeches from SNP members, you would hardly imagine that they have been in power for 15 years. These problems have not arrived in the past few weeks or months; we have been living and dealing with them for a long time. Emma Harper has highlighted the inadequacies of her own Government after 15 years of its being in power—she has highlighted the powers that local authorities do and do not have, so there is a role here for the Scottish Government.

Paul Sweeney gave a marvellous speech in which he highlighted the need for the Government to be more imaginative and more flexible in how it deals with such things. I was absolutely delighted to hear from Jackie Dunbar that there is a Brian Adam Road. I was astonished, but not entirely surprised, to hear the minister say that the person to blame for all the problems that we have talked about in the debate is Mrs Thatcher. My goodness me, how predictable, and how lame, was that?

We live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. In fact, Scotland is regularly acclaimed as the most beautiful country in the world. Our landscape makes all of us feel proud. Something inside us warms up when we see the beautiful scenery that our country is renowned for around the world.

As parliamentarians, we have been appointed by our fellow Scots to be guardians of Scotland’s natural beauty. Just as previous generations have preserved our nation’s landscape so that we can enjoy it, we have a responsibility to conserve the beauty of our built environment, so that future generations can enjoy it as well.

However, we must not kid ourselves when we talk about the beauty of Scotland. Not every fibre of Scotland is beautiful. I wish that I could say otherwise. As has been mentioned in the speeches, there are many parts of the country in which land not only is unused but is an eyesore. Failure to address that problem is nothing short of a levelling-down approach. There is such a thing as entropy—it is real. That kind of neglect from public bodies, agencies and councils, as well as owners, comes from an uncaring attitude that says to people that their environment, their lives and their wellbeing are less important than the environment, lives and wellbeing of others. The way that many places in central Scotland have been neglected is Scotland’s shame: policymakers, who live in nice, pleasant, suburban areas are happy to leave their fellow Scots in the worst kinds of squalor. Rather than accepting the status quo, the Scottish Government should embrace a true levelling-up agenda, empowering people and authorities and building buildings that complement our country’s natural beauty.

As is already known, we do not have enough houses in Scotland. For far too long, we have not been building enough homes. Councils and Governments take too long to sell off unused land. There is a register of land in the public sector that could be usefully utilised to build more homes. As we have heard, buildings that have been declared surplus to requirements by councils take far too long to sell. We have not been imaginative enough, for example, to adapt buildings on our high streets to accommodate housing. Why do we just keep talking about the issue without doing something about it?

Colin Smyth

Stephen Kerr’s point is valid, but does he accept that, when it comes to investing in regenerating a building in a town centre—for example, for housing—one of the disincentives is the fact that the level of VAT that is levied on existing buildings is higher than the VAT on a new build out of town? That is a perverse disincentive to tackling the problem of housing. Maybe he can have a word with his party to see whether we can address that and reduce VAT on regenerating existing buildings to the same level as that on new builds.

Stephen Kerr

I am happy to address any perverse illogicalities around the need for us to take action on the areas that I and other members have highlighted. What we are seeing, if I may coin a phrase, is an anti-growth coalition of people who are stopping those things from happening.

We cannot just champion more housing. As Paul Sweeney touched on, the housing that we build must promote community—of the sort that we used to have in a country that was, and should be, proud of its sense of community—rather than people living inside their own bubble, which happens too often. We must champion energy-efficient housing, so that those buildings serve us for generations to come.

We must also champion the right type of housing: beautiful houses that people want to live in, in beautiful neighbourhoods. Beauty should be at the heart of public discourse. It should be part of our conversation about housing, development and spaces. As the great philosopher Roger Scruton put it,

“we are losing beauty, and there is a danger that with it we will lose the meaning of life.”

I close with the words of a friend of mine, Sir John Hayes—not of this parish, but of the House of Commons—whose ideas are driven by inordinate common sense.

He said:

“Sadly, we live in an age that is dull and utilitarian and in which mystery and magic are extraordinarily unfashionable. It is odd that that should be, for it was not true for most of our history, and has not been so for most great civilisations. It is unusual to be as utilitarian as we are, but now it is time for a change—for a renaissance. It is time for beauty to be put back at the heart of Government policy.”—[Official Report, House of Commons, 30 October 2018; Vol 648, c 287WH.]

Sir John Hayes is right, and we can start by tackling the dereliction that we see all too much of around us.

We have extended the debate by half an hour, but we are at risk of going beyond that if we are not careful.


Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

I thank Emma Harper for introducing the debate and for allowing us to talk about issues to do with vacant and derelict land, and neglected and abandoned buildings in our communities. The issues have come through strongly in the debate—such sites are blights on our communities. I was motivated to make this unscheduled speech because of my experiences as constituency MSP for Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn.

I will start off by talking about when MSPs go and talk to local authorities about buildings being unsafe. I could pick several examples, but I will talk about the Maryhill tavern and the Redan pub building on Maryhill Road, which are unsafe and are eyesores, and the Talisman pub in Springburn, which was also an eyesore but has, thankfully, been demolished.

When we go to local authorities about such buildings, they look at whether the building is structurally unsafe. That is, they look at whether it will fall down and whether bits will continue to fall off the building, but not at whether it is accessible to kids and whether reasonable mitigations have been put in place to stop kids getting in there, or at whether it is a blight on the urban landscape. We might have to look again at what we deem to be safe and acceptable for communities. I wanted to put that point on the record.

I will also say a little bit about compulsory purchase orders. Clearly, it is easier to secure one if there is a strategic plan for use of the building or the land that the building sits on. The plan would, preferably, be a community-led strategic plan, as happened in respect of the now-demolished Talisman pub. I declare an interest in that the relevant community plan was formed in part by the Springburn regeneration forum, of which I am a co-founder, and Spirit of Springburn, of which I am a trustee. However, I take no credit for that achievement, because I facilitated others in the community holding a charrette to deliver the recommendation that the derelict eyesore that was the Talisman must go. The local authority moved for a compulsory purchase order, and the owner suddenly thought, “I’ll get the site demolished myself rather than face the threat of a compulsory purchase order.” That was a positive impact.

Will the member give way?

I am sorry, Mr Sweeney, but I can do so only if I can get the time back.

Be very brief, Mr Sweeney.

Paul Sweeney

I thank Bob Doris for his contribution. Does he recognise that, 10 years since the demolition of Springburn public halls, one of the major concerns in the city of Glasgow is about buildings that are in council ownership that remain derelict and continue to blight areas including Springburn?

Bob Doris

I am happy to acknowledge that issue, which has transcended all political persuasions in local government across a long period.

I will talk about compulsory purchase orders in relation to the Maryhill tavern and the Redan building on Maryhill road, which are now going to happen in order to allow us to connect with regenerational work in Kilmun Street, Barrisdale Road and Lyndale Street. They have been lying empty on wasteland for far too long, and the orders are part of a transformational long-term regeneration-area approach. There are lots of good things happening, but it will all take time, with planned and careful consideration and massive investment by Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government. We are also hearing that some levelling-up funds might be contributed, as well. Things can happen.

I will also mention where things have happened. There is a new community hub in Royston that includes a wonderful new community centre and food pantry. That is supported by money from the Scottish land fund, Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government’s capital regeneration fund. There is also the previously derelict “triangle site” in Royston, for which we got significant amounts of money from the land fund and the Scottish Government to make a park on the hill, where previously there were blights and eyesores.

We also have to look at the issue in connection with how we use green space. For example, right next to me at Blackhill Road, there was to be a massive development of green space on which up to 1,000 properties were to be built. I declare another interest, because I have a direct interest in that development. If you offer private developers the opportunity to build 1,000 properties on green space, guess what? They will not invest in brownfield, vacant and derelict land sites. I am glad that an end was put to that potential development.

This has been an incredibly constructive debate, although Mr Kerr and Mr Carson let themselves down a bit. The debate was never to be tribal or party political; it is about coming together as a Parliament to do what we can to improve the communities that we serve.

I call Tom Arthur to respond to the debate. Minister, you have 7 minutes or so.


The Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth (Tom Arthur)

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I have registered the tone of your voice underscoring “7 minutes”, which is far too short a time, in responding, in which to do justice to an excellent debate. We have had a range of interesting contributions from members. I value, and undertake to reflect carefully on, the comments that have been made, and to engage with my officials and other stakeholders on those points.

I thank Emma Harper for bringing the debate to the Parliament and affording us the opportunity to discuss the topic. I also recognise the work of the vacant and derelict land task force, which is playing an important role in informing not only the debate but the work that the Government is doing.

The Scottish Government is undertaking a broad range of work. We recently published a revised draft of the national planning framework 4, which seeks to get us back to a plan-led system, in particular for housing. I note that the policies on green belt, brownfield, vacant and derelict land and empty buildings align with much of what members have said.

As well as what we are doing on planning policy, we are working to ensure that we have a properly resourced planning system. That is a challenge in terms not just of fiscal resource but of ensuring that we have enough planners. The scale of the challenge in recruitment of planners is not unique to Scotland. However, we are working closely with the planning performance high-level group on the action that we are taking. With partners including the Royal Town Planning Institute, Heads of Planning Scotland and the Improvement Service, we have published the “Future Planners Project Report” and are working to implement it.

We are also having constructive engagement with the private sector so that we can do more to promote getting people into planning. As I said at the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee at the end of last month, planning is a wonderful profession for any young person to go into and it affords people an opportunity to play a key role in shaping their places.

We are not just making policy; we are backing it up with funding. We have the place-based investment programme, which includes the regeneration capital grant fund, which goes back to 2013. With the PBIP, that represents, over the course of this parliamentary session, £325 million of capital investment, which is making a difference.

We have also launched the vacant and derelict land improvement programme, which is worth £50 million over this parliamentary session. I was delighted to be at Clyde Gateway a few weeks back to attend the official opening of the first project to be completed following funding from the vacant and derelict land improvement programme. That is an important resource; we recognise that there can, given our industrial heritage, be significant challenges in decontamination and remediation of land. The programme can play an important part in de-risking and in levering in investment from the other sectors.

Paul Sweeney

Does the minister agree that the Clyde Gateway is an interesting model? Clyde Gateway is unique in being the only public development corporation left in Scotland. Perhaps the model could be emulated on a grander scale—for Glasgow as a whole and perhaps at national level—to bring distressed assets back into use.

Tom Arthur

I acknowledge what Paul Sweeney has said. I have been incredibly impressed with what I have seen at Clyde Gateway, particularly in respect of the bold and almost entrepreneurial spirit in its vision for the area. There is certainly something in Mr Sweeney’s suggestion that that model could play a bigger role and be replicated, so that its culture, vision and attitude can better inform how the public sector as a whole engages in long-term redevelopment projects.

Emma Harper asked how we can use current legislation to deal effectively with VDL. A number of members mentioned compulsory purchase orders and the possibility of compulsory sales orders. Through our delivery programme for NPF4, we have a commitment to consider how we can update legislation on CPOs. Within that programme of work, we will consider the introduction of CSOs. As members will appreciate, it is an extremely complex subject that requires careful consideration. However, I recognise that there is a keen interest in it. I also acknowledge the criticism that existing CPO provisions are somewhat dated and challenging to use. As such, careful consideration of how we can update those powers is warranted to ensure that all our local authorities are equipped with the legislative tools that they require to effect the outcomes that we want.

Mr Carson touched on permitted development rights for residential conversions. We recently concluded a consultation on permitted development rights. That consultation responded to some of the recommendations from the town centre review and covered a range of areas, including use-class orders. We will shortly publish our decisions based on that consultation and will take legislative action. I stress that I am not minded to pursue permitted development rights for residential conversion, because housing is so significant that it should remain within the planning system.

A number of members mentioned Midsteeple Quarter. I was delighted to visit Midsteeple earlier this year and am delighted that the Scottish Government has been able to support the project through the place-based investment programme and the empowering communities programme. The project is a great example of a community taking ownership and driving change forward, as Mr Smyth said. People have worked shop by shop to take back their high street.

That leads to a broader point about community wealth building, which builds on the place principle and represents the maturation of our redevelopment and regeneration process. The challenges that we face in our high streets and with vacant and derelict land are a reflection of an underlying economic model that has often been about wealth extraction. Owners who do not live in the localities where their premises are do not have a stake. Land and property are key pillars of community wealth building. I want to see more people taking ownership of assets in communities. That is a key ambition. There will be an opportunity to consider that further during the Government debate on asset transfer requests that I will lead tomorrow.

Audrey Nicoll raised a number of issues. I would be happy to meet her to discuss the specific points that she raised.

I acknowledge Paul Sweeney’s long-standing passion for the subject. He made a fascinating and provocative speech. I wrestle in my own mind with the fact that the grandeur of Glasgow comes from an era of permissive regulation—before we had the statutory system that was brought in by 1909, 1929 and 1934 planning legislation—which was also an age in which we had the terrible and appalling housing conditions that prompted development of the modern planning system in 1947, because of concerns about public health.

Mr Sweeney also raised some interesting points about design. We will look at the existing national design codes as part of our delivery programme for NPF4.

I am conscious that time is against me and that the debate has already been extended. I thank all members for their contributions—in particular, I thank Emma Harper for bringing the debate to the chamber.

That concludes the debate.

Meeting closed at 18:37.