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Chamber and committees

Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee

Meeting date: Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, Subordinate Legislation, Construction and Scotland’s Economy, Subordinate Legislation, Construction and Scotland’s Economy, European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018


Subordinate Legislation

INSPIRE (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 [Draft]

The Convener

We move on to agenda item 5. I welcome to the meeting Kate Forbes, the Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, who is accompanied by Shona Nicol. I invite the minister to make an opening statement of two minutes.

The Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy (Kate Forbes)

Thank you, convener. As the draft INSPIRE (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 are quite a technical Scottish statutory instrument, I will take the opportunity to make an opening statement.

The regulations implement an EU directive that established infrastructure for spatial information, because member states are required to operate national spatial data infrastructures using common standards that make spatial data easy to find, use and reuse. As a Government and, indeed, as a Parliament, we want to make decisions and have policies based on high-quality data and we want to use that data to create value for Scotland. The regulations will ensure that there is a national spatial data infrastructure that uses common standards and, therefore, that there is consistency.

Our understanding is that the INSPIRE legislation is functioning well. There are more than 750 records on the online discovery portal and the standards underpin a number of online public sector services such as ScotLIS and Scotland’s environment web.

There are business impacts. The UK Government has estimated that there is a benefit of £6 billion to £11 billion per annum from exploiting and using data more efficiently. For example, the standards will be used to report on the spatial elements of the United Nations sustainable development goals to fulfil the First Minister’s commitment.

Our aim throughout Brexit is to keep delivering those benefits for the people of Scotland, which is why I am proposing to make the amendments that are detailed in the SSI to correct deficiencies that will come about in the 2009 Scottish INSPIRE regulations as a result of Brexit, so that the framework continues to function effectively. The SSI builds on the changes that were made to the UK Government’s equivalent INSPIRE regulations before Christmas, and it corrects similar deficiencies. I gave my consent, with the Parliament’s approval, for Scottish matters to be included in the instrument.

The UK Government has been consulted on the proposed amendments to the 2009 regulations and it has raised no concerns. I am happy to take questions from the committee.

Thank you, minister. The first question is from Andy Wightman.

Andy Wightman

Thanks very much, committee—sorry, I meant to say “convener”.

Regulation 10 in the amendment regulations replaces regulation 15 in the original regulations, which states:

“The Scottish Ministers have the following functions in relation to the Directive—

(a) enforcing the requirements of—

(i) regulation 7, and

(ii) regulation 8”.

Regulation 7 is about metadata and regulation 8 is about network services. Those are your functions under the existing regulations. The amending regulation, through which you are substituting the whole of the original regulation 15, states:

“The Scottish Ministers must, for the purposes of ensuring compliance ... ensure that appropriate structures and mechanisms are put in place for coordinating ... the contributions of all persons”.

It says nothing about the duties that were imposed by regulation 15, which is about enforcement. That strikes me as a weakening of the regulations, yet my understanding is that the changes are being made to keep the statute book consistent with the pre-Brexit situation.

I will ask Shona Nicol whether she has anything technical to add, but my understanding is that there are no specific changes to the core duties of Scottish ministers.

Shona Nicol (Scottish Government)

I agree with Ms Forbes. The only thing that I will point to is that there were amendments to INSPIRE in 2012 that changed regulation 15 to make it about ensuring compliance rather than enforcement.

Andy Wightman

Okay—thank you. This is a complicated area and I did not realise that there had been amendments there. Can you assure me that your new regulation 10 amends the latest INSPIRE regulations in order to be consistent?

Shona Nicol


Kate Forbes

We do not deem there to be any significant changes to the expectations on public bodies, the expectations when it comes to monitoring or the expectations on Scottish ministers. With the SSI, we are trying to replicate things like for like.

The Convener

I say to Mr Wightman that the convener is, of course, nothing without the committee.

As there are no other questions from committee members, we move on to the formal debate on the motion to approve the affirmative instrument. I invite the minister to move the motion.

Motion moved,

That the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee recommends that the INSPIRE (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2019 [draft] be approved.—[Kate Forbes]

Motion agreed to.

The Convener

In light of the time, I invite the committee to agree that I, as convener, and the clerk should produce a short factual report on the committee’s decision and arrange to have it published. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

Thank you—and thank you, minister.

I am sure that that was the highlight of your morning.

You managed it in under two minutes.

11:13 Meeting suspended.  

11:22 On resuming—