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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid)

Meeting date: Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Portfolio Question Time, Business Motion, Decision Time, Cannabis-based Products for Medicinal Use


General Question Time

Good afternoon. The first item of business is general question time. In order to get in as many people as possible, I would be grateful for short and succinct questions, and responses to match.

National Litter and Fly-tipping Strategy

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the new national litter and fly-tipping strategy for Scotland. (S6O-01174)

The Minister for Environment and Land Reform (Màiri McAllan)

The consultation on our proposals for a new national litter and fly-tipping strategy closed on 31 March, and we are currently analysing the responses. The final strategy will be published later this year and will take those responses into account.

Proposals in the consultation included measures to strengthen enforcement, raising of fixed penalties, improving data collection and supporting private landowners and local authorities. Illegal waste activities, which are a blight on communities, have no place in Scotland, and we are working with partners and law enforcement to detect, deter and disrupt waste crimes across Scotland.

Colin Beattie

Fly-tipping and littering cause great frustration to the whole community. Midlothian Council states that fly-tipping alone costs it £60,000 a year, which is a huge amount of resource to spend on preventable behaviour.

What further support can the Scottish Government give to help local authorities, the police, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and even private landowners to tackle fly-tipping and ensure that appropriate action is taken to prosecute people who fly-tip?

Màiri McAllan

I fully appreciate the challenges that are faced by private landowners and local authorities, and the impact that the pandemic has had on reporting littering and fly-tipping rates. Although the ultimate responsibility for clearing up litter and materials that have been fly-tipped rests with local authorities and landowners, we are working across multiple agencies to tackle the issue, with a firm focus on prevention.

Our national litter and fly-tipping strategy consultation proposed a range of further measures to enforce litter and fly-tipping offences, including raising fixed penalties and exploring use of civil penalties, which we will pursue, subject to the outcome of the consultation.

Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

The minister will know that I recently completed a consultation on potential legislative changes around fly-tipping, and I look forward to meeting her ministerial colleague next week to discuss them.

One issue that came out clearly from that consultation is public concern that restricted access to council recycling centres is potentially a factor that encourages people to fly-tip irresponsibly. Fife Council has just announced that it is reducing its charges for bulky uplifts of waste in order to make that an easier route for people. Will the Scottish Government look at how it can better support councils to provide better and cheaper facilities for people who want to do the right thing?

Màiri McAllan

The Scottish Government shares Murdo Fraser’s ambition to tackle fly-tipping, and our recent consultation set out proposals in areas that I know Mr Fraser has identified for further action, including improving data quality and strengthening enforcement measures, which I mentioned previously. However, there are some differences from the approach of the proposed bill and—as he mentioned—he will meet my colleague Lorna Slater next week.

Understandably, over the course of the pandemic local authorities had issues with providing access to recycling centres. Access is very important, and consideration of all such issues was borne in mind as we developed the consultation, the responses to which we are now reviewing.

Will the minister update Parliament on what the Scottish Government is doing to assist with recycling hard-to-recycle items?

Màiri McAllan

On Monday, the Scottish Government launched two consultations on a proposed circular economy bill and on a waste route map. Together, the consultations set out the key proposed actions and the tools that we will put in place to help everyone to play their part in cutting waste in our economy and in capitalising on the economic opportunities that a circular economy clearly presents.

The route map includes a proposal to embed decisions about recycling in the design and sale of products. My colleague Lorna Slater recently announced the first investments from our landmark £70 million recycling improvement fund. More than £20 million is being awarded to 13 local authorities to increase the quantity and quality of recycling. That marks the beginning of one of the biggest investments in recycling infrastructure.

Renewable Energy Supply Chain

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update regarding any support it is giving to the renewable energy supply chain. (S6O-01175)

The Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise (Ivan McKee)

Renewable energy is a crucial element of our delivery of the transition to a net zero economy, and we are determined to maximise the economic opportunity for the Scottish supply chain for renewables—especially offshore wind. We remain committed to using every lever within our devolved competence to support and grow the supply chain in Scotland.

For offshore wind, applicants to the ScotWind leasing round were required to submit a supply chain development statement to Crown Estate Scotland, setting out the anticipated level and location of supply chain impacts. Failure to deliver the commitments that are laid out in the final development statement can trigger remedies that range from financial penalties to inability to progress to sea bed lease.

David Torrance

Does the minister agree that the Scottish supply sector and its skilled workforce have huge export opportunities? Can the minister highlight how the Scottish Government is promoting and supporting the renewables sector to expand into international markets?

Ivan McKee

I agree. The Scottish Government recognises the huge potential within the renewables sector to support the growth and resilience of the Scottish economy by increasing its reach to international trade. That is why we are committed to working with the industry to develop a renewables sector export plan in 2022 as part of the delivery of “A Trading Nation”—our export growth plan—and the national strategy for economic transformation.

Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

The story of the industry is too often a story of broken promises about offshore jobs and neglected supply chains, but I am sure that the minister agrees that it does not have to be that way.

Will the minister consider new conditions on support for the sector to guarantee that a minimum percentage of jobs that are created with Scottish Government support remain in the Scottish economy?

For example, does the minister think that it is reasonable that, as the GMB trade union insists, at least 50 per cent of manufacturing and fabrication jobs in offshore wind—a sector that the Scottish Government supports—should be located in Scotland, in order to secure well-paid work and to support our supply chains?

Ivan McKee

We want to maximise the number of jobs in the supply chain in Scotland, so we are putting in place the supply chain development statements in order to drive developers to use local supply chains. We are also putting in place the £75 million energy transition fund and the £180 million emerging energy technologies fund. We are working with the sector; I co-chair the Scottish Offshore Wind Energy Council, and we work with the DeepWind and Forth and Tay clusters, which have identified Scottish businesses that can benefit from supply chain opportunities.

We are working with Scottish Renewables to identify Scottish businesses that we can develop, along with Scotland’s ports, in order to maximise the amount of work that takes place in Scotland. My colleagues and I work regularly with key global inward investors on bringing their capability to Scotland so that they can employ people in Scotland to manufacture products here, rather than elsewhere. Of course, we have to do all that while remaining compliant with state aid rules.

Support for First-time Buyers (Central Scotland)

To ask the Scottish Government how many people in Central Scotland have been helped on to the property ladder through Government schemes since 2016-17. (S6O-01176)

The Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government (Shona Robison)

Shared equity schemes are one of a number of ways in which we are supporting individuals to access affordable housing, as is set out in our “Housing to 2040” strategy.

A total of 31,363 homes have been purchased in Scotland via Scottish Government shared equity schemes, which include the open market shared equity scheme, the new supply shared equity scheme, the first home fund and the help to buy (Scotland) scheme. Of those homes, 25,302 were in Central Scotland. That figure represents completed purchases in the past five financial years and covers the number of homes rather than individual people.

Mark Griffin

The numbers that are being supported through the LIFT—low-cost initiative for first-time buyers—scheme, which is now the only one that is available, have tumbled in recent years from 126 across Central Scotland councils in 2017-18 to just 12 in 2020-21.

I think that the cabinet secretary has agreed to meet Cal Grevers, who cannot find a home that meets LIFT requirements and is now crowdfunding for a deposit. Will the cabinet secretary agree to use this summer to look at enhancing LIFT, and revisit last summer’s decisions to close the help to buy and first home fund schemes? I think that the decision to do that was based on advice that LIFT made up 20 per cent of the affordable housing numbers, but that figure has tumbled to just 14 per cent in 2021.

Shona Robison

Of course, I want to meet Calum Grevers. I recognise that there are two particular aspects to his case. The first is to do with his particular needs and the second is to do with difficulties in the Edinburgh housing market.

If I look beyond that and consider the situation in a more general sense across Scotland, first-time buyer activity has shown strong recovery, and mortgage approvals for first-time buyers have increased by 13 per cent in the 12-month period to quarter 1 in 2022, from the amount in the period up to quarter 1 in 2021.

Of course, the schemes were set up to support buyers at a time when mortgage lenders were less likely to lend to people with smaller deposits. We have seen a steady recovery in the high loan-to-value mortgage market, which means that the interventions that we require have changed.

Against the financial backdrop, we have had to prioritise the funds that we have available, and we have, by maintaining the LIFT scheme, focused our support on low-income buyers and those who are most marginal. Essentially, we are providing money for people who would otherwise not be able to afford home ownership. The United Kingdom Government does not run an equivalent scheme for low-income purchasers.

We feel that we have struck the right balance. However, we are, of course, always happy to look at individual circumstances. Calum Grever’s case highlights particular issues, so I want to meet him to discuss the issues and to look at how we might help to move forward on them.

Aircraft Noise

To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to protect communities from excessive aircraft noise. (S6O-01177)

The Minister for Environment and Land Reform (Màiri McAllan)

We recognise the impact that aircraft noise can have on communities, particularly those around runways. Major airports are required to put in place and take reasonable steps to deliver a plan to mitigate the impact under the Environmental Noise (Scotland) Regulations 2006. They must update the plan every five years in consultation with communities. As we enter the busy summer period, we encourage airports to engage effectively with local communities to consider how best to mitigate noise impact. However, it is always worth reminding ourselves that our connectivity is increasingly being provided by latest-generation aircraft, which are quieter and cleaner.

Marie McNair

I can advise the minister that I am meeting Glasgow Airport Ltd. Constituents have contacted me to express concerns that plans to mitigate aircraft noise are insufficient, and I support them in expressing those concerns. Will the minister outline the importance that the Scottish Government places on the need for local communities to be at the heart of mitigation plans?

Màiri McAllan

Yes, I am absolutely happy to. Engaging with local communities on noise mitigation measures is very important, and I encourage airports to continue to do that as they deliver and update their noise action plans.

I am pleased to learn that Glasgow Airport Ltd will be setting up a noise action forum, which will include community representatives. I am also pleased to hear that the forum will meet the member shortly.

Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

The minister will be aware that the long-awaited redesign of the airspace around Edinburgh airport had to be abandoned because of the pandemic. In effect, the airport has been put back to square 1. The redesign included much-needed offset departures over the village of Cramond, which would have reduced noise in my constituency. What discussions is the minister having with Edinburgh Airport Ltd and the Civil Aviation Authority about assisting them to get back to the place where they had to leave off?

Màiri McAllan

The specific issue that Alex Cole-Hamilton raises is not one that rests squarely in my ministerial portfolio. However, I am more than happy to speak to my colleagues, discover which of us has been dealing with the issue and get them to engage directly with the member.

Electricity (Nuclear Generation)

To ask the Scottish Government what proportion of electricity generated in Scotland in 2020 was from nuclear. (S6O-01178)

In 2020, 25.7 per cent of Scotland’s electricity was generated by nuclear.

Liam Kerr

According to the Climate Change Committee’s report “Net Zero—The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming”, to hit net zero, the United Kingdom will need four times more clean power by 2050. It further says that 38 per cent of that needs to be “firm power”, which means power that is consistently generated and reliable, regardless of the conditions or battery life. From what source will Scotland get that 38 per cent of firm electricity generation?

Richard Lochhead

So far this year, only 19 per cent of our electricity has been sourced from nuclear. Just last week, wind power contributed a record amount of electricity to Britain, meeting half of these islands’ electricity needs on one day alone.

The view of this Government is that nuclear is not the answer to Scotland’s energy security or energy needs. It is far too expensive, it will take years and there remain safety and environmental concerns around it. Scotland’s future is based on our abundance of natural resources and on renewable energy. The amount of renewable electricity that was generated in Scotland in 2021 was the equivalent of what was needed to power all households in Scotland for almost three years. That is Scotland’s future.

Liam Kerr

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Forgive me, but I asked a straight question about where the 38 per cent of firm electricity will come from. The minister did not even attempt to answer that question, which is just not a good reflection on the minister or Parliament. I wonder whether he might be given another opportunity.

The Presiding Officer

The minister has been given an opportunity to answer that question. The content of contributions is not a matter for me. Of course, under the members’ code of conduct, which insists on courtesy and respect among members, it is clear that we expect answers to be as responsive as possible.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Hunterston B power station, in my constituency, ceased electricity generation in January, so asking about 2020 output is surely irrelevant. Does the minister agree that, with Austria’s energy minister raising the spectre of

“severe accidents with high releases”

at Sizewell C, which is to be built in Suffolk, due to its reactor design, we should not be considering new nuclear fission generation in Scotland?

Richard Lochhead

The member is quite right to highlight some of the serious concerns that are expressed about the safety and, indeed, environmental implications of nuclear technologies. That is why the Scottish Government does not support the building of any new nuclear power stations in Scotland, and it is why that will not feature as part of our wider energy strategy review, which will take place later this year. We will continue to assess any new technologies on the basis of their safety, value for customers and contribution to Scotland’s low-carbon economy and energy future.

Deposit Return Scheme

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on its deposit return scheme. (S6O-01179)

The Minister for Environment and Land Reform (Màiri McAllan)

We are implementing an ambitious deposit return scheme, which will be the first in the United Kingdom, and it will go live from 16 August 2023.

I am delighted that the Scottish National Investment Bank and the Bank of Scotland have announced a total of £18 million in loan funding for Circularity Scotland. That is a tremendous vote of confidence in our DRS and in Circularity Scotland as the scheme administrator.

Recently, Circularity Scotland published details of the handling fee that will be paid to retailers that operate a return point and of the specification for reverse vending machines. Confirming those details is a major step forward that will allow industry to move ahead with its preparations.

Daniel Johnson

My supplementary question addresses the Scottish National Investment Bank funding. Many people will be surprised that the deposit return scheme is receiving funding from that source, given that the Scottish National Investment Bank was meant to be about strategic priorities, addressing market failure and driving enterprise. Is it appropriate for it to be funding public policy through that means, especially given that Scottish National Investment Bank funding will decline to zero in the timeframe of the resource spending review, as was announced yesterday?

Màiri McAllan

As, I assume, Daniel Johnson is aware, the investment decisions of the Scottish National Investment Bank are taken entirely independently of ministers.

However, given the opportunity to talk about DRS today, I am very pleased to reiterate that it will go live in August next year. When it does, it will be the first such scheme in the UK, as well as the most environmentally ambitious and accessible scheme in the European Union. It will sit alongside landmark investment of £70 million in recycling infrastructure. Also, as Scotland becomes—today of all days—the first country in the UK to ban some of the most problematic single-use plastics, it will make an enormous contribution to our environmental and anti-litter objectives.

District Heating and Waste Incineration

7. Jim Fairlie (Perthshire South and Kinross-shire) (SNP)

To ask the Scottish Government what support is available to local authorities to encourage the development of district heating systems in conjunction with the incineration of waste rather than sending waste to landfill. (S6O-01180)

The Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights (Patrick Harvie)

In February, we launched our £300 million heat network fund, which helps local authorities and private companies to develop heat networks, including making use of existing waste heat, where possible. We currently support heat network projects in Aberdeen and Midlothian that will use waste heat from energy-from-waste plants. However, it is important that waste heat producers decarbonise their operations to ensure that we meet our net zero target. We recently published the report of the independent review of incineration, which recommends that the Scottish Government set an indicative cap for the amount of residual waste treatment that is needed. We will set out our response to that report in June.

Jim Fairlie

I recently attended a meeting of the cross-party group on Nordic countries and was interested to hear from Morten Duedahl from the Danish Board of District Heating, who told us that around 50 per cent of Danish heat demand is serviced by district heating and heat networks. In my constituency, there are plans for an energy-from-waste plant at the Binn ecopark. Will the minister set out how areas in Scotland have invested in such systems and how communities can consume the energy or heat that is produced in their locality? Is that local production to be consumed via the national grid?

Patrick Harvie

Mr Fairlie is right to point to the much more extensive use of heat networks in some other European countries. Currently, upwards of 1.18 terawatt hours of heat is supplied by heat networks in Scotland. We want significant growth so that, by the end of this decade, 6 terawatt hours of heat is supplied by networks.

We recently published the first national assessment of potential heat network zones, to identify areas in which heat network deployment could be most effective. Via Scotland’s heat network fund, we are providing £300 million to develop heat networks, which could, if well located, utilise waste heat. In some places, existing waste-to-energy plants might be in a position to supply heat to heat networks and electricity to the grid. However, we need to be clear that the growth of heat networks is not contingent on increasing the availability of heat from that particular source.