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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, December 15, 2016

Meeting of the Parliament 15 December 2016

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Edinburgh World Heritage Site, Point of Order, Draft Budget 2017-18, Food Waste, Scottish Land Commissioners and Tenant Farming Commissioner (Appointment), Business Motion, Presiding Officer’s Ruling, Decision Time


Contents


Edinburgh World Heritage Site

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Linda Fabiani)

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-02445, in the name of Gordon Lindhurst, on the future of Edinburgh’s world heritage site. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the significance of the contrast between Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town and its Georgian New Town and its designation as a World Heritage Site in 1995 by UNESCO, recognising both its historical and architectural importance and efforts to conserve it since 1970; notes that the site is one of five across Scotland; understands that, according to Invest Edinburgh, the city attracts around four million visitors per year, many of whom visit the historic attractions within the World Heritage Site, such as Edinburgh Castle, St Giles Cathedral and the Real Mary King’s Close; further understands that the site is a major factor behind the £1.32 billion that is generated through tourism for the local economy each year; recognises that a World Heritage Site is selected based on it having cultural, historical, scientific or other significance and its future preservation is seen to be in the collective interests of humanity; notes the prevailing development plans within Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site, such as the decision over the old Royal High School at Calton Hill, and the need to develop Scotland’s capital city for the future in order to enhance the performance of its economy; recognises that Edinburgh City Council, Edinburgh World Heritage and Historic Environment Scotland are involved in reviewing the Management Plan for the World Heritage Site (2017-2022), which aims to co-ordinate action to protect and enhance the outstanding universal values of the site and to promote its harmonious adaption to the needs of contemporary life; further recognises that members of the public were recently consulted on the review through a survey, the results of which were published on 1 November 2016; understands that the results show that, while awareness of the World Heritage Site was rated highly, there was a lack of understanding regarding what it meant and its associated benefits; notes the calls for action at all levels to raise awareness and custodianship of the site and the protection of the historic built environment for current and future generations, and further notes the calls on all those with influence over Edinburgh’s current and future planning developments to fully recognise the importance of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.

12:47  

Gordon Lindhurst (Lothian) (Con)

We have in Edinburgh a unique and special treasure,

“an old city dominated by a medieval fortress and a new neoclassic city”

with a

“harmonious juxtaposition of these two highly contrasting historic areas, each containing many buildings of great significance”.

I quote, of course, from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization world heritage listing, which was awarded in 1995 to the old and new towns of Edinburgh.

One of my early memories is of standing on the castle ramparts at the age of six or so, together with my younger brother. Everywhere was covered in mist and little could be seen. Seemingly in an instant, the mist cleared and I could see down into Princes Street gardens and beyond. It was, for me, a magical and lasting moment; a picture in time from a day trip to this great city.

Like so many visitors to Edinburgh before and since, I was captured by its incredible beauty and contrasts. That is what draws 4 million tourists to our capital city every year—a record unmatched in the United Kingdom outwith London. Visitors flock to Edinburgh castle, St Giles’ cathedral and the real Mary King’s Close, to name but a few attractions. They bring a wealth of interest and spend over £1 billion, creating thousands of jobs. A recent first-time visitor to the city, who is in his 70s—someone who, like me, has travelled the world and the seven seas—told me that Edinburgh was an amazing place and like nowhere that he had ever seen before on earth.

However, sometimes we cease to appreciate what we should enjoy. Familiarity can even breed contempt. Many buildings change hands and change use. I think of the former building in which Charlotte Baptist Chapel met in Rose Street and of its new meeting place in Shandwick Place—the former St George’s West—which has been given a new lease of life as a place of worship. One building’s fate may indeed be another’s fortune.

It is against this background of Edinburgh’s outstanding built heritage that I have brought today’s debate to our national Parliament in the hope that it will help to assist in the preservation of the irreplaceable for generations to come.

The debate comes at a significant time for this world heritage site and the city of Edinburgh. The city is not simply a museum but a living place that continues to develop in our modern day. As convener of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee, I understand the need for that. I was delighted to learn that Edinburgh topped the FDI Intelligence global cities for the future awards this week, recognising the work that has been done to attract 25 new foreign investors last year alone.

The continued success of the city as an attractive place to live, work and do business in depends on its roots. Protection of the world heritage site is not a bar to that; it complements it. Businesses benefit from the world-renowned setting, even as our city benefits from the investment that is generated. Edinburgh World Heritage does fantastic work to ensure that the world heritage site is a positive force for good to benefit everyone. This is on the basis that UNESCO status should not prevent but rather result in properly managed change in the context of 75 per cent of buildings within this world heritage site being listed.

Given that background, what are a few steps that can be taken for Edinburgh? The management plan for the world heritage site needs to be integrated better into the city plan that oversees how Edinburgh develops. Having a management plan that is simply latched on to the side of the city plan tends to lead to complications.

All levels of government need to sharply focus on overseeing development in tandem with maintaining Edinburgh’s heritage. There are voices at a local council level supporting this ambition, such as that of Councillor Joanna Mowat, who is in the public gallery, and of course there is Adam Wilkinson of Edinburgh World Heritage, who is also in the public gallery.

The upkeep of building fabric in the city centre is also crucial. A recent survey reported that 72 per cent of 202 properties surveyed needed some sort of repair. The upkeep of private property is as essential to Edinburgh’s world heritage site status as the need to have managed change. This represents an aspect of community buy-in to Edinburgh’s heritage that should be strongly emphasised and supported. That community buy-in is only likely to happen, however, if there is a greater understanding and appreciation of what it means to be a world heritage site.

Recent survey results that were gathered to inform the management plan for 2017 to 2022 are both encouraging and concerning. Awareness of the city centre’s world heritage site was high, but most respondents were unaware of what it meant and what the benefits were.

By promoting the world heritage site and talking up its benefits, we can foster the maintenance that is required. That alone may not be enough. Following the scrapping of the former statutory notice repair system by the City of Edinburgh Council, city residents find themselves left in somewhat of a vacuum. Thought must be given as to how maintenance work can be managed and encouraged, possibly through legislation or other incentives.

My goal in bringing today’s debate before the Parliament has been to raise awareness of the importance of Edinburgh’s UNESCO world heritage site status during a period of change in Scotland’s capital city.

Not only Edinburgh but many parts of our country enjoy a rich built heritage that needs to be protected for the future. Let us maintain and manage it for the good of all as we move into that future.

12:54  

Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP)

I commend Gordon Lindhurst for bringing this important debate to the Parliament. I ask colleagues to excuse me because, as I have already communicated to the Presiding Officer, I have a commitment—I must attend a meeting of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, which starts at 1 o’clock—that means that I will have to leave after my speech.

I wanted to speak in the debate because I am incredibly passionate about Edinburgh’s world heritage site status and the need to sustain and preserve this wonderful city. As someone who grew up here, I have been in love with the city of Edinburgh as far back as I can remember, because of the views from our seven hills and from North Bridge, and the feeling of inspiration that I get from walking around the new town, where, as a hub of enlightenment thinking, James Clerk Maxwell or Adam Smith might have sat down or walked along a street. Numerous ideas, innovations and inspirations have come out of the city, including, in modern times, those of J K Rowling and others.

I have a deep appreciation for the city’s urban environment and its soul. The points that Gordon Lindhurst made in his motion and in his speech could not be overemphasised. We need to think about how we preserve the city in the context of mistakes that have been made in the past. In previous decades, there were plans to build an inner ring road through Edinburgh. Thankfully, that idea was put to one side. Those of us who are lucky enough to represent the city will know that there are streets in all our constituencies in which the destruction that was caused in previous decades would not happen today. We must learn from those mistakes.

As Gordon Lindhurst wisely said, we need to treasure the city. That is key to the urban environment of those of us who live and work here, but it is also key to our economic prosperity; it is what makes Edinburgh special in the world. Those of us who have travelled and come back to Edinburgh and have felt a sense of being home and a sense of inspiration as we have come into the city centre have an insight into what it must be like for a first-time visitor to the city. It is the beauty of Edinburgh’s landscape that is so inspirational and so economically important. As the motion states, 4 million visitors a year come here and £1.32 billion is generated through tourism.

As well as touching on some of the points that Gordon Lindhurst rightly made, there is another issue that I would like to raise. Those of us who represent Edinburgh have a responsibility and, I hope, a determination to work together on the call to action that Gordon Lindhurst articulated in his motion. We need to raise awareness of and promote a sense of custodianship. There are two main factors that we can focus on in doing that. The first relates to tenement buildings and the issues with the statutory notice system that were exposed, which Gordon Lindhurst rightly mentioned. We must think about how we can move towards a new system in order to sustain the tenement urban infrastructure of the city, and I will be delighted to work with colleagues in Edinburgh to do that.

The proposed planning bill will give us an opportunity to think about how we can balance the desire for more homes and the need to develop our economy with the need to value and preserve heritage, which we must do in a spirit of putting an emphasis on quality, design and vision.

I commend Gordon Lindhurst for bringing his important motion to the Parliament, and I share his determination to gain collective responsibility for the custodianship of this wonderful city.

12:59  

Miles Briggs (Lothian) (Con)

I congratulate my colleague Gordon Lindhurst on securing the debate, and I welcome to the gallery representatives from Edinburgh World Heritage and Councillor Joanna Mowat, who represents the City Centre ward on the City of Edinburgh Council, who I know has been working on the issue in the city chambers.

In thinking about today’s debate, I could not help but think about another world heritage site and one that is perhaps most in our thoughts today—the ancient city of Aleppo. The human suffering that has been caused by the situation there is already extreme; that the fighting has destroyed cultural heritage that bears witness to the country’s millenary history, which is valued and admired the world over, makes it even more tragic.

I agree with Gordon Lindhurst on the importance of Edinburgh’s world heritage site. The unique combination—contrasting yet complementary—of the history and character of the old town and the neoclassical grandeur of the Georgian new town rightly makes our capital city one of the top tourist destinations worldwide and plays a vital role in attracting over 4 million tourists to the city each year, as has been mentioned. Our iconic cityscape is intangibly linked to Scotland’s history, heritage and culture and is a key part of Edinburgh’s image as the Athens of the north.

It is easy to take our surroundings for granted, but we should recognise that many cities across Europe and the world look on Edinburgh with great envy. Tourism income is critically important to Edinburgh and the Lothian region, and the economic value of the world heritage site must be recognised. It literally helps to underpin the jobs of thousands of Lothian residents, including my constituents, and injects huge sums into both the local and the national economy. As was demonstrated clearly by Edinburgh World Heritage’s survey, there is significant public support for Edinburgh’s world heritage status and all sections of the community recognise it as a beneficial designation. However, more needs to be done to raise awareness of what it means.

Gordon Lindhurst spoke about the importance of maintaining properties in the world heritage site in a good state of repair, and I agree with his sentiments on that. We should pay tribute today to the many private owners whose upkeep of buildings in the site benefits us all. I believe that we should examine how we can support those owners through grant schemes and other incentives. As Edinburgh World Heritage has suggested, a lack of building maintenance is as big a threat to the world heritage site as inappropriate new developments.

On that subject, the challenge for all involved in planning and development in our city is how to preserve and maintain our world heritage site in tandem with expanding our economy in a fast-growing city where more and more people want to come to visit, live and invest. Those things are not mutually exclusive and we must aim for a sustainable and successful co-existence between them. Rightly, the world heritage site management plan is about not just preservation but facilitating positive change to help ensure that Edinburgh continues to be the dynamic and evolving city that we all love. We should consider Edinburgh’s world heritage site not as an impediment or obstacle to modern development but as a creative challenge to which planners and developers should be able to rise, as they have in the past to the development of the new town itself and the Victorian and later additions to the old and new towns.

Again, I very much welcome today’s debate and believe that it is timely and appropriate that our Parliament is debating Edinburgh’s world heritage site, which is not just an issue of local interest, but an issue of national and, indeed, international significance. I look to the Scottish Government to work with all local stakeholders in the city and with Edinburgh World Heritage to support the maintenance and enhancement of our city’s heritage and sympathetic and imaginative future development that further enhances the unique built environment of Scotland’s capital for, as Gordon Lindhurst said, the generations to come.

13:03  

Andy Wightman (Lothian) (Green)

I welcome this debate and thank Gordon Lindhurst for lodging his motion. I have long taken an interest in world heritage sites since I was a student at the University of Aberdeen and was part of the campaign for the designation—I think that the technical term is “inscription”—of the Cairngorms as a world heritage site. However, that has not happened.

I am privileged to live in such a fine city as Edinburgh, although I do not live in the world heritage site. I want to touch on three areas that I think are germane to how the Scottish Parliament could tackle some of the issues facing Edinburgh’s world heritage site: planning, housing and governance.

First, I am sure that it will not be lost on Mr Lindhurst that our planning system received something of a boost in the development of the new town when the 37 acres was acquired by the city council’s common good fund back in the 18th century. The council attempted to impose the very strict conditions that were laid down in the Craig plan on the developers of the new town by the law of contract. The developers were required to come to the town council and sign that they would follow the plan. The first developers, many of whom had properties on Princes Street because it was the most attractive street, proceeded with that requirement and did, indeed, agree with the plan. However, when they sold those buildings on, the law of contract did not bind their successors, which led to the revitalisation of the feudal system. Those who want to read a bit more about that can do so in a very fine book of mine. I should also mention a more important book that talks about the issue in great detail: “The Transformation of Edinburgh: Land, Property and Trust in the Nineteenth Century”, by Richard Rodger.

One of the unique features of the world heritage site in Edinburgh is that it is a lived environment. People live here—it is their home. People also come here for holidays and to work, but it is people’s home. Nevertheless, I know from constituents’ inquiries that there is increasing concern about the number of properties, particularly in the old town, that are no longer used as primary residences. In fact, one constituent I met last week is the only resident in their tenement stair in the Grassmarket—the rest of the flats are used for parties, Airbnb rentals, holiday lets and so on. In the planning bill, we will have an opportunity to introduce new use class orders, under residential permissions, to ensure that, for example, the council has some democratic control over how property is used and can limit or expand—as it chooses—the uses to which properties are put. I am talking not just about primary residences and holiday residences but about student accommodation, retirement accommodation and so on. That would mean far greater control over and scrutiny of the use of properties in places such as the old town of Edinburgh.

That links to housing. Gordon Lindhurst is right to cite the recent survey of the world heritage site, which showed the poor state of repair that it is in. I was at the city council recently and talked about the matter with councillors. One of them took me down a dark passage, through a dark door and into a very dark room. We eventually found the light, and in that room was a bank of card drawers. We pulled them out and in each drawer were index cards of properties in Edinburgh—not just the new and old towns but the whole of Edinburgh—and inspection records for properties detailing inspections that had been undertaken over the decades, typically every two or three years, by the council. We have an opportunity to treat the housing in the city that has been around for 200 years or so as part of our public infrastructure, not simply as private infrastructure.

On governance, we face challenges because much of the world heritage site is owned in common—it was acquired by the common good fund and remains part of the common good. We need to reform that law.

On the business improvement district, I think that there are many questions about the governance of St Andrew Square. I would like us to review how we award BID contracts in the future, to ensure that the city centre—particularly the world heritage site—remains a fine place in which to live and work.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Alexander Anderson to be followed by Alison Johstone. [Interruption.] Please excuse me—I mean Alexander Stewart.

13:07  

Alexander Stewart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

That is quite all right, Presiding Officer. I answer to many things.

I am delighted to be able to participate in the debate and pay tribute to my colleague Gordon Lindhurst for securing it and bringing the issue to a national platform. However, I am disappointed that we do not have any Liberal or Labour MSPs in the chamber with us. I would have thought that they would support the motion as well.

UNESCO’s general criterion for a world heritage site is that it must be

“A natural or man-made site, area, or structure recognized as being of outstanding international importance”.

Edinburgh could not fit that definition better—it really is incredible. The two cities—the old and the new—ensure that Edinburgh’s character is like nothing anywhere else. The neoclassical city and the 15th century city are completely different but complement each other very well. We have buildings and architectural styles across the city that are recognised by the individuals who live here and those who come here to work or visit.

It is very encouraging to see that the research conducted by Edinburgh World Heritage has shown that there is nearly unanimous public support for the city’s status. It is interesting to see that, according to the same research, many residents who are supportive of Edinburgh’s status do not entirely understand, or are not quite sure, what that status means or what benefits will come from it. Although the status does not confer any particular controls over developments in the city, it gives the opportunity to require conditions to be met. UNESCO requires those responsible for the site to take part. The management plan will summarise the importance of the site and the policies to protect, develop and enhance all that is happening round about Edinburgh itself.

The four conservation areas that the world heritage site covers—the old town, the new town, the Dean village and the west end—help to protect buildings, trees, parks, paving and general character. About 75 per cent of the buildings in those areas are listed. It is crucial that we all know what we are trying to achieve here and, as I said, I am delighted that there is so much support across the area.

New developments can always be controversial. It is important that we continue to consider how we manage new developments in Edinburgh and ensure that they are complementary to the historic architecture in both the old town and the new town.

UNESCO world heritage site status puts Edinburgh—rightly—in an exclusive group of important sites around the world, including the great barrier reef, Yellowstone national park and the Galapagos Islands, to name but a few. It is absolutely clear—and encouraging—that there is widespread public support for the status. Now, as we draw up a new management plan for the next five years, it is important that we continue to raise awareness of the world heritage site, as we are doing in this debate, and do all that we can to move it forward.

We must balance the city’s need for development to ensure that it is fit for the 21st century with the vital importance of conservation and restoration in protecting the city’s history and heritage for generations to come. I very much support the efforts of my colleague Gordon Lindhurst to ensure that we do that.

13:11  

Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

I thank Gordon Lindhurst for giving us the opportunity to have the debate, because it is really important that we discuss the future of Edinburgh’s world heritage site. A world heritage site is not designated lightly, and the city has had the designation for only a fairly short period in its long history. Our world heritage site attracts many visitors and we must protect it, so I welcome the fact that the motion

“calls on all those with influence over Edinburgh’s current and future planning developments to fully recognise the importance of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site.”

In February this year, UNESCO expressed deeply worrying concerns that the quality of new developments is affecting the city’s world heritage status.

I am heartened to see Alexander Stewart in the chamber, because he represents Mid Scotland and Fife. There is an appreciation that the issue should concern not only politicians who represent Edinburgh and the Lothians but each and every member of the Parliament. We have to take it seriously. Edinburgh is the first port of call for many visitors to Scotland, and it has so many attractions that many visitors never leave. It is essential that we do not damage the unique selling points that bring visitors here in the first place.

My colleague Andy Wightman spoke about the competing pressures. This is such an attractive city that many people want to—shall we say—make the most of it. I, too, have had concerns raised by constituents who find themselves the only long-term resident in their stair. The Parliament should look at that issue in the years ahead, because a lack of those who have a long-term interest in a neighbourhood affects that neighbourhood.

In the old town, the community council felt challenged by what happened over the Caltongate development with regard to planning, but another issue is that, when there are few long-term residents in a neighbourhood, there are fewer people to form a community council and fewer people who have day-to-day experience of what living in the area is like.

It is really important that we do not forget who Edinburgh is for. We warmly welcome all those who want to come and visit us. That has huge benefits socially, culturally and economically, but let us ensure that it remains the fabulous compact city that it is, with its many wonders. As someone who is Edinburgh born and bred, I never take those many wonders for granted.

We will soon be celebrating hogmanay, for which Edinburgh has become a global focal point for many. Some members in the chamber are possibly old enough, like me, to remember when we celebrated new year at the Tron. That was a non-commercial event. We just got on the bus and came into town with pals and the High Street was thronged. I realise that that has changed, but I would like us to think about the importance of retaining some of that intimacy and scale, and to consider that bigger, bolder and sometimes brasher is not always better.

Let us celebrate and enhance the historic built environment, but let us also remember the challenges. Gordon Lindhurst mentioned the fact that, last month, Edinburgh World Heritage surveyed 202 buildings in the city centre and found that 72 per cent of them need some sort of repair. Most of them are privately owned historic tenements, but my colleague Andy Wightman was right to say that they are also a public asset. We are custodians of the city.

The Scottish traditional building forum has been working in this area for quite a long time. It has concluded that almost 70 per cent of pre-1919 buildings in Scotland are not wind and watertight. Let us continue to focus on insulating our homes, but let us also make sure that those traditional buildings are wind and watertight. Miles Briggs made the point that that issue is just as important as inappropriate development. [Interruption.] I am going to finish, Presiding Officer; I realise that I have gone over my time.

When it comes to inappropriate development, we have to be careful. We have in the city a precious asset that is of cultural significance. One of the criteria for world heritage status is

“to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history”.

We have such an asset. Let us continue to work together to protect, enhance and maintain it.

13:16  

The Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop)

In closing the debate, I thank Gordon Lindhurst for introducing the motion and his considered speech. I also thank all who have contributed. The debate has again demonstrated the importance that we all attach to our historic environment, not just for its own sake but for the economic, social, educational and cultural enrichment that it provides.

Just as each of Scotland’s six world heritage sites tells an important story about part of Scotland’s past, the sites remain central to the lives of our communities today. Gordon Lindhurst’s motion refers to only five world heritage sites and I am sure that that was an oversight and not a slight on the Forth bridge, which is our sixth world heritage site. From the 6,000-year-old monuments at the heart of neolithic Orkney, which bring tourism and educational benefits, to the Forth bridge, which is relatively youthful at only 126 years old and is still fulfilling its original function as a key part of Scotland’s transport infrastructure, each of our six world heritage sites is a treasure that is to be celebrated and cherished.

Miles Briggs is right to express concern about world heritage sites in Syria. The human cost is, of course, the key priority, but Daesh is not content with just killing people; it wants to kill the soul of humanity, as we have seen with the destruction of the heritage in Palmyra. That was discussed at the culture summit here in Edinburgh in August.

Our focus has of course been on the old and new towns of Edinburgh. The city is a year-round destination and is a festival city of breathtaking beauty, world-class attractions, quality shopping and fabulous food and drink. Like Ben Macpherson, I recall the moment when, as a 14-year-old, I fell in love with the city of Edinburgh. It is little wonder that Edinburgh has been voted the top UK city by The Guardian travel awards for 13 consecutive years and the best UK destination outside London by TripAdvisor reviewers.

Figures published recently by the Edinburgh tourism action group show that the world heritage status of the old and new towns ranks among the top 10 reasons for visitors to come to the city. To realise the full benefits of that heritage, careful stewardship is needed.

Under the world heritage convention, a state party agrees to identify, protect, preserve, promote and transmit the outstanding universal value of its world heritage sites for the benefit of current and future generations. The Government looks to the management partners at each of our world heritage sites to achieve that and to implement best practice that stems from UNESCO guidance and recommendations.

I was pleased to see strong public engagement in the recent research that the site management partners in Edinburgh undertook to inform the drafting of the 2017 to 2022 management plan. There will be a formal public consultation on the draft management plan in spring 2017 and, like Alexander Stewart, I encourage all who have an interest to embrace the opportunity to help to shape the plan.

Edinburgh is a vibrant, living and breathing city. The world heritage site is home to 23,000 residents and more than 100,000 people work in it. In Edinburgh, as in any historic city, there is a balance to be struck between a number of priorities, including the needs of residents, business, visitors and economic development, as well as the conservation of the site’s outstanding universal value. As planning authority and lead management partner for the world heritage site, the City of Edinburgh Council has particular responsibilities to ensure that the balance is appropriate in the management of the site and in the regulation of development in it.

National planning framework 3 acknowledges that Edinburgh’s world-renowned built heritage is a key asset. Scottish planning policy states that, when a development proposal has the potential to affect a world heritage site or its setting, the planning authority must protect and preserve the site’s outstanding universal value. Scottish planning policy also requires that approach, where relevant, to be implemented at the local level.

Statutory controls are in place to protect elements such as scheduled monuments, listed buildings and conservation areas. The local development plan for Edinburgh also sets out other strong policies, including a skyline policy.

For the majority of planning applications that are submitted for places in the world heritage site, decisions are—rightly—made at the local level. However, when genuine national issues are at stake, Scottish ministers have the statutory power to call in planning applications and listed building consent applications for determination at the national level.

In May this year, a review of the Scottish planning system was published. The review was led by an independent panel and received written submissions and oral evidence from a wide range of stakeholders, including Historic Environment Scotland and the Built Environment Forum Scotland. Detailed proposals will shortly be published for consultation; a number of Andy Wightman’s suggestions about the character of Edinburgh and especially its residential character relate to that. We want to ensure that Scotland has a world-class planning system that supports economic growth, the delivery of quality development and community empowerment.

The sites that are on the world heritage list represent the most significant, unique or best examples of the world’s cultural and natural heritage. World heritage sites have an importance that transcends national boundaries; they belong to all the people of the world, irrespective of the countries in which they are located.

In the old and new towns of Edinburgh world heritage site, we have the core of a thriving city, committed management partners and a responsibility for ensuring that the site’s outstanding universal value is understood, celebrated and preserved. Some development proposals will always divide opinion, but our planning system includes a number of safeguards that, together, ensure that major decisions are taken through a transparent and rigorous process and with due regard for our heritage.

It is important that people who live and work in Edinburgh, and the many visitors to the capital, continue to enjoy the riches of the old and new towns of Edinburgh world heritage site in years to come. Many members have used the word “custodianship”; I used the word “stewardship”. Collective responsibility—not just in the city but nationally and, as I stressed, internationally—is at the heart of the debate.

I commend the important work that has been done, particularly by the Edinburgh World Heritage Trust. I also look forward to celebrating Edinburgh’s world heritage site in 2017 as we take part in Scotland’s year of history, heritage and archaeology.

13:23 Meeting suspended.  14:30 On resuming—