Legislation that intends to create more favourable business conditions and deliver benefits for the environment has been supported by a Holyrood committee.
The Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee (EET) has backed proposals to achieve consistency in how regulations are applied, the introduction of a duty for regulators to contribute to sustainable economic growth and to link planning fees to the satisfactory performance of planning authorities.
Whilst the general principles of the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Bill were agreed by the majority of the Committee, its Stage 1 report published today noted that there were “conflicting views” on the introduction of a sustainable economic growth duty for regulators and the proposal to link planning fees to performance.
Whilst the Committee welcomed the inclusion of a definition of sustainable economic growth in the Code of Practice, to avoid future legal challenge, it recommended that the Scottish Government ensure that its definition is also explicitly stated and explained in the guidance that will accompany the Bill.
The Committee also recommended that the Scottish Government give a commitment that the guidance accompanying the Bill be submitted to the Scottish Parliament for scrutiny prior to being issued.
Convener of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, Murdo Fraser MSP, said:
“The Committee agreed to retain the sustainable economic growth duty within the Bill. However, to avoid the courts defining the duty we feel it is essential that the Scottish Government ensures that regulators understand the meaning of sustainable economic growth and how to comply with the duty.
“As the Code of Practice is to underpin the new duty we intend, along with our colleagues on the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, to take evidence from stakeholders within our remit prior to the draft code being finalised and laid before Parliament.”
“The Committee also noted the conflicting views on the proposal to link planning fees to performance and asked the Scottish Government to monitor the impact of this measure on planning authority performance and report back to the Committee one year after policy implementation.”
The Committee also made the following recommendations:
- The Committee agreed, by division, with the Minister for Environment and Climate Change that a hierarchy of duties for Scottish Natural Heritage and other regulators, similar to the one provided for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, is unnecessary.
- In relation to linking planning fees to performance, the Committee:
- Recommended that the Scottish Government continue to work with COSLA to resolve the issue of using the agreed performance markers as the basis of reducing planning authority fees, and report back to the Committee, preferably before the conclusion of the Bill’s parliamentary passage; and
- Requested clarity on the type of measures that the Scottish Government will undertake to improve planning authority performance, and in the cases where fees are reduced, the proposed level and duration of any reduction.
- In relation to the six week appeal time limit for marine licencing decisions the Committee recommended that the Minister address the concerns raised about the potential impact on both business confidence and investment, and also on the ability of individuals, communities and small businesses to appeal.
- The Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth on 27 March 2013.
- On 16 April, the Parliamentary Bureau referred the Bill to the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee (EET) as the lead Committee to consider and report to the Parliament on the general principles of the Bill and appointed the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee (RACCE) as secondary Committee.
- The Scottish Government’s intention is that the Bill should “improve the way regulation is developed and applied, creating more favourable business conditions in Scotland and delivering benefits for the environment”.
- The EET Committee issued a call for written evidence on the Bill, to which it received 35 written submissions and 14 supplementary responses. The Committee undertook three informal fact finding meetings on 21 May 2013 and took formal evidence on the general principles of the Bill at five meetings between 29 May and 11 September 2013.