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Meeting of the Parliament

Thursday 14 April 2005

Note: (DT) signifies a decision taken at Decision Time.

The meeting opened at 9.15 am.

1. Council Tax: Alasdair Morgan moved S2M-2693—That the Parliament notes that the council tax has increased by 55% since 1997; further notes that the council tax is a regressive form of local taxation which penalises those on low incomes and pensioners and is overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Scotland and that the revaluation of the council tax in Wales has resulted in more than one-third of properties moving up by one band or more, and agrees that there should be no revaluation of properties in Scotland and that the unfair council tax should be abolished and replaced by a fair system of local taxation.

The Deputy Minister for Finance and Public Service Reform (Tavish Scott) moved amendment S2M-2693.1 to motion S2M-2693—

Leave out from first “council tax” to end and insert—

“Scottish Executive has established the independent inquiry into local government finance consistent with the Partnership Agreement of May 2003; notes that, because of the ongoing inquiry, there are no plans for a council tax revaluation in Scotland; notes that the Labour Party has submitted clear and detailed proposals to support changes to the council tax and that the Liberal Democrats have submitted clear and detailed proposals to support a local income tax, and therefore encourages all parties and others to make submissions to the inquiry.”

Mr Brian Monteith moved amendment S2M-2693.2 to motion S2M-2693—

Leave out from “; further notes” to end and insert—

“and that it is this large rise, and not the tax itself, that has made the cost of local council services a greater political priority and a punishing burden for so many Scottish households; believes that to offer a sustainable and fair solution, therefore, a complete review is required of local authority responsibilities and direct payment of some of these by the Scottish Executive so that council tax may be substantially cut; notes that only the Conservatives are offering such a seismic shift by transferring the full cost of schools to the Executive’s Education Department which could result in a 35%, or £384, reduction in Band D council tax for every household, while proposals for a local income tax would maintain the existing total tax take and would only change who pays what amount, and believes that Labour’s proposal for the introduction of a new top band will place a disproportionate burden on a small minority, while a new lower band will be of major benefit to the Treasury through reduced council tax benefit payments.”

After debate, amendment S2M-2693.1 was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 65, Against 39, Abstentions 7). As a result amendment S2M-2693.2 was pre-empted.

The motion, as amended was then agreed to ((DT) by division: For 65, Against 20, Abstentions 26).

Accordingly, the Parliament resolved—That the Parliament notes that the Scottish Executive has established the independent inquiry into local government finance consistent with the Partnership Agreement of May 2003; notes that, because of the ongoing inquiry, there are no plans for a council tax revaluation in Scotland; notes that the Labour Party has submitted clear and detailed proposals to support changes to the council tax and that the Liberal Democrats have submitted clear and detailed proposals to support a local income tax, and therefore encourages all parties and others to make submissions to the inquiry.

2. Nuclear Power: Richard Lochhead moved S2M-2691—That the Parliament notes that the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) is due to make its final report in July 2006; notes that the decision on where to locate sites for the long-term storage of nuclear waste is likely to be taken shortly after that date and that a number of potential sites in Scotland have been identified; notes that the UK Government is clearing the way to build new nuclear power stations; further notes that the UK Government has agreed to accept and store nuclear waste from overseas; agrees that only the Scottish Parliament can take the decision to locate any sites in Scotland for the long-term storage of nuclear waste, and rejects the need for a new nuclear power station in Scotland.

The Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning (Allan Wilson) moved amendment S2M-2691.2 to motion S2M-2691—

Leave out from “that the Committee” to end and insert—

“the work of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management; welcomes the Scottish Executive’s study into present and future energy supply and demand in Scotland; endorses the Executive’s position of not supporting the further development of nuclear power stations while waste management issues remain unresolved; supports the Executive’s continuing commitment to the development of renewable energy in Scotland, including wind, wave, tidal, solar, hydrogen, biofuels and biomass power, as a key element of a b alanced energy supply portfolio; supports the Executive’s commitment to achieving 40% renewable electricity generation by 2020, and welcomes the ongoing review of the Scottish Climate Change Programme and the priority being given to strengthening the contribution of energy efficiency and renewables to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

Alex Johnstone moved amendment S2M-2691.1 to motion S2M-2691—

Leave out from first “UK Government” to end and insert—

“House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee concluded in its report, Meeting Scotland’s Future Energy Needs, that it is ‘vital that decisions are taken now, to obviate the possibility of, quite literally, the lights going out in Scotland in the foreseeable future’; further notes that nuclear power is currently estimated to save the United Kingdom annual emissions of eight million tonnes, and therefore urges the Scottish Executive to support any plans brought forward by the UK Government to replace current nuclear power stations with new nuclear power stations in order to protect our energy supply, protect existing jobs and reduce our CO 2 emissions.”

Chris Ballance moved amendment S2M-2691.3 to motion S2M-2691—

Insert after fourth “waste”—

“notes that the industry proposal to base electricity supply on identical reactors of the unproven AP1000 design would undermine the security of electricity supply; notes that the amount set aside from nuclear generation revenues over the last 50 years to pay for decommissioning of existing nuclear power stations is only sufficient to fund the first two years of the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency’s 30-year programme and therefore that the multi-billion cost of decommissioning existing nuclear power stations will have to be paid for by future generations of tax payers and therefore considers that nuclear power is economically unsustainable; further notes that, over its whole life cycle, nuclear power is not carbon-neutral and agrees with the Chief Executive of the Energy Saving Trust that ‘to present nuclear power as one of the main ways of combating climate change is short-sighted’; believes that renewable energy and energy efficiency offer a truly secure and sustainable energy future”.

After debate, amendment S2M-2691.2 was agreed to ((DT) by division: For 65, Against 43, Abstentions 3). As a result amendments S2M-2691.1 and 2691.3 were pre-empted.

The motion, as amended was then agreed to ((DT) by division: For 65, Against 43, Abstentions 3).

Accordingly, the Parliament resolved— That the Parliament notes the work of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management; welcomes the Scottish Executive’s study into present and future energy supply and demand in Scotland; endorses the Executive’s position of not supporting the further development of nuclear power stations while waste management issues remain unresolved; supports the Executive’s continuing commitment to the development of renewable energy in Scotland, including wind, wave, tidal, solar, hydrogen, biofuels and biomass power, as a key element of a b alanced energy supply portfolio; supports the Executive’s commitment to achieving 40% renewable electricity generation by 2020, and welcomes the ongoing review of the Scottish Climate Change Programme and the priority being given to strengthening the contribution of energy efficiency and renewables to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

3. General Question Time: General Questions were answered by Scottish Ministers and junior Scottish Ministers.

4. First Minister’s Question Time: Questions were answered by the First Minister (Mr Jack McConnell).

5. Question Time: Questions on Enterprise , Lifelong Learning and Transport, and on Justice and Law Officers were answered by Scottish Ministers and junior Scottish Ministers and by the Scottish Law Officers.

6. Skills: The Deputy First Minister and Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning (Mr Jim Wallace) moved S2M-2694—That the Parliament acknowledges the importance of a policy of effective skills improvement and the contribution it can make to Scotland’s prosperity; supports the objectives of the Scottish Executive’s lifelong learning strategy which has helped raise the skill levels of Scotland’s current workforce and increased the potential for future skills improvement; recognises that the sustained success of the Modern Apprenticeship scheme and record investment in Scotland’s colleges have contributed significantly to improved skill levels; welcomes the Executive’s commitment to improving adult literacy and numeracy rates and to better preparing Scotland’s young people for the world of work through enterprise education and greater vocational learning opportunities, and believes that a continued focus on skills can help maintain Scotland’s position as European Region of the Future.

Jim Mather moved amendment S2M-2694.1 to motion S2M-2694—

Leave out from “which has helped” to end and insert—

“and encourages the Executive to embark on a twofold strategy of radically improving the competitiveness of Scotland as recorded annually by IMD of Switzerland and increasingly matching the ability of other parts of the developed world to retain and attract skilled people and the type of investment that capitalises on existing skills and develops yet more skills here in Scotland.”

After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 20, Against 82, Abstentions 9).

Murdo Fraser moved amendment S2M-2694.2 to motion S2M-2694—

Leave out from “supports” to end and insert—

“notes the success of the Modern Apprenticeship scheme initiated in the mid-1990s by a Conservative government which has trained over 75,000 people in Scotland and which is currently providing skills training for over 31,000; notes with disappointment figures from the Futureskills Scotland 2004 report which show that 29% of applicants to skill shortage posts lacked basic literacy skills and 24% lacked basic numeracy skills; notes with concern findings from the same report that between 40 and 50% of employers who have recruited school leavers report that they are not well-prepared for work, and calls for more effective school-college partnerships with a view to improving the skills base of the economy.”

After debate, the amendment was disagreed to ((DT) by division: For 17, Against 69, Abstentions 25).

The motion was then agreed to ((DT) by division: For 66, Against 15, Abstentions 30).

7. Decision Time: The Parliament took decisions on items 1, 2 and 6 as noted above.

8. Hannah Research Institute - Loss of Home Based Scientists: The Parliament debated S2M-2544 in the name of Phil Gallie—That the Parliament views with concern the loss of scientists and support staff as a consequence of uncertainties over research funding currently surrounding the Hannah Research Institute near Ayr; considers that the actions of the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department over recent times have been unhelpful and misleading when considering the research direction that the Institute has followed; believes that the levels of expertise and knowledge available within Hannah are identical to those that the Executive seeks to recruit under its Fresh Talent initiative and retain, if its much-used phrase of “a smart, successful Scotland” has any meaning, and considers that the Ministers for Enterprise, Health and Rural Affairs should come together to secure the future of this quality Scottish resource.

The meeting closed at 5.57 pm .

 

P E Grice
Clerk of the Parliament
14 April 2005

Appendix

(Note: this Appendix does not form part of the Minutes)

New Documents

Subordinate Legislation

Affirmative Instruments

The following instrument was laid in draft before the Parliament on 14 April 2005 for approval by resolution

The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 (Relevant Premises) Regulations 2005

laid under section 88(4) of the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005

Negative Instruments

The following instrument was laid before the Parliament on 14 April 2005 and is subject to annulment

The Plant Health (Import Inspection Fees) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 (SSI 2005/216)

laid under paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 2 to the European Communities Act 1972