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Transport and the Environment Committee

4th Report 2003

Annual Report of the Transport and the Environment Committee for the Parliamentary Year
12 May 2002 to 26 March 2003

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SP Paper 807

Session 1 (2003)

 

Remit and membership (12 May 2002 - 26 March 2003)

Remit:

To consider and report on matters relating to transport which fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning; matters relating to environment and natural heritage which fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Environment and Rural Development; and matters relating to the land use planning system and building standards which fall within the responsibility of the Minister for Social Justice. (As agreed by resolution of the Parliament on 13 June 2002)

Membership:

Bristow Muldoon (Convener)

Nora Radcliffe (Deputy Convener)

Bruce Crawford (from 13 November 2002)

Robin Harper

Adam Ingram (until 13 November 2002)

Angus MacKay

Maureen Macmillan

Fiona McLeod

Des McNulty (until 28 November 2002)

John Scott

Elaine Thomson (from 28 November 2002)

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee

Callum Thomson

Senior Assistant Clerk

Alastair Macfie

Assistant Clerk

Roz Wheeler

Euan Donald

Catriona Mclean

 

Transport and the Environment Committee

4th Report 2003

Annual Report of the Transport and the Environment Committee for the Parliamentary Year 12 May 2002 to 26 March 2003

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows-

Introduction

1. As with all years of the first parliamentary session, the Committee has had a heavy and diverse workload which reflects the breadth of remit enjoyed by the Committee.

Inquiries and Reports

Rail Inquiry

2. In the course of this major inquiry, the Committee examined the issues which will determine the long term development of the rail industry in Scotland, including structural and funding matters. The Committee heard from all the main players in the industry and was able to influence the directions and guidance for the replacement Scottish rail passenger franchise.

3. In its report, the Committee identified a framework within which a coherent programme for rail services could be delivered in Scotland. Specifically, the Committee recommended, and the Executive subsequently accepted, that a new, robust concordat should be established between the Scottish Executive and the Strategic Rail Authority.

Highlands and Islands Ferry Services

4. Following extensive consultation in the Hebrides, Des McNulty MSP and Maureen Macmillan MSP reported to the Committee on the draft service specification for the tendering of the Highlands and Islands ferry services network. One of the most contentious issues has been the status of the Gourock-Dunoon service, and the Executive has agreed with the Reporters that this should be tendered for separately.

Telecommunications Developments

5. The Committee's first inquiry in the parliamentary session was into the planning procedures for telecommunications masts - a result of which saw the introduction of revised regulations. The Committee took the opportunity to take evidence from key organisations to examine whether the new procedures have addressed the underlying concerns which led to the initial inquiry. The Committee has given its views to the Executive as part of a current research project on the new regulations.

2003-2004 Budget Process

6. The Committee considered the Scottish Executive's response to its May 2002 report on the 2003-04 budget, focusing on (1) how the priorities that had been identified in the Executive's Transport Delivery Report would be funded and (2) the appropriateness of the transport targets which had been set alongside funding allocations.

Primary Legislation

Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003

7. This legislation transposes the European Water Framework Directive into Scots Law with its principal purpose being to promote the sustainable management of Scotland's water environment, through the creation of new river basin management plans.

8. The Committee raised a number of concerns at Stage 1 concerning the financial impact of the legislation as well as recommending that the Bill be strengthened in a number of areas, including sustainable flood management; public participation in the river basin management planning process; protection for wetlands and changes to the planning regime in respect of fish farming developments. By the end of Stage 3, the Executive had positively addressed virtually all of the Committee's concerns.

9. The Committee believes that the Bill, as passed, was a substantial improvement on the Bill which was introduced. The Committee notes that Scotland's implementation of the Water Framework Directive has been commended by the European Commission.

Building (Scotland) Bill

10. This non-contentious Bill sought to replace the outdated Scottish building control system with more responsive and flexible arrangements. At Stage 2, the Committee responded to concerns by the Disability Rights Commission and amended the Bill so building regulations specifically referred to access for disabled people.

Subordinate Legislation

11. The Committee considered 56 Scottish Statutory Instruments (SSIs), of which 14 were subject to affirmative procedure and 42 negative. The Committee's scrutiny included evidence sessions on SSIs which established the Cairngorms National Park and designated a new Nitrate Vulnerable Zone.

Petitions

12. The Committee devoted a substantial amount of time to the consideration of petitions (24 new referrals during the reporting year). Many petitions cited local complaints which had wider national implications. For example, Fiona McLeod MSP reported on a petition relating to a cattle incinerator sited in an urban area, which highlighted general weaknesses in planning regulations. Her work led to the Committee producing a report recommending the need for a more integrated approach to planning and environmental regulation, as well as stronger environmental protection enforcement powers.

13. As well as new petitions, the Committee considered a number of on-going petitions. For example, the Committee arranged a parliamentary debate on its report on waste spreading on land, which addressed issues raised by petition PE327.

Meetings

14. The Committee met 29 times from 12 May 2002 to 26 March 2003. Of these meetings, none were entirely in private, and 26 were partly in private. The Committee considered 53 items in private, of which 18 were consideration of possible lines of questioning and 17 were consideration of draft reports. All Committee meetings were held in Edinburgh.

 

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