17 March 2011

(S3O-13324) Tobacco Products Display Ban

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

9. To ask the Scottish Government when it plans to implement a ban on the display of tobacco products by retailers. (S3O-13324)

The Minister for Public Health and Sport (Shona Robison): I confirm that the Scottish Government remains committed to the introduction of the display ban. Subject to the satisfactory conclusion of the on-going legal challenge, we will be working towards implementation of the display ban from April 2012 for large retailers and from April 2015 for small retailers. The change to the original implementation dates will also give retailers more time to prepare for the changes.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the minister recall that, 400 years ago, James VI wrote of people being enslaved bit by bit by tobacco? Does she share my utter contempt for a company that kills thousands of people every year and which is delaying the implementation of the ban? Does she agree that it is important that no new addicts are signed up and that young people are protected from the evils of tobacco?

Shona Robison: I agree with the member. That is why the recent legislation is focused on reducing the attractiveness and availability of tobacco products and preventing access to them by young people. That is also why increasing the penalties for breaching that legislation is so important. I remain hopeful that we can continue to build on Scotland’s journey towards becoming smoke free. We have come a long way from where we were on the acceptability of smoking in Scotland even 20 to 30 years ago, never mind hundreds of years ago, and we should all welcome that.

10 March 2011

(S3O-13241) Historic Buildings (Protection)

Elaine Murray (Dumfries) (Lab): 4. To ask the Scottish Executive what the powers and responsibilities of Historic Scotland and local authorities are regarding the protection of historic buildings. (S3O-13241)

The Minister for Culture and External Affairs (Fiona Hyslop):

Through Historic Scotland, the Scottish ministers work closely with local authorities to protect and enhance our country’s historic environment. That work is carried out through a wide range of legislation, policy and guidance. The importance of historic buildings, individually or collectively, can be recognised by Historic Scotland through the listing process and by local authority designation of conservation areas. When change is proposed, the planning system ensures that the desirability of protecting a historic building’s particular character is a key part of the wider consideration of an application. Regulations are in place within the planning system to ensure that the Scottish ministers, through Historic Scotland, are involved at the appropriate stages in the oversight or handling of certain types of case.

Elaine Murray: The minister may be aware of the growing concerns about the number of listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas in my constituency that have fallen into disrepair. Indeed, there has been an e-mail campaign directed to her MSP address on the subject of St Mary’s Street, in Dumfries. The problem is that the owners often do not live locally and it is sometimes difficult to trace them or they do not respond to communication. Can the minister advise me of any examples of intervention to prevent the loss of built heritage that could be copied as examples of good practice? Will she also comment on the request for her to call in the planning application regarding St Mary’s Street?

Fiona Hyslop: The member raises a number of issues. In my first answer, I said that protecting the character of the historic built environment is a key part of the wider consideration of an application—it is not the only consideration, but it is a key one. In a number of cases, including that of the St Mary’s Street building to which the member refers, Historic Scotland has taken a view on whether account of that has been taken in that wider consideration.

As for good examples of communicating with absentee landlords or owners, I am more than happy to identify good practice and share it with the member if that would be helpful. One of the aims of the Historic Environment (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill, which was recently passed by the Parliament, was to provide mechanisms whereby duties could be placed on those who do not want to improve or take care of the historic environment for which they have responsibility. The bill gives more powers to local authorities, rather than Historic Scotland, to intervene to ensure the financing of improvements, although in some instances it gives Historic Scotland powers of easier intervention that allow it to go into certain properties to ensure, for example, that repairs are made. The member might want to look at that piece of legislation, which we have just passed. I am also more than happy to identify examples of good practice to pass on to her.

Ted Brocklebank (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con): When I came into the Parliament some eight years ago, I asked the then minister about the vexed question of Historic Scotland’s failure to come to any agreement with the owner of Castle Tioram on the castle’s future. The Minister for Culture and External Affairs has given me encouraging noises over the past months. Will she take the opportunity, which will certainly be my last at culture questions, to update us on what is happening with the castle or will we have to wait another eight years before Historic Scotland finally sees sense on the matter?

Fiona Hyslop: I am conscious that the former Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, Michael Russell, is sitting beside me. I have been in post for somewhat over a year now, and I can inform Ted Brocklebank that no new application has been submitted for Castle Tioram. However, active discussions are taking place with the owner, and Historic Scotland is working closely with him and his team to establish a new way forward to serve the castle’s best interests.

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Does the minister believe that the regeneration of Portsoy harbour in my constituency through the provision of funding under the Historic Scotland conservation area regeneration scheme—CARS—will be a real boost to local tourism, will support the Portsoy traditional boat festival and will serve as an excellent example for other parts of Scotland?

Fiona Hyslop: Indeed I do. Since 2007, £16 million has been awarded to 34 locally run schemes. I understand that, in Portsoy, the £500,000 that has just been announced under round 4 of CARS is funding work surrounding the quay and is aimed at providing economic drivers and enhancing tourism. There are also wider social benefits, such as youth development skills that will be acquired through the repair of facilities that are to be used by local boat builders in the provision of after-school opportunities.

The funding is about not only regeneration and conservation but services that can have wider benefits for communities. I am delighted to agree with Stewart Stevenson on that point.

24 February 2011

(S3O-13057) Food and Drink Sector

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):

4. To ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to support growth in the food and drink sector. (S3O-13057)

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment (Richard Lochhead): The Scottish Government and its agencies are actively supporting the food and drink sector’s growth to meet the target of £12.5 billion turnover by 2017. Since 2007, the industry has seen record figures, with turnover increasing by more than £1 billion during 2007-08 and exports increasing by 15 per cent between 2007 and 2009. It is our intention, through our national food and drink policy, to continue to help the sector to fulfil Scotland’s potential and be a world leader.

Stewart Stevenson: Given that sales of Scottish-branded food and drink in the United Kingdom have increased by 30 per cent under this Government, does the cabinet secretary believe that clear labelling of Scottish produce by protected geographic indication and Quality Meat Scotland and Marine Stewardship Council certification is essential if we are to continue to improve on that performance?

Richard Lochhead: I agree that labelling is extremely important. We are lucky in this country in that we have a reputation for top-quality food and drink. The more that we can communicate that message to the consumer—as the member indicated, not just in this country but elsewhere in these islands and overseas—the better it will be for our primary producers, processors and everyone in the food and drink sector in Scotland.

At the moment, the food regulations are making their way through the European Parliament and the European Commission. The Scottish Government is pushing for mandatory country-of-origin labelling right down to the Scottish level for all meat and dairy products, which would be a huge step forward in supporting those sectors.

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