13 May 2015

Statement & Questions: United Kingdom General Election Outcome

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a statement by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, on the outcome of the United Kingdom general election. The First Minister will take questions at the end of her statement.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Does the First Minister agree that it would be a democratic affront if any politician who was rejected by the electorate were to return to Westminster by appointment to the House of Lords? In particular, given that the Liberals have 101 members there—more, even, than the total number of people in the United States Senate—does she agree that, now that they are down to eight MPs, it is time for some 80 or 90 of the existing lords to consider resignation?

The First Minister: I would go slightly further. I think that the House of Lords is a democratic outrage in and of itself. [Applause.] I look forward to the day—which may not come within this session of Parliament, now that the Tories are back in office—when the House of Lords is no more, because people with no democratic mandate should not be writing the laws of our land.

To address Stewart Stevenson’s point directly—yes, I do think that it would be deeply democratically wrong for MPs who were defeated in the election to find their way back to Westminster via seats in the House of Lords. My party is in a unique position in that we did not lose any seats in the election this year, so we do not have defeated MPs, and in that we do not appoint to the House of Lords anyway. However, I hope that Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats will each give a clear commitment that they will not seek to get round the democratic will of the Scottish people in that way, and that no defeated candidate from last week’s election will find their way into the House of Lords.

6 May 2015

(S4O-04275) Rail Journey Times (Highland Main Line)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I draw members’ attention to my entry in the register of members’ interests in relation to my role in Railfuture and my presidency of the Scottish Association for Public Transport. Will the minister confirm that, in Scotland, we are investing in our rail network more than double per capita what is being invested in England and Wales?

The Minister for Transport and Islands (Derek Mackay): Yes. The Scottish Government is committed to investing £5 billion in Scotland’s railways over the five years to 2019, including more than £3 billion of capital investment in Network Rail infrastructure. On a per capita basis, that is more than double the equivalent investment planned by United Kingdom ministers.

(S4O-04298) NorthConnect Power Scheme

5. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what progress is being made with NorthConnect’s £2 billion power scheme between Aberdeenshire and Scandinavia. (S4O-04298)

The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy (John Swinney): NorthConnect KS has made an application to Aberdeenshire Council for planning permission relating to a converter station for the proposed link to Norway. The council received the application on 14 April and a public consultation will run until 21 May. It would not be appropriate to comment on a live planning application.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the cabinet secretary welcome—within the limits of there being a live planning application—the fact that the scheme will draw significantly on green energy developments in both Scotland and Norway? Does he agree that we will need to see similar cross-country initiatives if we are to meet electricity demand in Scotland? We should be encouraging more investment in renewable energy projects.

John Swinney: On the policy questions that Mr Stevenson raises, I agree whole-heartedly. Increasing interconnection and transmission upgrade activity is a necessity for us. It is a generic process that is inherent in changing the sources of power generation on which we rely. The Government has taken forward a number of sustained investments in the renewable energy sector, and it has taken the policy initiatives to enable the renewable energy sector to thrive in Scotland. We look forward to taking policy decisions that enable us to continue that activity in the years to come.

5 May 2015

(S4T-01005) Colonsay, Coll and Tiree (Lifeline Flights)

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Is the minister aware that Hebridean Air Services uses a different kind of fuel for its aircraft from that which is used for almost all other air services in Scotland? Only the Orkney and Shetland services use similar fuel, and only they pay duty on that fuel—no other air service does. That is probably a five-figure sum per year for Hebridean Air Services. Will the minister raise that anomaly with United Kingdom ministers the next time he has the opportunity to talk to them, so that the playing field will be levelled a bit for Hebridean Air Services—and, indeed, for the Orkney and Shetland services?

The Minister for Transport and Islands (Derek Mackay): I can confirm to the chamber that I was not aware of the fuel specification of the aircraft in question. I do not have the information that the member requires to hand, but I am happy to take his question away and supply him with further information.

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