21 September 2017

(S5O-01275) Carbon Capture and Storage (St Fergus)

1. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what the timescale is for a feasibility study into developing carbon capture and storage at St Fergus. (S5O-01275)

The Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy (Paul Wheelhouse): The acorn CCS project will be officially launched in Aberdeen on 26 September 2017. The launch will signal the formal start of the feasibility stage of the project which is anticipated to last 18 months. The acorn project is managed by Pale Blue Dot, an energy transition consultancy that is based in Banchory, Aberdeenshire.

Stewart Stevenson: I welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to the St Fergus project. Does the minister share my disappointment in the United Kingdom Government’s anti-carbon capture and storage inaction at St Fergus and its proactively hostile actions at Peterhead? Does that put at risk an opportunity that would not only benefit the environment, but create jobs and boost the economy across Scotland?

Paul Wheelhouse: I agree with Stewart Stevenson’s assessment that the UK Government’s decision to scrap the £1 billion carbon capture and storage programme, which included a strong commitment to Peterhead, is a disgrace and a lost opportunity for Scotland and the UK. Had the competition been allowed to run its course, the world’s first commercial-scale gas-powered CCS plant could have been built at Peterhead and the world’s attention would have been drawn to Scotland and the UK as a trailblazer in that technology. Unfortunately, the first mover advantage has been lost to some extent. Undoubtedly it would have attracted significant investment to the UK, bringing with that further opportunities for job creation and skills development, potentially positioning the UK to take its place in the supply chain for Europe of that important technology.

It is worth emphasising that the need for CCS remains. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that it would cost 138 per cent more to achieve a 2°C climate change mitigation scenario without carbon capture and storage. Despite the clear need for CCS, all UK Government efforts to date to bring forward the technology have failed. Given that track record of failure—in the rest of the UK as well as Scotland—it is now essential that the UK Government sets out a clear and robust policy framework, hopefully working with the Scottish Government and others who want to support the technology, in its soon-to-be-published UK clean growth plan.

12 September 2017

Statement: Policing

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I declare that I have a close family member who serves in the Police Service of Scotland.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that we require the highest standards of personal integrity for everyone who works in the Police Service? I understand that he is to address the Police Service’s conference on ethical standards on Tuesday next week. Does he expect that he will be able to congratulate all who attend on their continuously high standards of ethical behaviour, and on the commitment to public good that is exemplified by all but the tiniest of tiny minorities in the service?

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice (Michael Matheson): I am impressed that Stewart Stevenson has such insight into my diary for the coming week. I will attend that conference to address it on ethical standards in policing.

The vast majority of our police officers and staff uphold very high ethical standards in discharging their responsibilities. I would expect that of not just police officers and staff in Police Scotland but of anyone in the public sector and beyond. I have absolutely no doubt that that will continue to be the case with officers and staff in Police Scotland, as the organisation moves forward.

Statement: Common Agricultural Policy

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): Has the cabinet secretary seen that the UK Tory Government is setting aside £230 million for fines to cover its CAP basic payment failures in 2015-16? That suggests a pro rata cost in Scotland of around £41 million. What is the Scottish figure?

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity (Fergus Ewing): I am aware of reports of the scale of the disallowance that was experienced in 2015-16 in England, which was reported to be £230 million. We are not forecasting disallowance on that scale here in Scotland. As was previously reported to Parliament, we have estimated late-payment penalties for 2015 at around £5 million and for 2016 at around £500,000 to £700,000. However, it will be some time before the final totals are available following the due diligence that is being carried out at EU and UK levels. All member states carry the risk of wider disallowance, and Scotland is no different. Nevertheless, over the past 10 years disallowance has amounted to around 1 per cent of the total CAP expenditure, which is broadly within tolerance levels and compares reasonably with the figures for other parts of the UK. My job is to get on with the work in Scotland, and that is what I am focusing on.

7 September 2017

(S5O-01219) Gypsy Travellers (Parking Sites)

5. Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what information it has regarding the provision by local authorities of parking sites that are suitable for Gypsy Travellers. (S5O-01219)

The Minister for Local Government and Housing (Kevin Stewart): The provision of Gypsy Traveller sites is a matter for the relevant local authority. The Scottish Government does not routinely collect information concerning sites in Scotland. All Scottish local authorities must, by law, produce local housing strategies that set out their priorities and plans for delivering housing and related services. Those strategies should include plans for meeting any Gypsy Traveller housing needs, including addressing any requirement for provision of suitable sites.

Stewart Stevenson: While noting the particular difficulties in Moray, where Tory part-time MP Douglas Ross was recently a member of the council administration that has failed to provide any such parking sites, does the minister believe that rather than vilifying Travellers—who make a valuable contribution to society—as a “top priority” problem, as he described it, Mr Ross and others in his party should work to address that deficiency?

Kevin Stewart: Yes, I agree with Mr Stevenson. As I set out in my first answer, the provision of suitable Gypsy Traveller sites in Moray is a matter for Moray Council, based on its local housing strategy. Councillors should look at the needs that are highlighted in their local housing strategy and address the issue accordingly. Gypsy Traveller communities are among those that are most disenfranchised and discriminated against in Scotland. The Scottish Government values the Gypsy Traveller community, the contribution that it makes and the important role that it plays in enriching Scotland socially, culturally and economically. We are committed to tackling all forms of discrimination and to promoting a multicultural society that is based on mutual trust, respect and understanding.

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