John has had a very full week this week in Holyrood. You can read more about it below.
Tuesday: John was in the Justice Committee as the took evidence on the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications(Repeal) (Scotland) Bill at stage 1. You can watch the committee here on youtube below or read the transcript here: http://bit.ly/2ztcCcY
Wednesday: John began his day by attending the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. The Committee met to take evidence at Stage 1 on the Islands (Scotland) Bill. The Committee also took evidence later on Rail services in Scotland. You can watch the meeting here:
Wednesday afternoon John used his question during the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform question time to raise the issue of how the Scottish Government works with environmental organisations following concerns being raised with him regarding the proposed golf course at Coul Links.
You can watch the question here: Or read it below
“To ask the Scottish Government how it works with wildlife organisations to ensure that environmental protections are adhered to. (S5O-01427)”
- The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform (Roseanna Cunningham):
“The Scottish Government works with wildlife organisations in a number of ways on a broad range of topics, and I meet their representatives regularly. We value their advice and the important work that they do.”
- John Finnie:
“The cabinet secretary attended the European Environmental Bureau conference the other day. The comments that she made there about the emphasis that Scotland places on environmental commitments and about the European Union protections being instrumental to safeguarding the environment were warmly welcomed. However, a proposed development at Coul Links would affect that. I appreciate that the cabinet secretary cannot comment on a live application but, regardless of Brexit, if a site were categorised as a site of special scientific interest, a special protection area in respect of the birds directive and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Ramsar site, should it continue to be respected and protected in full?”
- Roseanna Cunningham:
“As the member knows, I cannot be drawn into comments that might impact on a live application—it would not be proper for me to make such comments.
In general terms, the procedure for major developments is that prospective applicants are required to consult communities before any application is made. Anyone can comment, and planning authorities have to take account of a full range of views. That is all set in the context of Scotland’s planning system, which balances a variety of interests to ensure that land use and development create high-quality, sustainable places.”
Thursday: On Thursday Morning John, in his role as the Scottish Green Party’s Transport Spokesperson, visited Alexander Dennis to see how the company produces bus for sustainable public transport
Thursday afternoon: John took part in the Parliaments Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, the committee met to take evidence on Police service budget planning for the financial year 2018-19. You can watch the Committee here: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/justice-sub-committee-on-policing-november-9-2017
Later on Thursday John spoke in the Stage 3 debate for Gillian Martin’s Member’s Bill for Seat Belts on School Transport and was very happy to offer the full support of the Scottish Green Party for the Bill. You can watch John’s speech here: or read it below.
“My colleague Stewart Stevenson alluded to the role played by the Public Petitions Committee in bringing the bill to Parliament. The background to the bill was a petition that was lodged on 9 November 2007 by Lynn Merrifield on behalf of Kingseat community council—I am sure that they will reflect on the value of this building as a law-making building. The important thing is that we make good law by scrutinising legislation intensely. As a member of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, I am grateful for the comments that have been made. A lot of scrutiny went into the bill and I make no apology for that; I think that it is appropriate.
It was also good that, in 2015, we got the power to introduce such a bill. It is disappointing, of course, that we do not have the power to compel or enforce, as that is reserved to the United Kingdom. I was happy to hear comments about that from Neil Bibby, and I hope that we will hear more of that from Labour, because we are fettered and that is another example of the ways in which we are fettered.
The bill has caused me to reflect on other parts of our role. Community safety is extremely important, as is child protection, and there is a role for the state in those areas. The UK Government, the Scottish Government, local authorities, schools, parents’ groups and individuals—we all have our roles and responsibilities. By passing the bill tonight we will send a clear message: all organisations are required to assess risk and put in place measures to address risk.
It is significant that many members have said—reflecting the views of the general public—that people thought that the measure in the bill was the law anyway. Oh, that it was. When I spoke in the debate on the first group of amendments, I said that we do not live in an ideal world. That manifests itself in some of the concerns that people have had about the bill, particularly in relation to financial matters. I was concerned that we were rewarding failure, with the authorities that had acted diligently on seat belts not receiving money whereas others might. However, a balance has been struck and a pragmatic approach has been taken.
As some members may know, I was a police officer for 30 years. During that time, I saw many improvements. I saw design improvements to vehicles, road engineering improvements and, of course, the wearing of seat belts, but the biggest change was driver behaviour, which shapes everything. The amendments that the Scottish Labour Party lodged—at stage 2 by Rhoda Grant and today by Neil Bibby—are welcome, because the bill sends a clear message about the role that education plays in road safety, and we should lead by example. Like Stewart Stevenson, I was recently on a coach and was surprised to see that I was the only person wearing a seat belt.
Besides the wearing of seat belts, another example of the changes that we have seen, to which I think Daniel Johnson alluded, is the fairly recent change on smoking in vehicles and the realisation that such behaviour has an impact on children. The Parliament passed that measure in a member’s bill in the previous session, and I hope that another safety measure—my colleague Mark Ruskell’s proposed restricted roads (20mph limit) (Scotland) bill—will gain support in the chamber, if it gets that far.
We must see increased use of public transport. There is a decline in bus user numbers. This morning I was at Alexander Dennis Ltd, which is acutely aware of that and wants innovative design to encourage young people to be the bus users of the future. They will do that if, first and foremost, they remain safe on school buses and feel that the bus is a pleasant form of transport. A lot of thought is going into the design of buses, but it will count for nothing if we do not ensure at this stage that young people are wearing seat belts. I commend Gillian Martin for the good work that she has done on the bill, and the Scottish Green Party is happy to support the motion to pass the bill.”