Scottish politics – first cracks?

The story so far:

Alex Salmond for First Minister (sometimes known as the SNP) received most votes and most seats at the election but fell well short of a majority of both.  They failed to negotiate a coalition with the Liberal Democrats (who may have taken badly to Alex Salmond’s alleged description of them as “my flexible friends” during the election campaign).  However, they negotiated a memorandum of understanding with the Green Party.  This gave the SNP an extra 2 votes. This agreement put the environment at the centre of the Alex Salmond for First minister government programme.  This was further evidenced by the non-ironic appointment of Stewart Stevenson as minister for climate change, a man who lists “Private flying” as one of his hobbies.

Alex Salmond for First Minister indulged in spinactivity, making announcements but with little of substance prior to the summer break.  However, with much haste a statutory instrument was rushed through on ship to ship transfers in the Forth.  This was introduced in the Parliament by “Blinky Dick” – Richard Lochhead – cabinet secretary for the environment, master of his one page bullet pointed brief.  This was rushed through because dealing with ship to ship transfers was a matter of urgency (see various contributions in the debate).  

I suggested at the time that the provisions would have no impact on the transfers because the matter was reserved.  Blinky Dick and (rather more forcefully) Mike “ambassador for Western Isles hospitality” Russell made this point in the Parliament but suggested the emergency instrument plugged an important gap.  Their response was welcomed by the Greens and other MSPs who felt that something would be done immediately blocking the transfers.

However, slipped out during the summer break from the Parliament was the following parliamentary answer last week,

“Robin Harper (Lothians) (Green): To ask the Scottish Executive when it will direct Forth Ports plc, as harbour authority for the Firth of Forth, to send the Scottish Ministers copies of the proposals for ship-to-ship transfers of oil and oil products in the Firth of Forth for consideration under regulation 48A(1) of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended).

Holding answer issued: 31 July 2007

(S3W-1841)

Robin Harper (Lothians) (Green): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will direct Forth Ports plc, as harbour authority for the Firth of Forth, to carry out an appropriate assessment of proposals for ship-to-ship transfers of oil and oil products in the Firth of Forth that complies with the Habitats Directive and the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended).

Holding answer issued: 31 July 2007

(S3W-1842)

Richard Lochhead: I understand that Forth Ports’ appropriate assessment is on-going and we continue to monitor its progress. As I explained in Parliament the regulation of ship to ship oil transfer is currently reserved to the UK Government under Section 130 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 and our discussions with the UK Government on this matter continue.”

Now, that looks to me like the Executive has done nothing of substance on the matter since rushing through the regulation.  

So, why was the regulation rushed through in an expedited procedure?  Was this merely another example of spinactivity – the impression of something being done, while nothing has been done.  How happy will the Greens be with this spinactivty?  How happy will the MSPs be that were under the impression that the something that must be done, would be done?

About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
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2 Responses to Scottish politics – first cracks?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Get real!
    You say “Now, that looks to me like the Executive has done nothing of substance on the matter since rushing through the regulation.”
    Missed the point old bean .. the Scottish government has no power to interfere with Forth Ports so it took another course via its environmental powers. And that will protect the Forth and all that matters in, on and under it.

    • Many thanks for your comment. I’m happy to accept anonymous comments but prefer people to tell me who they are (even if a pseuodnym).
      I fear you’ve missed the point of the post. I know that the Executive have no power of Forth Ports – the point of my initial posting on the topic. Passing these regulations gave the impression to the parliament (or some members – who were not disabused of the notion during the debate on the topic) that the matter of prevention of ship to ship transfers could be dealt with by these regulations giving power to call in matters. Well, why ahs nothing been called in yet under these regulations? Is it because calling in a matter from Forth Ports on ship to ship transfers actually has nothing to do with the environment (ie the matter the Executive have power to regulate) but is really about trying to block ship to ship (the issue which justified the matter being rushed through the Parliament in the first place).
      If these regulations were so important that they had to be rushed through before the recess why not use them? And with the Greens starting to ask questions along those lines, maybe they’re getting wise to the spinactivity?

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