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.
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).
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).
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?