- Fox Hunting
- Transport (Scotland) Bill – Low Emissions Zones
- Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill
- Planning (Scotland) Bill
I write to address concerns about the issue of fox hunting and the implications which the
proposed new legislation by the Scottish Government might have on rural communities.
The welfare of animals in Scotland, whether domestic, farmed or wild, is one of the Scottish
Government’s highest priorities. In keeping with this, the Scottish Government will be taking
forward legislation to close potential loopholes which might currently allow for practices which
put wild mammals including foxes at risk of undue cruelty and harm.The government will in fact be taking forward many of the recommendations from Lord Bonomy’s report, in-order to strengthen and clarify the protections which presently exist for the welfare of our wild animals.
I confirm that the associated bill will take forward the clear majority of Lord Bonomy’s recommendations, but it will also seek to limit the number of hounds which can be deployed against wild animals to two. This is already the case in England and Wales and is a measurewhich is designed to limit the potential risks of unnecessary cruelty being inflicted on wildmammals, and to combat against the establishment of ‘trail hunting’ activities which could go awry, causing unwarranted harm on the natural environment.
The Scottish Government will of course consult on the draft bill in due course, where the shape of what a potential licencing scheme might look like will become clearer based on reasoned debate and consultation. We are at a very early stage with this, and it isn’t yet set in stone what the licencing scheme will or will not entail, but it is acknowledged that there are specific pest
control issues which need to be considered particularly (but not exclusively) in relation to upland areas of Scotland. I would like to emphasise that taking this legislation forward is about closing existing loopholes,
not about creating new ones.
The Scottish Government understands the legitimate need for pest control in Scotland’s rural communities, including in Southern parts of Scotland like the Scottish borders. I have spoken to a number of farmers across south Scotland who find shooting foxes to be the most humane and efficient method of pest control.
I write to address concerns raised about historic vehicles and their owners being impacted by the proposed low emissions zones being implemented in Scotland’s major cities.
The SNP Scottish Government have a vision for Scotland to have the cleanest air in Europe, a position which is only further strengthened by the recent announcement of a state of climate emergency.
One way of achieving this goal, is through the introduction of low emissions zones. These zones will help to regulate the level of carbon emissions generated through transportation and will help to make our transit system cleaner, greener, and overall healthier for those who live and work in Scotland’s cities.
I can confirm that the Scottish Government will consider historic vehicles as part of the development of regulations for the section of the Transport (Scotland) Bill which deals with Low Emissions Zones. Full details of the exemptions will be laid out within the accompanying regulations as opposed to the Transport Bill itself.
In the process of developing regulations in relation to Low Emission Zones, the Scottish Government will be considering historic vehicles and their owners.
I hope you will continue to follow the progress of the Bill as it enters stage 2, and that the regulations which are developed to determine any exemptions for historic vehicles are satisfactory.
Apologies for any delay in putting out this statement RE concerns on speed limits on Scotland’s roads. I was waiting for the parliamentary committee report into the bill.
The committee agreed with the Scottish Government that decisions on 20 mph speed limits are best taken at local authority level.
Presently, local authorities have the power to implement 20 mph speed limits where they feel these are necessary, such as in school zones or in locations with high amounts of pedestrian traffic. Most local council areas have implemented these restricted speed zones.
Dumfries and Galloway tell me that 80 of the 120 schools in the region currently have a 20 mph speed limit, with the local authority working to implement this in all school zones. I will continue to push for this - I did so last year in Glencaple and will continue to do so - I would be happy to take up any specific cases in the region if you want to highlight them.
I am also given to understand that developers of all new housing areas are required to plan road systems which are designed for a 20 mph speed limit, and that a 20 mph speed limit is being fully applied to the Heathhall area of Dumfries.
The Scottish Government remains committed to achieving safer road travel in Scotland, and progress continues to be made with reducing casualty rates on Scotland’s roads. In fact, the Scottish Government is operating casualty reduction targets for evaluating the safety of Scotland’s roads, whereas the UK Government have no such targets. The latest statistics show that casualties are at the lowest levels since records began in 1950 and represent a reduction of 50% on the 2004-2008 baseline. The 2020 target is a reduction of 40%.
Please do continue to follow the progress of the bill.
Joan McAlpine MSP
I write to address concerns about the Planning Bill which was debated and passed at stage 3 last week, specifically amendments on planning permissions and third party right of appeal.
I understand concerns about the creation of private ways and appreciate that they have a potential negative impact on the environment or can in some instances be unsightly. I can confirm that the Scottish Government is committed to carrying out a review of the Order under which permission is allowed for such tracks but will do so after the completion of the Planning Bill. Operating in this way will ensure that any proposed changes to the current Order will be subject to a full public consultation, allowing a range of views on the matter to be collected for consideration.
We must take into consideration the needs of farmers and foresters who contribute heavily to Scotland’s rural economy- these people and groups must have access to their land and in some circumstances must create private ways to mitigate against delays to planting and harvesting operations, or to reach remote grazing areas. Removing permitted development rights for private ways could have significant operational and cost impacts on agricultural businesses. According to 2016 Scottish Government research, 78% of notifications were for forestry private ways.
While some have raised concerns about landowners developing private ways for the purposes of blood-sports, I confirm that there are not currently, nor have there ever been, permitted development rights for private ways for shooting or other field sports. If a planning authority is not satisfied, on prior notification, that a private way is for agriculture or forestry use, it should require a planning application to be submitted for it.
I want to reiterate that putting these controls into primary legislation would make it more difficult for future Governments to respond to changing behaviour. At present, permitted development rights are set out in secondary legislation, meaning that rules over such rights can change depending on circumstantial needs.
Other concerns have been raised about third party right of appeal, or the ability of others (i.e. third parties who are not the applicant or the planning authority) to appeal against the decision of a planning authority.
The Independent Review Panel considered appeals as part of their root and branch review of the system and concluded that third party right of appeal would add time and complexity to the planning process, centralising decisions and deterring investment. The panel believe that investing time and resources in improved early engagement will be far more influential towards positive outcomes and delivering the right development in the right places than more appeals at the end of the process.
I would like to be clear that decisions against this amendment are not about big business having an advantage but are about the delivery of real people’s actual homes and jobs. Restricting applicants current right of appeal would deter investment and put Scotland at a commercial disadvantage, as investors perceive conditions in other parts of the UK to be more favourable. This will risk developers choosing not to invest in some parts of the country where they do not feel welcome, even if there is an identified need for development.
The SNP Scottish Government shares concerns over the sometimes-harmful effects of short-term lets as seen in the Programme for Government and have taken action on this issue, from funding the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership to introducing the LBTT Additional Dwelling Supplement.
It is important to get the balance of short-term lets right across Scotland. I understand the pressure, particularly in tourist hot spots, where short term lets are making it harder to find homes to live in. However, there are many others which are attempting to increase tourism and ensure sufficient accommodation for traveling tourists.
Recognising the need in some parts of the country for new controls over short-term letting of residential properties, the Scottish Government sought views on a new system of regulation to make short term lets subject to the same controls as other accommodation. The ‘Short-Term Lets: Consultation’ closed on 19th July 2019, everyone considered to have an interest having been encouraged to submit their views.
The Scottish Government is considering other measures to ensure that short term lets are properly regulated. Its Short Term Lets Delivery Group will gather evidence on the issue and work on piloting possible solutions.
The Scottish Government also agreed to support an amendment to the Planning Bill by Rachel Hamilton that will enable local authorities to designate a ‘short-term let control area’ in which short-term letting would require planning permission for change of use. This will ensure a proportionate approach and empower councils to take decisions based on their local circumstances.
I believe this is the best way of ensuring that local council have the powers that they need to control short-term lets in their areas.
Please be assured that I am taking on board all points of view in relation to the amendments to the Planning Bill. While I fully understand the concerns raised about planning permissions for private ways, proposals for a third part right of appeal, and short term lets, I have every confidence that these concerns can be addressed and better mitigated by the alternatives outlined above.
Please do continue to follow the progress of the Bill as it waits on legal challenges before being sent for Royal Assent, and as always, I encourage constituents to contact me with any concerns or issues with which I could be of assistance.
Joan McAlpine MSP