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Fishing for agreements

Henry Anderson

You’d be forgiven for missing some of the antics in the Scottish Parliament this week, which included everything from constitutional arguments about powers after Brexit all the way to the regulation of salmon. This blog presents just a few of the highlights.

David Mundell has been busy appearing before Holyrood committees over the past few weeks, but his persistence wasn’t enough to stop the Finance & Constitution Committee recommending that the Parliament should not consent to the UK Government’s European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The Committee said there was still a “fundamental disagreement” between the two governments. Informed of this at another Committee meeting, the Secretary of State said he was still working to reach a deal.

The Rural Economy Committee held its final evidence session on its inquiry into salmon farming this week. The topic, which has also been looked at by the Environment, Climate Change & Land Reform, hasn’t exactly attracted consensus. The Scottish Government and regulators were criticised by environmental groups who felt salmon farms were polluting the environment and harming wild fish. They were against further expansion, but Fergus Ewing said much criticism was “unevidenced and emotive”. Now evidence sessions are over, all the Committee has to do is reflect on these opposing arguments, sift through hundreds of written submissions and come up with a report. Simple!

Arguments also concluded in the Scottish Government’s court case with energy firm Ineos, which has challenged the Scottish Government’s ban on fracking. Government lawyers took the interesting approach of arguing, contrary to what Ministers had claimed, that it had not formally banned fracking. This led the Conservatives to accuse the SNP of “misleading statements” and they pointed to explicit references to a fracking “ban”.

The last drama of the week took place on Thursday, when the Scottish Government suffered a defeat over its excitingly-named Energy Efficient Scotland Route Map, which sets out targets to make buildings warmer, greener and more efficient. The Scottish Government’s preferred option of 2040 as the date to meet energy efficiency standards was rejected and opposition parties backed a new target of 2030. The Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, had said he was relying on his “persuasive skills” to get the government target through.

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