Westminster’s Brexit Plan

Here is Theresa May’s 17th January speech on her plan for the UK leaving the EU.  She announced that UK is coming out of the single market.

On the evening of 17 January the MSP’s in Holyrood debated a motion raised by Michael Russell – Protecting Scotland’s Interests In Negotiating Our Future Relationship with Europe.  Cross party MSP’S voted 86 to 36 in support of the Scottish Government’s proposals to keep Scotland in the single market.

Nicola Sturgeon said that plans to take the UK out of the EU’s single market brought a second Scottish independence referendum “undoubtedly” closer.

You can hear her full interview here.

 

UCG is banned in Scotland

Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy outlines the Scottish Government’s decision to not include UCG in Scotland’s energy strategy.   The moratorium on fracking is still in place and a decision will be taken on this technology following the completion of the scientific review and full public consultation over this winter 2016/2017.

Click on the picture to hear him in the Chamber and the text of his speech is also given below:

“This Government is taking a clear and consistent approach to understanding the potential role for emerging technologies that could be used to further develop Scotland’s hydrocarbon resources. That approach is one of caution while we gather and consider evidence on those new technologies. A precautionary approach is the right approach, and it is one that has been widely supported by communities, industry and other interested parties.

I am aware that there have been some recent examples of misunderstandings regarding the different technologies involved. Therefore, it would be useful to take a moment to reiterate our position on unconventional oil and gas, before I turn to the separate issue of underground coal gasification.

On 28 January 2015, the Scottish Government put in place a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas, which means that no such activities can currently take place in Scotland. That moratorium covered hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it is often referred to, and coal-bed methane. The moratorium followed the publication of a comprehensive report by our independent expert scientific panel on unconventional oil and gas. I encourage members to look at the report to refresh their memories on its detail. The report recognised that, although there was a considerable body of international research and evidence on unconventional oil and gas, there were gaps in key areas of evidence, including on climate change impacts, public health and decommissioning.

The moratorium on unconventional oil and gas ensures that no fracking takes place while we explore in detail those and other issues—like traffic and economic impacts—before holding a full and comprehensive public consultation. I can confirm today that the independent projects that we commissioned to examine unconventional oil and gas in more depth are nearing completion. As was widely reported at the time, there were delays to commissioning the transport research project and, despite acting swiftly to resolve those issues, that sequence of events has had an inevitable effect on the timetable for completing and publishing our research. I assure members that the final project reports—which will form one of the world’s most wide-ranging investigations into unconventional oil and gas—will be published in full as soon as possible after recess.

As members are no doubt aware, there are strongly held views around Scotland on unconventional oil and gas, and real concerns in communities. We must recognise, listen to and respond to those concerns. That is why the publication of the research reports will be followed by an extensive public consultation that will take place in winter 2016-17 as planned. The consultation will give people in Scotland the opportunity to consider, scrutinise, debate and set out their views on those technologies and the evidence. Given the seriousness of the issue, that is the right and proper way to proceed. To make a decision now would be to deny the people of Scotland a voice on that crucial issue.

I turn to a different technology, and one that is also very much a matter of interest to communities around Scotland, particularly around the Firth of Forth. Underground coal gasification—or UCG—is a process for converting coal into gas via combustion, while still underground. The technology requires two wells to be drilled: an injection well through which gases are pumped to create high-pressure combustion of the coal, and a production well through which the resultant syngas can be brought to the surface. Syngas is a mixture of gases—methane, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide—which can be used as fuel or as a feedstock for chemical products.

Unlike hydraulic fracturing or coal-bed methane, there are very few examples of UCG technology being used commercially anywhere in the world. In recent years, however, there has been interest in deploying the technology in Scotland and, through the Coal Authority, the UK Government has issued coal mining licences for potential UCG sites in the Firth of Forth. I stress that no planning or environmental consents for UCG have been issued in Scotland. Planning and environmental protection are fully devolved matters and both consents are necessary before a development could begin.

On 8 October 2015, the Scottish Government put in place a specific moratorium on UCG—separate to the moratorium on unconventional oil and gas—using the planning powers available to the Scottish Government, so that evidence on that technology could be gathered and considered. To develop that evidence base, we asked Professor Campbell Gemmell, professor of environment research, policy, regulation and governance at the University of Glasgow, to undertake an independent examination of UCG. I advise members that Professor Gemmell’s report has now been published and copies are available at the rear of the chamber. I thank Professor Gemmell for his work and for preparing a confident and comprehensive assessment of the technology.

The report, which has been informed by literature and through in-depth interviews with academics, industry, non-governmental organisations, community groups and regulators, notes that there are substantial coal resources in Scotland that could potentially be exploited by UCG technologies, with the greatest reserves of coal being in central Scotland, Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire and east Fife. The commercial value of those reserves, if utilised for UCG development, would of course depend on gas market prices and competition, the quality and volume of gas, consistency of throughput and other economic factors.

On potential impacts from UCG, Professor Gemmell’s report makes a number of observations that I believe raise serious concerns over the future of this industry in Scotland. First, there are very few comprehensive or peer-reviewed studies that examine the environmental and health impacts. Where impacts have been documented, they have been from trials rather than from full commercial-scale activity.

Where the industry has operated, typically at a pilot or trial scale, there is emerging evidence of significant environmental impacts including soil contamination and exposures of workers to toxins resulting from major operational failures. A number of failures in Australia have resulted in prosecutions being brought. Professor Gemmell also raises concerns that the current regulatory framework is insufficiently clear and would need to be improved to protect the environment, public health and workers’ health and safety.

I turn to the important issue of climate change. Professor Gemmell notes that UCG produces a variety of greenhouse gases, many of which are without current viable market outlets. He concludes:

“Climate change and decarbonisation targets would be very seriously impacted by unmitigated releases of UCG GHGs (greenhouse gases) if operated at scale, making the achievement of current or stronger commitments much more difficult if not impossible.”

That would particularly be the case where gas production was not combined with a suitable removal, storage, offset or compensation method—for example, carbon capture and storage.

Professor Gemmell concludes that a step change in the availability of robust data and science would need to take place before the technology could be reliably assessed. In his words, a “very substantial transformation in available data” would be needed.    In conclusion, Professor Gemmell states: “it would be wise to consider an approach to this issue based upon a precautionary presumption”.

He states: “it would appear logical … to progress towards a ban”.

Having considered the report in detail, the Scottish Government’s view is that UCG poses numerous and serious environmental risks, and on that basis the Scottish Government cannot support this technology. Accordingly, UCG will have no place in Scotland’s energy mix at this time.

I acknowledge the interest that there has been in the technology in Scotland and I am confident that any companies with an interest in UCG would aim to operate to the highest standards. I also acknowledge the shortage of reliable information that Professor Gemmell was able to identify. I am grateful to him for the lengths that he went to, which ensured that he reached out to a broad spectrum of interested parties and community groups both in Scotland and worldwide.

I will therefore ensure that there is sufficient opportunity for views and evidence to be brought forward and considered as we develop and consult on our energy strategy for Scotland, which will set out an energy mix for the future that does not include underground coal gasification. Today, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy setting out the Scottish Government’s concerns. I have asked him not to grant any further licences for UCG in Scotland and to revoke all existing licences.

I understand that the UK Government is also considering its position on UCG, and an announcement is due shortly. I expect that the Conservative members in the chamber may have thought to familiarise themselves with the position that is likely to emerge. However, it is a matter of great regret that this Parliament does not have the necessary powers over the licensing regime for UCG. The Scottish Government therefore intends to continue to use the planning powers that are available to us to ensure that UCG applications do not receive planning or environmental permission. I cannot predict what clean energy technologies may be available in the decades to come, but what is certain is that the coal resource will still be there.

The position on UCG that I have announced today is a clear validation of the evidence-based approach that this Government is taking. We live in a world where the pace and scale of technological innovation is increasing. That is a testament to our collective ingenuity and it must be supported and embraced wherever possible. However, when necessary, we must be ready to pause so that we can consider and interrogate the evidence and be ready to act accordingly, which I believe we have done today.

No indyref2 until Brexit talks complete’

A second Scottish independence referendum is unlikely to be held until the UK’s Brexit negotiations have been completed, John Swinney made clear yesterday.

The deputy first minister said that the outcome of the Brexit talks would “create the conditions” for the Scottish government to decide whether or not to hold a fresh independence poll.

With the negotiations between the UK government and the EU expected to take at least three years — even if triggered early next year — this would push the timetable for a fresh Scottish vote to 2020. Mr Swinney’s comments appeared to be a deliberate attempt to rein back from the more inflammatory claims made earlier by the former first minister Alex Salmond, who declared at the end of last week that he believed he would be helping to fight another referendum battle within two years.

By taking a more cautious approach, Mr Swinney appeared keen to prevent the Scottish government from being pushed into a timetable to which it does not want to be held.

The deputy first minister’s remarks were also being seen at Holyrood last night as a clear attempt to win over the majority of Scots who do not believe there should be a fresh plebiscite on Scotland’s future until the UK’s deal with the EU is known.

read the full article here.

SCOTLAND IN EUROPE

“Independence may offer Scotland the greatest stability while the rest of the UK faces upheaval after last month’s vote to leave the EU.”

image

Click on the photo to hear her speech.  It’s worth listening to.

“Now is the time (for the UK govt) to do more than just assert – against evidence to the contrary – that the union works for Scotland. It is surely time now to find ways to demonstrate that Scotland’s voice can be heard, our wishes accommodated and our interests protected within the UK.”

image

 

 

 

Scottish Education Delivery Plan

The Scottish Government has published its Education Delivery Plan, the Deputy First Minister announced.scottish government logo

The Delivery Plan sets outs the actions required to substantially close the attainment gap over the next five years and deliver a world class education system in Scotland. It will involve further sustained pressure to reduce workload for teachers.

The plan confirms the Scottish Government will:

  • Focus on closing the attainment gap by extending the reach, scope and investment of the Scottish Attainment Challenge over the next five years.
  • Launch a governance and funding review to examine the system changes required to empower schools, devolving funding and more decision-making to schools and communities.
  • Simplify Curriculum for Excellence and significantly streamline the current range of curriculum guidance for teachers, and introduce a simpler set of key resources for the profession by January 2017.
  • Invest in teachers and their skills to ensure we have highly qualified and empowered staff.
  • Move from a “culture of judgement” to a “system of judgement” to provide robust information on the education system to support improvement.

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education John Swinney, said:

“The Scottish Government will be relentless in its efforts to ensure that every child – no matter where they are from or how well off their family is – has the same opportunities and an equal chance to succeed.

“We must ensure our curriculum, applauded by the OECD, can be delivered so that our teachers are free to teach and our children have the opportunity to learn.

“We will give teachers confidence about what the Curriculum for Excellence expects of them. We will de-clutter the curriculum and strip away anything that creates unnecessary workload for teachers and learners, and we will take forward a new programme of reducing workload in schools. I will directly oversee this activity supported by a panel of teachers whose voice and experience will inform what is taken forward.

“We must create the right structures to encourage and enable everyone to participate fully in school life.

“Our review of governance will explore all options to ensure we create the right balance of autonomy and accountability in our education system. It will consider the changes needed to empower our teachers and schools, seek to devolve decision-making and funding to schools and communities and support the development of school clusters and new educational regions.

“At the same time we will develop proposals for a fair and transparent national funding formula to ensure resources go where they are needed most.

“All of this requires leadership at all levels and by all involved in Scottish education. Investing in the skills, knowledge and confidence of our teachers will create the right culture of empowered leadership.

“Today marks the start of a new journey for Scottish education that will ensure we realise our ambition for excellence and equity for every child and young person in Scotland.”

You can access the full document, which goes into greater detail, here.

 

 

 

Events Following Brexit Result.

We are in the midst of historical political change and I thought it would be interesting to log a diary of events.

24 June 2016

The UK has voted to leave the EU by 52% to 48%.   All 32 council areas in Scotland returned Remain majorities. The vote in Scotland for remain was 62% to 38%.

In the political turmoil since the Brexit vote the Tory and Labour parties are in melt down and the UK LibDems and other parties are nowhere to be seen.   The Prime Minister, David Cameron has resigned and wants nothing to do with the Brexit negotiations with the EU and George Osborne and other Tory Cabinet members are in hiding.      On the contrary, the Scottish Government are strong and stable and dealing confidently with the crisis with Nicola Sturgeon showing great leadership.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it would be democratically unacceptable for Scotland to face the prospect of being taken out of the EU against our will.

This is her first press conference following the results.

She has been on the Andrew Marr show and on Politics Scotland on the BBC making a strong case for Scotland remaining in the EU and keeping the interviewers in their place by not answering questions she is not in a position to do due to the uncharted waters that we find ourselves in.  However, she vows to put the stability of Scotland first and foremost in the coming weeks and months.

It is somewhat ingenuous of some of the experts being interviewed by the BBC at Westminster that they still think they are in “charge” and will “allow” Scotland to have a second independence referendum and would be surprised if Westminster would “approve” of Scotland becoming a EU member.   Their arrogance is extraordinary, but not unexpected, and the longer they maintain this attitude about the wishes of Scottish people it will only add fuel to the independence fire.

 

27 June 2016

Angus Robertson’s statement at Prime Minister’s Q&As

In the meantime, Reuters is reporting that “an independent Scotland would be welcome to join the European Union”, a senior German lawmaker and ally of Chancellor Merkel has said after Britain’s vote to leave the bloc.   “We should respond quickly to an application for admission from the EU-friendly country”.

28 June 2016

alyn-smith-2

To hear Alyn Smith fighting for Scotland’s rights in Brussels today click Here.

 

 

 

Nicola Sturgeon addresses the Scottish Parliament outlining the motion that eu saltire flagsGovernment representatives proceed to engage with the European Union with the objective of Scotland remaining in the EU.    A special advisory group of experts has been created to support and advise the Scottish Parliament whilst negotiating with the European Union.  The mandate was supported by the Scottish Greens, Labour and LibDems.   The Conservatives abstained.

29 June 2016
Nicola Sturgeon is in Brussels for talks with senior EU personnel and member country leaders.

SNP HQ has had the same idea and put together their diary of events which is much more thorough than mine so I will follow theirs from now on.   Click on Holyrood Highlights

 

 

 

 

 

Scottish 50:50 Cabinet

Scottish Cabinet Team 2016Back Row, left to right:
Justice Secretary:  Michael Matheson  (no change).
Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Secretary:  Roseanna Cunningham.
Finance Secretary:  Derek Mackay
Communities, Social Security and Equalities Secretary:  Angela Constance
Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary:  Fergus Ewing.

Front Row, left to right:
Economy Secretary:  Keith Brown
Health Secretary:  Shona Robison  (no change)
First Minister:  Nicola Sturgeon
Education Secretary and Deputy First Minister:   John Swinney
Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Secretary:  Fiona Hyslop   (no change)

Nicola Sturgeon said “John’s record is exemplary, overseeing a succession of balanced budgets as well as delivering the recent fiscal framework deal that will underpin the new powers being devolved to the Scottish parliament.

“His appointment to this crucial role demonstrates how important education is to my government.”

Other Government Positions:

Minister for childcare and early years: Mark McDonald

Minister for further education, higher education and science: Shirley-Anne Somerville

Minister for parliamentary business: Joe FitzPatrick

Minister for transport and the islands: Humza Yousaf

Minister for business, innovation and energy: Paul Wheelhouse

Minister for employability and training: Jamie Hepburn (Reporting to cabinet secretaries for economy and education)

Minister for public health and sport: Aileen Campbell

Minister for mental health: Maureen Watt

Minister for community safety and legal affairs: Annabelle Ewing

Minister for local government & housing: Kevin Stewart

Minister for social security: Jeane Freeman

Minister for international development and Europe: Alasdair Allan