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Onshore Wind Power: Planning

Volume 601: debated on Wednesday 4 November 2015

1. If he will encourage the Scottish Government to devolve responsibility for onshore wind planning to Scottish local authorities. (901897)

Before I answer the question, may I begin by commending you, Mr Speaker, not just for your attendance at the Davis cup semi-final in Glasgow, but for the enthusiasm with which you got behind Team GB for that momentous win? I am sure you will join me not only in wishing our Team GB the best in the final in Ghent, but in confirming that Glasgow, as it has once again demonstrated with the world gymnastics championships, is a great sporting city.

The UK Government have given local communities the final say on new onshore wind developments in England. Planning for onshore wind is a matter fully devolved to the Scottish Parliament and sadly the Scottish Government have kept that power to themselves. I would urge them to look closely at this Government’s policy of an affordable energy mix that also protects our natural landscapes.

I thank the Secretary of State. I shall be there in person, all being well, to support the team.

True devolution means that power should rest as closely as possible to the people in Scotland, in Wales and in Northern Ireland. Does the Secretary of State deplore the centralising policies of the current Scottish and Welsh Governments, who seem to think they know better than the people and the communities of Scotland and Wales?

I agree with my hon. Friend. The current Scottish Government are one of the most centralising Governments on record, routinely overruling the wishes of local people and local authorities. The UK Government are delivering devolution to Scotland. As Lord Smith recommended, let us see devolution delivered within Scotland.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the case of the Binn eco park in my constituency. It has the support of the local community, and the developers worked diligently to secure planning permission from Perth and Kinross Council. Despite that support, the development is threatened by the regressive approach to support for renewable energy that the UK Government have taken, putting local jobs at risk. Will he look again at the case? The development has been penalised because of a responsible approach to community engagement on planning issues.

I am always happy to look at individual cases raised by Members from Scotland. I would be delighted to meet the hon. Lady and hear more about the case she sets out.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the Scottish Parliament could learn a lot from the devolution debate in England? [Laughter.] Will he encourage the Scottish Parliament to devolve more responsibilities and powers to local government, which could even include elected mayors for the great cities of Scotland?

I agree with my hon. Friend. The response of Scottish National party MPs says it all—they think they know best and know better than local people. Let us see local decision making. Let us see Lord Smith’s individual recommendation on devolution within Scotland honoured by the Scottish Government.

In addition to this question, question after question on the Order Paper from the Nats queries the powers of the Scottish Parliament, yet the truth is this: they have missed the A&E waiting time in Scotland for six years; more than 6,000 children leave primary school unable to read properly; children from poor families get a particularly bad deal under devolution; and Scotland faces a housing crisis. When I visited Edinburgh a week or so ago, I was stunned at the level of rough sleeping in that city—it is much higher than in comparable cities. Should the Nats not be sorting out the things for which they are responsible instead of demanding all those other powers? They are not just the most centralising but the most useless—

The Scotland Bill will make the Scottish Parliament the most powerful devolved Parliament in the world. What we require now is to hear from the SNP and the Scottish Government how they will use these Parliaments. They prefer arguments about process. They do not want to tell us what they will do and they do not follow that through with action.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It was difficult to hear over the noise from Labour over there.

As we know of course, the only damage to onshore wind comes from the right hon. Gentleman’s Government, and for me the only centralising problem in Scotland is that it is not centralised enough—if only the Scottish Government could take control of inter-island flights. Planning is working well in Scotland. In fact, perhaps the Secretary of State could commend several things in Scotland to Wales, such as the political system, under which 99% of Scottish voters rejected the Tories and 95% of Members sent back here were SNP Members. He could learn a lot from that.

The hon. Gentleman could learn a lot from the leader of the Western Isles Council, who is keen to have confirmation that the Scottish Government will devolve responsibility for the Crown Estate to the Western Isles—a measure that he, as MP for the Western Isles, does not appear to support. [Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) is the Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, and I urge him to behave in the statesman-like manner expected of such a high office holder. We might learn about onshore wind from Michelle Thomson.

The provision of an extra runway for either Gatwick or Heathrow is likely to require related infrastructure improvements, to be met from the public purse. Given that the money spent will include a population share of the financial consideration from Scottish taxpayers, will it be taxation without representation or can the Secretary of State guarantee that Scottish MPs will have a vote on an extra runway?

I am genuinely trying to be helpful to Members. May I please urge them to look at the terms of the question on the Order Paper? This one is specifically about onshore wind planning. I think we must now move on.