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Scotland Act 1998 (River Tweed) Amendment Order 2015

Volume 757: debated on Monday 1 December 2014

Motion to Consider

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Scotland Act 1998 (River Tweed) Amendment Order 2015.

Relevant document: 10th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

My Lords, I beg to move that the draft order laid before the House on 20 October 2014 now be considered. I hope that it will be useful to the Committee if I provide some background information on the fisheries management arrangements that prevail in respect of the River Tweed, as well as a brief summary of what this order primarily seeks to achieve.

Freshwater fisheries management and conservation in Scotland is largely regulated by the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2003, which I shall refer to as the 2003 Act. In September last year, an amendment to the 2003 Act came into force providing a new enabling power that allows the Scottish Ministers to create a regime for the tagging of salmon caught in Scotland. The new Section 21A of the 2003 Act provides the power to require salmon that are caught, and retained, to be tagged. The purpose behind the regime is to enhance existing conservation measures for wild salmon and to ensure that fish that are caught in Scotland and find their way to market are traceable.

Although fisheries management is generally devolved to the Scottish Parliament, separate arrangements prevail in respect of the Borders rivers, as these flow through both Scotland and England. Section 111 of the Scotland Act 1998 provides:

“Her Majesty may by Order in Council make provision for or in connection with the conservation, management and exploitation of salmon, trout, eels, lampreys, smelt, shad and freshwater fish in the Border rivers”.

For the purposes of Section 111, the Borders rivers mean the Rivers Tweed and Esk.

An order made under Section 111 in respect of the Tweed—the Scotland Act 1998 (River Tweed) Order 2006, which I shall refer to as the 2006 order—is currently in force and broadly replicates much of the 2003 Act. However, existing provisions in the 2006 order do not provide the necessary powers to create a tagging regime. Accordingly, this order amends the 2006 order to introduce a new enabling power to allow provision to be made for the tagging of salmon, which replicates the regulation-making power in Section 21A of the 2003 Act for Scotland.

As a regime for tagging salmon already exists in the Lower Esk in Scotland, by virtue of by-laws made by the Environment Agency, introducing a parallel regime for the River Tweed ensures that similar regulations are in place for all of Scotland’s rivers and will ensure that, when a salmon-tagging scheme is introduced in Scotland as a whole, that scheme can be replicated for the Tweed. The tagging regime that exists in the Lower Esk also exists in England. Therefore, the introduction of a parallel regime for the River Tweed ensures no gap in regulations. Again, this is a practical demonstration of the devolution settlement working and I again place on record thanks to officials in the respective Administrations for their co-operation in bringing this order forward. The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee considered this order on 19 November and the House of Commons will consider it on 10 December. I commend the order to the Committee. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am sure that it is not a duty, if one has the title of “Tweed”, to speak in everything related to Tweed. Indeed, I am not entirely sure whether I should declare an interest, given the title that I have adopted. I shall not delay the Committee much further. In these matters, one tends to defer to the wise men and women of the River Tweed Commission. After communications with the commission and acknowledgement that this is an enabling power for Scottish Ministers to bring forward details of how it will operate, as part of the ability to promote and recognise the produce from the finest river in the United Kingdom, I see no reason why the Committee should object to this—although other noble Lords with greater affinities for lesser rivers may perhaps have an issue.

The local Liberals in the west of Scotland will be interested in the denigration of the great River Clyde, which provides employment for tens of thousands of people. I would not be so vindictive as to publicise it—or not much. Again, this is a common-sense measure. There is broad agreement on it and I do not think that anyone disputes that. I am sorry to have to say again—the Minister has already said it and I have said it—that it demonstrates that devolution works with common sense and that action can be taken quietly without any razzmatazz or publicity. The people of Scotland are well served by the 1998 Act and all its ramifications, which allow for measures such as this to take place in a businesslike manner. The order has our full support.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, for expressing that support. I just say to my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed, who would probably have participated when the 2006 order was going through the Scottish Parliament, that perhaps he should be thankful that our noble friend Lord Stephen, of Lower Deeside, is not here, as he may have had something to say about the quality of salmon in our Scottish rivers. I commend the order to the Committee.

Motion agreed.