Archive for November, 2006

STV EVENT: LOTHIANS GREEN MSP URGES YOUNG PEOPLE TO “MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD”

Politicians should do all they can to encourage young people to take part in politics, Green MSP Robin Harper will argue when he hosts an event in the Parliament this weekend. (1) The Electoral Reform Society event, which will include contributions from visiting speakers and a mock STV ballot, aims to increase awareness about the new voting system and trigger debate about how young people can best be encouraged to participate in formal politics.

Robin Harper, Green MSP and Convener of the Parliament’s cross party group on children and young people, said, “I’m delighted to be hosting this event. It’s crucial that we encourage young people to take part in the political process, but we also have to find new ways in which they can do that. So many decisions taken by politicians have a huge impact on the lives of children and young people so they should have every opportunity possible to make their voices heard loud and clear. Hopefully this event will help achieve that.”

David Orr, Scottish Youth and Campaigns Officer with ERS commented, “This disengagement of young people from formal politics in Scotland is a major contemporary concern that threatens to undermine the credibility of the democratic process in this country. We feel that this disengagement relates much more to disillusionment than it does apathy.”

It is hoped that the new Single Transferable Vote (STV) electoral system, which will be used to elect local councillors in May 2007 may be one of the factors that helps to bring young people back to the polls. The new system offers voters more choice and should produce fairer outcomes than the first-past-the-post system it replaces. Every vote should now make a difference, including the votes of young people.

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LOTHIANS GREEN MSPs: NEW PLANNING BILL IS A MISSED OPPORTUNITY AND BAD NEWS FOR LOCAL COMMUNITIES

Local MSPs have criticised Labour and Libdems today for abandoning any commitment to environmental justice by voting against Greens’ last-ditch attempt to grant communities a right of appeal in the planning system. (1)

The proposal – to introduce a third party right of appeal when local development plans are out of date – would have also benefited developers because it would have encouraged local authorities to keep plans up-to-date.

Following the crucial vote during the stage three debate on the Planning etc (Scotland) Bill, Mark Ballard, Green Lothians MSP, said,

“Labour and LibDems have repeatedly rejected Greens’ proposals for a third party right of appeal, meaning that developers such as Tesco, will still be able to appeal if they have an application turned-down, but objectors will not be able to appeal if an application being given the go-ahead. This is a developers’ charter which will ride rough-shod over local democracy and communities.”

During Stage 2, several variations on the TPRA concept were proposed, and rejected by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MSPs. Today’s Stage 3 debate offered a last-ditch attempt to introduce a new variant on the idea. During the debate Patrick Harvie MSP argued that if development plans are left to go out of date, third party appeal rights should then apply – but

Labour and LibDems again voted against it.

Mr Ballard added, “This was an attempt to give the public some meaningful rights in the planning system, but Labour and LibDems rejected it outright and in doing so denied communities even a minimal degree of justice.

“So many variations of TPRA have been knocked back by Labour and the LibDems that we can only conclude that their consultation on the issue was a sham all along. Most of the LibDems seem determined to vote against their own party policy – TPRA was in their manifesto – and Labour’s proposal for community notification is worth next to nothing.”

Greens’ Co-Convenor, Robin Harper MSP said, “This is bill is bad news for Lothians communities. We will see more unpopular decisions like the Meggetland development being pushed through against the will of communities who will have even less say than before.

“The many people who took the time to respond to the Executive’s consultation exercises will feel betrayed – 86% respondents favoured the introduction of TPRA but they are now being faced with the prospect that major developments will be rubber-stamped by those in power, and that parts of the planning system will simply be closed off to the public.”

This bill will give ministers unprecedented powers to ‘fast-track’ major projects they deem to be ‘national developments’ and incorporated into the National Planning Framework. Such proposals will be subject to limited parliamentary scrutiny and the wider public will not have anyway of blocking controversial proposals or subjecting them to the sort of scrutiny which would be accomplished by a Public Local Inquiry. When you consider that such projects would almost certainly include, nuclear power stations, airport extensions, super-quarries, power lines and land-fill sites, then it is extremely worrying that so much power could be placed directly in the hands of ministers.

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