GM Crops: The Welsh Assembly Has Led, The Scottish Government Must Follow

Greens today put down a motion at Holyrood (1) calling on Scottish Ministers to follow the approach of the Welsh Assembly Government to GM crops, and welcoming their proposals, published today, which would bring in full liability for all GM crop producers. (2) These plans, which are backed by the Farmers’ Union of Wales and by environmental campaigners, would ensure that GM companies would have to bear the costs of any environmental or economic damage their crops cause, such as contamination of either organic or conventional produce.

Robin Harper MSP said:

“The science clearly shows the failings of GM crops, which bring nothing but risk for Scotland’s farmers and corporate control for our food chain. Scottish legislation must now be extended beyond the moratorium to make GM companies fully liable for any problems their unwelcome crops bring.”

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Sparrowhawks: Ministers Must Take Wildlife Responsibilities Seriously

Scottish Ministers have bowed to pressure from the pigeon-fanciers’ lobby and agreed to trap and relocate protected sparrowhawks this autumn, although the plans will not now start before the autumn. (1) The Scottish Greens believe this approach is misguided, unscientific, and potentially illegal, and have today lodged a motion setting out these serious concerns. (2)

Robin Harper MSP said:

“This trial planned by Michael Russell and the “doo lobby” is scientific in just the same way that Japan’s approach to whaling is scientific: cynical, flawed, and driven by vested interests.

“This matter has been examined three times already over the last eight years and the science hasn’t changed. Sparrowhawks are a protected species for good reason (3), as Parliament has recognised, and Ministers must respect that.”

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UK Oil And Gas Plans For Moray Firth “Blown Out Of The Water”

Oil and gas exploration plans for the Moray Firth were today thrown into doubt as Robin Harper MSP pressed Michael Russell, Minister for the Environment, on scientific revelations that Westminster’s science is fundamentally flawed. (1) Scottish Ministers have yet to come off the fence on this issue, but
Michael Russell today committed to “do his usual robust thing” when SNH’s scientific review of the project is completed next week. (2)

UK Ministers claim to have used the work of Professor Paul Thompson, the leading expert on the Moray Firth’s bottlenose dolphin population, to justify their exploration plans, but Professor Thompson’s view is that they have misrepresented his views. In his submission to the consultation, Professor Thompson also notes that UK Ministers have not used “the best available science”, and that the decision to expose the Moray dolphins to this risk “would fail to stand up to expert review in the European Court.”

The full text of Professor Thompson’s letter is available on request.

Robin Harper MSP said:

“This proposal to drill for oil in the home of a protected and endangered dolphin population was obviously flawed from the start. Now it turns out that UK Ministers have misrepresented the science to justify their plans, which have now been blown out of the water by the top expert on this population.

“The Moray Firth and other parts of Scottish waters are protected for a reason, and Malcolm Wicks must now do the right thing and put conservation and the environment ahead of this polluters’ charter.”

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Harper Launches Innovative Community Arts Project In Parliament

Green Lothians MSP Robin Harper will launch “Parallel Lives 2 – See the Future” in the Scottish Parliament, on Tuesday 19th February.
 
In 2002 the original groundbreaking Parallel Lives project aimed to introduce socially excluded young people to the experience of responding to art and emphasised the relevance of historical paintings to their lives today.  The project proved that works of art can captivate the minds of an audience who may never have visited an art gallery.  This objective is again at the heart of Parallel Lives 2.
 
The National Galleries of Scotland will mount a display of works from the inaugural Parallel Lives project in the MSPs first floor lobby of the Parliament building in order to allow MSPs and other government employees to become familiar with the project.
 
Robin Harper said

“I’m delighted to host an exhibition that demonstrates how important the use of art can be to communities that want to express their views of an ideal society.  It is an important truism that a picture can be worth more than a thousand words.  Using original works of art as an inspiration for creating and interpreting new art to give important messages on local issues is exciting, innovative and above all inclusive for all those taking part.”

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Enough Progress On Budget For Greens To Abstain

Greens welcomed John Swinney’s last-minute moves during today’s budget debate, including the provision of an additional £4m to support Scotland’s bus services, which should keep fares down across the country and protect lifeline rural services.John Swinney also told Parliament today that the tender process for the M74 would now be re-examined given the outstanding complaint to the European Commission. The Greens believe that this development places a significant question mark over the project’s future. In the light of these announcements, the Scottish Green Party has taken the view that the amended budget is now sufficiently improved to allow the party’s MSPs to abstain. However, a greater shift towards public transport and away from unsustainable road-building would have been required for the Greens to support the SNP’s budget.The following amendments and related concessions have been made by the SNP in response to Green pressure to improve the budget:

  1. The last-minute £4m increase in funding for bus services across Scotland, which reverses the cuts proposed in the original budget following Parliament’s support for the Green position last week. This increase should be sufficient to prevent the likely cuts in bus services and increases in bus-fares. 
  2. The initial decision to include a Climate Challenge Fund similar to the proposals made in the Scottish Green Party manifesto, albeit on a more limited scale, and the£4.3m increase in the budget line which was secured by the Greens through today’s amendments, bringing the total fund up to £8.8m; 
  3. Ministers’ agreement that future budgets should be carbon costed, and that future policy decisions will include formal recognition of the associated carbon costs; 
  4. A trebling in the level of community and household renewables investment; 
  5. Continued ring-fencing of local budgets for cycling and walking as well as the safer routes scheme; and 
  6. The winding-up of the Air Route Development Fund, which went beyond lifeline routes to the islands and promoted unnecessary internal flights.

Patrick Harvie MSP said: 

“The last few weeks have seen tough negotiations on the budget, and the Scottish Greens have secured significant changes from the SNP throughout the process, right to the very end. In a Parliament where every party is a minority, including the SNP, the right approach for all parties must be to work responsibly together to deliver the best decisions possible for the people of Scotland.

“Two weeks ago we abstained because we wanted to keep the budget process alive, and to allow time for the Greens and other opposition parties to work with Ministers to improve their proposals. The progress Robin and I have achieved during those two weeks across a wide range of policy areas is a clear vindication of this approach.

“Today we have abstained because the budget, improved as it is, still does not go far enough in the right direction for Scotland. There are progressive proposals within it which we welcome, but the SNP still put road-building ahead of public transport.“Scottish Green Party will continue to work constructively with other parties on an issue-by-issue basis to move social justice and sustainability higher up the agenda, and to try and turn around the supertanker of Government policy.”

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Harper Joins Call For End To Guantanamo

On the 11th January 2002 the first “war on terror” detainees were transported to the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.  On the 6th anniversary, Green Lothians MSP Robin Harper is joining with others campaigning for the closure of Guantanamo Bay and all other unlawful detention camps.

Protesters wearing the now infamous Guantanamo orange boiler suits will kneel down outside the United States Consulate before parading along Princes Street to the Mound before repeating the action in the space beside the National Gallery.

Harper said

“Guantanamo Bay is the newsworthy face of unlawful detainment.  Guantanamo and all other unlawful detention camps must close.  They have no place in a just society.  The “war on terror” has led to the erosion of a whole host of human rights. There is no excuse for resorting to illegal practices, outlawed by international law. “

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Harper Says – Use Our New Powers To Save Moray Firth Dolphins

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has today confirmed that oil and gas exploration may be given the go-ahead in the Moray Firth, which is home to a population of bottlenose dolphins. Scottish Ministers have the power to call in projects of this sort under regulations agreed with the Green MSPs following May’s election.

Robin Harper MSP, Scottish Green Party Co-convener, said:

“As part of our limited post-election negotiations with the SNP, we pressed them to change the law to give Scottish Ministers the power to call in commercial developments in the marine environment under the European Habitats Directive. The same powers will allow them to control this scandalous decision by Westminster to allow oil and gas exploration in the Moray Firth, which is a sensitive habitat not least because of the vulnerable dolphin population. This is a key test of SNP Ministers – will they defend Scotland’s marine environment or side with UK Labour?”

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