Select Committee on Environmental Audit Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Scottish Executive


  1.  This paper addresses the points raised in the Committee Clerk's letter of 6 February 2002 to Ross Finnie MSP, Minister for Environment and Rural Development at the Scottish Executive requesting information on the Executive's role in contributing to the UK's preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.


  2.  The Executive's main work has been to fulfil its obligations in such a way as to also achieve raised awareness of sustainable development in Scotland.

  3.  We have devoted a good deal of effort to our stakeholder consultation to assess progress in Scotland on the agreements made at Rio and the views of the priorities for the future. We undertook a major consultation using Scottish Civic Forum and supervised by Steering Group chaired by the Executive but comprising a wide range of interests including business, the church, trade unions, local government and NGOs. The consultation received financial support from BT and Shell.

  4.  It comprised three seminars in Inverness, Newton St Boswells and Glasgow in June last year which attracted a total of around 240 representatives of a wide range of organisations plus a few interested individuals. It was followed by an electronic consultation addressing the theme of "What sort of Scotland do we want to live in?" run by the International Teledemocracy Centre at Napier University, Edinburgh. This consultation sought to provide those unable to attend the seminars with an opportunity to use innovate technology to make their veiws known to the Executive. Around 400 comments were received. A paper summarising the outcomes of the consultations will be forwarded to Whitehall shortly as part of the process to prepare a UK Report to the Summit.


  5.  The Scottish Executive takes the view that, although a number of the main issues likely to be discussed at Johannesburg are reserved matters, the event is likely to be important in setting the agenda for the future. In addition the publicity surrounding the Summit will provide an opportunity to raise the profile and understanding of sustainable development at home. Scottish Ministers have therefore been keen to attend MISC 18 when diaries permit. Both Mr Finnie and his Deputy Allan Wilson MSP have attended and hope to do so again in the future.

  6.  Our interest in MISC is likely to continue as preparations for Johannesburg move forward. In a major speech on the environment on 18 February, Jack McConnell, First Minister, stressed the importance of the Summit. That is likely to mean that the Executive will not only continue to be involved in MISC 18 but also be involved in events prior to the Summit to raise awareness. The Environment Group in the Rural Affairs Department has the lead on World Summit issues and also on MISC 18 involvement. The Group consults with other parts of the Executive where this is appropriate. Apart from MISC 18 our main involvement in the preparations recently has been to encourage Scottish companies to become involved in the five sectoral initiatives launched by the Prime Minister.


  7.  In its Programme for Government published in 1999, the Scottish Executive committed itself "to integrate the principles of environmental and socially sustainable development into all Government policies." This work is led by the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Sustainable Scotland which has been chaired by the Environment Minister and includes those Ministers responsible for a wide range of topics such as Enterprise, Social Justice, Planning and Health. The Committee also includes two external members with a third to be appointed soon. The Committee has the responsibility for initiating action on sustainable development and taking stock of progress. Since his appointment, the new First Minister Jack McConnell has decided to chair the Committee to provide further impetus.

  8.  On the specific issue of sustainable development indicators, the Executive has undertaken research on a range of options and has consulted widely on these amongst key stakeholders in Scotland. The process is now complete and it is likely that, within the next month or so, the executive will announce which indicators it will adopt.

February 2002

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