Com­ment

All quiet on the ru­ral leg­is­la­tion front – for now

Fish Farmer - - Contents - Phil Thomas

I August, the Elec­toral Re orm So­ci­ety (ERS) pub­lished its anal­y­sis o the votes cast and po­lit­i­cal out­comes in June s gen­eral elec­tion. The report, not un­ex­pect­edly, high­lighted the per­ceived short­com­ings o the First Past the Post (FPTP) vot­ing sys­tem, and made a case or al­ter­na­tive ap­proaches, such as the Ad­di­tional Mem­ber Sys­tem (AMS), Al­ter­na­tive ote (A ) sys­tem, or Sin­gle Trans er­able ote (ST ) sys­tem.

sing ERS s cri­te­rion, the best vot­ing method would re­sult in the elec­tion o con­stituency MPs rom dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties in pro­por­tions re ect­ing the ag­gre­gate to­tal votes or those par­ties across the .

Dis­ap­point­ingly, the report did not look at the im­pact o in­creas­ing the si e o con­stituen­cies. Larger con­stituen­cies and ewer MPs has a pop­ulist ring that might find real sup­port in the present po­lit­i­cal cli­mate.

n Scot­land, where AMS vot­ing or the Sco sh par­lia­ment has led to multi-party pol­i­tics rather than a bi-party sit­u­a­tion, the ERS ound large num­bers o vot­ers have de­vel­oped the skill o tac­ti­cal vot­ing gam­ing the FPTP sys­tem to make sure their vote has an im­pact.

This must dis­may tra­di­tional politi­cians or whom party al­le­giance is the bedrock o pol­i­tics. ot­ers, it seems, are in­creas­ingly switch-vot­ing to sup­port pre erred poli­cies, or to de eat the can­di­dates they least wish to see elected.

n prac­tice, this phe­nom­e­non has im­por­tant im­pli­ca­tions since it has cre­ated greater po­lit­i­cal volatil­ity than pre­vi­ously ex­pe­ri­enced in gen­eral elec­tions in Scot­land.

The act that 21 o 59 So sh con­stituen­cies changed hands in June made Scot­land the most po­lit­i­cally volatile re­gion in the , in re­spect o West­min­ster elec­tions.

A key ues­tion now is whether this switch-vot­ing ten­dency will im­pact the Sco sh par­lia­ment elec-

Ru­ral Econ­omy and Con­nec­tiv­ity Com­mit­tee s plan to re­view fish arm­ing early in 2018 will at­tract due in­dus­try in­ter­est

tions in May 2021 or the gen­eral elec­tion in May 2022.

The Sco sh par­lia­ment re­turned in September to find the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment changed sub­stan­tially since the start o the sum­mer, and this is likely to af­fect pro­ceed­ings.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the re­cent overn­ment Ex­pen­di­ture and Re­view ( ERS) 2016-17 or Scot­land does not make happy read­ing.

Even al­low­ing or a ge­o­graphic share o oil and gas rev­enues, the Sco sh bud­get deficit was 13.3 bil­lion or 8.3 per cent o ross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct ( DP).

Some in­dus­try sec­tors, in­clud­ing armed salmon and Scotch whisky in the ood and drink cat­e­gory, had strong ex­port per or­mances.

How­ever, no one can doubt that the na­tional bud­get deficit is chal­leng­ing, and the act that pro-rata it is our times that o the , re­lent­lessly ocuses at­ten­tion on the per or­mance o the Sco sh gov­ern­ment.

A er an in­tense pe­riod o elec­tions and re eren­dums, there is a re­ported pub­lic weari­ness o party pol­i­tics in Scot­land, and a de­tectable wish or the gov­ern­ment(s) (Holyrood and West­min­ster) to con­cen­trate on the key pri­or­i­ties that af­fect peo­ple s lives the econ­omy, jobs, ed­u­ca­tion, pub­lic ser­vices and so on.

Pub­lic ag­i­ta­tion on these is­sues will al­most cer­tainly in­tensi y as Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions pro­ceed, al­though there is lit­tle yet to sug­gest that kind o ocus in the cur­rent pro­gramme o 19 bills which are mak­ing their way through the Sco sh par­lia­ment.

There are two bills which touch on ru­ral busi­nesses. The first is the Forestry and Land Man­age­ment (Scot­land) Bill, which will pro­vide ull de­vo­lu­tion o con­trol o Sco sh orestry to Sco sh min­is­ters and see the Forestry Com­mis­sion Scot­land and For­est En­ter­prise Scot­land ab­sorbed as Di­vi­sions o the Sco sh gov­ern­ment s En­vi­ron­ment and Forestry Di­rec­torate.

The sec­ond is the slands (Scot­land) Bill which cov­ers a range o new mea­sures to trans er pow­ers and make new pro­vi­sions or the Sco sh is­lands.

The orestry bill is un­likely to have any di­rect im­pact on fish arm­ers. How­ever, some o the longer term ob­jec­tives o the leg­is­la­tion are de­signed to in­crease pub­lic use o orestry re­sources, and this might in­crease tourism in fish arm­ing ar­eas.

The is­lands bill ap­pears po­ten­tially more im­por­tant, be­cause it con­tains new ar­range­ments or plan­ning and li­cens­ing marine de­vel­op­ments.

How­ever, fish arm­ing is specif­i­cally ex­cluded as a devel­op­ment ac­tiv­ity in terms o the bill, as it is al­ready un­der Lo­cal Au­thor­ity Plan­ning Con­trol. There ore, in prac­tice, the bill is un­likely to change much so ar as fish arm­ers are con­cerned.

At the level o the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tees very lit­tle o the on­go­ing pro­grammes o work are likely to stir the blood o those in the in­dus­try, al­though the Ru­ral Econ­omy and Con­nec­tiv­ity Com­mit­tee s plan to re­view fish arm­ing early in 2018 will at­tract due in­dus­try in­ter­est and at­ten­tion.

Thus, over­all, it looks as i there might be a Sco sh par­lia­ment pe­riod o rel­a­tive calm. But with Brexit rolling or­ward, in­creas­ing pub­lic con­cern over the things that mat­ter, and grow­ing scep­ti­cism to­wards party pol­i­tics, we may in act be ac­ing the calm be ore a sig­nif­i­cant storm

“There is a wish or gov­ern­ment to con­cen­trate on the key pri­or­i­ties that af­fect peo­ple s lives”

BY PRO­FES­SOR PHIL THOMAS

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