Alison Johnstone MSP

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Devolution (Further Powers) Committee 19 February 2015 : Thursday, February 19, 2015
Alison Johnstone

Do you have any advice for the committee on how to mitigate the narrowing impact that the written translation has had?



Devolution (Further Powers) Committee 19 February 2015 : Thursday, February 19, 2015
Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

My question follows on from my colleague Mark McDonald’s questions about possible amendments to the draft clauses. Am I right in thinking that the major concerns are about the way in which the original recommendations have been written into the draft clauses, rather than about the original recommendations themselves? It seems that more is possible within the spirit of the recommendations than is possible within the draft clauses.



Meeting of the Parliament 19 February 2015 : Thursday, February 19, 2015
Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

It transpired this week that the 17th century old Parliament hall in Edinburgh was transferred from the collective ownership of my constituents to Scottish ministers without knowledge or recompense to the common good fund. The City of Edinburgh Council failed in its role as steward of the fund, but is now seeking to resolve the situation. Can the First Minister assure my constituents that any requests from the council to restore ownership of that common good asset to the council will be considered seriously and favourably?



Meeting of the Parliament 18 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

It is clear that we agree that we need to fight for this industry and for its massive jobs and export potential. It is incredibly frustrating to see Pelamis and Aquamarine Power’s world-leading progress stumble. I have met, spoken with and received emails from constituents who are ex-employees of those companies and who desperately want to see wave energy become a Scottish success story, but who lost their jobs at the end of last year. They were devastated; not only had they lost their jobs, they had lost them in an industry that they had worked in, helped to develop and passionately believe in. So I welcome today’s debate and thank Liam McArthur for bringing it to the chamber.

The Government’s response to this serious break in wave energy progress has been to bring forward wave energy Scotland. I am pleased that it was successful in acquiring the intellectual property and other assets of Pelamis but, as the motion says, I hope that the minister can outline more details on the budget and the likely operation of wave energy Scotland. I know that the minister and Alex Paterson met industry representatives last month and I hope that he can tell us how the discussion is progressing.

It is clear that new technologies need patient capital funding. The long-term nature of the investment that is required is at odds with the demands of shareholders who look for short-term profits, but it is vital that we support this sector. It has, after all, attracted £70 million in contributions to the Scottish economy. During the past two decades, Scotland and the rest of the UK have lost out on a domestic supply chain for wind power. In contrast, the Danish Government invested £800 million over a 20-year period and made Denmark into the place we now import our turbines from.

From speaking to staff from Pelamis and Aquamarine Power in recent weeks, it is clear to me that they believe that wave power in Scotland is technically better placed than ever. We really do not want to be buying back this technology in a decade’s time because of a lack of commitment or foresight.

There are a good handful of on-going projects and companies working in Scotland to harness the sea’s power. Sadly, we can add Aegir to those that we have to say farewell to, but the opportunity is still there to make wave and tidal power a success. I hope that the Government will look at how it can harness the subsea skills of the oil and gas industry and add them to those of the engineers who are already working in wave power.

I ask the minister how much contact has been made with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult. It is headquartered in Glasgow and appears to have very similar objectives to wave energy Scotland, albeit for the wider offshore energy sector. Are Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the catapult centre collaborating?

We all agree that some of the support for wave energy must come from the UK. The energy market reform process has been traumatic for many and high transmission charges remain a problem. Instead of hearing our First Minister call for more tax cuts for fossil fuels—personally, I thought that we were beyond that—I would like to hear more calls for a fair transition to offshore renewables as a key demand.

Scottish companies took this technology out of the lab and into the open ocean, but some of those talented engineers are now working in the same industry overseas, in countries where the technology is lagging behind APL and Pelamis. With on-going investment by their Governments, those countries will catch up; therefore, we must do all that we can and work tirelessly to maintain our global lead. We have developed the technology and it is essential that we fully benefit from its commercialisation. We will benefit environmentally and socially, and we know that there are potentially tens of thousands of jobs in the industry as well as billions of pounds in exports.

I know that we will continue to work together, but I ask the Government to champion the industry. We really do need to make sure that the UK Government is in no doubt of the strength of Scottish feeling about the issue.

17:37  

Devolution (Further Powers) Committee 05 February 2015 : Thursday, February 05, 2015
Alison Johnstone

Thank you.



Devolution (Further Powers) Committee 05 February 2015 : Thursday, February 05, 2015
Alison Johnstone

Do you think that enough attention has been given to ensuring that businesses have the resources and information that they need?



Devolution (Further Powers) Committee 05 February 2015 : Thursday, February 05, 2015
Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

Obviously, the Smith commission was all about compromise. Compromise was required to enable any sort of an agreement to happen, given that the visions of the parties going into those discussions were markedly different. However, people such as Richard Murphy have said that Scotland’s tax solution is very challenging and is not all that it could or should be. The witnesses have expressed concern about putting the devolved tax systems in place and running these two domestic and related systems side by side. We also seem to have a cultural lag. Do you think that we can address that? Is it possible to get these systems up and running as and when we need to, given that a lot of the political discussion is still going on?



Meeting of the Parliament 03 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Alison Johnstone

All groups of fans trusts would have to be openly and democratically constituted. Ministers, under advice, would have to sign them off. If a small group passed that test, it would obviously have to meet with the approval of the larger group of fans.

The idea is not too radical. Parliament has decided that tens of thousands of acres should be available to communities to buy in this way through a brave piece of legislation, which the Pairc case confirmed is within European law. If large areas of Scotland’s land should be available to local people, clubs should be available to their fans.

Is legislation necessary? What is stopping fans from just buying their clubs already? As we have seen all too often in recent times, it takes a great deal of time to raise the money. A period such as is set out in the bill in which the fans are automatically the preferred bidder would make the process far more straightforward.

The committee’s report quotes the minister as saying:

“The driving force behind the bill is that we can unlock much of Scotland’s potential through community empowerment.”—[Official Report, Local Government and Regeneration Committee, 5 March 2014; c 3167.]

Of course that is true. It is also true that we can unlock much of Scotland’s football potential through fan empowerment in exactly the same way. We need to see fans as a community and football clubs as their assets. Before we consider the bill again, I urge members to talk to their local fans and see what they think. If their club is being sold, or worse, would they want the option of first refusal?

My view is that, in 30 years, Scottish football could be entirely transformed. We will wonder why clubs were ever owned by anyone but their fans, and we might be enjoying a much stronger national game by then, too.

I will talk briefly about common good and participatory budgeting. The common good registers will increase consistency across local authorities, but we need more than a bare spreadsheet that lists assets. Perhaps the bill could require councils to demonstrate how they have managed the assets on the register to meet best value and responsible stewardship. I would also like to see a requirement on councils to set out how they have valued the assets, and to publish a periodic plan on long-term management of the common good on behalf of the people. I agree with the committee’s recommendation for a timescale for completion of the registers.

Finally, the bill has been described by the Government as the

“biggest transfer of powers since devolution”,

but real empowerment and decentralisation can be achieved only if financial power goes alongside new duties and rights. The minister spoke positively about the impact of participatory budgeting schemes. There was support for PB in the original bill consultation, and it has worked well in Leith, for example, where packed public meetings have reached consensus on local spending priorities. I urge the minister to consider legislative options and I ask what specific support the Government might give to expanding on the report.

Finally, it is exceptionally important that the issues that have been raised about allotments be resolved.

16:26  

Meeting of the Parliament 03 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 03, 2015
Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green)

I thank all those who have contributed to getting the bill to this stage. I would have liked to have seen a braver bill, but there is still time to make it so and there is still much in it that Greens can welcome. We will, of course, be voting in favour of the general principles this afternoon.

People from many different groups and communities had big expectations of the bill. Today, I will concentrate on empowering the community of football fans who want to buy their football clubs. As a first step, we welcome the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee’s recommendation that the list of eligible bodies be expanded to include community benefit societies and community interest companies. That is an important foundation for fan ownership, given the way that so many fans trusts are organised.

However, the bill as it stands brings us no nearer to a proper fans’ right to buy. I therefore intend to lodge amendments on that issue. I will address a number of key questions. I urge the minister in closing to agree to look again at what the Scottish Government can do for football fans in this area.

Is there a serious problem with how Scottish football is currently owned and run? I am sure that members would agree that there is, even those who do not support Hearts, Rangers, Dunfermline Athletic, Livingston or Gretna. Of course not all privately owned clubs are operated irresponsibly, but when they are, and when they go into administration or are traded like any other asset, fans are still all too often shut out of the process. We should also have a clear process to ensure that there is a clear exit strategy for responsible owners who decide, for whatever reason, to call time on their period as custodian of a club.

Was there not just a review that decided not to make the case for fan ownership? No. Stephen Morrow is a great expert, but as his report says:

“the desirability or otherwise of supporter ownership was not discussed within the Working Group.”

That is a shame, but that was the remit given to it by ministers.

Can fan ownership really work? The evidence from Scotland and around the world is that it can. Members across the chamber appear to agree. I know that Kenny MacAskill is helping Hibs fans as they try to take control of their club. Ian Murray MP has worked with Hearts and I know that Bruce Crawford played a key role in the efforts of Stirling Albion fans to buy their club. Many other members will know their local fans trusts, which are keen, smart and determined groups that have their clubs’ best interests at heart.

Would a right to buy drive out good owners of Scottish clubs? Hardly. If a club is thriving on and off the pitch there will not be an appetite to change that. However, good owners come and go, and when they go, fans should have first right of refusal to take over. Is that too radical? No, it is not.



Meeting of the Parliament 28 January 2015 : Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Alison Johnstone

A moratorium is only a delay or a suspension. Is the minister aware that, if he keeps this door ajar, public opposition will continue to grow and the Greens will continue to engage with those communities across Scotland that want an outright ban now?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12423.1 Alex Rowley: Commission on Local Tax Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-12423 in the n
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YesCarried

S4M-12423 Marco Biagi: Commission on Local Tax Reform—That the Parliament supports the establishment
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YesCarried

S4M-12385 Liz Smith: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament agrees that a solid grou
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-12395.1 Fergus Ewing: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in the
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-12395.2 Patrick Harvie: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in t
>> Show more
YesDefeated

S4M-12395 Murdo Fraser: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—That the Parliament notes with concern the l
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NoCarried

S4M-12385.3 Alasdair Allan: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to motion S4M-12385 i
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NoCarried

S4M-12382.3 Mary Fee: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion S4
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NoDefeated

S4M-12382.1 Gavin Brown: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion
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NoDefeated

S4M-12382.2 Willie Rennie: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to moti
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Alison Johnstone
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12430: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 25/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12323: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 16/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12167: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 27/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12057: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 13/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11994: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11980.2: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 06/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11780: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 02/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11722: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11635: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 20/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11617: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 19/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Alison Johnstone
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24690: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24691: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24451: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 16/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24450: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 16/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24449: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 16/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24376: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 06/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24381: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 06/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24254: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 30/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24255: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 30/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24253: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 30/01/2015 Show Full Question >>

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