Michael Russell MSP

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Michael Russell MSP

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  • Member for: Argyll and Bute
  • Region: Highlands and Islands
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Michael is a member of the following Committees:

Michael is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

Search for other Speeches made by Michael Russell

Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Michael Russell

In evidence last week, concern was expressed about the review’s recommendations on bailiffs. The police evidence was that bailiffs are not using the powers that they have and that, therefore, those powers are not required. There are two concerns. One has been raised by people who, like me and, I think, Mr Thompson, are concerned about some of the ways in which bailiffs exercise their rights; others believe that the bailiffs’ role needs to be strengthened. Last week, I pointed to the experience in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs national park, which has found a useful adjunct to some of the byelaws that allows rangers to be sworn in as special constables and have a legal function.

My concern about the system of bailiffs that we have at the moment is that, very often, bailiffs operate under regulation and law but not with the same rigour in observation of the law that you would get from a special constable. I am looking for ideas—there may be some around the table—for a better way of managing the system, so that it could fit within the existing legal structures and be understood in that way. There are other examples in the environment where there is at least a shade of grey in how regulations are enforced, imposed or monitored by those who do not have full statutory authority.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Michael Russell

I am sorry, but there is a very strong purpose in talking about absolute numbers. Inevitably, the outcome at the end of this discussion will be pain for people, because the number of fish that they can catch will be reduced. That is an inevitability, and I do not think that anyone is in any doubt about that. We need to understand numbers and set two different things against each other. One is sporting activity and the other is a long-standing traditional method of catching fish, which is a commercial method. I am not taking sides, but it is absolutely important that we understand numbers, because there will be a reduction on both sides of the equation, and we need to set those two sides against each other. I am sorry, but I will not be deflected from talking about numbers. I am happy to think about sophistication in those numbers, but it is vital that we talk numbers.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Michael Russell

Mr Mackay said that the figure is 8 per cent. That is a big difference. Where do the figures come from?



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Michael Russell

This is important because, if catch and release is producing mortality, which I think is accepted, we need to know what the level of mortality is. If we are to understand the figures, it is vital that we know that. Mr Mackay has presented an argument that the figures indicate that the two methods are producing roughly the same results. I entirely agree that we have to reduce those results but, if both methods have to be reduced, we need to understand precisely what the numbers are. I think that Hughie Campbell-Adamson says that the mortality rate from catch and release is 3 per cent



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Michael Russell

The response to this seems to be mixed. Nick Yonge has mentioned the need for investment twice, but if the angling for all programme is not the priority, what are the priorities for investment? Hypothetically, how can or will they be met if there is no rod licence?



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Michael Russell

The principal proposal in the report is that the Government at some stage introduces a rod licence and the moneys go to investment. As Andrew Thin has rightly pointed out, the public purse is unlikely to meet those costs, certainly in the foreseeable future. However, he indicated in evidence last week that that would have to be tied to an expansion of fishing through what he called an angling for all scheme. He pointed out that, in his view and that of his committee, Scotland is underfished, and the preponderance of those who take part are male and of a certain age—it a bit like politics, really. In those circumstances, I want to know people’s views on rod licences and how an angling for all scheme might operate. I think that we all have constituents who have expressed considerable concern about rod licences.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Michael Russell

I am the MSP for Argyll and Bute, and therefore I am Jamie’s constituency MSP.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Michael Russell

Perhaps I should have come in before Alex Fergusson, because I wanted to say to Stephen Pathirana that I do not think that the committee intended that the recommendation to remove the words should open up all land to purchase. I can see that that might be the logical inference, but it was not the committee’s intention. I think that I am right in saying that about the recommendation from the discussion that took place.

The committee’s intention was to ensure that the opportunity would exist to purchase land that was “abandoned or neglected”, but getting a definition of that land has proved to be very difficult. I do not think that there is any intention to open up all land for purchase. Some might argue that that would be the right thing to do, but that is another debate.

The committee’s intention is to fulfil the Government’s policy intention, and the debate is about whether further definition of those words is required in the bill in order to do so. That is what we should focus on. There is no intention to go wider and, if that was to become the debate, that would—as we have just seen—not help the Government to fulfil its intention. Criticising what the committee did is perhaps not the road to go down.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Michael Russell

That is helpful, minister. I am grateful for that. You are saying that the debate can continue and that you will look at possible amendments and keep thinking about how we can make the proposal effective so that it does not present a difficulty but fulfils your policy intention, which is warmly endorsed by the majority of the committee.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 25 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Michael Russell

This is a very important discussion, and we are all trying to find the right solution. It might be helpful to step back for a moment and ask, “What is the right solution?”

The right solution is to enable communities to possess—to buy—land that they wish to use for purposes of sustainable development. If we get this wrong one way or the other, that will not happen. It will not happen because it will be frustrated by lawyers who want it not to happen and owners who do not want to sell. We need clarity in case the bill is challenged, because judicial review does happen and reference under ECHR could happen. If we do not get it right, this is the proposal that will prevent communities from participating in right to buy.

The question is this: is it better to include a definition in the bill and have it challenged but at least be absolutely clear about the meaning, or is it better to leave the bill as giving the words what you have euphemistically called “their ordinary meaning”—though they are capable of many ordinary meanings—and another legal meaning?

That is really quite worrying, because there is a specific legal meaning to “abandoned and neglected land” that you are not applying here. In those circumstances, if you leave the bill as it is, will the challenges be successful because of the vagueness in the legislation? In the greater part—it was not unanimous—the committee believed that it was very important that we tied the definition down as clearly as possible so that communities could use the legislation effectively. That is what we are still struggling to do.

While I am pleased to see these fundamental and radical steps to change land ownership, there is an issue about whether they should be defined in secondary legislation or whether they should be defined clearly as a legislative intention of the Parliament in primary legislation. I do not think that we are there yet; although the regulations are helpful, it is important that we get a clearer definition in the bill.

What Sarah Boyack has been trying to do, quite correctly, is to point to sustainable development as one possible area in which we could get a clearer definition. I think that amendments will be brought forward on the issue, and I would urge the Government to think about that, because we are all trying to help each other to get absolute clarity so that the intention for a radical step forward will be fulfilled in practice.

We know from the land reform legislation that many of the difficulties that existed, including some that I have been dealing with in recent weeks, are because the legislation is not as clear as it should be and there are difficulties in operating it. We have learned from that, so the question is: can we keep moving in this legal debate?

My contribution to that debate is that I think that we need a clear definition and we need the term “sustainable development”. Work that has been done by Community Land Scotland to suggest a way to frame the definition should be seriously considered by the Government’s lawyers. I think that there will be an amendment at stage 2. If that amendment were to be seriously considered by the Government’s lawyers, we might get ourselves to the stage at which we could all eventually agree.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Amendment 2 moved by X on motion S4M-12485 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill—That the
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NoDefeated

Amendment 3 moved by X on motion S4M-12485 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill—That the
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Amendment 4 moved by X on motion S4M-12485 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill—That the
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Amendment 5 moved by X on motion S4M-12485 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill—That the
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NoDefeated

Amendment 7 moved by X on motion S4M-12485 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill—That the
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NoDefeated

Amendment 8 moved by X on motion S4M-12485 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill—That the
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NoDefeated

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
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YesCarried

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

Search for other Motions lodged by Michael Russell
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11934: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11924: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11839: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11804: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11304.3: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 28/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10645: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10643: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/07/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07108: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/06/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06843.2: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/06/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06059: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/03/2013 Show Full Motion >>
This Member currently holds a ministerial post. First Minister and Ministers cannot ask the Government questions which is why no recent questions are displaying here. Please use the full search to find details of previous questions by this Member.
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24685: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24684: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24686: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24688: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24687: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24648: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 25/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24372: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24370: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24371: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 06/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24257: Michael Russell, Argyll and Bute, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 31/01/2015 Show Full Question >>

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