Paul Wheelhouse MSP

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Paul Wheelhouse MSP

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  • Member for: South Scotland
  • Party: Scottish National Party

Paul is a member of the following Committees:

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

Parliamentary Activities

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Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
The Minister for Environment and Climate Change (Paul Wheelhouse)

I do, convener, if that is okay.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

Thank you.

Momentum towards a new global climate change agreement is, mercifully, growing. At the United Nations climate summit in New York in September, world leaders committed to finalising a meaningful, universal new agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in 2015, and to arrive at the first draft of such an agreement at the UN climate conference in Lima in December. For our part, the Scottish Government is committed to playing as full a role as possible in the international effort and to achieving concerted international action to bring down global emissions to a level that is consistent with containing increases in global average temperatures to 2°C or less.

Scotland’s domestic commitments are ambitious and remain an inspiration to many. Although challenges undoubtedly lie ahead, we can be proud of our achievements to date. Scotland is more than halfway to meeting its national Scotland-wide target of a 42 per cent reduction by 2020—and I must stress that latest figures indicate that we remain on track to achieve a 42 per cent or better reduction in Scotland’s emissions by 2020.

We have made significant progress towards achieving the low-carbon vision that is outlined in our second report on proposals and policies, as demonstrated in the RPP2 monitoring framework that was published earlier this year. In June, we announced a package of measures to keep us on track to meet the 2020 target, including the establishment of a new Cabinet sub-committee on climate change. Stop Climate Chaos Scotland said that our

“announcements show the government is serious about getting us back on track to meet future targets.”

In addition, our independent adviser, the Committee on Climate Change, has advised that “underlying progress” remains

“on track in most sectors”.

Despite the progress, however, I freely acknowledge that we have fallen short in meeting our statutory fixed annual tonnage targets. Nobody is more disappointed than I am with that outturn. The annual target report that is to be laid before Parliament later this month will therefore show that the tonnage of emissions in 2012 exceeded the level that is required by the annual target that was set under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 by just over 2.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

The key factor that is impacting on our ability to meet annual targets is the upward revisions to the baseline against which the amount of abatement and the performance against our targets are measured. By summer 2014, the baseline had been revised up by 5.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to the data available when the annual targets were first set. That is an upward adjustment of more than 8 per cent—actually, to correct myself, it is 7.7 per cent—between the 2008-based and 2012-based inventories. Revisions are the result of improvements in methodology, as there is more accurate monitoring of emissions, and understanding of the impact of greenhouse gases improves over time in each successive greenhouse gas inventory.

A Scottish Government paper that documents the key reasons for successive revisions to the greenhouse gas inventory over the past five years was published earlier this week. As a result of those revisions, the fixed annual targets—which are not adjusted; they are set in stone, as it were—are now considerably more challenging than they were when they were set. Although we remain committed to delivering a 42 per cent reduction by 2020 and a minimum of an 80 per cent reduction by 2050, overcoming the methodological issues—which arise from improvements in data and estimation techniques rather than material changes in emissions—is a challenge that I contend needs to be addressed.

Our independent adviser, the Committee on Climate Change, has identified two basic options for addressing inventory revisions. The first option would be to adjust targets, for example by recasting them in terms of year-on-year emissions reductions or by revising them to allow for adjustments that arise from each annual inventory revision. The second would be to adapt to the inventory change by finding additional opportunities to reduce emissions that go beyond current and proposed policies. In effect, that would involve seeking even deeper percentage reductions than the 42 per cent by 2020 and the 80 per cent by 2050 that the Parliament chose to seek in 2009. I would welcome the committee’s views on the merits of those or other options.

I believe that, by demonstrating solid progress towards the targets set in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and by acting as a progressive partner in international negotiations, Scotland can continue to be a model for the international community and demonstrate the opportunities of the low-carbon economy, which is creating jobs, investment, trade and growth benefits for the people of Scotland. We are by no means perfect, but in a world that faces an enormous challenge to avoid societal, economic and environmental damage as a result of uncontrolled climate change, Scotland—our country—has shown and continues to show leadership of which I think we can all be proud.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

I certainly agree that that is an extremely important area for progress. The CCC has been complimentary about what we are doing on energy efficiency in Scotland, but Dr Ute Collier pointed out:

“In the current situation in which more devolution is being discussed with Westminster, you could look at those areas. If you really want to deliver in Scotland, you might need to push for more control over those issues”.

She went on to say:

“you cannot do much about the energy companies obligation.”—[Official Report, Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee, 1 October 2014; c 20-1.]

That is true—it is a reserved area. She also said that she knew that the Scottish Government had tried to influence the Department of Energy and Climate Change—that is also true—but she perceived that DECC was not delivering. That is a challenge for us.

I am not having a pop at DECC—this is a difficult area for everyone—but if we had control over such matters, we might take a different approach. It is clear that energy efficiency is an extremely important policy area for the Scottish Government not only in tackling climate change but in meeting our fuel poverty targets, and it is an area in which we want to make as much progress as possible as quickly as we can.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

That is a key consideration. There is a high level of investment in energy efficiency in Scotland, but we must attack the problem from a number of angles. Obviously, the planning system and building regulation play a role in driving up building standards, but we must recognise that we have a relatively slow turnover rate when it comes to buildings.

There is a huge pool of buildings already out there. Retrofit is extremely important, and money for that is an important consideration. The fact that we can change new buildings through regulation is important, too. I note for the record that, between 1990 and now, we have made progress on this issue in Scotland and have improved the energy efficiency of new builds by about 70 per cent.

However, challenges remain. Around Scotland, there are many old, solid wall properties and other older buildings that desperately need to be retrofitted with energy efficiency measures. Great progress has been made in cavity wall insulation; two thirds of the properties that can be cavity wall insulated have been insulated, and a high proportion of buildings that can receive loft insulation have received it. However, we are now coming to more difficult properties such as rural, stone-built, solid wall properties and those of non-traditional design, and they will be more of a challenge for us.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

Around the time of the announcement that I made in June, my colleague Margaret Burgess also made an announcement on the allocation of home energy efficiency programme funding, with £60 million of the £79 million that has been allocated this year going into area-based schemes throughout Scotland. An additional £5 million within that has been earmarked for off-grid properties in recognition of the more limited options for improving the heating performance and energy efficiency of those properties.

We are trying to direct more money at harder-to-treat properties in harder-to-treat locations, where people might have fewer options than they would have in an area connected to the gas grid, and to ensure that building design is better in the first place. It is a challenge but I am confident that through the work that is being done by colleagues, particularly Margaret Burgess, efforts are being made to tackle those hard-to-treat properties.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

I certainly agree that we need to be realistic about where we are at with regard to the available resources and the mechanics of the legislation. Dr Collier’s point usefully illustrates the scale of the task. The issue is about not just money, but how a construction sector that has shrunk as a result of the recession can deliver that amount of retrofit. How can activity be expanded quickly enough to physically deliver that? It is an issue of practicality as well as a financial issue.

Clearly there are other options. From what I saw of Dr Collier’s evidence, she played the various elements into a single-issue response to the challenge of how we make up the 1 megatonne shortfall, and the method that you have highlighted has been suggested as a way of doing that. We have more options than that, but it illustrates the scale of the challenge.

There has been a lot of focus on the missed targets—and that is entirely right, given that the legislation was set up to monitor performance against the net emissions figures including ETS. To be frank, I think that ETS has been a bit of a let-down in terms of Europe’s desire to move to a more ambitious target for 2020. As Dr Collier and others acknowledged last week, the debate has moved on and we are now focusing on 2030. The pre-2020 ambition has fallen by the wayside; we are now reporting on targets that were set on the assumption that we would get to 30 per cent, but it does not look like that will happen.

To give the committee some confidence about our progress, I will read out some figures. I appreciate that you want to keep the use of figures to a minimum, but I think that these are important with regard to the issue of emissions. In 2010, our target was 53.65 megatonnes and our source emissions—in other words, our actual emissions—were 58.3 megatonnes, which means we missed our target by 4.6 megatonnes. In 2011, our target was 53.4 megatonnes, and our actual emissions were 52.5 megatonnes, or 0.9 megatonnes under the target. In 2012—the most recent year that we have reported on—our target was 53.23 megatonnes and our actual emissions were 52.9 megatonnes, or 0.3 megatonnes under the target.

The problem is that we are reporting on emissions net of ETS; because of the way the system works, ETS adds in paper emissions, which have not actually been emitted. As a result, we are reporting against something that is, in some respects, a bit abstract; indeed, it is difficult for people to get their heads around ETS and carbon trading schemes. However, the point is that the actual amount of gas that we were pumping into the atmosphere was below target in 2012 and 2011, although I fully admit that it was well above target in 2010, for reasons that have been explained previously and which related to bad weather and so forth. The cumulative emissions gap is about 3.4 megatonnes in those terms, but it goes up to 7.6 megatonnes if you take ETS into account.

It is hard to get such a complex picture across to the public; it is also hard to get it across to stakeholders—and, believe me, I have tried. We need to get some realism around the point that Mr Dey has made, and we need to be realistic about our resources, the nature of the targets and how things are moving with the baseline position and becoming more challenging, even though the actual targets themselves are fixed. We need a mature discussion, because the commitment would bind any future Administration and we need a consensus on how we tackle this particularly challenging aspect of our legislation.

I am proud of our legislative framework and of the consensus that we have in the Parliament on tackling climate change. Compared with other countries, we are lucky in that respect.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

I read that evidence with interest. Dr Collier is, more than any of us, well aware of some of the statistical revisions that are likely to come down the line. We know of one or two that will affect us in relation to the next set of figures in June 2015, including the uprating of methane from 21 to 25 times the potency of CO2. Clearly that will have an impact on the agriculture sector and other parts of the economy such as the waste sector where methane is an important issue.

We know that further statistical revisions are coming, that they will likely make the challenge even harder and that the baseline will probably move again. Given that we will not know how we have performed against emissions targets until close to the publication date in June, we are in a bit of a vacuum in terms of our performance.

The year that we will report on in June is the most challenging. I take the point that Dr Collier and others have made about the sensitivity of the run-up period to the Paris summit. Last week, a number of stakeholders said that the challenge was to ensure a unity of purpose across the world in laying down commitments. It would not look good for us to pull back or to be seen to be pulling back from our commitments, as other Governments in recent times have done. We will take advice from experts such as the Committee on Climate Change on how we should proceed, and I will listen to Dr Ute Collier’s views on that in due course.

However, I make it absolutely clear that we are not reducing our commitments on tackling climate change. We are absolutely committed to delivering the 42 per cent and the 80 per cent reductions that we have declared, and it is really important for the international negotiations that other Governments know that. Sadly, we are not a member state for the purposes of those discussions, but it is important that those Governments know that Scotland is committed to meeting its targets, however we manage to achieve that.

We must recognise that it is getting tougher and tougher to deliver the tonnage target that the legislation requires, but I am confident that, in percentage terms and given our higher baseline, we are on a steeper trajectory than the legislation required of us when the targets were set. In a nutshell, we are facing a bigger drop, but we are dropping faster than the legislation initially intended. We are doing our best to close that gap.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

Like some other areas of Government policy, climate change policy cuts across a number of departments, so the issue that Cara Hilton raises is important. One of the reasons why we have the bilaterals is to uncover where other departments are with regard to difficulties with implementation of RPP2.

The RPP2 document was developed jointly with colleagues from across parts of Government. The technical officials in each team were asked to come up with proposed measures that would be able to deliver the 42 per cent target by 2020 and the annual targets thereafter up to 2027. There has been good engagement with officials in other departments.

To pick up Mr Dey’s earlier point, we need to ensure that proposals are converted into policies: colleagues recognise that and it is why the Cabinet subcommittee will be useful. It will enable colleagues to air any difficulties that they are having, and to use our collective wisdom—I hope that we can agree that there is collective wisdom in Government—to come up with solutions and perhaps see whether there is any way we can share the burden.

We do not have sectoral targets for the climate change legislation in Scotland. It is important to recognise that when one part of the economy that is expected to deliver emissions abatement of a certain amount does not do so, other parts of the economy have to pick up the slack. If it is proving to be challenging to deliver what we intended in one part of the RPP2, we have to find a response that will enable us to pick it up elsewhere. In that respect, there is a recognition that we face shared problems, and that we have a collective responsibility to deliver on the targets. However, the process will always be challenging, as we are asking people to go faster and harder and, in some respects, to use technology that is pioneering and novel in its application, which means that we are taking risks. It is difficult because we are a front-runner. It would be easier to be in the pack and to learn from where other countries go wrong; as it is, however, we have to find things out for ourselves, because we are doing things first.

I acknowledge the point that was made. In the bilaterals, I try to encourage colleagues to do as much as possible.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

I am glad that Mr Hume has raised that point. I have often heard it said that there is only one policy approach in transport, but we need to recognise that a lot of good work is being done.

To put the situation in perspective, if things had continued unchecked there would probably have been a massive increase in transport emissions since 1990. Vehicle ownership has increased and people are driving further, and the pattern of commuting is unfortunately now bigger than it was in 1990. Suburbanisation continues apace, and various societal issues mean that vehicle use has increased.

To be fair, the European Union has tried to improve the energy efficiency of engines, which has been effective up to a point, but not as effective as we and all other Governments across the EU had believed it would be when the regulations were introduced. It was anticipated that the regulations alone would reduce transport emissions, but people are responding to the greater efficiency of engines by driving further than they would have done previously, because they can now afford to take more leisure trips. There has been a bit of a spring back in performance on emissions reduction.

I recognise that transport and housing are the two areas in which we have faced the most challenges in delivering substantial decreases in greenhouse gas emissions. In the residential sector, the process is complicated by the fact that weather has an impact on emissions. In 2011-12—my officials will correct me if I am wrong—there was an 11 per cent jump in residential emissions because of poor weather, and we saw a similar phenomenon in 2009-10. Although that is sometimes dismissed as an excuse for failing to meet our emissions targets—I see that Mr Hume is nodding—we have to be realistic, to go back to Mr Dey’s point. That is the nature of the beast, and we have to try to influence behaviours. Beyond a point, we cannot seriously say to people, “Don’t turn your heating on” if they are absolutely freezing, especially pensioners and other vulnerable people. We have to be realistic about where we are.

Agriculture has made great progress, but I noted the point that Jim Densham made last week about the potential for that progress to plateau or to go backwards as the future of agriculture unfolds. We are trying to explore various routes, including our farming for a better climate programme. We are thinking about how we can demonstrate to farmers that it is good not only for the climate but for their bottom line to deploy improved agricultural practices that reduce emissions. The primary behavioural driver for farmers is the awareness that such practices will strengthen the financial aspect of their business. Ultimately, the benefit for us as a society is that such practices will lower emissions.

The uprating of methane has led to complexities, and may have an impact on what we do in due course. In the June common agricultural policy announcement, the cabinet secretary said that farms with permanent grassland would be asked to do more on fertiliser management. We will provide support to those farms, and advise them on how to achieve that aim, and we will try to make the process as simple and non-bureaucratic as possible. Farmers can help the environment by lowering their use of fertiliser, which is a sound thing to do because it will also save them money. If they are using too much fertiliser, they are wasting money, but if they are using the right amount, they are optimising their resources and not wasting money. We need to find new and innovative ways to move forward, and we are constantly reviewing what we are doing.

10:00  

We appreciate that, in some respects, RPP2 is already out of date, but it still provides a strategy that departments can use to get us there. In areas such as transport, I hope that the additional investment that has been made in sustainable active travel in June—funding for the smarter choices, smarter places initiative—will help to move us slightly further than RPP2 suggested. The minister, Keith Brown, has been working closely with stakeholders in sustainable active travel to look at their vision of Scotland in 2030 and to work back from that to set out the funding programme. Rather than saying arbitrarily that we will increase spending each year by a certain percentage, we are looking at the vision that is required and working back from that to establish what we have to put in to achieve it.



Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee 08 October 2014 : Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Paul Wheelhouse

I am old enough to remember watching “Tomorrow’s World”, and a lot of things that I thought were sci-fi back then are reality now. Indeed, in “Star Trek” there were personal communicators and so forth and we now have mobile phones. Today’s sci-fi can often become tomorrow’s accepted wisdom and mainstream technology. I think that hydrogen definitely has potential. I am not a scientist in that respect, but everything that I have seen about hydrogen suggests that there is great enthusiasm that it has the potential to be the next big thing in transport fuels. We are investing strongly in infrastructure to support electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles, because it could be the next big technology. At the very least, it will be a transitional technology.

I agree that there is no reason why hydrogen technology cannot be exploited in a rural region such as the Highlands and Islands, where a huge amount of renewable energy could potentially be used to create the hydrogen fuel. We also have the ability to use the technology when surplus electricity that is being generated at night can be stored through pumped hydro storage or, indeed, the fuel can be created at night when the electricity is not being used. That would be a complementary technology when it comes to the development of our renewables potential. For a number of reasons, it is an attractive option to pursue. If Scotland could take an academic lead in the area, we could gain the employment impacts and the research and development impacts of pursuing the technology.

I ask my colleagues whether they are up to date with developments on hydrogen. Does John Ireland have anything to say beyond what I have said?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-11123 Joe FitzPatrick on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau: Business Motion—That the Parliament
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YesCarried

S4M-11114.2 Kenny MacAskill: Policing—As an amendment to motion S4M-11114 in the name of Graeme Pear
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YesCarried

S4M-11114 Graeme Pearson: Policing—That the Parliament acknowledges that policing in Scotland contin
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YesCarried

S4M-11116.1.1 Patrick Harvie: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to amendment S4M-11116.1 in the name
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YesCarried

S4M-11116.1 Nicola Sturgeon: Scotland’s Future—As an amendment to motion S4M-11116 in the name of Jo
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YesCarried

S4M-11116 Johann Lamont: Scotland’s Future—That the Parliament recognises the result of the independ
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YesCarried

Amendment 61 moved by Elaine Murray on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland) Bi
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NoDefeated

Amendment 62 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
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NoDefeated

Amendment 63 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Amendment 64 moved by Margaret Mitchell on motion S4M-11101 Kenny MacAskill: Courts Reform (Scotland
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NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Paul Wheelhouse
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11029: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10972: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 22/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09916: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 01/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09294.3: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 11/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09280: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-08517: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 05/12/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-07106: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/06/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06845.2: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 04/06/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06798: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 30/05/2013 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-06544: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/05/2013 Show Full Motion >>
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EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-09164: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 17/08/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-01238: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 27/06/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-01063: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07135: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07133: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07134: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-01044: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 09/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07085: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07045: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/05/2012 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-07043: Paul Wheelhouse, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/05/2012 Show Full Question >>

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