David Stewart

Speech : Environment Climate Change and Land Reform

This has been a first - class debate, with impressive contributions across the parliamentary divide. I particularly single out those members who have passed the ordeal of making their first speech to Parliament today.

First, I have a confession to make: I am a great admirer of David Cameron. No, not that one, but the one from Harris who is the chairman of Community Land Scotland.

In a r ecent speech, he called land reform “unfinished business” that is fundamental to greater social justice in Scotland.

He said:

“Is it possible for Scots to conceive of a future Scotland that does not, explicitly, have greater social justice at its heart? I think not ... This is not about fighting battles of the past ... land reform remains a cause of the present and the future.”

Like other members, I congratulate the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform on her new post and on the general thrust of her remarks.

I first met Roseanna Cunningham in 1997 when we both served in the House of Commons.

I still remember her asking me, as I passed her in the aye lobby, to sign an early day motion about land reform on the Isle of Eigg.

That w as very admirable and I was happy to do that but, as I left the lobby, it occurred to me that the island was in my constituency.

Her early dedication was admirable.

Claudia Beamish also deserves praise on her promotion.

Her depth of knowledge on environmen tal issues shone through in her speech, as did her passion for opposing fracking.

I echo her comments about Sarah Boyack and Aileen McLeod.

The Parliament is the poorer for losing them.

I was particularly looking forward to a speech by a new member, Andy W ightman, who has great track record on land reform and ownership.

I was not disappointed, but that is to be expected from the author of “The Poor Had No Lawyers”.

His speech was thought - provoking and well researched.

Clearly, Mr Wightman is a member to wat ch, particularly when he is wearing his new green headwear, which I understand that he got from Mary Scanlon.

Mike Rumbles, an original member of the class of 1999, was, I believe, very much missed during the last parliamentary session. I have to say to Mr Rumbles — through you, Presiding Officer — that it was certainly a much quieter Parliament over the past five years.

The member gave a very good speech, which was well argued and knowledgeable, particularly around the topics of shifting to the low - carbon econ omy and investment in warmer homes.

I do not have time to mention all the first - class and well researched speeches, but I highlight those made by Angus MacDonald, Gordon MacDonald, John Scott and Graeme Dey.

I thought that Elaine Smith’s anti - fracking spee ch was very passionate, and her comments on election hustings were very interesting.

I join with her in praising the work that John Wilson carried out when he was a member of this Parliament.

Kate Forbes made an excellent speech. I met her during the elect ion campaign and we shared at least one hustings.

The fact that she was my wife’s opponent was a minor issue.

I could just about agree with every word of her knowledgeable speech, which touched on the history of the battle of the Braes and the important ro le of land reform.

I am sure that I will not agree with her every word over the next five years, but I echo her comments today.

Mike Russell made a very good speech. He was a first - class environment minister.

He spoke about deer numbers and climate change.

On land reform, I was particularly interested in the issues that he raised around what it is that we want from land and about the need to finish the work of the previous session, especially on land registration.

I also want to put on record the fact that Alexander Burnett’s first speech to Parliament was first class.

In a wide - ranging contribution, he mentioned that he had ancestors in the first Scottish Parliament; not many of us can make that claim to fame.

Stewart Stevenson — who is another very good form er environment minister — made some interesting arguments on climate change.

I might not totally agree with my friend Mr Stevenson on fracking.

Although I am not a lawyer, I know that any policy that is agreed to by the Parliament could face judicial review; the issue is making sure that we get it right, and that we get the science right.

Edward Mountain made a first - class speech.

He and I were colleagues — if I can use that term loosely — as we both stood for the Inverness and Nairn seat.

We did about seven or e ight hustings together.

I hope that I do not ruin his career by saying that I do not think that we had a wrong word on that issue.

Mr Mountain is certainly a man to watch.

I believe that the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 is not the last word but a small step on the endless road.

A new chapter on land reform is ready to be opened.

That will take political will and a commitment of public funds; above all, it will take an understanding that the issue, rather than being a hankering after some romantic rose - tinted past, is about a hard - headed appreciation of the very real social, economic and environmental benefits of community ownership of land.

To quote Sir Walter Scott, what we need to succeed is :

“The will to do and the soul to dare.”


Text of a speech in the Scottish Parliament 1 June 2016