HC Deb 02 July 1986 vol 100 cc1000-2
8. Mr. Pollock

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will increase the resources available to the Scottish Development Agency to tackle environmental needs, including land renewal projects.

Mr. Allan Stewart

In the agency's estimates for the present financial year, which are subject to parliamentary approval, the amount allocated to environmental improvement and land renewal is £38.6 million. This is £4.2 million greater than the corresponding provision made last year.

Mr. Pollock

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I urge him to press the Scottish Development Agency to recognise the full value of land renewal projects, such as the Kingston village project in my constituency, and to encourage the SDA to work as closely as possible with other national agencies such as the Forestry Commission and the Countryside Commission to co-operate on joint projects that can enhance the locality for the benefit of residents and visitors alike.

Mr. Stewart

I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend, who has corresponded with me about the project in his constituency. I know that the SDA is always anxious to work in co-operation with other agencies, but I will ensure that it takes of board the point made by by hon. Friend.

Mr. McKelvey

Will the Minister reflect on the response that he gave to me last week on a question about the SDA? Having seen the table detailing the way in which the SDA spends its money throughout Scotland, will he give serious consideration to the fact that there are massive disparities and that the SDA is feeding its pet projects year after year, to the detriment of other areas such as Kilmarnock? Therefore, will he initiate an inquiry at the highest possible level into how the SDA budgets are managed?

Mr. Stewart

The SDA must take account of the economic returns on projects which are put to it. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the SDA has responded to public concern over the priority given to environmental schemes and in future it will assess such schemes in accordance with environmental priorities as well as the economic impact of particular projects.

Mr. Hirst

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Scottish Development Agency has done outstanding work over the past few years on land renewal projects? Is he aware of the letter which the chairman of the Scottish Development Agency recently sent to COSLA confirming that the support of the agency for the Glasgow garden festival in no way compromised the ability of the agency to continue to fund and support land renewal projects?

Mr. Stewart

I am aware of that letter. In the current year, which is the peak for expenditure on the garden festival, it will account for only about one third of the agency's total land renewal budget. It is also worth emphasising that the garden festival is important not only to Glasgow but to the whole of Scotland.

Sir Russell Johnston

Can the Minister confirm that he will give his fullest support to the approach to the Treasury which will be necessary to enable the SDA to spend money on the Aonach Mor ski development on Ben Nevis, which combines environmental protection with extremely exciting and necessary economic potential for Lochaber?

Mr. Stewart

That project is under consideration in general terms in my Department, but the Highland and Islands Development Board, which is also involved, and the Scottish Development Agency have not yet put forward a detailed submission seeking the formal approval of Ministers. Of course we shall consider that as soon as it is submitted.

Mr. Ewing

Will the Minister accept that the Opposition are grateful to him and his colleagues for the support given to the SDA against the background of their having voted against its establishment by the Labour Government? May I have an assurance from the Minister that the increase in the land renewal budget of the SDA will not come from another part of the agency's programme?

Mr. Stewart

The Scottish Development Agency is a wholly different institution in the way that it operates under this Government compared to the way it operated under the Labour Government, in a number of important respects. I must emphasise that there has been a steady increase in both real and cash terms in the resources available to the Scottish Development Agency, and this year it will have over £136 million to spend on all its programmes.

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