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SP Paper 652

EE/S3/11/R6

6th Report, 2011 (Session 3)

Legacy Paper

Remit and membership

Remit:

To consider and report on the Scottish economy, enterprise, energy, tourism and all other matters falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth apart from those covered by the remits of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change and the Local Government and Communities Committees.

Membership:

Ms Wendy Alexander
Gavin Brown
Rob Gibson (Deputy Convener)
Christopher Harvie
Marilyn Livingstone
Lewis Macdonald
Stuart McMillan
Iain Smith (Convener)

Committee Clerking Team:

Clerk to the Committee
Stephen Imrie

Senior Assistant Clerk
Joanna Hardy

Assistant Clerk
Diane Barr

Legacy Paper

The Committee reports to the Parliament as follows—

Introduction

This paper sets out a chronology of the work undertaken, the lessons learned and some thoughts for the future that might help our successor committee(s) with its workload in the new parliamentary session.

The paper contains three sections:

  • a review of the work of the Committee from June 2007 to March 2011;
  • a commentary on the lessons learned whilst carrying out our legislative workload and our inquiries;
  • our thoughts and recommendations on the subjects that our successors may wish to investigate as part of the early business of the relevant new committee(s) and/or areas in which our successor committee(s) may wish to keep track of developments.

Whilst the outgoing Committee recognises that it cannot bind the decisions of a new body of members, we believe that this legacy paper is a valuable tool and one that can prove its worth in getting the relevant new committee(s) in session 4 up and running without delay.

Looking back – a review of the third parliamentary session

By the end of the third parliamentary session, the Committee will have produced four annual reports setting out in detail the legislation considered, inquiries undertaken, petitions discussed and events organised etc between June 2007 and March 20111. The review below is not intended to duplicate this information. Rather, it is a synopsis of our workload to provide an overview of the range of issues considered and the breadth of our remit.

Legislation

  • Arbitration (Scotland) Bill;
  • Climate Change (Scotland) Bill (EET was the secondary committee);
  • Scottish Register of Tartans Bill; and
  • Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill.

Main inquiries

  • The way forward for Scotland's banking, building society and financial services sector (completed March 2010);
  • Determining and delivering Scotland’s energy future (completed June 2009);
  • A review of the process followed for the location of the offices of the Energy Technologies Institute (completed July 2008);
  • Growing pains, can we achieve a 50% increase in tourism revenue by 2015? (completed July 2008);
  • The public sector's support for exporters, international trade and the attraction of inward investment (complete September 2010); and
  • A fundamental review of the purpose of an enterprise agency and the success of the recent reforms (completed February 2011).

Research

  • The Committee commissioned the following pieces of research:
  • The Gathering and Homecoming – research completed August 2010;
  • Trade and investment promotion – research completed January 2009

Events etc

  • Business in the Parliament Conferences in 2008, 2009 and 2010;
  • Formal and informal round-table discussions on subjects as diverse as—

    • Formal and informal round-table discussions on subjects as diverse as—

      Workshops with the STUC on (i) The Scottish Workplace and the Productivity Challenge, (ii) - The Economic and Social Models in Ireland, Norway and Sweden – A Trade Union Perspective, and (iii) Emerging from recession? Where now for the Scottish economy and public policy? A trades union perspective

Petitions

The following petitions were considered during the session:

  • Petition 837 – Fitting of small scale energy generation equipment
  • Petition 969 – Energy efficiency and micro-generation.

Lessons learned

Remit of the Committee

As is quickly apparent from the section above, the impact of the very broad remit of the Committee has meant that the workload has varied greatly from economy issues, to energy, tourism, international trade and climate change. In light of this spread of diverse subjects, we think there is merit in considering whether energy might sit better with transport and climate change issues in a future committee structure.

By the same token, the Committee has been concerned, at times, by its inability to engage fully on the issues of skills and communications issues (such as the work of Skills Development Scotland, roll out of superfast broadband and 4G mobile technology etc) as these are areas within the remit of other committees. In our view, the next government will need to think carefully about how such policy matters might be tackled given their obvious links to economic performance. The Committee believes that given the breath of its remit, there should be scope for more discussion on cross-cutting themes both within its own workload and through joint working with other committees.

It is the considered opinion of the members of this Committee that a wide-ranging remit is not always conducive to proper scrutiny of the subject matter and to balancing the legislative workload with own-initiative work such as inquiries. At the same time, there are issues which properly sit better with other committees, but with which the committee will wish to engage from time to time.

The Committee has been frustrated, at times, with the requirement to consider matters - in addition to an already heavy workload – which appear to have little relevance to its core subject matter. The Arbitration Bill is an example of this. The referral of this bill and other matters to this Committee, such as the draft Census Order, was due to the “sweep-up” element of the Committee’s remit, which is “to consider all other matters falling within the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth apart from those covered by the remits of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change and the Local Government and Communities Committees”.

The Committee therefore feels that committee remits should be defined more clearly, to avoid Bills being referred to a committee which is inappropriate in terms of the subject matter it routinely has to deal with. The effect of such referrals is to cause delay and cancellation of work that members would liked to have conducted, such as an inquiry into innovation policy and the productivity gap.

Working practices – accessibility and fact finding visits

We have found, on many occasions, great value in seeking views in a more informal fashion rather than being restricted to evidence-taking at formal meetings held in Edinburgh. Some examples that we would cite are the fact-finding visits the Committee undertook to Inverness and to Iceland as part of the tourism inquiry and the external meetings in Aberdeen and on Skye. The fact-finding visits to energy projects all across Scotland from Orkney and Caithness down to East Lothian and Fife, as well as in Germany, Sweden and Denmark as part of the Committee’s energy inquiry were valuable and illuminating, as were those visits to social enterprises in the Highlands and Islands.

Furthermore, there are real and obvious benefits to taking the Parliament to the people and engaging members of the public with the work of the Committee. In summary, there are many ways in which a Committee can interact with people ranging from fact-finding visits, round table discussions which can be “off-the-record”, committee meetings in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland and through events such as the annual Business in the Parliament event. Careful consideration as to what is appropriate and how the material discussed can subsequently be used are important factors to take into account.

We recommend that our successors continue to collect evidence outside Edinburgh, to undertake fact-finding visits in order to provide background information for an inquiry and to engage members of the public with the Committee’s work. Pressure on resources must not preclude this type of activity altogether.

Working practices - flexibility

The Committee sets its work programme each year, but needs to be flexible enough to adapt it to take account of issues which may arise within its remit. The economic downturn had an impact on the Committee’s work programme during this session and the Committee therefore held a series of ‘hearings’, to assess whether the Scottish Government and its agencies were doing all possible to protect economic interests and ensure the country is prepared to realise the opportunities once the economy began to grow again. Following the informal ‘hearings’ the Committee was then in a position to undertake an inquiry into the ramifications of the problems within the banking sector and the subsequent impact on the wider economy. It considered the lessons that needed to be learned as well as the challenges ahead in terms of the ongoing reform of the banking and financial services industry and what is in Scotland’s best interest. The ‘hearings’ were useful as a way of keeping abreast of the subject until such times as the Committee was in a position to start a formal inquiry.

Working practices – expert advice

The Committee continued to make good use of the ability to appoint specialist advisers. These external representatives can be especially valuable in helping members understand complex subject matter (e.g. the banking inquiry) or develop meaningful policies (e.g. in relation to tourism issues). It is critical that the Committee takes the time to choose the right adviser for the purposes required prior to undertaking a major inquiry or consideration of legislation. We recommend that our successors follow this approach, use specialist advisers as and when required and take the necessary time to appoint the most suitable person. Occasionally, this may mean paying a sum in excess of the standard day rate normally offered by the SPCB.

One further recommendation that we would make to our successors is to consider accessing the resources available both within SPICe and through the external commissioning of research to provide valuable briefing material to aid members with their work. We have used both to great effect, for example, the research into the evaluation of Homecoming Scotland and The Gathering. This provided the Committee with an independent assessment of the work undertaken by consulting firm, EKOS, on behalf of VisitScotland and EventScotland into the success of the Homecoming Scotland 2009 initiative and also of particular events, such as The Gathering.

We found the research valuable and informative and would recommend this approach for areas of work where more information is required on a focussed topic which does not merit a full Committee inquiry.

Legislative workload

The early years in the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee considered 4 bills over the course of session 3. Two of those were Scottish Government bills and 2 were Members’ bills. The largest piece of legislation that the Committee considered was the Scottish Government’s Arbitration (Scotland) Bill which took 7 months to complete. It has been the Committee’s experience that the amount of time dedicated to a Bill varies depending on the subject matter and its complexity and this should be borne in mind when deciding on what to include in the Committee’s work programme.

In relation to Members’ bills, we have found that early engagement with the Scottish Government to determine what line they might take in relation to supporting the general principles of the bill is helpful to members in understanding what issues ministers have.

Post-inquiry review and post-legislative scrutiny

As part of this legacy process, we asked the Scottish Government to provide an update on the main conclusions and recommendations from four of our inquiries carried out during session three. These were the banking, energy, tourism and international trade inquiries. These are attached as Annexe A. We did not request an update from the review of the enterprise network inquiry as it was completed at the end of the session, but this could be an area the future Committee could request updated information on. We consider this post-inquiry review process to be a very valuable tool and one which should be ongoing rather than restricted merely to a follow-up of recommendations as part of the legacy process. This type of follow-up ensures that the Scottish ministers and their officials deliver on the recommendations they have agreed to in a timely fashion. It is a role which our successor should continue with and which other subject committees might consider.

It would be for a future and perhaps more relevant committee to consider whether to conduct post-legislative scrutiny on the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Bankruptcy & Diligence etc (Scotland) Act 2007. However, the impact of the Further and Higher Education Act (Scotland) 2005, the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 and the Climate Change(Scotland) Act as they impact on the delivery of renewable energy project and sustainable economic development are clear candidates for post-legislative scrutiny by our successor committee

Furthermore, the Committee would recommend that our successors request an update on progress from the Independent Commission on Banking as it reports in April (interim) and finally in September 2011. Its findings will be of critical importance to the shape of the Scottish banking sector.

The Committee considered the Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill and although the Bill did not progress beyond stage 1 the Committee did raise concerns regarding the collection and availability of statistics by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS). The Committee recommended that the Scottish Government ensures that the COPFS collects information on the aggravating circumstances in relation to criminal offences and makes this information publicly available. This would be an area for either the new Committee or, perhaps more appropriately, for another relevant committee to consider.

Consideration of the budget

The Committee has generally found it difficult to undertake effective scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s budget proposals in the manner originally intended. A key difficulty that it has faced is the very limited time that exists between the publication of the Scottish Government’s proposals and the need for subject committees to report to the Finance Committee. There has also been a great deal of dissatisfaction at the lack of availability of level 4 budget figures, which has seriously hindered proper scrutiny. This is an issue which needs to be addressed for all committees.

The majority of the budgets that the Committee is responsible for scrutinising are allocated to three agencies – Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and VisitScotland. This session the Committee requested detailed budget information in a tabular form from these 3 agencies, which enhanced year-on-year comparisons of budget. These proved useful in scrutinising budget allocations and the Committee would therefore recommend any relevant successor Committee to adopt this approach.

Draft Report on Low Carbon Scotland: Proposals and Policies

The Committee considered the Scottish Government’s Draft Report on Low Carbon Scotland: Proposals and Policies as part of their energy budget scrutiny, as both documents were published on the same day. The Committee recommended that for future years the publication of the annual Reports on Proposals and Policies should not be published simultaneously with the Draft Budgets and that the Scottish Government considers publishing all of the energy and climate change information at least 6 months prior to the Draft Budget to help inform energy budget allocations.

EU issues

Due to the breadth of other issues to be covered, the Committee has not focussed to any significant degree on EU issues; However, despite this area having been a lower priority in terms of the competing workload, we recommend that our successors continue to task the clerk and the Parliament’s European Officer in Brussels to keep a ‘watching brief’ on relevant developments and alert MSPs accordingly. This should include keeping in touch with Scotland’s MEPs generally and those on the relevant European Parliamentary committees in particular. Indeed, Convener(s) of the relevant successor committee(s) may wish to hold periodic liaison meetings with MEPs and invite them to give evidence to or attend briefing sessions with the committee(s).

Events

This Committee has been fairly active in organising events outwith the formal Committee meetings and more informal round-table discussions. One of the major events organised in conjunction with the Scottish Government is the now annual (excluding an election year) Business in the Parliament Conference. Organised in 2008, 2009 and 2010, this typically brings together 250+ delegates for an event over two days, comprising MSPs, ministers and business leaders, to discuss the business agenda. This has provided a valuable opportunity to discuss the relevant issues for businesses and we would recommend continuation of this event.

Review of work programme

As mentioned earlier in relation to the inclusion of the banking inquiry into the Committee’s work programme, it is important to continually review the work programme and working practices. One valuable way of having this discussion is through a Committee away-day. Bringing together members, parliamentary staff, Ministers (if appropriate) and external bodies in an informal way to discuss issues, an away-day can be a valuable way of reviewing adherence to the lessons outlined in this legacy paper and to discussing practices such as media relations by the committee, which can prove challenging and where clarity of approach is valuable. We would recommend an early Committee away-day by our successor, possibly in the summer/autumn of 2011. This event need not be outwith the parliamentary complex.

Looking forward – what now for our successors?

This Committee recognises that it is not for us to bind our successors in terms of a future work programme or working practices. Nevertheless, in addition to the lessons learned set out above, we make a number of recommendations in terms of the subject matter that the relevant new committee(s) may wish to consider as part of its early work programme and/or areas in which members may wish to monitor developments. We have laid this information out in terms of subject area as there is no guarantee that our successor will have the same remit as ourselves.

Economy

  • A review of the findings of the Independent Commission on Banking and their implications for Scotland.
  • An examination of how mutuals, co-operatives and credit unions can be further supported; a look at the work of Co-operative Development Scotland.
  • An examination of how social enterprises can be supported.
  • An inquiry into innovation and tackling the productivity gap.

Energy

  • A review of the Ofgem gas and electricity price review.
  • Renewables:

    • an examination of the adequacy of funding both for infrastructure and for skills development;

  • An examination of the future role of coal and carbon capture and storage in a decarbonised power sector.
  • Heating technologies – progress with the target which was set following the Climate Change Act to achieve 11% of heating from renewables.
  • Energy efficiency:

    • Energy demand reduction: monitoring the target of 12% reduction in energy use by 2020;
    • Combined heat and power - an examination of the barriers to creating new plants (and whether incentives could be made available) and an exploration of Local Authorities’ role in mapping community and public sector heat sources;
    • Minimum standards for homes: will the Scottish Government use its powers under the Climate Change Act to introduce regulation for existing homes?
    • Financial incentives - will the Scottish Government add to what is on offer under the UK Green Deal?
    • Energy for transport - transport does not currently fall within this committee’s remit but the issue must not be overlooked. As stated above, consideration must be given to how such cross-cutting issues will be tackled.

Tourism

  • Continued monitoring of the work of VisitScotland and the Scottish Government to promote tourism and adhere to the targets set in the various plans for the industry.
  • An examination of the role and outputs of the Tourism Leadership Group and scrutiny of its refreshed tourism strategy, due to be published in May 2011.

Communications

  • While the committee recognises that infrastructure issues such as superfast broadband, 4G telephony and the availability of wifi on public transport currently fall under the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, their impact on the economy is of relevance to this Committee and means must be found of scrutinising and influencing in this area.

Other

  • The Business in the Parliament Conference series and other events - such as the STUC joint seminar - have been a great strength in the work of the Committee in this session and should be continued.

Post-legislative scrutiny

  • Post-legislative scrutiny of the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 (by a more relevant committee), the Bankruptcy and Diligence etc. (Scotland) Act 2007 (by a more relevant committee), the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 2005 and/or the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006 in relation to the development of renewable energy, would all be candidates for any post-legislative scrutiny.

Annexe A: SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT UPDATES ON COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS (595KB PDF)


Footnotes: