This week in Parliament Claire questioned Fergus Ewing and Paul Wheelhouse about biomass and air quality in Scotland. A full transcript of the questions and answers can be found below.
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): I acknowledge that the subsidy has been removed from electricity-only stations. Is the minister aware, however, of concerns that the proposal to define good-quality CHP plants across the United Kingdom as those having a 35 per cent efficiency level, which is considerably lower than the European Union directive, which states a level of at least 70 per cent for industrial applications, will create a loophole for inefficient biomass generation, and does he agree that we should be seeking to increase the level of efficiency at which subsidies can be claimed?
Fergus Ewing: The member makes a reasonable point. The consultation proposals—I stress that it is a consultation, so, by definition, we have not prejudged any outcome—suggest a different approach from that which I believe is being proposed down south. We have proposed that a 10MW threshold should apply to the use of biomass to produce only electricity and that, above that threshold, the biomass plants should be capable of providing electricity and heat.
In reaching that view, which we have put forward for consultation, we have taken account in particular of the views of all members of this chamber who have put them to me, including Mr Biagi, and those of the traditional timber sawmilling sector, which has pointed out that timber is a finite resource, that it has a call on it, which we recognise, and that the sector provides a great deal of employment in many rural communities.
Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): Given that the failure to meet the European Union air quality directive targets can result in fines, what consequences does the Scottish Government believe that it will face if we continue to miss the targets?
Paul Wheelhouse: I agree with Claire Baker that it is important that we meet our targets under the air quality directive. In partnership with Transport Scotland, SEPA, local authorities, the United Kingdom Government and others, the Scottish Government is working on a range of measures to ensure full compliance as soon as possible. Those measures are set out in detail in the UK’s application to the European Commission for a time extension to adapt to the targets.