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Green MSP Robin Harper
"Of all the countries in Europe, Scotland needs an environment minister"
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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 13:09 GMT
Greens see red over executive shake-up
Sam Galbraith
Mr Galbraith stepped down on health grounds
The Scottish Greens have criticised the decision to split ministerial responsibility for the environment following Sam Galbraith's decision to resign as a minister.

Green MSP Robin Harper said splitting green issues across a number of departments showed contempt for Scotland's environment.

Mr Galbraith, MP and MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, resigned from his post as minister for sport, culture and the environment on health grounds on Tuesday.

Following the announcement, First Minister Henry McLeish said most of the environment portfolio would be incorporated into the Rural Affairs Department.

Green MSP Robin Harper
Robin Harper: "Totally unacceptable"
Water and energy will be dealt with by Enterprise Minister Wendy Alexander and planning by Transport Minister Sarah Boyack.

Lothians list MSP Mr Harper has hit out at the moves saying that Rural Affairs Minister Ross Finnie is already at full stretch dealing with the foot-and-mouth crisis.

He said: "Scotland is bottom of the European league in recycling, bottom of the European league in conversion to organic agriculture, is making only tiny progress in introducing renewable energy.

"The decision of Henry McLeish to farm out responsibility for our environment to Ross Finnie and his deputy Rhona Brankin both of whom have very heavy responsibilities and effectively abolish and dissolve the environment ministry in its own right, is totally unacceptable.

"It is vital that environmental policy is co-ordinated and the only way to do that is to have a senior minister who is dedicated to the environment, not just give it away as an add on to an existing portfolio."

Combination 'makes sense'

However, a spokesman for the Scottish Executive said combining responsibility for the environment and rural affairs made sense.

He said: "The environment links into rural affairs in so many ways."

"Sam had a particular interest in the environment. National parks and the great outdoors were among his great concerns. He was the appropriate person to drive that forward.

"Sadly, Sam has decided to resign and therefore the first minister believes that, recognising the importance of the environment, it can rest extremely well with rural affairs."

Meanwhile, claims that Mr Galbraith rushed through a 1.9m grant for Scottish Opera before his resignation have been denied by the Executive.

SNP spokesman Mike Russell
Mike Russell MSP: rushed decision
Scottish National Party culture spokesman Mike Russell claimed the grant had been made seven days before Mr Galbraith, whose portfolio includes culture, was due to decide on the matter.

The money takes to 8.2m the amount Scottish Opera will receive from public funds this year, some 1.9m more than was anticipated.

But a senior Executive spokesman said the announcement had never been planned for March 30, the date that appears in documents relating to the grant.

He said some paperwork related to the grant carried that date, but this had been generated by a computer system and did not represent a date for the intended announcement.

And he denied the decision had been rushed through by Mr Galbraith in the belief that his successor would be less likely to approve the cash.

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See also:

13 Dec 00 | Scotland
Galbraith survives confidence vote
14 Aug 00 | Scotland
Dewar backs education minister
07 Sep 00 | Scotland
Galbraith accused over exams powers
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