I want to home in on the issues surrounding how each local authority area reduces the amount that we put out as waste and how they deal with each part of that.
In the case of Highland Council, I have to question whether there is any kind of strategy in place for the council to do that job. It is of long-standing concern to me that officers in councils like to find big solutions to solve problems. One incinerator can deal with an awful lot of problems, but it creates large problems, too. Unfortunately, we are completely unclear what the strategy of the Liberal-led Highland Council is.
To illuminate that further, I will provide an example. Since 2000, the Golspie Recycling and Environmental Action Network has ensured that it has had the highest level of collection and recycling of waste from kerbsides of anywhere in Scotland. That has been supported by several tranches of the council. The network offers recycling to 75 per cent of east and central Sutherland residents and has achieved an 82 per cent participation rate. It provides 17 full-time jobs and two part-time jobs, some of which have gone to people who would find it hard to get employment otherwise. It brings in £400,000 to the local economy every year, which, for 2,500 people, is very important. It extends its work so that the range of items that it recycles is greater than the range of items that the council collects at present. It can offer a similar collection service for businesses.
We must ask whether, if the proposed incinerator at Invergordon, some 20 miles from Golspie, is built, Highland Council will immediately cancel its arrangement with GREAN, because a stream of waste will be needed to fill the incinerator. We must ensure that councils, including the one in whose area I live, do not replace best practice with a far worse option. Councils need to consider what voluntary bodies and social enterprises can do that councils have not been able to achieve. Such thinking is fundamental to our ability to take forward a low or zero waste strategy.
If 25 per cent of waste in Scotland is to be dealt with in modern incinerators—the idea has the support in principle of the Sustainable Development Commission Scotland—where should those incinerators be? There are proposals to build incinerators in Peterhead, Invergordon, Dunbar, Irvine, Glenfarg, Elgin and Dumfries. What is the strategy behind the proposals? Have those towns gone for the idea because it seems to be a commercial possibility?
As the consultation on the national waste management plan is developed during the summer, we must ask questions that enable us to ensure that recycling and reuse groups such as GREAN, and not incinerators, are the top priority.