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25 October 2007

(S3O-971) Green Spaces (Glasgow)

25th October 2007

Green Spaces (Glasgow)

5. Robert Brown (Glasgow) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive what action it will take through the planning system to protect parkland and other green space in Glasgow. (S3O-971)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): National planning policy on open space is set out in national planning policy guideline 11, which is on sport, physical recreation and open space. That is under review and will shortly be replaced by Scottish planning policy 11, on open space and physical activity.

Robert Brown: I welcome the review of the national planning policy guideline. The minister will be aware of the furore over the plans for a nightclub in Glasgow's botanic gardens, which have—rightly—caused outrage throughout the city, not least because of the lack of consultation or even public information before Glasgow City Council agreed a lease. Is he also aware of the local campaign against the loss of green space at Broomhill Avenue and at Turtle park and Stepping Stones park in Pollokshields? My good friend the Deputy First Minister supports the campaign on the latter.

Will the minister consider earlier implementation of the changes in the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 to strengthen community consultation and provide ministerial scrutiny when councils have a conflict of interest? Will he also examine whether changes to public consultation on the lease and sale of public land could play a part in supporting local communities and in preventing outrages such as the botanic gardens proposals from happening again?

Stewart Stevenson: I am very much aware of the botanic gardens and Broomhill Avenue issues to which the member refers. I note the concerns that he and local people have expressed about the Broomhill Avenue proposal. I am aware of no planning application at this stage. As the council owns the land, the matter may come to the Scottish ministers for determination, so I will not be specific.

SPP 11, which we will publish shortly, will require all Scottish local authorities to undertake an open space audit and prepare an open space strategy. The member raised other issues in relation to planning and open spaces. He can expect those matters to be addressed fully in a number of statutory instruments that will shortly come forward for consultation. If they are not, I expect that I will receive a response from the member.

Sandra White (Glasgow) (SNP): The minister will be aware that the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 placed great emphasis on public consultation. Is he aware that the proposal for sale of land in the Broomhill area has never been put out to public consultation and that the local councillor was never consulted on it? Does he agree with local people, a local councillor and me that the land should not go on sale until proper consultation has been carried out?

Stewart Stevenson: I will make no specific reference to the merits of the proposal, which is at an early stage. However, I agree with the member that an important part of a council's responsibility in considering developments of that kind is that there should be full and frank consultation with the local community and all interested parties. I support all efforts to achieve that.

(S3O-920) Barra Runway

25th October 2007

Barra Runway

3. Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to provide Barra with a purpose-built airport runway. (S3O-920)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): I expect advice before the end of the year on the future of air services to Barra, including the potential for a hard runway.

Rhoda Grant: When the minister considers Barra airport's future, I urge him to ensure that air services continue. They are incredibly important to the people of Barra for social reasons. People who are going to hospital in Glasgow need to access those services, which are also important for the island's economic growth. I urge the minister to ensure that air services continue by providing a purpose-built runway with a cross-runway on which aircraft can land.

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): Could we have a question, please?

Rhoda Grant: Will the minister assure me that he will fight for that important service in that small community?

Stewart Stevenson: I assure the member that I am absolutely aware of the need to continue the air service to Barra. However, the basis for providing a hard runway, rather than continuing to use the three runways that are available at Tràigh Mhòr, is not yet clear and I await further advice. A hard runway would be aligned in one fixed direction, so it is likely that there would be more diversions from Barra than there are with the current provision of three runways on the beach.

Another issue is that the aircraft that operate the service are reaching the end of their lives, but the good news is that that aircraft type is entering remanufacture. An alternative option may be to acquire two further aircraft.

Alasdair Allan (Western Isles) (SNP): In the light of what the minister has said, will he give a long-term commitment to supporting air transport in Barra, no matter what type of runway—whether man-made or natural? On the other option that he outlined of acquiring new aircraft, what stage has consultation with the community and other interests reached?

Stewart Stevenson: The community's opinions and views are important in reaching a decision. Serious concerns are felt about the environmental impact of building a hard runway on the environmentally vulnerable machair that is adjacent to the present runway. That is one factor that will be considered, in addition to the fact that a hard runway would be likely to be substantially more expensive than purchasing two additional aircraft to operate the service from the beach at Tràigh Mhòr.

The Presiding Officer: I call Tavish Scott. He should bear it in mind that the question is about the runway at Barra.

Tavish Scott (Shetland) (LD): Of course, Presiding Officer. The minister will be well aware of today's news, which affects Barra, that the franchise arrangement between Loganair and British Airways will end in October next year. When he considers that announcement, which does indeed affect Barra and many other parts of the Highlands and Islands, will he take it into account that Loganair's statement says that the change will have no impact on the air discount scheme, which of course assists Barra, and that the scheme should continue? Will he give an assurance that the scheme will continue for the rest of the parliamentary session?

The Presiding Officer: That was a lesson in opportunism.

Stewart Stevenson: Today's announcement from British Airways and Loganair in no way affects the air discount scheme's operation. The member will know that we are considering where to take that scheme.

I have met Loganair in the past fortnight, and one issue that we discussed was the future of the franchise arrangement. Loganair is confident that, under the code-share arrangement that is in place, people will continue to be able to book flights with the BA prefix through the British Airways booking system, so customers will experience little change, although the relationship between Loganair and British Airways is about to change. That will affect the member's constituency as well as Barra.

(S3O-961) Orkney Public Transport

25th October 2007

Orkney Public Transport

2. Liam McArthur (Orkney) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive how it plans to ensure that Orkney Islands Council is able to maintain Orkney's internal public transport services. (S3O-961)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): Orkney Islands Council has asked the Scottish Government for substantial additional financial support towards the capital costs of a long-term programme to improve its interisland transport services. We are considering that request as part of our current spending review and we will be in touch with the council in due course.

Liam McArthur: The minister has referred to the Scottish transport appraisal guidance appraisal—STAG appraisal—of Orkney's internal transport needs, which is likely to lead to major expenditure of more than £100 million on new ferries and infrastructure. However, until that work is completed and the funding is secured, the problem remains of funding the current internal ferry and air services, which have experienced large cost increases as the result of factors that are beyond the council's control. Will the minister therefore urgently consider Orkney Islands Council's request for a continuation of the special transport grant of about £1 million, which previous transport ministers provided to keep those vital lifeline services running? Will he give the council the reply that it seeks and needs?

Stewart Stevenson: The First Minister, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth and I have all visited Orkney in recent months and we have discussed the issue with the council, so we are clearly aware of the difficulties that it faces. I regret to say that until the comprehensive spending review is complete, I cannot make new commitments, but I assure the member that we are aware of the council's position.

4 October 2007

(S3O-857) Proposed Disabled Persons Parking (Scotland) Bill

4th October 2007

Proposed Disabled Persons Parking (Scotland) Bill

6. Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it will support the disabled persons parking (Scotland) bill. (S3O-857)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): I understand that a final bill will be introduced in Parliament later this year. We will reach a view at that stage.

Jackie Baillie: The minister will be aware of the very real problem caused to disabled people by the abuse of disabled parking bays; indeed, that much is clear from the Government's own research, which was published just last week. It is equally clear that the current legislation is not fit for purpose. Will the minister tell the chamber why the Scottish Government has declared its support for the proposed sunbed licensing bill, which has yet to be published, and the tartan register, which is not even before the chamber—both worthy proposals, I am sure—but remains silent on improving the lives of disabled people in Scotland?

Stewart Stevenson: I think that I can say without ambiguity that we certainly support what Ms Baillie's proposed bill seeks to achieve. However, we need to see whether the material in the bill delivers.

In the meantime, we are engaged on this subject. I have written to Councillor Pat Watters of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to remind him of local authority powers to promote orders to protect the parking spaces in question, and I await his reply. We are as committed as Ms Baillie is to supporting people with blue badges and ensuring that they are able to park wherever they require.


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