.

.

18 December 2008

(S3O-5298) Transport Links (Highlands)

18th December 2008

Transport Links (Highlands)

10. David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what progress it is making in improving transport links to the Highlands. (S3O-5298)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





We have a fully committed programme of transport infrastructure investment to 2012, which includes investment in both the A82 and A9. That includes improvements on the A82 at Pulpit Rock between Tarbet and Ardlui, a new western bypass at Crianlarich and current design work to dual the Birnam to Luncarty section of the A9.


In addition, Transport Scotland's strategic transport projects review has recommended a package of surface transport schemes to be delivered over the next 20 years. Those include measures to improve road links on the A82 between Tarbet and Fort William, to reduce accident severity in the north and west Scotland, to upgrade the A9 from Dunblane to Inverness and to enhance the rail network between Aberdeen and Inverness and between Perth and Inverness. An early priority is Highland main line rail improvements, which have progressed to stage 3—option selection—of the Network Rail guide to railway investment projects process. Full information on those projects and on all interventions is available via Transport Scotland's website.


David Stewart: I thank the minister for his detailed reply. Does he share my view that it is crucial to complete the missing link in the trunk link route, which will enable traffic to bypass Inverness by connecting the A9 to the A82? Highland Council tells me that it cannot fund that project by itself. Will the minister provide an early Christmas boost to the Highlands and reconsider funding the completion of that project?


Stewart Stevenson: We have of course provided substantial boosts for the economy of Inverness from the dualling of the A96 to Nairn, the bypass of that city, the construction of a road between the A96 and the A9 to service the university of the Highlands and Islands and the creation of a railway station at Dalcross. We continue to talk to Highland Council and Highlands and Islands transport partnership about further connections to the A82, for which we have at last adopted the whole route action plan. The member can be absolutely assured that, as the economic case emerges that makes sense for us to prioritise particular interventions, we will look carefully at what we should do. We have delivered a package of interventions for Inverness and the area around it that is unparalleled in recent history.

(S3O-5337) Railway Stations

18th December 2008

Railway Stations

1. Michael Matheson (Falkirk West) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to increase the number of railway stations. (S3O-5337)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





Two new railway stations are included in the Government's transport interventions announced on 10 December 2008. They are Dalcross and a station in the Gogar area. Development of interventions on the Aberdeen to Inverness line will give consideration to the option of a station at Kintore.


Michael Matheson: The minister will be aware that there are communities throughout Scotland that are well served by railway lines but not by stations on those lines. That is the case in the Bonnybridge area of my constituency, which has seen a rapid increase in its population in the past five years. How should Transport Scotland and Network Rail identify areas like Bonnybridge, where particular advantage could be gained from opening stations?


Stewart Stevenson: Transport Scotland and Network Rail work together and with ministers to consider the many opportunities for stations throughout Scotland. In many cases, it has been in the economic interests of developers to pay most of the cost of new stations. If there is a station in an area, then that increases substantially the ability to sell houses at higher prices. We would be happy to hear about any proposals in Bonnybridge and other areas of the member's constituency in order to ensure that we actively engage to determine whether they are of national or local importance and, if appropriate, to proceed accordingly.


Mary Mulligan (Linlithgow) (Lab): The minister is aware of the new station that has been proposed for Blackridge on the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link. However, the section 75 agreement that was to help fund the station has not been signed. Will the minister stand by promises that were made by the SNP in the 2007 election and commit here, today, to making up the shortfall and ensuring that the people of Blackridge get their station?


Stewart Stevenson: I am aware of some of the difficulties that the developers are having in sustaining the previous commitments from their bankers to support the section 75 agreement. My officials and the officials of West Lothian Council are discussing the issue. The early feedback is that a resolution may well be found. In any event, I am absolutely confident that Blackridge will be part of the new and exciting railway that is being developed.


Roseanna Cunningham (Perth) (SNP): The minister will be aware of how welcome the new early train service between Perth and Edinburgh has been. I have used it already, and quite splendid it is, too. I wonder if I might chance my arm a little further in respect of a slightly different part of my constituency, where there is a longstanding campaign to reopen the Blackford railway station. The minister may be aware of the campaign, which I fully support. Is there any real possibility that the station will reopen in the future?


Stewart Stevenson: Roseanna Cunningham can be assured that her arm remains entirely safe in my hands. I have already agreed to meet one of the local councillors, who is part of the campaign to open Blackford railway station again—COBRA. I expect that meeting to take place shortly. Part of our consideration will be whether reopening the station is a matter of local or national benefit, but in any event I am engaged in that interesting proposal.

(S3O-5266) Scottish Water (Meetings)

18th December 2008

Scottish Water (Meetings)

2. Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive when it next plans to meet the chief executive of Scottish Water and what will be discussed. (S3O-5266)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





Regular meetings are held between officials and the chief executive of Scottish Water on a full range of issues that concern the business. Ministers last met the chief executive with the chair and board of Scottish Water in October. They plan to meet the chair and chief executive in March 2009 to discuss the draft business plan for 2010-14.


Bill Butler: During the discussions in October, I hope that the minister expressed his Government's and Parliament's sincere thanks to Scottish Water's staff for their hard work since 2002, which has achieved savings of £1 billion through efficiency savings and reduced operating costs. I also hope that he will acknowledge that the on-going dispute over Scottish Water's imposition of a 15-month pay deal is having a detrimental effect on its staff's financial situation and morale. Given that over the same period the remuneration of Scottish Water's various executive directors has risen substantially, from an average of £108,000 per annum to an average of £172,000 per annum, does the minister agree that Scottish Water's staff should be fairly rewarded for their dedication with a just pay settlement rather than the arbitrary imposition of what amounts to a wage cut?


Stewart Stevenson: Bill Butler may be interested to know that my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth met and had productive discussions with the Scottish Water unions yesterday. I associate myself with Mr Butler's tribute to the staff of Scottish Water, who have been a significant part of its success since 2002.


The rules and processes by which the remuneration of senior people in Scottish Water are set stem entirely from decisions by a previous Administration.


Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): In the light of what the minister says, will he please refer to the Official Report of the Finance Committee meeting in which the Scottish Government's deputy head of finance confirmed that the new contract for the new chief executive of Scottish Water is substantially different from that of his predecessor and that it is indeed a deviation—that the Scottish National Party Government put in place—from the senior executive pay policy? Which minister signed off the new contract with the current chief executive's new pay?


Stewart Stevenson: Jeremy Purvis will be aware that the previous Administration set down policies and practices for remuneration of senior members of Scottish Water in the light of the substantial difficulties in retaining the necessary expertise to manage that company. The new chief executive's remuneration was set in that context.


Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): Will the minister confirm that it remains the Scottish Government's policy to ensure that Scottish Water remains firmly in the public sector and continues to progress and rival in its work the most effective working of water companies elsewhere in the United Kingdom?


Stewart Stevenson: Yes.

(S3O-5310) Road Works (Impact on Small Businesses)

18th December 2008

Road Works (Impact on Small Businesses)

5. Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive what assessment it has made of the financial impact on small businesses of roadworks. (S3O-5310)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





Although the Scottish Government is aware of the risk that road works will have a financial impact on small businesses and seeks, in collaboration with them, to minimise the impact, no formal assessment has been carried out.


Alison McInnes: Darren Williams of Tyre and Auto Care Services in Keith estimates that recent road works have resulted in £23,000 loss of income. Mr Williams has said that his business could not have withstood that loss of earnings had the works been undertaken in his first two or three years of trading. Will the Scottish Government investigate the possibility of compensating small businesses that are seriously affected by road works and may already be feeling the pinch of the economic downturn?


Stewart Stevenson: I am aware of the case to which Alison McInnes refers, as the local member has discussed it with me. We have sought to work with the business in question to minimise the effects on it and some other businesses in Keith. Unfortunately, when the road was lifted, substantial difficulties were encountered in services, the nature of which was not known at the time. I believe that the difficulties are now largely resolved. We will learn any lessons that it is appropriate to learn from that business's experience.

(S3O-5327) Public Transport (Local Authorities)

18th December 2008

Public Transport (Local Authorities)

6. Angela Constance (Livingston) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive how it will work with local authorities to improve public transport. (S3O-5327)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





The Scottish Government encourages local authorities to promote public transport, as reflected in the single outcome agreements. As part of the bus action plan, we encourage local authorities and bus operators to work together to improve bus services throughout Scotland. That will include appointing a senior bus development adviser to promote the improvement of bus services, spreading good practice and highlighting the importance of a good bus network. We will also publish a national strategy on bus park and ride to encourage modal shift from the private car to more sustainable public transport.


Angela Constance: I receive many complaints about the quality and reliability of bus services in my constituency. Although local authorities can work with the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency to monitor commercial services, follow-up action is possible only after the traffic commissioner for Scotland has deliberated. Does the minister agree that the system is ineffective in coercing improvements?


Stewart Stevenson: There has been a substantial change in VOSA's engagement with the bus industry and it has taken some significant actions.


I want quality and reliability, which Angela Constance has described as not being delivered to the required standard within her constituency. Quality partnerships have played a role in improving bus services throughout Scotland. Statutory quality partnerships, which give greater powers to local authorities to direct or control, can also be used. We seek to simplify the legal processes that are associated with their creation, which will I am sure be of substantial assistance.

(S3O-5263) Transport Projects (Fife)

18th December 2008

Transport Projects (Fife)

8. Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has for new transport projects in Fife. (S3O-5263)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





Transport Scotland's strategic transport projects review has recommended a package of surface transport schemes to be delivered over the next 20 years. In addition to the Forth replacement crossing securing cross-Forth travel between Fife and the Lothians remaining on schedule to open in 2016, the recommendations of the STPR include a wide range of improvements, such as improvements to the A92 through route management and targeted investment; the development of park-and-ride/park-and-choose sites on the A92; rail enhancements through more frequent and faster train services between Edinburgh, Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy; a direct double-track rail link between Halbeath and Inverkeithing to maintain the 60-minute commutable labour market around Edinburgh and improve access to the port of Rosyth; and the provision of light rapid transit connections between Fife and Edinburgh, connecting the communities in Fife with the business and commercial opportunities in Edinburgh and West Lothian.


Claire Baker: Will the minister confirm whether the Leven to Thornton rail link was considered for inclusion in the strategic transport projects review? If it was, why was the link not included in the Government's final proposals? Will the minister pledge to find central funding for the link, regardless of its omission from the STPR?


Stewart Stevenson: Many projects will be progressed that have not been deemed to be of strategic national importance. The Levenmouth railway project, which is a potentially very important intervention for an area in some economic distress, is currently being pursued by the south east of Scotland transport partnership. I look forward to hearing more about the outcome of SEStran's deliberations as those become available.

(S3O-5265) Waverley Railway

18th December 2008

Waverley Railway

9. Rhona Brankin (Midlothian) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what progress has been made in relation to the project to reopen the Waverley line between Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders. (S3O-5265)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





We have recently allocated further capital to accelerate a package of advanced works, including taking forward the diversion of key utility services along the route. The purchase of all necessary land is well under way and is expected to be effectively complete around April 2009. Good progress continues with the necessary procurement development for the main works, which will benefit from the acceleration of the advanced works. Contractors and financial investment organisations continue to express a strong interest in the project.


Rhona Brankin: As the minister is aware, the Waverley line will bring great social, environmental and economic benefits to Midlothian and the Borders, including some 360 full-time jobs in the construction of the line and 550 full-time jobs when the line is completed. Can the minister give us some more detail on what funding method will be used for the Scottish Government's contribution to the project? Can he put a figure on the Government's contribution? In addition, given the current economic uncertainty, what discussions have he or Transport Scotland officials had with developers about their financial contribution to the project?


Stewart Stevenson: The railway line will be built, financed and maintained by a not-for-profit company using a design, build, finance and maintenance contract under the non-profit-distributing procurement model. We have previously stated that the costs will be in the range £230 million to £295 million.


Like the member, I very much welcome the 360 or so jobs that will be created during construction and the more than 500 jobs that will result thereafter. Clearly, the contribution of developers is a significant part of the project. We should remember that developer contributions are expected over the life of the project. Discussions with prospective developers have taken place and will continue as the project moves forward.


Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): I have written to the minister about a business in my constituency that still awaits Transport Scotland's view on how much of the business's land will be required for the construction of the line and whether its land will be required for access during the construction of the line. When the people in that business read the Official Report, are they expected to be happy that they will need to wait another five months for that information to be provided, especially given the current economic climate?


Stewart Stevenson: The member will be aware of the legal environment surrounding compulsory purchase orders and voluntary purchases of land. He should welcome the fact that we have now set a date—April 2009—on which we expect the land acquisition to be complete. That is very rapid and satisfactory progress. I hope that Transport Scotland continues to have meaningful discussions with the business to which the member referred.

4 December 2008

(S3O-5096) Strategic Transport Projects Review

4th December 2008

Strategic Transport Projects Review

4. Irene Oldfather (Cunninghame South) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it has determined a date on which the findings of the strategic transport projects review will be announced. (S3O-5096)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





Ministers have considered the emerging findings and there will be an announcement on the outcome of the review to Parliament on 10 December.


Irene Oldfather: I draw to the minister's attention a letter that I have received from the chief executive of North Ayrshire Council. It advises me that the council, its partners and the business community believe that upgrading the A737 is the single most important piece of investment to improve confidence in the economy of North Ayrshire. Will the minister assure me that the concerns of my local community will be taken into consideration in deciding the priorities and announcing the review's findings?


Stewart Stevenson: It would not be appropriate for me to anticipate the detail of next week's announcement, but I can say that three key factors will be applied. The first is to ensure the maximum efficient use of transport infrastructure; the second is to support the economy; and the third is to ensure that we have a safe network that is fit for purpose.

(S3O-5055) Edinburgh Trams Project (Discussions)

4th December 2008

Edinburgh Trams Project (Discussions)

8. David McLetchie (Edinburgh Pentlands) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what recent discussions it has had with the City of Edinburgh Council and TIE Ltd regarding the Edinburgh trams project. (S3O-5055)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





Recent discussions have taken place with the City of Edinburgh Council regarding the administration of the Scottish Government's £500 million contribution and with TIE Ltd regarding the design for a tram-train interchange at Gogar. Preliminary discussions have taken place between the Scottish Government and the City of Edinburgh Council concerning additional means of funding the development of the Edinburgh waterfront area. In addition, preliminary discussions have been held regarding Transport and Works (Scotland) Act 2007 powers for further tram development.


David McLetchie: I thank the minister for that answer. Will the discussions on the additional means of funding the waterfront development refer to additional public funding for that, which would therefore be a back-door, additional contribution by the minister's Government to the funding of the trams project?


Stewart Stevenson: It is clear that we have capped our contribution to the trams project at £500 million. Any moneys that are left over after phase 1A may be applied to phase 1B. We have made no change to our commitments on public funding from this Government.

(S3O-5058) Glasgow Prestwick International Airport (Discussions)

4th December 2008

Glasgow Prestwick International Airport (Discussions)

7. John Scott (Ayr) (Con): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the management of Glasgow Prestwick international airport following the publication of the airport's development master plan. (S3O-5058)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





The Scottish Government has had no discussions with the management of Glasgow Prestwick international airport since publication of the airport's draft master plan on 29 October.


John Scott: I thank the minister for that reply. As he will know, Prestwick airport, which makes a huge contribution to the economy of Ayrshire and Scotland, forecasts that its annual passenger numbers are set to double over the next 10 years to 5.7 million. A key element identified in the master plan is the need to increase rail capacity on the Ayr to Glasgow line, and in particular the need to increase the current service frequency of two services an hour, especially at peak times. Will the minister support that position? Will he enter into discussions with Prestwick airport, First ScotRail and other relevant agencies to secure that increase in service?


Stewart Stevenson: Surface transport to our airports is an important part of the provision that we in Government must make. I shall be supporting Prestwick airport myself when I fly out on Sunday on its direct flight to PoznaƄ for the climate change leaders side event that will take place on Monday and Tuesday. I recognise, both personally and as a minister, the importance of Prestwick airport and its being connected to the rest of Scotland.

27 November 2008

(S3O-4961) Aviation Growth (Greenhouse Gas Emissions)

27th November 2008

Aviation Growth (Greenhouse Gas Emissions)

8. Robin Harper (Lothians) (Green): To ask the Scottish Executive what level of aviation growth is compatible with its target of 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. (S3O-4961)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





There is no direct relationship between growth in aviation and our 80 per cent emissions reduction target. The target applies across all sectors of the economy and not to individual sectors.


Robin Harper: There is a relationship. We expect the Scottish climate change bill to be introduced next month, and the national planning framework is likely to give the go-ahead for airport expansion at Edinburgh and Glasgow. Given the disproportionate damage that aviation emissions do to the climate, will the minister accept that the Government's objectives are incompatible and do the planet a favour by abandoning airport expansion? Will he use the Scottish climate change bill to set a good example and institute a ban on the public sector's use of domestic flights when alternatives exist?


Stewart Stevenson: The member will be aware of our keen interest in high-speed rail links, which will make a significant contribution to the reduction of air travel between central Scotland and London. I very much welcome the change in the mood music that is emanating from the Department for Transport in that regard and I hope that the member will work with us to ensure that alternatives to certain aviation routes are in place.


However, aviation remains an important part of Scotland's economy and, like every other contributing part of our economy, deserves support.

(S3O-5022) Leven to Thornton Rail Link

27th November 2008

Leven to Thornton Rail Link

4. Tricia Marwick (Central Fife) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what progress has been made towards the proposed reopening of the Leven to Thornton rail link. (S3O-5022)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





Transport Scotland received the first draft of the Leven to Thornton feasibility study on 23 June 2008, and it is being considered as part of the strategic transport projects review. The review will set out national investment priorities for 2012 to 2022.


We will make an announcement on the STPR later this year. It will set out the Scottish Government's programme of transport interventions that best contribute to our overall purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth.


Tricia Marwick: The minister will know that the final report on the Leven to Thornton railway will go to the board of SESTRANS—the south-east Scotland transport partnership—next week. Will he seek to convince SESTRANS, which is the regional transport authority, of the importance of the reopening of the line to the people and businesses of Leven?


Stewart Stevenson: We are in the fortunate position of having rail still in place, although it might not be fit for purpose. I await the outcome of SESTRANS's deliberations with considerable interest, and I will listen carefully to what it has to say.


Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): Does the minister agree that the Leven to Thornton link clearly meets the aim of the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth to maximise jobs, business, the economy and sustainability with accelerated capital spend? Will he therefore consider every possible option for bringing forward the rail link as part of the Scottish Government's plans to accelerate capital spending, so that Levenmouth and wider Fife can benefit during these difficult economic conditions?


Stewart Stevenson: We are certainly aware of the need to support the communities of Levenmouth, where there are areas of significant economic disadvantage. The people in that part of Fife can be assured that the Government takes seriously the need to ensure that they have an equal opportunity to contribute economically and benefit socially from any links that we may be able to bring forward.

(S3O-4986) Rail Services (Fife)

27th November 2008

Rail Services (Fife)

3. Marilyn Livingstone (Kirkcaldy) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it is taking to improve rail services for passengers to and from Fife, from both the north and south. (S3O-4986)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





From December this year there will be 500 more seats daily, each way, between Edinburgh and Fife during the peaks, and better connectivity to Edinburgh, London and the south with new early-morning services from Fife. The new timetable provides approximately 40 additional southbound and 50 additional northbound stops, each weekday, for stations in Fife, including a new hourly service between Edinburgh and Perth via Fife.


Marilyn Livingstone: I have written to the minister on this issue. Does he agree that many Fife commuters are being disadvantaged by the changes to the service? Many people who are trying to get to Dundee and Aberdeen cannot get to work in time because of the changes.


I have just received a 200-signature petition on the changes. Will the minister take the issue back to the drawing board, and will he discuss, with the major stakeholders, the impact of the changes on Fife commuters?


Stewart Stevenson: In the new timetable, there are now 21 trains heading south from Kirkcaldy between the start of services and 10 o'clock, and 20 trains returning in the evening peak. Relatively few passengers have been joining the through trains to head north to Aberdeen. We have replaced all the services that no longer stop in Fife with new services within Fife. We seek to ensure good connections between Dundee and Aberdeen.


If the member continues to have concerns, we will look again for the next opportunity to consider the timetables. However, we continue to invest in improved services for Fife. That is undoubtedly evidenced by the huge number of trains that now run between Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh.


Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con): Is the minister aware that the timetable changes, which were designed to improve services in Fife, have led to knock-on changes north of Fife? Is he further aware of a level of discontent among passengers in the north-east of Scotland over the timetable changes that are to be implemented in the middle of December? Has he had any contact with passenger groups, and will he raise the matter with ScotRail?


Stewart Stevenson: I would need to check with my office, but I am not aware of having been contacted on this matter by passenger groups. However, such contact may be yet to come to me.


A clear effect of reducing the number of stops of the through trains in Fife will be to improve the timeliness and speed of services to Aberdeen.


However, if issues remain that people feel that I should resolve, I would certainly wish to consider them at the next available opportunity.


Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): The minister will know that constituents of mine in the Borders are currently unable to travel by rail from the south to Fife. Will he continue the constructive approach taken by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth yesterday, and will he meet me and the Scottish Borders Council to consider whether—in light of the pre-budget report on Monday and the increased capacity for accelerating capital spend—the Waverley line project can be accelerated?


The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): I think that there was a link, minister.


Stewart Stevenson: Services from the Borders to Fife will certainly be among the services delivered when we recreate rail in the Borders. Like Mr Purvis's constituents, my constituents have limited access to rail, and I am always anxious to ensure that we improve rail services throughout Scotland.


I hope that the cabinet secretary had an enjoyable evening with Councillor Parker last night. He has not yet reported to me the substance of any conversation that took place.


Roseanna Cunningham (Perth) (SNP): Is the minister aware of how widely the new timetable from Perth to Edinburgh is welcomed? Does he agree that an enormous improvement has been made for my constituents? Hitherto, they had to put up with appallingly low levels of service. Will he accept my thanks on their behalf for the new service?


Stewart Stevenson: It has long been our ambition to improve services to Perth. I am happy that the member, many of her constituents, and people further afield are happy that we have made the changes.

(S3O-5017) National Concessionary Fares Scheme

27th November 2008

National Concessionary Fares Scheme

5. Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive when it plans to extend the national concessionary fares scheme and to which groups. (S3O-5017)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





The Scotland-wide free bus travel scheme for older and disabled people is currently being reviewed. Consideration will be given to any possible changes—including the proposal to include injured armed forces veterans—once the findings of the review are known. I expect to announce the outcome of the review in the new year.


Kenneth Gibson: Does the minister agree that the Scottish Government's clear intention via the review—to extend concessionary fares—should act as a signal to the Labour Party that it is time to stop frightening old people into believing that the national concessionary fares scheme is at risk?


Stewart Stevenson: Like many of our other interventions—including the extension of the central heating programme and the numbers of systems installed—the free bus travel scheme will assure people that this Government will step up to and meet its responsibilities to older and disabled people.


Des McNulty (Clydebank and Milngavie) (Lab): Will the minister confirm that eligibility was under consideration but that that changed in early July? Will he also confirm that active consideration was given to the idea of abolishing unlimited free travel and, instead, giving each pass holder a fixed annual value on their smart card? Will he confirm that that idea has now been ruled out?


Stewart Stevenson: No; no; yes.

20 November 2008

(S3O-4921) Edinburgh Airport (Public Transport Access)

20th November 2008

Edinburgh Airport (Public Transport Access)

4. Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive what progress has been made on improving public transport access to Edinburgh airport since 2007. (S3O-4921)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





The Scottish Government has committed £500 million to the Edinburgh tram project, which will connect Edinburgh city and the airport. In addition, a new railway station will be constructed in the Gogar area that will integrate with the tram network for onward connections to Edinburgh airport. Together, those initiatives will provide a high-quality public transport link to the airport.


Margaret Smith: It is now 14 months since the transport minister called a halt to the direct rail link to Edinburgh airport and promised instead a tram-rail interchange in the Gogar area. When will the location of the interchange be announced? What discussions have taken place with stakeholders in west Edinburgh about public transport access? Can he confirm that the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland is involved in those discussions, given the impact of the recent changes in relation to the airport?


I welcome the continuing commitment to the tram.


Stewart Stevenson: Decisions on the location of the Gogar station are at an advanced stage. We have talked with a range of stakeholders and are working closely with TIE Ltd on the project.


I have had discussions with the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland on a range of issues, although I am not sure that there is a relationship with the issue that the member raises—the society has not raised it with me. However, if the society has concerns, I will be happy to hear them and to put people's minds at rest.

(S3O-4873) Strategic Transport Projects Review

20th November 2008

Strategic Transport Projects Review

10. Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what progress has been made in respect of the strategic transport projects review. (S3O-4873)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





The strategic transport projects review is currently in the process of concluding, and ministers are considering the emerging findings. It is expected that there will be an announcement on the outcome of the review later this year.


Bill Butler: The minister is aware of the cross-party support in the chamber for the Glasgow crossrail project and the strong backing for that project from local authorities and business. He also knows that completing the short link between Scotland's historically separated rail networks would deliver a more efficient and competitive railway, which would in turn promote a wide range of social, economic and environmental benefits throughout Scotland. In light of the overwhelming financial advantage of a project that a recent range of assessments judged would result in a benefit cost ratio of well over 2.0, will the minister and his Government support the authorisation of that key rail link in its strategic transport projects review?


Stewart Stevenson: The member will know about the substantial support that we are giving to railways in Glasgow. The Glasgow crossrail proposals, which were worked up by Strathclyde Passenger Transport, responded to previous feedback by breaking it down into bite-sized chunks, which I welcome. I am sure that the member will, like everyone else, listen with great interest when we make our strategic transport projects review announcement later this year.

6 November 2008

(S3O-4704) A76

6th November 2008
A76

1. Cathy Jamieson (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what further improvements are planned for the A76. (S3O-4704)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





Transport Scotland's strategic transport projects review is examining the longer-term needs of Scotland's nationally strategic transport network. That includes consideration of the A76 as part of the transport corridor between Glasgow and north-west England.


Cathy Jamieson: The minister will be aware that many of my constituents are concerned about the lack of an adequate footpath between Cumnock and New Cumnock alongside the A76. Will he assure us that the matter will be re-examined as part of the strategic transport projects review, especially in light of the fact that an e-petition on the issue was submitted to Parliament this morning?


Stewart Stevenson: I have made 278 ministerial journeys on foot, accounting for some 65 hours of my ministerial time, since coming into office, so the member should be assured that I want to do everything possible to ensure that there is safe and adequate footpath provision not only in the south-west of Scotland but across the country. I will give further careful consideration to the issue.


Alasdair Morgan (South of Scotland) (SNP): In his initial answer, the minister referred—as does Transport Scotland—to the M74 and the A76 as a corridor, which strikes some of us as a curious concept. In light of those comments, to what extent is he considering improving the A70 to divert heavy vehicles from the northern part of the A76 to the M74, which would take pressure off the southern part of the A76?


Stewart Stevenson: The strategic transport projects review is considering surface transport across Scotland. It is looking at hubs—our main centres of population—corridors linking those centres and corridors extending out from those centres to more remote parts of Scotland. Examination of the various roads in the south-west will, of course, include consideration of the kind of alternative routing to which the member refers.

(S3O-4681) A90 (Laurencekirk Junction)

6th November 2008

A90 (Laurencekirk Junction)

6. Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to improve further the junction of the A90 with the A937 at Laurencekirk. (S3O-4681)


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





Transport Scotland's strategic transport projects review is examining the longer-term needs of Scotland's nationally strategic transport network, which includes consideration of the A90 as part of the transport corridor between Dundee and Aberdeen.


Alex Johnstone: Does the minister acknowledge the fact that when the temporary measures were put in place at the junction, it was understood locally that they would be temporary, and that there would be a quick move towards the development of a grade-separated junction at the site? What progress was made by the previous Government towards that aim? Will that aim feature among the present Government's priorities?


Stewart Stevenson: The member will be aware that the previous Liberal Minister for Transport made improvements in 2005, which have resulted in a reduction in the number of accidents at the junction. We inherited no planning for further work. In light of the remark that the Liberals' finance spokesman, Jeremy Purvis, made last week, that


"Efficiency savings in the infrastructure programme have been identified,"—[Official Report, 30 October 2008; c 11852.]


we would not have expected any further investment from the Liberals, had they remained in a position of influence on the matter.


Tavish Scott (Shetland) (LD): What has that got to do with the question, Presiding Officer?


The Presiding Officer: I am indeed left wondering what that had to do with the question.


Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): This is a very serious issue. The minister wrote to me saying that only "2 slight injury accidents" have taken place on the A90 at Laurencekirk in the past three years, whereas figures released by Grampian Police under the law on freedom of information—which is more than I got from the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change—show that there have been 35 collisions and 21 injuries at Laurencekirk. Does the minister agree that those are alarming figures? Will he reconsider his decision not to meet me, Jill Campbell and other local campaigners to see for himself just how dangerous the road around Laurencekirk is?


Stewart Stevenson: As the member is aware, I am a regular user of the A90 and I am familiar with the area—indeed, it seems quite clear that I am somewhat more familiar with it than he is. My answer related to the junction that he asked me about; the freedom of information request that he mentioned referred to a substantially greater area of the A90. As this is a matter of concern to us all, it is being treated very seriously.


Of course, the Liberals have trouble with numbers. Last week, Jeremy Purvis said that ministers in this Administration


"will be 40 per cent wealthier"—[Official Report, 30 October 2008; c 11851.]


than those in Ireland. Actually, the Irish make twice as much money as we do.


The Presiding Officer: That remark is off the subject, minister.


Stewart Stevenson: Numbers from Liberals on the subject of roads or on anything else are not to be trusted.

30 October 2008

(S3O-4576) Transport Scotland (Meetings)

30th October 2008

Transport Scotland (Meetings)

4. John Lamont (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive when it will next meet representatives from Transport Scotland. (S3O-4576)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): Transport Scotland is part of the Scottish Government and internal meetings take place in the normal course of its business.

John Lamont: I draw the minister's attention again to the temporary traffic lights on the A7 at Branxholm in my constituency, which have been in place for two years. When I previously raised the issue with him, he said that reasonable progress was being made to take them down. Despite that, the traffic lights remain. What does it say about the Scottish National Party's Scotland when temporary traffic lights on a major trunk route can stay in place for more than two years?

Stewart Stevenson: I am pleased to say that we expect the work to take place before the end of the year, which will allow the traffic lights to be removed. That contrasts markedly with temporary traffic lights on the A82 on the other side of the country that were there for well over a decade under the previous Administration. We are doing rather better than our predecessors.

9 October 2008

(S3O-4535) National Planning Framework (Consultation Response)

9th October 2008

National Planning Framework
(Consultation Response)

8. Willie Coffey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive when it will reply to the responses submitted to the consultation on the second national planning framework. (S3O-4535)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





An analysis report of the consultation responses that were received on "National Planning Framework for Scotland 2: Discussion Draft" will be published later in the autumn at the same time as the proposed national planning framework is laid before Parliament for consideration.

Willie Coffey: The minister will be aware that Ayrshire has experienced population and economic decline over recent years. Therefore, it is not surprising that responses to the draft framework called for greater recognition of the area's strategic importance to Scotland. Will he ensure that the revised framework sets out how improvements to Ayrshire's transport links can act as a catalyst for economic growth within the region, rather than simply provide a faster commute to Glasgow and beyond?

Stewart Stevenson: We have recently announced significant investments in new rolling stock for the railways, which will benefit Ayrshire in particular. The national planning framework is a planning document; it is proceeding and will be subject to parliamentary review for 60 days. We also have the strategic transport projects review, which will be published later this autumn and directly reflects the Government's future plans for transport. In its new form, the national planning framework will undoubtedly reflect more of the needs of wider Scotland, including private sector projects as well as Government projects. It truly represents planning for the future to 2030.

Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green): In the light of the collapse of some airlines and the withdrawal of others, the growing momentum for high-speed rail services, the Government's own recognition of the phenomenon of peak oil and the recommendation from the United Kingdom committee on climate change that aviation emissions must be included within climate change targets, is it possible that the Government's ambitions for aviation growth are misconceived and unrealistic? If so, should it cut capacity expansion at Glasgow and Edinburgh airports from the national planning framework?

Stewart Stevenson: Patrick Harvie raised the subject of high-speed rail. Our ambitions, of course, do not stop at Leeds but continue all the way to Edinburgh. It is interesting that British Airways has a share of the equity in some rail companies, which indicates a willingness to engage in improved surface transport. However, aviation is an important part of our economy and we should envisage domestic aviation being augmented by high-speed rail. That is the way of the future. This Government is determined to ensure that Westminster lives up to its responsibilities for cross-border rail activity and the financing that it retains in its budgets to support that activity.

(S3O-4542) Infrastructure and Transport Projects

9th October 2008

Infrastructure and Transport Projects

5. Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government how it is planning to ensure that major economic opportunities of national importance, located in geographically dispersed areas, are underpinned by modern infrastructure and transport improvements. (S3O-4542)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





The national planning framework takes forward the spatial aspects of the Scottish Government's policy commitments on sustainable economic growth. A draft NPF2 was published in January and a final NPF2 will be published early in 2009.

NPF2 will focus strongly on priorities for the improvement of infrastructure to support Scotland's long-term development. For transport infrastructure, it will support the strategic outcomes that are set out in the national transport strategy and draw on the work that is being undertaken on the strategic transport projects review.

Rob Gibson: I thank the minister for his detailed answer. As infrastructure development is considered during this period of prolonged global monetary instability, will he ensure that consideration is given to projects that meet climate change adaptation requirements, for example by ensuring that buildings are climate proofed?

The minister mentioned transport projects. Will he also ensure that consideration is given to the infrastructure that is required to support the economic potential of the Pentland Firth?

Stewart Stevenson: The recent announcements on the Pentland Firth are encouraging in the context of Scotland's future contribution to the climate change agenda. It will be important to ensure that the major structures and building materials that must go to the Pentland Firth have the transport infrastructure that will support them.

The member asked about building standards. We are making progress to raise the standards that apply to new buildings and we are carefully considering how we will deal with the substantial stock that has been built over many years.

Finally, on infrastructure projects generally in these troubled financial times, it is clear that, as markets open up and interbank trading returns, there will initially be a flight to quality as investors look for projects in which to invest. There are no better-quality projects than those that the Government will want to take forward in Scotland.

2 October 2008

(S3O-4469) Forth Replacement Crossing

2nd October 2008

Forth Replacement Crossing

8. Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive when local residents directly affected by the construction of the Forth replacement crossing and related motorways will be informed about the preferred route, any impact on their homes and their rights to compensation for property blight that may result. (S3O-4469)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): An announcement on the Forth replacement crossing will be made before the end of this year. Guidance on compensation in respect of road schemes was published by Transport Scotland in 2007 and can be viewed on, or downloaded from, the agency's website. Following the announcement, officials will consult communities and affected parties further.

Margaret Smith: The minister is aware that this is a worrying time for my constituents, many of whom believe that they are already experiencing property blight as a result of the proposed bridge.

What opportunities for face-to-face discussions with Transport Scotland officials will be available to my constituents to enable them to get a clearer understanding of the compensation and assistance that will be available to those who not only have blight on their properties but will lose their homes as a result of the project?

Stewart Stevenson: As proposals for the replacement crossing have been worked up, Transport Scotland officials have made considerable efforts to meet communities and individuals who have an interest in it. Following the announcement, they will, of course, make themselves available to answer Margaret Smith's constituents' specific and key questions. I am sure that they will be available to the extent that is necessary.

Cathie Craigie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (Lab): I understand that compensation payments for people who lose their homes as a result of major infrastructure improvements are much greater in England than they are in Scotland. Does the Government have any plans to increase the levels?

Stewart Stevenson: The home loss payment was reviewed relatively recently and the decision was taken to retain the £1,500 to £15,000 range, which is, indeed, substantially lower than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, the majority of home loss payments are made in the context of housing regeneration projects. We estimated that raising compensation payments to the level that is given in England and Wales would take more than £30 million out of the housing budget and, on a policy basis, we have concluded that that money would be better invested in housing than in providing additional loss payments to people whose houses are worth more than £150,000.

The Public Petitions Committee considered a petition on that subject, and I am pleased to say that it agreed with our conclusion and thought that the Government's position is right.

25 September 2008

(S3O-4281) A96 and A90 (Dualling)

25th September 2008

A96 and A90 (Dualling)

5. Nanette Milne (North East Scotland) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to dual the A96 and A90. (S3O-4281)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): The future transport needs of the north-east are being considered by the strategic transport projects review. Drafting of the STPR summary report is progressing well, and the Government will update Parliament on the emerging findings before the turn of the year.

Nanette Milne: Presiding Officer,

"We are all paying the price for the lack of investment in our roads network at the hands of the Labour/Liberal Government".

Those are not my words but those of the First Minister during the 2007 Holyrood elections. Alex Salmond pledged to local voters in Gordon that he would lead a step change to bring our beleaguered transport network into the 21st century, including the dualling of the A96 and A90.

I am informed by Transport Scotland that there are currently no plans to carry out any studies into the dualling of those roads—only into the projects put in place by the previous Executive. Has the First Minister gone back on his word to the voters of Gordon? If not, when will the SNP Government act to implement its election promises?

Stewart Stevenson: The voters of Gordon have a formidable champion in my colleague the First Minister. [Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Order.

Stewart Stevenson: The member will be aware of discussions about each end and the middle of the A96. In the strategic transport projects review we are looking seriously at the interventions that we want to bring about. She should not talk down the outcome until she sees it.

11 September 2008

(S3O-4147) Glasgow Airport

11th September 2008

Glasgow Airport

9. Gil Paterson (West of Scotland) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with local authorities about the impact of the proposed sale of Glasgow airport by BAA. (S3O-4147)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): We have had no discussions with local authorities on the Competition Commission's market investigation of BAA or any potential sale of Glasgow international airport.

Gil Paterson: The minister will be aware that Glasgow airport is self-regulated by BAA, which has an impact on the local authorities that surround the airport. Does the Scottish Government have any plans to discuss with the United Kingdom Government the prospect of Glasgow airport being regulated by a Government authority, as the London airports are? At present, it is run by a private company that regulates itself.

Stewart Stevenson: The member raises an interesting point. Airports are an important part of our transport infrastructure and contribute greatly to our economic success. However, the regulations that govern the operation of the London airports are restricted to controlling the charges at those airports. The challenge for the Scottish airports at present is more to invest in our airports to ensure that they are fit for purpose. I look forward to seeing the responses of BAA and the Competition Commission to the present inquiries. I wish to see that they will ensure that we get proper and adequate investment in Scotland's airports.

(S3O-4160) Rosyth to Zeebrugge Ferry Service

11th September 2008

Rosyth to Zeebrugge Ferry Service

6. John Park (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what progress there has been towards a replacement Rosyth to Zeebrugge ferry service. (S3O-4160)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): The Scottish Government is working very closely with Forth Ports to identify an alternative commercial operator for the Rosyth to Zeebrugge route. We will continue to do everything possible to secure a successful outcome.

Constructive discussions are on-going with potential operators, and the Scottish Government is continuing to do everything possible to secure a swift and successful outcome.

John Park: I thank the minister for staying in touch over the summer on this issue, on a cross-party basis. As he knows, the issue is close to the hearts of many members.

It seems that there will be a break in service, which is an unfortunate situation as logistics companies have made long-term plans about where they will travel in Europe and the United Kingdom. Will the minister confirm that the Scottish Government is having discussions with Forth Ports about a plan for getting those logistics companies to come back if we are fortunate enough to get a new service at some point in the future?

Stewart Stevenson: I welcome the constructive engagement from John Park and other members on the issue. It is helpful for us to work together and share confidences with one another on progress. I share John Park's serious disappointment at the relatively short notice that we were given on 28 May of Attica's intention to withdraw the service, which has created substantial difficulties. In my remarks at the time, I reflected on the fact that delivering the service without a break would be a substantial challenge.

We have been working with the Zeebrugge port authorities, and we have been in communication with the Flanders Government. All parties share an interest in ensuring that we deliver a new Rosyth to Zeebrugge service. We will continue to make every effort to do so, and I will continue to engage with members to ensure that they know what is happening and are able to make constructive suggestions, privately or otherwise.

Jim Tolson (Dunfermline West) (LD): In light of the minister's answer, is the Scottish Government prepared to commit to improvements in the ferry infrastructure at Rosyth port if the announcement about a new operator is positive?

Stewart Stevenson: As I said, commercial negotiations continue. We understand that the ferry infrastructure at Rosyth—in which the previous Administration made a substantial investment of in excess of £11 million—is fit for purpose.

At Zeebrugge, which is another part of the equation, there have been moves to ensure that the infrastructure at that end is also appropriate, so that potential operators can more safely guarantee turnaround times. The actors involved are all fully engaged in making the contributions that we expect. I will certainly continue to engage in the matter, because I share members' enthusiasm for ensuring that we have a service.

(S3O-4114) Ferry Service (Campbeltown to Ayrshire)

11th September 2008

Ferry Service (Campbeltown to Ayrshire)

3. Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive, in light of the threat of closure of the Vestas factory at Campbeltown and local concerns about the delay in re-establishing the Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry service, whether it will support the establishment of a new ferry route between Campbeltown and mainland Ayrshire. (S3O-4114)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): Consultants who were commissioned by the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive are currently undertaking a Scottish transport appraisal guidance appraisal of the proposed Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry service. It is anticipated that the completed STAG appraisal will be delivered shortly. When the final report becomes available, ministers in Scotland and Northern Ireland will consider the costs and benefits that are associated with the proposed service and will reach a decision about the way forward.

We expect the STAG appraisal to consider all the possible service options and to include an analysis of the option of extending the service to Ayrshire. None of the earlier analyses considered that matter in any detail. The assessment of the Ayrshire leg is necessary if we are to consider whether such an extension of the service would add value to the proposed Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry service.

Jamie McGrigor: Will the minister acknowledge that even without the loss of jobs at Vestas the Kintyre and Campbeltown economy is under severe pressure and desperately needs new investment? Will he also acknowledge that although we all want the Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry service to resume as soon as possible, a ferry service from Campbeltown to mainland Ayrshire would mean that businesses and potential new businesses in Campbeltown could get their goods to major new markets, which would be crucial? Will he ask his officials to consider the option seriously?

Stewart Stevenson: We place the highest value on ensuring that Kintyre has the economic opportunities that it requires. That is why we are considering the Campbeltown to Ballycastle route and why we included in that consideration the option of the extension of the service to Ayrshire. That is an entirely new proposal, which the Government has not considered before. We certainly take the prospect seriously, and I hope to have something more concrete to say on the matter in the not-too-distant future.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP): Will Ardrossan, a port in my constituency that has excellent rail links, be considered as the Ayrshire port of first choice, should additional ferry services to Ireland or Kintyre be introduced?

Stewart Stevenson: Mr Gibson is right to represent his constituency's interests, as we all do in our contributions. Ardrossan will of course be considered. Until I have received and analysed the STAG report, I cannot make the commitment for which he asks, but Ardrossan will certainly be seriously considered.

Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central) (Lab): Does the minister recall that previous assessments of the viability of ferry routes to and from Campbeltown took into account the advantages of the Vestas manufacturing facility there and the prospects for passenger and commercial traffic that arose from that? What assessment has he made of the potential impact on the STAG assessment of routes of the closure of the Vestas factory? What indication has Vestas given of the importance of those routes to the decision-making process in which it is involved?

Stewart Stevenson: It is clear that events in Campbeltown will affect consideration of the STAG appraisal. If the Vestas factory is to close, that reinforces the case for our considering every opportunity that we can find to create an economic future for Campbeltown and the Mull of Kintyre. I assure the member that that is our priority.

John Scott (Ayr) (Con): When will the STAG report be published? Given what the First Minister said on the subject when he met Northern Ireland's First Minister, does the Government support in principle the extension of the route to Ayrshire?

Stewart Stevenson: John Scott is correct to refer to discussions between Northern Ireland's First Minister and Deputy First Minister and our First Minister and me some months ago. We must work with administrations on the other side of the channel. We must talk to local authorities, such as Moyle District Council in Northern Ireland, which is engaged in the issue. All the relevant parties are engaged. Serious consideration is also being given to a potential link between Campbeltown and Ayrshire.

26 June 2008

(S3O-3927) Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland

26th June 2008

Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland

3. Johann Lamont (Glasgow Pollok) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive when the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland will be reconvened and what support will be put in place for it. (S3O-3927)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





A meeting of the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland took place on 17 June, when the appointments process for new members, the work programme and effective liaison with the Public Transport Users Committee for Scotland were discussed. The secretariat is provided by the Scottish Government.

Johann Lamont: It might have been appropriate for the minister to apologise for the impact on people with disabilities of his original decision to abolish MACS. He was so driven by a narrow agenda on public bodies that he disregarded his basic equality responsibilities. Will he reflect on the fact that it was fortunate that parliamentary scrutiny was needed, as MACS would otherwise have been dumped, regardless of the damage that that would have caused? One wonders what other decisions have been made without such scrutiny.

Given that experience, what action will the minister take to ensure that equality responsibilities are taken more seriously in other areas? For example, will he commit his Government to ensuring that no single outcome agreement is signed off unless evidence is provided that an equality impact assessment has been completed?

Stewart Stevenson: I am disappointed by the tone of that supplementary question. The Government takes its equality responsibilities extremely seriously. It also recognises the important role of Parliament in scrutinising what goes on in the Government. In response to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee's debate, which was good tempered and well balanced, we sought urgently to re-establish MACS as an effective body. We will go beyond the commitment that was shown by the previous Administration by ensuring that—for the first time—members of MACS receive a fee for attendance. Previously, they were expected to attend for no fee.

We have delivered equality to members of that committee, who will be on the same basis as members of the Public Transport Users Committee. The Government steps up to and meets all its equality responsibilities.

Alison McInnes (North East Scotland) (LD): I thank the minister for responding to the concerns of the disabled community and of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee by agreeing to maintain MACS. However, as the organisation was somewhat neglected in anticipation of its wind-up, it now needs nurturing and intensive care.

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): We need a question, please.

Alison McInnes: It is important that new members of MACS are appointed as quickly as possible. Will the minister assure me that he will make all possible progress on that? Has he considered a truncated process that uses nominations to PTUC? Further—

The Presiding Officer: Very briefly, please.

Alison McInnes: Will the minister ensure that secretarial provision is responsive and supportive?

Stewart Stevenson: I thank Alison McInnes for her constructive questions. We are talking to the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland about accelerating the process. We seek to establish whether people who expressed an interest in serving on PTUC can be redirected to MACS. I hope that we will make the progress that fulfils the commitment that I gave in my previous answer.

Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) (Lab): I welcome the decision on MACS. Will the minister ensure that MACS reflects the diversity of disabled people and organisations throughout Scotland?

Stewart Stevenson: During the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee's debate, I expressed the concern that not all disabilities could be fully reflected within the committee's boundaries. We had a constructive debate on that. I will ensure that we reflect all disabilities to the extent that we can. We will also ensure that MACS and PTUC work together closely. We will use opportunities in the framework of sub-committees for PTUC—if appropriate and in agreement with MACS—to reflect all appropriate disabilities.

19 June 2008

(S3O-3837) Redhouse Roundabout (Upgrading)

19th June 2008

Redhouse Roundabout (Upgrading)

8. Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what meetings it has had since May 2007 with the south east of Scotland transport partnership and Fife Council to discuss the possibility of upgrading the Redhouse roundabout and what meetings it has planned with them on this issue in the future. (S3O-3837)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): Transport Scotland officials met Fife Council on 21 April 2008, when a range of transport planning issues was discussed, including the Redhouse roundabout. No meetings are planned with it on the issue in the future.

Claire Baker: The minister will be aware that congestion around the Redhouse roundabout in the morning and afternoon rush hours can make travelling a misery for people throughout the south-east Fife area. Does he agree that, along with the Leven to Thornton rail link, upgrading the Redhouse roundabout is a top priority for people in Fife? Will he outline potential funding sources for making the upgrade of the Redhouse roundabout a reality?

Stewart Stevenson: I am sure that the member is well aware of the strategic transport projects review, which is looking at many of our conurbations and the major transport corridors between them. We will be taking that review forward over the summer and we will report on it later this year. I understand that Fife Council is looking at the rail link between Levenmouth and Thornton as one of its strategic objectives and that it also has concerns about the Redhouse roundabout. We will, of course, take account of both those issues.

Tricia Marwick (Central Fife) (SNP): Is the minister aware that, although the Redhouse roundabout upgrade is important, the number 1 transport priority in Fife is the reopening of the Leven to Thornton railway, and that Fife Council has already allocated £2 million to help it to go ahead? I ask the minister to bear in mind Fife's transport priorities when he or his officials meet SEStran and Fife Council officials.

Stewart Stevenson: I congratulate the administration in Fife Council, of which the Scottish National Party is part, on putting a significant sum of money aside for the rail link for the first time. That is a welcome move towards enabling the project to get serious consideration from this Government.

(S3O-3783) BEAR Scotland (Meetings)

19th June 2008

BEAR Scotland (Meetings)

7. John Lamont (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive when it will next meet representatives from BEAR Scotland. (S3O-3783)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): Staff from Transport Scotland have regular meetings with BEAR Scotland. The next meetings will be next week, on 24 and 25 June.

John Lamont: I again draw to the minister's attention a serious problem that is affecting the A7 in my constituency. Due to a landslip, there have been traffic lights a few miles south of Hawick for a year and a half. The A7 is a major trunk route through the Borders and many of my constituents are concerned by the apparent lack of progress at the site and the inconvenience caused by the lights. Many drivers are simply ignoring the lights, which is causing a serious safety issue. When the minister next meets BEAR Scotland, will he ask it to accelerate the work to repair that important route through the Borders?

Stewart Stevenson: The member will be aware that landslips present significant challenges to the road network and the rail network in Scotland. Increased numbers of landslips are one of the impacts of climate change that we are already seeing.

As I said in answer to an earlier question, it is my intention that we do not have traffic lights on rural trunk roads. As the member said, we have had traffic lights at Branxholme for a year and a half. We are, of course, looking at the ground conditions as well as at what requires to be done in relation to the road itself. I believe that we are making reasonable progress, and the member can be assured that we will discuss the matter with BEAR whenever we meet it.

(S3O-3780) A96 (Inveramsay Bridge)

19th June 2008

A96 (Inveramsay Bridge)

5. Nanette Milne (North East Scotland) (Con): To ask the Scottish Executive what proposals there are to improve the flow of traffic at the Inveramsay bridge, near Inverurie, on the A96. (S3O-3780)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): Transport Scotland's strategic transport projects review is examining the longer term needs of Scotland's national strategic transport network. That includes consideration of the A96 as part of the transport corridor between Aberdeen and Inverness.

Nanette Milne: I thank the minister for his response, although it is what I expected.

When I raised the issue of the Inveramsay bridge with the previous Liberal Democrat-Labour Scottish Executive, Transport Scotland's response was that the traffic delays were insignificant. However, when I recently met representatives of the local farming community, it was made clear to me that concern is growing about the bridge's impact on the north-east's economy. Given the increasing numbers of people who commute to Aberdeen along the A96, there is now a real sense of urgency that action must be taken to address that bottleneck. Does the minister agree that this is a real problem? Will the Scottish National Party Government undertake to find a solution to it within the current parliamentary session?

Stewart Stevenson: I have heard much of what the member has mentioned from a number of sources. I have asked Transport Scotland to consider the removal of all traffic lights on all our trunk roads in rural areas throughout Scotland. That is why some work is being done on the A82.

The A96 at Inveramsay bridge has traffic lights. I have had engineers visit the site and make preliminary assessments of possible solutions. That is being actively pursued by the constituency member for Gordon, and I am in regular discussion with him on the subject.

12 June 2008

(S3O-3755) Proposed Climate Change Bill

12th June 2008

Proposed Climate Change Bill

15. Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what consideration it has given to the inclusion in the climate change bill of measures to support the reduction of emissions through reform of planning and building standards for new and existing domestic and non-domestic buildings to facilitate energy conservation and renewable generation, and through the creation of new incentives to make such improvements possible through grants and reductions in local taxation. (S3O-3755)

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson):





Improving the energy efficiency of buildings and encouraging microgeneration where appropriate—whether through changes to planning, building standards, incentives or other measures—will be important in helping to meet the 80 per cent emissions reduction target that will be set by the proposed Scottish climate change bill.

We are already making progress. For example, we have tripled the support for community and microgeneration, bringing the funding to £13.5 million for this year and the next two years. Since its launch in 1999, we have invested more than £4 million in our interest-free, revolving loan fund to enable small and medium-sized enterprises to invest in energy efficiency technologies. Half of that investment has been made since the change of Government. On 4 June, we launched the energy saving Scotland one-stop-shop advice network, which is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by the Energy Saving Trust.

On future legislation, we have consulted on proposals to grant permitted development rights to microgeneration equipment on domestic buildings, and we intend to produce an amendment to the general permitted development order after the summer recess. We also intend to consult publicly, in the coming months, on energy efficiency measures in housing and non-domestic buildings. Should measures come forward that require primary legislation, the proposed climate change bill may provide a suitable vehicle.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I call Alex Johnstone.

Alex Johnstone (North East Scotland) (Con) rose—

The Deputy Presiding Officer: My apologies, Mr Johnstone. The minister’s answer was so long that I forgot that there was still a supplementary question to come.

Cathy Peattie: Thank you, Presiding Officer.

Does the minister agree that the first steps in dealing with climate change involve convincing local people of the need to do so? Will he consider how the proposed climate change bill can address that? Furthermore, would not improvement grants be a good start in demonstrating the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling the issues around climate change?

Stewart Stevenson: I will make this answer brief. Local people and individuals in general are key to moving the agenda forward. I hope that we will be able to persuade as many of them as possible to respond to the needs of climate change.

Alex Johnstone: What scope is there likely to be in the climate change bill, through emissions trading or other mechanisms, to generate resource to underpin the Government’s objectives?

Stewart Stevenson: Emissions trading operates at the margins, essentially. It enables us to smooth bumps and dips as we move forward to achieve our climate change objectives. We are working with the United Kingdom Government and the European Union to ensure that we have appropriate trading regimes in place.


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