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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.


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