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.

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