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

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.

Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

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