10 December 2009

(S3O-8775) Bus Services

10. Patricia Ferguson (Glasgow Maryhill) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what action it plans in order to safeguard bus services across Scotland. (S3O-8775)

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

We are taking forward a number of initiatives with local government partners and bus operators to maintain and improve bus services, including quality partnerships, punctuality improvement partnerships and the appointment of a senior bus development adviser.

Patricia Ferguson: Does the minister agree that it is unacceptable that bus routes that provide many communities with their only convenient access to local services such as hospitals are being withdrawn? If he does agree with me, what specific action will his Government take to ensure that that practice does not continue?

Stewart Stevenson: I agree that we have an issue with a number of bus routes, which is one of the reasons why we have appointed the senior bus development adviser to help local councils to discharge their responsibilities in that regard. We are also promoting statutory bus partnerships; I welcome Glasgow City Council's progress on that. We will work with councils across Scotland to ensure that we have the best possible bus services everywhere.

(S3O-8779) M8 (Traffic Volume)

8. Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive, further to the answer to question S3O-8422 by Stewart Stevenson on 12 November 2009, whether it will provide full details of all available traffic volume projections for the M8 motorway between the south side of the Kingston bridge and Glasgow airport, expressed in proportion to design capacity. (S3O-8779)

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

We do not hold the information requested as traffic forecasts are calculated on a specific project-by-project basis.

Charlie Gordon: I thank the minister for his answer, although I have to say that I am very disappointed by it. All roads authorities should be monitoring traffic volumes against design capacity now and in future.

Given that the stretch of road in question has the highest proportion of vehicles carrying manufactured goods for export of any stretch of road in Scotland, will he consider monitoring capacity issues on it—and, indeed, on all Scotland's trunk roads and motorways—and reporting the outcomes to Parliament?

Stewart Stevenson: We carry out very substantial monitoring of the road network. For example, I can tell the chamber that between junctions 23 and 24 on the M8, the afternoon westbound peak is 4,000 vehicles and the eastbound peak is 3,300. As I say, we certainly measure what goes on on our road network, but capacity is a different matter. As engineering knowledge develops, capacity changes. Instead of being able to supply instantaneously an answer for each part of our road network, we tend to consider such matters when we are required to do so.

(S3O-8843) Sustainable Development Commission Annual Review (Transport)

7. Alasdair Morgan (South of Scotland) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Government what conclusions it has drawn from the annual review of the Sustainable Development Commission Scotland as it relates to transport. (S3O-8843)

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

Sustainable development is at the heart of our commitment to sustainable economic growth. We welcome the Sustainable Development Commission's report and its positive assessment of much of the work that we are doing. We will consider carefully all its specific recommendations, including those on transport policy.

Alasdair Morgan: The commission refers to strategies to discourage driving, such as pricing and fuel taxes. Does the minister agree that in rural areas there will always be a greater proportion of unavoidable vehicle journeys? Is he therefore committed to ensuring that the measures that are adopted to discourage driving in urban areas do not adversely affect rural areas?

Stewart Stevenson: Yes. Much of Scotland is clearly rural in character; indeed, as the area that I represent is in the mainland council area with the highest proportion of people living in a rural setting, I certainly understand the member's point. We also understand the tension between trying to reduce the number of very short journeys that are undertaken in urban settings and appreciating the social and economic necessity of journeys that are undertaken in rural areas.

3 December 2009

(S3O-8706) Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route

6. Lewis Macdonald (Aberdeen Central) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what annual provision will be required to meet the costs of the Aberdeen western peripheral route over the next 30 years, if it is procured under the non-profit-distributing model. (S3O-8706)

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

Subject to confirmation of the final layout of the road following a decision on the public local inquiry process, we will review the cost estimate and establish estimated annual payments to be made over a fixed period, which is yet to be decided.

Lewis Macdonald: I am sure that the minister will recognise that, if the project is delivered even at the figures that were estimated some years ago, the annual payments to be made, perhaps over a 30-year period, will be in the region of £16 million to £21 million.

Does the minister recall John Swinney's address to the David Hume Institute in April this year? In that speech, Mr Swinney criticised previous Administrations for making

"vast 30-year financial commitments of growing scale and growing impact in the full knowledge that the growth years of public spending were coming to an end."

Does the minister recall that Mr Swinney described that type of 30-year payment scheme as

"the summit of financial irresponsibility"?

That contrasts with the recent statements from Transport Scotland and the minister's and Mr Swinney's colleague Brian Adam in relation to the procurement of the Aberdeen western peripheral route over a 30-year period.

Does the minister, in the light of his plans for the AWPR, support the view of Mr Swinney or of Mr Adam? Does he have any evidence of private sector partners that are willing to provide the money up front to make the non-profit-distributing model work?

Stewart Stevenson: The NPD model and the plan for it to be used in the AWPR are not new: they were published in our infrastructure investment plan in 2008. When I answered Nicol Stephen's written question S3W-24477 on 10 June, I confirmed that there had been no change on that. The NPD model is entirely different from the private finance initiative model in that it caps the commitments that we have to make. We will, of course, consider exactly how we take the project forward, but there is considerable investor interest in the progression of NPD projects by the Government.

(S3O-8673) Carbon Emissions

5. Mike Pringle (Edinburgh South) (LD): To ask the Scottish Executive whether it plans to sign up to the 10:10 campaign pledge to reduce its carbon emissions by 10 per cent in 2010. (S3O-8673)

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

Although we have not specifically signed up to the 10:10 campaign, we have firm plans in hand to go well beyond that short-term goal in tackling the emissions that are associated with our operations.

The Scottish Government already has in place a commitment, which has been agreed with the Carbon Trust, to reduce by at least 20 per cent by 2014 the carbon emissions that arise from the way in which we operate our 18 largest buildings, and to adopt even more sustainable travel practices. Delivery against that target is underpinned by a series of specific, planned projects. We are in the process of agreeing with the Carbon Trust an extension of that commitment to a further 64 buildings, and we are undertaking a review of the Scottish Government's travel plan.

Mike Pringle: I thank the minister for his answer, but I am slightly concerned. As he may be aware, Labour MPs recently voted down an Opposition day motion, tabled by the Liberal Democrats, that called on the Westminster Government to sign up to the 10:10 campaign. The motion was supported by all the Scottish National Party MPs. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 has been hailed as world beating. Why is the Scottish Government not prepared to lead the way again in reducing its own carbon footprint by signing up to the 10:10 campaign? Is it just another case of the SNP saying one thing in Opposition at Westminster but doing another thing in Government in Scotland?

Stewart Stevenson: It would be helpful if the member had listened to my original answer, in which I delineated a number of the significant changes that we are making. Indeed, I am being decanted out of my office in Victoria Quay so that changes that are part of that programme can be made—we are seeking through the upgrade of lighting in that building alone to deliver a 33 per cent reduction in emissions. A review of the Scottish Government's travel plan will inject fresh impetus in our targets and reduce our emissions from business travel.

We are doing a great deal to live up to the commitments that we all made when we passed the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009—on this subject, we are ahead of the game.

Stewart Stevenson
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