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30 April 2009

S3M-4006 Economy [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 30 April 2009

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Economy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-4006, in the name of Liam McArthur, on the economy.

10:30
... ... ...
11:28

Stewart Stevenson:





It has been an interesting debate, although the final remarks from the Labour benches have created a shared sense of mystification among the other political parties because, suddenly, we seem to be hearing the Labour Party arguing for a derogation scheme. There is more joy in a sinner who repenteth, and so on—if repentance is what we heard. We will perhaps have to examine the Official Report very carefully indeed.

I will try to deal with a number of the points that members have made in the debate. Fuel duty derogation is a matter that engages the European Union, and is therefore is a matter on which the UK Government needs to represent Scotland's interests. However, it would also be representing the interests of rural areas throughout the UK—we would be equally pleased if other places were also to receive that benefit.

Elaine Murray said that the tax on fuel is income generating. Indeed it is. It is probably one of the things that are keeping the fragile UK economy afloat. With fuel duty currently at 54.19p a litre, we can see the scale of the revenue. Of course, there is VAT on top of that. That raises an interesting little question. If the prices are higher, the VAT take is higher. I have done a back-of-an-envelope sum. I am happy to have someone tell me that my sums are wrong, but if there is a 20p difference in price, the increase in VAT take, curiously enough, is almost exactly the 2.4p that we require to put into the system under the derogation that the Liberals talk about in the motion.

Therefore, the people who are collecting the extra tax on rural communities through the existence of a higher price are precisely the people who have that extra money to feed back and reduce the prices. That is precisely why we cannot allow Westminster off the hook. Westminster is getting the financial and fiscal benefit of higher prices through the tax system. I would be happy if Westminster were to remit that extra money to the Scottish Parliament, for us to deal with. That might be a proposal—we will see in due course.

Lewis Macdonald: Does the minister accept that the higher tax on petrol and diesel in island communities is a result of the higher price and not the other way around?

Stewart Stevenson: That is self-evident. However, the point remains that if there is a higher tax, there is a higher tax take for the Westminster Government. It has the money that could fund derogation.

Of course, that is not the only thing that Lewis Macdonald and other Labour members said. In a rather incoherent contribution on fuel prices, Lewis Macdonald said that because fuel prices in Kirkwall today are lower than they were at their peak in Aberdeen, everything is okay. I do not see many nodding heads round the chamber, but that is what he actually said.

Lewis Macdonald: I hope that the minister will check the Official Report very carefully, because he will find that that is far from what I said. I pointed out to him that the critical issue on fuel prices was, first, the price of crude oil, and, secondly, how that price was passed on to consumers. The price for consumers throughout Scotland is a good deal less now than it was a year ago. Surely that is the critical point, and therefore the issue of differential price is one that the minister and his devolved Government ought now to address.

Stewart Stevenson: The differential price is the issue that we are debating. However, I am absolutely clear that Lewis Macdonald made that comparison. It is a comparison for which he will have to account to others.

Lewis Macdonald encouraged us to follow the good example of the Prime Minister and the chancellor—two individuals who have led the United Kingdom into a position of debt greater than at any time in a generation, and greater as a proportion of gross domestic product than anywhere in Europe. If we look for examples of how to conduct ourselves in public finances, I suspect that few would wish to follow the example of the chancellor and the Prime Minister, and that many would wish to look elsewhere.

Lewis Macdonald said that reducing prices runs counter to climate change reduction. Of course, what he is actually saying is that those who have the highest prices should pay the biggest price for climate change, yet they are the very people who have the fewest alternative transport options. I do not think that that commends his argument to members.

I very much support the motion.

11:34

S3M-4006 Economy [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 30 April 2009

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Economy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-4006, in the name of Liam McArthur, on the economy.

10:30
... ... ...
10:44

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





I congratulate the Liberals for lodging the motion and giving us the opportunity to debate an important subject. The Scottish Government is concerned about increases in fuel duty, which affect our rural communities and businesses throughout Scotland. That is why our parliamentarians at Westminster voted against rises on Tuesday night. I congratulate Mr Rumbles's colleague Robert Smith for voting against the fuel duty rise, and I hope that the debate will provide the Liberals, who voted every which way on Tuesday night, with an opportunity to clarify their overall position.

Liam McArthur: I am interested in the minister's point about voting patterns, as the SNP MPs did not vote against the September rise. The fuel duty regulator would have done nothing to the premium that is paid for petrol in the Highlands and Islands. The fuel duty rise was also irrelevant to it.

Stewart Stevenson: I make it clear that we will support the motion in Liam McArthur's name. We are open to any effective way of addressing the problem.

There is a substantial volume of letters flowing between us and other parties on the subject. My colleague, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 14 November highlighting what had been done in France using derogation, and commented that

"By applying for this derogation the UK Government could reduce the tax on fuel borne by consumers in rural Scotland, including the islands."

However, the chancellor seems to think that administrative barriers would get in the way. He said in his reply of 27 November that

"The process of drawing the boundaries of any fuel duty rebate area would be extremely complicated."

It is quite simple. We have already done it. There are 149 filling stations in Scotland that we suggest should be considered for such a derogation. They are defined as being very remote, which means that they are at least 60 minutes' travel away from a community of 10,000 or more. That is 45 per cent of our filling stations. They are all low-turnover rural stations that are vital to the communities in which they operate.

Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry—I do not have time, in my short speech.

The bottom line is that there are aspects on which we have broad sympathy with the motion, which gives us the option to consider a range of ways forward. We should be sensible and pragmatic and exclude nothing. I hope that the debate will draw together across the Parliament consensus that there is, although there is a range of options available, the necessity for action. If derogations can be applied elsewhere, it should be possible to do so in the UK. By the way, a proper scheme would also benefit filling stations in other parts of the United Kingdom, such as Cumbria, the south-west of England and Wales.

We provide various supports to transport for our remote and rural communities, particularly ferry services. We are bearing the fuel price risk for many ferry services, which at least insulates communities from that risk. We are also conducting a substantial trial on the road equivalent tariff. We have seen some local reports, which I have not yet personally verified, that the fuel price difference between the Isle of Harris and the mainland has shrunk substantially mainly because the RET means that new tankers are carrying fuel to Harris in competition with some of the incumbents.

There are things happening and we are doing things. We have carried out initial work on how a derogation might apply in Scotland and we continue to explore options for going some way towards offsetting the current differentials. However, I am afraid that the UK Government is remarkably intransigent and inflexible in respect of considering options. Therefore, I hope that that the Parliament will unite—and that the Labour Party will join the other parties which are, so far, indicating a broad consensus on the subject—to find a way forward that will benefit rural dwellers throughout the UK and—fundamentally—those whom we represent in Scotland.

10:49

23 April 2009

S3M-3938 Transport Infrastructure (West of Scotland) (Closing Speech)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 23 April 2009

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

Transport Infrastructure
(West of Scotland)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-3938, in the name of Des McNulty, on west of Scotland transport infrastructure. ... ... ...

10:03
... ... ...
11:23

Stewart Stevenson:





It has been a pretty good debate. A great deal of ground has been covered one way or another, and it is clear that, in my remarks, I will not be able to address every detail that members have raised today. However, members should be assured that we will examine the Official Report afterwards and, if it is appropriate, write to them on matters that I do not manage to cover in my eight or so minutes.

Des McNulty said that the improvements to the Baillieston to Newhouse stretch of the A8 should be in the NPF. That, of course, would delay that project. We want to deal with the planning issues that are associated with it in a shorter timescale than the NPF would allow but, ultimately, communities that have issues with transport interventions of whatever nature have an absolute right under the planning system to make their views known and ensure that their issues are dealt with.

I warmly welcome Des McNulty's acceptance that the minister does not have the money to do everything—ministers of whatever political complexion will always find themselves in that position. That is a genuine issue with which ministers must always engage when deciding spending priorities, and the STPR is primarily about identifying key priorities.

Let me turn to the west of Scotland strategic rail enhancements. A number of people, including Sandra White, referred to the work that is going on between the Scottish Government and SPT, which I think is going well. We are looking to have a delivery plan for project 24 in the STPR by the summer. It is genuinely important that we understand the long-term implications because they involve not just the stations but the network capacity, particularly to the south of Glasgow Central. A range of projects, some initiated by us and others by previous Administrations, will load into the network capacity and reduce the number of paths that are available for further update. We could choose to have a short-term fix, but that would create long-term problems. It is important that the constructive dialogue continues.

Des McNulty: Does the minister accept that, while station improvements, the fast-link scheme and some parts of the crossrail scheme could be achieved in advance of the Commonwealth games, crossrail as a full scheme is unlikely to be in place before the games come to Glasgow?

Stewart Stevenson: The interventions that we are considering will happen over a long rather than a short time. As I said in my opening remarks, they will have to take account of high-speed rail as well, because we need somewhere effective for that to land when it arrives in the west of Scotland.

I think that Mr McNulty made the point that car use in the west of Scotland must not rise because it is a climate change issue. Glasgow has one of the lowest figures for the number of cars per households—I am prepared to be corrected, but my recollection is that the figure is 47 per 100. Of course, in many socially deprived areas, one of the first aspirational things that people wish to do if their circumstances improve is acquire a car. I acknowledge that we must capture those people for public transport rather than have a rise in car ownership, but we should not underestimate the nature of that challenge. The different tiers—local authorities and central Government—must work together on it.

Gavin Brown and others highlighted the A82 as a key part of the west of Scotland's transport infrastructure and, indeed, of that of the north of Scotland. Of our major roads in Scotland, it has the highest rate of people who are killed and seriously injured. It comes in at number 1 in the top 20, as would be shown by a reworking of the numbers that I gave in an answer to John Scott some months ago. We are very much focused on that issue, although road engineering is only one way in which to reduce deaths on our roads, because about two thirds of deaths are down to drivers and one third could be attributable to the roads.

Gavin Brown referred to there being plans for six trains an hour between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but that is only for the route through Falkirk High station. When we take all the different routes into account, there will be 13 trains an hour between Edinburgh and Glasgow. I am not sure that prioritisation has anything to do with whether projects come in on time and on budget; I think that that is a different discipline, but we will look at it.

Robert Brown's speech focused on Dalmarnock station, and in his intervention later in the debate he asked us to look at financing its development. His amendment to the motion is a bit more prescriptive, so I say to him that, because we are still discussing the issue, we will abstain on his amendment but vote for the motion, whether amended or not, thus reflecting the fact that we are not yet in a position to commit but have sympathy with the point being made.

Longer trains were talked about in the context of a variety of options—I think that Jackie Baillie made that point. We are looking at having 23m coaches, which have greater capacity, and trains with up to eight coaches, so we are making the changes that will increase capacity. Incidentally, there is already a train between Helensburgh and Edinburgh, but it leaves Edinburgh at 4.45 in the morning and involves a seat on the sleeper. The Airdrie to Bathgate line will perhaps benefit those commuters who wish to travel during more normal hours.

Christina McKelvie: Will the minister take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry, but I do not have time.

Incidentally, it is not quite four decades since men landed on the moon; that will not be the case until July 2009. I am a geek, Presiding Officer, and I just cannot help it.

Ross Finnie: Hear, hear!

Stewart Stevenson: The figure of 3 per cent growth in the rail network grossly understates the growth that we have seen in recent years, so we must be conscious of that.

On water taxis in the Clyde, we need to get the balance right because the CO2 cost per passenger mile on water is the highest for all transport modes. In order to balance that higher CO2 cost, we must ensure that putting people on the water reduces the overall length of the journey. Nonetheless, the principle of water taxis is sound.

I congratulate Stuart McMillan on his active engagement with local interests on the issue of the A78. Patrick Harvie made various points about transport. I hope that one thing that the RTPs will do over the next while is work hard to ensure that bus lanes are better enforced because that would deliver terrific benefits at relatively low cost.

On Bill Aitken's reference to regulation, we should use the options available in the powers for statutory bus partnerships. I say to Jackson Carlaw that we are looking at hard-shoulder running. There are significant safety problems—

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I am afraid that the minister's time is up.

Stewart Stevenson: Thank you, Presiding Officer.

11:31

S3M-3938 Transport Infrastructure (West of Scotland) (Opening Speech)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 23 April 2009

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

... ... ...

Transport Infrastructure
(West of Scotland)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-3938, in the name of Des McNulty, on west of Scotland transport infrastructure. I call Des McNulty to speak to and move the motion. He has 11 minutes—less the time he took to walk across in front of me.

10:03
... ... ...
10:29

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





I welcome the opportunity that the debate presents to highlight the importance that we in Government place on the promotion of sustainable economic growth in these difficult times. I welcome Des McNulty's broadly constructive speech, which made a fine opening to the debate. We will see where it takes us.

We have made it clear that an efficient transport system is essential for enhancing productivity and delivering faster and more sustainable economic growth across Scotland, in the west of Scotland and particularly in Glasgow. Against the backdrop of a global economic slow-down, the Government—through Transport Scotland—is driving forward the largest transport investment programme that Scotland has ever seen, with a number of vital projects.

The programme will support tens of thousands of jobs, almost all of which will be in the private sector. Our continuing investment is helping the hard-pressed construction sector now and is creating hundreds of construction jobs. Last year, Transport Scotland projects represented approximately 25 per cent of the construction market in Scotland. About 95 per cent of Transport Scotland's budget goes to the private sector.

We will continue our focus on providing sustainable, integrated and cost-effective public transport alternatives to the car. Recent short-term and long-term investment in road and rail has supported nearly 13,000 jobs.

We will invest £2.5 billion in our strategic transport networks over the next three years, which will support the economy. The programme includes a new railway between Airdrie and Bathgate that links Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Borders railway, and reluctant but now entirely committed support for the Edinburgh tram project. We have also progressed—at last—the M74 project. People can plan for as long as they like, but what matters is making projects happen. The Glasgow airport rail link, the M8 between Newhouse and Baillieston, and the upgrading of the A80 to a motorway between Stepps and Haggs will all be completed in time for 2014.

Ross Finnie: I note that the minister continues to repeat that nothing happened with the M74 under the previous Administration. Will he clarify for the Parliament's benefit whether the M74 route that has only just begun to be built is being constructed on top of the many factories that were in its road? If not, were those factories relocated by accident or were they successfully relocated by the previous Executive?

Stewart Stevenson: The one thing that I did not say was that nothing had been done. It is clear that transport projects are long term and that they cross boundaries between Administrations. I acknowledge what was done. However, there had been no engagement to deliver the project, which is now happening.

Through Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government supports Network Rail's Scottish operations and ScotRail's passenger services, which involve about 7,000 jobs. Work on the new Clackmannanshire bridge—which was started under the previous Administration and delivered under the current Administration—and on the M74 involves 2,000 construction jobs. The M74 project will employ 900 people and the Stepps to Haggs project will employ 500 people. Lots of jobs are involved, such as the 3,000 that relate to the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link and the Edinburgh trams.

Cathie Craigie (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth) (Lab): Like the minister and other members, I welcome the start on the A80 from Stepps to Haggs. A transport model considered the long-term plan of having a station at Abronhill in Cumbernauld, which would greatly assist commuters between Cumbernauld and Glasgow. Will the minister comment on the feasibility of that proposal?

Stewart Stevenson: Not at this stage.

Through a major infrastructure programme, we are delivering significant benefits to businesses throughout Scotland.

The strategic transport projects review, which has been mentioned, is a 20-year programme. The motion requires us to consider prioritisation. We have, of course, prioritised the projects in the review over the nearly 900 other projects that are outside it. As we go through comprehensive spending reviews, we will continue that prioritisation process.

Cross-city travel in Glasgow is important, which is why we are talking to SPT about a range of improvements. We are ensuring not only that we support short-term needs but that we consider the need for termini for high-speed rail and that we do not overload other parts of the network. Much is going on.

Labour's motion presents an opportunity for a subject debate and is therefore welcome. However, I will make a point that Labour politicians in Wales and England seem to have understood but which Iain Gray's team might not have. Rhodri Morgan, the Labour First Minister for Wales, said:

"The Archangel Gabriel could not find such proposed cuts in budgets without damaging public services",

and Harriet Harman told the Scottish Trades Union Congress that

"you cannot cut your way out of recession".

The efficiency savings that are being talked about for Scotland are, in effect, cuts. Removing resource only makes our job more difficult. I hope that we will have some unanimity in the campaign to ensure that we have the tools. Only then can we here do the job.

... ... ...

10:35

22 April 2009

S3M-3883 High-speed Rail Services [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 22 April 2009

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]
... ... ...

High-speed Rail Services


Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-3883, in the name of Patrick Harvie, on behalf of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, on its inquiry into the potential benefits of high-speed rail services.

... ... ...


16:46

Stewart Stevenson:





I thank members throughout the Parliament for a pretty clear affirmation that, despite some disagreements on details, we want high-speed rail to be taken forward. The project can be of fundamental benefit to Scotland and, as Alex Johnstone said, deliver key environmental benefits in the south-east of the UK. I am glad that Lord Adonis is an enthusiast for rail generally and is now in charge. Charlie Gordon is an old railwayman, but his thinking is nonetheless still fully engaged.

I invite members to consider the thread that has run through the debate: that travel by air is significantly faster than travel by rail. Actually, city centre to city centre, the difference is arguably only about one hour. The times are much closer than we imagine. I do not say that to dispute the three-hour tipping point, which is absolutely right. I once had occasion to leave a committee meeting in the Parliament at 12:10 for a 15:30 meeting in London. Heroic efforts got me door to door in two hours 45 minutes, but it included using a motorcycle between Heathrow and Whitehall, which took 32 minutes. I commend that for its excitement if not for its environmental friendliness. The point is that the times are closer than we sometimes think.

Equally, we do not want to talk down rail in relation to fares. It was disappointing to hear today about rail fares between Edinburgh and London going up by 11 per cent, although I understand that National Express fares in Scotland are not affected, which is relatively good news. If people are prepared to book as far in advance on the railway as they are generally prepared to do to get a good fare on the airlines, the difference in fare is not all that substantial. Rob Gibson's plea for simplification of the fare structure was a well-made point. Steps have been taken at UK level, but more can be done.

Alison McInnes said that parallel lines do not meet. I am sorry but, as a mathematician, I suggest that the member put her parallel lines on opposite sides of a Möbius strip and she will find that they actually do. That is one of those mathematical tricks that is always interesting to debate. Rob Gibson made a point about Sunday service breaks. I am slightly surprised that other members did not make that point, because one of the key challenges for Network Rail is to deliver a true seven-day service throughout Great Britain. I know that, north and south, the neighbouring Administrations are engaged fully with Network Rail on that.

I will compare and contrast the roles of the STPR and the NPF. The NPF is about planning, so it is appropriate to consider incorporating high-speed rail into it, to facilitate and ease the way for planning. The STPR is about the Scottish Government's spending plans, but high-speed rail is, in financial terms, the responsibility of the UK Government—I wish it were otherwise, but that is how it is.

It is interesting that British Waterways is a cross-border authority, which means that two ministers, north and south of the border, share responsibility for canals. It might be interesting in future to explore whether that would be a good model for railways. Adjacent Administrations can work well together. Dublin and Belfast—a sovereign Administration and a devolved Administration—have worked tremendously well to improve the railway connection between the two cities. There are good models for us to consider. We need to ensure that as development spreads out from London, as it is likely to do, there are benefits for Scotland. That is important, and we will push for them.

I wish that I had the flexibility that Jane Davidson, the Labour member of the Welsh Assembly Government who has responsibility for the environment, enjoys. She can go everywhere by rail because she does not always have to be back in the Assembly for votes. She even managed to go by rail from Cardiff to Poznań last year. The round trip took her four days. In parts of Europe the challenge remains substantial.

We hope to work on the Scottish aspects of HS2 at the turn of the year. We will work enthusiastically with colleagues in the south. I welcome the debate as a useful contribution, which will inform everyone who has a role to play in the matter.

16:51

S3M-3883 High-speed Rail Services [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 22 April 2009

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]
... ... ...

High-speed Rail Services


Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-3883, in the name of Patrick Harvie, on behalf of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, on its inquiry into the potential benefits of high-speed rail services.

... ... ...

15:38

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





I thank Patrick Harvie for securing the debate. I am grateful for the opportunity to present my thoughts on the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee's report on the potential benefits of high-speed rail services.

The committee is to be congratulated on the quality and depth of its report, which is comprehensive and far reaching, and presents a number of challenging recommendations and actions for Government and others. I very much welcome the committee's findings.

The report sets out clearly the environmental benefits to be realised from the development of a high-speed rail service between Scotland and London—and onward to Europe. It presents compelling evidence not only that high-speed rail services offer lower per-passenger carbon emissions than does aviation, but that their shorter journey times can create a shift from air to rail travel. There is no question but that the air route from central Scotland to south-east England is one of the most densely operated anywhere in Europe, and that much of the traffic on that route is a prime candidate for conversion to high-speed rail. I also note the committee's conclusion that it has

"no doubt that high-speed rail would bring significant economic benefits to Scotland."

When I gave evidence to the committee on 16 December 2008, I stated my agreement with those points. I fully believe that high-speed rail will deliver substantial economic benefits and key climate change advantages.

In that evidence session, committee members were keen to discuss the role of the Scottish and UK Governments in supporting the development of high-speed rail. It is right that Patrick Harvie focused in his speech on the need for neighbouring Administrations to work closely together. I agree with the committee's recommendations that the Scottish Government should articulate clearly a long-term vision for the planning, funding and construction of a high-speed rail network and that we should take a strong role in promoting high-speed rail and supporting any project through to completion. They hit exactly the right policy buttons.

The committee recommends that it is essential that the Scottish Government makes further progress in articulating a detailed policy vision for a high-speed rail scheme. We agree that having a policy vision is absolutely key to developing the case for high-speed rail. Of course, in working towards that vision, it will be necessary to consider many of the issues that are raised in the committee's report in closer detail and with the involvement of the many stakeholders who gave evidence to the committee.

Patrick Harvie spoke of the need for political consensus, and I am pleased—as I am sure others are—by the broad support for high-speed rail in the submissions to the committee from people outside politics who engage in the life of wider Scotland. I acknowledge the report's comment that, at this early stage, consensus might not exist on the proposed route or any potential development options, but a shared agenda seems to be emerging. Many stakeholders recognise the benefits that are associated with high-speed rail and support its development. If we have principled agreement, we have the environment in which to develop the detailed responses to the requirements.

In developing a clear policy position, the Scottish Government will, of course, reflect the committee's position that we need to consider the most suitable routes for high-speed lines and how they could serve both Edinburgh and Glasgow city centres. We must ensure that any high-speed rail network connects effectively with the existing rail network to allow the whole of Scotland to benefit from any new high-speed link and we must be ambitious for it to reach every corner of Scotland eventually—perhaps Kyle of Lochalsh will be a little while away. At the same time, we must ensure that the development of a high-speed line does not divert resources and attention from investment in improvements to the current rail network.

Having considered the proposed second national planning framework, the Parliament recommended to the Government that a high-speed rail link between Scotland and London should be designated as a national development. Current and continuing investment in the rail network can help to pave the way for high-speed rail, so I note the committee's recommendation that the west of Scotland rail enhancements that are proposed as a national development in NPF 2 should take account of the potential for future integration with a high-speed rail network. We are considering carefully all those issues in relation to NPF 2 and our findings will be published later this spring. We will set out in a statement the changes that are to be made to NPF 2 in response to Parliament's recommendations, and it will be laid before Parliament when we publish the final NPF 2. Policy will also be informed by continuing studies, particularly Greengauge 21's high-speed rail development programme and High Speed Two's first report, which is due later this year.

Of course, we are working very closely with High Speed Two at official level to ensure that Scotland's voice is heard, including in the decisions that have to be made on line upgrading, totally new routes and how to connect both of Scotland's significant central belt cities to the network. A range of options are involved. We need serious and informed debate on the subject.

We will influence policies beyond our borders. Indeed, there is an open door in that regard. I note that the committee will meet Sir David Rowlands of High Speed Two in the near future and Lord Adonis, whom I will meet tomorrow. Those are important connections for us to make. In Lord Adonis, we have an enthusiast for the railway network. I, too, am an enthusiast. I will follow with interest members' speeches today.

15:46

Stewart Stevenson
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