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10 December 2009

S3M-5379 Climate Change [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 10 December 2009

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

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-5379, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on climate change. I point out to members that time is not on our side, so they should stick to their time limits.

14:56
... ... ...
16:49

Stewart Stevenson:

I begin by welcoming Cathy Peattie to her new portfolio and thanking her for the considered and interesting contribution that she made in her first speech on the subject. I extend my thanks to colleagues around the building for working with me to enable me to lodge a motion that reflects shared aspirations and belief. That was a good start.

As many have said, climate change is the biggest environmental threat that we face, and 2009 is crucial. We might not have only two weeks to save the world but, as Alison McInnes said, we have two weeks to start to change the world. We have had a mature and useful debate on an enormously complex issue that has generated a lot of good comment. We have disagreed on the detail—that is to be expected—but we are united in common purpose. That is a good foundation on which to build as we go to Copenhagen, not just to talk to people but also to listen to people, because we do not and could not have a monopoly on all the answers.

We laid the groundwork with our world-leading Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, and we now have to press ahead with the practical solutions. We have an excellent story to tell about the greening of our energy supply. We launched our 10 energy pledges, and we are comfortably on track to meet our targets to meet 31 per cent of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2011 and 50 per cent by 2020. We are pursuing international partnerships for the Scottish European Green Energy Centre and the saltire prize, which is the largest Government innovation prize in history. We are making Scotland a centre for the key technology of carbon capture and storage, and we have been consulting on energy efficiency and low-carbon vehicles. Mention has been made of the climate challenge fund, under which a panel of people outside Government has ensured that 198 communities have benefited from awards to date.

The purpose of today's debate is to restate for the Copenhagen audience the all-party consensus on the need for strong action. I very much look forward to welcoming Patrick Harvie, Rob Gibson and Cathy Peattie to Copenhagen. I believe that they will be able to come to the reception that we are hosting on Monday evening. I certainly hope to see them there to meet many other people from other countries.

I cannot agree with everything that Patrick Harvie said in his contribution. It is not entirely inappropriate that the nickname for the US dollar is the greenback. We have to help the United States to understand how to live up to that appellation. Turning our back entirely on the free market is unlikely to leave us with the economic resources that will be necessary to deal with climate change. Patrick Harvie said that ever-increasing mobility must stop—I paraphrase his comment—but in the case that we have wholly greened our transport we can of course take a different way forward. Until we have done that, however, moderation has to be our watchword. We are, of course, counting the cost of infrastructure developments, even now.

Patrick Harvie: I welcome the minister's comments on my contribution on mobility, but I note that he has still said nothing on my question on aviation, which I have put to him twice and to the First Minister once. Does the Scottish Government accept the recommendation by the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee on restrictions on aviation growth?

Stewart Stevenson: Aviation represents 4 per cent of our emissions and the figure for the United Kingdom is 6 per cent or so. We strongly support, in particular, the provision of alternative travel arrangements for people through high-speed rail. There is a degree of unanimity about that, even if there are some different views on the detail. Andrew Adonis's support for that way forward at Westminster is a welcome breath of fresh air.

I want to respond to a number of Sarah Boyack's comments. I agree that having Kevin Rudd and Barack Obama in place is probably helpful internationally as they represent two key nations that have to look at the issue differently from the way in which it has been considered in the past.

Copenhagen cannot simply address the needs and aspirations of the developed world but must find ways of supporting countries that are less able to do that for themselves. It has to ensure that we support their needs in a whole variety of ways.

Our procurement process, which I think Sarah Boyack referred to, increasingly provides access for small companies across Scotland and therefore economic opportunities in our communities. The sustainable travel budget has risen over the period of our Administration. Bus and train budgets are enormous and, of course, the council tax provisions that we put into the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill place a duty on councils. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is working hard on that, and Alex Johnstone made reference to the measure in his speech. The centre right is probably in a minority in the chamber, but it has a legitimate voice and contribution to make. I welcome Alex Johnstone to the debate. He can join our team any time.

The conference of the parties in Copenhagen will talk about targets but must, of course, also talk of delivery. Alison McInnes made that key point. There is also the need to raise public awareness. Until I came into office, I confess that my engagement on the issue was pretty modest. It was a serious wake-up call. I am awake; we must now waken the whole of Scotland.

Rob Gibson talked about the Salter ducks and highlighted the potential for tidal and wave energy in Scotland. Pauline McNeill said that she would have liked to have seen me in Glasgow on Saturday. I am afraid that Lachlan Murdoch McIntosh—my best man—and his wife Jan Reekie were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary in a village hall in Crail that day. I simply had to be there. I believe that the champagne was from sustainable sources; members do not need to worry about that.

Pauline McNeill mentioned New Dehli. Following my visit to the city in the now-rather-distant past, I am glad to hear that things are getting better and that the three-wheeled tuk-tuks are now more environmentally friendly. I share her aspiration on high-speed rail.

Bill Wilson and other members spoke about Scotland being on the UK delegation. We have a good relationship with UK ministers. I have been to the past two environment council meetings as part of the UK delegation. The Bella Center in Copenhagen, where the COP15 meeting is taking place, is extremely crowded and so we will be ensconced round the corner in a very comfortable place, from where we can speak to people from across the world

In speaking about flooding episodes, Nanette Milne highlighted an important and fundamental issue. Non-scientists do find it difficult to deal with the scientific debates on the issue, but it is not beyond any of us to understand the very real world impacts that we have seen in Cumbria and the north-east of Scotland. We can understand the issues.

I recently met Yvo de Boer, who is leading the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He is interested in what we are doing, as others around the world are. A senior official will be on the United Kingdom delegation and, if the bullying that he inflicts on me from time to time is anything to go by, I am sure that Scotland's voice will be heard by Ed Miliband. The BBC survey is hugely encouraging; it shows that two thirds of Scotland's people not only understand the issue but are up for it. As a result of our participation in Copenhagen, we will, of course share, copy and change.

In her references to India, Pauline McNeill talked of standing at the gates of the Taj Mahal, which reminded me of one of the most inspiring set of words from Shah Jahan—words that are appropriate in this context. In commissioning the design of the Taj Mahal, he had these words inscribed on the side of the building:

"Happy are those who dream dreams and are prepared to pay the price to make them come true".

We have a shared dream of a world that is unaffected by the problems of climate change. We share the responsibility to deliver to our successors a world that is better than the one that we inherited. Let us join together on that ambitious mission.

17:00

S3M-5379 Climate Change [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 10 December 2009

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

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-5379, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on climate change. I point out to members that time is not on our side, so they should stick to their time limits.

14:56

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

This year is a landmark year for climate change. The 15th conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—COP15—is meeting in Copenhagen as we speak. As the Danish convener of the summit said in her opening statement,

"This is the time to deliver. This is the place to commit."

In Scotland, of course, we have already made commitments and begun the task of delivery. We know that we have a moral duty to act, because climate change will affect the poor, the vulnerable and developing countries first and worst. We were strongly reminded of that last month, when the Scottish Government, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers Scotland and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency hosted a conference on climate change and human rights, at which we heard about the social impacts of climate change on the peoples of developing countries.

Beyond the moral and environmental case, we in Scotland also see the low-carbon economy as a vital opportunity for Scotland and for Scottish jobs. Scotland is a small, developed nation, and our strategy is that we should set an example to the industrialised world by acting as a model of best practice in tackling climate change. We hope that strong action by Scotland will influence other nations to agree an ambitious climate change treaty.

On 24 June 2009, the Scottish Parliament, with the strong backing of civil society in Scotland, unanimously passed the industrialised world's most ambitious climate change legislation: the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Our statutory targets are to reduce emissions by 42 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050, which covers all recognised greenhouse gases and international aviation and shipping. All-party and public support for the 2009 act, including from the business community, was and remains vital. The 2009 act is designed to give certainty to industry, business and the public about Scotland's low-carbon future.

Even before the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill was passed, we had published our climate change delivery plan to set out the scale of the transformation required in energy generation, energy efficiency, transport and the rural economy. We are now developing the detail of our report on proposals and policies, to be published next summer.

On Tuesday, the First Minister gave further impetus to our implementation by announcing the convening of the 2020 climate delivery group, consisting of influential people from business and civic society who wish to help Scotland to meet its ambitious climate change targets.

Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green): I welcome the contribution that I am sure many of the 2020 group members will make. However, could the minister explain a little more clearly what the relationship between Government and that group will be? The United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change is the advisory body that is listed in the legislation and which the Government chose to stick to. What is the relationship between the two?

Stewart Stevenson: The 2020 climate delivery group has no legal status of any kind. It consists of a group of people who have come together to help us to work our way through the issues. We very much welcome the contribution of time and effort that the climate delivery group will provide. As members will recall, the 2009 act gives us the facility to designate who will provide us with legal advice. For the time being, that will be the UK Committee on Climate Change, which is the only body that will provide the advice that will formally be part of the parliamentary process. However, I very much welcome the additional support that we will get from the climate delivery group.

We published a carbon assessment of our spending plans in September and we will now do that annually. That integration of carbon assessment into the key budget process is another world first.

Of course, some impacts of climate change are already on the way, so on Tuesday the First Minster also launched the finalised version of "Scotland's Climate Change Adaptation Framework". Scotland is one of the few countries to take a strategic approach to resilience to climate impacts.

As further evidence of Scotland's commitment to respond to our global responsibilities on climate change, I am pleased to announce today that we will establish the 2014 climate change saltire fellowships. The fellowships will deliver on a commitment that was made as part of our Commonwealth games bid to set up and deploy a carbon emissions reduction fund. The fellowships that will be supported by the fund will be targeted at climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in Commonwealth countries, particularly those that are least able to deal with the impacts of climate change. Talented individuals from Commonwealth countries will be able to come to Scotland to share in our cutting-edge knowledge on climate change adaptation and mitigation. The fellowships will be rooted in knowledge and skills transfer in areas where Scotland is strong, such as renewable energy technology, carbon capture and storage, community action on climate change, forestry and climate change policy and legislation.

I have a second announcement. Scotland is a nation with a record of supporting others in their development. Although our first priority is to focus our efforts on developing our contribution to low-carbon development at home, we recognise that developing countries urgently need capacity-building support through knowledge exchange and financial assistance to make low-carbon energy possible in their countries, too. In support of that, a range of Scottish organisations from across industry, Government, academia and civil society have come together to co-operate with the efforts of the United Kingdom and the European Union to establish a global framework for low-carbon energy supplies. The partnership will work together to support those international efforts by offering expertise and capacity and by pulling together packages for funding support where necessary. Assuming that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process is able to agree a legal and financial framework for low-carbon mitigation and adaptation actions in developing countries during 2010, the Scottish partnership stands ready to work with our UK, European and global partners on a series of practical actions to deliver on those.

Finally, to prove that we are committed to taking action on the ground, I am delighted to announce that, on 27 March 2010, the Scottish Government will again support earth hour. Earth hour is an important symbolic event that brings together organisations and individuals worldwide to demonstrate their commitment to addressing climate change. To spread the reach of earth hour across Scotland, we will work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish Trades Union Congress to promote next year's event. We will switch off all non-essential lighting in our buildings, promote the initiative to our staff and involve non-departmental public bodies and agencies in supporting earth hour as a visible sign that we are committed to change.

Through our actions and through those further announcements, Scotland is building a world-leading climate change framework and staying at the leading edge of international thinking on climate change. We think that it is vital to let the world know about Scotland's stance to inspire others to take similar strong action. Therefore, we have had a full programme of engagement in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit. In September, the First Minister wrote to the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, to tell him about the level of commitment from Scotland. We have been commended by European commissioners, the White House and the governor of California. I attended the UN climate conference in Barcelona, where Scotland's programme was the subject of much international interest. As well as being a spur to action by other countries, Scotland's framework can be a practical model for other nations. The Basque Government has translated the act, so it will now be available to the whole Spanish-speaking world. The fact that Scotland is now a full member of the climate group puts us on an equal footing with key world players.

We will, of course, work closely with the UK Government on climate change. We would like to have been on the UK delegation to Copenhagen, in line with the arrangements of other EU nations such as Spain, Belgium, Germany and Denmark, which will have representation from their devolved Governments, but I will be in Copenhagen all of next week to ensure that Scotland's climate change ambitions are widely promoted. As opportunities present themselves, I will, of course, work closely with the UK delegation, as appropriate.

On Monday, I will host a Scottish event for the international audience on Scotland's climate change framework, the low-carbon economy and Scottish society's support for action. We will speak to other world leaders at the climate group's climate leaders summit the following day, as well as holding a range of ministerial bilateral meetings. We will report back to Scotland from the United Nations conference centre via a telepresence link.

I hope that, by endorsing the strong position on climate change that is set out in the motion, Parliament will challenge the countries of the world to look to what Scotland is doing and to ensure that we are not alone in setting such targets. I intend us to take that strong message to the international community at Copenhagen next week. Let us all wish all the nations that are engaged in the summit the very best in their deliberations, and let us hope for a successful and appropriate outcome.

I move,

That the Parliament, having agreed unanimously on a 42% target reduction in Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050, agrees that MSPs and Scotland as a whole must focus on the practical implementation of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009; urges that all countries bring forward the most ambitious commitments appropriate to their circumstances early in the talks; looks to participants in Copenhagen to reach a legally binding agreement at the earliest opportunity that will prevent world temperatures rising by more than 2°C, and notes that a failure to do so would threaten vulnerable countries with, for example, inundation and desertification.

15:06

S3M-5378 Concessionary Travel Scheme [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 10 December 2009

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

Concessionary Travel Scheme

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S3M-5378, in the name of Charlie Gordon, on concessionary travel.

09:15
... ... ...
11:22

Stewart Stevenson:

Alex Johnstone referred to bankers arriving at work in Edinburgh on the bus, having used their concession cards. Thank goodness I left banking to join politics in order to improve my reputation. It has proved to be a wise move under the current circumstances, although I will not get a bonus to pay any tax on.

I am grateful to the Labour Party—to Charlie Gordon, in particular—for raising the issue. It is a timely debate, as Scottish Government officials will shortly meet the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK to discuss concessionary travel and a range of bus-related issues that concern the scheme. Those discussions will cover the rate at which we reimburse—currently 73.6p in the pound—and how we can maintain the scheme with its current access parameters, which are widely valued.

No one who has spoken in the debate has failed to make a point of some interest and engagement. The motion has been drafted badly and is gratuitous in some of its language, but I am not going to be petty about its wording because I whole-heartedly support the point that underlies it. It is on that basis that I will recommend to my colleagues that we support it.

Similarly, I recommend to my colleagues that we support the Liberal Democrat amendment. In both cases, I do so on the basis that I am not, at this stage, being asked to spend any more money: I am being asked to consider things, and that is what I wish to do.

John Park rightly highlighted the achievements of Bert Gough, of Fife Council, on producing the first ever concessionary travel scheme. I welcome the efforts that were made by a previous generation of politicians, albeit that they were of a different political flavour. He followed a similar track to that which was taken by Jimmy McGinley, the SNP leader of West Lothian Council in 1980, when the first Christmas bonuses were introduced. No party has a monopoly on good ideas.

John Park suggested that one way in which Fife Council should consider the officers' proposal that is currently before it in relation to its rail service scheme would be to increase fares from 50p to £1, and Ted Brocklebank suggested that there could be a return fare of £3. That is quite interesting. I will merely note that the SNP and Liberal Democrats made no similar suggestions during this debate, and that the SNP and Liberal Democrats are in power in Fife. It is interesting that the parties that make up the opposition in Fife Council are taking the position that they have taken. We will see how that debate plays out.

Cathy Jamieson pointed to some effective activities in her constituency, such as those that have been undertaken by Coalfield Community Transport, which is one of a wide range of bodies that are engaged in such activities. Alison McInnes mentioned one of the two community bus services in my constituency, so I must make up the deficit by highlighting the achievements of Banffshire Partnership Ltd, which supports people in the north of my constituency to a good degree.

Cathy Jamieson and others referred to fraud in the system, and we acknowledge that there has been some. I think I am correct in saying that there have so far been four references to the procurator fiscal, but I will check that figure after the debate—there may well be more to come. I should say that many people think that fraud is going on because they see a ticket being issued for the whole journey, but in many cases that is simply just a result of the agreement that exists between Transport Scotland and the bus company about how things will be done. As we complete the introduction of the machines that will read cards, we will move to a position of greater certainty, in which fraud will be much more difficult. We will also be able to gather more data about how people travel, which will enable the bus companies and Government to fine-tune the way in which things work.

Ted Brocklebank made the point that Fife extends beyond Levenmouth. I was brought up in Cupar, so I can acknowledge the veracity of that statement. Indeed, at the weekend, I had the happy experience of visiting Crail to attend my best man's ruby wedding anniversary celebrations. I know Fife well from personal experience. Ted Brocklebank also talked about Barnett consequentials. At the moment, we believe that they will amount to about £20 million, which will be welcome, if modest.

Karen Gillon took the opportunity to suggest that we do not look to the south much. I say to her that I will copy good ideas from wherever they come. On road safety, for example, I have rejected some proposals from my officials because I know of work that is being done in England. We have now joined a number of pieces of research that are happening south of the border, which represents efficient partnership working. We now expect that the UK Administration will join an initiative that we have taken in that regard. This is some of the non-glamorous stuff that people do not usually hear about: officials and ministers take every opportunity to work together, and they do so extremely well.

On bus stations, the situation in Edinburgh is quite complex. A number of bus companies have chosen not to use the bus station. I have raised the matter with the City of Edinburgh Council and I will examine the Aberdeen situation, as well.

Nigel Don rightly took us back to a previous debate on deafblind companions, which is certainly a subject that bears further consideration. Without naming it, he referred to the club 55 promotion that ScotRail have been running since, I think, the beginning of September and which ends this week. That scheme is, of course, funded by the rail companies, but it suggests what the marginal rate of carrying a passenger might be.

Another scheme is operated by the Association of Train Operating Companies, under which those of us who are over 60 can purchase a card. I paid £60 for my card, which gets me a third off fares for three years. I point out that that personal expenditure benefits the public purse—when I make my ministerial rail journeys, the public gets the benefit of the £60 that I spent on my own initiative. Again, that shows that there is an inclination on the part of the rail companies to do the right thing.

Grannies are safe on buses, and I think that they are probably safe on trains in Fife. Let us see whether that is the case.

This has been a good debate. The only people who have earned my sympathy during this debate are, of course, the drivers of Bannerman's lorries.

11:31

S3M-5378 Concessionary Travel Scheme [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 10 December 2009

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

Concessionary Travel Scheme

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S3M-5378, in the name of Charlie Gordon, on concessionary travel.

09:15
... ... ...
09:28

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

For the avoidance of doubt, I report to Parliament my interest in the scheme by displaying my old person's bus pass, which I have used on ministerial business some 200 times so far, thus saving the public purse some money. [Interruption.] It is a bit incestuous, as Mr Johnstone has just pointed out, since my budget is paying 73.6 per cent of the cost, but I can at least claim to have saved 26.4 per cent that would otherwise have been paid.

I start by congratulating Charlie Gordon on a well-informed and well-researched contribution to today's debate. I welcome the opportunity to lock horns with him on a subject of significant interest for the first time since his appointment. I also encourage him to greater efforts. Had he added a mere 30 further words to his lengthy motion, he would have filled the entire page of the Business Bulletin instead of leaving me just a little space.

Charlie Gordon: Is the minister aware that I took a leaf out of the book of his colleague, Angela Constance?

Stewart Stevenson: Indeed, but I think that Leonard Cheshire probably also had something to do with the drafting of the motion.

This is a serious matter, and it is good that we are having this discussion. Charlie Gordon quite properly delineated much of the history of how we got here. At the time, I commended the previous Administration on the introduction of the national scheme, and I continue to support it as a minister. One of the good things that we have been able to do in the review that we have just completed is to say unambiguously that we will continue to support the scheme in the form in which it has been introduced. The scheme has clearly delivered an enormous number of benefits to people across Scotland. It is a national scheme with absolute certainty of provision. That helps the bus companies with planning because, right across Scotland, they know the rate that they will be getting. In that respect, the scheme is much better than the one south of the border, which is off-peak only, has different rates of reward across England, and is difficult to administer.

We note that in yesterday's pre-budget report, the Chancellor said that the English scheme will be amended by aligning eligibility with the forthcoming changes in the state pension age. So, in future in England, people who are aged 60 will not be entitled to enter the scheme. For the avoidance of doubt, that is on page 110 of the pre-budget report. So the gap between the excellent scheme that we have in Scotland, which we are committed to sustaining and maintaining, and what is going on south of the border will widen.

Karen Gillon (Clydesdale) (Lab): Will the minister reflect on yesterday's debate, during which members of his party were trumpeting on about other parties and the Parliament doing things better? Instead of looking at what others are doing, will he look at how we are failing to support people who are on low-component disability living allowance?

Stewart Stevenson: The member makes a perfectly reasonable point, but I point out that I congratulated her party and, indeed, the Liberal Democrats when they introduced the scheme, which we continue to promote and which we have extended to cover disabled ex-servicemen. The scheme has always been better than the one south of the border and our focus should be on establishing how we can sustain and maintain that scheme. I am happy that we have been able to do that.

Our scheme enables older and disabled people to continue to travel for free throughout Scotland, at any time, on any scheduled bus route, for any number of journeys. In these difficult economic times, in particular, the scheme delivers huge benefit to many families and pensioners. It also maintains social cohesion. Charlie Gordon talked about the 158 million journeys that were made. By the way, I will not pick at the numbers; Mr Gordon basically got them right. He made only one mistake and I cannot resist the temptation to correct it. Reimbursement is made on the standard fare, not the average fare. There is something quite important in that, however, because the bus companies have, not unreasonably, tended to raise standard fares at a slightly greater rate than other fares, which has ensured that they protect the revenue from the concessionary bus scheme. That is part of the on-going discussion that we are having with the CPT about reimbursement rates.

Our 73.6 per cent reimbursement rate is substantially more generous than the rate in England and Wales. It still incorporates an allowance for the start-up costs of the scheme, which is why we have commissioned consultants to examine whether the rate properly meets the test that companies should be no better off and no worse off. Charlie Gordon discussed the marginal cost of carrying extra passengers and pointed out that the present scheme, in essence, takes into account the full cost. There is a proper debate to be had on that. The CPT says that its members have put on extra capacity and used the opportunity to invest in new buses. There is merit in that, but we have to consider getting the balance right. In establishing the right reimbursement rate for the future, we need to reflect the fact that the start-up costs are out of the way. We will have discussions on that.

Three years on, with the review completed, we can see how successful the scheme has been, but we can also see the nature of the challenge that we face. The previous Government and the present one should be proud of the scheme, which delivers much for the people of Scotland.

Reference was made to ferry and rail discounts that are provided locally. It is still open for local authorities to provide support to holders of the card, or otherwise, as they see fit. Before the national scheme, six of the 16 schemes throughout Scotland provided support to people who were on the lower rate of disability living allowance. We do not know what the future of DLA will be, as it is one of the benefits that are being considered for reform or abolition. I hope that whatever follows provides appropriate support for people with disabilities, as that is important.

The current scheme comes in two parts: a care component and a mobility component. The mobility component, which is paid by Westminster, is important. Some people have suggested that we might more readily be able to structure support for people who are on the lower level of DLA by transferring the funding for the mobility component to Scotland. That could allow us to fund different ways of supporting people who are on DLA. However, the Government is not yet engaged on that matter, although the issue has been raised.

Our population continues to be an ageing one. I hope that many of those older people remain, as I do, relatively fit and in possession of a bus pass, and therefore able to travel to meet friends and family. Charlie Gordon possibly stretched the use of parliamentary terms when he used the word "geek". Thankfully, the Presiding Officer did not rule that that is unparliamentary language—I wear the badge of geekdom with pride and will continue to do so. Charlie Gordon gave a bit of a hostage to fortune by suggesting that there might have been a cock-up in the establishment of the scheme. I would be more gentle and say that some long-term effects of the scheme have emerged over time. He made the good point that 42 per cent of car owners use the scheme to reduce their driving. I include myself in that, albeit that I probably do too much driving, even now.

When we debated community transport and demand-responsive transport in March 2006, my motion welcomed the formation of Transport Scotland as a way to promote new ideas. That continues to be the case. We have considered the options for including community transport in the existing scheme. One or two providers that run scheduled services can qualify. However, the issue is complex. If we made such services free, I am sure that they would be well used, but that would require a significant increase in capability and capacity in the community transport world.

If Mr Gordon in his closing remarks indicates that, at this stage, he is not asking for additional money to be spent, I will consider my position in relation to the amendment in my name. However, for the moment, I will move it.

I move amendment S3M-5378.2, to insert at end:

", and considers that if the Labour Party wishes this to be the case, it should bring forward a costed proposal to the Budget to show where the resources will be taken from to pay for this."

09:40

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