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27 May 2010

S3M-6417 Climate Change (International Aviation and Shipping) (Scotland) Order 2010

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 27 May 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Parliamentary Bureau Motions

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is consideration of a parliamentary bureau motion. I invite Bruce Crawford to move motion S3M-6417, on the approval of the Climate Change (International Aviation and Shipping) (Scotland) Order 2010.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Climate Change (International Aviation and Shipping) (Scotland) Order 2010 be approved.—[Bruce Crawford.]
... ... ...
16:58

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): I start on a consensual note. I agree that there is an effect associated with aviation that is greater than the effect of emissions at the surface. I think that the whole Parliament is of that view, which is why in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 we made provision for the Government to set a figure.

The question is whether we are in a position to do so. The UK Committee on Climate Change has provided us with advice on the subject, which is that it is not yet able to identify the science that shows what the figure should be.

I want to talk about the need for multiple figures for different kinds of aviation. In setting a target, we should seek to incentivise aviation to move from more contaminating to less contaminating modes of flying. It is clear that a pure jet engine that flies at around 39,000ft to 41,000ft has much higher contamination than does a turboprop engine that flies at 20,000ft to 25,000ft. For the small planes that operate public services in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, the effect is likely to be similar to the effect at the surface, given that they fly at between 500ft and 2,000ft. Therefore, we should properly have different figures for different classes of aviation. We have asked the Committee on Climate Change to provide those.

An important issue of which members should be aware is that there is no difficulty in waiting to set the figure. When the factor is set at a figure other than 1, it is backdated. Therefore, there is no cost in terms of accounting to waiting for a scientifically based figure that provides the opportunity to restructure the way in which flying operates. Many short-haul flights that currently operate within the UK—and, more fundamentally, to the Republic of Ireland and other parts of Europe—can increasingly be conducted using turboprops, which result in lower contamination. Setting a different figure for that category of aircraft would be more appropriate.

I seek members' support for the motion.

S3M-6416 Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 (Draft) [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 27 May 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 (Draft)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-6416, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, on the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010. I invite members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons. I point out to members that we have a negative amount of spare time this afternoon, if they get my drift, so I will stop members as soon as they reach their allocated time limit.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 be approved.—[Bruce Crawford.]

14:55
... ... ...
15:20

Stewart Stevenson:

I will briefly address some of the points that have arisen. It was suggested that the 42 per cent target did not come from the Committee on Climate Change, but it did. The committee produced two figures, 34 per cent and 42 per cent, and we incorporated both in our proposals at an early stage of the bill. When it was clear that there was support in the Parliament as a whole for the 42 per cent target, we reversed our decision and made the target 42 per cent—a figure that came from the Committee on Climate Change and was based on European targets going up to 30 per cent. Sarah Boyack now appears to want us to break the law that we have just passed. I am not clear on this, but she appears to be suggesting that we bring forward proposals and policies in advance of our setting the targets, although the act requires us to do that afterwards.

Let me talk about some of the interventions. Peatlands restoration is an excellent idea, which is why we brought it in. We expect that it will be included in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change inventory in CancĂșn, in December. However, we must be aware that, like many interventions, it makes things worse for two years, not better, because as peatlands that have dried out are rehydrogenated, the CO2 is released from the peat before we get the long-term benefit. It is for such reasons that many interventions will not necessarily deliver over the short term.

Cathy Peattie properly said that, whatever happens today, the Government can continue to bring forward its policy initiatives on the subject. Of course, we will bring forward a wide range of initiatives. However, if Parliament rejects the order today, there is a real danger not that the Government will stop bringing forward initiatives, but that wider society and businesses will take that as a signal that the issue no longer matters to Parliament. Tens of thousands of people lobbied Parliament on the subject—that is absolutely clear—and the advice that the committee received was that, yes, Parliament should set the minimum standards and challenge the Government to meet them. We have made offers to various parties that would help us to do that. Curiously enough, in the immediate aftermath of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee's rejection of the order in its original form, we tested the new order with the Labour Party and said that we would lay it only if Labour members would support it. We twice asked them and they twice said that they would support it. They have resiled from that position and have placed—

Sarah Boyack: Will the minister take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: I am in my last 20 seconds—I cannot do that.

Sarah Boyack: That is not true.

Stewart Stevenson: Presiding Officer, am I being accused of something?

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Certainly, the time is coming to an end, Mr Stevenson, one way or another.

Stewart Stevenson: I commend the order to Parliament and I absolutely refute what is being suggested from the Labour benches.

S3M-6416 Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 (Draft) [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 27 May 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 (Draft)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-6416, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on behalf of the Parliamentary Bureau, on the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010. I invite members who wish to speak in the debate to press their request-to-speak buttons. I point out to members that we have a negative amount of spare time this afternoon, if they get my drift, so I will stop members as soon as they reach their allocated time limit.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament agrees that the Climate Change (Annual Targets) (Scotland) Order 2010 be approved.—[Bruce Crawford.]

14:55

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): Members will be aware that last week the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee voted against the original annual targets order. I take very seriously the requirement in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 to set targets for 2010 to 2022 by 1 June, and for that reason I withdrew the original order on the next day and laid the new version that Parliament is considering today.

I understand that there is a view in some quarters that we are still not being ambitious enough and that we are not being clear about the emissions reductions that are possible in the early years. I will outline clearly where we are. This Parliament passed unanimously an act that requires that we take independent expert advice before we set targets. We took that advice from the United Kingdom Committee on Climate Change and we considered it seriously. That committee suggested that we set flat targets for 2010 to 2012, but we were keen to make early reductions in emissions. For that reason we set, in the original targets, more stretching targets for 2011 and 2012. So, the Committee on Climate Change recommended that for 2011 we set essentially the same target as for 2010—a zero per cent reduction. Instead we went further, requiring that emissions fall by 0.5 per cent.

For 2012, the Committee on Climate Change recommended that we set the same target as for the two preceding years. Again we went further, requiring a 0.5 per cent reduction on top of the 0.5 per cent in the previous year. We were clear in the statement that accompanied the order how challenging that is. We were clear that additional actions would be needed to meet the 2012 target and that we would have to give full consideration to options that might allow that.

The act requires that we report on proposals and policies for achieving the annual targets after the targets are set. That is exactly what we intend to do. We have committed to publishing a draft report on proposals and policies for parliamentary consideration in September. The Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee voted to reject the order. We listened and went still further for 2012. So instead of the 0 per cent reduction that was recommended for 2011 and 2012 by the Committee on Climate Change, we have set targets requiring a 0.5 per cent reduction in 2011 and an additional 1 per cent reduction in 2012.

It is worth reminding members what the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition said about the annual targets order that we introduced originally. It did not give a whole-hearted welcome to the targets for the early years. It would like to have seen bigger reductions, as we all would. It acknowledged that

"a step change in policy effort would be required if these and future targets are to be met".

It emphasised that the targets should be seen as the minimum reduction. We agree. It recommended that the TICCC recommend the order to Parliament, but the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee chose to recommend rejection of the order. It is disappointing that the committee chose to ignore the factors that work against us in the early years: the fact that traded-sector emissions that follow the emissions trading system cap, in line with international practice, are flat in that period; the fact that we are seeing a significant decline over three years of 3.5 per cent or so in forestry sequestration, which results from a decline in planting rates since the 1990s; and the fact that international aviation emissions that are included in our targets, but not in the UK Government's carbon budgets, are unlikely to fall significantly in the short term.

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 has rightly been the subject of widespread praise in Scotland and internationally for the level of ambition that it sets out. It is worth reminding ourselves of that and comparing our ambition with that of the UK. Based on advice from the Committee on Climate Change, in 2011 both we and the UK have reduction targets of 0.5 per cent. In the order that is before us today for 2012, we will have 1 per cent, while the UK will have 0.5 per cent. In 2013, we will have 8.67 per cent and the UK will have 4.9 per cent. In 2014, we will have 2.78 per cent and the UK will have 1.4 per cent. In 2015, we will have 2.88 per cent and the UK will have 1.3 per cent. In 2016, we will have 2.9 per cent and the UK will have 1.5 per cent. In 2017, we will have 2.97 per cent and the UK will have 1.5 per cent. In 2018, we will have 3.05 per cent and the UK will have 2.5 per cent. In 2019, we will have 3.16 per cent and the UK will have 1.7 per cent. In 2020, we will have 3.34 per cent and the UK will have 2 per cent.

Ambitious? Of course we are ambitious—as a Parliament and as a Government. It is important not to undermine the credibility of that ambition—which we shared, as a Parliament, when we passed the act in June 2009—by rejecting an order that is, as I have demonstrated by reading out the numbers, clearly ambitious to an extraordinary degree.

It would be irresponsible of Parliament to set targets that could not be shown to be deliverable for this Administration or any future Administration. That would send a disastrous message to our domestic stakeholders and to the international community.

I ask the Parliament to agree to approve the order.

15:01

26 May 2010

S3M-6331 Pentland Ferries

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 26 May 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...
Pentland Ferries

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-6331, in the name of Mary Scanlon, on Pentland Ferries. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament congratulates Andrew Banks of Pentland Ferries for the work that he has done since its inception in 1997; notes that Pentland Ferries receives no state aid to support its services; considers that the recent addition of the MV Pentalina is a welcome boost and that these services provide a crucial lifeline for island communities and businesses, particularly the agriculture and fishing industries, through a substantial volume of passenger and freight transport; commends the perseverance of Andrew Banks who has literally built up the business since 1997, constructing the pier at Gills Bay, and commends the continued service that Pentland Ferries provided, when the MV Hamnavoe was diverted to Bergen to assist stranded passengers during the initial volcanic ash disruption, by ensuring that a link between Orkney and the mainland was maintained.

17:07
... ... ...
17:35

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

As other members have done, I thank Mary Scanlon for giving us the opportunity to discuss an extremely important topic. I share the admiration that others have expressed for Andrew and Susan Banks, and for the efforts that they have made in providing their service.

I will address one or two of the points that members have made. Mary Scanlon said that Pentland Ferries faces

"a cash-rich competitor with limitless taxpayers' funds".

In fact, the contract tightly constrains the funding that is available. That does not necessarily negate the member's general point, but it ought to tidy up that particular expression of it. Even if it is in the book that members have mentioned, it is not true.

Mary Scanlon: It was a quotation from Lord George Robertson.

Stewart Stevenson: I am sure that the Official Report will recognise the source, now that it has been put on the record.

The Pentalina is a different design to the Hamnavoe: it is a more modern design that would not necessarily have been available when NorthLink procured its vessels and put them into service. That reflects the general point that designs change over time and can improve.

The Pentalina is run by a private company, so we do not have access—as we do for NorthLink services—to figures on reliability. We do not know how many carryings there are, but the figure is probably of the order of a quarter of the traffic of the Hamnavoe. Charlie Gordon suggested that about 80 per cent of freight and 80 per cent of sheep are carried by Andrew Banks. I do not have information to rebut or endorse that, but I note it as an interesting point.

Mary Scanlon highlighted tourism as being an important industry for Orkney, which of course is the case. She highlighted the fact that the subsidies for NorthLink have risen. Indeed, the ferry budget as a whole has continued to rise. Fuel costs are now an increasing proportion of the costs of operating ferries, which is reflected in the subsidies that we have to provide.

Although there are routes in Scotland that are capable of commercial exploitation, they are very much in the minority in terms of the number of routes, if not necessarily the number of carryings—it is clear that the routes with the greatest number of carryings offer commercial opportunities. In the ferries review, we are not discounting that there are many different approaches to providing ferries other than provision by the state.

Jamie McGrigor: While we are on the subject of routes, has the minister any news on the Campbeltown to Ballycastle link?

Stewart Stevenson: I suspect, given the terms of the motion, that it would be inappropriate for me to respond on a matter that is clearly outside the topic of the Orkney route. However, I recognise and understand Jamie McGrigor's continued interest in the subject. I met him recently, and the matters that we discussed in confidence are progressing.

Rob Gibson made the point that Pentland Ferries has been successful, which is absolutely correct. I am not familiar, as Liam McArthur and Rob Gibson perhaps are, with the difficulties that were experienced with Orkney Islands Council in relation to the provision of harbours. I do not find that Orkney Islands Council behaves in an irrational way, but I would be interested to hear more about that.

Dave Stewart talked about the difficulties of synchronising the changeover between summer and winter timetables, which is fundamentally more difficult even than he described it. Airlines worldwide have a common date on which they swap from summer to winter timetables. I have tried, but not yet succeeded, to persuade the train operating companies—and bus and other operators—in the United Kingdom that it would be useful if they aligned the dates, because it is clear that we will not get the airlines to change worldwide. We will continue to engage on that subject, but it is formidably difficult to achieve, although it sounds so simple and obvious.

Members have spoken about the common design of vessels. We are working with the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Republic on using European money to build common designs, so that one could, in effect, order from a catalogue instead of having to design every new vessel.

It is disappointing that at present no UK yards are bidding for ferries, to the extent that when we went with the Islay ferry, I phoned managing directors to find out why no bids were coming from them. I am afraid that I do not see any early change in that situation.

David Stewart: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: Presiding Officer, I will do so unless I am out of time.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: Please be brief, Mr Stewart.

David Stewart: Does the minister recognise that one of the problems in vessel commissioning across the world has been the scarcity of engines? As that is now getting slightly better in the world market, will that help to speed up the commissioning of new vessels?

Stewart Stevenson: Yes. One of the fundamental issues that prevented the Fairlie yard from bidding for the earlier contract was that the vessel would have had to sit complete on the slip for a year before the engine could be provided. The member makes a very good point. He clearly understands and is on top of the issue.

Liam McArthur pointed to the loyalty of Pentland Ferries' customers. I agree that Andrew Banks is very much to be commended for the work that he has done. When we had to remove the Hamnavoe from service so that it could go to Bergen to rescue people from across the United Kingdom and from further afield so that they could be repatriated to the UK mainland—something that was very much welcomed by those who were rescued—it was clear that, at that time of year, Pentland Ferries could pick up the service to Orkney. Let me absolutely agree that Andrew Banks is to be commended for his entrepreneurial spirit.

I encourage everyone to engage in the ferries review, on which we have sent out formal notices to communities over recent months. We will produce the consultation document shortly—it has come to my desk once and I have requested some changes, so we are in the final stages—but, as the document needs to be approved by other ministers, I am not in a position to make absolute commitments as to when it will be published.

Clearly, given the large number of ferry routes and entrenched ways of working, it is time to look again both at how we organise our ferries and, more fundamentally, at the transport needs of communities. In some cases, roads might substitute for ferries if the right approach is taken. In other cases, it might be better to improve air links rather than ferry services. We need to look not just at ferries. Ferries serve economic and social purposes for communities, but there may be other ways of delivering on those. Let us open our minds to a wide range of possibilities and ensure that we all engage in the most useful and open-minded way on the subject.

I very much look forward to bringing the results of the consultation and discussion to Parliament in due course.

Meeting closed at 17:42.

S3M-6391 Forth Crossing Bill: Stage 1 [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 26 May 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...

Forth Crossing Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-6391, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on the Forth Crossing Bill. I warn members that we have no time to spare in this debate, so draconian measures will have to be taken if members overrun the guideline timings that they have been given.

14:56
... ... ...
16:45

Stewart Stevenson: ... ... ...

It has been a useful debate. No one made a contribution that should be ignored. I will try to respond to as many as possible of the points that were made, to add to the comprehensive response that I gave in my letter to the committee.

Jackson Carlaw confirmed, as we have done, that funding for the bridge will appear as a level 3 item in the budget, so any change in it will need to be approved by the Parliament. That is a first, and it will be broadly welcomed because it will enable the Parliament to engage with the continuing expenditure on the bridge in a way that was perhaps less possible with previous projects.

In his opening remarks, Charlie Gordon commented that repair was an option with too many downsides. There is little doubt about that. We heard from a number of members about the economic cost of closing the bridge. If we were to repair the existing bridge, that would essentially involve building up the columns, putting another cable over the top, and—this is the crucial point—finding new anchorage points that were further out. In suggesting that we already know that the bridge can be repaired, Patrick Harvie perhaps knows how those anchorage points will be located and whether they are fit for purpose. I assure members that I do not know the answer to those questions, and at this stage I do not think that anyone else does. It is not at all clear that the issue of putting an additional cable over the top to allow the existing bridge to be repaired is well understood. I do not want to pretend that it cannot be solved; I am saying only that it has not been solved.

Margo MacDonald (Lothians) (Ind): I thank the minister for giving way, because his answer might determine my vote this evening. Inside what timeframe could he find out where the fixings would go?

Stewart Stevenson: I do not think that I can give a substantive answer to that. I can say that the next step is to understand the nature of the existing anchorages, because we know about the deterioration in the cable but we know rather less about the condition of the anchorages. That research is likely to give some further insight into the answer to the member's question, although it might not deliver the certainty that she seeks from me. I would not want to mislead the Parliament about that.

Charlie Gordon said that we must grasp the nettle and endorse the bill. That is broadly, if not totally, the consensus that we have noted in today's debate.

Alex Johnstone bravely took an intervention from George Foulkes, as others of us did. I suspect that, when we add up the minutes for which he spoke, it might exceed the minutes of many of those who had a speaking slot in the debate.

Many members, particularly Margaret Smith, identified the tricky question of the communities of Newton, South Queensferry and Kirkliston. I do not want to downplay the concerns of people in those communities. They are legitimate concerns that require to be addressed. We will continue to engage with the community of Newton. We have made some initial proposals. Indeed, we are looking to have continuous engagement with each of the community councils that has an interest in the bridge and the effects that it will have. The bottom line is that we want to take actions that will make travel via Newton less attractive to people—in other words, they do it only once because they discover that, although their satellite navigation might say that it is a good way to go, their experience tells them that it is not.

In the past, we have sought for a variety of reasons to make contact with the providers of maps for satellite navigation systems—so far, I have to say, without much success—but we will continue to engage with the matter as part of a much wider agenda to stop HGVs, in particular, using many inappropriate routes in Scotland. Of course, South Queensferry will benefit from the fact that, unlike the traffic for the existing bridge, the traffic for the new bridge will no longer go through the middle of the town. There is a balance of advantage and disadvantage.

Margaret Smith: The committee has said, rightly, that the work times should be looked at. However, in the letter that was sent to the committee yesterday, the minister said that he wants to look again at a 7 am start for some construction traffic. Will he confirm that no construction traffic will move before 7.30 am and, indeed, that any traffic moving before the 8 am start time will be that which is involved in the half-hour setting-up period before work begins?

Stewart Stevenson: It is certainly the intention that nothing will happen before 7 am and that in the period between 7.30 am and 8 am people will be taken to their different locations on site.

However, work will start no earlier than 8 am and will stop at 7 pm. I will reread my letter to the committee, but I did not think that it said what the member suggested it says. She might well have read it more carefully than even I did when I signed it, so I will not turn her away from her suggestion.

Alison McInnes said that she wanted a full multimodal bridge. However, that very proposal was the reason for the substantial difference between the current price and the £3.4 billion to £4.3 billion cost that we first heard about. When I originally challenged the proposal, we were told that a multimodal bridge was being planned because light rail could not go over the existing bridge. Again, I challenged that, and further work that was carried out established that it would be possible to put light rail on the existing bridge. That fundamentally changed the cost and design in a way that not only protected the public purse but now presents opportunities that we might not otherwise have had.

The new bridge will have the same capacity as the existing bridge, although I acknowledge Patrick Harvie's point about the temptation to reuse some of the capacity that would appear to be lying idle on the existing bridge. Parliament has the opportunity to send clear messages about that; indeed, I certainly wish to send the clear message that it is not something that we should permit.

Patrick Harvie: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry—I really have a lot to cover in my now diminishing time.

It is, of course, important to integrate bus and rail across the east of Scotland. It was, however, suggested that quite a lot of capacity was available on the rail bridge; that is not the case, partly because there is a very long block on the bridge. We hope that by putting an extra signal in the middle and breaking the block in two we will relieve things and increase capacity. In fact, it was necessary to get traffic on to the Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine line before we could even find the capacity to increase rail passenger services to Fife. The issue is not quite as simple as might have been suggested.

With regard to the intelligent traffic systems that Joe FitzPatrick and Jim Tolson mentioned, I point out that, paradoxical as it might seem, the mathematical model for traffic modelling is known as the Monte Carlo system, because it involves rolling what might be described as mathematical dice. The intelligent traffic system might slow down traffic, but if we can get it right, that will also shorten journey times. Using computers to monitor what goes on on the road network and to encourage traffic to slow down—which will, as I say, shorten journey times—actually works. We are not being ground-breaking; it has been done elsewhere and we know that we can do it here.

On the cost of capital issue that Joe FitzPatrick mentioned, it is worth pointing out that changes to the accounting rules mean that we will not have to account for that in the future. In any case, it does not make any difference to the availability of cash to the Government; it merely changes the book-keeping.

David Stewart, with that ever-reliable source Wikipedia, referred to optimism bias. I prefer the view expressed by Professor Fred P Brooks Jr in my favourite project management book "The Mythical Man-Month". Every chapter in the book starts with a quotation; one starts with the Dutch proverb, "Een schip op het strand is een baken in zee", which means that a beached ship is a warning to the sailor. We are looking at previous projects that have not been successful and taking the appropriate warnings. Optimism bias, which is a Treasury rule, is a useful way of getting a grip of many things that we need to do.

Ted Brocklebank averred that he is still a tunnel fan. It is worth reminding ourselves that a tunnel would not be able to take whisky or fuel lorries because of their associated risks. That is by no means the reason why a bridge was chosen, but perhaps that should not be entirely disregarded in view of Fife's interests in whisky.

Helen Eadie asked about TEN-T. I assure her that we made two applications. She may have received the answer that she received because of the question that she asked. The applications go in in the name of the Department for Transport, not in the name of the Scottish Government. Things will depend on the question that is asked—there is not necessarily inconsistency. We are preparing a third application. It is worth reminding members that the total allocation across Europe was only €80 million, so it is not decisive in funding terms, alas and alack.

Margaret Smith talked about £100 per bus that crosses the old bridge. That is a fully allocated cost. If no buses are sent across, very little of that £100 per bus will be saved. There is a difference between the cost when it is allocated and what is saved when the activity is not done. That is fundamental.

Margaret Smith rose—

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry, but I do not have enough time to take an intervention. I will talk to the member about the subject afterwards if she wishes to hear more about it.

Patrick Harvie said that nothing else would be done when the bridge was being built because of the finances. That is absolutely not the case. There are major rail projects, and investments in public transport will continue. The Edinburgh to Glasgow rail improvements programme is important. Some £1 billion will be made available in the period up to 2015. We will do many other things.

We will issue the next version of the code of construction practice programme by 31 May. Members will therefore be able to see the flesh that we have put on the commitments that we have made in that respect.

Every time that we consult on transport and any other part of our activities, it is possible to ask whether we can improve on that consultation and to conclude that it is. We will certainly ask that. We have done a great deal of consultation and directly interacted with people. We have proactively gone out and engaged with them; indeed, we have probably done more consultation than we have ever done before. However, I recognise that the project is very big and that it will affect a large number of people. We will certainly consider the lessons.

The case for supporting the bill has been well made. The replacement crossing will be an essential element of our national infrastructure. The debate has been good and informative, and we will continue to engage with the committee and the Parliament.

I take great pleasure in endorsing the motion on the general principles of the bill.

S3M-6391 Forth Crossing Bill: Stage 1 [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 26 May 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 14:30]

... ... ...

Forth Crossing Bill: Stage 1

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-6391, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on the Forth Crossing Bill. I warn members that we have no time to spare in this debate, so draconian measures will have to be taken if members overrun the guideline timings that they have been given.

14:56

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

I am pleased to open the stage 1 debate on the Forth Crossing Bill. I thank all those who were involved in the scrutiny of the bill, in particular Jackson Carlaw and the members of the Forth Crossing Bill Committee. I also express my appreciation to the many individuals and organisations who provided oral and written evidence.

The Forth Crossing Bill Committee's stage 1 report is considered and balanced, and I welcome its recommendation that the principles of the bill be agreed to. The bill directly affects private interests, so we must pay close attention to it. People's rights are important, and we must understand the need for a new crossing in that context. We must ensure that those who are directly affected by our proposals understand the bill's implications.

In 2004, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority carried out its first internal inspection of the main cables on the Forth road bridge. It found fairly significant corrosion, and it estimated that there was a loss of strength of about 8 per cent. In 2007, the Government recognised that securing cross-Forth travel was imperative for the economic wellbeing of Scotland, and accordingly it committed to a replacement bridge.

In 2008, FETA carried out another inspection, which showed a total weakening of about 10 per cent. To halt or slow the weakening, FETA commissioned a scheme to dehumidify the cables. We are optimistic that the scheme will reduce the environment for further corrosion, and the results should be known soon, but the strength that has already been lost and measured will not be recovered.

In December 2008, I announced that the Government had, as promised, considered the future of the existing Forth road bridge, and I outlined how the existing bridge would be used as a dedicated public transport corridor.

We have debated and discussed at length the issues around the need for a replacement crossing and how it should be funded. In January 2009, we—well, nearly all of us—welcomed the fact that it would operate without tolls. We agreed that it should be capitally funded, and that it should be progressed at the earliest opportunity.

Having set out the need for the crossing, I will now comment on the report. I have provided a detailed written response of more than two dozen pages to the committee convener, and I have supplied a copy to the other relevant committees. Today, I wish to draw out two of the key issues within the report: public transport and the impact of our proposals on the local community.

The bill contains substantial public transport elements. Indeed, the design of the project is based on future travel growth beyond 2016 being supported by public transport rather than private travel. The project will provide access improvements to Ferrytoll park and ride, bus priority measures at Ferrytoll junction, dedicated bus links between Ferrytoll and the existing bridge, and a massive increase in public transport capability over the existing bridge. In the south, fast bus-only links will connect the A90 to Echline junction and the existing bridge.

Providing those substantial infrastructure elements is only part of the solution. Like others, I recognise that more needs to be done to capitalise on the potential created for modal shift. Working with the local authorities, the south east of Scotland transport partnership and others, we have developed a strategy to increase travel choice, to improve integration and to encourage modal shift. In the current financial climate—who knows what future settlements might be?—we cannot guarantee to deliver the entirety of the strategy immediately, much though that is our preferred position. However, there are things that should and can be done soon, because unless there is a change in travel habits, there will be inevitable traffic management pressures at peak times, particularly at Ferrytoll, during the construction period.

George Foulkes (Lothians) (Lab): Is the minister aware that even Transport Scotland accepts that, in percentage terms, the overall shift will be away from public transport and towards private transport? Does he accept that a large percentage of that increase will come into the city of Edinburgh, which is already overcrowded and greatly congested with private traffic? How does he propose that City of Edinburgh Council should deal with that extra traffic?

Stewart Stevenson: The expected traffic volumes on the new bridge are essentially at the same level as we currently provide. The provision of extra public transport as an option is a way of addressing the mode by which people travel to Edinburgh. We are also making it easier for southbound long-distance traffic to turn right, as it were, so that people can travel by the M9 and M8 to their ultimate destinations. Therefore, we are addressing the problem in a range of ways. However, the member is not being unreasonable in pointing out the need to look at the effects on traffic in the city of Edinburgh. To that end, we will continue to work with SEStran and City of Edinburgh Council to ensure that we understand their concerns in sufficient detail and respond to them.

George Foulkes: If I may pursue that point, let me say, with respect, that the minister is inadvertently misleading the chamber. The new crossing will have no direct link with the M9, so traffic will not be able to go directly on to the M9 as he seemed to imply. An increasing amount of traffic will go into Edinburgh. When I had my one-to-one with the officials and asked them how those extra cars coming into Edinburgh would be dealt with, they told me that that was a matter for City of Edinburgh Council. However, with less and less funds to deal with such matters, the council will find that ever more difficult. The minister and his officials seem to be just shrugging their shoulders. The matter cannot just be left to City of Edinburgh Council.

Stewart Stevenson: Let me say that I am always happy to meet the member, but let me just address his specific point about the lack of a connection to the M9. The improvement to junction 1A, which is one of three packages of work associated with the project, will precisely deliver a westward connection on to the M9 and allow people to travel southward and on to the M8 as well. However, if the member wants to raise further matters, I will be happy, as will my officials, to meet him.

Another important point is that we intend to look at temporary hard-shoulder running for buses on the M90 during the construction period. We recognise that there will be particular issues during both the construction period and the post-construction period that will need to be addressed.

Let me talk about local communities. It is an inescapable fact that construction activities generate noise. Within the bill and our comprehensive code of construction practice, we have set out appropriate and comprehensive measures that are at the forefront of good practice, to manage, mitigate and control construction noise. We recognise that we need to augment those measures and ensure that they are understood, and to that end I will bring forward changes to the code of construction practice.

We have had extremely productive discussions with the local authorities north and south of the firth. They recognise the value in the effective planning processes that we are putting in place, but improvements can be made, so we will form a noise liaison group with the local authorities. We are also working with local authorities towards a memorandum of understanding on noise and vibration. I shall ensure that the Forth Crossing Bill Committee and constituency members are apprised of the outcome of our discussions.

The committee's report recommends a reduction in the proposed working hours for the construction of the roads, and when I spoke to the committee I agreed to consider that issue further. I have concluded that we can change working hours without unduly compromising the delivery of the project. Accordingly, I will revise the code of construction practice. The normal working hours for road works will now be 8 am to 7 pm with a 30-minute start-up time prior to 8 am. That start-up time is only to allow people to go on site and travel to their designated area of work; it will not be used for working.

Margaret Smith (Edinburgh West) (LD): Will the minister take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: No. My apologies, but I am almost out of time.

The A904 through Newton is a particular issue, and I am pleased to advise that additional works to reduce community severance within Newton village are currently being discussed with West Lothian Council and Newton community council. I am sure that Mary Mulligan will welcome that.

I welcome the committee's endorsement of the principles of the bill, and the recommendations and suggestions within the committee's report. I acknowledge that many of the committee's concerns reflect the concerns of those who will be directly affected. In turn, I trust that Parliament recognises the positive and constructive approach that we are taking to address the committee's concerns. I will listen carefully to the contributions of members, including those whose interventions I was not able to take, and seek to respond to them in my closing remarks.

At the centre of what we are doing is the delivery of a good transport system for the whole of Scotland, and we particularly wish to look after the interests of the communities that lie adjacent to the crossing.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Forth Crossing Bill and that the Bill should proceed as a Hybrid Bill.

15:07

20 May 2010

S3M-6349 High-speed Rail [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 May 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
High-speed Rail

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-6349, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on the high-speed rail link.
... ... ...
16:48

Stewart Stevenson:

The debate has thrown up a number of key questions: about the route; about whether we should press ahead with building a high-speed rail line southwards; and about the key issue of how it should all be paid for. The fact that there is a huge return does not alter the fact that we have to lay out money before the return is delivered to us.

Charlie Gordon described himself in his opening remarks as an old railman. He is desperately unkind to himself. From the elevated age from which I view such matters, he is but a young broth of a boy. He referred to Network Rail's new line study and the sound business case that derives from that. We should all pay close attention to that study. It has been developed by those who run the railway and understand the metal that we have.

In his closing speech, Charlie Gordon referred to the need to make incremental change in the existing network, such as removing pinch points and working on bends. We are, of course, doing those things. We are also considering whether some of the speed limits on the existing network are now necessary in consequence of some things that have happened.

Charlie Gordon also pinpointed, as others did, the need for extra capacity on the network. Indeed, in many parts of the world—including France, where the TGV is held up as an exemplar for Europe—the whole reason for a high-speed rail link was driven by capacity rather than speed. The increased speed was merely a consequence of the fact that a new line had to be constructed.

The need for a local high-speed line between Edinburgh and Glasgow was also mentioned in the debate. In many ways, of course, that is the aim of our Edinburgh to Glasgow rail improvement project. With the EGIP, we will bring the travel time down from around 52 minutes to around 35 minutes. Huge amounts of money would take us down to 20 minutes without delivering the same scale of benefit. Clearly, we are addressing the need for that direct connection. However, it is vital that both our major cities are served independently by the proposed high-speed rail link, rather than simply one of those cities being served via the other.

Robert Brown: In saying that both cities must be served by the high-speed rail link, does the minister accept the case that both city centres must be served? I think that there are issues with that.

Stewart Stevenson: Yes, it is certainly true that the city centres must be served. I will enter a note of caution that the city centre can encompass a relatively large area of the respective cities. We are talking to the councils about that and we have preliminary views as to what that might mean. To give an example without indicating outcomes, I think that it would be formidably difficult to provide at Waverley station the length of platform that is required for high-speed trains, which will be 400m long. Even the half-length train that might come to Scotland will be 200m long. As Waverley has no platforms of that length, the stop might need to be placed a little bit further to the west. In Glasgow, we probably have the opportunity at Glasgow Central to provide the platform extension that would be necessary, but there are capacity issues on the approach. The point that I am making is that we understand the issue and are engaged in it.

Alex Johnstone correctly pinpointed how railways were central to economic development in these islands. However, such development was not all pain-free. Whereas every town had its own clock up to that point and could go its own way, the railways standardised time. We are now under the cosh of time, Presiding Officer, again thanks to the railways.

Very properly, Alex Johnstone also pointed to the substantial environmental benefit that people in west London might derive from the reduction in noise and pollutants from plane engines. That precisely illustrates why the question of who derives the benefits from high-speed rail—and, therefore, who should contribute to its funding—is a complex one with which we need to engage. The issue is not susceptible to quick responses.

The word has been that high-speed rail will start in 2017. However, the previous Secretary of State for Transport indicated to me that he expected that three and a half to four years would be required for the legislative process alone at Westminster, even under the Transport and Works Act 1992, which is similar to the Transport and Works (Scotland) Act 2007. In part, that is because of the bicameral nature of the Westminster Parliament, where proposals must be scrutinised by committees in both Houses of Parliament. Therefore, far from having the planning advantages that the Chinese Government might have, we have substantial difficulties, both north and south of the border, in dealing with these issues.

It is also worth pointing out that getting the planning arrangements to the same stage as has been achieved by HS2 for the proposals that are before us will probably cost in the order of £400 million to £600 million. That estimate is based on what it has cost to produce the most recent command paper. Therefore, the decisions involved are not trivial.

Kenny Gibson talked about energy. Electric trains of the kind that we are discussing would save 25 per cent on costs, mainly because of regenerative braking, which makes a big difference.

I listened with interest to Christopher Harvie, who was, as ever, extremely well informed on the history of railways. I had not realised that Japan's Olympics rail link was a spur to the country's modern development.

Tom McCabe made a thoughtful and useful speech. Clearly, he will continue to take an interest in the subject. He spoke of high-speed rail cutting 30 minutes from the journey from Amsterdam to Brussels. That example illustrates that it is perfectly possible for different jurisdictions to collaborate to deliver on the railways. In Ireland, the railway between Belfast and Dublin has been refettled. Although that is not a high-speed rail line, cross-border working was achieved nonetheless.

It is on that basis that we—good collaborationists that we are—have been working with the Department for Transport and HS2. It is important that we continue to do that. Frankly, our input is important. As the project moves forward, we will not close our minds to taking the work more directly into our own house. At the moment, we have an expert team working on the project. Members of that team have built up the skills, and it is entirely proper that we continue to work with them. That is why, at this stage, we cannot support what is encompassed in the Liberal amendment. That is not because what is proposed is intrinsically wrong, but because now is the wrong time to make the decision that the amendment calls for—it is simply too early to do so.

Patrick Harvie made some rather astonishing suggestions. He said that high-speed rail generates more CO2 than conventional rail does. I know that he relied on DFT factors in coming to that conclusion, albeit that he fundamentally disagrees with the DFT when its factors show that the project in Scotland that is causing the greatest amount of CO2 at the moment is the Edinburgh trams. That may seem slightly unlikely, but the conclusion is derived using DFT figures. On the Parliament having approved additional airport capacity, my answer is no, we did not do that. Finally, coaches have increased their carbon footprint by 10 per cent over the past five or six years.

Sarah Boyack rehearsed some old arguments about GARL, EARL and cost overruns. Under this Government, the Airdrie to Bathgate line is on budget and it is staying on budget. Similarly, the M74—for which we placed the contract—is staying on budget, as is the M80.

The debate has been interesting. We have stated our preference for a broad alignment that takes Edinburgh and Glasgow into the equation. We will, of course, work with the new Administration at Westminster. As I said, I have made initial contacts with Philip Hammond on other matters. It is clear that we will be able to have a rational discussion.

Funding issues have to be discussed. It is not clear as yet how HS2 will be funded in England, far less anywhere else. We do not use the regulatory asset base—

The Presiding Officer: Order. There is too much noise.

Stewart Stevenson: We need to have a robust way of ensuring that we harness private and public resources to deliver high-speed rail to make sure that the benefits that we know will come are delivered.

The opportunities that are before us are substantial. However, we have to accelerate what is happening on high-speed rail. We heard from the Conservative party that it wants to include Heathrow airport. As long as doing that does not slow down journey times to Scotland, that is a matter for those south of the border. It is important that we have the shortest possible route from London to Scotland and that we have access to trains that will speed up our journeys.

At the time of the DFT's announcement, the Conservatives were scathing of the plans, saying:

"Labour have got high speed rail wrong ... Their line to Birmingham leaves the North, Scotland and Wales out of the massive social, economic and regeneration benefits of high speed rail."

Clearly, there should be—and I look for—a change in direction from the UK Government that gives us new opportunities to press the case for high-speed rail for Scotland.

I reiterate that, on this agenda, as on so many others, Scotland is absolutely not peripheral but central. Scotland is central to the business case for high-speed rail in the UK. It is absolutely essential that Scotland is included in the planning for high-speed rail at the outset, free from bias—including our own. The Scottish Parliament should speak at decision time with one voice. We should send the clearest and most unambiguous message to London that we need to be part of this project from the outset.

17:00

S3M-6349 High-speed Rail [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 20 May 2010

[The Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
High-speed Rail

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-6349, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on the high-speed rail link.

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

At the outset, I recognise that Robert Brown is speaking on behalf of the Liberals—on Monday, I spoke to Alison McInnes about this debate, and I hope that she has a speedy recovery from the temporary ailment that is keeping her from us today.

I realise that it is just over a year since we last debated high-speed rail as a group. On that occasion, we convened to welcome the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee's report on the potential benefits of high-speed rail and as a Parliament established—early on—our shared commitment to bringing high-speed rail to Scotland.

The clear vision set out by our colleagues on the committee, and the overwhelming consensus displayed in the chamber, have directed our work on high-speed rail in the past year. In the course of the year, we have experienced the harshest winter for 40 years, which affected travel across the UK—indeed, at home we had 14 consecutive weeks of snow, something that we have never had before. More recently, volcanic ash from Iceland has closed our airspace and disrupted the plans of many thousands of travellers. Both events clearly demonstrate the cost to the economy of disrupted travel plans and the essential value of cross-border and international travel to our economy.

With predictions that eruptions and ash clouds will continue to disrupt flights for a considerable time—perhaps even years—we can look with some envy at our European neighbours whose high-speed networks are well established and who have much less reliance on short-haul aviation.

The past year has seen major reports on high-speed rail from both Network Rail and Greengauge 21. We also established a broad-based stakeholder group, drawn from Scotland's business and transport communities, to direct the production of Transport Scotland's strategic business case for high-speed rail to Scotland, which was published in October 2009. Those reports clearly set out the economic and environmental benefits of high-speed rail to Scotland and the United Kingdom and highlighted Scotland's centrality to the case for a UK network.

Let me remind Parliament of some of those benefits. High-speed rail could bring economic benefits worth £20,000 million to the Scottish economy, mainly through reduced journey times, and a further £5,000 million of wider economic benefits through job creation in areas close to the line and agglomeration. In addition, a three-hour journey time between Scotland and London would create substantial modal shift from air, with reduced carbon emissions—at three hours, high-speed rail could capture 67 per cent of the overall travel market between Scotland and London, and at 2.5 hours the figure could rise to 80 per cent. That contrasts with the current situation, in which approximately 7.2 million people travel between central Scotland and London but only about 1 million of them travel by rail. Crucially, those reports show that Scotland is central, not peripheral, to the business case for high-speed rail in the UK.

On 11 March, the Department for Transport published its command paper on high-speed rail, which outlined the then UK Government's commitment to high-speed rail from London to the midlands by 2026, with extension to Manchester and Leeds after that. There is a great sense of disappointment in the Scottish Government and, more fundamentally, among our stakeholders that Scotland has not yet been firmly included in the plan. We must try to change that. The business and transport communities as well as politicians of all parties in Scotland agree that including Scotland in any new network, from the start of the planning process, completes the case for high-speed rail in the UK.

Although the DFT's proposal makes small concessions to Scotland—for example, hybrid high-speed rolling stock will operate on classic lines to Scotland from 2026—it is vital that high-speed rail's reach to the north extends beyond those cities, with full high-speed lines. There is no sensible alternative.

Jeremy Purvis (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): On planning, has the Scottish Government started any scoping work on potential routes for central Scotland and the north of Scotland?

Stewart Stevenson: Part of the brief of HS2 Ltd, which was established by the UK Government through the Department for Transport with substantial support from us, is to plan the entire high-speed rail network. We support that. Thus far, we have proceeded on the basis that it is HS2's responsibility to undertake that work. I had discussions on the subject with the previous Secretary of State for Transport, and he was clear on our views. Although I have spoken to the new secretary of state, Philip Hammond, on two occasions so far, that has been on the matter of ash. However, we will discuss high-speed rail and how it should be planned for in future.

Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart) (Lab): Is there any provision for high-speed rail in national planning framework 2?

Stewart Stevenson: We said in national planning framework 2 that high-speed rail is an important part of what we want to do. We are clearly committed to it in principle. I do not believe that any member would dissent from that shared view.

I do not want to get unduly bogged down in the detail of who actually does the planning, although I will return to the Liberal amendment. The important point is that the planning is done, because failure to bring the high-speed line to Scotland would significantly disadvantage the Scottish economy, as it would affect its attractiveness as a place to visit and do business.

Of course, bringing high-speed rail to Scotland would not mean that we alone would derive a benefit. The connectivity between London and Scotland gives the opportunity to redraw the economic map of the UK. There would be benefits to Edinburgh from a fast connection to Birmingham and vice versa, and Manchester could derive benefits from a high-speed connection to Glasgow.

Patrick Harvie (Glasgow) (Green): Does the minister accept that those who make arguments about increased connectivity, as he seems to be doing, only strengthen my concern that some people consider high-speed rail to be an addition to the existing connections by air, rather than a replacement for them, which completely undermines any environmental case?

Stewart Stevenson: I do not see it as an addition; I see it as a replacement. With a journey time of two and a half hours, the overwhelming majority of people would, without Government intervention of any kind, travel by rail, because it would make sense. It is in that context of making sense that we are here today.

At present, there is no firm UK Government plan, but the Scottish Government and Parliament can work to present our clear vision for how to make progress on high-speed rail. All parties have the opportunity to promote the case for high-speed rail to Scotland. Promoting it is one thing but, on the basis of the plans that the DFT presented earlier in the year, we are preparing for the introduction of hybrid high-speed trains on routes to Scotland. We are working with the rail industry to understand fully whether the capacity offered by those trains will be enough to meet expected demand or whether further measures will be needed. We also need to understand gauge issues, and the impact on line speed and other west coast operators. Paradoxically, when one puts a high-speed train on our existing railways, it has to be light and cannot tilt, therefore it runs more slowly on our rails than the existing tilting trains.

We have asked Network Rail to develop work to give us a clearer picture of likely implications. We are giving attention to the matter of terminals in our two major cities—the correct location and specification of high-speed terminals will ensure that high-speed rail fits with our existing strategic plans—for example, how high-speed rail in Glasgow adds to our plan for overall rail enhancement for the west of Scotland. We need to understand the opportunities for onward travel locally and across Scotland, and the potential to contribute to regional and national economies. When 100 per cent of our electricity is from renewables—and we are talking about electric railways—the carbon cost of running our railways will essentially be zero.

There is in Scotland a clarity of vision for what we want to do with rail. We have set out bold plans for future strategic investment in our rail network. The strategic transport projects review specifies electrification of the strategic rail network and structured programmes of improvements across Scotland—on the Edinburgh to Glasgow line and between Aberdeen and the central belt—to deliver capacity in the west of Scotland, including for high-speed rail. The national planning framework refers to HSR as a key component of future economic sustainability.

It is disappointing that the DFT does not yet have Scotland in its plans, but that is not by any means the end of the story. People here have a role to play in changing that. This Parliament's voice is crucial. Let us seize the opportunity to state a clear vision for high-speed rail in the UK, one that includes Scotland and delivers benefit across the UK.

I move,

That the Parliament welcomes the work of High Speed Two, Greengauge21 and Network Rail, among others, which have developed the case for high-speed rail in the United Kingdom during the last year; notes the strong economic and environmental case for extending high-speed rail to Scotland; notes the opportunity to engage with the new Westminster administration to secure Scotland's place in a UK high-speed rail network, and supports work to bring high-speed rail to Scotland at the earliest opportunity.

15:07

5 May 2010

S3M-5722 First ScotRail (Industrial Relations)

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 5 May 2010

[The Deputy Presiding Officer opened the meeting at 14:00]
... ... ...
First ScotRail
(Industrial Relations)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a members' business debate on motion S3M-5722, in the name of Elaine Smith, on First ScotRail industrial relations. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament understands that a provision exists in the First ScotRail franchise agreement that provides the Scottish Government with discretionary powers to reimburse the company for revenues lost due to industrial action; supports the position of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) that it is wholly wrong for public funds to be used to support private companies such as First ScotRail in disputes with trade unions; also agrees with the STUC that the provision and use of such powers is not conducive to good industrial relations as it weakens the incentive for private companies to reach agreement; further supports the view of the STUC that such powers should not be used in the event of industrial action in the current dispute between First ScotRail and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT); welcomes the fact that the Scottish Government has been in dialogue with the RMT over the issues involved in the dispute, and believes that the interests of constituents in Coatbridge and Chryston, passengers, rail workers and Scotland would be best served by an early and agreed negotiated settlement to end this dispute.
... ... ...
14:38

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

I thank Elaine Smith for the opportunity to debate one aspect of railways. A broad consensus welcomes the substantial investment in and continuing development of railways throughout Scotland, but the debate relates to trade unions and their relationships with employers.

I commend the work of the STUC and the rail unions, one of which is in dispute with First ScotRail. In particular, I highlight a number of discussions on whether it would be possible for there to be a bid for the next franchise in 2014 in which there is a greater public interest component. Elsewhere, a co-operative venture is looking at the east coast franchise and Go! Co-operative Ltd is looking at running services in parts of England. The STUC remains interested in the proposals that we have made on that front. The discussions that we have been having over the past year will, no doubt, continue.

Of course, it is the responsibility of trade unions to represent and to protect the interests of their members. Last year, I was happy to respond to the request from the STUC and others to contact the Office of Rail Regulation and Network Rail about the programme of renewals on the rail network.

I turn to ScotRail industrial relations. I am pleased that ScotRail has guaranteed that there will be no compulsory redundancies or loss of current terms and conditions for any member of operating staff, including conductors, as part of the driver and ticket examiner operation on the Airdrie to Bathgate service.

Charlie Gordon: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: Let me continue a wee bit. I will come back to you, Mr Gordon.

I was about to pick up on a couple of points that Mr Gordon made. We are looking at what has happened on parts of the Scottish network where 56 per cent of rail journeys are supervised by ticket examiners.

Charlie Gordon: Published correspondence shows that ScotRail management was not minded to have driver-only operation on the Airdrie to Bathgate line but that Transport Scotland instructed ScotRail to go ahead with those arrangements. Did Transport Scotland clear that with the minister?

Stewart Stevenson: It is important to realise that the proposal for the operation of the line came from First ScotRail. Of course, it is necessary to discuss the arrangements that are made with Transport Scotland, which supervises the franchise. The debate is about safety. I met the unions on 5 January and again in March, when I received the safety dossier. At every stage, we have sought and received advice from the Office of Rail Regulation, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the Rail Safety and Standards Board, on which the RMT is represented.

The advice to ministers, Transport Scotland and First ScotRail is clear. Indeed, given that we have published it, it is clear to everyone else. The advice confirms that ScotRail's proposal for a driver and ticket examiner operation on trains is a safe method of operating trains. The Airdrie to Bathgate service is an extension of the Helensburgh-Airdrie-Drumgelloch line; trains will go on to Bathgate and Edinburgh to form the new service. Currently, those trains operate with a driver and ticket examiner and the Airdrie to Bathgate section and beyond would naturally extend that operation. In Scotland, 47 million journeys a year already operate with that method.

I turn to financial issues. The ScotRail franchise contract does contain a clause that allows the franchisee to ask for reimbursement for net losses as a result of industrial action—

Bill Butler: On that point, will the minister assure the Parliament that taxpayers' money will not be used to indemnify First ScotRail under any circumstances whatever?

Stewart Stevenson: The contract that is before me is clear. I can absolutely tell Parliament and everyone else that we have not advised ScotRail on how to manage the strike. We have not made a decision to reimburse any losses that they can demonstrate, nor have we compensated ScotRail for losses from strike action or paid training costs that relate to the strike. In addition, if a claim is made, before we come to any conclusion—we are contractually obliged to do this under the franchise that we inherited—we will consult the STUC and the unions. That is an important safeguard.

Hugh O'Donnell: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I have to make progress. I still have quite a lot to cover in a short space of time.

It is important to note that, uniquely in the Great Britain rail network, the franchise contract for ScotRail specifies that a second member of staff, in addition to the driver, should be on board to perform revenue protection and customer care duties. Mary Mulligan raised the issue of women travelling alone. The important provision that I have described, which is unique in the GB rail network, ensures that there is someone on board to look after the customers who use our trains. All staff who are on board are trained in evacuation procedures.

Different parts of our railway network have different technologies, so it is important that training fits those technologies. We have heard the expert opinions of the ORR, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the Rail Safety and Standards Board. It is clear from everything that has been said to me that driver and ticket examiner operation is an appropriate and safe method of operation for the Airdrie to Bathgate service.

Gavin Brown asked whether things have changed on the railways and whether details are available. He also talked about historical accidents. I will provide members with some context. We provided a copy of the dossier with which the RMT provided us to the three bodies that I have mentioned, who responded to its contents. They said that, intrinsically, the dossier does not necessarily give a complete picture. In the letters that they sent to us, they were clear about what is safe and appropriate. In its letter, the RSSB indicates that it carried out a review of data from March 2009 to December 2009, which showed that, where the driver opens the doors, the rate of injuries resulting from boarding and alighting from trains is one third that where train doors are opened from elsewhere.

It is important that we deliver this project on time and on budget, that we deliver the 130 additional jobs that will be created and that we continue to grow the railway network and the services on it. Since the beginning of this franchise, there has been a 25 per cent increase in employment on the railway network; there has been an increase in the number of conductors; and further services, with more conductors, are planned. The appropriate way in which to deal with the dispute is for First ScotRail and the RMT to sit down together. I urge them to do so.

14:47

Stewart Stevenson
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