28 March 2002

S1M-2945 Transport

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 28 March 2002

[THE DEPUTY PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:30]


The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S1M-2945, in the name of David Mundell, on transport, and two amendments to that motion.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): We live in strange and disturbing times. I have listened to David Mundell calling for more public investment and focusing on public transport, and I have read the document from the Executive, which does not want to spend any public money whatever. That merely confirms the view that we on the SNP benches have already formed that the new Labour party is the new Tory party.

I would like to say a little bit about something that has not been covered much in the debate—the effect on business of the current infrastructure in Scotland. Like many other members, I will be parochial.

The Executive's document says that it will be

"fixing Aberdeen's congestion before it leads to further deterioration in journey time reliability."

The reality is that many people in the north-east of Scotland—and when I use that phrase I mean the country beyond Aberdeen—are absolutely constrained by the congestion in Aberdeen. Businesses in my constituency are actively considering relocation because they cannot reliably go through Aberdeen.

Mr Davidson: That is since he was elected.

Stewart Stevenson: They have been considering relocation even since Mr Davidson became a regional member for the area.

Businesses are paying huge sums of money because of congestion and unreliability. It costs £50,000 a year for a small company to be in Peterhead instead of Aberdeen. It is time that the Executive stopped talking about grand plans and started putting up some grands of money to solve the problems.

I thought that I heard the minister say that he is looking for 23 million lorry miles in his new plan. I would very much welcome that, because his document mentions 21 million. He might care to confirm that. I would very much support that. I see that there are existing facilities for getting freight off the roads and on to railways, enabling groceries to go from Bellshill to Wick and Thurso, and I am sure that people will be grateful for that.

Let me say a word or two about flying and about Scotland's role. There is a consultation document on European new skies. Well, well! The list of consultees that the UK Government has chosen for the exercise is very telling. Among the hundreds of bodies that are being consulted, there is only one Scottish company—Loganair. Almost none of the air transport facilities that are provided in Scotland is provided by Scottish air transport companies. That perhaps indicates why I find it difficult to agree with the Scottish Tourist Board, whose website says:

"Scotland is a small country and travelling around it is quite easy, as is getting here."

That experience is alien to the majority of people whom I meet.

I turn to something that Alex Johnstone said. He referred to 18 glorious years of a Tory Government. Well, I have something rather surprising to say to Alex. I met a Tory voter when I was campaigning last year, and he had had some rather upsetting news. He had been to his doctor and heard that he had only four months to live. I said, "Why are you voting Tory? They will not help the health service." He said, "No, I'm voting Tory for the very first time, because four months under a Tory Government is like 18 years under anybody else."

Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con): That is cruel and in bad taste.


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