26 September 2002

S1M-3342 Transport (Investment)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S1M-3342, in the name of David Mundell, on the impact on transport of the comprehensive spending review.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Far be it from me to criticise the SNP's opening speaker, but I think that he was far too generous. He said that the promised land was on the horizon, but I am afraid that my eyes cannot see it and I suspect that neither can those of many in the chamber.

We do not need to confine ourselves to the views of people in the SNP. David Begg, the Government's adviser, has consistently told the Government that it is woefully underfunding the public transport network. Private Eye has a column called "Signal Failures" and I believe that this Government has been a signal failure with regard to transport. I will illustrate a few of the difficulties under which we labour—I use that word advisedly.

There is a monopoly in air transport. BAA owns the three most geographically important airfields in Scotland, which are there simply as feeder stations for BAA's economic workhorses: the London airports. No passenger jet aircraft in Scotland is registered to an owner in Scotland. Is it any wonder that air services in Scotland are peripheral to the commercial interests of airlines that are based elsewhere and which will always seek to develop services closer to their bases?

We continue to suffer from the tearing up of many of our rural railway lines. As members have heard me say previously, I represent one of two mainland constituencies that have no railway line. Nonetheless, we get no greater share of the road budget. From the limited largesse that is being distributed to support railways, we get little additional benefit. Alex Johnstone was entirely correct to highlight Gordon and Banff and Buchan as being places that suffer from poor roads and limited railways. If I come to Parliament by public transport, I have a £20 taxi ride to the two-hourly service that runs from the nearest railhead at Huntly, which is outside my constituency.

Elaine Thomson (Aberdeen North) (Lab): Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: We have no time for nonsense from Aberdeen Labour.

The western peripheral road is an economic drag on people in the north-east north of Aberdeen. I know of a company that estimates that congestion in Aberdeen costs it about £100,000. The area contains the world's biggest offshore oil base, but the 20 to 30 trucks a day that travel between Peterhead and Aberdeen are delayed by between 20 and 40 minutes on each of their round-trip journeys.

I know that Duncan McNeil did not hear this because he joined us late in the morning but, in the previous debate, Allan Wilson made the important point that his Executive is focused on three i's: infrastructure, infrastructure and infrastructure. Well, without infrastructure, we have no transport system worth debating.

The minister and I have exchanged comments on free local travel, especially with regard to disabled people.

Mr McNeil: Welcome it, then.

Stewart Stevenson: I welcome what provision there is, but my disabled constituents do not have buses upon which they may exercise their right to those free rides. Labour is not delivering for the disabled or the pensioners in Scotland.


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