26 March 2009

S3M-3349 Earth Hour 2009

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 26 March 2009

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Earth Hour 2009

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S3M-3349, in the name of Shirley-Anne Somerville, on earth hour 2009. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament supports WWF's Earth Hour 2009, which aims to encourage millions of people worldwide and across Scotland to switch off their lights for an hour at 8.30 pm on Saturday 28 March 2009, to send a powerful global message that we care enough about climate change to take action and demonstrate widespread public support for an equitable, binding and scientifically credible global deal on climate change and, in Scotland, strong Scottish climate change legislation; considers that 2009 is a critical year for action on climate change with a new global deal to be agreed in Copenhagen in December; acknowledges the opportunity for Scotland to take a global lead with the most progressive legislation in the world through a strong Climate Change (Scotland) Bill; recognises that the global deal must address the historical responsibility of the United Kingdom and other developed countries as major contributors to climate change; commends local government in Edinburgh alongside the many individuals who are early signatories to support WWF's Earth Hour in Scotland, and further considers that the Scottish and UK governments are in an ideal position to take a proactive, progressive and leading role throughout the 2009 negotiations.

... ... ...

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

I, too, thank Shirley-Anne Somerville for bringing the matter to the Parliament for debate.

On behalf of the Government, I am pleased to support WWF's earth hour 2009, as countries throughout the world will do. On 28 March, we will turn off non-essential lights in all 44 of our core buildings, as indeed will the Parliament. Earth hour raises awareness of sustainability and climate change globally and throughout Scotland.

It is clear from the speeches that we heard in tonight's debate that the Parliament supports earth hour, cares about climate change and recognises the need for action. As Alex Johnstone said, earth hour is more than a gesture—we can see that from what happened in previous years. It is thought that some 36 million people participated in 2008. We are told that Bangkok saved 4.16 tonnes of carbon in the single hour, Toronto saved 900MWh of electricity, and Ireland made a significant reduction of 150MWh and saved 6 tonnes of carbon. The best result is said to have been in Christchurch in New Zealand, which reported a pleasing reduction in electricity demand of some 13 per cent.

Members highlighted the need to work in partnership. Tackling climate change is an area in which partnership has been working effectively. We have good relations with colleagues at Westminster through their passage of the Climate Change Act 2008; with colleagues in local authorities, which unanimously supported Scotland's climate change declaration; and with the partnership that clearly exists throughout Scotland in supporting earth hour. Many members made the point that earth hour is about individual action as well as corporate action.

We must do our bit now to reduce emissions, prepare for the unavoidable impacts of climate change and encourage environmentally responsible behaviour while supporting new technologies and innovations to take advantage of the future low-carbon economy. Our climate challenge fund has so far helped 56 communities to reduce their carbon emissions and build a sustainable future. The go greener campaign gives advice on energy efficiency and reducing waste. The Energy Saving Trust supports consumers on sustainable energy issues, and the Carbon Trust is working with organisations to reduce emissions. The European Union emission trading scheme and the forthcoming carbon reduction commitment are encouraging low-carbon technologies. We will work closely with industry and further develop Scotland's massive renewable energy potential to deliver on target the generation of 20 per cent of energy consumption from renewable resources by 2020.

I want to pick up on specific points that members have made. Malcolm Chisholm referred to the need to act in the next 10 years. The Government has indicated to the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee that it will lodge an amendment to the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill at stage 2 to set a target for 2020 rather than 2030, which is the year referred to in the current draft of the bill. That will align the bill with what is happening elsewhere and will be a spur to action.

Robin Harper said: "Is it that simple? Basically—yes." It is simple to say that everyone should turn off their lights, but a little bit more difficult to persuade everyone to do so. However, he was, of course, right.

I am delighted that Rob Gibson's partner Eleanor is in for a surprise dinner on Saturday night. I, too, think that protecting bees is important if only because I have a rather sticky complaint in the back of my throat. Some royal jelly—which was, of course, the Queen mum's favourite remedy for many problems—is probably called for.

Des McNulty called on us to have a darkness party. I do not think that he was talking politics but about a celebration, and there is certainly something in what he said. He pointed to actions such as earth hour moving climate change issues on to an even broader agenda.

It is good to know that Alex Johnstone learns something some of the time. He told us that the motion is informative and that he learned much from it.

We in Scotland have huge opportunities but also huge responsibilities to make a contribution to the world climate change agenda. The First Minister has said that we can punch well above our weight. We have a bill that the WWF has described as the most ambitious in the world, and we must live up to that and continue to improve the bill. The Government and I are certainly up for that.

Of course, we have negotiations in Copenhagen to secure an agreement to succeed the Kyoto protocol. It is important that good progress is made on that.

The Government has encouraged its staff to act. An article has appeared on its intranet showing how staff can make their practical contributions. Members have referred to similar actions across the web that encourage people to act.

Given the size of the country in question and its consumption of resources, one of the most exciting changes that we have seen was indicated in President Obama's inaugural speech. In a clear change of direction, he said:

"We will harness the sun and the winds"

and the land. That indicated an engagement with the climate change agenda that is perhaps greater than we have seen before.

People have talked about the value of dark nights at home. One of the great pleasures of living in the country is going out on dark, clear nights and seeing the whole panoply of stars from horizon to horizon. Light pollution prevents that elsewhere. Many years ago, in the 1960s, my brother and I saw the Pleiades meteor shower at 3 in the morning. One would not be able to see that if there was light pollution.

It is unusual for the Parliament to call on the Government to turn out the lights, but we will do so on this occasion, even though some of us may watch the match before doing that. I support the motion in my colleague's name.

Meeting closed at 17:43

12 March 2009

S3M-3674 Aberdeen Crossrail [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 12 March 2009

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

Aberdeen Crossrail

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): ... ... ...

The first item of business is a debate on motion S3M-3674, in the name of Alison McInnes, on Aberdeen crossrail.


... ... ...


Stewart Stevenson:

I welcome John Park's concluding remarks, in which he looked forward to my continuing to come to the chamber. I intend to do that.

The strategic transport projects review is the thread that has run through the debate. Indeed, it is the first objective-led, nationwide, multimodal and evidence-based appraisal process to be undertaken in Scotland. Other jurisdictions are now looking into it—we are at the leading edge of international approaches to transport planning.

The STPR sets out the next 20 years of investment priorities. It will help ministers and Administrations to make informed decisions on future transport spending, subject to the current programme.

Brian Adam (Aberdeen North) (SNP): Can the minister confirm that capital for rail is rather more possible because Network Rail has borrowing powers, and that there is therefore less potential financial impact on rail than there is on road from the Forth road bridge project?

Stewart Stevenson: That is absolutely correct. Indeed, the proposed rail interventions for the north-east are budgeted at some £1.1 billion. If that does not highlight the Government's commitment to improving the rail infrastructure in Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire, I do not know what will.

Jeremy Purvis: I am interested in what the minister said in response to Brian Adam. If Network Rail's regulated asset base is the most effective way of delivering rail infrastructure in Scotland, why has he ruled out using that method for the Borders railway? Why does he prefer to borrow £300 million from the private sector for that project?

Stewart Stevenson: We invited Network Rail to compete, which would be the most effective way of reaching a cost-effective solution. In fact, a substantial number of people are interested in building the Borders rail link. It is important that we support the Office of Rail Regulation, which says that we can achieve 30 per cent savings by using different models and approaches, compared with how Network Rail does things. The Office of Rail Regulation has managed to get 19 per cent efficiency savings for the next control period. It is proper that we always consider the most effective ways of doing things on the rail network.

I will now turn to a few of the remarks that members have made. I will deal with as many as I can in the time that is available. Des McNulty criticised the Liberal Democrat motion—I accept that he did so in a mild way—for its parochialism. I am not sure that I agree with him on that. It is proper that the Parliament should debate that in plenary session, if it is asserted that such matters in Aberdeen are important for the whole country.

Des McNulty says that we need a strategy for conurbations. Should local stations be national or local? That is a perfectly good and proper question for him to ask. We need to consider the cross-cut across a range of projects in different transport modes and we must seek to integrate them, which is precisely what we have sought to do in the strategic transport projects review. Will strategic transport projects review 2, when it comes along, do things better than STPR 1? Yes, of course it will, because one can always learn lessons.

On the proposal to consider Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire as a single transport area, that is largely happening already through increased collaboration between the councils. Des McNulty emphasised the need for dialogue. Basically, I agreed with a great deal of what Des McNulty had to say. I do not always do so, but I think that he spoke a great deal of sense today.

Alex Johnstone spoke about timetable issues south of Aberdeen. Of course, we do not control the timetables on the network in Great Britain. We can control what we ask of First ScotRail, but the timetables depend on Network Rail's willingness to co-operate, and indeed that of the other operators that have to access the track, which are controlled by Westminster. We are making good progress; we will try to do more.

Nigel Don pointed out that it is north-east to south-west trains that are important. We are not ruling out more stations. One of the benefits of the incremental approach is that we will build up the case for further stations. Various locations have been mentioned.

Lewis Macdonald once again introduced the issue of the Haudagain roundabout. The work will be done by this Government and people will welcome it, as I have said before. That is not a national project; it is about fixing the local road. The traffic has been transferred off what is currently a trunk road; it is being made a local road. However, we are supporting that project, as we believe we should.

Richard Baker welcomed incremental improvements. I think that he is absolutely right.

I hope that I can borrow John Park's crystal ball, which has clearly been working for him. I would make a little point about the new Forth bridge. We are seeking to ensure that local civil engineering contractors are fully engaged at an early stage so that they understand what opportunities are available for them. Under international law, we cannot mandate who, internationally, is involved, but we are going to give our local people the best possible shot.

This has been a good debate, although not entirely free from rancour. We will see how we vote at 5 o'clock. The commitment by this minister and this Government to improving rail services in the north-east is absolute. No minister before me has used the railway as much as I have. I look forward to continuing to do so, and I support the amendment in my name.


S3M-3674 Aberdeen Crossrail [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 12 March 2009

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

Aberdeen Crossrail

The Presiding Officer (Alex Fergusson): I was so overtaken by the atmosphere of mirth in the chamber this morning that I missed my footing.

The first item of business is a debate on motion S3M-3674, in the name of Alison McInnes, on Aberdeen crossrail.


... ... ...


The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): I will start by apologising to Mr Rumbles for the intemperate word that I used when, in a sedentary comment, he grossly misrepresented the relationship between the minister and Transport Scotland.

Mike Rumbles: What an apology that is.

Stewart Stevenson:

It was intemperate, and I apologise.

The Government rejects the motion in the name of Alison McInnes. The Aberdeen crossrail project has a long history. I am well aware of the support that has been shown for the project, and that, in part, is why we are progressing the development of cross-Aberdeen services. Our approach is incremental and involves building patronage to strengthen the case for later investment, delivering value for money and protecting other projects across Scotland. Indeed, our amendment does not seek to delete Aberdeen crossrail from any motion that might be passed at 5 o'clock.

The STPR supports the delivery of sustainable economic growth and concluded that interventions between Aberdeen and Inverness and from Aberdeen to the central belt would contribute to achieving our purpose. Our proposed enhancements will deliver reduced journey times north and south of Aberdeen of up to 20 minutes; create new journey opportunities; improve accessibility to the Dyce area and beyond, to Inverurie; increase frequency by providing express services between Aberdeen and the central belt; and provide two trains every hour between Nairn and Inverness. Those interventions will make rail a genuine and attractive alternative to the car. In addition to improving passenger services, the enhancements will improve freight services by improving infrastructure to allow the operation of longer freight trains.

Together, the delivery of those outcomes will help the Government to achieve its purpose of sustainable economic growth for the whole of Scotland. Indeed, at a meeting that I attended earlier this year, Nestrans expressed its support for the proposed interventions, particularly because the proposals will deliver early many of the benefits of the Aberdeen crossrail proposal and will do so at better value to the taxpayer.

I have said previously that the Aberdeen and Inverness intervention will include work to evaluate a new station at Kintore and support the development of a new station at Dalcross, with interchange facilities to link with Inverness airport. I will shortly meet Nanette Milne to discuss the Kintore issue, and I hope that other members will be able to attend.

We are working with Network Rail to develop those interventions as part of the periodic settlement. Transport Scotland, under my instructions, will ask Network Rail to carry out a feasibility study later this year on developing the Aberdeen and Inverness intervention. The study, which will also examine the case for Kintore, must balance the desire to attract new passengers against the impact on network capacity and the needs of existing passengers, while taking account of value for money and affordability.

We have explained clearly our national priorities and we will continue to engage with local authorities and regional transport partnerships on the delivery of those priorities, in addition to discussing how best to deliver regional priorities. For example, we are working in partnership with Strathclyde partnership for transport and Glasgow City Council to establish and deliver common objectives for the west of Scotland rail enhancements. Good government is about leadership, which is what we are demonstrating. The construction of a new station at Laurencekirk, which was started by the previous Administration and will be delivered by the present one, will shortly link commuters to key economic centres.

Mike Rumbles: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I do not have time.

Mike Rumbles: Will the minister take an intervention on Laurencekirk station?

Stewart Stevenson: Very briefly.

Mike Rumbles: The minister really must not mislead Parliament. Laurencekirk station is 14 miles south of Stonehaven. It has never been part of the Aberdeen crossrail project, so the minister must not pretend that it is.

Stewart Stevenson: That was not appropriate. I congratulated the previous Administration on progressing the project and said that we are delivering it.

The 2008 timetable takes account of a package of improvements that were announced last year on the Edinburgh-Fife-Aberdeen line, which has provided hourly services between Aberdeen and Inverurie, with more frequent services at commuting times; half-hourly services between Dundee and Aberdeen; a reduction of about 10 minutes in journey times between Edinburgh and Aberdeen; and an additional 1,200 seats throughout the Scottish network.

On our roads, we are committed to getting the best return for investment. We are considering infrastructure improvements on nationally significant routes, including the A96. Again, we are working with RTPs on that.

As I have said before, the STPR is not the only way in which to deliver transport infrastructure. We will work with local government and RTPs on local and regional benefits. Of course, we will continue to engage with members and the Parliament on transport issues. I say once again that the Forth crossing remains our strategic priority on roads and it will dominate our spending until it is opened. It is an economic link that must be maintained, therefore it is right that the immediate focus should be on it. I am pleased that we will make significant rail interventions in parallel and that Aberdeen and the north will benefit. The Government has identified an investment hierarchy that prioritises interventions. Crossrail services in Aberdeen are important for the north-east and wider Scotland, which is why we are making investments in the north and will continue to do so. I will take pleasure in moving the amendment in my name.

I move amendment S3M-3674.3, to leave out from "which would" to end and insert:

"which is being tackled incrementally by the introduction of new services from Inverurie, the opening of Laurencekirk station, the re-timetabling of other services and the bringing forward of work on Kintore station; believes that thisincremental approach delivers early and cost-effective benefits to rail services across Aberdeen; recognises that the introduction of additional stops increases journey times and can, in certain circumstances, reduce the viability of services overall; welcomes the real progress being made by the Scottish Government after years of inaction, and looks forward to further rail investment in the north as announced in the Strategic Transport Projects Review."


05 March 2009

S3M-3584 National Planning Framework

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 5 March 2009

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

... ... ...

National Planning Framework

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Alasdair Morgan): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-3584, in the name of Duncan McNeil, on behalf of the Local Government and Communities Committee, on "National Planning Framework for Scotland 2: Proposed Framework". The debate is fully subscribed and there is no spare time, so I will stop members at the end of their allotted time.


... ... ...


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

It has often been said that one can never have too much of a good thing.

I thank Parliament for the speeches that have been made by members of all parties. It has genuinely been a debate in which there has been a large measure of agreement, if not unanimity. Nonetheless, members have raised quite a lot of substantive points, and I will attempt to deal with as many of them as I can in my concluding remarks. Those that I do not deal with will be taken account of as part of our review of everything that has been said in the Parliament. Peter Peacock asked if I could respond to any points that I did not deal with in my summing up by writing to him. I would be happy to do the same for anyone else who wishes me to, by interacting in what I hope is a consensual and inclusive manner.

Let me put the national planning framework in context. It is about taking forward the spatial aspects of the Government's economic strategy and fleshing out a number of our commitments on climate change, renewable energy and waste management. It sets a long-term vision for the spatial dimension and provides the opportunity to align strategic investment.

A number of members, starting with the Local Government and Communities Committee's convener, Duncan McNeil, raised the issue of consultation. I fully acknowledge that lessons can be learned every time we interact with the people whom we serve, and we will seek to do that. I make the general point that only on a few occasions has a Government sought to contact all the community councils in Scotland, even though they are statutory bodies. We had substantial engagement. Duncan McNeil asked for a debrief of inputs, which it is proper for us to consider.

In response to the point that the framework needs to be more flexible, I make the point that it contains 12 projects, four of which are public sector and eight of which are private sector. To some extent, we are creating a spatial framework for the future but, by and large, they ain't our projects. Others will have to progress them. Will we attach the appropriate priority to each of the projects as they come forward? Yes, of course we will. We have given pretty clear indications on the Forth crossing, the west of Scotland rail enhancements, the strategic drainage project in Glasgow and the 2014 Commonwealth games, for which we are responsible. The timetable for our projects is relatively well understood.

Des McNulty talked about finance and timing. Raising that is perfectly proper, but the document is of course about planning, so it would be unusual for it to talk about finance, which we will deal with in another way.

Des McNulty also focused on the west of Scotland rail infrastructure. I agree that including that in the framework is right because, if we are to deliver the infrastructure to include high-speed rail and the additional capacity that we want in the west of Scotland, significant infrastructure changes will be required in the Glasgow area.

Like other members, Des McNulty made a plea for more references to cycling, walking and microgeneration. We will see whether the final document can pick up those comments. He also suggested that opportunities for discussion had been lacking. I suspect that we will never stop feeling that we have more to say about this major subject.

Alison McInnes picked up on the north-east's expertise in carbon capture and on the geographic advantage of Peterhead power station, which is in our shared constituency. That power station is adjacent to the Miller sour-gas field, whose pipework makes it particularly appropriate for the sequestration of carbon dioxide.

Malcolm Chisholm—not Malcolm Rifkind, which one of my colleagues inadvertently called him, to my alarm—made several points. I make the general comment that many of Malcolm Chisholm's concerns relate to matters in which the planning system is already engaged. He threw in the lock gates at Leith. I must bring my family into every debate—that is compulsory—so I mention that my grandfather Alexander MacGregor was a lock gate keeper at Leith, so I might know more about the subject than the member imagines.

Malcolm Chisholm referred to Clare Symonds's interviews of 11 people who were involved in the consultation. We must give weight to what she said, because it was augmented by further research, but we must acknowledge that thousands of people were involved in the consultation.

Alex Johnstone, among others, mentioned high-speed rail. Several hundred flights a day take place between central Scotland and London. Everywhere that high-speed rail is introduced, the number of such flights withers. I suspect that we would be no different.

Patrick Harvie: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I am sorry—I do not have time.

Rob Gibson said that the framework was, inevitably, imperfect. I say that it is better to aim for perfection and miss than to aim for mediocrity and hit it bang on. I do not accept that the framework is imperfect, but we will always seek to do better—I see that that comment got the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth.

Rob Gibson also talked about Pentland Power, which is important.

Peter Peacock raised a wide range of issues, to some of which I will have to respond in writing. Scapa Flow is very important. He made interesting points about the Cromarty Firth. On the A96, I will supplement my answer at question time. The reference to Tornagrain does not short-circuit the planning process, because the project is not designated as a national development. We will consider everything that has been said about that.

Mary Scanlon: Will the minister give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I will do so if the intervention is very brief.

Mary Scanlon: My intervention will be almost as brief as was the minister's reply to me at question time. Given that I received a one-word reply of "Yes", I seek further clarity in writing about Tornagrain.

Stewart Stevenson: If the member wishes to have that, I am happy to write to her. We will pursue that later.

Shirley-Anne Somerville said that no second runway at Edinburgh airport is proposed. We will see, but we do not provide for that in the framework.

Patrick Harvie said that the replacement Forth crossing will be road only, but that is not the case. We have designed the hard shoulders for other uses in the future.

Iain Smith referred to high-speed rail. We are certainly happy to think about his comment.

We had huge consultation on the document, which was interesting. We have had a terrific debate. Jim Tolson managed to make a similar speech to a previous speech, in which he said that one day's notice of publication of the discussion draft was given. The discussion draft was published in January 2008—one year ago. As with the STPR, the consultation has not been slim.

Ladies and gentlemen, Presiding Officer, I thank the three committees for their work and look forward with interest to how we will vote at 5 o'clock.


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