17 September 2009

S3M-4861 Road Safety Framework [Closing Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 17 September 2009

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Road Safety Framework

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-4861, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on the Scottish road safety framework.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson:

This has been a useful debate. As I indicated at the outset, I am prepared to accept all three amendments—I could, of course, pick at some of their wording—because they all reflect the concern that is shared by all parties in the Parliament to ensure that we make our roads safer and that we make people's use of those roads safer.

Road safety is not an issue that we can build our way out of by forever improving our roads. Indeed, it is pretty clear that an increasing proportion of the accidents on our roads are related to driver behaviour and that, increasingly, the engineering interventions that we make on our roads should be about protecting people—who are often confronted by unreasonable driver behaviour—from the consequences of other people's accidents by giving them roads that give them exits or soft options that minimise the effects of poor driving.

We have had some good speeches that have highlighted a number of important issues. Des McNulty talked about the visually impaired and the use of shared surfaces. Like him, I think that there are some important issues there. The idea of clearing a space and making it shared is a good one, if we can find ways of providing areas in which people who are visually impaired can be protected and of allowing people to recognise the different needs of others.

The concept of shared surfaces often relates to the reduction of speeds in urban areas. Charlie Gordon touched on that in what was, as ever, a thoughtful speech. He said that we should use measures that affect the way that people use our roads to improve safety. I have every sympathy with that approach.

Des McNulty also mentioned the need to work with Westminster—we do, of course. We have had a number of good ideas from Westminster, and it is clear that Westminster sees merit in what we have done, much of which is reflected in what it is doing. We are working on slightly different timescales, but we are certainly working to a shared objective.

Mention was made of the Swedish objective of zero road deaths, but it is worth making the point that, although important work is being done and good progress has been made in Sweden, there is not the same degree of cross-body working that exists in Scotland, which was introduced by the previous Administration and has been sustained by this one. Indeed, the Swedes are having to have a rethink, as the progress that they had made is not being sustained.

Alex Johnstone, among others, introduced the subject of rural road deaths. Those of us who represent areas in the north-east of Scotland have particular concerns about the relationship of that issue to young drivers. It is suggested that two thirds of accidents are caused by driver error. Inexperienced drivers in their first year of driving—members should note that I said "inexperienced" rather than "young", although it is inevitable that young drivers will be inexperienced—are as much as five or six times more likely to have an accident as other people are. We must have a special focus on them.

Alex Johnstone and Alison McInnes spoke about school buses, which is not just an issue of legislation. Technology can help, but we must educate and show true leadership. Alison McInnes said that we need targets—of course we do—and pointed, quite properly, to the fact that children from the lowest socioeconomic groups are at significantly higher risk.

The budget of Sustrans is being sustained, and we are working on driver training with the Driving Standards Agency at Westminster. It is clear that some roads need new investment, and I welcome the work that Stuart McMillan has been doing in his constituency to help identify where such investment is appropriate.

Like many members, Jamie Stone spoke about his constituency. He highlighted the fact that road junctions present particular challenges, which they do. Dave Thompson returned to the subject of drink-driving limits. I am glad that the Liberals reflected the position that we have taken in their amendment.

Charlie Gordon got the school jotter out of the back of his pants and talked about kerb drill. It is right that we need some flair and imagination of the kind that has meant that, even at his great age, the road safety education that he received at school is still at the forefront of his mind. We must keep doing such work.

We would all be astonished if anyone had risen to their feet today to oppose road safety and, of course, we have not been astonished.

We have had an excellent debate. Much more has been said than I can summarise in the six minutes that I have been kindly allowed. We will read the Official Report carefully and seek to respond accordingly. We will, of course, continue to work with partners.

I hope that we achieve unanimity when we vote.


S3M-4861 Road Safety Framework [Opening Speech]

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 17 September 2009

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]
... ... ...
Road Safety Framework

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-4861, in the name of Stewart Stevenson, on the Scottish road safety framework.


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

I am delighted to have the opportunity to open the parliamentary debate on Scotland's road safety framework to 2020. The framework was launched on 15 June this year, and it sets out our road safety vision of a steady reduction in the number of those who are killed or seriously injured, with the ultimate vision of a future in which no one is killed on Scotland's roads and the injury rate is much reduced. It is an ambitious vision, but it is in keeping with those countries in Europe that are leaders on road safety.

To support that vision, we have set the first-ever national Scottish road safety targets, which experts agree are needed to focus action and maintain the reduction of death and serious injury. We are asking our road safety partners to help us to achieve those targets through their own local and organisational contributions.

Scotland has made considerable progress in achieving—indeed, exceeding—the current Great Britain road casualty reduction targets, and I recognise the validity of the Labour amendment, which reflects the achievements of previous Administrations. However, the risk of death and injury is still unacceptably high, and more needs to be done, particularly with regard to children and young drivers, and rural roads, which the Liberal amendment addresses.

The new Scottish targets are challenging but reflect our focus on driving down fatalities as well as serious injury for all age groups, and specifically for children. We are, of course, only too aware that setting targets is relatively easy, and that actually achieving them will require enormous effort, co-operation and perseverance. There is a strong commitment to help to achieve the targets from our existing dedicated road safety partners, with whom we have excellent partnership working arrangements.

To help achieve the targets, we have set out a range of high-level commitments in our framework. We have made a start in turning some of our commitments into action with our road safety partners. A strategic Scottish road safety board will meet for the first time in October, with a further annual general meeting—which I shall chair—taking place in December. That group is representative of the key delivery partners and will advise on how best to take forward the commitments in the framework.

We have committed to match fund the purchase of new roadside breath test equipment with police forces in Scotland by March 2010. That important new equipment will give additional data to help us to get a better profile of a drink driver and to help to inform enforcement, education and publicity for drink-drive campaigns. The amendments that are before us refer to that, and seek a reduction in the limit—a matter that we have consistently supported and which I am pleased to see is before the Parliament again today.

We have provided modest support to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to enable its production of a website for the Scottish occupational road safety alliance, which was launched on 10 September. It is intended to raise employers' awareness of the need to have a policy on the management of occupational road risk, because the professional driver, as well as the domestic driver, must be part of the solution.

A range of initiatives is under way to strengthen the safety of children who travel to school on school buses, including a proposed new school bus sign that has been designed by Aberdeenshire Council, which is also running a campaign to heighten awareness for drivers and schoolchildren around the pick-up and drop-off points for school buses. When the results of that work have been evaluated, we will share them with road safety partners in Scotland.

As yet, we have not seen much progress on the idea of banning the overtaking of school buses. I recognise that there are still some significant questions on that subject. However, we should continue to discuss the idea to ensure that we do not miss the opportunity to pursue something that is thought to deliver some benefits in other jurisdictions.

Route safety groups have been set up for each of the trunk road routes, with participation from relevant road safety partners such as local authorities, police forces, emergency services, safety camera partnerships and so on. Transport Scotland's pioneering patrol service, the trunk road incident support service, which aims to cut jams at some of Scotland's traffic hotspots, has been extended to tackle hold-ups en route to the Forth road bridge. Those are all examples of initiatives in which road safety partners are working together to help to deliver reductions in the number of deaths and serious injuries on Scotland's roads.

Gavin Brown (Lothians) (Con): It might be too early to say, but is there anything in the budget about which we have just heard that will have either a positive or negative impact on the road safety framework?

Stewart Stevenson: The budget does, of course, support the objectives of the road safety framework. I note that the Conservative amendment calls for funding to be focused on black spots. We are prepared to accept the Conservative amendment and we expect members on the Conservative benches to engage appropriately to see what we can do on that subject.

The framework signals our willingness, where we have solid evidence to back up our proposals, to advocate more restrictive measures than exist in the rest of the United Kingdom. That does not mean that we are not joined up with the UK Government on road safety. We are working extremely well together. I had a warm and supportive letter from Paul Clark after our framework was published.

I accept all the amendments on behalf of the Government and hope that we will have a good debate. The framework sets out a shared commitment to educate and inform, to engineer, and to enforce traffic laws. We seek to encourage partnership working and evaluate what works and how best to invest in road safety, but it ain't just about the Government, the Parliament and partner organisations. It is the responsibility of every road user. I hope that the framework will galvanise all of us, as politicians of whatever party and as individuals, to go safe on Scotland's roads.

I move,

That the Parliament welcomes the publication on 15 June 2009 of Scotland's Road Safety Framework to 2020; notes the road safety vision for Scotland, which is in line with other leading road safety countries, and further notes the road safety targets, priorities and commitments and the support of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland to tackle road casualty reductions in Scotland over the next decade.


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