17 September 2009

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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