Legislative Programme

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:37 am on 16th June 1999.

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Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat 11:37 am, 16th June 1999

Mr Gallie makes a valuable point and I know that other members, including Mr Gorrie, share his concern about the number of weeks in which we are likely to be meeting. I understand that, in a week, we will meet for one and a half days in plenary and for one and a half days in committee, but that may not be enough. In Westminster, select committees tend to sit weekly; standing committees sit more frequently. I hope that this Parliament will be flexible about the number of meetings that we have, as it is important that we examine legislation in detail.

On the transport bill, road-user charging and workplace parking charges are important, but it is vital that any revenue raised is spent on public transport. This is a chicken-and-egg situation. We are going to put extra taxes on car users, so at the same time we must improve public transport. An integrated transport system is a great phrase, but we have yet to see much evidence of it. We must invest far more in public transport and we must do so soon. It is also crucial that we take freight off the road and put it on to rail. In this country, we have only 700 freight-loading points, whereas France and Germany have 15,000 between them. We must examine closely how we can invest more in our railway system and move freight from road to rail.

I am glad that the proposal to improve and to integrate concessionary fares systems for pensioners and for those in special need is also included in the transport bill. We should have an integrated concessionary fares scheme across the country.

I agreed with Nicola Sturgeon's comments on education. Raising standards and increasing resources go together. I am sorry that she is no longer in the chamber, but I am sure that the SNP will take the following point on board.

Mr Andrew Wilson asked what differences the partnership agreement had made. I will give a few figures that explain the difference. First, there are 500 more teachers thanks to the partnership agreement between the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Labour party. Secondly, an additional £21 million-£24 per pupil-will be spent on books thanks to the partnership agreement. Thirdly, there will be a £9 million pilot scheme to encourage pupils from low-income families to stay on for further education thanks to the partnership agreement. On top of that, a massive £600 million will be invested to deal with the school building maintenance backlog thanks to the partnership agreement. I know that Mr Salmond-who quotes selectively from the partnership agreement-will be glad to welcome that additional expenditure, which the Liberal Democrats managed to obtain from the Labour party in the partnership agreement.