We are taking stock of this major review and considering the role of such roads in our integrated and sustainable approach to transport. We expect to report to Parliament after the summer recess.
Does the minister accept that an efficient modern trunk road network is critical to economic development in Scotland and a key consideration in industrial location, attracting inward investment and developing indigenous industries? Does she also accept that it is therefore critical in reducing unemployment and in tackling social exclusion?
I acknowledge the importance of the strategic trunk roads network to businesses and communities. It is important that trunk roads are used effectively and that goods can be transported around the country in good time. We need to consider ways in which to improve the effectiveness of that network. The Government has put in money, through the comprehensive spending review, to ensure that we can maintain the roads network effectively and to the proper standard, and to examine a range of measures such as taking freight off roads and encouraging it on to rail. That will ensure that we make the most
I welcome the fact that, for the first time, we will have a road programme that is based on an integrated transport policy rather than an uncosted and unaffordable wish list such as we had under the previous Government. Will the minister undertake to consider safety and environmental factors when making decisions about road developments?
I am happy to agree. We need to take a broad look at the role of the roads network and how it fits into our integrated transport strategy. Safety issues, environmental issues, access issues, integration with the rest of the network and economic development are all important. The strategic roads review will consider those key things to ensure that we do not have a wish list of roads, but a sensible approach so that we can prioritise effectively for the good of the country.
We have been waiting a long time for the roads review and, in some cases, it has been a very long time indeed. When I was first elected to the House of Commons, I remember people in the Scottish Office talking about a motorway between Haggs and Stepps. A quarter of a century later we are still waiting. They are still talking about it and they have apparently not even decided on the line of route.
It would be premature for me to announce an individual option from the strategic roads review before we have conducted that review. As I mentioned to Malcolm Chisholm, the key issues are to do with access, integration, safety and economy. We are investigating those things in the roads review. When Parliament returns in the autumn, we can consider those issues and decide on our priorities.
That brings open question time to an end. I know that it is early days, but both questions and answers need to be a little briefer if more members are to be called.