Working together is a key element in achieving better government. In the Executive, the
At a local level, community planning is an example of councils working in partnership with other agencies to develop a common vision and improve the lives of the people they serve. The Scottish Executive will be working closely with local government to develop guidance and support for councils across the country.
I am sure that the minister is aware that there is a great deal of important joint working across the agencies at a local level to deliver a coherent service to the most vulnerable groups in a community through, for example, community care, primary health care and mental health care.
Is the minister aware, however, that professionals and voluntary groups report that attempts to work in partnership can be hampered by the separation of budget cycles, accountability lines and priorities at a Scottish level? Through the minister, I ask the Scottish Executive to give high priority to the organisational change that is required at a Scottish level to ensure support for crucial joint working at a local level.
"Modernising Community Care" sets out ways in which local authorities, health boards, national health service trusts and Scottish Homes can work together more effectively on projects such as joint commissioning and pooling of resources. If organisational or administrative barriers such as those that Johann Lamont has described are present at a local level, health ministers will be interested in the details of the situation. I understand that the health ministers are meeting with local authorities tomorrow to discuss how to take forward that shared agenda.
Will the minister provide money to help with the important things that Johann Lamont highlighted? Money should be provided to voluntary organisations and local authorities for the promotion of youth work, sport and other activities that improve health and the quality of life in the community and which will, in the long term, reduce health expenditure.
The compact that the Parliament endorsed yesterday sets out a new way of working between the Executive and the voluntary sector and between other agencies and the voluntary sector. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is producing guidance on the matter, and I hope that the related discussions will take place at a local level.
I welcome the minister's announcement last week of the £2 million that
Will the minister help to clear up the mystery of what has happened to the community planning initiative? Prior to the election in May, many authorities were asked to take forward community planning as pathfinder authorities, recognising the democratic authority of those local authorities.
That initiative is still on-going. The five pathfinder councils shared their experience of community planning with other local authorities in March 1999, and we are in the process of asking other councils to submit their proposals to the Executive.
Does the minister agree that an excellent example of joint working relationships would be to have one budget for the national health service and social work, to ensure that the 1,700 patients who are medically fit for discharge receive the appropriate level of residential care or care in the community?
That concludes question time. I apologise to those members who are still waiting to ask questions.
The next item of business is a ministerial statement—
On a point of order. In the light of the statement that is about to be given by the Minister for Transport and the Environment, would you rule that each of the departments in the Scottish Executive should be prepared to issue such statements to all the political parties represented in the Parliament?
Since early yesterday, I have tried to get a copy of the statement. I was told that I would get it two hours before the debate; I never got it. I went to the chamber desk at the back of the hall before coming in, to be told that they were not available and that they had been given out only to the transport spokespersons of each of the parties.
On a point of order. When the Minister for Communities wound up yesterday afternoon's debate, she made the major announcement of the debate essentially in the last two minutes of her speech. That was contrary to procedure and to the way in which debates should be conducted. Would you rule that that is unacceptable and should not happen again?
No, it is a related matter. Further to the point of order that was raised by my colleague Mr MacAskill and me yesterday about ministerial statements appearing in the press before they are announced to the Parliament, in the interests of openness and accountability, will you rule that ministers should first make their statements to Parliament and then to the press?
Is that the end of the points of order? I received notice of those issues yesterday and, as I have mentioned, in writing from the Conservative party. I have given the matter careful thought and would like to make a considered statement on it.
It is not possible for every Executive decision to be announced in Parliament; otherwise, we would do nothing but listen to ministerial statements. It has to be a matter for judgment by the Executive which statements are of sufficient policy significance to be made in Parliament. In the case of the two matters raised yesterday as points of order, and in the letters to me from different members, I have to say that both the policy on road tolls and the creation of the Scottish community investment fund are, in my view, substantial policy questions which should have been announced to Parliament first.
I would further add that Executive policy announcements should not in any case be made during closing speeches and debate in the chamber, which are intended to be replies to the actual debates.
We are all on a learning curve and I do not wish to sound unduly censorious. Indeed, I have no powers at the moment, under standing orders, to prevent recurrences of what has happened. It is more a question of courtesy, good practice and the observing of the founding principles of the Parliament: openness and accountability. I hope that we will pursue that in future.
Strategic Roads ReviewThe Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): We turn to the statement. I remind members that this is a two-stage process. The statement will be with questions for clarification only, followed by a debate on the statement.
I welcome the opportunity today to report on the occasion of the publication of the reports on the strategic roads review.
Trunk roads make an important contribution to our integrated and sustainable transport strategy. They are a vital part of our transport network, but our integrated transport strategy is about much more than roads. Thirty-two projects are benefiting from the Executive's public transport fund, at a cost of £55 million. Those include bus priority and park-and-ride schemes, rail improvements combined with park-and-ride, improved rail and bus stations, better provision for cyclists and pedestrians and airfield and ferry improvements. Rail could make a substantially greater contribution in both the passenger and freight markets. We are supporting that development through our freight facilities grants. Four recent awards, totalling almost £14 million, will result in more than 100,000 lorry journeys a year being taken off our roads, with the goods being transported by rail.
The trunk road network is a major national asset, built up on the basis of decades of public investment. The former Conservative Government was failing to protect that asset through its decisions on budgets and priorities. It irresponsibly built up major expectations of new schemes, but at the same time raided the maintenance programme. Apart from being wholly irresponsible, that could only lead to bigger bills in the longer term.
We have begun to tackle that inheritance, and have increased spending on repair and maintenance substantially. This year such spending is a third more than the figure inherited from the former Conservative Government, and further increases are planned for the next two years. We can already see an impact on the condition of the network, for example, on the Edinburgh city bypass, and on the A90.
A key task is to increase effective capacity by making better use of the existing network, rather than carrying out widespread new building. That means better driver information; improving flows at key pressure points; promoting integrated approaches such as park-and-ride initiatives; and
Route action plans allow us to introduce measures to address congestion problems or accident black spots. Increasingly, route action plans will be used to determine investment priorities across the network and will examine the extent to which public transport as well as road improvements can meet transport needs. To illustrate that approach, I am pleased to confirm today additional junctions at Inchmichael and Inchture on the A90 between Perth and Dundee and two new junctions at Forfar. Those grade-separated junctions will proceed to construction as soon as is practicable, and will bring real safety benefits to local people.
Road safety is one of our key priorities. We will continue to place emphasis on accident investigation and prevention and on route accident reduction plans, as major safety benefits can often be secured through relatively inexpensive, commonsense improvements.
We are working with the UK Government on a review of speed policy and expect to publish later this year new targets for the reduction of road casualties in the period to 2010.
We are committed to protecting the environment through sustainable transport policies. That is why we need traffic management to protect communities from the effects of heavy through traffic and the pollution that is caused by stop-go driving conditions. It is why we need to improve the appearances of roads and bridges and to minimise or avoid altogether any harmful impacts of maintenance activity.
That is also why we must ensure that environmental considerations are at the heart of the design process and take mitigating measures to minimise or avoid altogether any harmful impacts arising from construction. Environmental considerations are why I am ruling out the Kelvin valley for any replacement of the A80. That was a difficult decision, but on the grounds of cost and environmental damage, I believe that it is right.
Our integrated transport strategy is about much more than building new roads. However, in certain circumstances, major new road construction is necessary. That is why we have built the A75 the Glen and the A828 Creagan bridge, and why we will progress further schemes.
The roads review took as its starting point the 15 inherited major trunk road proposals and two non-trunk road schemes: the A8000 and M74 northern extension. Those 17 schemes have a total capital cost in excess of £800 million.
We have scrutinised those schemes rigorously
The report that I am publishing today contains full details of the appraisal method and of the results for each scheme that was reviewed. The analysis is comprehensive and thorough but stops short of addressing fully a major criticism that was levelled at the appraisal method during consultation. There was criticism that the method did not take a wider approach to allow trunk road proposals to be compared with other potential solutions such as public transport. The Scottish Executive is developing a new appraisal framework and, although some further effort is required to complete that work, I have concluded that we must apply that wider approach before building substantial new roads.
The review included the M8 completion, the M80 from Stepps to Haggs and the M74 northern extension to the Kingston bridge. Those substantial proposals have a combined cost of well over £400 million. Our analysis shows that they would carry very considerable volumes of commuting traffic, which is a sector of the travel market in which public transport should be able to make a much more significant contribution. I am therefore commissioning a multi-modal study of the transport corridors that are covered by the M8 and M80. I will ensure that relevant local authorities, transport operators, the business community and others with an interest are given a full opportunity to participate. I shall appoint an independent panel of academics to oversee that work.
Consistent with the approach that I announced on 23 June, the proposed M74 northern extension will be promoted by Glasgow City Council and South Lanarkshire Council and justified on the basis of the contribution it can make to the local transport strategies of those authorities.
I will be urging the councils to address environmental concerns about the proposal and to undertake a multi-modal study to identify whether there are options to reduce the scale of the road. I would also wish them to involve neighbouring authorities and those with an interest in this scheme in the work.
I will take questions after I have finished my statement.
On the same basis, the replacement for the local road, the A8000, which provides a connection from the Forth road bridge to the central Scotland motorway network, will be promoted by the City of Edinburgh Council working closely with Fife Council and West Lothian Council.
Last November, the UK Government announced the preferred line for a new crossing of the Forth at Kincardine and plans to refurbish the existing bridge. Today, I can announce that we are appointing the Baptie Group to study engineering of the existing bridge, design of remedial works and the new structure and ecological surveys. We will also carry out transport surveys and modelling, including the potential to increase the use of public transport over the crossings. Both studies will consider whether early progress can be made on the proposed eastern link road to relieve some of the congestion that is currently experienced in Kincardine village.
As the operation of the Forth bridge crossing affects the Kincardine bridge and vice versa, I will also be meeting the relevant local authorities and the Forth road bridge joint board to discuss those interlinked issues.
In reaching my conclusions about the remaining schemes I have considered affordability—a notable change from the Conservative approach—as well as the outcome of our appraisal.
We believe there are more appropriate alternative measures that can be pursued in five schemes. Those are the A92 from Preston to Balfarg; the A9 from Helmsdale to Ord of Caithness; the A96 Keith bypass; the M80 Kelvin valley option; and the A1 draft order scheme. We have also concluded that there is no valid case for retaining the M8/M6 fastlink.
Three schemes will be held in abeyance and considered alongside other emerging priorities for a future trunk road programme. Potential schemes for that programme will be appraised using a multi-modal approach. The schemes are the A68 Dalkeith northern bypass, the A90 Balmedie to Tipperty route and the A985 Rosyth bypass.
Five schemes will proceed, including the A96 Fochabers and Mosstodloch bypass, to continue the upgrading of the A96 and to remove through traffic from these towns; the A78 Ardrossan to Saltcoats bypass, to relieve congestion in the towns of Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston; and the A830 from Arisaig to Kinsadel to replace a single-track section of the main road to Mallaig.
That is the last piece of single-track trunk road in Britain and, as Minister for Transport and the Environment, I am delighted to announce the scheme. Work will begin next year. We will also proceed with the A77 Fenwick to Malletsheugh scheme to provide a dual, two-lane motorway. I know that colleagues have been campaigning for action on that dangerous stretch of road for years. Finally, we will continue the dualling of the A1 Haddington to Dunbar expressway, an important, all-weather route to England. The route has been long awaited and the Executive has now delivered. I am sure each of the projects will be warmly welcomed in their localities.
The A830, A96, A78 and A1 schemes will be funded in the conventional way from the motorway and trunk road programme, funding of which we have recently increased by £35 million. We are, however, prepared to use private funding when it clearly represents value for money and we will be investigating that approach for the A77 scheme. I emphasise that that will not involve the introduction of tolls on this new road.
We will be having early discussions about co-operation and joint working with East Renfrewshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council, which are promoting the Glasgow southern orbital route. That scheme will relieve congestion and end environmental damage in Eaglesham village. It will also provide a modern alternative to the heavily trafficked B764 from East Kilbride to the A77.
The extensive road building programme promised by the Conservatives was an unfunded wish list. It was also based on building new roads to meet the future rising tide of projected traffic increases. Current estimates are for a 38 per cent increase in traffic growth over the next 20 years and a 52 per cent increase over the next 30 years.
We need a new approach, especially in our cities and in the more congested central belt. We must make public transport more attractive and seek ways of shifting freight off our roads. We must also recognise the important role that walking and cycling can play in an integrated strategy. We must ensure that they are safe options.
Roads have an important role and we will maintain and restore the motorway and trunk road network after years of Tory neglect. We look to local authorities to do likewise in regard to the roads for which they are responsible. I have announced today a package of costed new roads that we can afford from the resources available—resources that were enhanced last year in the comprehensive spending review and that have been further increased in the Executive's first financial statement. Those have been tough choices, but this is a realistic programme. I believe it is the right way forward for Scotland. I commend
I ask for members' help. I have asked the clerk to clear the screens completely of names, because a very large number of members had pressed their buttons. I want to make it clear again that members who are waiting to speak in the debate should not press their buttons just now. The only members who should do so are those who wish to ask brief questions for clarification. I will insist on that; I will not allow a debate to start during question time. I repeat: brief questions for clarification only. Please stick by the rule. I will stop anybody who does not.
My screen is filling with names—it will be impossible to accommodate everyone. The names have now gone right off the bottom of the screen. We will have no debate if we have endless questions.
Although I welcome the minister's statement, I am obviously disappointed that the A8000 has not found its way completely into the plans. I note that she said that it should be promoted by the councils and that she will be meeting council representatives. What does the minister believe are the options? How will the councils go about promoting the replacement? How might the Executive assist the councils in going for a more multi-modal approach to the road? The link is vital.
Fife Council, the City of Edinburgh Council, West Lothian Council and the other authorities in the area have already done a great deal of work. They have been considering options for improving public transport and traffic flow across the Forth estuary crossings. That work has included extensive surveys, which have been supported by the Scottish Executive. I am looking forward to taking forward the options that the local authorities and the Executive have been working on.
Yes. It would not be my intention to include, in the legislation that I will bring to this Parliament for further discussion and
Clearly, the local authorities involved could pursue a number of options. Part of my intention in the programme that we will bring forward in our integrated transport bill will be to provide a number of powers for local authorities to consider, covering such options as workplace parking levies and local road user charging. There is a variety of funding options, which I will be looking to the local authorities to explore. It would be prescriptive of me, at this stage, to tell them how I think they should take those options forward. That has to be the product of future debate.
I welcome the inclusion of the upgrading of the A77 in the list of projects. Can the minister clarify the time scale for the A77 10-mile dualling and whether that time scale will be adhered to the private finance initiative is not a viable financial option? Furthermore, will she confirm that this project will precede the Glasgow southern orbital project?
The Executive intends to begin consideration of the A77 project after today's debate. As for the Glasgow southern orbital route, I had initial talks when I visited Fenwick with Mr Neil and several other MSPs. I am very aware of the issues involved in the timing of the two routes and I intend to ensure that the co-ordination and progress of the projects will be undertaken with those concerns in mind.
The minister will be aware that congestion on the A80 trunk road causes difficulties for my constituents in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth. Although I welcome the strategic roads review and the Executive's intention to implement an integrated transport system, I am concerned about the people in the Cumbernauld area. Will the minister agree to meet me urgently to discuss issues that affect my constituency?
I have already said that we have had to make difficult choices. As we do not have sufficient funds to implement every scheme, we have had to prioritise. Councils could take advantage of very realistic options for developing
The minister has ditched the long-promised improvements to the Preston roundabout in Glenrothes on the A92 to Balfarg. She claims that there are more appropriate alternative measures. Has she spoken to Tullis Russell and Company Ltd, the town's largest employer, whose factory gates open out on to the A92? Has she spoken to the local MP, Henry McLeish, or to anyone in Glenrothes? Will she outline the appropriate alternatives and the time scale for their implementation? When will something be done about this death-trap road?
The strategic roads review has covered the key issues of route action plans and measures to tackle safety problems. All the schemes that have not been approved today will go into the pot for consideration under the appropriate local mechanisms. There are options to improve route safety without implementing the initial schemes proposed in the strategic roads review.
As I announced today, we are taking further the proposal to develop the route. I will have to report back with a detailed time scale, which will depend on considering the options for funding the route. That will progress from today.
Does the minister remain open to the possibility of progress on the A9 north of Helmsdale, the A82 from Glencoe to Inverness and the A96 Inverness to Aberdeen road, all of which are in need of repair? Is she prepared to hear representations from me and from councils in the Highlands on the priorities among those schemes?
The scheme analysis includes alternative ways in which to analyse and deal with safety issues. The key point is that we seek to repair and maintain the roads. That is why the strategic roads review is significant—it is about maintaining as well as extending the network.
Does the minister agree that her statement that the Arisiag to Kinsadel section of the Mallaig road is
"the last piece of single trunk road in Britain" is incorrect? The last piece will be the section from Arisaig to Loch Nan Uamh. What is the cost of the Arisaig to Kinsadel section? When is the estimated completion date for that section?
One of the points that I made was that the local authorities involved in the scheme would have to give sufficient justification for it in their local transport strategies. I would expect them to include relevant information to that end.
I welcome the announcement on the Fochabers and
A range of criteria was used. It is important to note that some improvement work has been carried out on that stretch of road, and that, as I understand it, other options may lead to improvements, such as alignment of the route and the possibility of crossings. Today's announcement does not mean that no work will take place in the future, only that the specific scheme will not be carried forward.
I understand that some work on that has already been carried out. I am concerned that we examine the full range of options. Our priority will be consideration of the choices for the optimum improvement of transport in that area.
Yes. The review is about the strategic roads programme and the use of our road network. I intend to take forward the issue of road user charging through legislation—that will be a different piece of work. The debate has been on-going for the past four months, and I have discussed with many people a number of issues, including additionality, hypothecation and transparency. I intend that debate to continue. My statement today was on the strategic roads review.
Can the minister clarify the position on the availability of extra resources for road maintenance, bearing in mind the widespread concern among all local authorities in the Mid Scotland and Fife constituency? For example, roads in Fife will now be renewed every 276 years when they should be renewed every 40 years.
There is a long backlog of maintenance. The significance of the comprehensive spending review programme money is demonstrated by the additional £58 million over the next three years. That will enable us to catch up with some of that maintenance. We have to prioritise on the grounds of the efficiency of the road network and its safety. That catching up is what we are doing now.
On a point of order. It seems absurd that we are about to debate a document that some of us received about 10 minutes ago and that many of us have not seen at all. Would it not be better in future if serious documents such as the "Strategic Review of the Trunk Road Programme in Scotland" were discussed in a debate several days after the statement and the questions? We could then all read the document and the debate could be informed with knowledge rather than with speculation.
That is indeed a difficult issue. The Executive is caught either way. If it publishes a document before a debate, it will be criticised because members have not had the document first, whereas even if members have had the document first, they may say that they have not had time to look at it properly.
We have to accept that this is not a perfect system. I have tried to keep the questions on the statement short to allow a full debate, but I do not know whether copies of the document are available now—[MEMBERS: "They are available."] They are available at the back of the chamber—members can thumb through the documents as the debate proceeds. I am sure that Mr MacAskill will give them plenty time to do that—but not
Further to Mr Gorrie's point of order, Presiding Officer. Would it not be far more sensible to have a statement one week, followed by far less restrictive questioning than we are having now, and a debate the following week? Can we not refer this to the Procedures Committee?
It is not a question for the Procedures Committee. The Parliamentary Bureau will certainly consider that suggestion in the light of today's experience and of the dissatisfaction expressed by some clerking colleagues about my strict rationing of questions. I am trying to follow the instructions that we have been given, in which we have a two-stage process. If the Parliament feels that that system is not working, we will simply try to avoid it in future. We will perhaps have statements one week and debates the next but, at the moment, our procedures include the one that we have followed this afternoon. Let us proceed with the debate and see how we go.
I wish to preface comments on the substantive matters before us by thanking you for your earlier ruling, Presiding Officer. As a courtesy, I was provided with a copy of the strategic review at 12:30. However, substantive matters seem to have been made available to individual press representatives days ago. The purpose of the media, I believe, is to report matters in this chamber. The purpose of this Parliament is to challenge and to scrutinise. There will be a substantial democratic deficit if actions or leaks result in matters being reported unchallenged and unscrutinised.
I was going to say that I was delighted to see that the minister had not been hung out to dry and that the Labour front bench had come, team handed, so to speak, to ensure that it was seen that a collective decision had been taken. It appears that I got that wrong. The minister has been hung out to dry on the issue of tolls.
Looking back, we were led to believe that the Executive wanted tolls, but that the minister did not. We were then told that both the Executive and the minister wanted tolls. Now we understand that neither the Executive nor the minister wants tolls. To further complicate the matter and perplex the average MSP—and me—we are told that the Executive and the minister want tolls, but the Secretary of State for Scotland does not. What a shambles—perhaps they could sort it out peacefully, constructively and in a dignified fashion over a drink at the bar at the next Labour conference.
The Labour party's policy on tolls seems to have been formulated in the nursery. Like the grand old Duke of York, the Labour party has marched us up to the top of the hill and it has marched us down again. Now it is thinking of taking us halfway up, so we are neither up nor down. It is not going to toll old roads, but reserves the right to toll new roads. Leadership, vision, strategy? Come on down. What a shambles.
What of the strategic roads review? Was it worth the lengthy wait? It has taken two and a half years to deliver a patchwork quilt of a road system and now there will be further investigations and further delay. Will it be the same time scale of two and a half years or more?
This announcement falls between two anniversaries. Tomorrow is Guy Fawkes day. The announcement has produced not fireworks, but a damp squib. Tuesday past was the 40th anniversary of the opening of the M1, which links London to Birmingham. Forty years on, through the failure of the Executive and its Conservative predecessors, we still do not have a motorway that links our two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow—nor, indeed, do we have one that links the lowlands to the Highlands. What a disgrace.
There has been a volte-face and a humiliating U-turn on the toll tax. Are we supposed to be grateful for small mercies? That would not be surprising, given the cap-in-hand attitude of the Executive.
If the Executive thought that it could hide paucity of effort behind the smokescreen of saving us from the toll tax, which was and remains a nonsense, it is mistaken. That is not a sign of a listening Executive but of a fumbling, panicking Executive.
We need to consider what we want transport to do in society. That takes us back to philosophy and purpose. We view transport as an economic fundamental in a global economy and as a social necessity for a better community, underpinned always by the requirement to take cognisance of our duty as custodians of the environment and habitat in which we live.
This is piecemeal policy—there is no consideration of the bigger picture nor of the strategic importance to the Scottish economy of the transport infrastructure. The review is a sop. By being so geographically disparate, it tries to convince all parts of the country that something is being done.
What strategic overview has been taken, when the entire county of Clackmannanshire, which has already been stuffed in terms of the public transport fund allocation, is stitched up in the trunk roads review and left isolated without even a connection to the trunk road network? Clackmannanshire is not a community on the
The sum of the parts counts and the total, in terms of tasks and expenditure, is inadequate. This is not a trunk roads review; it is a continuation of a B-class road system in Scotland.
Failure to implement the policy in full over a defined and reasonable time scale is not environmentally sound or ecologically friendly. Clearly, road building has environmental and ecological effects—it would be absurd to pretend otherwise. However, we must consider matters in a utilitarian light. The failure to construct new roads also has environmental and ecological effects. Moreover, the Executive's inadequate proposal gives rise to serious economic and social costs.
I will give way in a minute.
Why do some people suggest that new roads are bad? Does that make an old road good? Alternatively, if all roads are bad, should we be digging them up and grassing them over? The proposition that an inanimate object that lacks any consciousness—moral or otherwise—can be good or bad is absurd. Surely what matters is how a new or improved road meets the criteria on which it will be judged. That takes us back to the economic, social and environmental criteria.
Let us be quite clear about the nature of the roads under review. Only one new build—the M74 northern extension—is included. The other roads are upgrades and improvements where substantial difficulties and dangers have been identified over the years. They were chosen neither arbitrarily, nor as the result of a call to a road review hotline—Ralph or Clarence; they were selected under a fundamental roads review as part of a strategic and integrated transport policy.
Is the SNP prepared to make any choices whatever about the Parliament's budget or its own roads budget? Does Mr MacAskill support every road in the review? If so, where on earth will he find the £900 million to pay for them?
Malcolm should sit down and listen—I will get to that in a minute.
The failure to deal with all the roads over a defined time scale undermines the strategy and destroys the integration of our road network. On the M74, the emphasis has been on the cost of building, but I want to consider the cost of not building it. The M74 is vital to the west central economy and, arguably, to the whole of the Scottish economy. Six thousand jobs are
The minister will have to answer the question of how to square the circle and pay for the M74 and the other requirements. The SNP will not become involved—I am about to address Malcolm Chisholm's point, so he may want to take note—in horse-trading over what should or should not be done. As far as we are concerned, all the roads are of equal priority and the debate should be about timing, not construction. Some of my colleagues will address in greater detail the finances available to carry out this urgent task. Let me make it quite clear: the SNP's priority is to build our nation and its infrastructure, not to promulgate a policy of tax cuts to satisfy middle England.
The Executive is keen to trumpet the fact that Scotland's economy is growing. No one here today would not say that that growth needs all the nourishment and assistance that it can get. Why, then, has there been a massive cut in the proportion of the nation's wealth that the Executive is prepared to invest in transport?
We are not in the Executive, so how can I possibly answer that question? As far as we are concerned, there should be a strategic, integrated policy. The strategic roads review came about because the roads were regarded as necessities in their areas. We believe that they are all necessities; if Mr Scott does not agree, he should tell us which ones he thinks are unnecessary. At least the minister had the guts and the gumption to do that.
The figure comes from information provided by the campaign and action groups; it is based on what could happen to British Airports Authority plc, IBM (UK) Ltd and other
In the last year of the Tory Government, 1.03 per cent of gross domestic product was spent on transport and the environment. Over the next three years, less than 0.7 per cent of our national wealth will be reinvested in transport and the environment. In money terms, that means that some £739 million extra would have to reinvested in Scotland just to keep spending apace with growth. Meanwhile, in London, the chancellor is happy to draw money from Scotland's account to line a £12 billion war chest, rather than to reinvest the money in the nation to nurture the economic growth that we badly need.
When the south of England needed the M25 orbital, it was built. When Newbury blocked access to English channel ports, it was bypassed. When areas in the south and west were isolated, that was solved by road construction. Not one of those schemes was privately financed, and certainly none of them was subject to tolls.
What an absurdity—some nations discover oil and make their deserts bloom, but we discover oil and the Executive attempts to create an industrial desert. In this country, many of our citizens face absolute poverty. The problem in the Parliament is not absolute poverty, but the Labour leadership's poverty of aspiration. Things do not need to be this way. Let us aspire to what is seen as normal and as a matter of right in comparable small European nations such as Denmark and Finland.
This is not the statement of a minister for transport—it is the statement of a convener of a committee for filling in potholes. It is a B-road scheme from a second-rate Executive.
It was a pity that in the transport minister's attempt at statesmanship, she felt obliged to have ritual backwards kicks at the previous Conservative Government. They fell wide of the target. We heard that that Government had ignored its responsibilities and that it had built up expectations that were not fulfilled.
I will say this for the previous Government—at least it had a document that defined the routes in the trunk road network in terms of trans-European networks. The document defined a forward programme, and the previous Conservative Government implemented a substantial proportion
The present Government has laboured for more than two years and has not come up with a convincing alternative or followed through on that programme. I am afraid that it has produced something of a mouse today.
Far from injecting further resources and breathing life into Scotland's transport system, this Administration—and its immediate predecessor in London—has presided over a massive reduction in resources. It has presided over the loss of £140 million a year in local authority revenue expenditure on roads. Professor David Begg has said that there has been a reduction of about £80 million in capital expenditure by local authorities.
In its last two years, the previous Conservative Government spent more than £280 million—Ms Boyack is here today to boast that in her next two years she will have £66 million and that that is somehow much better. I fail to see the logic in that.
Is it not the case that in the last three years of the previous Conservative Government, expenditure on roads fell by 37 per cent? Is it not also the case that—contrary to what Mr Tosh said—expenditure and maintenance will double between 1997 and 2002?
Mr Chisholm knows that global expenditure by the Government and by local councils has been substantially reduced. We could trace a path through the years of the previous Government and we would find ups and downs in transport expenditure. The unalterable fact is that today's transport proposals are insignificant in comparison to the budgets that were administered and implemented at that time.
That Government built miles and miles of motorway and trunk road, on which our economy depends. Our economy needs that work to be completed—it needs that vision to be fulfilled. This Administration has not done that.
Business interests will treat today's announcements with utter dismay. When will those projects take place? Will they happen? Who will implement them? The M74 has been the subject of a massive lobby from every conceivable area of Scottish business. Will Glasgow City Council be responsible for deciding whether that project goes ahead, or will the Scottish Executive decide? Who knows? Ms Boyack did not tell us. If business interests came forward to say that they would like to build it, or if the enterprise agencies were willing to fund it through their budgets, would the Executive allow that? Who knows?
The plans for completion of the road network round Glasgow were left in a state of limbo this
I made it clear in my statement that it would be a matter for the local authorities in the area to progress. The issues that Mr Tosh has raised concern potential funding routes that would be available—and there are several potential funding routes. I am asking the authorities to consider them, to identify the right stretch of road and to develop that road. That is a realistic proposition.
The basis of a strategic approach is that it is planned as a whole—there is an overriding goal and a process that is defined and carried out, subject to the proper democratic, legal and planning procedures. It is not to say to 32 local authorities, "You might have a part to play and, if you are willing to play it, this might happen—some time, somehow—through funding mechanisms that have yet to be defined." That is not strategic. That is the abdication of all responsibility. That is the collapse of a programme.
Let us consider the case of the A8000. What if the City of Edinburgh Council and Fife Council do not agree? What if they cannot agree whether or how it should happen, or who should fund it? Will the Scottish Executive be able to find a way through that, or will the project founder because no one can agree? There is to be a study on the Forth road bridge crossings—fine. What happens next, and when? Who can tell us? Who will tell us? Who will accept responsibility? Surely that is the minister's responsibility, not the responsibility of the councils, however important and valuable their role will be.
For areas that have lost out today, there must be some regret. Jamie Stone referred to that. In areas that have benefited, local delight will follow today's announcement. I notice that Allan Wilson is already away to celebrate. What about the three deferred schemes? Euan Robson is a man who is devastated by the fact that the Executive that he supports has given him nothing. It has taken away the Dalkeith bypass, which is the access route to the Borders, and it will not say that it will give that region the Borders railway. The Borders have been left with nothing from the review.
Obviously, in his previous career Mr Tosh was not a geography teacher. He has failed to recognise that, for the eastern Borders and east Berwickshire, the announcement on the Haddington to Dunbar section is of major significance. Is he not aware of the efforts that have been made by the A1 safelink campaign to
No, no, no—to quote my leader.
My point specifically for Euan Robson is that, however worth while the A1 project is, it does nothing for the access routes down the A7 and the A68. That project was ready to implement at the election, but Mr Robson's cronies ditched it, deferred it and now will not tell members when it will happen or when it will be completed. I heard Mr Robson's earlier intervention. He is as worried about that situation as I am, but he does not want to admit it. Nevertheless, this is a black day for the Scottish Borders, which have been given nothing in the strategic roads review, and nothing either by way of compensation through the railway option.
I want to take the debate away from that confrontation.
Given the experience of the Skye road bridge, does the Conservative party in Scotland still support privatised road or bridge schemes that are subsequently tolled, or has that policy changed?
At the close of her statement, the minister talked about a package of roads that could be afforded from the resources that were available. To Mr Salmond, I say that the Conservative Government did not fund from tolling any strategic road that was part of a programme, and did not build a motorway and subsequently toll it. The one example that he is trying to angle for was not in the programme, but was put in the programme on the basis of tolling. The strategic programme was to be funded—and was funded—wholly by conventional methods. That is our approach.
The question of resources is critical. The Executive has made out that resources are
I notice that time is marching on, Presiding Officer, but I hope that I will get some compensation for the interruptions. I conclude by saying that what we heard this afternoon was a classic example of new Labour newspeak. We have heard that less is somehow more, that bad is somehow good, that uncertainty is somehow decision, and that the abdication of strategic decisions to local authorities somehow represents policy decisiveness and direction.
The sad and sorry truth is that, in the tenure of her office so far, the minister has been a disaster. She has failed to bring to completion, to fruition, to decision and to announcement something that Scotland has been desperately awaiting for the past two and a half years. She has left all the strategic and critical routes in limbo. She has left them subject to the decision-making processes and resources—which she controls—of local authorities, and to the funding mechanism that she has yet to define and for which she has yet to legislate.
The final implication is that the motorist will pay for the whole thing and that the programmes that ran before and could run again will not be allowed to run. She has ignored the economic case that has been made for many of the routes. She has ignored the interests of the remoter rural areas such as Dumfries and Galloway and she has cancelled a route in the north-east. She has done nothing for those areas and she has come to the chamber with a policy that does not link in with an economic policy that promotes social inclusion. By the Government's own standards, her statement is a non-event, a contradiction and a disaster.
Murray Tosh's speech was entertaining, but I think that someone must have slipped something into his water before he started because he was much more animated than he usually is.
It is clear that the Tories care about roads, but it is also clear that they care about nothing else to do with transport. Scotland needs a strategic and sustainable transport infrastructure and that
Today's announcement of further investment in Scotland's strategic road network, although limited, is welcome. I particularly welcome the investment in the Mallaig road in the light of the members' business debate that was held recently on that subject. I am sure that all who have campaigned on that issue will also welcome the announcement.
Choices in government are about priorities. When the Conservatives were in government, the UK and Scotland had a roads policy and nothing else. We have moved away from that and on to the new politics, which involves considering all forms of transport as part of an integrated structure. In my view, and in the view of the Liberal Democrats, that is the right way to approach the problem of moving people and businesses around the country. It is unfortunate that Murray Tosh does not share that view. The far right has an ideological obsession with the market, the market and nothing but the market. When buses and trains were deregulated and privatised, we saw the results of that obsession.
Last night, to remind myself of previous debates, I re-read the Official Report for 16 September 1999—a Conservative Opposition day on which there was a debate on transport—just before I watched "Newsnight Scotland". Mr Tosh is, apparently, a politician to watch—but not on television, to judge by last night's performance.
Mr Tosh may feel rather contrite about what he said about Railtrack. Given subsequent events, he may want to revisit the comments that he made at that earlier debate.
The coalition's approach is clear: we seek to build an integrated transport strategy for Scotland, and strategic roads investment has a vital role to play in that. The Tories do not want that, as has been explained again today, and it appears that the nationalists do not want it either. The Scottish National party wants to complete the strategic network in full, and Mr MacAskill confirmed that in The Scotsman this morning and on "Good Morning Scotland". Yet what did the SNP manifesto say? It said:
"we will undertake a full review of all planned existing road development schemes to ensure that road developments are prioritised to deliver the maximum safety, social and environmental benefits."
Quite. Absolutely. That is exactly the right approach and that is what the roads review is all about. However, the SNP's position has now changed and another chunk of the manifesto has
Given that the SNP is now committed to the full strategic roads network, Mr MacAskill has committed his party to the M74 extension, too. What did the SNP's Glasgow local government manifesto say in the 1999 election?
"SNP councillors will oppose granting of planning permission for this motorway. Nationally, the SNP will oppose wasting Holyrood's too little money on what would be the most expensive motorway in Europe".
I wonder when Kenny MacAskill plans to next meet his colleagues on Glasgow City Council. How would the SNP fund the entire programme? Mr MacAskill would not say. How will the SNP pay for the extra spending? Where will it find £800 million? Will Mr MacAskill cut other programmes or raise taxes? What time scale is envisaged for that £800 million spending commitment? There were no answers to any of those questions, and I do not see why members in this chamber should not hear those answers.
Does not Mr Scott accept that the Scottish motorist, the Scottish consumer and Scottish society are paying backdoor taxation through the level of excise duty put on them by this Government? That is taxation.
It is taxation, but the point about the fuel tax escalator is that the money that comes from it goes into the general taxation pot at Westminster and is then apportioned to priority areas as the Government sees fit. The priority area that has been identified in Scotland—as set out in the partnership document—is an integrated transport system. The SNP does not want that, the Tories do not want that, but this partnership Government does. That is the right approach for the future of Scotland.
This is a devolved Parliament in the context of the money that is available to us. The people voted for it and rejected independence. Let us deal constructively with what we have: a transport policy with a significant roads element, not the fantasy fairyland that we have heard about from the Opposition.
The doomsayers have tried to talk down today's announcement, but I welcome the fact that the whole distance from Malletsheugh to the Kilmarnock bypass will be completed. Sarah Boyack is the latest in a long line of ministers who have been lobbied about that appalling and dangerous road. Some of them are members of this Parliament: Malcolm Chisholm, Henry McLeish and Lord James Douglas-Hamilton. No doubt many will want to take credit for the good news for Ayrshire today. In recent days, many leaders of the campaign have claimed their pre-eminence in the press, although their leadership was so far ahead of the real workers that they were out of sight.
The real architects of the now to be upgraded A77 have been the people who live alongside the road. They have lived with the daily tragedies of the road and each accident has redoubled their efforts to make the road safe. Alongside them, I credit East Ayrshire Council, and before it, Kilmarnock and Loudoun District Council. I also credit local parliamentarians Willy McKelvey and Des Browne, who have given their voices to the rightful demands that the carnage must stop. I also give great credit to the Kilmarnock Standard and its editor, Alan Woodison, who is here today. The paper has continued to promote its killer road campaign and must also share in the plaudits.
Today we should stop and give thought to all those whose lives have been blighted by the A77: the dead, the injured and their families who have received the feared phone call or visit from the police. Their pain can never be repaired. The minister's statement does much to ensure that fewer people will join that list.
There is another side to the welcome news to upgrade the A77. Ayrshire remains an unemployment black spot. The Ayrshire local authorities have been fighting the great problem of inadequate infrastructure in one of the last major centres of population that is not directly connected to a motorway network. The economic development teams can now go out and sell the county to business and to manufacturing.
My constituency of Kilmarnock and Loudoun can be marketed as the safe gateway to the new Ayrshire. There are great skills in Ayrshire and quality education facilities. There is wonderful tourist potential in our Burns country. There is a marvellous quality of life. All are positive selling points to market the area to potential investors. Now the final piece is in place and we can look forward to a positive future and to the provision of quality, sustainable jobs for my constituents. Now we have a future.
I declare an interest as, if the M74 extension goes ahead, it will have an impact on a business that I own on the south side of Glasgow.
I have heard promises today—promises to look into, promises to examine and promises to continue studies. Promises to do anything constructive, however, have been thinly scattered. The review took two and a half years: that is 30 months in which roads projects in Scotland have been on ice—two and a half years of straining to produce a vehicle with no wheels. It is still on the drawing board and the best that the minister can come up with is to announce that she will be commissioning so-called multi-modal studies or urging councils to do so.
Surely all the studying and considering should have been done as part of the review. If not, what have we been waiting for? What has the Executive been doing? The so-called motorway, the M8, should connect Scotland's two major cities—the hubs of the Scottish economy, which contain more than half the nation's population. We should be able to drive quickly and easily from one city to another. That is not to say that we should not be encouraging better public transport links between the cities, but doing so does not always assist those who live or work along the M8 corridor or provide an infrastructure foundation on which to develop the economy. The motorway network in Britain was born 40 years ago yet the Scottish network is still in labour. The whole nation is suffering the pains.
This thinking suggests that someone is desperate for an MOT. Forty years later, we do not need another study, multi-modal or otherwise, to tell us what is obvious. A small, progressive nation entering the 21st century should have its main arteries clear. It should have a motorway linking its two major cities.
The other missing link in Scotland's motorway network is the A80 between Stepps and Haggs. Is that the revolutionary new concept for which London is waiting—a "motorway" with two sets of traffic lights? The route from all points north to all points south via Glasgow should be something more than a main road through several towns. That was the intention when the motorway network was proposed, but still we wait for yet another study.
Why are these links missing? They are not new roads but upgrades of current routes to an acceptable standard. Could it be that the minister is afraid to tell us that she cannot get enough petrol money from the chancellor because he needs it to fill his own tank? We have already paid enough to merit a motorway system of our own,
Since Labour took the driving seat at the Treasury, pump prices have increased by 25 per cent. Every time we buy a gallon of fuel, £3 goes to the Treasury. Looking at the state of the roads and public transport, we are entitled to ask if that money ever returns to Scotland.
Contrast that to the situation in Alaska. When I visited there last year, fuel cost 99 cents—60p—a gallon. Every man, woman and child in Alaska gets an oil premium of $1,500 a year to use in whatever way they want. Alaska discovered oil and its people got richer. Scotland discovered oil and we get fleeced. Do not tell me that Scotland cannot afford a motorway network—we have already paid for it through the nose. Do not hide behind another review. Do not talk Scotland's aspirations down—we should be on the fast track, not in the slow lane.
I welcome the minister's statement, particularly the announcement of the five schemes that will now proceed. I welcome also those elements in the statement that highlighted integration between the strategic roads policy and the broader policies on environmental protection, on tackling congestion and on dealing with some of the difficult issues raised by increased levels of traffic for people in Scotland.
We deserve an honest debate on those issues, but I am not sure that we have had one so far from the Opposition parties. Murray Tosh generated a great deal of heat and noise. I compliment him primarily on his capacity to invent the new Conservatives, who are naturally not responsible for the deficiencies of the past. The Tories cut investment in roads from £247 million in 1994-95 to £156 million in their final year in office, yet Murray Tosh presents himself as the spokesperson for the pro-roads lobby. As Malcolm Chisholm pointed out, the forward programme was cut by 70 per cent in 1996—70 per cent, Murray.
The Executive is increasing expenditure on roads generally and, in funding the five schemes that I referred to, it is tackling some of the most serious problems of the roads infrastructure in Scotland. The Executive is not dealing with all the problems of Scotland's roads, because it is working within a given budget, but roads are a priority, as are other transport matters. Murray recognises that there are priorities and hard choices in politics. He wants all the money to be spent on roads, but he is wrong.
Murray's party reduced expenditure on public transport to zero. It did little or nothing to tackle congestion during its 18 years in office; indeed, those 18 years generated the serious transport problems that we have today.
At least Murray indicated that hard choices have to be made. Kenny MacAskill's view is the classic SNP position: a road for every town and village in Scotland. If someone wants a road, Kenny will provide it. Wherever people are, every priority can be met. He does not even need Andrew Wilson's calculator—£1 billion can be found to meet everyone's needs. Is not that easy politics—something for everyone? The money can just be handed over, because the SNP simply ignores budgetary constraints.
The minister has announced a reduction in the roads programme. Were she to invest £700 million over seven years, at a cost of £100 million a year, that would equal the budget increases that were achieved under the Conservative Government. Indeed, the increase was often greater than £100 million. Why is that impossible now?
A balance exists between public expenditure, roads expenditure and other forms of expenditure, such as expenditure on health and education. We are in government to make choices, and I applaud the choices that have been made today. Murray at least recognises that choices have to be made, even if he disagrees with them. Kenny MacAskill does not want to make a choice at all; he wants to spend money that this Government and Scotland do not have.
In reality, we must take the issue of transport expenditure forward. The issue is not just one of roads; it is about public transport, the environment and the kind of Scotland in which we want to live. We have to consider economic benefits, road safety, the environmental impact of road building, issues of access and the range of integrated policies on which we must make progress. We must make decisions according to those considerations. The decisions will not please everyone, but we have to recognise that the decisions that we make must be realistic—choices must be made and resources must be allocated.
The minister has made good choices in the face of a difficult set of competing claims. I hope that some issues, such as the way in which the A74 can be taken forward, will make progress following further discussions with the relevant local authorities.
I draw members' attention to the fact that I am a member of the Institute of the Motor Industry. This comprehensive spending review on roads takes place against the background of taxation of £2 billion per annum on Scotland's motorists.
In 1997-98, spending on transport—roads and public transport—was only £244 million. That is only 14 per cent of the tax revenues. Today, we keep hearing about available funds. When I had my first member's debate on 9 September—it was on economic conditions in Clackmannanshire—I asked Henry McLeish to take steps to initiate a co-ordinated approach to the problems of Clackmannanshire and west Fife.
The Scottish economy is reliant on good transport links, as it is on the fringe of the UK and the European single market. It is vital that the Scottish Executive campaigns for a fairer deal for Scotland's transport system. I said in that debate that the Executive needed to make a concentrated effort to improve the transport infrastructure of the area, specifically to expedite the Clackmannan bridge and the completion of the upgrading of the A907. We need a new link from Rosyth to Stirling to improve east-west road links and Government support for the push to reopen the railway between Stirling and Alloa.
Local businesses, councils, local enterprise companies and the trade unions are unanimous in their claim that one of the biggest drawbacks to inward investment in the western part of Fife and Clackmannanshire is communications. I pay tribute to Kenny MacAskill for making that point in his opening speech. There is only one crossing point over the River Forth between Stirling and North Queensferry—the Kincardine bridge, which was opened in 1939. That bridge has been under threat of closure for many years and it is only in the past five years that major works have been done to extend its life. I welcome the movement towards planning for the refurbishment of the existing bridge but, in the limited time that I have had to look at the document, I can find no commitment to the new river crossing.
In a reply to a recent parliamentary question from me, Sarah Boyack stated that, provided that everything went to plan and there were no delays, work on a replacement for the Kincardine bridge could start in 2003. The bridge will take approximately four years to build, but it will be built only if the Executive releases the money. In the current economic climate, there is no guarantee that the Government will allocate spending on the new bridge.
No business can make plans for inward investment under such conditions. The policy also
The recent closing of Downie's bridge on the Alloa-Stirling road shows how isolated Clackmannanshire is. Industry needs road transport to bring raw materials in and to take finished goods out. Alloa is the only town of any size in Scotland not to be served by rail transport. Unless the rail review, to be announced in the near future, addresses the problems of Clackmannanshire, how will the Executive meet the objective of moving goods from road to rail?
On the A8000, action is needed now to complete this vital link. Money must be found to redesign that inadequate road, on which I travel every morning and night.
On the radio this morning, the Confederation of British Industry said that the economic well-being of Scotland relied on a vibrant road network. Do not rely on the Executive. Nobody wants to see diversions from health and education, but we must invest in our transport infrastructure to allow the economy of Scotland to flourish and to grow.
Taxes from the vibrant business sector pay to educate our children, to care for our elderly and to look after the health of our citizens. Taxes from the business sector will pay for the road improvements announced today. I ask Sarah Boyack to bring forward schemes, such as the new Kincardine crossing, to ensure that that area of Scotland, which I happen to represent, shares in the economic benefits of the future.
I congratulate our superb Minister for Transport and the Environment on a superb statement, which is better than anything that I have imagined in the two years since I announced the strategic roads review.
I commend the vision, which has balanced safety with environmental and other factors and which also sees the need for further multi-modal studies in the main transport corridors. I also commend the choices that she has made. Unfortunately, that word is not in Mr MacAskill's vocabulary.
Choice is the essence of what we have before us. That road is being progressed.
I commend the proposal to go ahead with work on the A1, which is essential for safety reasons. I also welcome the announcements on the A77, the bypass at Fochabers and the Mallaig road. Two years ago, I was pleased to travel along that road on a fish lorry, so that I could understand the problems at first hand.
I have only three minutes, and half of them are up.
All three of the Ewings who represent the Highlands should be pleased. Unfortunately, Mr MacAskill is never pleased unless everything is delivered immediately. What we have had today from the SNP is not serious politics. I am not particularly surprised by that—as I said in my intervention, the SNP is unwilling to make choices, either on the general budget of this Parliament or on the roads budget.
The Tories are not much better. They want most of the roads, but will not tell us how they would pay for them. The problem started because of the wish list that we inherited from them. They went round every part of Scotland saying, "The road is in the programme." The road was in the programme, but the money was not. That was one reason why we had to have a strategic roads review.
The second reason was our new approach to transport policy, which is based on integration and which has a new emphasis on public transport. Public transport is important for everybody, but especially for the third of the Scottish population that does not have a car. The new emphasis has been demonstrated in many ways, not least by the £26 million announced last week for further public transport developments. It is in that area that the new multi-modal studies will be important. We already have a sophisticated methodology—it has been applied to this review—but it will now become even more sophisticated and will examine the comparative advantages of road and public transport developments. That is a tremendous step forward for transport policy in the United Kingdom and, indeed, throughout the world. As we know, public transport investment boosts the economy. That will be taken into account in the further studies.
As my three minutes are up, I will end by saying well done to the Minister for Transport and the Environment.
I will be as quick as I can. I want to make two general points. First, the strength of this Parliament is that we can consider matters in an objective, strategic, pan-Scotland way. Secondly, we have a finite budget, and, as any housewife will tell you, "You cannot spend money that you haven't got." I would like to endorse what Malcolm said and congratulate the minister on what was, given the two factors that I have mentioned, an excellent piece of work. She has tackled this issue extremely well, and I am delighted that transport and the environment are being linked in a positive way.
I want to comment briefly on two issues that relate to my area. I am disappointed that Keith is not included, but not altogether surprised. Anyone who knows the main A96 through Fochabers will understand why that is in the programme. I will be pursuing measures to make life easier for the citizens of Keith, whose community is bisected by a major trunk road.
I am glad that it has been recognised that the A90 Tipperty to Balmedie road must be given priority. It is a dangerous accident black spot, with people living either side of a single-carriageway section of a dual carriageway of considerable strategic importance, in that it is the main route in and out of Banff and Buchan.
I do not have time.
The A90 is also the main route to and from the biggest whitefish port in Europe and a major oil and gas terminal. I am glad that it will be next in the queue, and I commend the minister on the way in which she has tackled some very different choices. She has gone about it in exactly the right way.
I am really sorry for Sarah Boyack. She is sitting there in a bunker, almost completely isolated. Where are all the ministers? They have disappeared, like snow off a dike. That may tell her something.
An hour or two ago, we were presented with three documents, totalling 144 pages and approximately 43,000 words. How is anyone, even a genius, supposed to assimilate all that in such a short time? I happened to open this heavy tome on page 33, where the following paragraph caught my eye:
"In practice, it is not possible, at least on the basis of
Even that short statement would be difficult to assimilate.
I must admit that I suspect that some of the hold-ups on road policy are due to an ideological division between the lords and masters of Labour in London and the Labour party in Scotland. As Murray Tosh rightly said, at least the previous Conservative Government had a fine trunk road network.
The previous document, "Making it work together"—the one that would hardly fit in a briefcase—says, on page 15:
"We will build an integrated transport system, which meets our economic and social needs"
That is praiseworthy and perhaps the minister will tell us how it will be done.
Page 16 of the document says that, early next year, a bill will be introduced that will
"allow road user charging and charges on parking at the workplace, where it is sensible to do so."
Who will decide what is sensible?
The document continues:
"We will use the money raised to invest in transport improvements."
However, all sorts of doubts have been raised about whether that would happen.
The best part of the document was the promise to move freight off the roads by March 2002. Is all the freight to be moved off the roads? At present, 80 per cent of this country's freight is carried by road, but the document promises that the Executive will change that within 28 months, presumably by putting the road haulage freight on to the rail system, which will cause a complete collapse of the rail system and the end of the road haulage system. That is what the document proposes. The words are there in black and white. All that raises questions for the ladies—and gentlemen—who shop at Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's and Safeway, because if all freight is taken off the roads, the shelves of those supermarkets will be empty.
Sarah Boyack is, in some ways, like a doctor in "Heartbeat" or "Casualty". Her patient is called transport and is suffering from artery blockage, congestion problems and other deficiencies. Sooner or later, she will have to identify solutions to specific problems: how to raise sufficient money, which she touched on earlier; how to create an integrated transport system that will attract customers; and how to disperse traffic as a result of whatever form of charging is levied.
Does she accept that the car is here to stay? That the rail system cannot handle the freight that roads handle? That cycle tracks—I believe that the minister is a cyclist—will continue to be 95 per cent underutilised in most places? That the proposed congestion charges are highly unlikely to reduce congestion in the cities? On that last question, I should point out that experiments in Leicester suggest that rates would have to be set at £8 a day before people would leave their cars at home, and a recent survey in London suggested that cars should be charged £5 and trucks should have to cough up £15.
I understand that Aberdeen and Edinburgh would levy local authority charges but that Glasgow is not keen to do so. I would love to see how the minister is going to tackle Glasgow—my old colleagues in the local authority are a tough load of cookies. Will the minister force Labour councillors in Glasgow, including Charlie Gordon, to impose those charges if they do not want to?
Road space needs to be better used. Taking away existing road space on main routes and removing it from all vehicle use by narrowing the highway or removing it from most vehicle use by restricting it to certain categories of vehicle is bound to make congestion worse. I wonder if there is a devious plot afoot. Is the Executive trying to create congestion so that it can levy congestion charges? More congestion means more pollution.
The minister has a difficult task and I welcome one or two things that she has said today.
I will quickly quote some words from members of the business community, who hit the nail on the head.
Lex Gold, the director of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, suggested that the Executive's policy was:
"A narrow approach at naked revenue raising in a haphazard, bottom up manner with no strategic focus; no national guidance, and no aim of enhancing competitiveness"
Ian Duff, who leads on transport issues for the influential Scottish Council Development and Industry, believes that
"confused thinking is holding up essential work on key transport arteries".
I am just finishing.
"keep saying it's coming, its coming. But nothing happens".
Finally, I attended a meeting of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club motor policy committee, at its invitation. Its members were concerned about certain aspects of the 40-page consultation document, particularly the distinct feeling that no firm assurances had been given on 100 per cent ring-fencing—that moneys would be used for road and transport improvements. That was not acceptable to them.
Of all the debates in the chamber to date, few can have been as highly anticipated. While we thought that we were gathering today to discuss the strategic roads review, as evidenced by today's contributors to the debate, the events of the past few days have clearly illustrated the wider problem of an absence of any real transport strategy for Scotland within which this review should have taken place. Selective further research may be welcome. I will return to that point.
I will not dwell on the plans outlined in the Minister for Transport and the Environment's statement. Kenny MacAskill and other colleagues have demonstrated the inadequacy of the programme to deal with Scotland's current and future transport needs. On behalf of the Executive, the minister has put a brave public face on a poor announcement. Clearly, Gordon Brown's determination to prioritise Labour's ever-growing war chest has condemned Scottish drivers to paying the highest fuel prices in Europe, while driving on a crumbling road network.
The Government's own figures show that almost a third of the current trunk road network has a residual life of less than 10 years. Like our public transport system, the country's roads require investment. Indeed, an effective public transport system requires effective roads.
The background to today's announcement is the white paper "Travel Choices for Scotland." That paper promised an integrated transport policy to help make a more inclusive society, and a policy that is appropriate to support Scotland's economy. Recent weeks have demonstrated that the Executive does not have enough understanding of Scotland's transport needs to develop such a policy.
In 1997, the Scottish Office central research unit
"Transport policy in Scotland clearly requires a resource, which has the potential for sub-regional analysis in order to address differences between the more densely populated areas of the central belt and the more sparsely populated rural areas . . . At present, policy and surveys conducted in Scotland are not addressing the context within which the travel decision occurs. This is a serious flaw, given the desirability in current policy terms to understand the relationship between social, fiscal and transport aspects of the behaviour of individuals and households."
The white paper was premature and the Executive was not properly informed. I suspect that the minister, due to her respected experience in the field, has always been aware of that deficit of current, relevant information. I hope that she will take steps to properly inform the Executive and the Parliament by appropriate further research carried out timeously.
I have with me a sheaf of parliamentary questions that have not yet been answered—questions lodged up to five weeks ago, which request basic information to enable my party's own response to a transport bill. That basic information is noted in the aforementioned Scottish Office central research unit report as being required. It seems that we have not moved on since then. The information that we do have is revealing. The more cynical members among us may see the Executive's policy direction as merely following the latest Westminster diktat.
I hope that the minister has won her battle and that the announced further research will be appropriate. We can then return to discussing Scottish answers to Scottish questions. While London may be in gridlock, Scotland clearly is not. According to the Executive's own figures, between 1985 and 1997, the average number of commuting and business trips made by Scots dropped from 207 to 203. The length of time taken for Scots to commute to their main place of work barely altered, increasing from 22 minutes to 23 minutes.
The Scottish Executive, with some assistance from other parties, has tried to present the transport debate as a simple choice between its politically correct anti-car policies and the views of the rest of us, who, it alleges, are hell-bent on wrecking the environment. I reject such a simplistic approach and will continue to press the minister to address the wider impact of her policies. For example, we need to understand why progress in reducing injuries and fatalities from road traffic accidents is now being reversed.
The roads programme should be only part of a wider transport policy. I urge the minister to accept that a holistic approach is best for what we are all trying to achieve. Sensible road infrastructure, through improvement or new commitment, has a place in the overall objective of ensuring effective
I see—John Young was the official wind-up. [Laughter.] I had not realised that.
We have had a rather curious set of Opposition speakers. On the one hand, Mr MacAskill would construct all the roads everywhere; he would add a few that are not even on the list. On the other, the Tories have said that they would have built all the roads, if we had not voted them out of office a couple of years ago. The truth is that the Tories did not have the money to build all those roads in their budget, and neither would the SNP have the money to build those roads in its budget.
We know that from the SNP's budget in the run-up to the election. We also know that some of the money in the SNP's budget would have come from the fuel duty escalator. In its budget for independence, which was produced reluctantly in the last stages of the general election campaign, the SNP allocated fuel duty without any reduction. On the SNP's budget figures as recently as April 1999, it would have kept the fuel duty at its current level. Given the SNP's budget policy, we are rather fed up with the SNP complaints.
We now find out that roads will not be paid for from the fuel duty escalator. I heard Mr Salmond saying on the radio the other morning that the SNP would pay for it from income-based taxation. That is an interesting development. Just over a year ago, Alasdair Morgan said that the SNP would use the penny for Scotland to invest in roads. Within 24 hours that policy was abolished, but now the SNP has returned to income tax as a way of raising investment for roads.
Let us look at the budget and the amount of money that we need to spend on roads. Mr MacAskill's programme aspires to spend £800 million on road construction. Where will that money come from? We will need not just one penny for Scotland, but rather a lot of pennies. SNP members' comments today completely miss the point.
No, I will not.
We have used criteria of accessibility, integration, safety and environment. It is critical to take all those things together. We have a costed roads programme, which means that the roads that are listed today will go ahead.
We expect a start date in a couple of years' time for the M77, Fenwick to Malletsheugh, with a completion date three years later. That route will cost £60 million.
Construction on the A1, Haddington to Dunbar, could begin in the next two years. We need to go through the planning process for that. The cost will be £32 million.
Construction on the A78, the three towns bypass, could begin within the next couple of years. The work will cost £26 million.
Construction on the A830 should begin next year and will cost £10 million.
Construction on the A96 should begin within the next three years and will cost £12 million.
No, I will not, Mr Tosh.
The programme is costed. It will be implemented using the money that is currently in our budget and the money that we have programmed over the next three years.
The comments that members have made acknowledge the importance of integration. It was even acknowledged by the SNP members, which came as a surprise, because they have said that they would spend £800 million on roads and on a whole wish list of other transport issues. We have to prioritise; we are a Government with a budget.
Mr Nick Johnston said:
"Nobody wants to see diversions from health and education".
That is absolutely true. We need to work within the existing budget and our challenge is to prioritise effectively. That is what we have done.
We also want to make the most effective use of our existing infrastructure. That is why we think that it is important to take an appropriate amount of freight off the roads. To answer Mr Young's question, it is not about getting all freight off roads. Last week, I spoke to the Road Haulage Association, to say how important we see its work as part of an integrated transport strategy. The whole purpose of the strategic roads review is to achieve the right balance.
No, thank you. I am trying to answer the question that I have just been asked.
We will commission a multi-modal study. The challenge is not just to think about huge investment in roads; it is about the existing use of our road network, to work out better ways to get people off roads and to give them high-quality choices. As Ms Fabiani suggested, we need a holistic approach. We must make the best use of our infrastructure.
We have no ideological objection to roads. Roads are a fundamental part of our transport investment and a key part of our transport infrastructure. The Executive wants to ensure that our roads are used effectively and that we invest in them. That means maintenance—a responsible approach. It is not just about investing in new roads; it is also about ensuring that we have sufficient investment in the existing infrastructure.
No, I am about to wind up.
I want to talk about the issue of road user charging, which has been mentioned by many members. There has been an extensive consultation process. I have toured the length and breadth of the country, talking to a variety of interest groups, from the business community, to local authorities, to individuals. We have discussed the opportunities and I have made it clear that we will not introduce trunk road tolling or motorway tolling as part of our transport legislation. I will come back to the Parliament with our proposals for local road user charging—that will be taken forward by the local authorities—and on the issue of workplace parking levies.
We have an approach that will give us new revenue to invest in transport. We will consider the issues of additionality, transparency and hypothecation, to ensure that people can see where the money is going. It will go back into our transport investment.
A question was asked about the M74. We have taken a responsible approach. It is a key link and it is important that we get it right. In asking Glasgow City Council and South Lanarkshire Council to work with the neighbouring authorities, we are recognising the importance of the route. There are several options available to the councils. We have
I commend the roads programme to Parliament. It is a credible programme, which will improve economic investment in Scotland. The points that have been made have been helpful and interesting and it has been a constructive debate.
The business community has expressed concerns. We want to ensure that those concerns are fully reflected in what we do; hence the roads programme that we have announced today. It is a coherent programme that links into our integrated transport strategy. It is about getting the best out of our roads network, and it is about promoting public transport. Buses need motorways as much as cars need motorways.
Our integrated approach must ensure that we look at all those options for transport. That is why we will take that programme forward over the next few years, with the money that we have identified in our budget.
On a point of order. Presiding Officer, I listened very carefully to your rulings earlier today, and you specifically addressed the question of introducing new information in closing speeches. The minister has just uttered the words "tolling new roads", which certainly were not in the initial statement. That is the first time that those words have appeared in this debate.
This afternoon I ruled that new policy announcements should not be made during closing ministerial statements, and I do not think that that has happened.
The debate has ended, but I should say that a record number of members—17—were not called to speak, in spite of my earlier efforts to curtail questions. In view of that, and in view of Mr Gorrie's point of order, I will ask the Parliamentary Bureau to look at this double-headed procedure again, because I am not sure that it is working.
On a point of order. To record the people who are not being called in these debates, could their names appear in the business bulletin? In that way, if any pattern emerges of people not being called, it will be visible.
I can assure members that the clerks take a careful note of those who are not called in debate, so that the person in the chair is conscious of members who have been overlooked on previous occasions. Some may feel that they are more overlooked than others, but I assure members that we do our best to ensure that that does not happen.