We now move to members' business. I make my usual appeal for members to leave quickly and quietly. Members' business today is motion S1M-287, in the name of Bruce Crawford, on the promotion of a European freight and passenger terminal in Fife.
More members have indicated a desire to speak than I had notice of, so I appeal for short speeches.
That the Parliament notes that the EU is the destination for over half of Scottish exports and that Scotland has no direct ferry connection with Europe; believes that Scotland, being on the geographical periphery of the EU, has an urgent need for good transport links with continental Europe and that it is uneconomic, environmentally unsound and irrational that the majority of Scottish goods and freight traffic should have to pass through Hull or other southern ports to reach destinations in Europe, as this increases the volume of freight traffic on roads and impedes Scottish economic growth; recognises the need to develop a multimodal freight and passenger terminal to serve Scotland, and agrees the need to promote a freight and passenger ferry terminal at Rosyth, assist Fife Council, Fife Enterprise, Scottish industry and the Scottish Tourist Board in their efforts to secure this facility, encourage the fast tracking of all planning applications to allow the proposed facility to be established without delay, encourage the development of road and rail infrastructure links to ensure easy and safe passage for passengers and freight through the proposed terminal at Rosyth and ensure the availability of an appropriate level of freight facilities grant for the proposed ferry terminal at Rosyth.
I thank all the members who signed the motion for today's debate.
Scotland is an exporting nation. Computers, telecommunications equipment, chemicals, whisky and fish and other food products carry the "Made in Scotland" label and directly support 120,000 jobs in Scotland.
There was a time when we thought of our home market as being the 5 million people who live in Scotland, or even the 55 million in the United Kingdom. That is no longer the case: Europe, with a market of about 320 million people, is now our home market. Scotland exports more to France and Germany individually than it does to the USA and the Commonwealth countries combined.
Our exports to the European Union represent 58 per cent of Scottish exports. Indeed, 78 per cent of manufactured exports from Fife are EU-bound. Those are remarkable statistics for a nation on the periphery of Europe. We succeed despite the lack
In its major study into transportation networks, the North Sea Commission said that
"the majority of Ro-Ro and Container traffic is routed to/from English ports. In this context, without significant investment in Ro-Ro and passenger facilities, Scotland will continue to suffer from peripherality."
Is it not madness to be an exporting nation but to make it so difficult for our exporters to reach their primary market? We could do so much better.
Fifty per cent of the traffic that passes through the ferry port of Hull is believed to have its origin or destination in Scotland. A large proportion of the journeys of the 250,000 passengers who use the Newcastle-Amsterdam ferry originate in Scotland. I would like the Parliament to think about the cost of the fuel to get goods and passengers to and from those ferries, the impact of those journeys on our roads system and the pollution that that additional traffic creates in our environment.
A Scottish lorry driver also needs to think about time. More congestion means that Scottish lorry drivers may be unable to reach southern port destinations in a legal driving day, which adds to their costs. Add to that the plans to introduce motorway tolling—now plus VAT—all heaped on to Scottish exporters trying to operate competitively from a peripheral European nation. The motion supports the view that there is a market for a direct ferry service from Scotland to the heart of Europe, with more and more finished goods transported by rail to the quayside, and on to their markets in Europe.
How do other small nations access key European markets by sea? The Danes, for example, are well served by Fredrikshavn, Arhus and Esbjerg. In Norway, more than 80 per cent of the country's imports and exports are transported by ship and/or ferry. However, it is about more than just goods. We need to look only at Shetland to see the huge economic and social benefits that can be had from an international sea link. Hotels, pubs and guest houses in Shetland are full of Scandinavians with plenty of money to spend.
If it can do that for Shetland, imagine what sea access to the continent could do for the rest of Scotland. Opening up Scotland to tourists must be part of the agenda. Imagine a tourist thinking about coming to Scotland without first having to think about an eight-hour car journey. How much more attractive it would be if one could travel from Zeebrugge, Zeeland or the Eemshaven and sail into Rosyth by the next morning. The journey itself would be a holiday, part of the great Scottish adventure. The Scottish Tourist Board's figures show that, in 1998, more than 60,000 Dutch
The reason that I brought this motion to the Parliament is to encourage action. A lot has been said over the past few years and encouraging noises have been made, but it is now time to move from the noises-off stage to getting passengers and freight on board.
I am aware that the minister has already confirmed that the Executive is responsible for those ferry and marine freight operations that start and finish in Scotland. I would therefore welcome her confirmation today that freight facilities grants would apply to a ferry terminal facility at Rosyth. We all know that Rosyth has good access to the motorway system and the potential for a direct rail link. It is also an excellent location for storage and logistics operations and has a port facility that is accessible, irrespective of the state of the tide.
As far as the rail link is concerned, I am sure that the minister is more than aware of yesterday's announcement by Railtrack about its preparedness to invest in the rail link between Dunfermline and Stirling and the vital importance of that link to the future development of this exciting port opportunity, which would create hundreds of jobs and retain highly skilled engineers at Rosyth. I hope that the minister will be able to confirm that that will strengthen the case for substantial investment for this line from the next round of public transport fund announcements.
Scottish Enterprise has chosen Rosyth as its preferred east coast port and has already identified a five-point action plan. I also ask the minister to report back to Parliament on the progress of that plan. I am sure that she is aware that Babcock Rosyth is at the forefront of developing the engineering capability to move containers from road to rail to ferry. That multimodal approach and the building of low-deck wagons at Rosyth will allow container traffic to pass through tunnels and bridges previously unsuitable for rail container traffic. Babcock Rosyth estimates that the new engineering enterprise will create significant numbers of jobs. Can I ask the minister to confirm that everything possible will be done to assist Babcock Rosyth to make the product a success?
The Parliament should recognise the efforts of others: Fife Council, Fife Enterprise and other bodies. We need to provide the vital support, encouragement, energy and cajolement to ensure that this venture—of huge potential for Rosyth, Fife and Scotland—becomes a reality, not tomorrow but today.
I welcome Bruce Crawford's motion, allowing the discussion of the merits of Rosyth as an international freight and passenger ferry terminal. My constituency covers the whole of the former Rosyth Royal Naval dockyard, now split between Babcock Rosyth and Rosyth 2000. Both companies have proposals for a roll-on-roll-off ferry terminal, using the fact that they have the ability to provide 24-hour docking facilities, unlike a potential rival on the south of the Forth.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that, in the past, the southern Fife economy was overly reliant on traditional industries and those relating to defence. It is clear that the change in economic activity and in the international situation has had a devastating effect on the local economy. No longer will the Rosyth port area be able to rely on Ministry of Defence contracts, as it once did. It is important for employment that the former dockyard area is used for other purposes. However, today's debate is not simply about creating jobs—although that is important—but about making economic sense.
As the motion states, the majority of Scottish exports heading to continental Europe currently have to go through Hull. That involves a journey of several hundred miles from Scotland, when the establishment of a similar terminal at Rosyth would mean that journeys from most of Scotland would be in the region of tens of miles. Similarly, the nearest major passenger ferry terminal is at Newcastle, when Rosyth is obviously nearer.
The Scottish Executive and the UK Government are anxious to reduce unnecessary travel by road—but having our nearest major freight terminal at Hull only increases road travel. Rosyth is well placed in the main arterial road network, a few miles off the M90 at the Forth road bridge, with good links north, south, east and even west, although that will be helped by the creation of a new bridge at Kincardine. Rosyth is also situated just off the main east coast rail network—the rail link is already in place. That could easily be opened up to further freight traffic, if minimum improvements were made to the junction south of Inverkeithing railway station.
Fife Council and the former Fife Regional Council, in partnership with industry, have been pursuing the option of an international ferry terminal for several years. Indeed, in her role as a councillor, my neighbouring constituency MSP, Helen Eadie, has been harping on about the
Both the Scottish Executive and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions need to ensure that the proposals receive a sympathetic response. They would be enhanced if existing rail grants were extended to include coastal shipping. That would be a major step forward in making the Rosyth proposals reach fruition.
As I have said before, there are two proposals on the table for Rosyth. I have no real opinion on which is best; the port provides an excellent opportunity. It is situated on the east coast of Scotland, has potential traffic as yet untapped and is far enough up the Firth of Forth not to be affected by tidal fluctuations. The location of an international freight and passenger terminal is not simply a Fife issue—it would provide a much needed resource for the whole of Scotland. Its creation would benefit all parts of Scotland and would make a strategic improvement to the Scottish transport infrastructure.
I congratulate Mr Crawford on obtaining today's debate. I am sure that it is entirely a coincidence that he has managed to lodge the motion and obtain the debate a week before the Rosyth East council by-election. None the less, I am sure that—in the all-party spirit in the chamber today—he will agree that all parties have worked hard over recent years to bring about a European freight and passenger ferry terminal at Rosyth.
Such a direct freight and passenger ferry service is—as some have called it—the missing link in Scotland's transport infrastructure. It would improve accessibility, increase trade and tourism, and—very importantly for Fife—create jobs among our constituents. It would also be profitable, and it is easy to see why. A quarter of a century ago, a third of Scotland's exports went to mainland Europe; now it is two thirds. Most of those exports go to the Benelux countries, as Mr Crawford said, and to France and Germany. Our export growth is higher than the United Kingdom average. We make 35 per cent of Europe's personal computers, and a large proportion of our electronics goods, as well as whisky, food and paper, are exported in containerised form.
Scotland is an increasingly important tourist destination. The number of overseas visitors has doubled since 1982, and nearly a quarter of them come by sea, mainly from—again—the Benelux countries, France and Germany. If they come by sea, they come to either Hull or Dover. They then
Despite the increase in exports and the increase in the tourist trade, our local economies have been missing out because most of the traffic is routed, as Mr Crawford said, through English ports. Roll-on-roll-off container traffic is the fastest growing sector for United Kingdom ports—it has gone up 84 per cent in the nine years between 1986 and 1995. English, not Scottish, ports have benefited. Of our container trade, 70 per cent goes through Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Southampton and Felixstowe. Nearly all our international trailer traffic—98 per cent—goes through either Dover or Hull.
The Transport Research Institute at Napier University has estimated that a ferry service between Rosyth and mainland Europe would make a profit of at least £5.7 million a year, and probably considerably more. But if Rosyth is to be a successful ferry terminal port, it is important that we improve the links to it. I am glad that Mr Crawford mentioned Railtrack's announcement yesterday concerning the Stirling-Alloa-Dunfermline line, because reopening that line is potentially very important. Railtrack's commitment to such an east-west freight route could significantly boost the economy of the Mid Scotland part of the region that Mr Crawford and I both represent, so I warmly welcome that announcement.
I hope that the minister will talk about measures to reduce the increasingly serious congestion on the roads leading up to the tolls on the Forth road bridge. I say that with some feeling, having been half an hour late for a debate in Dundee on Tuesday night because it had taken me an hour and a half to get from outside this chamber to the tolls on the bridge. Quite frankly, if that congestion continues or gets worse, it will undermine the attractiveness of having a ferry terminal at Rosyth.
My party strongly supports a terminal at Rosyth. We are the second party on the council in Fife, with 21 seats—double the number of Mr Crawford's party. However, we are glad to have his support. Apart from providing an important transport link to mainland Europe for Scotland as a whole, it would provide a welcome boost to the economy of Fife.
I will be brief, unlike Mr Raffan, who spent half the time making political points.
I congratulate Bruce Crawford on his motion. I believe that there is a pressing need for the facility, and I am happy to support the motion. Believe it or not, the creation of a ferry terminal formed a central part of the Scottish Conservatives' manifesto in the May elections.
Please do not interrupt, Mr Raffan.
A facility such as the one that is proposed for Rosyth would be a boon to the local economy and to the Scottish economy. Establishing the new terminal at Rosyth would provide long-term security of employment in a depressed area. It would also reduce the cost for tourists and exporters alike, who already face high fuel taxes and long travel times.
I understand that the Scottish Executive would welcome the establishment of a ferry link to the continent, and I urge it to support this initiative and, in the words of the First Minister,
"find a Scottish solution to a Scottish problem."
We support the motion.
I apologise if I seem to be going off at a slight tangent at the start of my very short speech, but members will see the reason for that by the time I get to the end. By the way, if Mr Raffan had taken the train to Dundee—as I did—he would have got there in time.
When I read Bruce Crawford's motion, I felt that it was very much concerned about jobs in Fife. I want to talk about what might be another huge opportunity for Rosyth. At the moment, George Lyon is on his way back to Kintyre to promote Campbeltown as a construction base for wind turbines. The offshore environment on the west coast is very extreme, although it offers the biggest wave and wind energy resource in Europe. Tomorrow, at the Scottish Renewables Forum conference, I will spend five minutes advertising the fact that a number of MSPs are interested in setting up a Scottish parliamentary renewables group to press that issue. Renewable energy is the only form of energy over which we have control. Denmark intends to raise 30 per cent of its energy from combined wind-wave and mostly offshore renewables by 2010.
I commend and support Robin's comments. The Scottish National party has a long record of supporting the use of renewable energy. Does Robin accept that the development of wind power would provide an opportunity to deal with the jobs crisis at
I thoroughly concur. I have to tell members that that intervention was not a plant.
The North sea is clearly an environment with huge possibilities for wind and wave energy to which we should be turning our attention. Of all facilities available, Rosyth docks presents itself as an ideal for the manufacture and floating out of offshore, wind, wave and combined wind-wave installations that can connect easily and directly into the Scottish grid. That is the problem with such installations on the west coast. Such a scheme could have huge possibilities for Scotland and Europe when allied with the development proposed in the motion.
I also congratulate Bruce Crawford on lodging the motion. I regret Keith Harding's mean-minded and mean-spirited comments. If ever there was a reason for proportional representation in local government, he has just outlined it. As he well knows, the Scottish National party in Fife has more votes than the Liberal Democrats.
I am terribly sorry, Keith—I meant Keith Raffan. I humbly apologise for that mistake.
A European freight and passenger service from Scotland to Europe is a project that is viable, in demand and would be of long-term benefit to the area. Before the war, a ferry service operated from Scotland to the European continent. However, that service ceased when the boats were commandeered for the war effort and was never re-established. There is a demand for that service today.
Once the stock of roll-on-roll-off ferries on order comes into operation, the capacity of UK ports will increase. It is estimated that within the next 10 years, the capacity for freight transport at UK ferry terminals will rise by 32 per cent.
There is also a great demand for that service from passengers. Most passengers in Scotland would prefer to travel to a port within two hours of their home. As Bruce Crawford said, almost half the passengers who travel to Hull come from Scotland. It also works the other way. The local tourist board whole-heartedly supports the proposal, and estimates a massive influx of tourists directly into Scotland from the continent.
In the current absence of a ferry link to Europe,
The solution is a ferry terminal at Rosyth, which would reduce pressure on existing ports, increase accessibility to Scotland from the continent, increase tourism and create jobs. Rosyth is the ideal location for such a terminal. As a former naval base, Rosyth could offer riverside berths, a deep-water channel and direct access to trunk road and rail networks. Rosyth also has close at hand a plentiful supply of land for expansion. Most important, a terminal would create jobs in an area that has been devastated by job losses. In short, the whole of Scotland would benefit from the ferry port.
Not only is there demand for the terminal, but it is viable. Rosyth is an ideal location for a ferry port and Fife could certainly use the extra jobs. However, if Rosyth is to be established, it must survive in the commercial environment. Rosyth will face a hard world.
If the project at Rosyth is to be launched and is to sail, not sink, the Executive must provide support and assistance to ensure a safe landing for a Scottish sea route to the European continent. The Executive has the power at its fingertips to write the memo and to sign the cheques for freight facilities grants. That would launch the ferry from Rosyth with certainty of a fair-weather passage, rather than with a photo call, with a minister cracking open a bottle of champagne on a departing ferry and then leaving it to face unaided the storms of the wild commercial seas.
I congratulate Bruce Crawford and thank him for lodging the motion, which has opened up the issue of east coast access to ferry services from Scotland.
The idea has been around for a long time and it is appropriate that it should be the subject of one of our earlier discussions in the Scottish Parliament. Tonight's debate has shown that while there has been much discussion before, the real challenge is to promote action.
I want to cover three main areas. First, I will cover the policy framework, because Bruce asked a large number of questions about how the Executive views the proposal. I will then talk about what the Executive can do. Finally, I will pick up on Tricia Marwick's comments about the challenges of the project and where we go next.
We have a strong and robust policy framework. Many of the issues raised today relate to policies for which the Executive already has a policy framework in place, which can be used as a background to discussing the issue.
I will not go through the whole list of statistics that members have raised, but I will pick out three. In 1997, freight going by heavy goods vehicle outwith the UK from Scotland totalled 629,000 tonnes. In 1996, more than half the tonnage going by sea went via the Dover strait. More than 940,000 tonnes of freight for outwith the UK was lifted by rail in Scotland. We know that we have a significant export market. I take on board fully Tricia's comment that freight movement by sea is a competitive market. Policies on east coast access must therefore be developed in that light.
It is not the nationality of our ports that is the problem, but the physical lack of access in Scotland and the distances that need to be travelled. Those are the issues on which we must focus.
There are four key policy areas for which the Scottish Executive has a positive policy framework. First, it is absolutely vital to take freight off roads. That underpins our commitment to a sustainable distribution policy for freight. We are committed to removing 15 million lorry miles a year from the roads by March 2002. That is not an easy or straightforward target, but it is one of the key aims that inform the debate on Rosyth.
Secondly, an integrated approach to transport is at the core of our transport policy. That framework has been set out in our decisions and in our funding mechanisms.
Thirdly, we need locally driven transport strategies. Keith Raffan made a point about the need to tackle congestion. I want to take the opportunity of tonight's debate to pay tribute to the work of Fife Council in promoting practical alternatives to road congestion. The council is doing some solid work and I encourage it to continue with that. There are opportunities in Fife to pull together the local council, the local enterprise company, port providers, Railtrack and other bodies that could be involved to promote a powerful local transport strategy.
The last of the four policy areas is ports policy, and to get that policy right, it is important to work in the wider UK context. We want to enable multimodal ports, with transfer from rail to ferry and from road to ferry. We want to ensure that we get it right, and that the shadow strategic rail authority, Railtrack, the rail freight operators, port owners and the shipping companies will be involved. It is a challenging agenda but, I believe, a positive one.
I believe that the Executive has set the right
I will come on to Mr Tosh in a minute.
This is not just a matter of the right framework; it is about what we are doing now. We have a freight facilities grant that is available for developing rail facilities at ports. We are looking for applications so that we can identify appropriate funding. Existing rail links, including Rosyth, could be eligible for the grant—we need the applications. On rail services to Rosyth, it is welcome news that Railtrack will submit a freight facilities grant application for the Stirling-Alloa-Dunfermline freight link. We will consider that application seriously, and it should be approached in the context of overall freight facilities.
There is also the prospect—this is where the UK Government is important—to extend the freight facilities grant scheme to short sea and coastal shipping, which is already a firm UK Government commitment. I welcome that commitment, which is extremely relevant for Rosyth and for Scotland.
On Scott Barrie's comments on the Kincardine bridge, as he will know—and I will remind him—we have given the go-ahead on the strategic roads review announcement.
It is also our policy to encourage other agencies that are involved, and I highlight the joining-up of their approaches. Their work was mentioned by Tricia Marwick and Bruce Crawford, and it is important that we maximise effectiveness. Scottish Enterprise is playing a key practical role. There is also funding from RAPID, an EC-backed scheme which could, if qualification is achieved, assist in associated property development around the port area. Environmental funding could assist with abnormal ground conditions or environmental improvements.
I am encouraged by the breadth of the minister's agenda. May I respectfully suggest that this rather small debate might be enhanced if the Executive agreed to make time available for a full debate? We have had only one relatively short debate on the roads review. There is a tremendous opportunity for us to have a full debate on the subject of Scotland's strategic transport links. I am sure that the Parliament would welcome that, and I hope that the minister can give some indication that she might promote such a debate.
Whenever anyone says
The other way in which Scottish Enterprise can support the development of transport links is through marketing assistance. There has been a lot of work on that from Scottish Enterprise already. I am sure that members will be aware of the report that it produced last year, which has pushed the debate ahead and has added a great deal of depth to what members have raised in the debate.
Scottish Enterprise has also played an important role with regard to European funding sources.
Not just now, thank you.
The pilot actions for combined transport programme—the PACT programme—supports innovative combined transport services. I understand that a PACT application might be considered, and could build on the earlier support from the scheme for initial feasibility work. The application is being made in a competitive situation, but I believe that further work could be done.
On future challenges, I am convinced that the work already being done on transport links will take the debate further. The Scottish Executive will fully support such an agenda.
The framework set by us allows and positively encourages developments such as that at Rosyth. One of the challenges is to highlight for shipping operators the port facilities available and how they can be promoted. We need to study the market carefully and to examine how ferry and shipping operators might be attracted to the routes that have been mentioned. There are some hard questions—Tricia Marwick raised the matter earlier—and I believe that we need to give them further consideration.
We need to ensure that the project is co-ordinated. I pay tribute to the work of Fife Council, Scottish Enterprise, Fife Enterprise, the port authorities, rail freight interests and the many others involved in the work. I welcome the establishment of a project steering group as a means of taking the work forward practically and positively.
The Executive is clear that a ferry service from the east coast of Scotland would be welcome.
On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I know that the Presiding Officer has already ruled on announcements being made without notice. As far as I understand it, we have just heard an announcement about some future project steering group of which we were completely unaware. It would have been courteous had the minister informed us about it beforehand. Can the minister explain that?
We have talked about how the Scottish Executive plays a full part in regeneration and diversification at Rosyth. That is an exciting issue for us, and I am glad that it has been debated early in the life of the Scottish Parliament. The policy framework, the role that we can all play and the role that the Government can play are clear—our challenge is to progress the matter collectively. Work is already being done, and I hope that the debate has helped to lift the issue up the agenda and that it has added value to the discussions that are already taking place in Fife.
I thank Bruce Crawford for raising the issue and I hope that we will be able to report success in future.