Congestion Charging

Secretary of State for Scotland (Meetings) – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 13th June 2002.

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Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party 2:30 pm, 13th June 2002

To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Executive supports the introduction of congestion charging in Scotland's cities. (S1F-1968)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Yes, where there is local demand for such a scheme. That is why we introduced provisions in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 to enable councils to introduce road user charging where they believe that it will reduce local congestion and improve public transport.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

Will the First Minister assure me, and, more important, the people of the north-east of Scotland that they will not have to fund the plans of the north-east Scotland transport partnership—including the plans for a western peripheral route round Aberdeen—through congestion charging?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

As I said, that matter will be considered in the light of local demands or requests for such a scheme. The transport needs of the north-east of Scotland are important—ministers have made that clear on a number of occasions—and complex, but they do not just involve the possibility of a bypass around the city. It might have escaped Mr Adam's notice, but the prospect of building a bypass will not help anyone to get into the centre of the city more quickly, because the bypass will go round the centre of the city. That might be a novel concept, but it is true. One does not need to be a mathematician to work it out.

The transport needs of Aberdeen and the north-east of Scotland are important and they require proper strategic planning and resourcing, which is exactly what we are involved in achieving with NESTRANS. If Brian Adam is opposed to congestion charging in Scotland's cities, I suggest that he change the SNP manifesto for the next election, because the party's 1999 manifesto supported the scheme.

Photo of Angus MacKay Angus MacKay Labour

Does the First Minister agree that any proposals for congestion charging in Edinburgh must meet two criteria? The first is that no charging regime can be put in place unless the current consultation exercise, which was launched yesterday and which covers the whole of the south-east of Scotland, demonstrates clear public support for such a scheme. The second is that a range of improvements to the public transport infrastructure in and around Edinburgh must be in place well in advance of any charging regime, so that the consumer will have real choice between paying to take the car and using a modernised, integrated public transport scheme.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I agree that both those criteria must be met. The City of Edinburgh Council is to be congratulated on extending its consultation beyond the city boundaries. It is right and proper that it should do so. We should give credit where credit is due. For a number of years, the City of Edinburgh Council has been trying to make the required improvements to Edinburgh's transport systems. Improvements have been made and, in recent weeks, the new crossrail system has been put in place. The City of Edinburgh Council is to be congratulated on that and we will help it to take those issues forward in the years to come.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Before I conclude question time, I inform members that today's First Minister's question time represents a record for the number of members who were not called. Frankly, that is because of the noise. The less noise there is, the more members will get to ask questions. I hope that I can make that appeal as we approach an election.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. During a supplementary question, Phil Gallie seriously misrepresented the position of Dundee City Council. He said that it was ghettoising anti-social tenants. Will you advise me on how I can use the standing orders of the Parliament to point out that the unit in Dundee is smack bang in the middle of mainstream housing and is designed specifically to reintegrate anti-social tenants into mainstream housing, which is the opposite of Tory ghettoisation?

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

You are asking for my advice on standing orders. I am conscious that you were one of the many members to whom I referred when I spoke of members not being called. All that I can ask you to do is to try again, but not to use points of order to do so.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I am sorry. We cannot continue question time with points of order. Is your point of order on a different issue?

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

It is a different point of order.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

It concerns the point that you made about the number of questions that were asked during question time. You referred to the noise, but I respectfully ask you to consider the amount of time that the First Minister took to respond to each question. Perhaps therein lies the problem.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I agree that it would be commendable if ministerial answers were shorter. However, they become longer when there is noise and interruption and that is the point that I am making.