On what criteria would the minister base a decision to approve the setting up of a local public inquiry on the M74? What impact would there be on public confidence in the Scottish Executive's role in the planning process if, just six weeks after an election in which the share of the vote of the parties that campaigned hard against the M74 extension increased while every other party did badly in Glasgow, a decision were made not to allow a local public inquiry into Britain's biggest motorway project?
I will base my decision whether to have a local public inquiry on the normal criteria. I will be given advice by civil servants following their examination of all the objections. That will be done in the proper and objective way.
I hope that I will make my decision on the issue very soon after the receipt of that advice.
Does the minister agree that the comments made by the Scottish Green Party during the election on the environmental effects of the extension are not lost on my constituents in Rutherglen and Cambuslang, who will benefit from the reduction in traffic, particularly heavy goods vehicles, in the main streets of the area as that will lead to improved air quality in our town centres?
I agree. The M74 project will have positive environmental benefits. It will reduce congestion and delays, and improve air quality in the local communities. A good example of that, as the local member pointed out, will be the traffic reduction in communities along and close to the route. For example, it is estimated that traffic will be down by 15 per cent in Rutherglen Main Street and by around 13 per cent in Calder Street. Those will be significant improvements. The M74 project is worth while on a number of fronts.
The impact of the scheme is relatively neutral in terms of the total number of traffic journeys. There will be important benefits from improving the present situation in the south side of Glasgow, where there is significant traffic congestion. I believe that the scheme will also help to regenerate the south side of Glasgow and bring new jobs to the area. That is an important benefit that everyone in the chamber should welcome.