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Secretary of State for Scotland (Meetings)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 18th November 2004.

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Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green 12:00 pm, 18th November 2004

To ask the First Minister when he will next meet the Secretary of State for Scotland and what issues he intends to discuss. (S2F-1206)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I have no immediate plans for a formal meeting with the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

Page 119 of the Scottish Executive draft budget shows that the road haulage modernisation fund is included in spending on public transport. The document states:

"The Road Haulage Modernisation Fund budget will be used to help modernise and increase the efficiency of the road haulage industry".

How can the Executive justify the spending on the private road haulage sector as part of spending on public transport?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

If we are going to improve the transporting of freight on our railways, which is another significant part of our budget plans, we need to ensure that companies can not only get their goods to market but can get their goods to the rail freight pick-up points, which they require to do.

There are a range of reasons for ensuring that we have an integrated transport policy that not only supports improved roads, railways, airports, air routes, trains, train stations and so on but improves the way in which transport moves around and carries goods, particularly on our roads and railways and in the air. That is why we take a comprehensive approach and support all aspects of improvements in transport, including improving and modernising—for what are sometimes very good reasons—the road haulage industry.

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

Will the First Minister please answer the question? Is the private road haulage sector viewed as being public transport?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

I note with great interest those members from rural Scotland who mock the road haulage industry, which is important to those parts of rural Scotland that need to move goods to market. I say to members of the Scottish National Party that the people I meet when I visit parts of the Highlands and Islands, who tell me about the importance of the road haulage industry, do not expect members of the Scottish Parliament to laugh and joke about the road haulage industry. [ Interruption. ]

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Assisting the road haulage industry to modernise and move goods around assists with the overall improvement and use of public transport in Scotland. There are parts of Scotland that are not reached by forms of public transport that move freight to ports, airports or the railway system. Therefore, improvements in the road haulage system are required in order to support the improved use of public transport. That might be a difficult concept for some parties in this Parliament to grasp, but it is a fact of life for people in large parts of rural Scotland. If we are going to have successful companies in rural Scotland that can get their goods to the markets, they need to use decent, modern road haulage systems in order to access the other forms of public transport.