Road Safety

General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:00 pm on 2nd December 2004.

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Photo of Irene Oldfather Irene Oldfather Labour 2:00 pm, 2nd December 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to improve road safety. (S2O-4387)

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

The Executive is investing in road improvements targeted on accident black spots. We are also funding road safety programmes, such as the foolsspeed and Christmas drink driving campaigns, and safer road projects, such as safer routes to school and home zones. We are supporting tougher enforcement by the police, for example to stop drivers using hand-held mobile telephones, which is illegal and irresponsible and costs lives.

Photo of Irene Oldfather Irene Oldfather Labour

I welcome the measures that the minister outlined. Does he agree that elderly pedestrians can be particularly vulnerable, given that they could have sight, mobility and hearing problems? Will he consider running a road safety awareness campaign to encourage drivers to recognise the specific difficulties that elderly and disabled pedestrians face?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

I thank Irene Oldfather for that suggestion. She has raised with me the recent tragic incident involving an elderly person in Ayrshire, so I am aware of that sad case. I will certainly raise her suggestion with the Scottish Road Safety Campaign and encourage local authorities to consider what measures they can take, particularly in areas where there are a significant number of elderly people. I will also raise with trunk roads officials in the Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department the issue of dangers and points on the trunk road network where we might be able to take action that would assist elderly people or people with disabilities.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Does the minister agree that we live in one of the gloomiest countries in the world at this time of year, when darkness descends in the early afternoon? Is he as surprised as I am at the number of drivers who persist in driving along roads such as the A82 with no headlights in half-darkness, fog or even snow? Will he adopt the Scandinavian model of having drivers use dipped headlights at all times and advocate that as part of a road safety campaign?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

I am not sure that that is within the Executive's devolved competence.

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

I am pretty sure that it is not, Presiding Officer. Much of the gloom tends to come from the left side of the chamber, particularly when Fergus Ewing is on his feet. Any constructive suggestion about road safety should be considered seriously and I would be happy to raise his proposal with the appropriate authorities, including the police and the Scottish Road Safety Campaign. Legislating on road safety issues remains reserved, but we in the Executive have an important role to play in promoting better road safety. I will certainly consider any suggestion. The Scandinavian approach of using dipped headlights at all times is worthy of study.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green

I am sure that the minister will agree that making alternatives to the car more attractive would go a long way towards improving road safety, so will he tell us when we will have a proper strategy and meaningful targets for road traffic reduction?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

We have a proper strategy for road traffic reduction. We have an ambitious target to reduce road traffic levels by 2021. We are determined to achieve that target through the most ambitious investment programme in public transport initiatives that we have seen for decades. That is why we are committing to new bus, rail and tram projects and extra investment in our ferry services. That package of measures, which is targeted on improving public transport, will transform our public transport infrastructure over the coming years.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

What examples can the minister give of the positive use of speed cameras for road safety? Will he describe the criteria that are used for determining fixed-camera sites?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

Speed cameras can be very effective. For example, when the grade-separated junctions were introduced on the section of the A90 at Forfar—the Forfar bypass—safety cameras were in place throughout the road works and were welcomed by the local community and all sensible motorists. Correctly positioned safety cameras can help to protect drivers, passengers and the local community and all the surveys show that they have strong local support. I would like to ensure that, when new safety cameras are introduced, there is always a strong safety case and an open and public account of why they are being introduced. I have no doubt that I will recommend further safety cameras in appropriate locations, where they can help to reduce the toll of deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The minister made a comment about how people on this side of the chamber can be gloomy every so often. I was cheerful when his predecessor announced that there would be an improvement to the Ballinluig road junctions to tackle that accident black spot. However, I was less than happy when I found out in a series of ministerial answers that virtually no progress has been made with the improvements that the then minister promised more than two years ago. What steps have been taken since I asked those questions to intensify the timescale for that essential measure to improve road safety on the A9?

Photo of Nicol Stephen Nicol Stephen Liberal Democrat

I understand John Swinney's concern and I, too, want to ensure that the project goes ahead as quickly as possible. I had meetings with officials following the commitment that I gave John Swinney in the chamber recently. The project is complex and involves two crossings of the railway line as it passes through Ballinluig, but I am determined to move forward with it as quickly as possible. I had an assurance from officials that work is being done on the detail of the project, based on the new consultancy contract. The draft orders will be published in the spring and I want to move forward as quickly as possible after that, I hope without a public inquiry, to ensure that the scheme is built.