Regional Transport Partnerships

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Enterprise, Lifelong Learning and Transport – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 22nd March 2007.

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Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 2:15 pm, 22nd March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what form of parliamentary scrutiny there will be prior to the implementation of the regional transport partnerships' strategies being collated by Transport Scotland under the 10-year national transport strategy. (S2O-12420)

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

All seven regional transport partnerships' strategies will be submitted to Scottish ministers for approval in keeping with guidance issued in March 2006.

Ministers are of course accountable to Parliament through the normal mechanisms.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

We are coming to a period in which parliamentarians, for the first time, can be a part of the process of policy making on rail projects. Many people in the region that I represent want to see an ambitious list of priorities for appropriate road and rail developments in the transport strategy. Does the minister agree that parliamentary scrutiny could augment the proposals that are made by regional transport partnerships if they blatantly ignore the wishes of local people? For example, democratic scrutiny would be needed if the Dornoch rail link, which could revitalise the post-Dounreay economy in Caithness, is ignored by the Highlands and Islands transport partnership.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I have no doubt—I am sure that Mr Gibson shares this view—that the proposals that come from the north and far north in respect of all modes of transport will be exacting and will make considerable requests of local and central Government in developing projects. I do not believe for a minute that regional transport partnerships will disregard any views from elected parliamentarians in this place or from local people, constituent councils, community councils and other bodies. We have been clear in our guidance that RTPs should ensure that the widest possible consultation is conducted in respect of the transport services that we all agree are essential in the far north of Scotland.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Does the minister share my concern that the draft Tayside and Central Scotland transport partnership strategy makes no reference to the need to dual the A9, which is regarded by many in the area as the top priority for investment? Does he agree that unless the TACTRAN strategy corrects that omission, it will not deserve public support when it is finalised?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

It would be inappropriate for me to comment on a strategy that is still in its final stages. We will look closely at the strategy when it is submitted, in terms of both the project that Mr Fraser mentioned and the wider issues that it raises. The whole purpose of regional transport partnerships in the area that Mr Fraser represents, as well as throughout Scotland, has been to focus on the development of transport priorities that recognise the concerns of businesses and local people about how they are to function properly and to take into account essential spending issues at regional and central Government level, irrespective of who is in power.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

Perhaps I can get the minister to comment on the process that has been adopted by TACTRAN. It is clear that in the draft plan that TACTRAN is working towards, there are a number of projects that are not reflected in local councils' structure plans. Will the minister comment on the process that has been followed, whereby projects are being put forward without consultation with communities and without their prior inclusion in structure plans?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I would be very surprised if proposals came forward from any regional transport partnership that had not been subject to some scrutiny by local communities and some detailed consideration by constituent local authorities, community councils and other such bodies. If there is an example of that, I am sure that it will be picked up in our assessment of the strategies that are developed and produced throughout Scotland. If the member wants to raise specific issues, I am happy to consider them.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

On the HITRANS submission, one issue on which constituents approach me is the A9 at Berriedale. Will the minister assure me that that will be looked at closely in the future?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I can certainly give Mr Stone that assurance. As he knows, we visited the Berriedale braes last year and looked closely at the engineering solutions and their budgetary implications. I was pleased, on the member's invitation, to be able to meet local campaigners, some of whom have campaigned on the issue for many years. We will continue to look at the project. The formal position with regard to the whole A9 is of course that it will be considered as part of the strategic projects review. That is the correct way to take forward the project, so that is what will be done.