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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.