In 2017, we announced our commitment to phase out the need for petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032. Since then, we have seen huge shifts in the electric vehicle market alongside new commitments to decarbonising transport from within the automotive industry and by the international community. For example, the number of EV models available is set to jump from 155 at the end of 2017 to 289 by 2022, car manufacturers such as Nissan and Volvo anticipate that 50 per cent of all their sales will be of EVs by 2025 and countries such as India, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland are proposing to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
The United Kingdom Parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee recommended that the UK Government bring its ambitions for ultra-low-emission vehicles in line with those of Scotland.
Once again, we have shown that this Administration’s leadership on climate change and low-carbon technology is giving Scotland the competitive and comparative advantages that are needed to respond to today’s global challenges and opportunities.
Our commitment was also an important step in creating certainty for business during a period of unprecedented uncertainty and change. The Scottish Government’s climate change targets, energy strategy targets and commitment to remove the need for new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2032 all provide companies with a clear direction of travel. Those measures show Scotland’s commitment to pioneering a low-carbon future and, as a result, they mark out Scotland as a centre for low-carbon investment.
What progress are we making on our 2032 commitment? I am pleased to say that we are fast approaching the installation of our 1,000th charging point on the chargeplace Scotland network. That is an important milestone—it means that the average distance from any given location to the nearest public charging point is just 2.78 miles in Scotland; that is the lowest in Great Britain, where the average is 4.09 miles. That reflects our commitment to bringing robust, reliable electric vehicle charging to people and places across Scotland.
We are providing more funding than ever before to expand the number of low-emission vehicles on our roads through our switched on fleets initiative and the low-carbon transport loan.
The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show that 4.6 per cent of newly registered cars in Scotland in 2018 were low carbon. There has also been a 46 per cent growth in registrations of ultra-low-emission cars in Scotland over the past year, which is 13 percentage points higher than the rest of the UK.
As the owner and daily user of a hybrid vehicle, I applaud the Scottish Government for its—if I can use this pun—direction of travel. However, I am also the owner of a classic car. Can the cabinet secretary reassure us that the owners of classic and historic vehicles that require petrol and diesel to run on will still be able to use those vehicles after 2030?
There is no plan to ban petrol or diesel vehicles, but Murdo Fraser might have difficulty in getting his classic car into low-emission zones in our big cities once they have been introduced.
In the past year, we have supported orders for more than 380 ULEVs across Scotland’s local authorities and a further 120 in public sector fleets. We are working closely with the emergency services to increase the number of ULEVs in their fleets, with plans to replace more than 150 police, fire and ambulance vehicles with ULEVs in the next 12 months.
Those investments, along with further planned support, will more than double the number of ULEVs that we have supported in the public fleet. I am pleased to confirm that orders for the first fully electric vehicles in the Government car service have been approved, and they will enter service later this year.
Our support has undoubtedly facilitated those successes, but the achievements are a result of ambition and partnership working between local authorities, Scotland’s public sector and the Scottish business community. For example, Dundee was recently named Europe’s most visionary city at the World Electric Vehicle Association conference in Japan. I am sure that Parliament will join me in congratulating the city council, businesses and residents of that city on their vision and determination to make this happen.
If John Mason bears with me, I will get to hydrogen, which has an important role to play.
This year, we will expand the scope and ambition of our work so that Scotland is at the forefront of growth in ULEVs and the ULEV market and so that our business community and workforce benefit from the opportunities that that growth presents.
Transport accounts for 37 per cent of Scotland’s emissions and, in 2016, road transport was responsible for 68 per cent of transport emissions. Those figures frame the challenge that we face. The need for focused action is clear, as is Scotland’s potential to become an innovation centre in low-carbon transport.
Scotland has one of the most highly qualified working-age populations in Europe, and we have more world-class universities per capita than almost any other country. My ambition is to build on those qualities to support low-carbon transport. To do that, we must take a lead in key technologies of the future and do so in a way that benefits all of society. Scotland must be an investor in and a producer of—not just a consumer of—the innovations that will shape the future.
In addition to Scotland’s considerable expertise in areas such as battery technology, power engineering and manufacturing of buses and specialised vehicles, there is enormous economic potential from the use of hydrogen as a low-carbon fuel in transport. We can build on existing projects in places such as Aberdeen, Fife, Orkney and now Dundee to develop products, services, skills and expertise in hydrogen transport to benefit our economy and provide value to the wider world.
Is there a risk in overfocusing on types of power, whether it is hydrogen or electric, to the exclusion of automation? The combination of automation with electric vehicles could have a transformative impact on our transport. Does that need to be considered?
Daniel Johnson raises an important point. Such issues need to be considered, but the timeline for progress on them is different. That is why we need to take action now to put in place the right infrastructure to enhance and make the best use of the new and emerging technologies while adapting to new technologies as they progress, particularly in the connected and autonomous vehicles market, which I have no doubt will continue to develop rapidly in the years ahead.
We must ensure that the increased demands on Scotland’s electricity networks are managed effectively and that networks are suitably equipped to support our mobility agenda. We are working closely with network operators and other partners to understand the impact of EV uptake and to identify how innovation and smarter management can reduce the need for upgrades and the associated costs and disruption. That means harnessing the opportunities that vehicle-to-grid, smart charging and grid technologies provide in relation to reducing the need for investment in the networks.
However, new investment, including from the electricity network companies in Scotland, will be required to meet and manage the additional demands arising from the expansion of home and workplace charging. Scotland is well placed to sustainably meet increased demand for electricity. We have a global reputation for renewable energy and the increasing uptake of EVs offers us the opportunity to exploit more of our renewable energy resources. That is why we see economic as well as environmental benefits in making Scotland an early adopter of electric and ultra-low-emission vehicles.
It is vital that we explore and understand how shifts in mobility will affect Scotland’s workplaces and skills base, and that we take advantage of those shifts now. Work is on-going through the energy skills partnership, which is being supported by Transport Scotland to link up with businesses in the automotive industry to create training opportunities for their staff.
We recognise that this rapid period of innovation and change presents real-world challenges. We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders to explore those, and I am certain that Scotland’s collective ingenuity will enable us to create opportunities from them.
Alongside making progress on ultra-low-emission vehicles, we continue to take bold action across different modes of transport. We are helping bus operators to invest in new green buses to reduce carbon emissions and to improve the offer to passengers; we are introducing an improved bus service operators grant low-carbon vehicle incentive from 1 April 2019; and we will introduce a new green bus fund with funding weighted towards the lowest emitting buses.
Investment in our railways will continue to be a priority for the Government and the popularity of rail is expected to increase even further. As we prepare for the next rail investment cycle, we have a specific focus on low or zero-carbon hybrid electric-battery trains and hydrogen fuel cell powered trains to complement the revolution in rail and low-carbon electric traction.
Transport Scotland and Scottish Enterprise have been supporting the successive phases of the HySeas hydrogen ferry project. That groundbreaking project aims to deliver the world’s first sea-going vehicle ferry powered by hydrogen that is produced using locally generated renewable electricity.
Autonomous vehicles, sharing and platform-based mobility services have the potential to revolutionise mobility patterns, with implications across private and public transport. The recent announcement of Scotland’s first autonomous vehicle trial on the Forth road bridge demonstrates our commitment to understanding what those shifts will mean in practice.
The automotive industry and the energy sector are dealing with considerable change stemming from technological, environmental and consumer trends. We are responding positively to that change, working with partners to ensure that the transition to a low-carbon economy is as smooth as possible and benefits the people of Scotland. I look forward to hearing the views of members from across the chamber and to continuing to make progress with this ambitious and exciting agenda.
That the Parliament recognises the progress being made in Scotland on ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV) during an unprecedented period of innovation in mobility; recognises that Scotland has one of Europe’s most comprehensive charge point networks and that this is continuing to be expanded, including the launch of the Electric A9; notes the promising growth in ULEV registrations in Scotland; further notes that the Scottish Government is on target to double the number of ULEVs in the public fleet, and recognises the leadership being shown by local authorities and other organisations to bring the benefits of ULEVs to communities across Scotland.
There is no better way to kick-start the new year than to discuss an issue that will affect not only this generation but the generations to come: climate change.
Conservative members will support the Government’s motion because it would be churlish to suggest that no progress has been made on ultra-low-emission vehicles in Scotland and because all parties in this chamber should unite in supporting this Government and any Government that moves towards a reduced carbon transport network.
Although our amendment acknowledges those efforts, it also recognises that there is still a lot of work to be done, specifically in our remote, rural and island communities, where there is still much worry around the move. I will touch on that in more detail, but I will summarise up front some of the key points about the obstacles that we face in opening up this opportunity.
There are issues that we cannot ignore, and we should listen to the concerns about the standardisation, the location and the quantity of charging points. The cabinet secretary made a number of comments on the quantity of charging points, but people still have range anxiety in relation to these new vehicles and where they think they can and will take them. It ultimately comes down to consumer choice—the range of vehicles that is available to meet a person’s needs, the needs of their family and business and, of course, their personal choice.
The Scottish Conservatives are fully committed to our climate obligations. Our recent publication “Global Challenge, Local Leadership: Environment and Climate Change Position Paper” set out a number of ideas and measures that we would like to introduce to encourage the take-up and growth in ownership of electric vehicles, and I am happy to share them with the cabinet secretary. We have ideas around incentives such as free parking and the ability to use specific lanes; the establishment of specific funds to help rural communities; the increased availability of charging points at train stations, especially in station car parks; and a mandatory
“consideration of electric vehicles in future procurement plans”— specifically the procurement plans of public bodies that would be purchasing large numbers of vehicles for their use.
Does the member agree that is it incumbent on us, as society’s highest earners and its representatives, to lead the way with our choice of vehicles and to go down the route of using hybrid and electric vehicles first, to show that we mean it?
Absolutely. However, given the number of miles and the distances that we cover, as many other people do in their daily lives, the problem is that there are simply no charging points near the places that I need to be. If that is a worry to us, it will be a worry to people outside the chamber as well. An important point, which I touched on briefly, is that range anxiety is an issue for people. The idea that someone could travel hundreds of miles and need time to find a charging point is putting people off changing their vehicles. There needs to be an appropriate number of charging points but also standardisation of the technology that the charging points provide.
What would happen if someone ran out of power in a rural part of Scotland? What would happen if a person found themselves in an area with no phone coverage and needed to seek help? It is not just about making charging points available and increasing the number of points, which I would welcome. As it stands, certain charging points are available only for certain types of vehicle. There are 1,000 charging points but there are 3 million cars in Scotland and more than 1,000 petrol stations. We could see a scenario in which people are queuing. Anecdotal evidence from other places where electric vehicles are used shows that people have had to queue for up to four hours to get their car to a charging point. Even if the charging speed is increasing and getting better as technology improves, there is still a severe lack of spaces.
Yes, we can set an example and we should do so, but the infrastructure needs to be there.
Ultra-low-emission vehicles will help us to achieve our ambitions, but the reality is that electric vehicles currently account for less than 1 per cent of Scotland’s nearly 3 million cars. Statistics that were recently released by Transport Scotland show that only 0.7 per cent of people said that they currently own an electric vehicle and only 40 per cent said that they would consider owning an electric vehicle. That figure has increased but it is still not enough, and someone considering that they might own an electric vehicle is not the same as that person going out and buying one. At the current rate, only 27 per cent of new car sales will be electric by 2030, which is nowhere near the 2032 target. It is a matter of creating the culture and the infrastructure that are needed to make it easier for businesses, families and commuters like us to make the right choice. As the RAC Foundation has said:
“you need to find the right charger at the right location with the right tariff scheme. Even then it needs to be serviceable and not already in use by someone else.”
There has been welcome progress: the A9 electric highway is something that we should give the Government credit for. It is a good idea, but it is just one road. When I started in my transport brief, I asked some simple questions of the Government about how much future proofing had gone into some of the recent infrastructure projects that we have seen on the M8, the M73, the M74 and the Aberdeen western peripheral route. The short and simple answer to my parliamentary questions was that those motorways, although welcome, were not really future proofed for new ways of driving, whether that is automation or charging electric cars. Future proofing road infrastructure needs to lie at the heart of future projects, but it is perhaps already a case of too little, too late in some places.
The Scottish Conservatives will support the Government in its efforts to encourage more people to take up electric vehicles, but more progress is needed. Steps need to be taken to increase the number of charging points, particularly in remote and rural areas. We need to tackle the range anxiety that I mentioned, and we must incentivise adequately and appropriately the take-up of electric vehicles. There are many ways in which we could do that. We need a change in procurement strategy so that, at the heart of its purchase decisions, the public sector leads the way. We should also provide adequate transition support for buses and taxis and encourage car sharing.
We support the debate and will support all the amendments, which are very constructive. I look forward to hearing speeches from other members. However, our support comes with a timely warning: current progress does not match the shared ambition that we all have, and that needs to change.
I move amendment S5M-15243.3, to insert at end:
“; understands that further efforts will be required for the Scottish Government to meet its 2032 target; underlines that additional steps will be required to tackle ‘range anxiety’ and ensure that sufficient charging points are available across Scotland, particularly in remote, rural and island communities; recognises that lack of standardisation of charging points remains an obstacle; understands that creative and innovative schemes and funds may be required to encourage uptake of ULEVs; recognises that concerted effort will be required to fully deliver the benefits of mass ULEV usage, and calls on all Members to adopt a cross-party approach to ensure that Scotland meets its obligations to reducing carbon emissions and continues to lead the world in tackling climate change.”
Transport accounts for almost two thirds of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions, with road transport responsible for almost three quarters of that. If we are to meet our targets to reduce emissions, we need to transform our transport system. Switching to ultra-low-emission vehicles has a role to play in that transformation.
The issue is not just about meeting environmental targets. Air pollution is a public health emergency that is responsible for tens of thousands of early deaths each year across the United Kingdom. Poor air quality increases the risk of stroke and heart failure, and it causes and exacerbates an ever-growing list of conditions such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, bronchitis and atrial fibrillation. From low birth weight to dementia in old age, air pollution impacts on our health throughout our lives, but it has a disproportionate effect on the health of children and older adults. It contributes to Scotland’s shameful record on health inequalities, with deprived urban communities often experiencing the highest rates of air pollution. Reducing air pollution is therefore a public health necessity as well as an environmental one, and supporting the use of ultra-low-emission vehicles is an important part of that.
However, despite a welcome increase in the number of electric and hybrid cars in recent years, financial and practical barriers mean that they still make up less than 1 per cent of road vehicles in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s overarching aim of increasing the number of electric and hybrid cars and phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2032 is welcome, but, so far, we have not had a comprehensive, long-term plan from the Scottish Government incorporating the incentives, infrastructure and technological developments that are required to meet that aim. As a result, there remains a significant barrier to overcome.
Recent research by the AA found that just 31 per cent of people want to own an electric vehicle and, crucially, that more than three quarters state that they are too expensive for them. We need to learn from countries such as Norway, where ultra-low-emission vehicles now make up more than half of all new cars purchased, partly due to a range of measures and incentives that have almost wiped out the difference in costs. We should ensure that incentives do not simply benefit those who can already afford a ULEV.
More infrastructure investment is also required, not just in the number of public charging points, whose growth has not kept up with the rise in the number of electric cars, but in new and innovative technologies. Last year, in Sweden, the world’s first electrified road, which recharges the batteries of electric vehicles as they drive, opened. Looking ahead, the tracked electric vehicle project proposes a new type of electrically powered highway for electric vehicles with autonomous driving capabilities. Across the world, exciting and transformative work is taking place, and Scotland must be at the forefront of that.
It is not just about electric vehicles, though. As the Labour amendment highlights, and as others have mentioned, we need to consider how we can better support hydrogen-powered vehicles. Hydrogen-based systems are at the heart of the development of greener ferries. As my colleague Lewis Macdonald will highlight, hydrogen-powered buses have been rolled out in the north-east of Scotland. Just yesterday, Alstom and Eversholt Rail Group revealed plans to introduce hydrogen-powered trains to the UK, with the first expected to be on the tracks as early as 2022. That raises the fact that we need a holistic approach to reducing the emissions from transport that not only covers the use of ULEV cars but delivers a modal shift towards the use of public transport—in particular, environmentally friendly public transport vehicles.
It was once said:
“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transport.”
For far too many people across Scotland, particularly in many rural areas, public transport is not a feasible option. We see that in plummeting bus usage figures. The annual number of bus passenger journeys in a year is now 22 per cent lower than when the Government came to power—107 million fewer journeys a year—yet bus fares have risen by 47 per cent in the past decade. Increasing the use of ULEV cars, desirable as that would be, would not reverse that decline or reduce congestion, but support for more measures to promote bus priority, for example, would.
It is not just our buses that need improvement. As we have discussed, the services on Scotland’s rail network are less punctual and less reliable than they have been for more than a decade, yet fares have gone up by 35 per cent in the past 10 years.
Rates of active travel, which is the ultimate form of healthy and environmentally friendly travel, also remain too low. The recent increase in spending on active travel is welcome, but it is important to ensure that the benefits of that investment are widely shared. Disadvantaged communities and rural areas cannot be left behind. Roger Geffen, the policy director of Cycling UK, noted that UK cycling conditions still
“disproportionately deter young people, older people, women and people with disabilities from cycling”.
We cannot expect car usage to reduce without delivering improvements to the alternatives.
Expanding the use of ULEVs in Scotland is a positive aim. I welcome the progress that has been made in recent years, and Labour will support the Government’s motion. However, we will also support all the amendments that have been lodged, given their focus on the need to build on that progress. Usage of ULEVs remains below the level at which it has to be if we are to meet our ambitions on the issue.
The Scottish Government needs to provide a long-term plan that sets out in detail the measures that will be taken to deliver on its target that new petrol and diesel cars will obsolete by 2032. However, beyond that, we must develop a more sustainable, integrated and affordable transport system in which public transport and active travel are realistic alternatives to the car. I therefore move amendment S5M-15243.4, to insert at end:
“; further recognises the importance of ULEVs to tackling air pollution and improving public health and tackling greenhouse gas emissions; notes the need for more investment in infrastructure to significantly grow the use of ULEVs; believes that the promotion of ULEVs must also be accompanied by a modal shift towards increased use of public transport and active travel, within a better integrated, more affordable and sustainable public transport system; notes the importance of hydrogen as well as electricity in powering ULEVs, including potentially rail as well as road vehicles; welcomes the action already taken to promote hydrogen vehicles, and calls on the Scottish Government to continue working with local authorities and energy and transport companies on the further development of electric, hydrogen and other low-emission transport technologies in Scotland.”
Happy new year, Presiding Officer.
Scotland has some of the world’s most ambitious targets when it comes to making our country a low-carbon economy. It goes without saying that I am, as convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, passionate about making sure that we meet those targets. As a rural MSP, I am equally passionate that in doing so, rural communities are not disadvantaged and should always be at the heart of just transition decisions. If rural communities are not included, we will simply not get there.
In the past decade, we have made huge strides in increasing the number of ultra-low-emission vehicles on Scotland’s roads. We had about 10,000 in 2018, compared to 495 in 2011. I am one of the drivers who has made the leap. I drive a Kia Niro—one of the lowest-emission hybrid vehicles one can get. My aim is to switch to a fully electric car once my lease is up and the charging infrastructure is in place in my rural community, as part of the Government’s investment in charging stations.
The Scottish Government’s objective is that the need for petrol and diesel cars and vans will be phased out by 2032. That is a laudable goal, but for those of us in areas that are ill-served by public transport, life without a car would be nigh on impossible. There is but one railway station in my constituency, in its largest town—Inverurie—and it is 25 miles from the second-largest town, which does not have one, and nor do any other towns in my constituency
Rural areas need greener options. A person should not have to live in a city to be part of the carbon-reduction revolution. For my whole working life, I have wanted very much to be part of that revolution. However, in 10 years of commuting into Aberdeen with small children and babies in the back of my car, when I had to get to nurseries and childminders as well as to Aberdeen College, it was simply impossible for me to use public transport—and that was as a person who really wanted to do that.
In October last year, I was in Iceland and spoke to the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, Guðmundur Guðbrandsson, about his Government’s decision to ban registration of all new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, with a view to the country being electric-only from 2050. As a small independent country, Iceland can take all the legislative and policy steps that are necessary to make that transition, but it is still an ambitious policy and a brave decision. The action is ambitious, but if it is not done carefully, it is potentially inequitable—especially for low earners. In order to achieve our shared carbon-emissions ambition, Governments must ensure that they make it financially possible for all motorists to move from petrol and diesel vehicles to ultra-low-emission vehicles.
In the constituency that I represent—Aberdeenshire East—the public transport system is very radial. The vast majority of buses head in towards the city of Aberdeen. People who commute between the towns of Ellon, Turriff, Oldmeldrum and Inverurie, and mums and dads dropping their children at nursery or at school, cannot use only public transport to do that. The bus routes either do not exist or have a skeleton timetable.
My son has recently moved to Edinburgh. As a child who had to use Aberdeenshire buses for his entire teenage life, he says that one of the best things about studying in Edinburgh is the buses. Unreliable buses in Aberdeenshire messing up their day has been part of life for him and his friends. When I was first elected, the greatest case load that I got from him and his friends seemed to be about the buses.
I will move on to my nearest city. The Scottish Government has committed to making Aberdeen one of four low-emission zones in Scotland. The proximity of the harbour to the city centre means that freight lorries often account for a large percentage of the city’s traffic and cause most emissions. It is hoped that the new Aberdeen western peripheral route will massively ease that congestion by moving the majority of heavy vehicles out of the city altogether. The cabinet secretary will be pleased to hear that we are already seeing the benefits of that. Not having to sit in traffic in a city that one does not even want to go to in order to travel between two rural locations north and south of Aberdeen does not just improve journey times—it also makes a big difference to emissions.
Aberdeen has been using hydrogen buses for a number of years. Last year, a new hydrogen refuelling station was opened to the public, which allows for refuelling of cars, vans, trucks and buses.
We know that transport contributes more than a quarter of Scotland’s greenhouse-gas emissions, with the road sector accounting for the largest proportion of those emissions. In 2015, cars, lorries, vans, buses and motorcycles emitted 9.6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.
We need to tackle the problem. Like Iceland, the topography of our country means that we cannot live without cars. Low-emission vehicles are the future for communities such as mine. If we are to achieve our goals, those vehicles must be affordable to all motorists. I look forward to seeing how we, as a nation, will be a leader in that regard, and to our consigning to history carbon-emitting cars for commuting.
I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests, specifically on farming.
The way that the world travels is changing: the wheel has not been reinvented, but the engine that powers the wheel has. There is a general switch over from petrol and diesel to electric vehicles that is, sadly, only in its infancy. There is an air of inevitability about the scale of the change and how it will increase.
It is therefore only right that the Government prepares the way and ensures that our road network is fully up to speed. That is why I cautiously welcome the Scottish Government’s plan to add an extra 1,500 electric charge points across Scotland. It is a start, but is it enough? The answer is no, especially in rural areas. The Scottish Conservatives have set out the need to increase the number of charge points in our small towns and rural areas, where long journeys have become the norm. Without the right infrastructure, increasing use of electric cars on our roads will continue too slowly. We need to change that.
Reports have shown that although 41 per cent of people would consider buying an electric car, less than 1 per cent own one. That is a huge gap, which we must all address. If car drivers in rural areas feel that they cannot use an electric car to do the school run, to get to work or to get to a hospital appointment, I am afraid that they will stick with petrol and diesel. It is as simple as that, because there are few options.
We should not focus only on car users: small businesses that need vans and lorries to get their goods to the marketplace face the same problem. The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee heard evidence that it would take up to 38 vans to redistribute the food from an articulated lorry. Thus, if there are not sufficient vans—and electric ones, at that—we will continue to have lorries entering the most polluted areas of Scotland. We need to get on with moving industry and the haulage industry away from diesel.
To my mind, what is noticeable is the lack of support for small businesses and farm businesses to transition to ultra-low-emission vehicles. We should not forget that tractors and other farm vehicles, which make up only 2 per cent of the vehicles on our roads—about 58,000 vehicles—are working day and night to put high-quality food on our plates. The farmers are reliant on the cheaper red diesel to operate the full array of farm machinery to grow and harvest food. One thing is for sure—the farming industry as a whole will require support to adapt, and to do so in the timescale that the Scottish Government has set. The Scottish Government needs to work with industry leaders to find a way forward. It can be done, but it needs a concerted effort.
Today, we are congratulating ourselves on setting a target, but it is delivery of the target that will be important. We have a long way to go and there is much more to be done. It is important that we, as a Parliament, take the lead and work together to try to reduce emissions across Scotland.
For once, my previous employment is actually of some use in a debate in Parliament. People lazily say “a former used-car salesman”. At this point, I say for the record that I never sold a used car in my life. My involvement in the industry was in corporate-fleet sales. When I was involved in that industry 11 years ago, 80 per cent of the new-car market was fleet and corporate vehicles, with only 20 per cent being made up of retail. That is unusual; people expect to walk in to a car showroom and buy a vehicle. The greater volume was in that 80 per cent, but not the profit, which came from poor guys like MSPs turning up at a dealership to get a car.
One of the negatives that people constantly mention about electric vehicles is how much they cost. As someone who has worked in the industry, my argument is that the manufacturers are beholden—they have the opportunity to discount vehicles such that they can obtain market share and ensure that they get models. They have done that in the past, and the responsibility to do so is theirs now.
As has already been mentioned, another problem is battery power. The most popular car in the UK electric vehicle market is the Nissan Leaf, which is said to have a 250-mile range. However, we all know that, in reality, that is not necessarily so, because the range that is achieved depends on the driver’s driving style, the road that they are on, the weather that they are going through and how much power they have. I would probably struggle to get a vehicle from Paisley to Edinburgh and back on one charge, which would be a problem from the start. I can only imagine how that would affect someone who lives in a rural environment.
The battery issue is a technological one that we might be able to solve as the technology gets better. However, as John Finnie rightly said, the components that make up batteries are also a problem. If we are seeking a sustainable future, those who control the batteries and where they go will control the market. Manufacturers have worked that out.
Elon Musk is having a problem. It is difficult to start a company and go from zero to whatever overnight, as he has done with Tesla cars. However, he has not delivered on any of the targets that he, as a manufacturer, has set. He probably has more chance of reaching Mars with his other project than he has of reaching some of the car vehicle targets that he has made. In all honesty, that is what the motoring press would tell us.
Yesterday, I read that Norway is the biggest market for Tesla in Europe, but that the Netherlands nearly beat it—it was just a hundred cars short—because companies there, including major car rental companies, bought 8,585 vehicles. As I have said, I have dealt with the corporate-fleet world, so I think that what will make the difference is getting it and industry to think that way and to see electric vehicles as the way forward.
The Scottish Government cannot achieve that on its own: it will have to work in collaboration with the transport industry—particularly, bus and haulage companies. I spoke to Craig Allan, who runs Paisley Taxis Ltd, which is one of the traditional Hackney cab companies. He bought one of the new electric London cabs, whose manufacturer is not called the London Taxi Company any more. It traditionally made the old Hackney cab, but it has moved on and is now called the London Electric Vehicle Company. It has seen the change. For the major part of the market that it supplies, legislation has changed so dramatically that it has had to change how it does business. That is a perfect example of how legislation can make a difference in the future and how we in Parliament could dictate to industry and manufacturers in order to change their ways.
The new LEVC TX is manufactured at a new facility at Ansty Park, near Coventry. It was purpose built with a £325 million investment—the biggest investment in a UK car plant in the past 10 or 15 years. That shows us that if we, as legislators, can make changes, however small and in whatever way, we can achieve things.
I got in touch with some car companies. It is ironic that the ones that I used to work for did not get back to me. I do not know what that says. The Renault Nissan Mitsubishi alliance’s response was interesting. It talked about how it is a market leader and has sold 490,000 EVs worldwide, and said:
“In addition to this, as a leader in charging infrastructure, Nissan has more than 2,300 quick-charge stations in Europe. This number is predicted to increase to 5,500 by 2020.”
That shows that car companies are moving the right way, too. Therefore, we must, as legislators, ensure that we work with them to achieve what we want.
I do not see the problems that other members have mentioned: we can get this right. I would almost guarantee that, come the next time members are buying their cars, the vast majority of us will buy electric vehicles.
As we have heard, ultra-low-emission vehicles are an important part of a reimagined and progressive transport system for Scotland’s future. Many of us consider the environment when taking our daily transport decisions. Many of us would also enjoy a higher quality of life were we not surrounded by diesel and petrol cars when making journeys or trying to enjoy the outdoors.
A future in which ULEVs are an accessible and affordable form of transport, combined with far improved public transport and active travel provision, is a very positive one indeed. Yesterday, I read that Luxembourg plans to make public transport free—there’s a thought. In Scotland, work should continue to be done across Government, local authorities and energy and transport companies on the further development of such innovative technologies.
Recently, Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, who is the pop music critic of the
, asked whether the car is still modernity’s icon of freedom. He reminded us of Chuck Berry singing
“Riding along in my automobile” as the ultimate cool in 1956. He went on to write:
“Even when reality involves traffic jams and honking horns, driving has been made to seem liberating: ‘Beep, beep, beep, beep, yeah!’ The Beatles chorused in ‘Drive My Car’.”
As he pointed out, things are changing culturally when
“radio DJ Jeremy Vine, a prominent cyclist, wants to abolish the term ‘drive-time radio’ because, he says, it celebrates ‘a form of transport that kills 1,700 people a year’ on UK roads.”
If we are to truly move towards a transport system that is fit for the future, we need a full modal shift of our transport systems so that we can step away from the saturation of cars and vans. There is still a mass of improvements that the Scottish Government has the power to make. Low-emission zones should be an important part of the delivery of those improvements, but the opportunity has not yet been realised, with the first LEZ, which is in Glasgow, being renamed a “no ambition zone” by Friends of the Earth Scotland. Although more robust plans are being developed, funding is still a concern.
Just yesterday, I joined colleagues from Scottish Labour to demand that the ScotRail franchise be taken back into public ownership. We need to turn around the often-chaotic service that we are paying for anyway and make it work for passengers, our environment and the people who work on our railway.
The Parliament should also recognise the impact of delivery vehicles and the need for consolidation hubs with connected final-mile arrangements. I welcome the briefing from UPS, which calls on the Government to support innovative urban delivery systems, such as walking or cycling delivery logistics. I believe that the use of small-van ULEVs should also be considered as part of such systems, and I would welcome comment on that from the minister.
As Colin Smyth and other colleagues have told us, for too long air pollution has been considered a necessary evil that has allowed us to continue to enjoy the ease of diesel and petrol vehicles. The damage that air pollution causes to the health of our communities, commuters and the more vulnerable old and young is surely a strong motivating factor in moving towards greater use of ULEVs.
In 2014, pollutants in the air contributed to more than 2,000 deaths. There are schools within 150m of illegally polluted streets in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. In “Reducing emissions in Scotland—2018 Progress Report to Parliament”, the UK Committee on Climate Change identified transport as the Government’s biggest sectoral challenge. That transport emissions—even excluding international aviation and shipping—increased between 2015 and 2016 is a mockery. As the climate change spokesperson for my party, I celebrate the target to phase out diesel and petrol cars by 2032 but, in our view, the Scottish Government still needs a stronger and more robust plan.
There has been much discussion about charging points infrastructure in today’s debate and elsewhere. As the Planning (Scotland) Bill moves towards stage 3, should consideration be given to having an obligation in the planning system for new-build housing, commercial and public buildings to incorporate charging points, with an appropriate lead-in time? I thank Smart Energy GB for highlighting the role that a smarter electricity grid could play in that. Whatever the fuel, congestion in our towns and cities is unpleasant and frustrating. If we are to have shorter journeys, the Government needs to make active or public transport the easiest and most attractive choice.
I want to make a brief point about rural issues.
R ural poverty can be hidden in small pockets, but many people in rural areas face real difficulties. I believe that there is a case to be made for providing interest-free loans to low-income rural dwellers in places where public transport will never go, to enable them to get modern wheels.
I begin by declaring an interest as a farmer, an historical rural dweller and the owner of a rural business. I welcome this debate on ultra-low-emission vehicles. It is certainly appropriately timed, given that it is being held only eight days after the introduction of Scotland’s first low-emission zone. That took place in Glasgow on 31 December, thereby delivering—on the last possible day—the Scottish Government’s commitment to introduce an LEZ in Glasgow in 2018.
Without doubt, transport and the use of low-emission vehicles will have a very important part to play in keeping greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum. Today’s debate has largely focused on low-emission car use, but it is important to note that emissions from other modes of transport will also need to reduce significantly if we are to meet future climate change targets. In that context, we need to look at aircraft design, where technology is currently leading to the development of hybrid aeroplanes. We need to look at trains, where innovative thinking is developing the use of hydrogen as the next-generation fuel of choice. Already in Europe, there are trains in service that use hydrogen as a fuel instead of diesel where electrification is not an option. We also need to take a realistic look at shipping, and particularly ferries. As others have mentioned, shipping is a huge producer of carbon. Without doubt, the potential for the use of hydrogen as a fuel on board ships is a growing opportunity as well.
I turn to low-emission-vehicle use in Scotland. We have heard today that the Scottish Government is pinning its hopes on phasing out petrol and diesel car use in Scotland by 2032, which is only 13 years away. That is certainly an ambitious target. The important point is whether it is achievable, and the answer to the question whether it is feasible is that that is entirely a function of investment. The fact that the technology largely exists to deliver on the 2032 target is welcome, as we are not dependent on future inventions to meet ambitious targets that are arbitrarily set. However, I am not certain that the scale of investment that the Scottish Government has proposed thus far matches its ambitions. The cost of incentivising and delivering on the 2032 target will therefore fall more and more on the Scottish taxpayer.
At present, hybrid and electric cars are unaffordable for most people. Many would be happy to use them, but most cannot afford to do so. Of course, the Scottish Government may propose by legislation and punitive taxation to drive current vehicle types from our roads and encourage modal shift on to buses, trains and bicycles, but that will require from the people of Scotland a willingness to change that does not currently exist. Electric vehicles represent less than 1 per cent of ownership, as has been discussed. Low-emission zones in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee will be an early test of how the Scottish car-driving public will react to low-emission zones and, by extension, the use of low-emission vehicles.
Difficult as the problem of either modal shift or the ability to afford electric cars will be for city or urban dwellers, it will be significantly more difficult for those who live, work and run businesses in rural Scotland. Bus usage is falling across much of urban Scotland and is becoming almost non-existent in rural Scotland. That is a real problem, as Colin Smyth said.
Networks of electric vehicle charging points will be created, reasonably enough, in our towns and cities and on our busiest road routes, and I welcome the start of the electrification of the A9 before Christmas. I welcome, too, the Scottish Government’s ambition to eliminate range anxiety for electric car users by 2022. That will be essential if ownership of electric and hybrid vehicles is to increase from its current very low base, because people will not switch to electric or hybrid vehicle use unless and until that reassurance is in place. If that happens by 2022, I will, of course, be delighted, but at that point only 10 years will remain before the 2032 target is to be achieved.
Although we support in principle the Scottish Government’s push towards the uptake of low-emission vehicles of all types, the people of Scotland, and particularly rural Scotland, will not expect to be seriously out of pocket if they are expected to change their habits of a lifetime. The people of Scotland will need to be persuaded towards doing the right thing for the environment, rather than being coerced or bullied into a position that many currently do not adhere to.
I declare that I am honorary president of the Scottish Association for Public Transport and honorary vice-president of Railfuture.
I listened with interest to what George Adam said about taxis. Six years ago, I was across in Ireland to give evidence to the Irish Parliament’s rural affairs committee, and I travelled back to the airport in an electric vehicle: a Nissan Leaf. The driver told me that he could drive all round Dublin on a single charge. The technology has been with us for a while. That driver was an early adopter; Nissan had given him the taxi, to prove that it could do the job—so he was really enthusiastic, because he had got the car for nothing.
The Tory amendment mentions “standardisation of charging points”. That is a proper matter to consider, but I am very uncertain as to whether we are ready to set a standard. There is direct current charging, there is alternating current charging and there are nine different physical connections that can be made in different charging points. We have 150kW charging points coming in this year and 350kW charging points coming in in about a year or 18 months’ time. The standards are probably not stable enough to enable us to choose a winner.
However, there is a way forward. We can have a standard of physical connection—that would be helpful. We can have a standard on the logical messages that travel between the charging station and the vehicle that is being charged. We can build in a standard that future proofs charging stations, so that they can accommodate changes. It is time to do that.
It is worth considering that 100 years ago, when electricity was being put into domestic and industrial premises, there were no standards. Every electricity company had a different plug design. Some systems used DC and some used AC. Systems ran on different voltages and to different fusing standards—some had no fuses at all. We are in such an era now, and we need to move out of it.
I suspect that I do not have time; I ask the member to forgive me.
Claudia Beamish talked about planning and domestic houses. My colleague Richard Lyle has been banging on about councils for some time, because councils could make it a planning condition that new developments must put in terminals. That would be a good idea.
I had not realised that Orkney has the greatest density of electric vehicles. I looked into the matter after seeing Liam McArthur’s amendment, and I found that there are seven charging points in Kirkwall. I was going to wind Mr McArthur up about that, but now I discover that there is a perfectly good reason for it.
I look forward to the Loganair Islander aircraft becoming electric in about three years’ time. The new Audi e-tron is 408 brake horsepower and the Islanders require 520 BHP, so that is well within the compass of what is available and working now. When electric engines are put in, the weight of the aircraft will be reduced, and it will be easier to fly—and, by the way, the top speed of the Islander is about the same as that of the new Audi, which has a range of more than 200 miles.
A lot is happening in public transport. In the central belt, we have new electric trains. Yesterday, I had a high-speed train for my journey down to the Parliament; I loved it. On the Inverness to Aberdeen line, there are classic HSTs that are not yet refurbished but are still super. There are the class 170s on the line down to Edinburgh—and a lot of journeys on that line are on HSTs—and there are the class 385s. The railways are super; they are not perfect everywhere, but my goodness, I would not go back to my journeys of 10 years ago, for anything.
We have been talking about ultra-low-emission vehicles, but no one has mentioned ferries, and we have the first electric ferries—[
.] I beg members’ pardon; out of the corner of my eye I saw a hand go up. Well, no one has mentioned electric bicycles. Getting more people to use electricity-assisted bicycles would help people to get exercise.
Getting involved in transport is almost an instinctive thing. My first motorised transport was my piler—otherwise known as a bogey or a cairtie—which we used to put the motor mower in front of to tow us around the back garden. It is amazing that we did not kill anybody with the blades going.
This is an excellent debate. I look forward to my next vehicle being an electric one in about two years’ time. I hope that everybody else does the same.
It is scarcely 100 years since transport in the western world was revolutionised by the rise of the internal combustion engine, which decisively replaced horsepower for the first time in history. Now, according to insiders who were quoted by the
Financial Times at the end of December, we may have reached another milestone: the point at which global demand for vehicles that are powered by internal combustion engines will begin to go down. Even a year ago, the predictions were that the era of petrol and diesel would come to an end in the foreseeable future but that demand for internal combustion vehicles would probably not peak until the 2020s. Experts now believe that the year of peak demand may, in fact, have been the year just ended—2018. Just as the rise of the internal combustion engine reached a point at which it became unstoppable, so the rise of alternatives to the internal combustion engine will also reach a tipping point—and that is already not far away.
Action to support electric vehicles is welcome, but it would be a mistake to put all our low-emission eggs in a single electricity basket. Although an infrastructure for charging electric cars is important, a different approach will be required to tackle the largest and most polluting internal combustion engines, which include those of diesel-fuelled buses and trucks and diesel locomotives on our railways. There is increasing evidence that the most efficient way to phase out those vehicles here and around the world will be by developing hydrogen as the low-emission fuel of choice in public transport and in freight.
On a global scale, Japan leads the way. The local authority in Fukushima, for example, is building a new hydrogen production plant on a site that was originally zoned for a new nuclear power station. In that case, the fuel source is electricity generated from solar panels. Japan is also pioneering the production of hydrogen from human waste. One expert reckons that biogas extracted from sewage sludge could power nearly 2 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles across Japan in the near future.
The athletes village for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games will be powered by hydrogen from Fukushima and, for the first time, hydrogen will be the fuel for the Olympic torch.
What the Japanese Government and business want now is the promotion of global collaboration in order to grow hydrogen technology while cutting costs. That is where Scotland could and should come in.
The cabinet secretary has referred to Aberdeen. Aberdeen has, with Scottish Government support, built up the largest fleet of hydrogen-powered buses in Europe. The vehicles are owned by Aberdeen City Council and are operated by First Aberdeen and Stagecoach alongside conventional diesel-fuelled buses. Hydrogen buses require a hydrogen fuelling point, which the council provides at Kittybrewster—that has also been mentioned. That fuel point has, in turn, allowed the use of hydrogen to fuel cars and vans.
The next stage could be hydrogen production fuelled by renewable electricity generation. Major new offshore wind farms, such as that at Aberdeen bay, will generate more power at some times than the grid can use. Like solar power and biogas in Japan, offshore wind in Scotland can be the feedstock for hydrogen production to fuel buses, trucks and much else besides. Those developments will need willing partners, such as hydrogen technology companies, renewable energy generators, local authorities such as Aberdeen City Council, and the Scottish Government.
If Scotland is to be a producer as well as a consumer, we certainly cannot afford to stand still. Last September, Lower Saxony in Germany deployed the world’s first hydrogen train to replace diesel locomotives on 100km of non-electrified tracks close to Germany’s North Sea coast. Alstom, which also builds France’s TGVs, expects to deliver 14 hydrogen trains to Lower Saxony by 2021.
Even closer to home, plans were revealed only this week for hydrogen-powered trains on the greater Anglia network in England to replace diesel trains, but using locomotives that were originally built for electric trains some 30 years ago. Their range is 1,000km, which is similar to that of a diesel train, and their maximum speed of 87mph is similar to the maximum speed of a diesel train.
The campaign for rail electrification Aberdeen to Edinburgh—CREATE—has long argued for extending the infrastructure for electric trains north of the central belt. Hydrogen now offers another option. That option is the 21st century steam train—the only emissions are steam and water. Just as Scotland should build on its strong position on hydrogen bus transport, so should we look to lead the way on hydrogen trains, on the three quarters of the Scottish rail network that have not been electrified.
Scotland, as a nation, is changing in many ways. Change, in most circumstances, is welcome—and the change that we are seeing in the advancement of our infrastructure is something that we should all be proud to support.
Of course, the driving force—to coin a phrase—behind many of the changes that we have heard about so far is the rapid pace of technological advancements and the growing popularity of low or zero-carbon-emission vehicles. As we have heard, Scotland is at the forefront of those changes, and we are doing more now than ever before to embrace, support and enhance our infrastructure to allow that to happen.
In 2011, the commercialisation of electric vehicles was limited to only a few, very expensive types, and the technology, which had been around for decades, had only started to become more accessible and affordable for large-scale production. By the end of 2011, 495 ULEVs were licensed in Scotland. If we fast forward to quarter 3 in 2018, that number has increased by more than 2,000 per cent to 10,360. In the same time, our infrastructure has improved and grown to accommodate that increase in the uptake of those vehicles.
No one is ever too far from the nearest public charging point; as the cabinet secretary mentioned in his opening speech, motorists are on average 2.78 miles away from their nearest charging point. However, I do not think that he mentioned that the average across Britain is 4.09 miles. Although much progress is still to be made, we are ahead of the game, at least in the UK.
In addition, with the Scottish Government’s chargeplace Scotland live interactive map providing real-time information on the position and status of each public charging point, the progress that has been made in the face of a rapidly advancing area of transportation is clear to see.
The motion refers to the “Electric A9”. I often use the A9 to head to Ullapool. The electric A9 is an innovative and welcome step in the right direction for ULEVs, and indicates further progress towards phasing out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032. As part of that project, and with funding from the low-carbon travel and transport challenge fund, which is part of the European regional development fund, Falkirk Council has received funding to build a 20-unit electric vehicle recharging hub at the Falkirk stadium, which will be powered by a 168-panel solar canopy. That will not only lower the carbon footprint of motorists, but generate the power from a sustainable source. Similar hubs will be placed along the entire route of the A9 from Falkirk stadium all the way to Scrabster harbour, allowing urban and rural communities and businesses the opportunity to access EV charging points.
It would be remiss of me to speak on the subject of ULEVs without mentioning vehicles that have more than six or eight passengers. Scotland’s road network does not just accommodate cars; our network of buses work hard to get people to where they need to be on a daily basis. That may not always be as efficient as we would like, but we can work on that. As an aside, I would be happy to see the Transport (Scotland) Bill contain provisions to bring bus routes into the hands of the public again, or at least into the hands of local authorities, to ensure that services are focused purely on passengers and not for profits. That is a topic for another day.
When we Iook at buses in Edinburgh, for example, it is clear that a few of them are without the trademark noise and smell from the traditional diesel engine. That leads me to another Falkirk district connection: the advent of the enviro range of vehicles by local bus builder Alexander Dennis Ltd, or ADL. I am sure that the cabinet secretary will not mind me giving a plug to ADL, which is situated in his constituency, given that a large number of the workforce are resident in my constituency. The single-deck Enviro200 model is available in an electric variant and the double-deck Enviro400 model is available in biogas, hybrid and, as recently announced, hydrogen fuel cell variants. Those are all low and zero-emission solutions to the decarbonisation of our road transport networks.
Incidentally, I very much welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to continuing the green bus fund, of which ADL, as well as other bus builders, is a beneficiary.
Presiding Officer, I am aware that I am fast running out of time. Scotland is a small nation that has always had a reputation for being innovative and ambitious. The Government’s ambition for ULEVs in our communities is no different, and it is thanks to the work of the Government and its partners that we are building a country that is fit for the future, whatever may lie ahead of us.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on what is a hugely topical subject. It is important to me for two main reasons—because I am a member of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, which is scrutinising the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill, and because I represent the rural constituency of Galloway and West Dumfries.
The cabinet secretary was correct to paint an improving picture on the introduction of ultra-low-emission vehicles but, in reality, progress has been painfully slow. The Scottish National Party Government plans, in a frighteningly short 13 years, to phase out new petrol and diesel vehicles in favour of electric vehicles in a bid to hit its ambitious low-emission targets. However, only 1 per cent of the almost 3 million cars that are on the road in Scotland are currently electric.
We welcome the commitment to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles, and I know that the SNP will point to the fact that the UK Government’s plans are eight years less ambitious, but we have yet to see the detail from the SNP Government on how it will achieve its earlier 2023 target. We need to know what that will mean in practice for car and van owners and what national and local infrastructure will be put in place.
We do not have detailed information on the proposed LEZs in our cities. Even in our largest city—Glasgow—where a low-emission zone was recently rolled out, Strathclyde partnership for transport has warned that significant investment will be needed to ensure that buses meet the required standards by the end of 2022.
If significant investment is needed in our cities, how much will be needed to ensure that the transition works in rural areas? What infrastructure needs to be put in place so that our rural communities are fully prepared? If the whole of Scotland is to be successfully involved in the transition to an electric future, the SNP Government must urgently address planning for infrastructure in rural areas.
We have all seen the headline-hitting announcements about the A9, but there is little detail on the Government’s electric highway plan, which formed just a single sentence in the programme for government document in 2017. What is the national plan?
We need to ensure that drivers have the information and support to give them confidence to travel the country without experiencing range anxiety. As the port of Cairnryan is in my constituency, the road haulage industry is hugely important to the local economy. The Scottish Government must outline its plans for how it will support that industry in transitioning to low-emission vehicles. Road haulage companies that use major trunk roads such as the A77 and the A75 need to have confidence that, in the new age of electric, they will be sustainable not only environmentally but economically. The need to get the transition right first time round cannot be overstated.
The Scottish Conservatives’ environment and climate change paper set out a range of measures to encourage and accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles. We outlined plans to establish a fund that would expand electric charging points in small towns, in rural areas and at train stations. Having greater access to charging points as soon as possible would help to give rural constituents confidence that electric cars will be an option sooner rather than later. At the moment, given range anxiety, I am not convinced that many of my constituents would think of switching to an electric car. Our paper also outlined plans that would require all public bodies to conduct a cost benefit analysis of replacing existing fleets with electric cars.
The recommendations in the ECCLR Committee’s report on air quality in Scotland go some way to addressing the challenges and opportunities of the inevitable transition to a low-emission future, which will have great economic benefits and secondary benefits for our health and communities.
It is time for the SNP Government to stop coasting and start accelerating down the road of opportunity to a cleaner, greener Scotland before we miss the proverbial bus.
I understand that our focus today is probably on road vehicles, but, as other members have mentioned, trains are also vehicles, and the increasing electrification of the rail network is a tremendous way in which to reduce emissions.
Like many people, I am a little bit sceptical about some of the promises that are made in favour of new technologies—let us see how they work in practice. However, a friend took me out for a run in their electric car and I have to say that I was very impressed. For me, one of the key challenges around switching to an electric car is whether it can get me from Glasgow to Inverness without a charge and, if it needs a charge, whether that will be fast and dependable. I think that that is what is meant by “range anxiety”, which is mentioned in the Tory amendment.
For drivers like me, who are open but sceptical, we need to get the infrastructure in place and to build up public confidence in that infrastructure. The A9 has been mentioned quite a lot—particularly the section between Perth and Inverness—and I think that the lack of service stations is definitely a problem. I recognise the desire to support local communities rather than have people bypass them. However, if I am heading for Inverness, for work or whatever, I do not want to go into Pitlochry or Aviemore—either to buy petrol or to charge my electric car—and get bogged down by tourists. Please do not get me wrong; they are nice places, but I do not think that they fulfil the role of service stations.
Battery technology is clearly one of the challenges, and I understand that that is one of the reasons why hydrogen buses have been trialled in Aberdeen as an alternative to electric vehicles. Hydrogen appeals to me for a number of reasons although I accept that that technology may not be as far advanced and the cost may still be higher than the cost of using electric vehicles.
Wind power is becoming our staple renewable, along with hydro, but one of the challenges is how to store the energy even if it can be generated cheaply. Another option is to use electricity from wind power to produce hydrogen through electrolysis. It seems to me that there are a number of advantages to that, including the fact that hydrogen is easier to store than electricity, the speed of refuelling and the fact that it potentially has multiple uses including replacing natural gas in the grid.
I do not want to use up all of the huge amount of time that I have available, so I will end by saying that, personally, I am not quite ready to replace my petrol car with an electric one but I am open to the possibility, with a bit of persuasion. I think that I may be like others in feeling that. I suspect that I am not unusual and that a fair number of members of the public are waiting to see how things develop.
Regrettably, four members who participated in the debate are not in the chamber for the closing speeches. I will name them at the end of the debate. One of them has just shot in—that is fine. If you have been recharging, you should have been in here before.
I would have liked to start with a declaration of interest as the owner of an EV or even a ULEV, but I am not such an owner yet. Over the past year or so, I have been weighing up the advantages and the potential disadvantages. I certainly hope that, later this year, and by the time we have the next debate on this topic, I will be able to declare that interest with some pride. Gillian Martin was absolutely right to lay down that challenge about the leadership that we should be showing. The cabinet secretary indicated that the Government car pool is soon to go out to procurement of EVs, but I observe that we are some way down the course and the Government is hardly taking a leadership position in that respect.
The importance and the function of leadership was summed up very well in George Adam’s excellent speech. There is the leadership that corporates can take through their purchasing processes and their leasing arrangements but there is also the leadership that we, as policy makers and legislators, can take in sending a clear signal about where legislation and regulation are going in order to allow vehicle and component manufacturers time to innovate and respond to those public policy messages.
The cabinet secretary set out very fairly in his opening remarks some of the signals in relation to the progress that has been made and reasons to feel encouraged. All of those points were entirely legitimate. We are seeing that progress in the take-up of ULEVs and in the expansion of the charging network. In relation to some, we are showing a competitive and a comparative advantage.
Nevertheless, there is a question about whether the yardstick should be the rest of the UK or those countries that are genuinely out in front, such as Norway and the Netherlands, which were mentioned by a number of colleagues. It is very much in our own interest to make progress—again, a number of contributors to the debate have pointed to not just the environmental imperative and benefits that arise from pursuing this path but the economic advantages that come with it and the benefits that will come through social and health improvements.
I very much welcome the comments of Colin Smyth, who highlighted the impact of air pollution on health and equalities, including the premature deaths that result from air pollution and the billions of pounds that it costs our national health service each year. I also welcome the contribution made by Jamie Greene, who highlighted the specific challenges in remote and rural areas, which I accept. Likewise, Gillian Martin called for rural areas to be able to play their full part in the green revolution, and I echo her sentiments entirely—range anxiety and reliability anxiety are perhaps more keenly felt in rural areas. Orkney stands as an example of a rural island area that has embraced the take-up of electric cars and is seeing electric vehicles pushed into other areas of transport as well. Therefore, there are ways of overcoming that anxiety. I extend an invitation to Stewart Stevenson to take the inaugural Loganair inter-islands flight in the electric aircraft in two or three years’ time.
We have talked about the charge-point network being critical to addressing range anxiety. Angus MacDonald highlighted the chargeplace Scotland map, which is beneficial but only in so far as it is accurate in real time. Enough concerns have been raised over the piece to suggest that that is not always the case. In the new contract with CPS or whoever, we need to include specifications that are informed by users who have the experience to ensure that such problems are addressed going forward.
Much of the focus today has been on electric vehicles, but the potential role to be played by hydrogen has been emphasised by many members, particularly when it comes to public transport such as buses and ferries. It is not just about the mode of propulsion—John Finnie made the fair point that, whatever the technology, there is a need to see a shift to the use of public transport and, frankly, the provision of public transport in areas where it does not currently exist.
I welcome the debate, which has been a forward-looking way to start 2019. It has been consensual and there has been plenty of food for thought over the course of the debate, but the consistent message from most members has been that, much as we welcome the progress that has been made, it is imperative that we raise our ambitions and show—and see—real leadership for the environmental, economic and social and health benefits that derive from those ambitions. There is cross-party support for that, and I look forward to working with the cabinet secretary’s officials, with colleagues who have contributed to the debate and with the councils and other organisations that are showing leadership in the area, so that we can deliver the ultra-low-emission future that we absolutely need to see.
Before I call John Finnie, I say to the three culprits who came in late together—Claudia Beamish, John Scott and Gillian Martin—that I have had pen on paper from only one of them. I think that the other two ought to apply pen to paper to explain why they did not have the courtesy to be in the chamber for the beginning of Mr McArthur’s closing speech. It was a discourtesy not just to me but to the chamber and to the member.
It has been an interesting debate in which members have expressed a wide range of views, a lot of which have been voiced consistently. The cabinet secretary started by talking a lot about technology. As, I think, I said at the outset, I am not a very technical man: I like simple things such as buses and trains. I hope that, in his closing speech, the minister will talk about bus patronage. There is a concern that the Scottish Government seems quite resigned to and accepting of the fact that bus patronage continues to drop. Likewise, there is concern about congestion—which I alluded to earlier—having implications for bus patronage.
I also alluded to trains and diesel vehicles, and I am glad that Stewart Stevenson enjoyed his trip yesterday—I saw that he shared that with the public. I will not be overly graphic but will say that, given the model of train, I hope he did not make full use of the facilities, because that would have been to the disadvantage of our very valued rail workers.
The cabinet secretary used the phrase
“transition to a low-carbon economy”, which is a really good phrase. I like the word “just” to be added in front of “transition”, as “just transition” is the phrase that is used in a report that the Green MSPs commissioned a few years ago. I would like to think that the cabinet secretary has read and digested that report fully and basked in its content. We all want a just transition, and that does not come about by commending tax breaks for fossil fuel companies and multinational corporations. We need to have a consistent approach.
That also applies to incentives, which I heard a great number of members talk about, including Jamie Greene, who suggested free parking. Maybe he would like to speak to some of the very large corporations that run very large car parks, to see whether they would be up for that. Or does he mean that the public purse would pay for free parking? When there is public expenditure—freeing someone of the obligation to pay a charge is the same as expenditure—we must understand who the beneficiaries are. There is a wider benefit to the community if people are encouraged to use low-emission vehicles. A number of members talked about that.
Gillian Martin, Claudia Beamish and Liam McArthur talked about the rural-urban dimension. I am a car owner—as many members have said, one cannot live in the countryside and not own a car. There are very many challenges, but we have to remember that a sizeable proportion of people in our rural communities are not car owners. Thirty per cent of households in Scotland do not own a car. If all our policies are directed by a presumption of car ownership, that is not healthy.
Some solutions that many people would think of as simple would have consequences. We heard from Edward Mountain about the number of vans that are the equivalent of a heavy goods vehicle. That is important information that we need to digest. I would far sooner see those goods in a container on a train, but the reality is that we rely on motorised transport and will continue to do so regardless of the mode of propulsion.
Like other members, I thought that George Adam’s speech was possibly the most interesting in the debate. This is not something that I imagined I would say, but I found the relationship with markets interesting. It is helpful to understand the percentages represented by fleets and personal ownership and the potential to drive policy using the approach that he described. I thank George Adam for that. I do not know whether it is more or less likely that I would buy a motor vehicle from him, but it is probably more likely.
I turn to comments from my friend and colleague Claudia Beamish, who mentioned the 2,000 deaths from emissions in 2014 and talked about the proximity of schools to many areas with high levels of pollution. Those issues are hugely important and will, of course, play a part.
The climate change plan contains no policies on curbing private motor car use and little on improving bus services. Indeed, as the draft budget stands, there is a £7 million cut in expenditure on bus services, which will not help the one third of households in Scotland that have no access to a motor vehicle. As my colleague Mark Ruskell said, the plan
“bizarrely assumes even more traffic on our roads, with ministers pinning hopes on a magical overnight switch to electric vehicles.”
That will not happen.
I am pleased that my colleague John Mason mentioned rail—that was helpful.
Professor Philip Alston’s United Nations report has been much quoted by the Scottish Government. He says:
“Transport, especially in rural areas, should be considered an essential service, equivalent to water and electricity, and the government should regulate the sector to the extent necessary to ensure that people living in rural areas are adequately served. Abandoning people to the private market in relation to a service that affects every dimension of their basic well-being is incompatible with human rights requirements.”
I hope that we would all agree with that.
In case I am perceived as being very negative, I point out that, as our amendment says, we recognise the important role that ultra-low-emission vehicles can play in decarbonising the transport sector. However, they will not affect congestion or have a great impact on improving road safety, unlike my colleague Mark Ruskell’s Restricted Roads (20 mph Speed Limit) (Scotland) Bill, which I hope the Government will support.
I have hugely enjoyed this debate, which has come as something of a relief. Members are all too used to debating matters of the constitution and political crises, so this debate is almost overdue. The issues raised by this topic and others are hugely important for Scotland’s future, its economy and how people will work and live.
There is an opportunity cost to the other things that are going on. This afternoon, members have raised the need for solid plans to make sure that we embrace the opportunities and benefits that are in front of us. It is too easy to see the choice between electric and low-emission vehicles as being a lifestyle choice between different types of car, but it is much more profound than that. Transportation is about how we move around and how goods and services are delivered—it is the glue of our economy and fundamentally important.
Many members have spoken about congestion, which costs the economy between 1 and 2 per cent of our gross domestic product. Getting such a change right is of huge importance to the future of the economy and how people work. Likewise, 10 per cent of people work in transport and distribution, and the shift away from hydrocarbon-based vehicles is important for how we get to work and how our goods are delivered around the country. That richness has come out in the breadth of today’s debate.
I will focus on the comments that were made by John Finnie and Liam McArthur. Referencing them is not just a bad habit from the Justice Committee because, between them, they have made us see the debate in a broader context.
Many of the things that we are doing are good but, as Liam McArthur put it, they are not the very best that they could be. Norway, a country with 5 million people, has the largest market for EV vehicles in Europe. Although the UK might be on a par now, its EV sales outstripped the UK’s in the year before last, which is unbelievable. We need to look at the size of the opportunity to make sure that we are the very best.
Similarly, John Finnie was right that we need to make sure that we do not just replace the method of locomotion. That is why I raise the issue of automation. If all that we do is simply replace petrol and diesel-powered vehicles with battery-powered ones, we will miss a trick and an opportunity. We will certainly miss an environmental opportunity, and many colleagues have spoken about air quality and climate change, which are both of profound importance. Automation has huge possibilities for increasingly improving the efficiency of our road use, as well as bringing other benefits. Automated vehicles use roads more efficiently because human drivers are prone to errors and inefficiencies. Automated roads, where space is allocated more efficiently and vehicles talk to one another in real time and share data, may have huge economic advantages.
I agree with the cabinet secretary that there is an issue about when those technologies will come online, but by 2032 there will be similar and overlapping timeframes. Talking about the switch to EV without considering the general impact of other technologies, and automation in particular, may be a mistake.
A number of members have commented on the need to go further than the targets that we have in place. The 2032 targets are laudable but it is important that we are ambitious. We must go further. We need a robust plan that will integrate those targets with what has emerged this afternoon, which I think are the three Is: the investment in infrastructure that is required and incentives for people to switch. Those three—investment, infrastructure and incentives—will deliver the change that we need. I will look briefly at infrastructure.
Much has been made of whether the number of charging points is sufficient, which is a hugely important issue. As I understand it, the targets mean that there will be one charging point for every 3,000 drivers. A number of members have made the point that that is insufficient.
Beyond that, we need to think about how charging points are powered. The uptake of EVs is estimated to increase power consumption by 25 per cent, and much of that will be a very different type of usage because of the high drain that rapid charging requires. Therefore, we need to look at the underlying infrastructure requirements and the need for a smart grid. We also need to look at the full spectrum of requirements. The points about hydrogen for freight and heavy goods vehicles that travel long distances are hugely important and were well made.
We need a plan that integrates all those issues across all areas, so that we get this right. It should not simply be about targets. We should learn from the very good examples that we have in Scotland, such as the A9 and the work that has been done by Dundee City Council. We should ensure that such projects are extended so that the whole of Scotland can enjoy the benefits of the switch to electric vehicles.
As we have heard from members across the chamber, we are all committed to moving towards a low-carbon economy, and ultra-low-emission vehicles are very much part of that journey.
As it is the new year, I echo the goodwill that has been shown by other members during our first debate back by commending the Scottish Government for its pledge to expand Scotland’s electrical charging infrastructure between now and 2022, so that range anxiety will become a thing of the past. That is particularly welcome in rural areas, where the uptake of electric vehicles is considerably lower than it is in urban areas, due to range anxiety.
As my colleague Jamie Greene noted in his opening speech, the Scottish Conservatives have set out a number of measures in our environment and climate change policy paper, which was published in February 2017, to encourage the use and ownership of electric vehicles. Those measures include new incentives such as free parking and the use of bus and taxi lanes by electric vehicles; establishing a fund to provide charging points in small towns, rural areas and train stations; a requirement for all public bodies to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of replacing vehicle fleets with electric vehicles; and providing support to buses and taxis in their transition to being powered by renewables. All that requires significant investment, and I am pleased that the UK Government has committed to investing more than £1.2 billion in the industry, as well as to working with private investment.
Unfortunately, the uptake of electric vehicles in Scotland is nowhere near where it needs to be to achieve the Scottish National Party Government’s aim to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2032. Given that electric vehicles accounted for only 1.77 per cent of new vehicle registrations in 2016, which was up by just 0.09 per cent from 2015, at this rate it will take a thousand years for the SNP to achieve its goal. Worryingly, that will possibly be after Tesla reaches Mars, as the former car salesman George Adam pointed out.
I know that SNP members such as Angus MacDonald drew attention to the fact that their target date by which to phase out diesel and petrol vehicles is eight years before the UK Government’s target. However, we have seen little detail on how the SNP Government plans to meet its aim, and it is clear that, whatever initiatives the Government has in place to increase electric vehicle uptake, they are simply not working—perhaps with the exception of those in Orkney, as Liam McArthur was keen to note.
A move to low-emission vehicles does not necessarily mean a straight switch from diesel to electric. Other issues, such as hydrogen batteries and automated cars and roads, have been touched on, and they are probably subjects for another day, given the reduced time for debate today. A couple of those issues were mentioned by John Mason.
Taxis have been mentioned, and the Energy Saving Trust offers interest-free loans to enable people who own or operate hackney cabs that are more than eight years old to replace them with new and efficient models. However, the scheme does not pay for the conversion of vehicles, and I would be grateful for an update on any discussions that the cabinet secretary or the minister has had with the Energy Saving Trust, so that Stewart Stevenson can perhaps take an electric taxi journey in the north-east sometime in the near future.
The Federation of Small Businesses has also called on the Government to support a switch to low-emission vehicles through a £15 million low-emission zones support fund. That would enable small businesses to invest in cleaner fleets, coinciding with the roll-out of low-emission zones.
As Finlay Carson noted, having access to a vehicle is vital for personal and business purposes for many people in rural parts of Scotland. Right now, the infrastructure is not in place to give our rural constituents the confidence that they can switch to electric vehicles. That point was made correctly by Gillian Martin, and I hope that she can switch to an all-electric vehicle sooner rather than later.
Edward Mountain also highlighted the farming industry’s heavy reliance on diesel-operated machinery and the fact that it will require considerable support to help it to achieve low-emission targets. I join the industry in calling for reassurances that the phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles does not adversely affect either our rural communities or public transport, as Lewis Macdonald highlighted.
As my colleague John Scott mentioned, transport and the use of low-emission vehicles will have an important part to play in keeping greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum, a point that Claudia Beamish, Colin Smyth and Daniel Johnson emphasised, and one that will receive support from Conservative members.
However, right now we are not where we need to be. The SNP Government has failed to meet targets under the European ambient air quality directive for nitrogen dioxide, even though the deadline for compliance was back in 2010.
Our environment is fragile and we must do what we can to protect it. John Finnie set out some good examples so, like him, I urge the SNP Government to do more than make pledges. The switch to low-emission vehicles will require a collaborative effort across the public and private sectors. Right now, the Government is not leading the way in lowering emissions and further action is needed to incentivise Scotland to make the switch. We all share the same ambition and would support deliverable measures.
As we have heard throughout the debate, which was largely consensual until some aspects of Mr Burnett’s speech—although he did have some warmer words for us—we have been making significant progress on our ambitious agenda to decarbonise transport for domestic users and to provide infrastructure that visitors to the country can also access.
Jamie Greene and other members around the chamber talked about range anxiety. It is important to stress that, as the cabinet secretary said, although 1,000 public charging points have been established in Scotland to date, that figure does not include the additional 350 workplace chargers that we are funding with the additional £5 million that we are investing, and the 1,200 charging points that are being added to the 461 workplace charging places and 1,928 domestic charging places that were in place at the end of 2017-18. I apologise if members were not given the full extent of the figures, but we have many more than the 1,000 public charging places that we have already invested in and will continue to invest in.
As the cabinet secretary also said, there are now more than 1,000 ULEVs in public sector fleets. The support available to businesses and individuals looking to make the switch to an electric vehicle has increased dramatically, from £8 million to £20 million. I draw members attention to, and can provide them with further details on, the funding that we provide through the low-carbon transport loan that the cabinet secretary referenced. That can provide up to £35,000 to cover the cost of purchasing a new pure electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, and up to £10,000 to cover the cost of buying a new electric motorcycle or scooter, for those who are interested in doing that.
To address the points raised by Claudia Beamish and Colin Smyth, the budget for active travel has doubled from £39.2 million in 2017-18 to £80 million for 2018-19. We recognise the important points about investing in sustainable active travel and encouraging people to lead more healthy lives. We have also finalised the eighth round of the green bus fund, and anticipate supporting more than 125 new green buses in that round.
Those are just a few highlights from an increasingly ambitious agenda.
I would also like to mention the international dimension. Members might not be aware that the Scottish Government is playing a leading role in the under2 coalition’s zero-emission vehicle project. I heard directly about the work that we are doing with the under2 coalition when I visited San Francisco for the global climate action summit, which was held by Governor Jerry Brown.
Our energy strategy, which was published just over a year ago, included our ambition to decarbonise the whole energy system. We now have a target for the equivalent of 50 per cent of the energy for Scotland’s electricity, heat and transport consumption to come from renewable sources by 2050. A key component of meeting that target will be the extent to which we can shift our energy for transport from fossil fuels to low carbon or renewable electricity or hydrogen, which many members have mentioned today.
As members have said, transport accounts for 25 per cent of our energy use, but 37 per cent of our climate emissions, and we recognise the importance of tackling that important statistic. The shift to electric vehicles gives us an opportunity to use more of Scotland’s abundant renewable energy resources while reducing our fossil fuel consumption. The work being done in Orkney that Mr McArthur referenced is a very good example of that.
That shift raises questions for our electricity networks, which will need to meet and manage the higher demand. We are working closely with Scotland’s network operators and with National Grid to share evidence and analysis, including data from the chargeplace Scotland network, to make sure that the transition to electric vehicles is carefully managed and that we limit the impacts on the network through the use of smart and other innovative charging technologies.
Would Mr Wheelhouse accept the point, which has been made by members in different parts of the chamber, that that renewable energy does not just directly support the electricity network, but gives Scotland the feedstock for the production of hydrogen, which has even wider uses?
I am happy to do so and I will come on to that point in more detail shortly. I recognise the interest of Mr Macdonald and of other members in the matter. Because of capacity constraints, we have been innovating in the production of hydrogen in the BIG HIT—building innovative green hydrogen systems in an isolated territory—project in Kirkwall and the surf ‘n’ turf project, also in Kirkwall, which uses surplus tidal energy and wind energy produced in Eday to store electricity in the form of hydrogen. That is very positive work.
I would point out that the surf ‘n’ turf project is based in Eday rather than in Kirkwall.
Will the minister give an undertaking that users will have meaningful input into the future contract for chargeplace Scotland, so that we can learn some lessons from what has happened in the current contract?
I can give the member assurance that officials from Transport Scotland have been engaging with chargeplace Scotland with regard to the problems that have arisen in Orkney and between Orkney and the central belt, which he referenced previously in questions. I am happy to take up that point with the member in my islands portfolio discussions with him. I know that the cabinet secretary has been actively engaged in that.
The Scottish Government wants the transition to a low-carbon economy to be a just one. We have established the just transition commission, led by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform. That will consider employment, economic and social issues together with the development of climate change policies. We want, therefore, a transition for our transport sector that will ensure that no one is left behind as our technological and economic landscape develops. That is an important aspect. I know that a number of members—John Finnie, Claudia Beamish and others—have referenced that in the debate today.
In the time available to me, I will respond to other points made by members. I have touched on the islands aspect and rurality. The projects in Orkney are giving us major lessons about how we can make rural and island communities benefit from the transition.
Daniel Johnson and Liam McArthur made points about using Norway as a comparator. Norway has significantly increased the uptake of ULEVs through a combination of tax and VAT on EVs, and incentives such as free parking, which, I recognise, have been referenced by members today. The Scottish ministers do not have a locus on VAT or import tax, because those are reserved matters. Therefore, we must work with the UK Government to try and get a supportive fiscal environment in place, in order to encourage a higher take-up of EVs.
I recognise the issue that Edward Mountain raised about rural sectors, and I am happy to discuss any ideas that he might have on that. Tax allowances—maybe at a UK level—are something that could be looked at. I would be keen to discuss what measures could be put in place.
I want to highlight to Colin Smyth, who was worried about the apparent lack—in his perception—of strategy around EVs, that, as the cabinet secretary referenced, the national transport strategy and the network vision statement, which I will publish later this month, will give more detail on the necessity for investment in infrastructure to support EVs and their roll-out more widely.
In the time that I have available—I have just one minute left—I will highlight the work around hydrogen. Members have raised an important point today. We have companies such as Hyundai, which is investing £5 billion in research and development in hydrogen and is currently producing models, and Honda and Toyota, which are two other major manufacturers that are known to be interested in rolling out hydrogen models. That is an indication of significant money in the automotive sector that is being directed towards hydrogen. I take the point that members have made about heavy goods vehicles and other transport options. The work in Levenmouth, in particular, which is looking at commercial vehicles and refuse collection vehicles, will give us some advice about how that technology can work.
I will wind up, because I know that there is important business to come.
I commend what the Government motion says about “an unprecedented period”. It most certainly is unprecedented, but I suspect that we are talking about slightly different things. We need to consider climate change and the global challenge that it presents to us, as well as the many commendable things that are mentioned in the motion.
The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill is insufficient as far as the Scottish Green Party is concerned. We need a climate emergency bill, net zero emissions by 2040, boosted 2030 targets and the introduction of a range of policies to make sure that changes are not put off until the next decade.
We also need radical policies, some of which have been alluded to by Colin Smyth. The issue is about attitude. Transport policy seems fixated on road building; yesterday, there was another announcement by the Scottish Government, proudly trumpeting £40 million on another new road. It builds roads and people drive on them. We spent £750 million completing the M8, but every morning when we switch on our radios, we hear that it is congested. We need a different approach. A lot of what has been said presupposes more of the same with just a different mode of propulsion, but that is not going to work.
It is true that the Scottish Government enjoys the support of all the Opposition parties for the main road building programme—actually, no, the Government does not enjoy our support, as we consider many of the roads to be vanity projects. There is expenditure in my area of up to £60 million for a trunk link road that, according to Transport Scotland’s figures, takes people between two points 12 seconds quicker. That fact is an obscenity that we ought to look at.
We should also look at the whole system of inspection, repair and replacement, because the Scottish Government is committed to massive funding of the trunk road network, while the fabric of the road network for which local authorities are responsible is decaying—we had a report about that yesterday. That is where inspect, repair and replace comes in. The Scottish Green Party is not against expenditure on roads, but we want to maintain our existing infrastructure before we consider anything else.
A number of members have alluded to health. Air quality is very important, and its significance is shown by the fact that thousands of people die every year as a result of poor air quality. I want to mention a couple of locations in relation to that issue.
In Inverness, the town where I stay, the local authority, instead of discouraging private motor vehicles from entering the Academy Street area, was recently trying to encourage them, in its mistaken bid to increase the shopping footfall in the town centre. In Scotland, there is a crying need for us to reduce the number of areas in which air quality damages the health of, in particular, older people, the infirm and young people.
I also want to mention air quality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As some members will be aware, its air quality is affected by cobalt mining. That issue was covered in an article in today’s
, which states:
“In hellish, dusty mines, children as young as 10 scrape fragments of cobalt from the dirt and into a sack with their bare hands, inhaling poisonous metallic particles.”
We need to change the system; we do not just need to replace one system with another. I listened carefully to what the cabinet secretary said about buses. He made a number of important points, and I have the details here of the money that has been expended on buses. However, he did not mention bus patronage. If we are going to change, we need to get people on to buses. I know that there is the Transport (Scotland) Bill, but it is not ambitious, so some of us want to make it more ambitious.
As we heard repeatedly from witnesses who appeared before the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, the challenge with bus travel is congestion, which holds up buses. Mechanisms are in place in the form of bus lanes, gates and priority light systems, but that problem affects people. People will not get a bus between places if it is quicker for them to walk between them. The mode of propulsion is a factor, so we need to find a different way ahead.
Without being too parochial, we have talked about the electric A9, but what about the Highland main line—the railway line that runs right beside the A9? We can compare the £3 billion that is expected to be spent on the A9, and the other £3 billion for the A96, with the fact that we will have diesel locomotives with a 30 to 40-year lifespan. I am all in favour of reusing and repairing, but we are not comparing like with like. The cabinet secretary will be sick of me talking about rail, but the reality is that 25.3 per cent of the rail network in Scotland is electrified, which is really good, but 0 per cent of the Highland main line is electrified, with no plans to change that. The benefits of electrification that apply to road travel apply equally to rail travel.
I want to touch briefly on the automotive industry, because it is clearly a very powerful lobby. I am one of the many people who feel quite let down, because we thought that we were doing the right thing a number of years ago by buying a diesel vehicle—in fact, we were positively encouraged to buy a diesel vehicle—only to be told that such vehicles are dirty polluters. There is an issue about confidence in what we are being told, and that will apply to some of the new technologies, too. Although I am not in any way technical, and I hear what people say about hydrogen, we need to have a clear evidence base for all future decisions.
I move amendment SM5-15243.1, to insert after “registrations in Scotland”:
“; welcomes the important role that ULEVs can play in decarbonising the transport sector, but recognises that this technology does not address the need to cut congestion and to improve road safety”.
I thank the transport secretary for lodging his motion, which allows us to start 2019 with this important debate. In the context of the recent lack of progress in reducing emissions in the transport sector, the question of how we accelerate the take-up of ultra-low-emission vehicles has taken on a greater significance, importance and urgency. I recognise and welcome many of the steps that have been taken and which were laid out by the transport secretary earlier, as well as the proposals on where we go next, including the electric A9 and moves to create low-emission zones in various cities across Scotland.
I am slightly concerned that the Government’s motion comes across as a little self-congratulatory. If it is left unamended, there is the risk that it will foster complacency, which would see Scotland fail to achieve what we should be aspiring to achieve. Therefore, it is encouraging that a range of amendments have been lodged by colleagues from all the other parties. If agreed to, those amendments would make for a more meaningful statement of intent by Parliament on an issue that commands strong cross-party support, as Jamie Greene rightly reminded us.
I will address the proposals that are set out in my amendment shortly, but before assessing what we need to do, we should perhaps reflect for a moment on where things stand. Yes, progress has been made with the take-up of electric and other low-emission vehicles in recent years, and it has been supported by a welcome expansion of the charge point network. However, before we get carried away with patting ourselves on the back, we should reflect on how that measures in comparison with what is happening elsewhere, particularly in Europe.
The truth is that we compare favourably with many, but fall well short of those who lead the way. The Netherlands is the prime example. In eight years, the Netherlands has gone from having 400 charge points to having 18,500. As the transport secretary reminded us, Scotland is touching on 1,000. Norway, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria are similarly ahead of the game.
As for the take-up of low-emission vehicles, Norway has successfully gone from having such vehicles comprise 1 per cent of the overall car pool in 2014 to their comprising 10 per cent in 2018. It also has more ambitious targets for the phasing out of diesel and petrol vehicles. Again, that shows what can be achieved with the right level of political ambition supported by a mix of legislation, policy and incentives.
We need to scale up our ambitions to meet our environmental objectives, capture the economic opportunities and deliver the social and health benefits. As Colin Smyth’s amendment rightly points out, air pollution is a killer, contributing to approximately 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year and costing the NHS billions. That is simply unacceptable and it is also unsustainable.
Having criticised the self-congratulatory tone of the Government’s motion, I am hesitant about reminding members that Orkney still has the highest proportion of EVs of any community in Scotland. However, as the transport secretary will be aware from our recent meeting with representatives of the Orkney renewable energy forum and Orkney Islands Council, there is unquestionably an ambition, a desire and a strategy for going much further. That illustrates perfectly the point that is made in today’s motion about the leadership being shown by local authorities and other organisations, not just in Orkney but across the country.
In Orkney, through the efforts of the council, OREF and others, the focus is now extending beyond merely an expansion in the take-up of low-emission cars and buses. Projects are well under way to develop the next generation of hydrogen-powered ferries, while discussions about low-emission alternatives in our lifeline air services are also taking place. Harnessing Orkney’s abundant renewable resources to cutting-edge innovation will enable the islands to continue to identify solutions for the challenges that we face from climate change to fuel poverty. In turn, I have no doubt that they can have a wider relevance and application over time.
To make all that happen will, however, require a more flexible and long-term approach to public funding. That point was made during the recent meeting that the minister and I had with local Orkney stakeholders, as were concerns about the way in which the charge point network functions. I know that the transport secretary plans to review the network, how it is used and how it might be made to operate more effectively, and I welcome that as part of an exercise in making sure that we have the right chargers in the right place and funded in the right way. The present lack of public confidence in range and reliability holds back efforts to encourage take-up of low-emission vehicles.
Combating those perceptions and building that confidence will require a charging network that is fit for purpose. We cannot just replace the petrol station model. We need to be more creative and reflect current patterns of usage, including the extent of charging at home. We will also need to take into account the increase in demand on our grid and establish smarter ways of meeting that demand.
Whatever the future charge point network looks like, reliability will be critical. For whatever reason—possibly poor back-office systems—faults are not being properly logged and tracked by chargeplace Scotland. Communications with users and even owners of the charge points is inadequate and remedial action is not taking place in a timely fashion. That is not good enough; it undermines public confidence. We must do better. The CPS contract is up for renegotiation in the near future and that is a perfect opportunity to get it right.
I therefore urge the transport secretary to set up an expert panel, including user groups such as the Electric Vehicles Association Scotland, OREF and others that have a practical interest in developing the service, to inform the process going forward, ensure the specifications for the next contract and address the shortcomings of the current contract.
I also urge the Scottish Government to work closely with UK counterparts to put in place a range of incentives that can stimulate take-up of ULEVs. That needs to involve creative use of the taxation system, as well as properly targeted grants. Such measures can build public confidence and enable Scotland to raise and realise our ambitions in an area in which we should aspire to be not just good but world leading.
I move amendment S5M-15243.2 to insert after “registrations in Scotland”:
“; understands, however, that Scotland lags behind European leaders in the provision of charge points and ULEV share; believes that the Scottish Government should urgently review how the charging network can be further expanded and efficiently maintained, and work with the UK Government to ensure that effective incentives are in place to support increased take-up of greener vehicles”.