The next item of business is stage 3 proceedings on the Transport (Scotland) Bill. In dealing with the amendments, members should have the bill as amended at stage 2—that is, SP Bill 33A—the marshalled list, a corrections slip to the marshalled list, and the groupings of amendments.
The division bell will sound and proceedings will be suspended for five minutes for the first division of the afternoon. The period of voting for the first division will be 30 seconds. Thereafter, I will allow a voting period of 1 minute for the first division after a debate. Members who wish to speak in the debate on any group of amendments should press their request-to-speak buttons as soon as possible after I call the group. Members should now refer to the marshalled list of amendments.
Amendment 38 builds on Colin Smyth’s proposal at stage 2 for the introduction of a set of underpinning transport principles. It requires the Scottish ministers to produce a national transport strategy that sets out their strategic vision for transport in Scotland. In doing so, they must have regard to the contribution that transport can make to a range of important issues, including the realisation of human rights, social and economic wellbeing, the environment, and health and wellbeing. That demonstrates the importance that the Government places on transport as a key enabler in respect of those matters.
Amendments 39 to 42 set out the consultation, publication and reporting requirements in relation to the strategy. Amendment 132 is a consequential amendment to the long title of the bill.
We are consulting on our draft national transport strategy, which will ensure that protecting our climate and improving lives will be at the heart of future strategic transport planning. The Government will ensure that the requirements that are imposed by amendments 38 to 42 are met through finalising the strategy post consultation and reporting to Parliament on the final strategy and the consultation process. I urge members to accept the amendments in my name in the group.
Jamie Greene’s amendments seek to adjust the content, consultation and reporting requirements of the strategy. We envisage that the national transport strategy will guide us over a 20-year period. I do not support setting timescales or cost estimates at the start of a 20-year strategy. In the strategy, we note the need to be flexible, given the lack of future certainty, and actions will be best developed over the lifetime of the strategy through the monitoring and delivery plans. A more appropriate source to determine future costs to Government for strategic transport interventions will be contained in, among other things, the second strategic transport projects review, which will be published during this parliamentary session. Therefore, I cannot support amendments 38B and 38C. For similar reasons, neither can I support amendments 42A and 42B.
On amendment 38A, developing “measurable policy objectives” for a 20-year strategy would not be analytically robust, given the broad range of factors that may impact on the complex and multifaceted issues that are highlighted in amendment 38. The monitoring framework, which the Government has committed to taking forward, will contain measurable indicators that will demonstrate the progress of the strategy and its contribution to those issues. Therefore, I cannot support that amendment.
I am happy to support amendments 38D and 38E, because I consider that the needs of older people and the importance of education are already implicit in references to social and economic wellbeing. The same is true of economic development and growth, but I am concerned that a specific reference to that as a driver of social and economic wellbeing might be too narrow a focus. The Government takes a more holistic approach to inclusive growth and a broader approach to outcomes through the national performance framework, and therefore cannot support amendment 38F.
Amendments 39A and 39B seek to add further consultees, including Parliament. However, amendment 39 already requires ministers to consult widely, including with the general public. That is sufficiently flexible, and there is no need to specify any particular consultees.
On amendment 39A, establishing Parliament as a consultee would be unusual, as Parliament is, of course, not a stakeholder, but exists to hold the Government to account. Moreover, it is not clear how Parliament could be expected to speak with a single voice for the purposes of any consultation. I agree that the Government must seek to take account of the views of members of the Scottish Parliament on the draft strategy—in fact, we have already written to all MSPs for that purpose. I will welcome any views that members might have before the consultation on the strategy closes on 23 October.
I propose to make a statement to Parliament when the strategy is laid, of course. Although I see no need for that to be a statutory requirement, I am willing to support amendment 40A, to reaffirm my commitment in that regard.
I urge members to support all the amendments in my name in the group and to support Jamie Greene’s amendments 38D, 38E and 40A, but to reject his other amendments in the group.
I move amendment 38.
I thank the cabinet secretary. It is good to get off to a good start by supporting some of my amendments, especially as they were lodged quite late in the day. We had to respond fairly quickly after the Government lodged a large number of amendments on the national transport strategy on the Tuesday evening before the midday deadline the next day. We read through the Government’s amendments and they were warmly received by the Conservatives. There is a lot of good stuff in there. In the final hours, we sought to amend what was proposed and tinker with it slightly to see whether we could improve it constructively in any way.
I thank the Government for responding to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s concerns about the lack of a transport strategy in the bill. The bill is a transport bill and, although there will certainly be a lot of political back and forward and discourse today, we have to remember that it is, in effect, a bill of many smaller bills and that its purpose is to make improvements to transport in Scotland. The national transport strategy sits at the heart of that.
For the sake of brevity, I will not speak to all the amendments in the group. However, I would like to speak to the ones that the cabinet secretary has asked members to reject.
Amendment 38A says that it is okay to have a vision. I appreciate that the strategy is a long-term one, but I would like to see in it measurable policy objectives that are linked directly to the outcomes. Yesterday, we talked about the national islands plan and stakeholders’ feedback that it had lots of warm words and aspiration but lacked substance. We have an opportunity to avoid doing exactly the same with the NTS. The Government should introduce measurable policy objectives, and I would like them to be put in the bill. The key word is “measurable”. We and members in future sessions need to be able to look back and see whether the Government has kept to its outcomes. I appreciate that something so wide ranging will potentially span multiple sessions and Governments, but that should not let any future Government get out of having their performance measured and monitored. Therefore, I ask members to support amendment 38A.
I turn to the other amendments in the group, and specifically amendment 38E. I have asked the cabinet secretary to take into account
“access to further and higher education via public transport” as a key component of the national transport strategy. We commonly get feedback on how important transport is for people to get to their place of education. We took evidence on that in relation to the south of Scotland enterprise agency, and I am sure that my colleague Liz Smith has taken a lot of evidence on it over the years. Good access to decent public transport is vital for young people who are looking to go to college, university or indeed their place of work, and I would like the Government to put that into the bill.
I am pleased that the Government supports my amendments 38D and 38E. I thank the cabinet secretary for taking them, and amendment 40A, on board.
Amendment 38F seeks to add to the transport strategy a requirement on “economic development and growth” in relation to some specific metrics, which I think are commonly used ones. Including that would enable us to consider how we can use transport to boost the economy. Ultimately, what is transport? It is about getting people from A to B—from their home to their place of work or study, and vice versa. I do not see why we should not put that into the strategy. It might end up there, but I would like the requirement to be up front in the bill. Again, the objectives that I have specified are measurable ones so that the Government of the day can be held to account.
I turn to a few of my other, smaller amendments. I hope that my amendments that focus on the elderly and the disabled will be well received. I have had some communication with Age Scotland, which has actively contacted members, and I thank it for its support for the amendments. I hope that the Government will reflect on that support outside this building.
I am pleased that the Government is willing to come back to the Parliament and make a statement on the contents of the strategy. In addition to that, however, I hope that we will give it the place that it deserves, as there is a place for proper debate about the contents of the strategy. I know that the cabinet secretary is always willing to listen to ideas from across the Parliament, and I hope that we will move forward in that positive mood with the rest of the stage 3 consideration of the bill.
I welcome Michael Matheson’s amendment 38. As he said, it was lodged in response to a stage 2 amendment in my name that aimed to ensure that we set high-level principles for our transport system in legislation. I am grateful to the cabinet secretary’s officials for liaising with me when determining the wording of the amendment.
Transport has a key role to play in realising human rights, improving health, tackling air pollution and climate change, promoting economic growth and equality and supporting social inclusion. I believe that it is right that we are clear about the relationship between our transport system and our society more broadly, and the aims that are set out in subsection (5) in amendment 38 capture that well.
In particular, I draw attention to the inclusion of fair work, which again responds to a stage 2 amendment in my name. We have seen a race to the bottom in areas such as staff terms and conditions in the privatised, fragmented transport system that we have, and that needs to be addressed. Any company or organisation that receives public money should be required to deliver decent terms and conditions for its workers. I hope that we will see a strengthened fair work framework in the future that will properly include collective bargaining and trade union representation as part of the requirements that are placed on those who receive public money to deliver transport services.
Amendment 38 makes it clear that the principles that are set out in the bill should be delivered through the upcoming national transport strategy. That clear statutory underpinning is useful, and I hope that the new national transport strategy and the policy and budgetary decisions that follow will be consistent with the values and aims that are set out in this welcome amendment.
The national transport strategy will be fundamental. We will come on to talk about the workplace parking levy and the role that the strategy will play in that, but the strategy is not being proposed simply for the sake of it. It will inform what is done and enable us to be creative, innovative, inclusive and interconnected, and that is to be welcomed.
I concur with Colin Smyth on the inclusion of fair work. The inclusion of the environment and emission reduction targets in subsection 5(c) in amendment 38 is also important, as is the inclusion of health and wellbeing in subsection 5(d). This is not just about words.
We will not support Jamie Greene’s amendments 38A, 38B or 38C. I consider them to be bureaucratic, and we can scrutinise the things that they mention in any case.
I warmly accept the inclusion of elderly persons. Their demographic is growing and that must be reflected in all our deliberations. The inclusion of access to further and higher education via public transport is very important. The committee heard how that can be turned around; Lothian Buses did so in East Lothian. That was about getting young people involved. There are a lot of positives in some of the amendments.
I will focus on two of Jamie Greene’s amendments.
On amendment 38A, objectives need to be measurable. Yesterday, we saw the publication of the national islands plan. I am critical of that plan because none of its objectives are SMART—specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic and time-bound. They are aspirational in nature.
Yes, but that will be further down the line and it will not take the same legal approach to the islands plan as was in the bill. The situation with the Transport (Scotland) Bill is reminiscent of that. In the Islands (Scotland) Bill, we had legislation that requires such objectives to be set and we have found that they are not SMART.
The Government might very well come up with them later on down the line, but an awful lot of work has gone into the national islands plan to produce aspirations. I do not think that we should be producing aspirations. We should be producing specific and measurable objectives, which is why Jamie Greene has lodged amendment 38A and why the Liberal Democrats support it.
I also support amendment 39A, which says that the Scottish Parliament should be a consultee. We already have a good system in which the Scottish Parliament committees can investigate anything that the Government proposes, but would it not be novel to have the Scottish Parliament involved in consulting on the formulation of the national transport strategy? That is an innovative measure that we certainly support.
I have not much to add. I thank Mr Rumbles for his warm words on what I think are fairly constructive amendments. I note the cabinet secretary’s comments and that he has asked members to vote against some of my amendments, but I ask members to reflect on the intent behind them, and on the fact that I hope that they will strengthen the national transport strategy so that we can get it to a good place and the Parliament can be proud of it.
The Presiding Officer:
The result of the division is: For 31, Against 87, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 39B disagreed to.
Amendment 39 agreed to.
Amendment 40 moved—[Michael Matheson].
Amendment 40A moved—[Jamie Greene]—and agreed to.
Amendment 40, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment 41 moved—[Michael Matheson]—and agreed to.
Amendment 42 moved—[Michael Matheson].
Amendment 42A moved—[Jamie Greene].
The question is, that amendment 42A be agreed to. Are we agreed?
This is a short group on low-emission zones. It comes back to an issue that we discussed at great length at stages 1 and 2: what is the purpose of a low-emission zone?
At stage 2, there were amendments on this issue. I and the Labour Party presented further detail on what, for the avoidance of doubt, should be in the bill about the purpose of a low-emission zone. In its feedback at stage 2, the Government suggested that what we were proposing was perhaps overly prescriptive, and I accept that. It was perhaps unwise to put into the bill the technical standards and the emissions that low-emission zones should seek to reduce; there are better places to put those stipulations. That said, I still think that is important to push amendment 135 at stage 3, which would put into the bill an overarching message about the purpose of a low-emission zone. The reason for that is the avoidance of doubt among the general public about the purpose of a zone.
Like many others in the chamber, I want low-emission zones to succeed, but they will do so only if the public understand what the purpose and benefits of the zones are and if they have measurable objectives. Amendment 135 clarifies that
“The purpose of a low emission zone ... is to reduce transport-related emissions within and in the vicinity of the zone.”
It is not just the cities that operate a zone that will see a reduction; we also hope to see improvement in areas on the periphery of cities that operate such a zone. I have intentionally taken out any form of prescriptive data on what scientific evidence would define such a reduction. There are other ways that the Government can address that.
Amendment 137 follows on from that and states that the Scottish ministers should set out a report—basically, an updated scientific report—that states what should be included in the emission specification and standards for a low-emission zone. That is my new approach, which has the support of many organisations outside Parliament. Many of us have been speaking to organisations such as Friends of the Earth Scotland, which I thank for their involvement on the issue. I know that they wanted us to push the Government harder to be more specific about what sort of emissions we want to see reduced in Scotland, but I felt that I needed to take some of that out in order to have the best opportunity to have an amendment agreed to at stage 3. I hope that those organisations support the fact that we are debating the matter this afternoon and that the Government will include an overarching objective for low-emission zones.
We will not support amendments 49 and 55, in the name of Colin Smyth. I will let him speak to those and comment later. My understanding is that they introduce an automatic trigger that means that a local authority will have to set up a zone if there is a reduction in air quality, but I do not think that an automatic trigger is the way to do it. Low-emission zones should be set up with the purpose of targeting problematic areas. Automatic triggers will prove onerous to local authorities outside our bigger cities, which do not have the infrastructure to operate such schemes. We know that there can be small zones within local authority areas that have air quality issues; we have often talked about that in Parliament. Colin Smyth’s amendments would require local authorities to set up a low-emission zone to combat such air quality issues, but there are other ways that they could do that. An automatic trigger is not the way to do it, so we will not be able to support Mr Smyth.
I am happy to support amendment 54, in the name of the cabinet secretary.
I move amendment 135.
Amendments 49 and 55 will strengthen low-emission zones. When the First Minister declared a climate emergency she said that every policy area must be looked at, but that does not seem to have included the Transport (Scotland) Bill and, in particular, low-emission zones. When taking evidence on the bill, the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee was told that LEZs are the one clear measure in the bill that could make a real difference to emissions. However, despite the fact that this year’s programme for government included a commitment to
“consult on Scotland’s ambition to make the transformative shift to zero or ultra-low emission city centres by 2030”,
the bill as it stands does not allow for the creation of ultra-low-emission zones. C ity centres and other areas with particularly severe air pollution problems will not be able to go any further than those dealing with more moderate air pollution issues.
If the Government is serious about the commitment in the programme for government, local authorities should have the power to introduce targeted ultra-low-emission zones in the parts of their area with the most severe air pollution. Amendment 55 would allow that, subject to ministerial sign-off. That added layer of scrutiny will ensure that the power is not used inappropriately. Failure to agree to the amendment means that the programme for government commitment is an empty promise.
With regard to amendment 49, the recent review of the cleaner air for Scotland strategy described LEZs as
“a necessary and important commitment in delivering cleaner air”,
particularly with regard to air quality management areas, stating that
“AQMAs can and need to be operated more effectively and overall this, with effective LEZ implementation, will lead to necessary further improvements in air quality in the next three to five years”.
Given the clear role for LEZs in air quality management areas
, their implementation should not be optional but should be the default position. Amendment 49 would make that the case. However, I have suggested a commonsense provision to give the Scottish ministers the power to waive that requirement, so that if the breach in air pollution was clearly an anomaly or the local authority was able to illustrate how it was otherwise dealing with the issue, it would be exempt.
The two amendments in my name will ensure that the bill reflects the severity and urgency of the climate emergency that we are facing and that the eventual legislation is fit for purpose in the long run and is flexible enough to meet our changing needs.
Amendment 135, in the name of Jamie Greene, introduces a clear statutory purpose for LEZs, and is similar to an amendment that I lodged at stage 2. It implements a unanimous recommendation by all members of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee in our stage 1 report, and I am happy to support that amendment.
Although LEZs can deliver a wide range of social and environmental benefits, we should be clear that, fundamentally, they must deliver a reduction in transport-related emissions. Placing the provisions of amendment 135 in the bill ensures that LEZs must be developed in line with that aim.
I am also happy to support amendment 54, in the name of the cabinet secretary, which reflects the role that LEZs have to play in helping Scotland to meet its climate change targets.
Transport is Scotland’s biggest emitter and is responsible for more than a third of all our greenhouse gases. Mechanisms such as LEZs should help to deliver national priorities as well as tackling local issues. Let us strengthen them today to ensure that we achieve that.
Amendment 135 would set the purpose of a low-emission zone as the reduction of
“transport-related emissions within and in the vicinity of the zone.”
This topic was raised throughout stages 1 and 2. However, the bill already provides a clear mandatory requirement, which is set out in section 9(4): that low-emission zones must help to meet the air quality objectives that are prescribed by the Environment Act 1995. In addition, amendment 54 will add a further mandatory objective for low-emission zones of contributing towards meeting the climate change targets that have been set this year in the Parliament. We will outline the purposes of a low-emission zone and how to set objectives in the forthcoming low-emission zone guidance.
Amendment 135 is therefore not needed. It is unduly narrow in its stated purpose.
Amendment 137 would require the Scottish ministers to prepare and lay a report in the Scottish Parliament no later than five years after the bill has received royal assent outlining any new or existing pollutants that should be considered when setting the emission standards for low-emission zones. Again, that is unnecessarily complex, as these matters are already dealt with by the existing environmental legislation as well as by the bill as it stands.
Amendment 49 would introduce a requirement on local authorities to implement a low-emission zone in any area that does not meet the air pollution limit values as stated in the Air Quality (Scotland) Regulations 2000. The Scottish Government is committed to introducing low-emission zones in other air quality management areas by 2023 where the national low-emission framework appraisals support that. Those appraisals will be conducted this year for all air quality management areas other than in the four main cities, where low-emission zones are already being prepared. As such, we are already taking steps to ensure that low-emission zones are implemented in air quality management areas where the scientific evidence supports such action.
With the First Minister declaring a climate emergency, amendment 54 brings the crucial issues of climate change and air quality together. Low-emission zones will be required to contribute towards meeting the emissions reduction targets that are set out in part 1 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. Those objectives dovetail with the existing mandatory objective of contributing to an improvement in air quality, as prescribed in section 87(1) of the 1995 act. I therefore encourage local authorities to adopt a pragmatic but ambitious approach to the new climate change objective.
Amendment 55 would introduce a power for local authorities to alter their emission standard for their local low-emission zones, such that they could make emission standards more stringent than the forthcoming national standards contained in regulations. The amendment is unhelpful, as it has the clear potential to cause confusion for people driving between zones. It is unnecessary, as the regulation-making power to set the emission standards as a national standard already allows for the possibility of more stringent standards being set over time.
We believe that the objective that is mentioned in amendment 54,which is in the name of the cabinet secretary, should be self-evident if everything that we are doing in the bill is intended to achieve the aims of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. However, we want not just to hear words but to see actions.
We will also not support amendment 137. Knowledge is an evolving thing, and we would not be looking for a reference in the bill to pick up on that.
We will support Colin Smyth’s amendments. Amendment 49 is pragmatic and responsive. With regard to amendment 55, there is clearly a place for addressing difference: we are talking about people’s lives. We know that every year tens of thousands of people across the United Kingdom lose their lives because of poor air quality, so there is certainly a place for the ultra-low-emissions standard. It is appropriate that there should be the power to alter that is inherent in Colin Smyth’s amendment 55, so we will support it.
I will comment on three amendments, the first of which is amendment 135, in the name of Jamie Greene. The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee discussed the issue and felt that it is important to make the purpose of a low-emission zone explicit.
“The purpose ... is to reduce transport-related emissions within and in the vicinity of the zone.”
That is quite clear, and I do not see what objection anybody could have to it. I must admit that were it not to be set out in the bill, that would make no difference to a zone’s operation, but having the purpose set out in the bill would be helpful. Why members might consider not voting for that, I really do not know.
Liberal Democrats will not support amendments 49 and 55, which are in the name of Colin Smyth. Section 4(3) as proposed in amendment 49 is almost contradictory. It says that where such pollutants happen
“a local authority must—
... make a low emission zone scheme”,
but subsection (4) says that
“The Scottish Ministers may ... exempt a local authority” from doing so. To me, that is not at all logical and would add to confusion.
Talking of confusion, if Colin Smyth’s amendment 55 were to be agreed to, there would be real confusion across the country. I support the cabinet secretary’s comments in that regard. We want to see LEZs being successful; we do not want to see people driving from one city, in which their vehicle’s emissions level might be perfectly fine, into another LEZ in which it is not and in which they would be breaking the law. Amendment 55 might be well intentioned, but its drafting is completely wrong.
Scottish Liberal Democrats will not support amendments 49 and 55.
I will comment on members’ feedback on the Scottish Conservative amendments.
I thank Colin Smyth, of Scottish Labour, and Mike Rumbles, of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, for saying that their parties will support amendment 135, which I appreciate. As they said, it is important that the bill says up front what the purpose of a low-emission zone is.
In his response, the cabinet secretary said that amendment 135’s focus is too narrow. I argue that it is purposely narrow because, by default, the point of such a zone is surely to restrict the entry of vehicles that do not meet emissions criteria. The bill’s intention is to lower emissions in and around the zone in which it operates. By making that clear and defining what the purpose of such zones is, we are more likely to achieve the buy-in of the general public to support them and to be positive about them, as many members are. Other parts of the low-emissions zone provisions might refer to other pieces of legislation, so that, if we were to dig deep enough, that might enable us to find out what they are about.
I have no problem with putting the purpose of low-emission zones on the face of the bill—the effect would be to say, in very simple terms and with no ambiguity, what the purpose of LEZs is.
I appeal to the Scottish Greens to work with Scottish Conservatives on that, given the broad range of support by others—not just political support, but support from organisations with which we have been working for a number of months to try to get something in the bill. Members now have a chance to do that, so I appeal to them to do so.
I sympathise with the cabinet secretary’s comments on national standards. It would be very confusing for drivers if different zones were to operate to different technical standards. If a person were to drive from Aberdeen to Dundee and on to Edinburgh in the same vehicle and could enter one LEZ but not another, that would create confusion.
I have other amendments coming up on signage, which would help to inform the public. They will fall nicely together as a package with the amendments that we are debating now. It is a simple proposition: my amendments would enable motorists to understand exactly what they are getting. Unfortunately, in that case, we should not support Colin Smyth’s amendments.
However, it is worth noting that cites—including Edinburgh, which might be the first to introduce an LEZ—are already looking at how they could use the legislation, if it passes as it is currently drafted, to operate different geographical zones, which would allow some vehicles to enter one zone but not another. The legislation has flexibility built in through which to do that; I do not think that differing technical standards is the way to achieve that.
I appeal to members for their support for amendments 135 and 137. I press amendment 135.
Group 3, which is on low-emission zone exemptions, is a small group. I am happy to support amendments 43 and 44.
As I said earlier, the purpose of a zone is to restrict entry into it. Basically, a motorist will be restricted from entering a zone if their vehicle does not meet the specified emissions standards. However, I think that certain vehicles should be allowed to enter LEZs, if they have to. Amendment 136, which is short and simple, states that vehicles that are being used
“for police purposes ... for ambulance purposes” or for
should be allowed to enter a zone if they require to do so, and should not be subjected to fines and/or penalties. That seems to be common sense. There is not much more to say than that.
I move amendment 136.
I am aware that we have heard a lot of views during stages 1 and 2 on proposed low-emission zone exemptions. Let me be very clear: I absolutely accept that there will have to be exemptions from low-emission zones, and they will be captured in secondary legislation.
At stage 1, we stated that the emergency services and blue badge holders are high in our consideration. At stage 2, a number of amendments proposed exemptions in niche areas: in particular, Richard Lyle lodged an amendment that was agreed to relating to transportation equipment for funfairs. That has resulted in an anomaly in the bill, because the committee did not agree to the related substantive amendment.
In order to rectify the situation, I have agreed with Richard Lyle that an exemption from low-emission zones for showmen’s vehicles will be introduced through secondary legislation. Richard Lyle is content with that approach. As such, I have lodged amendment 43, which will remove section 1(1)(c), which introduced a low-emission zone exemption for funfair vehicles.
More generally, in respect of amendments 136 and 44, the topic of national exemptions for LEZs needs careful thought and consideration in conjunction with interested parties that have specialist knowledge. My officials are therefore engaging with key stakeholders on proposed regulations on LEZ exemptions. That will include discussions with the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, and with the emergency services and associated organisations including the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Her Majesty’s Coastguard.
I can, however, provide some clarity for Murdo Fraser and Jamie Greene. The specific issue of an exemption for historic vehicles and the emergency services are among the key topics for consideration in development of regulations; I am strongly minded to include such exemptions. It is worth noting that an exemption for historic vehicles has been granted for the English clean-air zone areas, but emergency services have not been exempted from the London ultra-low-emission zone. However, we need to give careful consideration to those matters before drafting the regulations.
I urge members to support my amendment 43 and to reject amendments 136 and 44.
Amendment 44 mirrors amendments that I lodged at stage 2 but did not push to a vote, and with which I sought to exempt historic vehicles from the rules on LEZs. I support LEZs. I declare an interest as the owner of an historic vehicle. I know that I am not alone in that in Parliament. As is the case for many historic vehicle owners, mine does no more than a few hundred miles a year, so it can hardly be classed as a major polluter of the atmosphere.
There are more than 250,000 historic vehicle owners and enthusiasts across the United Kingdom. The vehicles include not just cars but motorcycles, buses, coaches, lorries, vans, military vehicles, tractors and steam engines
The issue is that without an exemption from LEZs, individuals who live within a designated LEZ would not be able to own or operate an historic vehicle, which would be an unreasonable restriction. Moreover, historic vehicles would not be able to drive through LEZs, which would mean that historic vehicle exhibitions, rallies and events could no longer be held in venues in those areas.
Also, people who are getting married and who want to have a historic car—[
.]—or a steam train, as the justice secretary said from a sedentary position—pick them up from their church or their wedding venue would not be able to do that if they were being married within an LEZ. I am sure that that is a tragedy that members would want to avoid at all costs.
There is a strong case to be made for exempting historic vehicles. I do not believe that they are major contributors to pollution; in fact, in total, historic vehicles represent just 0.2 per cent of total traffic on UK roads and, as the cabinet secretary said, they have already been exempted from the LEZs south of the border.
I lodged amendment 44 essentially as a probing amendment. I am very encouraged by the cabinet secretary’s comment that he is “strongly minded” to grant the exemptions in regulations after further discussions with stakeholders. On that basis, I intend not to move amendment 44.
We will not support amendment 136. The organisations that are listed in the amendment should not be granted exemptions. Quite the reverse is true; they should be setting an example. Likewise, Greens will not support Murdo Fraser’s amendment 44, although I do not suppose that that will surprise him.
I was gratified to hear the cabinet secretary’s words about amendment 43 because I know that it caused some surprise when I lent my support to that exemption. I know that Mr Lyle is not with us today—he is elsewhere—but I did not want to have to call the cabinet secretary a spoilsport. The particular historic vehicles to which the amendment relates have been responsible for a lot of community jollification, so I am glad that that point has been picked up. On that basis, we will support the cabinet secretary’s amendment 43.
I am surprised that members are not queuing up to tell us about their historic vehicles and steam engines. I think that Murdo Fraser made his points very well and is admirably looking after the huge number of enthusiasts in Scotland. He made some valid points.
I will reflect on the cabinet secretary’s comments. I give him the opportunity to say on the record that he will address seriously the question of emergency vehicles in low-emission zones. The discussion on the issue is on-going, and I do not want us to miss an opportunity. I do not see a problem with putting the measure in the bill, but if he thinks that it would be better in regulations, and we can take him at his word on that, I am happy to seek to withdraw amendment 136.
As I have stated, we are giving careful consideration to provisions that should be in regulations, and to which services should be included. The matter is better dealt with through regulations, because that will give us greater flexibility to respond to changes in the future. That is the most pragmatic way to deal with the issue. We need to take a careful and considered approach so that we do not create any unintended difficulties as a result of the decisions that we make in relation to regulations.
All 15 amendments in the group are in my name and aim to improve transparency and accountability under the bill.
The bill will give ministers significant powers to introduce secondary legislation in a range of areas. Generally speaking, those powers are necessary for delivering the aims of the bill, and I am not opposed to their inclusion. However, we should be clear that those decisions should be taken following appropriate consultation. Most of the amendments in the group simply seek to put that commonsense responsibility in the bill.
Amendments 64 and 85 apply to ministerial guidance rather than to regulations, but serve a similar purpose. As the bill stands, local authorities will have a duty to “have regard to ... guidance” that is issued by ministers on LEZs and pavement parking. That is fair, because guidance will help to ensure consistency across the country. However, we should be clear that that action should be taken only after consultation: amendments 64 and 85 clarify that.
Amendment 120 would require ministers to publish any code of practice that they introduce as soon as possible. The bill will give ministers the power to introduce or approve a code of practice on safety measures relating to road works, but it does not make it clear that the code of practice should be published, or how it should be published. The amendment would make it clear that the code must be published, which would remove ambiguity from the bill and improve accountability in relation to the guidance that will be produced under part 5.
I move amendment 45.
Amendments 45, 47, 48, 81 to 83, 90, 92, 93, 109, and 111 all seek to require the Scottish ministers to consult
“such persons as they consider appropriate” before making regulations on low-emission zones, parking and workplace parking. Consultation of stakeholders is vital to the success of any secondary legislation, and the process is undertaken as a matter of Scottish Government policy. Therefore, I understand the intention behind the amendments.
Amendments 64 and 85 seek to give the Scottish ministers powers to issue guidance on low-emission zones and parking. Again, that is already standard practice: the Scottish ministers have an inherent power to issue guidance. In relation to parking and low-emission zones, the bill requires local authorities to take any such guidance into account. The Scottish ministers will always consult prior to issuing guidance, and consultation of key stakeholders has been on-going for some time on low-emission zones and parking guidance.
Amendments 119 and 120 would introduce a requirement on the Scottish ministers to consult on any revision or update to the safety code of practice for roads authorities, and to publish that code. Again, the Scottish ministers would, as a matter of routine, consult the industry and roads authorities during preparation of such a code. The existing safety code for undertakers is already published, and the same is intended for any roads authority code.
Although existing measures mean that the intention behind the amendments in the group would be achieved, I have no issue with the requirements being expressed in the bill. I therefore support the amendments.
The Presiding Officer:
We allowed an hour for the debate on group 4, which is supposed to have finished; we are almost four minutes over time. I used my powers under rule 9.8.4A to allow the debate to continue, so I ask members to note that we are four minutes behind schedule.
The amendments in this group are designed to help to demarcate the difference between low-emission zone scope and low-emission zone exemptions.
At stage 2, the bill used the terms “vehicle” and “type of vehicle” interchangeably in relation to low-emission zone scope, exemptions, including time-limited exemptions, and grace periods. Unfortunately, that approach might cause confusion.
The amendments in this group seek to address that language issue by ensuring that the bill describes vehicles in terms of, first, their use, secondly, their construction, or, thirdly, a combination of their use and construction, specifically when referring to low-emission zone scope or exemptions. That means that low-emission zone scope and exemptions can be set in a way that accurately describes the vehicles to which the scope of the low-emission zone applies and the vehicles to which the exemptions apply, thereby making clear that low-emission zone scope and low-emission zone exemptions are separate concepts.
The same principle is applied to the creation of grace periods, which are linked to the scope of low-emission zones and, as such, are applicable only to a vehicle’s construction, rather than its use.
I urge members to support amendments 46, 53, 56 and 178.
I move amendment 46.
Amendment 46 agreed to.
Amendment 137 moved—[Jamie Greene].
Amendments 138 and 139 relate to the creation, in the bill, of an unclear situation on LEZ enforcement. The bill does not make driving in an LEZ a criminal offence, but it introduces a vague power for ministers to create criminal offences by regulation. I am genuinely concerned about the ambiguity that that creates. If it is the Government’s intention to create a criminal offence, that should surely be in the bill. I would therefore be grateful if the cabinet secretary could clarify the intent behind those enabling powers, and what he envisages them being used for.
Likewise, I am keen to know why a decision was not taken to make driving in an LEZ a criminal offence from the outset.
Amendment 126 calls for regulations setting or changing penalty charges related to LEZs to be subject to the affirmative procedure, and my amendment 176 calls for regulations setting out who might be liable for LEZ charges to be subject to the affirmative procedure.
Those are two important details, with significant consequences for drivers, and the decisions made in those regulations must be subject to adequate scrutiny. For that reason, I believe that they should have to be agreed by Parliament, under the affirmative procedure.
I welcome amendment 151 from Jamie Greene, which calls for regulations on traffic signs to be used in LEZs. The need for consistency in signage was a key issue highlighted to the REC Committee throughout the progress of the bill, and there is widespread agreement that that would be key to raising public awareness and encouraging compliance. I am happy to support amendment 151, which would ensure that that is the case.
I move amendment 138.
I will just speak to amendment 151. As was said in the conversation that we had in a previous group on national standards, it is right that we should set a national technical standard for the zones, but it is also really important that we have national signage standards.
Amendment 151 would provide in the bill that ministers will introduce regulations that will ensure that there will not be different traffic signage used in different zones. I lodged the amendment for the reason that Colin Smyth gave—I thank him for his support—which is to ensure that there is consistency across all the zones and that drivers understand the signage and know exactly when they are entering or exiting a zone, and the rules that operate around it. That consistency of message, whether at the side of the road or in road markings, would ensure that no matter which city someone was driving in, they would know exactly when they were in or out of a zone.
Anyone who has driven through London congestion charge areas will know that when the areas were introduced, there was ambiguity about which side of a street was in or out of a zone, and that was an opt-in scheme so people needed to know whether they were going to pay the fee accordingly. The difference here is that people will not know until they get the fine through the post a couple of weeks later.
This is an important, small but useful amendment that will ensure consistency across all low-emission zones as they are introduced across Scotland.
I confirm our support for the amendments on the ground of consistency. I support Colin Smyth’s amendments, particularly amendment 138. I agree that the regulations are not the right place to create offences, because, as we know, regulations can only be approved or removed by Parliament— we cannot amend them. The criminal offence really should have been created in the bill, so we agree with the position that Colin Smyth outlined.
This group of amendments addresses the enforcement of low-emission zones.
Amendment 138 seeks to remove the ability of Scottish ministers to create criminal offences for non-payment of the low-emission zone civil penalty charge. Amendment 139 would result in there being no maximum criminal fine for non-payment of low-emission zone penalties. The bill provides for criminal sanctions against non-payment as an important means of ensuring enforcement of the low-emission zone regime. These amendments would undermine the system, as they would remove that enforcement option.
Amendment 151 is unnecessary. The Scottish ministers already have statutory powers to amend the existing Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 to prescribe traffic signs for low-emission zones.
Work to design low-emission zone signs at national level is already being progressed by my officials using the powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.
Amendments 126 and 176 both seek to make the regulation-making powers under section 1(4)(c) and 2(4)(b) subject to the affirmative procedure. Although I consider the matter to be somewhat finely balanced, I am content to agree that the powers should be subject to the additional parliamentary scrutiny that is afforded by the affirmative procedure. I therefore support amendments 126 and 176, but I ask that Colin Smyth and Jamie Greene do not press the other amendments in this group. If the amendments are pressed, I urge members to reject them.
I am a bit disappointed that the cabinet secretary did not really clarify the purpose of the ministerial power to introduce regulations creating criminal offences under this section. I still believe that the approach in the bill creates a degree of ambiguity and confusion, but I do not wish to limit enforcement powers with regard to LEZs by removing that power, so I will seek members’ agreement to withdraw amendments 138 and I will not move amendment 139. However, I wish to move amendments 126 and 176, which would make regulations on penalty charges and liabilities subject to the affirmative procedure, as I believe that that would provide a useful additional layer of scrutiny to two key elements of LEZ enforcement.
Amendment 138, by agreement, withdrawn.
Amendment 139 not moved.
As amended at stage 2, the bill states that if a scheme is to be created, amended or revoked, ministerial approval is required. My amendments in this group—specifically, amendments 140, 141, 143 and 144—remove the “revoke” element. The reason for that is simple, and concerns something that I raised at stage 2.
It is absolutely fair that Scottish ministers should have a say in the setting up of the zones—they are quite substantial pieces of infrastructure and operations—and it is important that the local authorities that set them up do so following the required due diligence. However, concerns have been raised. If a scheme has been in operation for a number of years and has either met all its objectives or is deemed to be inoperable for any reason, a local authority might choose to close down or revoke a zone and go down a different path in tackling emissions in its area. Indeed, we hope that the zones might be victims of their own success and there will not be a need for them in the future. At the moment, the ability to revoke requires ministerial approval, which means that we could end up with a scenario in which a city such as Dundee or Glasgow would like to cease to operate a zone but is overruled by the Government.
It is important that the local authority that sets up and operates the zone—and is financially responsible for it—should have the right to unilaterally close down the zone, if it deems it appropriate to do so. It is not appropriate for the Government to have the final power to decline the revocation of a zone. The amendments address that.
Another amendment in the group—amendment 142—sets out that there are national rules around the zone. We have talked about signage and national vehicle standards, and the cabinet secretary spoke about regulations around national exemptions. However, the design of the geographic area of a zone, and the days and times of operation, should be left to local authorities. Although it is likely that the zones will be in operation 24/7, that may not be required. There are many reasons—including economic reasons—why a local authority may choose not to operate a zone on a Sunday, for example. I am not saying that a local authority should do that; this is about giving local authorities the flexibility and freedom to design a zone that works for them.
Local authorities need flexibility on where the zone is—in other words, which streets are in it and which are outside it. Edinburgh has been having a proactive conservation and engaging with the public in that regard already.
As I said, the other aspect on which local authorities need flexibility is the dates and times of a zone’s operation. If a local authority chooses that a zone should operate 24/7, so be it. However, that power should not lie centrally or be centrally decided—again, that should be up to those who create the zone. Although I am happy to hear comments on the amendments, I hope that they are seen as a welcome improvement to the process of operating the zones.
I move amendment 141.
Amendments 140, 141, 143 and 144 from Jamie Greene are similar to amendments that were lodged at stage 2. They seek to remove reference to revocation from sections 5, 6 and 7 of the bill. As a result, ministers would have no powers to consider proposals to revoke a low-emission zone, statutory consultees would not be consulted on any such revocation, and Scottish ministers and local authorities would have no powers to call for an examination into a proposal to revoke a low-emission zone.
Proposals for low-emission zones, including revocation, should always be subject to the scrutiny of ministers and consultees.
Amendments 50 and 51 fulfil a commitment that was made at stage 2 to consider the amendments that Jamie Greene lodged at stage 2. Amendments 50 and 51 hold ministers and local authorities to account in demonstrating that consultation responses have been considered when such a scheme is made and approved.
Amendment 142 from Jamie Greene would have the same effect as another amendment that he lodged at stage 2, and would remove the requirement for ministers to approve proposals in relation to the area and days and hours of operation of a low-emission zone. Amendment 142 should be rejected, because the days and hours of operation are among the most significant elements of a scheme, and ministers should, therefore, approve proposals in that regard.
Amendment 52 offers a significant reworking of section 7 to allow for procedural flexibility in the examination of low-emission zone scheme proposals. It does not dilute the premise of a local inquiry, but enables an examination to be conducted by an independent reporter by way of written representations, hearings or an inquiry. The new section 7 also gives Scottish ministers a regulation-making power to outline procedural and financial matters in relation to those examinations.
Amendment 63 deals with an anomaly in section 24 that resulted from the committee agreeing to an amendment at stage 2, whereby section 24(1A) allows local authorities to carry out, at their own instance, a review into a low-emission zone, rather than only by direction from Scottish ministers.
I urge members to reject amendments 140 to 144 in Jamie Greene’s name, and to accept amendments 50 to 52 and 63 in my name.
I appreciate the cabinet secretary’s comments. Where there is disagreement or, perhaps, confusion as to the effect of amendments, I am keen to ensure that we do not amend the bill in a way that leads to unintended consequences.
My interpretation of the drafting of my amendments is that they remove Scottish ministers’ ability to overrule a decision by a local authority to revoke. My understanding of the cabinet secretary’s response is that he would like to retain the power to overrule, but I do not think that he has given a sensible argument for why he would like to retain that power.
As I have said, it is important that the local authority concerned goes through due process in coming to an arrangement. However, once it has done that, it should be for the local authority, which is, ultimately, financially responsible for operating the scheme, to take the decision to close it down. We could end up in a scenario in which the Government says no to the revocation of a scheme that has perhaps proven to be financially onerous for the local authority, which may have struggled to meet the zone’s operational costs. The minister could still say that that does not fit in with the national objectives, so the zone will have to be kept. I do not want local authorities to be in that scenario. That was the premise behind my proposal.
We will support Jamie Greene’s amendments. To answer his point—which the minister did not, of course—all ministers want to retain the powers that they have. That is the simple answer to the question why the minister did not agree to what has been proposed. He wants to hold on to the powers that he has. It is very simple.
Mr Rumbles has been in this building for a lot longer than I have, and I thank him for his wisdom. I could not agree more.
To be serious, I ask members to support my proposal. We have to strike a balance in the discussion about low-emission zones in respect of what local authorities are given the power to do versus what should be centrally decided. There are elements that should be centrally decided, which we have talked about, but I still think that flexibility is required at the local level. Therefore, I urge members to support amendment 140, which I will press.
I thank the cabinet secretary for amendments 50 and 51, which I am happy to support, following my discussions with him and the legislation team. I thank him for being flexible, taking on board our comments at stage 2 and lodging those amendments. I appreciate that, and we are happy to support amendments 50 and 51.
The Presiding Officer:
The result of the division is: For 30, Against 85, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 140 disagreed to.
Amendment 141 not moved.
Amendments 50 and 51 moved—[Michael Matheson]—and agreed to.
Amendment 142 moved—[Jamie Greene].
The question is, that amendment 142 be agreed to. Are we agreed?
The Presiding Officer:
The result of the division is: For 30, Against 88, Abstentions 0.
Amendment 55 disagreed to.
Group 8 is on grace periods in low-emission zones. Amendment 145, in the name of Jamie Greene, is grouped with amendments 146 to 148, 57 to 59, 149 and 150. If amendment 148 is agreed to, it will pre-empt amendments 57 and 58.
I know—it is a shame. [
.] I hope that we will get to a break soon, Presiding Officer. We are making good progress.
When we looked at the proposals in the bill as introduced, we noted that the Government had rightly recognised that there needs to be a grace period. We cannot vote the legislation through and have zones set up the next day, because people would, in effect, be barred from entering the zones. Outside this building, there are people who drive older vehicles and small businesses that have such vehicles. We want to bring them up to the right emission standards to allow those people to drive in our city centres, but we will need some time to do so.
The concept of a grace period is welcome, but throughout stages 2 and 3 we have sought consistently to tinker with the format. When I lodged similar amendments at stage 2, we did not offer the proposals in a table format and the wording was complex to navigate. I hope that the way in which I have presented the proposals in my stage 3 amendments will make it easier to understand them.
In essence, I want to do two things, the first of which is to have three categories of vehicle—buses and coaches; commercial vehicles; and cars, by which I mean everyday household cars—and to give them different grace periods. The second thing is to separate them into the two categories of residents and non-residents. There is a good reason for that. After discussions with many councillors and local authorities, it was clear to me that people who live and operate in a zone and may be captured by it do not have a choice, whereas people who live outside a zone and want to travel into it have more ability to choose to enter it in a certain type of vehicle. If Edinburgh city centre becomes a low-emission zone, someone who lives there and who has the wrong type of vehicle will by default be breaking the law.
We thought that it would be sensible to give people more time, so we propose periods of one, two and three years respectively for those categories in which people are non-residents, and two, three and four years for residents. The range for grace periods would therefore be from one to four years depending on where the vehicle is registered and what type of vehicle it is. That seems to me to be a sensible proposition.
We know that this will be an issue because the indicative proposals from the City of Edinburgh Council show that it has already identified different types of zones that will allow entry to different types of vehicles.
It is sensible for us to do the right thing. We all support the setting up of low-emission zones, but it should be done in a sensible way. A lot of the small businesses that I spoke to are locked into contracts and leases. They cannot get out of those contracts and change their vehicles overnight. The general feedback that I got was that a grace period of three or four years would probably be long enough to allow those businesses to make those spending decisions and change the vehicles that they invest in, be they lease hired, contracted or purchased. That is important feedback.
We do not want to find out that, as a consequence of the legislation, businesses are stuck in vehicle contracts that they cannot get out of in a short period of time, and that they might have onerous charges or penalties to pay as a result.
This is the right thing to do. I am open to hearing members’ feedback on whether they agree with the concept that people who live in a zone should be given a little more time. I will take a view on where we sit after the debate.
I move amendment 145.
Amendments 57 to 59 aim to encourage the use of shorter grace periods for low-emission zones, while providing local authorities with the flexibility to make decisions that meet their needs.
As it stands, the bill allows grace periods of up to six years, while forcing a mandatory minimum grace period on local authorities. That does not reflect the urgency of the climate crisis that we face in terms of air pollution and climate change, and it does not provide the flexibility that is needed to future proof the legislation.
Six-year grace periods are incompatible with a number of the Government’s aims, such as the review of the cleaner air for Scotland strategy, which states:
“The four first round LEZs need to follow legal and policy timetables and be in place and delivering within four years.”
That will simply not be possible if any local authority chooses to implement six-year grace periods.
Likewise, the Government’s ambitions, from plans to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars to the new programme for government aim of zero-emission cities by 2030, will be hindered by the lengthy grace periods in the bill. However, in the interests of flexibility, I have not proposed removing that option entirely. Amendment 59 would simply require ministers to sign off on the use of longer grace periods. That will send a clear message that the maximum grace periods should not be encouraged without removing the option entirely if there was an exceptional reason for such a lengthy period.
Amendments 57 and 58 seek to remove the statutory minimum grace periods to provide flexibility to local authorities and to future proof the bill. While the introduction of an LEZ is a significant change for individuals, and one that requires a fair lead-in period, that will not necessarily always be the case. The legislation needs to be open enough to deal with a range of scenarios now and in the future.
The issue of displacement was raised with the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. Providing more flexibility on grace periods would, for example, allow the boundaries of the LEZ to be tweaked slightly without the need for a lengthy two-year delay. That is not to say that it should be common practice to go below the suggested minimums and, realistically, many local authorities are not likely to choose to do that at this point. However, we should trust that common sense will be used in the development of LEZs. Even if local authorities were inclined to use that flexibility inappropriately, ministers will still have sign-off, meaning that an LEZ with unreasonable grace periods would not be allowed, even with these amendments. The amendments are simply about removing something that might act as an unnecessary barrier to a minor change in a boundary at some point down the line.
Amendment 148 and associated amendments seek to replace the range of grace periods with set grace periods, based on vehicle type. Although I prefer the amendments that I have lodged, because they would give local authorities flexibility, Labour will support amendment 148 because it would have the effect of ensuring that LEZs would come into force earlier than the existing provisions in the bill.
We will not support any of the amendments in the group. We are happy with the grace periods. They are clearly an important part of the bill. As in any proposed legislation, transitional arrangements are important. The issue has been addressed and it was the subject of consultation, so we will not support any of the amendments in the group.
Grace periods are critical to the operation of low emissions, because they will give all road users time to prepare for the introduction of a low-emission zone.
Amendments 145 to 148 seek to place very prescriptive grace periods into the bill. I draw attention to two substantive issues. Amendment 148 does not take account of the full list of vehicle types that are recognised by the Vehicle Certification Agency, which is not acceptable in enforcement terms. The amendments also seek to substantially reduce the maximum grace periods for buses and other commercial vehicles in a way that offers no flexibility for local authorities to set grace periods as they see fit.
Amendment 57 seeks to remove the minimum period for grace periods for non-residents. Removing the minimum would mean that low-emission zones could, in theory, start immediately, which would give those affected no time to adapt to the changes. The grace periods that are currently set out in the bill form the most appropriate and balanced approach, where we can achieve it in the legislation. They are based on extensive engagement with stakeholders, including local authorities.
Amendment 59 would impose a requirement to seek the approval of Scottish ministers around grace periods, which is not necessary because ministers must already approve a low-emission zone scheme under section 5 of the bill.
I have some sympathy with the intent of amendment 58, which seeks to remove minimum grace periods for residents. Local authorities will still have flexibility to set those periods up to two years beyond the grace period that is set for non-residents, so I can support that amendment.
Amendments 149 and 150, which were lodged by Jamie Greene, are concerned with removing section 11 in its entirety. That would, in effect, result in the removal from the bill of substantive necessary grace period provisions, covering situations including those in which two or more local authorities wished to act jointly when making or amending a low-emission zone, or in which newly adopted roads were included in an existing low-emission zone.
Therefore, although I can support amendment 58, I ask Jamie Greene and Colin Smyth not to press their other amendments in the group. If the amendments are pressed, I urge members to reject them.
One thing that is still unclear—perhaps the cabinet secretary can clarify it—is whether the power to set grace periods will be defined zone by zone by local authorities, or whether there will be a national minimum or maximum for grace periods. My amendments seek to bring clarity on that point.
Right—so there would be a national range, but flexibility at a local level. If a local authority’s proposal for a grace period did not meet the national exemption, would it not be able to introduce it? I still think that that is unclear. For example, does the cabinet secretary envisage a situation in which an Edinburgh resident may have one year but a Glasgow resident may have three years? Might we see such an outcome?
We covered that point at stage 2. As Jamie Greene is aware, there is a minimum and a maximum. In seeking approval from Scottish ministers, a local authority would have to set out what the grace period would be. If the period exceeded what was set out in the legislation, clearly it would not be approved by ministers, but if a lower period was sought, the local authority would have to explain to ministers the purpose of having a timeframe that was lower than the maximum.
I appreciate the cabinet secretary’s response on those points. I will not seek to progress my proposal on the grace period in the structure that was presented in my amendments, but I will add my support to amendment 58, in the name of Colin Smyth, which the Government has indicated that it will support. I seek leave to withdraw amendment 145 and I will not move my other amendments in the group.
Amendment 145, by agreement, withdrawn.
Amendment 56 moved—[Michael Matheson]—and agreed to.
Amendments 146 to 148 and 57 not moved.
Amendment 58 moved—[Colin Smyth]—and agreed to.
Amendment 59 not moved.
Amendment 149 not moved.
The Presiding Officer:
The result of the division is: For 54, Against 63, Abstentions 0.
151 disagreed to.
For members’ information, we will take a 10-minute break in about 15 minutes’ time, after group 10.
Amendments 60 and 84 enable the sharing of information between the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency and a “responsible body” such as a local authority or its “enforcement agent” in a way that allows the successful enforcement of LEZs and parking schemes, while complying with data-sharing legislation. The data principally centres around the details of the registered keeper of the vehicle, which is central to the operation of enforcement regimes.
That approach to data sharing will work in instances in which the LEZ and back office parking enforcement regimes are run by the Scottish Government, a group of local authorities or a contractor. Where information is disclosed to an enforcement agent, they can use or further disclose it only
“as is necessary for or in connection with the enforcement” of the LEZ and parking schemes.
I urge members to agree to amendments 60 and 84.
I move amendment 60.
Amendment 60 agreed to.
Amendments 61 and 62 make it clear that grants to individual persons, for example, might be subject to conditions, including a repayment. That is necessary to address a situation in which a grant is provided to make alterations to a vehicle to reduce its emissions—such as the retrofit of a vehicle to achieve a Euro 6 diesel standard—but the alterations are subsequently proven not to work in the real world and not to reduce emissions sufficiently.
Amendment 152 is unnecessary. Local authorities are not obliged to accept
“an offer of a grant or a loan” from the Scottish Government. In practice, we already provide funding to local authorities to help them meet their low-emission zone scheme design and implementation costs. If, due to unforeseen issues, additional funding is needed, my officials will work in a collaborative manner with local authorities to address those funding requests.
Amendment 153 is similar to an amendment that Brian Whittle lodged at stage 2 and that was not agreed. As I did at stage 2, I believe that that approach is too prescriptive. However, the focusing of penalty moneys on issues such as active travel can be delivered if a local authority frames an objective of their low-emission zone scheme around such an issue. That point will be made clear in low-emission zone guidance.
In moving amendment 61, I ask members to support amendment 62 and to reject the other amendments in the group.
I move amendment 61.
However, I will speak to amendments 61 and 62, in the name of the cabinet secretary, on a technical matter that comes from a discussion that we had at stage 2. At that point, by ensuring that the local authorities and ministers would mutually agree the conditions of the terms of such a grant, we strengthened the bill. That wording is in section 19(2) and it is helpful to see it in the bill. However, with amendment 61, the cabinet secretary seeks to roll back on that agreement, by saying that the conditions for repayment will be only
“as the Scottish Ministers determine”.
At stage 2, I sought to ensure that local authorities had some involvement in setting the conditions of repayment, that they would not be subject purely to the conditions laid on them and that it would be a mutual decision. For that reason, I cannot support amendments 61 or 62.
Amendment 153 ensures that investment in green, alternative modes of transport, such as “active travel”, “public transport infrastructure” and “park and ride facilities”, is intrinsic to the penalty charge. If we remove transport options, it is important that we encourage alternatives. If we leave the action at removing modes of transport within an LEZ, we are leaving a job half done. There is not much in the bill that encourages active travel. Amendment 153 would encourage different modes of transport within the zones.
Brian Whittle will be aware that local authorities will look at their transport strategies and, if in the process of establishing low-emission zones they wish to make specific objectives around active travel, which it is within their scope to do, the moneys that are raised through the LEZ scheme can be used for those purposes. Should local authorities choose to do that, there are powers in the legislation to allow it to happen.
Brian Whittle should recognise that the money that is raised from low-emission zone fines is for the purpose of local transport provision.
Therefore, if the authority makes active travel a specific provision when it sets up the low-emission zone, the money is committed for that purpose. That is how the schemes have been designed and the legislation ensures that the provision is applied, if it is one of the objectives that a local authority sets.
The Presiding Officer:
That concludes group 10. We are slightly ahead of schedule and exactly one third of the way through the plan. We will have a 10 minute suspension to allow members to take a break.
15:34 Meeting suspended.
15:47 On resuming—
Following stage 2, I have listened very carefully to what the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers, the Competition and Markets Authority, the Confederation of Passenger Transport and local authorities have said about the bill’s provisions in this area.
Amendments 65 and 66 address the two stage 2 amendments that were concerned with municipal bus operations and would ensure that there is clarity in the new powers. The amendments recognise what Colin Smyth was also seeking to achieve at stage 2. They empower all local transport authorities in Scotland to provide services
“for the carriage of passengers by road using vehicles that require a PSV operator’s licence” and to operate services in the commercial bus market where they consider that that will
“contribute to the implementation of their relevant general policies.”
That wide power enables a local transport authority to choose the most appropriate option for their circumstances. LTAs will continue to have proper regard to all other obligations on them, such as those regarding competition and state aid rules.
Over the coming months, my officials will continue to engage with local transport authorities, the Competition and Markets Authority, bus operators and others in developing appropriate guidance.
Amendments 128, 130 and 131 are consequential amendments.
I move amendment 65 and urge members to support the other amendments in group 11.
I am delighted that the Government has accepted Labour’s long-standing goal to lift the ban on councils running bus services, without restrictions such as limiting services to areas where there is an unmet need, as was previously specified in the bill, or requiring local authorities to set up an arm’s-length company.
Across Scotland, bus passenger numbers are falling, vital routes are disappearing and fares are rising. We desperately need to change. We need to empower our local authorities to run bus services for the benefit of their communities and break up the private monopolies that too often dominate the bus market.
Public transport should be a public service, where profits are invested in improving services and keeping fares down, not boosting shareholders’ dividends. To see the benefits of municipal ownership, we simply have to look outside the windows of this Parliament at Lothian Buses, which runs one of the most popular bus networks in the country and last year returned £7.7 million to the public purse.
Although the arm’s-length approach that has been taken in Lothian has been successful, a one-size-fits-all approach such as the one put forward by the Government at stage 2 would not work for all communities. Setting up a municipal bus company comes with significant risk and costs and it is unrealistic for a council that is simply seeking to run a small number of services. It is critical that local authorities have flexibility and can run services directly where needed, allowing them to build up capacity and expertise over time.
My stage 2 amendment delivered that, as do the amendments lodged today by the Government, which reflect and respect the decision taken by the committee at stage 2. I am therefore happy to support the Government amendments. I am grateful to the cabinet secretary’s officials for discussing the wording of the amendments with me and with others, including COSLA, before they were lodged.
I appreciate the work that the Government, the cabinet secretary and his team have done on this issue. The committee looked at the issue in its stage 1 report, in which we identified that the bill did not go far enough in empowering local authorities to have the flexibility to run bus services where they saw the need.
The issue stemmed from the fact that local authorities would be able only to run services that were classified as meeting an unmet need. By default, those have tended to be the services that commercial operators have pulled out of or do not operate because they are not commercially viable. Asking local authorities only to operate services in that environment is untenable. There was very little appetite to do that among the local authorities that we wrote to; in their responses, few of them had either the resource—financial or otherwise—or the appetite to run such services.
That issue was reflected at stage 2, when we amended the bill. I supported some of Colin Smyth’s amendments, but after stage 2, part 2 of the bill was a bit of a mess and it needed to be tidied up. Over the summer, I met a number of Scotland’s major bus operators and some of the smaller ones, and I extended the conversation to local authorities as well, so that we could find a compromise that works, that delivers on the requests of the committee and that takes into account some of the fair points that Colin Smyth raised about local authorities wanting to do their best for people in their area. We have to balance that with ensuring that we do not produce legislation that will inadvertently create issues for local authorities.
If a local authority wants to run a bus service, it should do so through the mechanism that the Government proposed; ideally, it should be through an arm’s-length company. That would keep clear blue water between the bit of the council that operates the service and the bit that tenders and issues licences to operate services. However, we know that we need to do something to improve bus patronage, which is still decreasing in Scotland.
I hope that local authorities will consider these amendments to be positive and I hope that any local authority that is considering operating a service will think carefully about the implications and give the decision the gravitas that it requires, because it is not easy, cheap or simple to do so. However, if it chooses to do so, it will have our support. I am happy to support all the Government’s amendments on bus franchising.
I am pleased to support amendment 65 and the other amendments in this group, which will give local authorities the power to operate municipal bus services, which my colleague Colin Smyth argued for during the committee stage.
Too often, it seems that the communities that we represent are being held hostage to the whims of the private profit motive. People in Hamilton experienced that recently when First Glasgow announced that it would be withdrawing the X1 bus service between Hamilton and Glasgow.
It is a popular service that is relied on by lots of local people, including hundreds of students and workers who travel into the city. The potential loss of that service, especially for people who need it at peak times, would have had a really disruptive impact on my constituents’ daily lives—in some cases, more than doubling the time and cost of commuting.
Despite the popularity of the service, the initial reason that was given was that the route was not profitable enough. However, our public services should be there to serve the interests of the people and not to fill the pockets of stakeholders in private companies.
We need more power and control over our bus services. In that example, the X1 has received a temporary reprieve following immense public pressure, with a petition lodged by Hamilton resident Rebecca Creechan reaching more than 4,700 signatures so far, but the operator has stated that that is on a use it or lose it basis, and the future of the service is not guaranteed beyond December. The amendments in the group would ensure that local authorities such as South Lanarkshire Council have the potential to step in and provide bus services when private firms withdraw and would take us towards a public transport system that serves the interests of the many and not the few.
I thank the cabinet secretary. He said that he listened to the debate at stage 2, and I know that he did so intently. Importantly, he also listened to COSLA, which is the representative body of local authorities and which has said that it wants the powers in the amendments. Colleagues have talked about the current provision in the bill referring to unmet need. That relates to a situation where there is no money in providing a service. We know from the demographics of people who use buses that they are the people who have many needs to be met, not least to get from A to B.
I am delighted that the Scottish Government is on board and I fully support the amendments in the group, although they are hardly revolutionary. The Scottish Greens ran a better buses campaign and heard from people the length and breadth of the country about the challenges that exist, which have fuelled the patronage decline. We need to reverse that. No one is suggesting that that will happen overnight, but it is important that local authorities take the opportunities, not least because the situation with Lothian Buses has always been anomalous. As I said in relation to an earlier amendment, we saw the turnaround that took place in East Lothian when Lothian Buses moved in, got young people on board and got them into the habit of using public transport.
We would like an extension of free public transport. It is important that there is a co-ordinated approach, as we discussed earlier in talking about transport strategy. It is a real boon that our local authorities will now be in a position to provide services, so we will support the amendments. I thank the cabinet secretary.
I welcome the cabinet secretary’s amendments in the group, as they put into effect Colin Smyth’s stage 2 initiative, which is good. The amendments are potentially transformational and need to be acted on urgently.
Scottish Labour strongly supports the principle of bus company ownership by local authorities. It would enable local authorities to be proactive and to ensure that communities get the bus services that they need so that people of all ages have access to employment, schools, further and higher education, health facilities, shops and community and leisure facilities—everything that we need in our daily lives.
An expansion of not-for-profit bus services means that investment will benefit our communities directly.
The bus pass for the over-60s, which I introduced, was crucial in giving access to bus services for older people and gave those with cars the option of leaving their car at home when going to work or about their business. However, as Colin Smyth said, far too many people simply do not have any bus services to use or the services are too expensive. That is why we urgently need municipal bus company ownership.
The model in Scotland is Lothian Buses, which is an award-winning company that provides an affordable service, with a network right across the city and links across the region. The profits are reinvested locally.
No—I need to be fast.
There are already calls for municipal bus companies in Glasgow and Aberdeen. I understand that in Aberdeen, the city council has noted an interest in the sale of First Bus and already owns 20 hydrogen buses that are operated either by First Aberdeen or Stagecoach. We should have municipal bus companies across Scotland, where our local authorities want to implement them, and not just in towns and cities but in rural communities.
W e need to go beyond the principle. We need skills and knowledge and the sharing of expertise so that all our councils can use such services. I hope that the transport secretary will back up the power with proactive support for our hard-pressed local authorities, not just through advice from Transport Scotland but with start-up resources so that councils can use the powers to establish or buy bus companies and invest in the accessible low-emission buses that will be vital for success.
The Liberal Democrats certainly support all the cabinet secretary’s amendments in the group. Across the chamber, every party wants to halt and reverse the long-term decline in the use of buses. It is extremely important that we empower local authorities to do so through the amendments.
Yesterday in this chamber, I was critical of the cabinet secretary on another aspect of his work; today I praise him for his work on buses. It is rare that, after the Government has introduced a bill, a minister—after a change of minister—listens to the arguments at stage 1 and in the stage 1 report, supports amendments at stage 2 and then lodges amendments at stage 3 that complete the change.
The cabinet secretary has done that, and the effect is to move us away from empowering local authorities to take on only unprofitable routes to properly empowering them to establish bus services. I say well done to the minister. I am glad that the First Minister is listening to this, because I hope that the cabinet secretary’s approach is a trend that she will encourage in all her ministers.
I point out, especially to Labour members, that when I was a member of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee we heard evidence from Lothian Buses that the company’s being in public ownership or not made no difference to its services and their popularity.
There are many factors in bus decline, particularly in the west of Scotland and the greater Glasgow area.
I am happy to accept that.
My more general point is that the decline in bus use, particularly in the west of Scotland, is not easily explained and will not easily be sorted. One factor is that in the west we have a much wider network of local railways, which the Edinburgh area does not have, which means that bus services in Edinburgh cater for a wider range of people and journeys.
The reality is that the public—including many of my constituents who do not have cars—aspire to have cars and not use buses. There is a wider issue here, and although I am broadly supportive of public ownership and regulation, I do not think that there is a simple answer that explains the decline of bus usage.
I am pleased that my amendments were able to achieve cross-party support in the Parliament this afternoon. That is to be welcomed. They help to address an issue that we and Colin Smyth sought to address at stage 2, by providing greater clarity, which will be important in empowering local authorities.
I am grateful for members’ comments on the issues.
Some members raised specific issues. Monica Lennon referred to the X1 service in Hamilton; my colleague Christina McKelvie, who is the constituency member, has been very much involved in pursuing the issue on behalf of her constituents. Efforts have succeeded in securing an extension to the service until the end of this year, so that people can try to see whether it can continue in the long term.
Monica Lennon was correct to say that the bill will empower local authorities to consider the option of delivering commercial services in their areas. I encourage all members to support the move to empower local authorities to take forward services in their areas.
Amendment 65 agreed to.
The amendments in this group, which are all in my name, seek to ensure that bus services improvement plans and franchises respond to the needs of people who are living in poverty and people with relevant protected characteristics. It is important that bus services improvement partnerships deliver for all passengers, and these amendments will ensure that inclusion is at the heart of plans.
Transport has an important role to play in the lives of people who are living in poverty and people with protected characteristics. Good public transport can provide essential access to a range of opportunities and services. Equally, poor or inaccessible public transport can contribute to poverty and worsen its effects.
The amendments in this group will ensure that that is a key consideration as plans are developed.
Such consideration could inform a range of aspects of plans. The most obvious example is the affordability of fares. Consideration might also impact on decisions about routes, for example, to ensure that services run through deprived areas in our communities, which are often overlooked.
The Poverty and Inequality Commission recently produced a report that highlighted the significant role of transport in addressing poverty and inequality, and made clear that the status quo is not working. It stated:
“It is clear to the Commission that action is needed on transport in order to help unlock people from poverty.”
The Government’s draft national transport strategy sets “promoting equality” as one of its key strategic priorities. These amendments are a small but practical way to put those words into action in order to develop a fairer rights-based transport system.
I move amendment 67.
Amendments 67 to 70, in the name of Colin Smyth, seek to impose additional requirements as to the content, notification of, and consultation on bus service improvement partnership plans and schemes.
The amendments are similar to several that were lodged at stage 2, which focused on ensuring that account is taken of the needs and views of those on low incomes and those who find it difficult to use or afford local services because they have one or more of the protected characteristics that are set out in section 149(7) of the Equality Act 2010. Those amendments were voted on at stage 2 and opposed by the committee at the end of the voting process. The concerns that I raised then remain.
Local authorities must already comply with the public sector equality duty and are required to assess the impact of applying a proposed new or revised policy or practice against the needs that are mentioned in section 149(1) of the Equality Act 2010. That includes when setting local transport policies and developing bus service improvement partnership policies and proposals.
Further, there are substantial safeguards in place throughout the bus service improvement partnership process to ensure that local transport authorities consult those who are likely to be affected by a proposed partnership and give suitable notice to all persons in the area. The process can include the particular groups that have been identified and, coupled with the equality duty, the effect is that those groups will be included in bus service improvement partnership development and that their needs will be considered.
In a similar vein, amendment 71 seeks to require a local transport authority, when carrying out its duty to consult on a proposed franchising framework organisations that are representative of “users of local services”, to specifically consult organisations representing persons on a low income or, again, persons whose ability to use local services is likely to be affected due to characteristics that are protected in the Equality Act 2010. As I have said, local authorities must comply with the public sector equality duty. The existing duty in the franchising provisions of the bill to consult organisations that represent “users of local services” does not need to be expanded to achieve the aims of amendment 71.
There is also an additional level of scrutiny in the franchising process, which involves the decision of an independent panel that will actively consider not only the consultation and action taken on the process but any other representations that are made to it about the p