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Transport (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 10th October 2019.

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Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I have listened with interest to the contributions to this debate on what is a significant piece of legislation. The bill will give provision to a range of important policy areas—for example, low-emission zones, which will help to drive up air quality improvement, particularly in our cities. John Finnie highlighted the health challenges associated with poor air quality that we must tackle. We want Scotland to have the best air quality of any European country, and low-emission zones have an important part to play in achieving that. I am delighted by the way in which Glasgow City Council has shown leadership by creating the first low-emission zone, which has been in operation since the turn of the year and is demonstrating already the benefits that can come from the LEZ approach. The bill’s new provisions with give further support to that approach.

The bill also has provisions for improving bus services and driving up bus patronage through the bus service improvement partnerships and franchising. There is cross-party support for empowering local transport authorities to be able to look at how services should be delivered in their communities and giving them the discretionary powers to provide passenger services themselves. The bill also has provisions to improve smart ticketing and ensure that we have a transport system that can adapt and manage new technology in a way that helps to improve connectivity and journeys.

Of course, the bill’s provisions around parking will provide significant improvements. The issues addressed by the bill on which I have had most contact from constituents are those of pavement parking and double parking, which have been a problem for people for decades. I acknowledge the tremendous, concerted work that many MSPs have done on those issues but acknowledge in particular the work that Sandra White has done over the years in pushing for solutions to the problem. In addition, the amendments that Mike Rumbles introduced at stage 2 improved the bill’s provisions on parking. The bill has been strengthened by the parliamentary process and members’ willingness to work on improving the its provisions and ensuring that it is aligned with the key principles set out in the draft national transport strategy, which will take forward our transport priorities for the next 20 years.

There is also provision in the bill for traffic regulation matters. The cycling sector and local authorities raised issues regarding difficulties with the existing system, which is unduly bureaucratic and compromises progress. I will use the proposed review to consider how to improve that situation.

The bill also provides a modest discretionary power for local authorities to look at the provision of workplace parking. Many members sought to introduce exemptions to the workplace parking provisions, but the reality is that they were not concerned about the substance of the exemptions but simply trying to make the proposed system unworkable in order to frustrate it. The key element is that the bill will allow local authorities to apply every discretion to workplace parking provisions that the Tories, the Labour Party or anyone else might want. In fact, it is a bit rich for the Tories to portray themselves as standing up for the workers. There is one thing that the Tories do not do and that is stand up for the workers.

Voting against the bill means that members will be voting against all the improvements that will come from it. It is a good bill and it deserves the support of Parliament tonight.