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City Region Deal Projects (Climate Change)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 21st November 2019.

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Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

6. To ask the Scottish Government how it ensures that city region deal projects tackle climate change. (S5O-03802)

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is committed to its target of net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045—five years ahead of the United Kingdom. Our support for city region and growth deals aims to drive inclusive and sustainable economic growth at the regional level in line with Scotland’s economic strategy, which has a clear focus on supporting our net zero ambitions. Many of our city deals include projects that will contribute to advancing Scotland’s transition to a carbon-neutral economy, including provision for new energy-efficient housing, and a range of low-carbon and active travel interventions.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

New road projects clearly have the potential to make climate change worse, and any that are proposed under city deals should be backed by robust evidence.

Unfortunately, such evidence has not been provided by South Lanarkshire Council for its proposed road widening in order to dual Stewartfield Way in East Kilbride. Trees will be uprooted and green space next to the popular James Hamilton heritage loch will be built on, although there is no obvious traffic problem there to be solved. The council is now consulting the public, but its online questionnaire does not even provide people with the option to say whether they are for or against the project. It is a sham.

Will the minister agree to discuss the plans with South Lanarkshire Council, and can he confirm that, if the plans are changed, East Kilbride will not lose out on the £62 million investment?

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I hope that Graham Simpson will accept my apology for not promising on behalf of Michael Matheson to meet South Lanarkshire Council, but I will raise the issue with Michael Matheson when he is available.

The important point is that the city deals are about empowering regions to make their own decisions—they are about localism—and we believe that our regional partners are best placed to know what is needed to drive regional economies. However, decisions that relate to the infrastructure investment fund are in the remit of the Glasgow city region cabinet, and we expect the cabinet to take decisions that are in the best interests of the regional economy.

We have made it clear that we expect the cabinet to have a continued focus on testing the infrastructure investment programme for quality impact and continued appropriateness in the light of changing economic circumstances, both at an individual project level and as an aggregate programme. The climate emergency qualifies as a change to economic circumstances, so it is open to local authorities to come together to decide if they want to change a project.

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Does the minister agree that, in light of both the Scottish Government and South Lanarkshire Council making climate emergency declarations, it is appropriate to reconsider long-standing projects under the city deal, and to use that opportunity to properly consider innovation in public transport solutions?

Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I absolutely agree with Linda Fabiani. I will give more detail on what I started to outline in my response to Graham Simpson. The city region deals are about empowering the local partners to make their own decisions. If a governing body said that it wanted to change what was included in its deal, perhaps in the light of the climate emergency, which Linda Fabiani referred to, we would be open to having a conversation with that body. Nothing is future proof, and it is reasonable to allow some flexibility in the deals.

The deals that we have in place are long term—they span between 10 and 20 years—so we recognise that there is a need to be flexible and responsive to changes in the economy and in the wider context, which includes responding to the climate emergency. Michael Matheson would be happy to engage with the partners on that.