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Consideration of environmental issues is crucial to all road projects. In line with relevant legislation, Transport Scotland undertakes significant environmental assessment work and consultation with key stakeholders, including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Environment Scotland, during the design process, which culminates in the publication of an environmental impact assessment report. If required, a public local inquiry is held, to consider objections that have been received, before a decision is made on whether to proceed with the project. During the construction phase, obligations are placed on contractors to comply with environmental legislation and commitments, including mitigation, that have been identified during the design process.
Roads can play an important part in environmentally balanced infrastructure, but the Scottish Greens have been demanding that the Scottish National Party Government terminate all new road projects. The car park tax showed us the Greens’ price. Will the cabinet secretary assure members that the SNP will not sell out to the Greens the people who rely on improved road maintenance?
As I have made clear on a number of occasions in recent weeks and months, we remain committed to major road investment projects such as the A9 and A96 projects, alongside road improvements. That is not to say that we do not recognise the significant climate change challenge that we face and the need to take appropriate measures to achieve a zero-carbon economy. That involves looking at the investment that has to be made in low-carbon technologies and encouraging people to use alternative modes of transport and reduce their reliance on cars for journeys, where possible.
At the same time, we must balance that with an approach whereby we get the right type of infrastructure investment that is necessary to support our economy and our communities. That is the approach that the Government will take. We will take seriously our climate change obligations while ensuring that we make the right strategic infrastructure investments to help to support our economy and our communities.