Covid-19 (Impact on Public Transport)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 12th March 2020.

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Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Government what meetings it has held with stakeholders regarding the potential impact on public transport of the coronavirus Covid-19. (S5O-04252)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

We have well-established links and protocols for these situations and have been sharing guidance and advice from colleagues at Health Protection Scotland with our key stakeholders. Transport Scotland officials are in regular contact with transport operators such as ScotRail, bus operators and CalMac Ferries and with Traffic Scotland. They are also in regular contact with Scottish ports and airports to ensure that they receive consistent guidance and marketing material with the Health Protection Scotland message.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

The cabinet secretary will be aware that people who live in isolated communities often rely on public transport. Has he had any conversations regarding the provision of replacement drivers to ensure the continuation of those crucial services if we have a shortage of train and bus drivers?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The approach that we are taking is based on the clinical and scientific advice that is being provided through the chief medical officer and Health Protection Scotland clinicians. That information is updated regularly for our transport operators.

We have asked operators to consider the contingency planning arrangements that they have in place for dealing with any major incidents, and they are undertaking reviews to ensure that they have appropriate measures in place. We will continue to provide them with the necessary information on the actions that they should be taking as we go forward in what is a very dynamic situation with Covid-19 coronavirus.

I assure the member that we continue to engage with transport operators and that we will provide them with the most up-to-date information as we go forward, to ensure that they are putting in place the appropriate contingency plans that they might require.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary said that the Government is in touch with the port operators. He will be aware that cruise liners are a growing aspect of marine tourism in Scotland. Can he update us on what information has been issued to the port operators to ensure that when cruise ships come in and tourists come off them, all safety measures can be taken?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The Government recognises the importance of the tourism sector—particularly the growing market in cruise liner operators using Scottish ports.

We have an established protocol for when any vessel, including a cruise ship, docks at a port in Scotland. The existing arrangements allow the territorial health board for the area and the local authority, which is responsible for delivering port health matters, to take forward measures effectively, as they see appropriate, for a vessel entering dock or looking to disembark at a Scottish port.

The Scottish port sector has a well-rehearsed procedure for dealing with such issues and health-related matters. I assure the member that information and guidance are provided, via our health boards and local authorities, on how port health matters should be taken forward in relation to coronavirus, so that any incidents can be managed.

Photo of Colin Smyth Colin Smyth Labour

One of the target areas on which our rail franchise holders often fail to deliver relates to station and train cleanliness. Will the cabinet secretary work with the rail operators so that there is a greater focus on those targets, and on appropriate cleaning in particular, especially on our trains, to ensure that they are delivering what will become, in the weeks ahead, an increasingly important obligation to keep our public transport running?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The member will be aware of the specific measures that ScotRail has taken in the past year to improve the cleanliness of trains within the franchise agreement.

We are providing ScotRail with the most up-to-date clinical guidance from Health Protection Scotland, which is managing that information for the Scottish Government,

and we expect all operators in the transport sector to act on the guidance that is being provided.

We are having to look at contingency arrangements, given the nature of the incident that we are dealing with. The situation will have an impact on our transport system, which is why we have asked all operators to consider what contingency arrangements they can put in place, and to make sure that they have appropriate continuity plans so that they can try to manage the situation as best they can.

I assure the member that we will continue to keep the Parliament and the public as up to date as possible, should there be any changes to the existing arrangements, to ensure that we can continue to provide as resilient a transport system as possible in what is a very challenging situation.

Photo of Gail Ross Gail Ross Scottish National Party

On Monday, in response to a question on testing for the coronavirus at airports, the United Kingdom Government’s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, stated:

“the evidence from other countries that have tried temperature testing at airports shows that it is not effective and can actually be counterproductive to the effort because it leads to lots of false positives.”—[

Official Report

, 9 March 2020; Vol 673, c 36.]

Does the Scottish Government’s scientific advice concur with that view, and is the cabinet secretary content with the approach that is being taken by Scotland’s airports?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

The information that has been provided by the Scottish Government to our airports is consistent with the messaging and information that have been provided to all airports in the UK. Health Protection Scotland has approved the advice that has been issued to Scottish airports. We continue to update that advice, in line with the best scientific advice that we are provided with.

Transport Scotland officials are in regular contact with our airports and are ensuring that that information is appropriately displayed and provided in Scottish airports. Scottish airports are continuing to take forward appropriate measures to deal with anyone whom they might have concerns about, and to provide those people with medical support and advice at the airport.

I assure the member that we are using the most up-to-date scientific advice for our airports. However, given that the situation is fluid and fast moving, the advice is continually reviewed and will be updated as appropriate.