Covid-19 (Transport)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 26th May 2020.

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Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

On Dean Lockhart’s latter point, I am sure that he heard the response from Fergus Ewing on the coach industry, which Fergus Ewing is leading on. Fergus Ewing will no doubt keep Mr Lockhart informed and respond to his correspondence in due course.

On supply of PPE, if Dean Lockhart looks at the detail of the guidance, he will see that a very clear hierarchy of risk is set out that operators and employers have to consider as part of the risk assessments that they should be carrying out for their staff. PPE is the final point that they should arrive at in that hierarchy, because they should look to put in place mitigation measures in order to minimise the need for use of PPE. In our discussions with the transport sector, we have been given assurances that it has sufficient stocks of PPE to meet that need as and when it arises.

The guidance also emphasises the need to ensure that, as risk assessments are undertaken, there is engagement with affected employees, health and safety representatives and trade unions, for example, to ensure that the assessments are carried out in a compliant way that those groups are comfortable with. We will continue to keep that under review, as we will all the other parts of the guidance.

There is an absolutely critical point about compliance. The reality is that, with a transport system that will be constrained by physical distancing to such an extent that some modes might be able to carry at best only around a quarter of the number of people who would normally use them, we cannot expect the system just to absorb the pressure. People need to take responsibility for their own decisions, including looking at whether they can start earlier or later to avoid peak times. Employers need to demonstrate leadership by being prepared to support staff who can work from home to be able to continue to do so. If staff have to go into work, employers need to be flexible and consider allowing staff to have flexible start and finish times and staggering the days on which staff can work from home and in their office space.

The business community, the public sector, operators and individuals all have a part to play in helping to meet the challenges that we will face with a constrained transport system. That is why it is important that there is a collective effort and that we recognise the challenges that our transport sector will face in the weeks and months ahead.