Covid-19 Recovery (North-east Scotland)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 1st September 2021.

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Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

5. To ask the Scottish Government how its policies and actions across Government will support the north-east to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. (S6O-00069)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

We are actively supporting economic recovery in the north-east and have provided close to £100 million to businesses and additional funding of almost £150 million to councils to help to achieve that. We are also investing £157 million in the Aberdeen city region deal and the Moray growth deal, and more than £14 million to develop the skills that are needed to support regional economic recovery. Alongside that, we have recently confirmed our intention to commit £500 million of capital to support the just transition of the region and Moray, to support energy transition and to create jobs and maximise their future economic potential.

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer and I welcome absolutely everything that he listed. There is an opportunity, in Covid recovery, to address a number of Government objectives. Inequity in the ability to access fast low-emissions public transport is one that has long been an issue in my constituency and the wider eastern corner of north-east Scotland.

Will the Government, in its commitment to reopen analysis of the Dyce to Ellon rail line, look at the wider societal, environmental and economic benefits of such a rail link and base its decisions on wider criteria than simply projected passenger numbers? Will it commit to working with the people in my constituency and the neighbouring constituency on the case for the line, taking into account the workforce changes since Covid and the need for the jobs market to be accessible to people in rural areas who are seeking work?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am very happy to commit the Government to engage on that basis. The strategic developments to which Gillian Martin has referred are significant in the north-east of Scotland, and they provide the opportunity to contribute to achievement of the Government’s obligations on net zero emissions. We look forward to engaging on those points, which will be the subject of further analysis as we develop the projects.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

There are a couple of supplementaries. I would welcome brief questions and succinct answers.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I met Fraserburgh Harbour Commissioners on Monday. The commissioners detailed in their master plan ambitious and exciting expansion plans, which could significantly support the north-east’s recovery from the pandemic and give even more reason to send trains up there, as well as to improve the roads. Does the Scottish Government support Fraserburgh Harbour Commissioners’ ambitions, and will the cabinet secretary back their expansion proposals?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Government engages on a range of projects around the country. Resources are challenging—I think that everybody knows that—but I certainly welcome the proposals to which Liam Kerr refers. My ministerial colleagues will be happy to engage on any proposals that come forward.

Photo of Michael Marra Michael Marra Labour

Remobilising our national health service will be critical to our Covid recovery in the north-east, and ensuring that we have the staff in place to do that will be vital.

Will the Deputy First Minister help that process by supporting the district nurses in Dundee who, three years ago, were regraded from band 6 to band 7 but have not had the process honoured by NHS Tayside? Does he agree that the situation is disgraceful, after those nurses’ selfless service during the pandemic? Will his Government intervene to ensure that the upgrading is honoured immediately?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

As Mr Marra will be aware, the issue is the responsibility of NHS Tayside to determine. The board must make decisions that are appropriate based on all the advice that is available to it. I will certainly draw Mr Marra’s representations to the attention of NHS Tayside as a consequence of our exchange today.