Severe Winter Weather (Disruption to Public Services)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 23 November 2023.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

2. To ask the Scottish Government what measures it has in place to reduce disruption to public services due to severe winter weather. (S6O-02774)

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

Under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and its regulations in Scotland, business continuity is a core responsibility of categorised responders. To support that responsibility, the Scottish Government hosts regular winter resilience meetings over the winter months, with a wide range of stakeholders. The next winter resilience meeting is on 24 November. In addition, at a local and regional level, Scottish Government officials engage directly with partners to support preparedness, including through resilience partnership. That is not limited to winter preparedness, but is part of a continual process of monitoring and assessment.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

I have a feeling that the subject of my supplementary question is not within the cabinet secretary’s portfolio, but I will ask it anyway.

Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale are mainly rural areas. Keeping the road network clear is crucial to all the services that the cabinet secretary has mentioned. How is road grit allocated to local authorities? If necessary, can a local authority access additional road clearing assistance?

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

F or brevity, the best thing that I can say is that I will, with urgency, ask the Minister for Transport to reply to Ms Grahame.

Photo of Beatrice Wishart Beatrice Wishart Liberal Democrat

There was a lessons-learned exercise after storm Arwen. Issues that have been highlighted include the digital voice programme, turning off the copper wire telephone network and the lack of resilience in the mobile phone network. Last December, Shetland had a severe weather event that caused power cuts for up to six days for some people. What engagement has the Scottish Government had with the communications sector to ensure that people are able to contact public and emergency services during such severe winter weather events?

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

Beatrice Wishart raises good points about the interaction between severe weather, communications and power outages. I have answered a number of substantial questions from colleagues on the lessons learned from storm Arwen and will forward my responses to Ms Wishart. I also reassure Ms Wishart that robust debriefing is built into our resilience arrangements because, after each and every incident, there are lessons to be learned. However, I will ensure that the member is replied to in depth.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Although I acknowledge that winter weather can disrupt public services, we are increasingly finding that heavy rainfall can disrupt public services in spring, summer, autumn and winter. There is a risk that heavy rainfall can result in the type of disruption that my constituents have experienced in the past two months, so can the justice secretary reassure Parliament that all responders are preparing for changes in climate in order to protect public services?

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

Yes, I can. We live in Scotland, where weather disturbance is all year round; resilience, therefore, is an all-year-round activity. As we all know, climate change is with us here and now, and it is one of the biggest challenges that we face here and now.