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30 June 2007

Business leaders to aid government climate change fight

A group of business leaders assembled to advise the Scottish Executive on climate change held its first meeting yesterday.

It is led by Ian Marchant, Scottish and Southern Energy chief executive. He was chosen by the outgoing Labour-LibDem administration which set up the group and he chose the other 14 members of the panel.

The group's remit is to ensure business is properly informed about the "compelling" evidence of climate change. Among the areas they will look at is cutting energy consumption and reducing staff travel emissions.

Stewart Stevenson, minister for climate change, said: "The climate change business delivery group will make a major contribution to challenging and persuading others to continually improve Scotland's response to the threats of climate change."

Members include senior figures from BAA Scotland, BT, and First ScotRail. Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "I hope that this new group will set about challenging those in the business world who think we can carry on consuming as much as we want, flying as much as we want, and polluting as much as we want."

The European Commission gave warning yesterday that recent floods in Britain are a grim warning of the need to "adapt or die".

27 June 2007

Scotland's Transport Programme

The new Scottish Government will move forward with a transport programme that will be 'ambitious, achievable and value for money', MSPs were told today.

The Government accepted a parliamentary vote to proceed with the Edinburgh Trams project within the budget limit set by the previous administration.

It also agreed to report back to Parliament in September on the governance defects identified by the Auditor General in the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link (EARL) project and to make no new financial commitment to the project in the meantime.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson used the debate to set out a programme of major transport projects which include:
  • Commitment to the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link
  • Support for the Borders Rail Link subject to funding conditions being met
  • Commitment to proceed with the Glasgow Airport Rail Link
  • Completion of the current Waverley Station improvements
  • An improved project structure to take forward work on the Stirling- Alloa- Kincardine rail line
  • A decision to begin a programme of public information exhibitions on the proposals for a bridge option close to the existing Forth road bridge and a tunnel up stream from the existing bridge for the Forth Replacement Crossing
Mr Stevenson said:

"We believe that all transport projects must be founded on sound justification, and robust business cases. We presented to parliament today a programme of investment that met those conditions. As part of this prudent approach, I announced Cabinet's decision to begin a programme of public information exhibitions on the proposals for a bridge option close to the existing Forth road bridge and a tunnel up stream from the existing bridge. A decision on the preferred option will be taken in the autumn.

"The Auditor General's report on the Trams and EARL projects utterly vindicated our decision to review these projects. The Auditor General identified issues with the projected timescales, no clear governance framework or procurement strategy in place for EARL and a funding shortfall for Trams.

"We have been asked to take significant risks with Scottish taxpayers money on 'all or nothing' projects. Despite the significant issues raised in the Auditor General's report, parliament has voted to continue work on Trams and not to make any new financial commitment to the flawed EARL project pending a report back to parliament in September.

"In accepting the decision of parliament we will continue to act prudently in the management of public money and ensure that, as far as possible, checks and balances are in place to protect taxpayers in the delivery of these risky projects."

"For roads our priorities are firstly maintaining and operating the existing network safely and efficiently. Secondly, managing demand to reduce congestion at key locations to minimise impact to the economy and finally, investing in new capacity where it has been demonstrated through robust appraisal that it is appropriate to do so."

The Minister set out the following priorities for roads:
  • A commitment to complete the M74 extension
  • To complete the missing gap in the M80 between Stirling (Stepps to Haggs)
  • A commitment to complete the key link between the M8 at Baillieston to Newhouse
  • A commitment to proceed with the delivery of the A90 Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route

21 June 2007

Work starts on Central Scotland rail link

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson today welcomed the start of advanced works on a £300 million rail link for Central Scotland.

The Airdrie to Bathgate rail link will re-open a 23 kilometre section (15 miles) between Drumgelloch station and Bathgate to provide fast public transport access between Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, West Lothian and west Edinburgh.

The Minister attended a sod cut ceremony marking the start of advanced work at North Livingston Station today.

The project is funded by Transport Scotland, on behalf of Scottish Ministers, and is being delivered on the ground by railway infrastructure company Network Rail.

The work to double-track the Bathgate to Edinburgh branch line is due to be completed by Winter 2008 and offers the early benefits of increased efficiency on an already popular commuter route.

Mr Stevenson said:

"I am delighted this work is underway. The project will open an important door of opportunity for the communities and economy in the Central Scotland corridor.

"The Airdrie-Bathgate link will open up employment and education opportunities for people living west of Edinburgh and east of Glasgow and, importantly, will provide a public transport alternative to the congested M8/A8 route."

Among the wider benefits associated with the project are increased social inclusion for people without private cars, improved accessibility and increased attractiveness of the area for inward business investment

The scheme will also stimulate potential new housing developments within areas to be served by the railway.

It is expected the finished Airdrie-Bathgate link will be complete in Winter 2010.

For further details of the Airdrie to Bathgate railway project see http://www.airdriebathgateraillink.co.uk/.

Stevenson Welcomes Campaign To Urge Diabetics To Take Care Of Eyes

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed a new campaign launched by Health Cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon aimed at encouraging diabetics to take up free regular sight tests.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among people of working age and the campaign by Diabetes UK Scotland and RNIB aims to raise awareness of the importance of annual screening. Figures show that of the 173,000 people with diabetes in Scotland, 55,000 have not been screened for the eye condition in the past 15 months.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

"Diabetes is a condition which affects many people in Banff & Buchan and thousands across Scotland and can have a debilitating effect on lives if not treated properly.

"It is very important that people with diabetes manage their condition properly and regular screening for diabetic retinopathy is an essential part of this.

"I hope that this campaign will raise awareness of the excellent care and screening programmes available for people living with diabetes and in turn reduce the number of people losing their sight needlessly."

14 June 2007

Stevenson Welcomes Cabinet Secretary's Support For Subsidy Appeals Reform

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the statement from Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead on subsidy appeals reform in response to a Parliamentary Question.

It was after meeting with NFUS members at New Deer Agricultural Show last summer that SNP leader Alex Salmond pledged to introduce a truly independent panel to deal with appeals to SEERAD as part of an SNP administration in Holyrood after May's elections.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

"Parliamentary answers I received recently revealed that nearly 700 Single Farm Payment claimants in 2005 and 2006 had penalties totalling over £1¼ million applied to their claims due to errors found within the completed forms.

"In the context of overall number of claimants, this is not a large number but it is still far too high and I believe more could be done to address this at an earlier stage in the process.

"Failing that however, an independent appeals panel is crucial to ensure fairness and transparency so I very much welcome Richard Lochhead's commitment to reforming that procedure."

Note:

Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead's answer to a recent Parliamentary Question reaffirmed the SNP's commitment to reform the appeals process for agricultural subsidies. He stated:

"We shall be having early discussions with key stakeholders on general issues surrounding the implementation of the common agricultural policy. We shall also be undertaking a review of the EU agricultural subsidies appeals procedure."

13 June 2007

Banff Pastor To Lead Parliament's 'Time for Reflection'

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson will welcome Pastor Norman Hill, Riverside Christian Church, Banff to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 20 June where he will lead the Parliament in ‘Time for Reflection’.

‘Time for Reflection’ is held in the Chamber every Wednesday and Thursday during parliamentary sessions. It gives representatives from various faith groups, churches, and people of no religious affiliation the opportunity to lead the Parliament in reflection before the commencement of Chamber Business.

Commenting Mr. Stevenson said;

“I am extremely pleased to welcome Pastor Hill to the Scottish Parliament and delighted that he will have the opportunity to lead the Parliament in ‘Time for Reflection’.

“Representatives of various churches and faith groups from Banff & Buchan have spoken before the Chamber in ‘Time for Reflection’ on numerous occasions in the past and I am delighted to see this trend continuing in the third session of the Scottish Parliament.

“I hope I will be able to welcome other Pastors and faith leaders from the constituency to lead prayers before the Parliament in the near future.”

Stevenson Welcomes SNP Commitment To End Graduate Endowment

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the proposal by Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop to scrap the Graduate Endowment scheme.

Mr Stevenson said:

"The graduate endowment scheme was always a fudge, introduced by the Lib-Lab coalition in 2001 to replace the highly unpopular tuition fees.

"It was introduced as part of a system of student support based on the principles of the Cubie committee: student support should promote social inclusion, barriers to widening access and participation should be removed. It is a policy that has failed to deliver those aims.

"The SNP want to see Scottish Education return to the principle that it is an individual's ability to learn, not their ability to pay, that dictates their educational achievement.

"Not only is the graduate endowment unreasonable, at a time when we need to invest in our most important resource, our people, it is also singularly inefficient as a method of raising money.

"I hope that our proposal will gain support, particularly from the Lib-Dems, who were always keen to peddle the half-truth that tuition fees had been abolished, when, in reality, the graduate endowment meant they were simply deferred.

"I regard this is a positive step forward for Scotland and the removal of a barrier to young people achieving their full potential. It also demonstrates the SNP's commitment to a thriving higher education sector, which us particularly relevant in this region given the need for the Crichton to continue to flourish and expand."

Key rural roads to benefit from major investment

Schemes worth a combined total of £32 million get underway today to improve two vital links for the communities and businesses in the north west and south west of Scotland.

A £22.8 million scheme will upgrade the last remaining section of single track trunk road in the country by turning a 7.7km section of the A830 in the West Highlands into two-lane status.

Transport Scotland will also invest £9.2 million into Dumfries and Galloway's infrastructure by widening the A75 at three sections along the 159 km trunk road to provide safe overtaking opportunities.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said: "The importance of both trunk roads to the communities and businesses they serve can not be underestimated. The A830 provides a lifeline connection for the rural West Highlands and this investment will give the region a stronger economic link for the future.

“The A75 plays a valuable role in the south west, linking South Ayrshire with Dumfries and Galloway and work there will safely improve traffic flow and improve connections.

“But both roads are also important nationally, playing a valuable role in Scotland’s transport network and providing links to ferry connections. I am delighted that work gets underway today.”

The section of the A830 in the North West stretches from Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh and forms part of the ‘Road to the Isles’ that links Fort William to Mallaig.

The project will significantly improve safety, traffic flow and journey times and result in better links with Mallaig’s ferry connections to Skye. It will also strengthen connections for the area’s businesses and the tourist industry which is so vital to the regional economy.

The A75 work will also improve safety and traffic flow by allowing faster moving vehicles to overtake platoons of slower vehicles - reducing driver frustration and improving journey times.

A 875m section of the South West route at Barfil to Bettyknowes will have overtaking opportunities provided and the road alignment improved. A 375m section of road at Newton Stewart will also be widened with a cycle route provided to take cyclists away from the trunk road, through Newton Stewart. And from Planting End to Drumflower a 1km stretch will be widened to allow overtaking with alignment also being improved.

Both the Barfil to Bettyknowes and Planting End to Drumflower schemes will also include the provision of safe crossing points for pedestrians and cyclists.

The A75 links South Ayrshire with Dumfries and Galloway through Stranraer, Dumfries and Gretna. It connects ferry terminals at Stranraer with the M74 and A77.

Contractor Graham Construction will deliver the A75 works that will be complete in spring 2008. The contractor for the A830 work is Morrison Construction and this scheme will be complete in early 2009.

Traffic management will be required to allow work to be safely delivered on both schemes and this will result in a level disruption to road users. Drivers are urged to plan their journeys accordingly.

Notes:

1) Transport Scotland is the national transport agency responsible for trunk roads, rail and national concessionary travel. It is an Executive agency directly accountable to Scottish Ministers and came into effect on 1 January 2006. For further information visit www.transportscotland.gov.uk

2) To consider public transport options visit www.travelinescotland.com or www.transportdirect.info

3) The value of the Arisaig work is £22.8 million with £3 million coming from European funding and the remainder being funded by Transport Scotland.

12 June 2007

Road accident figures 'disappointing'

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson today expressed disappointment at road accident statistics for Scotland which show a ten per cent rise in fatalities.

Figures published today show that 314 people died on Scotland's roads in 2006, a 10 per cent rise from 2005, including 14 more child fatalities.

In response, the Minister announced:
  • He will be bringing together an expert panel from across Scotland and beyond to advise on additional road safety measures
  • That this will form part of a new 10-year strategy to improve road safety in Scotland
Mr Stevenson said:

"For each affected family, this will have been traumatic. For Scotland, each fatality is one too many. So today's statistics are more than a mere disappointment.

"I hope today's statistics will be a wake up call to drivers who take unnecessary risks and to those who put lives in danger. But we can all do more to make our roads safer.

"That is why I will be bringing together experts from across Scotland to form part of a new ten year strategy to improve road safety across the country.

"We must ingrain a deeper understanding of road safety and develop a more responsible attitude among young people. We have the chance to shape their behaviour before they even step into a vehicle.

A primary school educational resource for younger children is also being rolled out.

Mr Stevenson added:

"A road safety resource "Streetsense 2" will be provided to every primary school in Scotland as part of the effort to educate people of all ages on road safety.

"Streetsense will help give younger primary school children vital understanding of the dangers of the road - the importance of which has been brought home to all of us with today's worrying child fatality stats."

The provisional total number of people killed in road accidents in Scotland in 2006 was 314: 28 (10 per cent) more than in 2005. This figure is the fifth lowest since current records began more than fifty years ago and although there have been rises in some years, the general trend in road accidents fatalities has been downward. The previous year's statistics showed the lowest fatality rate for more than 50 years.

Today's statistics also show falls in the number of people who were seriously injured and in the number slightly injured.

However, the figures show that there were 25 child fatalities in 2006, 14 more than in 2005.

The Minister will bring together experts from across Scotland and beyond - the police, advanced driving experts, road safety organisations, the Children's Commissioner, youth groups and others - to advise on what more could be done and identify options to provide greater protection for drivers.

This will help to inform a new 10 year strategy for road safety in Scotland.

Streetsense is an educational resource for teachers to allow them to teach road safety to young children. It was developed by Road Safety Scotland and includes: Separate booklets which progress through different levels, suggested lesson plans, pupil worksheets, suggested answer sheets, parent/guardian information and task sheets, written assessments with answers, activity record sheets, glossary, word flashcards, curricular links, summary of activities, teachers' notes, Gym Cards, Audio CD's, photographs, posters, and leaflets. Copies will now be made available to every primary school in Scotland. It will help teach children from an early age about keeping safe when using the roads.

The Scottish Executive is funding a six month pilot scheme in the Grampian Police area, aimed at increasing take up of the Pass Plus post test driver training scheme. Pass Plus provides training on elements of driving not covered in the driving test, including driving in town, on rural roads, at night, in all weathers, an dual carriageways and on motorways. The Executive is paying £75 towards the cost of the training in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray Council areas, in addition to grants offered by the Councils themselves.

Road Safety Scotland is implementing a strategy for road safety education which aims to ensure that children receive a minimum amount of road safety education covering all stages of their formal education, from pre-school to upper secondary school. Road Safety Scotland oversees the Children's Traffic Club in Scotland, which offers road safety training to all 3 year old children in Scotland. Membership of the Club is free with Executive funding.

Crash Magnets, a resource for upper secondary pupils, developed by Road Safety Scotland, is aimed at encouraging responsible attitudes to driving and being a passenger in cars before young people get behind the wheel. It covers issues such as speeding, drink and drug driving, mobile phone use and seat belt usage.

11 June 2007

News banner home › news › news details Multi-million pound project starts 11 June

Work starts today on a £22.8 million scheme to open up a key economic and community lifeline for the West Highlands.

The Transport Scotland investment will see a 7.7km section of the A830 - the last remaining section of single track trunk road on this route - upgraded to two lane status.

The section of road stretches from Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh and forms part of the ‘Road to the Isles’ that links Fort William to Mallaig.

Overall the project will significantly improve safety, traffic flow and journey times and result in better links with Mallaig’s ferry connections to Skye. It will also strengthen connections for the area’s businesses and the tourist industry which is so vital to the regional economy.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"The A830 is a vital link in Scotland's transport network, providing a lifeline connection for rural West Highland communities and a key economic link for the fishing village of Mallaig and other businesses in the area.

"This multi-million pound investment is an important part of our aim to have a more efficient road network and I am delighted work is getting underway to make the A830 a safer and better route that will help build stronger communities."

Traffic management will be required to allow the work to be safely delivered and this will result in disruption to road users. Close liaison with the community, council and police will take place regarding the traffic management.

Contractor Morrison Construction will begin work on site today and the project will be completed early in 2009.

A75 improvements get underway

Transport Scotland will invest £9.2 million into Dumfries and Galloway's infrastructure by widening the A75 at three sections along the 159 km trunk road to provide safe overtaking opportunities.

A 875m section at Barfil to Bettyknowes will have overtaking opportunities provided and the road alignment improved.

A 375m section of road at Newton Stewart will also be widened with a cycle route provided to take cyclists away from the trunk road, through Newton Stewart.

And from Planting End to Drumflower a 1km stretch will be widened to allow overtaking with alignment also being improved.

Overall the work will improve safety and traffic flow by allowing faster moving vehicles to overtake platoons of slower vehicles - reducing driver frustration and improving road safety and journey times.

Both the Barfil to Bettyknowes and Planting End to Drumflower schemes will also provide safe crossing points for pedestrians and cyclists.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"The A75 is a vital link in Scotland's transport network. This project will bring benefits for communities and businesses across the South West by safely improving traffic flow and improving connections.

"This multi-million pound investment is a key part of our aim to have a more efficient road network and I am delighted work is getting underway to make the A75 a safer route that will help build stronger communities."

The A75 links South Ayrshire with Dumfries and Galloway through Stranraer, Dumfries and Gretna, carrying around 10,000 vehicles a day. It also connects ferry terminals at Stranraer with the M74 and A77.

Single lane working with a reduced speed of 40mph will be required to allow work to take place safely. Contractor Graham Construction will start work today and the programme will be delivered until spring 2008.

1 June 2007

Stevenson Presents Seaside Award At Inverboyndie

Stevenson Presents Seaside Award At Inverboyndie

Minister for Transport Infrastructure and Climate Change Stewart Stevenson MSP has today (Friday) presented the Keep Scotland Beautiful Seaside Award Flag to Andy Hickling, Aberdeenshire Council at Inverboyndie Beach, Banff. 

Mr. Stevenson was invited to present the award by the awarding body, Keep Scotland Beautiful, as part of a scheme designed to improve community beach environments.  The scheme awards beaches based on their cleanliness standards, water quality, management, information and facilities.

Speaking after presenting the award Mr. Stevenson said;

                "I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to present this award to Inverboyndie Beach.  It is a major achievement and one which is well deserved as the beach has maintained excellent standards over the years making it one of the boasts of our area.

                "This award comes as a result of the combined efforts of Aberdeenshire Council, the East Grampian Coastal Partnership and the hard work of local people to improve bathing water quality, facilities and information services, and to control litter and advance safety measures.  This is a clear sign that Banff & Buchan's communities take pride in the beauty of their local beaches.       

                "Banff & Buchan has been honoured with two Seaside Awards for Inverboyndie Beach and Cruden Bay.  This comes as a major boost to our area, ensuring high standards for the future and enhancing one of our area's foremost tourist attractions."

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