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27 April 2010

Scotland 'back to normal'

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson today thanked travel operators for helping thousands of Scots get home following the recent closures of Europe's airspace due to the volcanic ash cloud.

Additional capacity for around 7,000 more train passengers was provided each day on both First ScotRail and cross-border rail services during the disruption, while bus operators have carried more than 9,000 extra passengers.

Ferry operators also responded to increased demand, including Northlink, which agreed with the Scottish Government to despatch the MV Hamnavoe to Norway to bring 157 stranded British nationals, including 17 children and 4 infants, to Aberdeen.

The Homecoming Helpline, set up by the Scottish Government last week to provide travel, visa, health and other advice to Scots stranded abroad, received more than 2,100 calls, with over 700 taken by call handlers for more detailed assistance.

At this morning's eleventh meeting of the Cabinet sub-committee of SGoRR (Scottish Government Resilience Room), it was decided to move to a 'stand-by' mode, with no further daily ministerial meetings scheduled but remaining ready to put contingency measures in place in the event of future disruption.

Mr Stevenson said:

"The SGoRR Cabinet sub-committee met today for the eleventh time during this incident. We received updates from the various agencies monitoring and responding to the impact of the volcanic ash cloud that closed much of Europe's airspace at different points over the last two weeks. Clearly, as the plume coming from the volcano and the seismic activity continues, the monitoring will go on at regular intervals.

"With thousands of Scots having now returned home following the initial airspace closure, demand for extra land and sea travel capacity has subsided and normal services have resumed across all transport modes. I want to thank all of those operators who moved quickly to lay on additional bus, train and ferry services to help Scots return home.

"At today's meeting we agreed to schedule no further daily ministerial meetings of SGoRR, while of course we remain ready to put our tried and tested contingency measures in place in the event of future disruption.

"Officials from Scottish Resilience and our other Directorates are continuing to liaise closely with the Met Office, National Air Traffic Service (NATS) and other key agencies to ensure that should the ash cloud return, we remain ready to invoke the arrangements that have worked so successfully over the past fortnight."

26 April 2010

Bids sought for vital South West Scotland road project

Construction companies are being offered the opportunity to bid for a multi-million pound A77 carriageway widening project that will deliver improvements on this vital route to the Stranraer and Cairnryan ferry ports.

The tender notice for the A77 Parkend to Bennane upgrade, issued today, is the first stage in the procurement process for this vital south-west Scotland scheme.

Stewart Stevenson, Transport Minister said:

“Following our announcement just last week regarding £76 million of funding to support employment and boost Scotland's economy, we have moved swiftly to deliver this key project milestone.

“It is vital that visitors – both commercial and tourists – see that Scotland is open for business and greater access to and from our ports at Stranraer and Cairnryan will bring significant benefits.

“Ensuring better traffic flow is a key part of this, and today is another step forward in our work to upgrade the A77. With £29 million of investment already delivered on the A77 and the A75, and a further £60 million committed in our current programme, we can ensure the long term sustainable economic growth of both businesses and communities across south west Scotland.”

The upgrade includes the creation over 2.5 miles of overtaking opportunities on the A77 north of Ballantrae and will significantly improve traffic flow on this key south west route connecting the ports with the central belt.

When completed, the Scheme will support businesses, communities and tourism throughout Scotland by improving the access to and from the ports of Stranraer and Cairnryan by providing additional guaranteed overtaking opportunities in both directions and reducing journey times and the number of convoys from ferry traffic.

The tender process is expected to be completed by autumn 2010 and it is anticipated work can start on site soon after for an expected opening in spring 2011. Advance works will be carried out later this year.

The 86 mile long A77 is a main link for south west communities and businesses, and this section of the route carries up to 3000 vehicles a day.

Ongoing A77 schemes include:
  • A77 Park End – Benane: this scheme is programmed to start in 2010/11, and is anticipated to be completed in 2011/12
  • A77 Burnside Improvement: Draft Road Orders for this scheme are to be published 2 March 2010. Draft Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO’s) are to follow 3 weeks later, and subject to any objections received and the completion of statutory procedures construction is programmed to commence towards the end of Financial Year 2010/11 with anticipated construction completion by the end of Financial Year 2011/12
  • A77 Drummuckloch – Innermessan: Draft orders were published in March 2010; and subject to the completion of statutory procedures the scheme is programmed to start in 2010/11, with an anticipated construction completion in 2011/12
  • A77 Ardwell – Slockenray: Draft orders are currently programmed to be published in 2010; and subject to the completion of statutory procedures the scheme is programmed to start in 2010/11, with an anticipated construction completion in 2011/12
  • A77 Symington and Bogend Toll: Scheme is currently waiting the outcome of the Public Local Inquiry and is programmed to start in 2010/11, with an anticipated construction completion in 2011/12.

23 April 2010

Bids sought for A9 dualling project

A multi million pound project that will deliver an additional length of dual carriageway on the A9 at Crubenmore took a significant step forward today with the publication of the tender notice.

The issue of this notice is the first stage in the procurement process for this vital road improvement scheme.

The project includes the construction of almost two miles of dual carriageway and will provide improved overtaking opportunities on the A9 to the north of Crubenmore. The works will also significantly improve traffic flow on this key route connecting central Scotland to the Highlands.

Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson said:

“Following our announcement just last week regarding £76 million of funding to support employment and boost Scotland's economy, we have moved swiftly to deliver this key project milestone.

“The project is a further example of our commitment to dualling the A9 on a progressive basis. This investment will bring significant benefits to commercial and tourist traffic through more reliable journey times to and from the north“

The tender process is expected to be completed by Autumn 2010 and it is anticipated work can start on site soon thereafter, with an expected completion in late 2011. Some advance works may be carried out later this year.

When completed, the Scheme will support businesses, communities and tourism throughout Scotland by improving the access to and from Inverness and the Highlands, giving additional guaranteed overtaking opportunities in both directions and reducing both journey times and the number of convoy incidences.

Other A9 projects are progressing as follows:
  • A9 Moy - the £2.3m project, currently under construction, will deliver 1.06 km of a new northbound overtaking lane, with associated drainage, surfacing and safety fencing improvements. The scheme is expected to last approximately 12 weeks
  • £9.5m (estimated) Kincraig to Dalraddy (Made Road Orders & Compulsory Purchase Orders published October 2009)
  • £8.5m (estimated) Crubenmore (Made Road Orders, Compulsory Purchase Orders published November 2009)
  • £4.2m (estimated) Slochd (Draft Road Orders to be published by end of financial year 09/10 followed by Compulsory Purchase Order)
  • £2.7m Carrbridge (completed and opened in June 2009)
  • £2.7m Bankfoot (completed and opened in August 2009)
  • £15m Ballinluig (completed and opened in May 2008)

22 April 2010

Stranded passengers arrive home

A ferry carrying 157 travellers including 17 children and four infants stranded in Scandinavia by the volcanic activity in Iceland arrived safely back in Scotland at noon today.

The MV Hamnavoe, a ferry operated by NorthLink Ferries between Orkney and the Scottish mainland, was diverted to Bergen late on Tuesday to pick up passengers who had been advised to make their way to the Norwegian port from where they could be ensured safe passage back to Scotland.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"This has been a successful operation which was launched to alleviate the growing problem of airline passengers stranded by the ash cloud over Europe.

"The co-operation of NorthLink and Orkney Islands Council has resulted in 157 people returning safely back to Scotland to continue their onward journeys. I would like to thank the Master and crew of the MV Hamnavoe and NorthLink's shore staff for their efforts over the past couple of days, along with all those who have helped with this operation. I would also like to extend those thanks to all our transport operators who have worked tirelessly over this difficult period in getting the country moving again."

The MV Hamnavoe will be leaving Aberdeen at 17.00 this afternoon to arrive at Stromness at midnight. It will then go back into normal service. Additional freight services have been scheduled while the ferry has been travelling to and from Bergen.

Pentland Ferries has been operating its normal service during this period connecting Orkney with the mainland.

All NorthLink services will be back to normal at the weekend, with the annual drydock period now coming to an end and the MV Hjatland coming back into service.

21 April 2010

Tackling climate change

The Scottish Government has today laid regulations which will build further on its Climate Change Act and its target of reducing carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020.

The laying of the regulations demonstrates ongoing work in meeting the challenges and opportunities posed by climate change.

Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Climate Change, said:

"The advice from the Committee on Climate Change, the independent body established to advise government on setting carbon reduction targets, considers issues of both great importance and complexity and it was important that the Scottish Government had sufficient time to reflect upon it. We know that the challenge required to deliver our ambitious targets is a serious one. Everyone from Government, business, industry and individuals will need to play their part in helping to ensure that Scotland is at the forefront of a low carbon economy.

"Naturally, we will continue our efforts to influence the EU and international community to increase their ambition. We will continue to do that directly, through our work with the Climate Group's States and Regions Alliance, and closer to home, with our partners in the UK Government."

Under the terms of the Act, Ministers were allowed to vary by order the interim target of a 42 per cent reduction in emissions based on expert advice from the Committee on Climate Change. The Committee on Climate Change has confirmed that the 42 per cent target represents an appropriate contribution to global emissions reductions in 2020 and would put Scotland on the path to meeting the target of an 80 per cent reduction by 2050. On that basis, Scottish Ministers will retain the ambitious 42 per cent target.

Progress on the target will be mapped by a series of annual targets, with the first batch, covering the period 2010-2022, having to be set by June 1 this year. The targets in the draft order laid today are set at the levels suggested by the Committee on Climate Change with the exception of those for 2011 and 2012. Rather than being set flat as the Committee on Climate Change had suggested, those targets will require that emissions fall by 0.5 per cent year-on-year. Annual targets to cover 2023-2027 must be set by October 31, 2011, and further batches set every five years thereafter.

As part of the process, today - under the provisions of the Climate Change Act - four draft Scottish Statutory Instruments were laid in Parliament for approval. They cover:

  • Setting annual targets for 2010-22
  • Setting a limit on the use of carbon credits for 2010-12
  • Allocating a share of international aviation and shipping emissions to Scotland
  • Carbon accounting regulations which will set out the circumstances in which carbon credits can be used
Mr Stevenson said:

"We know that legislation alone won't deliver the targets. It needs to be translated into real changes in everyday actions: by businesses; the public sector; voluntary and community groups and individuals. Better public understanding is essential if people are to be motivated to act.

"The Scottish Government, its agencies and its non-government partners will need to work together to explain what's needed and to incentivise action. Alongside that, action is needed to reduce the emissions from transport, housing, business, land management and other sources. The nation must also become better informed consumers. The public sector is a substantial purchaser in its own right and can encourage the development of greener goods and services. Scotland's schools, colleges and universities must also work alongside the business sector to increase public awareness and to research and develop innovative solutions and technologies.

"Reducing emissions by at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels over the next 40 years will require a radical change in the way in which society uses its energy and land. Some sectors will find it more difficult to reduce emissions by this extent without unacceptable changes in Scotland's social fabric or significant changes to consumer behaviour; that may mean other sectors will need to go further."

The Committee on Climate Change provided advice on the level of Scotland's targets and related matters on 24 February.

Ministers are also required to publish a report setting out how they will achieve emissions reductions. The report will be published in September. A public engagement strategy is currently being developed for publication by end of 2010.

20 April 2010

Ferry mission to bring stranded home

A ferry is tonight on its way to Norway to pick up more than 200 travellers unable to get home due to flight restrictions.

The MV Hamnavoe, which has a capacity of 600 passengers and usually operates between Scrabster, Caithness and Stromness in Orkney, has been diverted to Bergen to collect around 200 people who have already come forward to be picked up.

The Scottish Government took the decision following discussion with Orkney Islands Council and ferry operators Northlink Ferries. The journey is expected to take 18 hours, with passengers due to arrive back in Aberdeen late Thursday.

Homecoming Helpline
0800 027 0504
From overseas + 44 800 027 0504

Foreign and Commonwealth Office helpline
0207 008 0000
From overseas +44 207 008 0000


Pentland Ferries will continue to operate a passenger and freight service over the Pentland Firth between St Margaret's Hope and Gill's Bay. Additional freight services between Aberdeen and Kirkwall will also operate.

The decision to uplift stranded airline passengers from Scandinavia came after another day of disruption to flights to and from Scotland's airports, but with a window of opportunity which airports have been able to benefit from.

A meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Cabinet sub-committee (SGoRR) this morning heard that the significant decrease in volcanic activity in Iceland could lead to further windows of opportunity over the course of this week. MV Hamnavoe

Following the meeting, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson visited staff at the Scottish Government's Homecoming Helpline, launched this morning in order to offer advice to travellers and their families affected by the disruption to air travel caused by the volcanic ash cloud. Operators dealt with 35 calls in the first 15 minutes after the line opened.

Meanwhile, less than two per cent of pupils were reported as absent due to the flight restrictions. There are no school closures and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) is adequately prepared to deal with any disruption even if the situation continues into next week when National Examinations are due to commence on April 28.

Speaking after meeting helpline staff, Mr Stevenson said:

"The Scottish Government will continue to do everything it can to help individuals and businesses adversely affected by the situation. Those stranded in Norway and elsewhere who are now in Bergen are coming home thanks to action taken in partnership by this government, Orkney Islands Council and the ferry operators.

"For those waiting to return home or wanting to know how their travel plans have been affected, and wanting information to pass onto loved ones, our Homecoming helpline staff have been on hand to offer advice and are providing information all day and will continue to do so until the situation is resolved.

"It is thanks to the hard work of education staff across Scotland that not a single school has had to close. Officials will endeavour to keep head teachers, pupils and parents fully informed while SQA will ensure that any necessary contingency plans are in place so that no candidates are disadvantaged once exams begin next week.

"Information coming from the Met Office at present is positive and we are hopeful that our airports can reopen during windows of opportunity in the coming days. However, in the meantime, we will continue to do everything in our power to limit the impact and keep Scotland moving."

Stephen Hagan, Convener of Orkney Islands Council, said:

"We acknowledge the need for us to play our part in the Scottish Government's efforts to ensure that people who are stranded abroad can be brought back home.

"These are exceptional circumstances and it's important that local authorities and communities work together with government to come to quick solutions to an immediate problem."

For those interested in booking the service, go to www.Northlinkferries.co.uk Tel 0845 6000449

Ongoing analysis of dust samples by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) demonstrates no risk at present to human health - health experts advise those with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, to keep medication to hand when outdoors.

Continuous environmental monitoring will be ongoing, using information from the network of 75 air monitoring sites and 25 radioactivity monitoring sites across Scotland.

The Scottish Air Quality Database contains the most up-to-date continuous ambient monitoring information across Scotland. Members of the public can access this information at www.scottishairquality.co.uk. All concentrations have remained low at all monitoring sites across Scotland.

Stevenson Hails Renewables Jobs Boost For Peterhead

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has warmly welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement that Peterhead is to benefit from just under £1.5 million of European Regional Development Funding (ERDF). The money will be used to support the construction of a new facility for renewables infrastructure at Peterhead Harbour and help create 50 new jobs.

Peterhead was recently named by Scottish Enterprise as one of Scotland’s key planned infrastructure hubs for the offshore renewable industry and this development will form an important part of creating that. It will form part of the wider Energetica project, an ambitious public-private partnership being driven by Scottish Enterprise on behalf of Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future to position the North East as the next generation global energy hub.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“This is fantastic news for Peterhead and the surrounding area and is a significant step towards putting Banff & Buchan at the centre of Scotland’s rapidly growing offshore renewables industry.

“Scotland has 25% of Europe’s offshore wind and wave potential and 10% of its offshore tidal energy potential. Nobody should be in any doubt about the vast economic benefits that we have the opportunity to secure.

“The jobs that this funding will create are a tremendous boost to the local economy, and I am delighted that the SNP Government has again delivered for people in Banff & Buchan. It is a substantial sum of money which will help to attract more businesses to Peterhead and see the area’s economy grow significantly.”

Stevenson Welcomes Start Of Scottish Boiler Scrappage Scheme

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has welcomed the start of the Scottish Government’s £2 million boiler scrappage scheme which will see up to 5,000 households receive £400 towards the cost of a new boiler. Households with poorly performing boilers (G rated) will benefit from the scheme which will reduce their household bills and save around 5,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of taking 1,700 cards off Scotland’s roads.

The boiler scrappage scheme will be run through the Energy Saving Scotland advice network, which provides advice on energy efficiency, renewables and sustainable transport for people across Scotland, and can be contacted on 0800 512 012.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“The Scottish Government made a commitment to introduce a boiler scrappage scheme in the 2010/11 financial year and I am delighted that this commitment is now being met. Replacing an inefficient boiler can be a significant expense, and it is excellent news that help is now available with these upgrade costs.

“People who benefit can expect to save around £190 on fuel costs, something that will be particularly welcome in the current economic climate. It will help reduce fuel poverty in Scotland and ensure that people can afford to keep their homes warm.

“The scheme will also help create business and will of course help play a part in reducing carbon emissions. It is good news for Banff & Buchan and I encourage people with inefficient boilers to contact Energy Savings Scotland to see if they can apply for the funds to replace their systems.”

19 April 2010

Stevenson Condemns UK Government's Lack Of Respect For Fishing Industry

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has hit out at the UK Government’s decision to send an unelected member of the House of Lords with no background in fisheries to important discussions on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy, instead of the Scottish Government’s Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead. With the Westminster election preventing ministers from DEFRA attending, Mr Lochhead had offered to step in and ensure that the voice of the fishing industry is heard.

In 2008, the House of Lords published a report proposing to address a Europe wide over-capacity in fishing fleets by using high fuel prices to drive UK fishing vessels out of business.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“I find it truly bizarre that the UK Government have not taken up the offer of sending an experienced fisheries minister to these talks. Around 70% of the UK’s fishing industry is located in Scotland and Richard Lochhead would have been the logical person to represent the industry’s needs.

“They have instead chosen to send an unelected and unaccountable member of a body which recommended letting Scotland’s fishing industry be destroyed in order to address the failure of other EU nations to reduce their fishing fleets. If that is their idea of standing up for the fishing industry, then it is truly staggering.

“The SNP Government understands the importance of the fishing industry and is committed to fighting for its future. It is infuriating that the UK Government clearly does not understand and does not care when it comes to the needs of people in the fishing industry.”

16 April 2010

Funding to take freight off roads

More than one million lorry miles will be cut from Scotland's roads following Scottish Government funding to reduce emissions.

A Freight Facilities Grant of £3.2 million has been allocated to Montrose Port Authority to construct a new deep water berth which will enable additional shipping services to be operated between Scotland, England and mainland Europe. A range of local agricultural, commercial and oil related businesses have already signed up to use the new facility and transfer their freight from road to water.

The Royal Bank of Scotland is also providing £5 million to support to the project.

On a visit to Montrose Port, Transport Infrastructure and Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"This significant investment will enable the Port Authority to upgrade the facility and allow local businesses to switch freight from road to water. In taking more than one million lorry miles off our roads every year - equivalent to almost 130 lorry journeys a week - this project will cut emissions and noise and boost local tourism by removing lorries from scenic routes.

"We are committed to getting more freight off Scotland's roads and onto water and rail. Initiatives such as this can make an important contribution towards achieving our 2020 target to reduce emissions by 42 per cent and I would encourage more Scottish businesses to think about their freight priorities and how these impact upon the environment. The freight industry can play its part by taking advantage of our grant schemes and moving more freight away from the roads."

The Scottish Government is providing £ 3,235,570 of Freight Facilities Grant support to Montrose Port Authority for a new 220 metre deep water berth which will enable it to transfer freight by water which would otherwise be transported by road.

This project will generate more than £6.6 million of environmental benefits over eight years.

Montrose Port Authority is a Trust Port and, in 2003, a large section of quay on the south side collapsed into the river, reducing capacity and hampering further development. The authority is taking forward an £8.5 million project to reconstruct the quay.

Agriculture and oil related businesses already committed to using the new facilities include, Carrs Fertilisers, John Lawrie (Aberdeen) Ltd, Reid Fertilisers, Openfield and Schlumberger.

Orkney and Shetland ferries

Efficiency measures proposed for the NorthLink ferry services to Orkney and Shetland have been postponed while the Scottish Government and the ferry company work to seek alternative ways to make £1 million in expenditure savings this year.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson
said:

"The Scottish Government is responding positively to the very real challenges on public spending which are facing us. We are taking decisions which will allow us to maintain the efficient ferry services which the public currently enjoy.

"We are committed to ensuring all remote and fragile communities are linked into the wider Scottish economy and we are working with NorthLink to identify areas where efficiencies can be made while still providing the lifeline services the Northern Isles expects."

A timetable change to NorthLink's Aberdeen to Orkney and Shetland routes was originally proposed to ensure more fuel efficient running. This would have involved ferries running on two engines instead of four for the length of the journey and an increase in journey times. A revision to the current timetable with precise details to be finalised was proposed.

After consultation with stakeholders, the Island Councils and local communities, Ministers have now decided that any change will be postponed until autumn while discussions continue with NorthLink about alternative opportunities for efficiencies.

Ministers have asked NorthLink in particular to look at efficiencies on the winter services when there is a large amount of unused passenger capacity on the Aberdeen-Lerwick route.

The Scottish Government is providing record levels of support to Scotland's lifeline ferry services, some £103.1 million in the current financial year and some £105.0m in the next financial year. These compare to a figure of some £91.4 million in 2006-07.

12 April 2010

£5 million improvement to port route moves forward

A major investment for a key route to port has taken a step forward with the publication of draft orders for the £5 million A77 Drummuckloch to Innermessan scheme.

The upgrade will improve traffic flow on the A77 south of Port Loch Ryan, one of the south west’s key routes providing connections from Stranraer to the central belt.

The orders mark the formal start of the statutory process for this scheme which will provide safe overtaking opportunities over a one and a half mile stretch of this vital route.

Stewart Stevenson, Transport Minister, said:

“Earlier this year plans were announced relocate the Stena ferry port to Cairnryan. This move makes the Scottish Government’s continued investment in the A77 and the A75 all the more important.

“Ensuring better traffic flow is a key part of this, and today is another step forward in our work to upgrade the A77. With £29 million of investment already delivered on these routes and a further £60 million committed in our current programme, we can ensure the long term sustainable economic growth of both businesses and communities across south west Scotland.”

The M77/A77 is a key strategic route between Glasgow and south west communities and businesses. It serves the ferry ports to Northern Ireland and Prestwick International Airport as well as the regional centres of Stranraer, Ayr, Prestwick, Troon and Kilmarnock.

9 April 2010

Improving buildings standards

A new certification mark to recognise high standards throughout the construction industry has been launched by the Scottish Government.

The Approved Certifier Registration Mark will be used by building professionals and tradespeople across Scotland as a sign of their competence, experience and compliance with building standards.

Scotland has several Government approved certification schemes which recognise the skills and expertise of building professionals. Each approved scheme will use the new mark as a universal badge of quality. Members of each scheme - also known as Approved Certifiers - will be permitted to align the new registration mark with their business.

Infrastructure Minister Stewart Stevenson said that the mark will help members of the public to confidently select building professionals who are officially recognised as experienced, well-trained and competent. Its use will raise the profile of Approved Certifiers, encourage the uptake of certification services and improve compliance with building standards across the industry.

Mr Stevenson said:

"The Scottish Government strongly supports the development of certification schemes and recognises the important contribution made by Approved Certifiers to raise compliance with building standards, make buildings safer and protect the public.

"The launch of this certification mark is an innovative step forward. The use of a single identity for all scheme members will generate respect and trust between clients and building professionals. Its use will provide reassurance to the public, boost competence and high standards in Scotland's building industry, and further demonstrate the government's commitment to the construction of sustainable and safer buildings."

Speaking on behalf of all certification scheme providers, Newell McGuiness, Managing Director of SELECT said:

"Earning the right to use the Scottish Government Approved Certifier Registration Mark is recognition of the important role Approved Certifiers play in raising compliance with building standards in Scotland.

"As building standards develop and become more demanding, so too will the role of Approved Certifiers. Scheme providers are committed to providing training of the highest quality to ensure that technical knowledge and professional expertise of their members keeps apace with these future developments. This will give assurance to householders and other clients that work is being done by suitably qualified professionals and complies with building regulations."

Government approved certification schemes recognise the skills and experience of building professionals who undertake structural design; energy design; electrical installation; drainage, heating and plumbing installation services. Certification schemes give assurance to building owners and local authorities that work has been carried out to high standards by qualified experts. Members of each of Scotland's certification schemes will be permitted to display the new registration mark.

Scotland's certification scheme providers are:
  • Structural Engineers Registration Ltd (SER)
  • Trade Association for Electrical Contracting Industry in Scotland (SELECT)
  • NICEIC Group Ltd (Subsidiary of the Electrical Safety Council)
  • Building Research Establishment (BRE Global)
  • Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)
  • Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers' Federation (SNIPEF)
There are more than 3,200 Approved Certifiers in Scotland.

Details of all firms offering an approved certification service by local authority area can be found on the Certification Register.

8 April 2010

A9 road scheme begins

A £2.6m overtaking lane scheme at Moy on the A9 begins in earnest today.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson will perform a ground breaking ceremony on site today, marking the start of the 12 week construction programme.

Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

“I’m delighted to see construction start on this important overtaking scheme on the A9 at Moy, which will help make the trunk road a safer, quicker and more reliable route as well as ease congestion.

“The Scottish Government is committed to improving the A9 and this particular scheme – which is one of a number of upgrades to the A9 – underlines our investment on a progressive and continued basis, leading to dualling between Perth and Inverness.

“This overtaking scheme will provide a boost to the construction industry in Scotland, helping our hard pressed construction workers in this challenging economic climate, and also complements £6m of improvement works undertaken at Carrbridge and Bankfoot last year, as well as a further overtaking scheme planned for Slochd in 2011.”

The £2.6m contract for Moy, approx 10 miles (17km) south of Inverness, was awarded by Transport Scotland to Aggregate Industries. Due to commence in the last few weeks, the start of the works was interrupted due to the recent severe weather conditions and to protect both road user and road worker safety.

The project will see the construction of a new northbound overtaking lane of 0.68 miles (1.1km), the installation of a ‘ghost island’ to shelter traffic turning right into Lynebeg and the closure of an unclassified road leading from the A9 to the village of Moy.

The project will use the modern, greener and more sustainable method of ‘crack and seat’ construction. This approach brings benefits by reducing carbon emissions, as there are fewer deliveries, and lowers waste output by recycling existing materials.

7 April 2010

Stevenson Hails Junior Warden Initiative As It Expands To Fraserburgh

Banff & Buchan MSP Stewart Stevenson has praised the junior warden initiative which gives local school pupils a first hand look at how emergency services in their area carry out their operations.

The project, which launched in Peterhead and has now expanded to cover pupils in and around Fraserburgh, also aims to teach participants the consequences of vandalism and anti-social behaviour and to encourage civic pride.

Commenting, Mr Stevenson said:

“Giving pupils a first hand experience of the invaluable job that people in our emergency services do is a fantastic way of educating them and increasing their respect for members of those services.

“The scheme has deservedly won awards for its approach in Peterhead and I am delighted by its launch in Fraserburgh. Having the chance to see and do the things that members of our emergency services do has a far greater impact on pupils than simply being talked to ever could.

“People in Banff & Buchan are immensely proud of members of the emergency services for the selfless work that they do on our behalf. Encouraging that respect for the emergency services in the next generation is something that I’m sure everyone believes should be encouraged.”

6 April 2010

Homes go greener

New Scottish homes are set to be greener, quieter and safer under new rules confirmed today.

From October this year, new build homes must be more energy efficient, have greater sound insulation and better levels of home security. The revised building standards will reduce emissions, create new jobs in small scale renewables and could save many householders money.

The Building Standards Technical Handbook, published today and which comes into force in October 1, 2010, confirms:
  • Enhanced energy standards for new buildings - both homes and non-domestic - which will reduce emissions by 30 per cent on 2007 standards and by 70 per cent compared to 1990
  • Improved sound insulation to party walls and floors and the introduction of sound insulation testing to homes
  • Better security features for homes including higher design specification for doors, windows and locks to deter opportunity crime
  • New build schools must have sprinklers fitted to reduce potential loss or damage
The moves follow a wide review and consultation.

Infrastructure Minister Stewart Stevenson said:

"While Scotland already leads the UK in reducing emissions from buildings, these improvements will give us some of the greenest homes in Europe.

"Energy use in buildings makes up over 40 per cent of all carbon emissions and tightening energy standards will help us tackle climate change. I expect higher demand for small scale renewables technologies as developers look at ways to meet the new standards, giving Scotland new opportunities for jobs and investment in low carbon industries. Cutting out energy waste will also save money.

"A major review of noise standards has also resulted in dramatic improvements in sound insulation which will lead to greater freedom from unwanted noise. Taken together, these improvements will lead to better, warmer and quieter homes to live in."

Professor Sean Smith, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Construction, Edinburgh Napier University, added: "It is very positive that after so many years the standards have been raised. Some house builders have been building to these higher standards, however this will now bring a level playing field for the industry sector and all occupants irrespective of income. This is one way in which Scotland can lead the way in promoting sustainable communities."

Other new features in the Technical Handbook include guidance on land contamination, flooding, ventilation, condensation, biomass installations and flueless gas appliances. The guidance for means of escape and the guidance for fire and rescue facilities have been re-written to reflect the needs of the fire and rescue service. The changes will include the introduction of structural Eurocodes, the harmonised design standards for building structures which will help to eliminate technical barriers to trade between EU member states.

The moves to increase energy standards flow from the Sullivan Report which looked at ways to make homes and buildings more energy efficient.
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