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Transport (Scotland) Bill

Overview

This Bill seeks to:

  • allow councils to create low-emission zones
  • help councils improve local bus services
  • encourage ‘smart’ ticketing – flexible and electronic tickets – which can connect different services
  • outlaw parking on pavements and double parking
  • improve the regulation of road works
  • increase the size of the Scottish Canals board

You can find out more in the Scottish Government document that explains the Bill.

Why the Bill was created

Transport is key in helping people live full lives and contributing to sustainable economic growth.

Te Bill aims to ensure Scotland’s transport network operates more efficiently and is more accessible. It also aims to improve the air quality in towns and cities. It will help to empower Scotland’s councils and establish consistent standards to make transport easier, cleaner and smarter than ever before.

Covering different transport issues in this one Bill makes it easier rather than lots of smaller Bills, so the issues can be addressed more quickly.

You can find out more in the Scottish Government document that explains the Bill.

 

The Bill at different stages

'Bills' are proposed laws. Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) discuss them to decide if they should become law.

Here are the different versions of the Bill:

The Bill as introduced

Transport (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish Government sends the Bill and the related documents to the Scottish Parliament.

Bill is at ScottishParliament.SC.Feature.BillComponents.Models.BillStageModel?.DefaultBillStage?.Stage_Name stage.

Stage 2 – Changes to detail

Transport (Scotland) Bill with Stage 2 changes

Second version of the proposed law with changes from Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs).

Bill is at ScottishParliament.SC.Feature.BillComponents.Models.BillStageModel?.DefaultBillStage?.Stage_Name stage.

Where do laws come from?

The Scottish Parliament can make decisions about many things like:

  • agriculture and fisheries
  • education and training
  • environment
  • health and social services
  • housing
  • justice and policing
  • local Government
  • some aspects of tax and social security

These are 'devolved matters'.

Laws that are decided by the Scottish Parliament come from:

Government Bills

These are Bills that have been introduced by the Scottish Government. They are sometimes called 'Executive Bills'.

Most of the laws that the Scottish Parliament looks at are Government Bills.

Hybrid Bills

These Bills are suggested by the Scottish Government.

As well as having an impact on a general law, they could also have an impact on organisations' or the public's private interests.

The first Hybrid Bill was the Forth Crossing Bill.

Members' Bill

These are Bills suggested by MSPs. Every MSP can try to get 2 laws passed in the time between elections. This 5-year period is called a 'parliamentary session'.

To do this, they need other MSPs from different political parties to support their Bills.

Committee Bills

These are Bills suggested by a group of MSPs called a committee.

These are Public Bills because they will change general law.

Private Bills

These are Bills suggested by a person, group or company. They usually:

  • add to an existing law
  • change an existing law

A committee would be created to work on a Private Bill.

Bill stage timeline

The Transport (Scotland) Bill is currently at Stage 2.

 

Introduced

The Scottish Government sends the Bill and related documents to the Parliament.

Transport (Scotland) Bill as introduced

Related information from the Scottish Government on the Bill

Stage 1 - General principles

Committees examine the Bill. Then MSPs vote on whether it should continue to Stage 2.

Have your say

The deadline for sharing your views on this Bill has passed. Read the views that were given.

Who examined the Bill

Each Bill is examined by a 'lead committee'. This is the committee that has the subject of the Bill in its remit.

It looks at everything to do with the Bill.

Other committees may look at certain parts of the Bill if it covers subjects they deal with.

Who spoke to the lead committee about the Bill

Video Thumbnail Preview PNG

First meeting transcript

The Convener

Item 2 is our first evidence session on the Transport (Scotland) Bill. Due to the large number of topics contained in the bill, the evidence taking will be structured in three parts. Part 1 will cover buses and smart ticketing, part 2 will cover low-emission zones and parking and part 3 will cover road works, canals and regional transport partnerships.

We will take evidence today from three groups of Scottish Government officials. I welcome to the first session Tasha Geddie from the Transport (Scotland) Bill team; Peter Grant, who is team leader for bus policy; Gordon Hanning, who is head of the integrated ticketing unit; and Kevin Gibson and Alison Martin, who are solicitors in the legal department.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning, panel. I am going to ask questions about buses and smart ticketing. How will the bill improve the provision of lifeline rural bus services?

Peter Grant (Scottish Government)

The bill sets out new and improved options for local authorities to address bus services in their area. We have set out three tools, the first of which is a new partnership model. The second tool is access to local franchising, which is where the local authority would compete in the market for bus services at set times in the year, and the third is for a local authority to run bus services directly or at arm’s length. That applies to supported services and not commercial services.

The bill also offers provisions on information for bus users so that bus operators will share more information on fares, routes, timetables and so on. The last aspect is that if an operator deregisters a service, the bill gives local authorities the power to ask that operator for patronage and revenue information on those services. All of those tools will be available to local authorities.

You said that you were particularly interested in the rural sphere.

John Finnie

Yes. How would those tools enhance what is there at the moment?

Peter Grant

There are quite a lot of different tools—I am not sure which one you are particularly interested in. We have tried to improve the framework of existing options. Tools already exist in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001, for example quality partnerships and quality contracts. We have tried to improve those and go beyond them. We have also looked at direct running of bus services. Are there particular issues that you are interested in delving into?

John Finnie

Yes. There is frustration that, as we understand it, what is seen as a very good model—the Lothian Buses model—is not an option. Will you explain the legislative barriers to having a public operator operating successfully on a commercial basis, as Lothian Buses does? Why are those barriers not addressed by the bill?

Peter Grant

You are right to characterise that as not being addressed by the bill. Lothian Buses is the only remaining example in Scotland of a municipal bus company. There are a number down south—they are companies that were put at arm’s length from councils back in the 1980s. Through deregulation most of them were sold off to the private sector. At the time, however, Lothian Buses was not sold off, so it remains council owned. Lothian operates commercially and can compete in the commercial market, like First or Stagecoach.

John Finnie

Why does the bill not facilitate other local authorities responding in a similar way?

Peter Grant

The reason why we focused on supported bus services is that we had a full public consultation towards the end of last year. The issues that local authorities brought to the fore applied to cases, particularly in rural situations, where they already had the power to support bus services, which they do by putting them out to tender.

There are cases where no bids come forward, or just one bid, and local authorities are concerned about the price being high—essentially it is a monopoly situation. That was the specific problem that we sought to solve with the provisions in the bill. However, as you say, that is constrained to the supported-service end of things, not to the commercial end.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

Would you accept that if there is a disincentive to local authorities to set up municipal bus companies, and if Lothian Buses can continue with that model but no other local authority can do so, the bill would maintain a two-tier system? If there is a two-tier system, and commercial bus companies could bid for franchises, would local authorities also be able to bid for franchises?

Peter Grant

Strathclyde partnership for transport, under the powers that it inherited from being a passenger transport authority—essentially those powers were transferred to SPT—can already run buses, including in the commercial space. So far, it has chosen not to do so.

There is also an exemption in the Transport Act 1985 for islands authorities, although I think that you are interested in local authorities more broadly.

Colin Smyth

Yes. With respect, SPT and the islands do not cover the whole of Scotland. I live in Dumfries and Galloway. Under the bill’s provisions, Dumfries and Galloway Council would not be able to set up a company to run bus services, except for those services that currently make a loss. That is different from Lothian, so why do the provisions not apply to the whole of Scotland? Using Dumfries and Galloway as an example, would the council be able to bid for a franchise in its area under the bill’s provisions?

Peter Grant

I have tried to lay out our thinking behind the bill, which focuses on supported services. Since the bill was published we have had a number of discussions with stakeholders. Engagement on the bill has been going on for several years, but at recent information sessions and one-to-one meetings it has become apparent that there is some interest among certain authorities and stakeholder groups for a Lothian Buses model to be possible.

It is important to stress that although the bill does not provide for such a model, we are looking into the considerations around it.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

When a new transport bill was mooted, some of us hoped that it would improve transport and improve buses. I live in the SPT area and I am sorry but the current system does not work for me or my constituents. Are we missing a trick here? I had hoped that councils could run their own services in areas where the service is poor. We have got people out there who cannot get a bus after 6 o’clock or who cannot get a bus at a regular time. Can we not be bold and allow councils, even those that are partly in pay to SPT, to have a Lothian-type system?

Peter Grant

I am not sure that I can say much more about what the bill does and the rationale for where we are. We have had some discussions on the Lothian-style model and the commercial model. We would be looking into things such as competition and state-aid considerations to make sure that those things were safeguarded. The work has not been done on that yet, but those are considerations that we would have to take into account.

We recognise that Lothian runs good buses. The situation there has evolved over time, and we would want to be very careful not to do anything that would have unintended consequences that would undermine the Lothian model.

The Convener

We are at a slight impasse here because some of our questions relate to policy and are probably more appropriately directed at the minister when he comes in.

John Finnie

The committee is aware from other work that we have done that the research shows a significant decline in bus numbers due to increased car use, increased bus fares and increased journey times. Are there any measures in the bill that specifically address those issues?

Peter Grant

We are very mindful of that. We started by looking at bus patronage, which has been declining since the 1960s at least. You are absolutely right to compare that with car use and car ownership, which are the most closely correlated trends. It is important to say that bus patronage is not uniform across Scotland. The Scotland number is very much driven by Glasgow and Strathclyde, which has seen a more severe decline than other areas, but even in other areas we are seeing issues with bus patronage.

Recent work by KPMG on behalf of the Confederation of Passenger Transport tried to tease out why that patronage decline has taken place. We have a lot of discussions about that. Congestion is one issue that keeps coming back to us, and the tools that we have put in place are put in place with that in mind. For example, the bus service improvement partnership model gives a framework and a set of tools for local authorities to work with bus operators to tackle things like congestion that get in the way of a good, efficient bus service for the bus user. That is one tool that is in place to tackle bus patronage.

09:15  
The Convener

Jamie Greene has some questions on bus service improvement partnerships.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

Good morning, panel. I will try to bunch some of this up, and I appreciate that some of these questions might be for the cabinet secretary. You said that consultation on this subject has been taking place for quite some time. Do you have an idea of how many local authorities would like to set up or operate a bus service?

Peter Grant

The consultation gave us a good view of what local authorities thought of all the tools. We can happily provide you with the numbers.

It is fair to say that we are at quite an early stage, with the bill having just gone public. Local authorities are interested in having a framework of tools and some of them are interested in using particular ones. We have seen that from news stories, and we have had conversations with individual authorities that have said that they would like to run bus services directly. There are other areas where there is interest, but local authorities are not fully signed up to them because they have not seen the detail of the proposals in secondary legislation.

Jamie Greene

To give the committee an idea of how relevant this part of the bill will be, can you say whether we talking about a handful or dozens?

Peter Grant

A handful of municipal services are saying that they are very interested, and other authorities have come forward since the bill has been published and the discussion around the commercial end of direct running has begun. It is an emerging picture, so I do not have a set number.

Jamie Greene

Is it possible that there has not been more interest because the bill, as Richard Lyle said, does not open up adequate opportunities for local authorities to operate viable services? My understanding of the explanatory notes is that local authorities cannot operate a service if an existing commercial service is operating in the market, and they could only operate a service on what are classed as “unmet public transport need” routes. It is quite unclear how you define an area where there is unmet public transport need. Is that an area where there is no service running, where there is a poor service running or where a commercial operator has pulled out, which is commonplace across many of our constituencies?

Is it the case that it is simply not going to be commercially viable for any local authority to operate a service and that is perhaps why there has been less interest than we would have imagined?

Peter Grant

Local authorities’ ability to run bus services directly or at arm’s length is dealt with under section 63 of the 1985 act and the powers for local authorities to meet an unmet need. It is something that local authorities do as their meat and drink. They look at their communities and look at what bus services are necessary to serve those communities adequately, then they look at which services are provided commercially already. Currently, when they determine that there is a gap—an unmet need—they go out to tender to the private sector. All we are trying to do is extend the power for them to run those services directly.

We have had a number of conversations, chiefly with the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers, which very much welcomes that tool and says that it will be helpful, especially in cases where local authorities are not getting any bids for their tenders and would like the ability to run a service directly. There is some frustration that there is not the ability to do that uniformly across Scotland.

Jamie Greene

I wonder—

The Convener

Jamie, I am sorry, but we are running out of time. It is an interesting problem and it seems strange to me that we have got to where we are with the bill, after a lot of consultation, and we still have not bottomed out whether authorities want to do what they now seem to be expressing a wish to do. I cannot understand why that has not come to light earlier. Maybe we can put that question to the minister.

I am going to have to move on. Peter Chapman, can you ask a very succinct question on the subject that you have said that you want to ask about?

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I will be as succinct as I possibly can. My question is about bus service improvement partnerships. The bill proposes the abolition of statutory bus quality partnerships and their replacement with BSIPs. We are told that a local transport authority would not be allowed to proceed with a BSIP if a “sufficient number” of bus operators that would be affected by the proposals object to it. We are not told what a “sufficient number” might be, but it seems to me that that allows bus operators a veto over any BSIP proposal.

The Convener

Sorry, but I asked for a succinct question. If we can keep them sharp, I will be able to fit in more questions and answers.

That question was to you, Peter Grant. May we have your short answer to that, please?

Peter Grant

I will try to be as quick as possible. In essence, the BSIP model tries to put a framework around a negotiation, so that local authorities and bus operators can sit down together and look at what communities need and what is required to deliver those things. You are right to home in on the voting mechanism, and the detail of that will be set out in regulations.

A local authority will put together a plan for a partnership for a given area. As you say, the partnership can only go ahead if the bus operators agree to it, so it is very much a negotiation done together. The local authority will want good, frequent bus services. It might look at maximum fares, for example, and have some control over that aspect. The bus operator, for its part, would perhaps want action on congestion and parking, for example. For the partnership to go ahead, it is important that both operators and the local authority buy into it.

The Convener

Peter, did you get your answer to what “sufficient number” means? What does it mean?

Peter Chapman

Have you any idea what a “sufficient number” means? The answer confirms what I said: that the bus operators de facto have a veto over the whole system, because if a certain number object—we do not know the number—then it will not go ahead.

Peter Grant

It is fair to say that if a large number of operators do not want to take part in the partnership, it cannot go ahead. The local authority would be expected to look at the other options that we put forward, in that case. What a “sufficient number” means is not laid out in the primary legislation. We are looking to set that out in regulations. It is quite a sensitive model to try to understand, as it involves not just the number of operators in the area but their market share. We want to work on that model with local authorities and bus operators and make sure that it is set at the right level for Scotland by regulation.

The Convener

I fear that we are not going to get that answer until the cabinet secretary comes in.

Richard Lyle

If legislation refers to a devolved matter, we can approve it or we can amend it. You have mentioned the 1985 act. Let me throw another act at you. No bus quality contracts have been established since the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 came into force. I think that we passed that one. Why do you think that the local service franchising proposals in the bill will meet with more success than the quality contract provisions of the 2001 act?

Peter Grant

We have had a number of conversations with local authorities, RTPs and others to try to improve what was laid out in the quality contract provisions of the 2001 act. One thing that we consulted on, which had a great deal of support, was removing the entry bar to quality contracts, or to franchising, as we are calling the new thing. Previously, the formulation was that quality contracts had to be necessary to implement the relevant general policies, and that was seen as too high a bar for them even to be attempted. We have worked with local authorities around the entry point and we have lowered that bar for the local authority to enter into an assessment for a franchise.

We have kept other checks and balances, because it is such a large intervention in the market. We have had quite a lot of positive comments about the franchising offer that we have put forward.

Richard Lyle

You said “franchise”, but you can only have a franchise if you are going to do the whole thing. You have said that councils cannot run a service if people object or if people are running it themselves privately or through a bus company. Where is the change for councils? I do not see any.

Peter Grant

I need to explain more clearly the different options that we have. Previously, we were talking about partnerships, and, yes, the bus operators must agree to those. For a franchise, a local authority must do a business case and prove that it has looked into all the considerations around that, and the operators do not have to agree to it. It is a power for the local authorities to go down a different route, if they wish to.

The Convener

I suspect, Richard, that when the cabinet secretary comes in, you will be grilling him, and I suspect that Peter Grant will relay to him the pressure that he is being put under here.

Richard Lyle

I apologise to Mr Grant if he feels any pressure.

The Convener

I think that he dealt with it very well. I notice that Gordon Hanning is looking nervous because he will be the next one up.

Maureen Watt

I would like to ask about the smart ticketing proposals in the bill. Given that the Scottish Government already sets smart ticketing technical standards and processes for most public transport through the national concessionary travel scheme and rail franchise contracts, what is the purpose of the smart ticketing proposals?

Gordon Hanning (Scottish Government)

You summarised it very well. We want to build on what we already have in the concessionary travel scheme and the rail franchise. We want to encourage and enable a national infrastructure: a common platform that will make it easier to introduce smart ticketing and smart ticketing products consistently across the whole of Scotland, regardless of whether it is for the concessionary travel scheme or some other part of the public transport network.

Maureen Watt

But the proposals, as far as I can see, rely on local authorities implementing smart ticketing schemes. Other countries, such as the Netherlands, have national integrated smart card schemes. We have been talking about smart ticketing and smart cards and everything for decades, and nothing seems to be happening. One of my worries is that now people just swipe their card—let us say on London transport—and do not know whether they are getting the best deal on their tickets or not. There is still little or no crossover in terms of using both the tram and the bus, for example, whereas in other countries people can use their tickets on all modes of transport.

Gordon Hanning

There is a slight difference: there is the ticketing system and then there is the infrastructure that underpins it, which is what this legislation focuses on. The ticketing products, which might exist on paper or on smart card today, are still largely a matter for operators.

Maureen Watt

How is the bill going to make things different and better for the passenger?

Gordon Hanning

We believe that it will encourage the creation of that common platform. That is what you see in any country in Europe: a consistent infrastructure for ticketing to operate on. It should make it a lot easier for operators to collaborate on the ticketing and fare system that you have just described, and also for local authorities, where there is a need and a demand, to create that multi-operator provision in an area.

Maureen Watt

To go back to my point, we have been talking about it for years and the operators have not done anything. They have not collaborated to make it better and easier for the passenger to use public transport.

Gordon Hanning

You are right. They have done a lot of stuff, but they have not maybe done it as quickly as we would like to see. That is precisely why we want to put in place the provisions in the bill—to try to inject a bit more pace into what is already happening. We want to encourage and enable the provision of a national common infrastructure, because without that we will always struggle to provide something that is consistent for passengers across Scotland.

We want to create a national advisory board for ministers, through which operators, local authorities and passenger representatives can come together and advise on the right way to develop and use prevailing technology, again with a view to making all this easier. We want to clarify the powers that are available to local authorities to set up multi-operator schemes and arrangements in their areas.

09:30  
Colin Smyth

I am seeking some clarity. In 2012, the Government announced that it was introducing the saltire card—a national multimodal smart card—but you are now saying that you are enabling the industry to do something. Has the saltire card effectively been binned?

Gordon Hanning

No. The card is out there and has been there for years. What we want to do is to make things progressively easier for all. In Scotland there are 200 bus operators, 13 ferry operators, a tram operator, a subway operator and five rail operators. We are trying to encourage and make it easier for them to operate on a common platform. That does not mean that we force them all to use the saltire card; some operators have chosen to develop their own version of the card. We are seeking—and we have had a lot of success already—to make all those cards, however they are branded, operate in exactly the same way.

The Convener

So, there will be a good excuse for Stewart Stevenson to bring out the six or seven cards he brings out at every committee meeting to say that he has to use them all.

Jamie Greene

That last answer really highlights the problem. There are multiple operators all running different schemes with no standardised technology. It is a very confusing picture from a consumer’s point of view. You can get multiple cards. Some people have no idea which card does what, or on which mode of transport or in which part of Scotland they can be used. The pricing models are different across every operator.

Surely the Transport (Scotland) Bill, from a policy point of view, was an amazing opportunity to do something about that and create some standardisation from the top down, through a Government-led policy that took the initiative and put an end to that hugely complex and fragmented marketplace for the consumer. Why did it not do that?

Gordon Hanning

I think that we are trying to encourage and enable that common platform.

Jamie Greene

You are setting up an advisory board and you are enabling national standards. That is not, to me, taking the lead in solving this problem.

Gordon Hanning

We would expect the operators to pay the cost of providing that infrastructure, in the same way as they would put tyres on the buses, for example, so we felt that it was important that the operators had a say in the technology and the migration. Technology develops very quickly. It is about both the operators agreeing when to introduce a new type of technology and what the migration path should be towards that new technology, and it is about operators advising the minister of their thoughts on all that. We are trying to encourage and enable that national platform with this legislation.

The Convener

Thank you very much. I fear that that is another thing on which the cabinet secretary will be pushed harder when he comes in.

I suspend the meeting to allow officials to change over.

09:33 Meeting suspended.  09:34 On resuming—  
The Convener

We continue our evidence session on the Transport (Scotland) Bill with Scottish Government officials. We will now look at low-emission zones and parking. Tasha Geddie is still in place and we welcome Stephen Thomson, who is head of environmental and sustainability policy; George Henry, who is the policy manager for parking; and Anne Cairns and Clare McGill, who are both solicitors.

Peter Chapman

We are on low-emission zones now, folks. As I understand it, there are two ways to operate an LEZ. You can either place a ban on certain classes of vehicle and impose a penalty for non-compliance on them if they come in, or you can impose a charge to enter the LEZ if the entry criteria are not met, which is the system that is in operation in London. Why has the Scottish Government chosen the first option?

Stephen Thomson (Scottish Government)

We asked in the consultation in November whether the penalty option or the charge option would be favoured. The penalty option was slightly more favoured than the charge option. That is the first reason for the decision: stakeholders were asking for that. Scottish ministers have also had a long-standing policy on road pricing, which is effectively what a charge would be. The powers exist for road pricing but at this point in time, the Scottish ministers’ view on road pricing is that they are not in favour. That is the second reason why the ban route was chosen.

There is a third option as well, which is essentially a ban as a form of access restriction. It prevents the dirtiest vehicles from entering a space, whereas a charge would allow those dirty vehicles to enter the space if a person was willing to pay a fee. There is a fairness and equity element in terms of going down the ban route.

Peter Chapman

I understand that. Your last bit of the answer leads me on to the next question. The effectiveness of an LEZ is dependent on the scheme design. The Scottish ministers will set out the emission standards, vehicles that are exempt and penalty charges in regulations rather than in the bill. Can you provide any indication at this point of what might be in these regulations? Do you have some detail of how the system is going to operate?

Stephen Thomson

Yes. We have outlined a series of proposals in the consultation. We felt that the parity with similar LEZ schemes across Europe, for example, in relation to emission standards, going towards a Euro 6 standard for diesel and a Euro 4 standard for petrol, would provide a basis for the Scottish LEZs to be among the most ambitious in Europe.

As you say, we have a series of regulation-making powers on things such as penalties and exemptions. We listed a number of exemptions in the consultation, including holders of the blue badge or a derivative of the blue badge, and blue-light services. We talked about vehicles that provide essential services, such as road gritters, road sweepers and so on. Other topics that have come up in discussion with businesses include vehicles that are involved in funeral services or weddings. Those are the types of topics that we would want to explore in the regulations for exemptions.

Peter Chapman

Have you any thoughts on what the penalty charges are likely to be?

Stephen Thomson

We have had thoughts. The top end of the charge was set by guidance from Anne Cairns in relation to what the maximum fine could be. We have included an option within the bill that there can be an escalation of or surcharges to the penalty so that the penalty might start at a relatively low level, perhaps akin to a speeding fine, but can escalate depending on the number of offences. That, again, is where we would want to take a regulation-making power, but we have tried to follow existing legislation, where it is already in place. Anne Cairns might want to give examples here, but something at the level of a speeding fine might be a reasonable place to begin in relation to the penalty charge, and there could perhaps be an escalation thereafter.

The Convener

Anne, do you want to say a bit more on this? There are different levels of speeding fine.

Anne Cairns (Scottish Government)

The standard speeding fine might be around £60, but we have not come to any conclusions about what the actual fine will be. It will very much be a process of taking the evidence as the bill goes through, and then ministers will make a final decision. The regulation will state the actual amount in due course.

Peter Chapman

If you are saying that, the first time that you come into an LEZ with a vehicle that should not be in an LEZ, you will be charged £60, that seems very harsh to me. That is just my comment.

Anne Cairns

No final conclusions have been come to on that. It is still a process that is being worked out. The amount will be set in the regulations.

Peter Chapman

When do you think that some of these details might be forthcoming? Do you have a sense of the timescale? It is very important that we know more about this.

Stephen Thomson

Yes. To give you a flavour of where we are at, we are starting right now to develop the outline of what regulations will look like. We do not want to be in a place where the bill goes through its due process, receives royal assent and then and only then do the regulations start being developed. That is not what the local authorities want, and it is not what we want. In terms of a rough indication of timescale, we will probably develop the outline of the regulations between now and Christmas and then, between Christmas and summer, finalise what they would look like in tandem with what the parliamentary process identifies.

Jamie Greene

Good morning to the new panel members. There is a tremendous amount of good will in the committee and probably around the Parliament for the intentions of an LEZ. However, there is also a huge amount of concern outside of the walls of this building, particularly among drivers and people who reside in potential LEZs and also among businesses that operate in LEZs, around the possibility that there may be different schemes operating—different grace periods and exemptions—on a city-by-city basis. Do you recognise some of those concerns? What are you doing to address them?

Stephen Thomson

Yes, it is a valid point that the schemes in some instances could be different. We have listened to what local authorities have asked for and they essentially ask for two things that seem to be diametrically opposed. They ask for consistency in terms of emissions standards, penalties and exemption lists, but they also ask for the powers to create their own LEZ based on either the size, the scope or the timing, which is fair enough because the local authorities are best placed to understand the air quality challenges that they have.

The point that you make about communicating to members of the public what the differences are is well made. For example, we know that Glasgow is looking at a suite of vehicles in its LEZ but if another city decides to include, for example, buses and only private cars, we have to communicate to members of the public and businesses that, for example, heavy goods vehicles or light goods vehicles are not included. That is where the work must happen during the grace periods to let those businesses and individuals know what the differences are.

Jamie Greene

I appreciate the flexibility that is allowed to determine, for example, the geographic areas of the zones, which streets are not included or the time of day, depending on the needs of that city. However, surely a scheme that means you can drive in one city but not in another will cause tremendous amounts of confusion for businesses and commuters. Can you also clarify whether it is likely that there would be exemptions for residents, by which I mean private car operators? The London scheme, for example, offers a fairly substantial discount scheme on the opt-in version of such a zone. Do you think that it is right that people who reside within LEZs should be penalised for driving their cars to and from their home simply because of where they live?

Stephen Thomson

That point about residents living in LEZs was identified during the consultation exercise. That is the reason why we have included an additional grace period in the bill. The grace period, on the face of it, is for all vehicles and then there is an additional grace period for residents who live within an LEZ. They have an additional period of time to adapt.

Jamie Greene

But a grace period has an end point. It is a temporary exemption, not a permanent exemption. Why is there only a grace period and not a plan to provide permanent exemption for residents?

Stephen Thomson

It is a case of working in tandem with how the fleet looks just now versus how the fleet might look at the end of the grace period if the maximum grace period is taken. The fleet is naturally going to evolve anyway towards a Euro 6 standard and away from the older vehicles, but you are right that there will be some residents who, even at the end of an extended grace period, will still have vehicles that are non-compliant. There will be people who will have to adapt as part of the LEZs being put in place.

09:45  
Jamie Greene

When you say “adapt”, what you are talking about here, for the benefit of the members of the public who are watching today’s proceedings, is that people who perhaps are stuck with older vehicles, perhaps people who cannot afford modern vehicles and rely on their vehicle, will in effect be faced with a daily fine to commute or travel around their own cities. Is that the potential scenario?

Stephen Thomson

Yes, that is one scenario.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

The next issue that we want to address is parking, and specifically parking on pavements, footpaths or footways, or however we describe them. In my constituency, there are quite a lot of streets where the road is quite narrow, the pavements are reasonably wide and it makes sense to put two wheels on the pavement. The police come to community meetings and they say to residents, “You should put two wheels on the pavement. That makes sense. It keeps the roads flowing and it keeps the pavements clear.” Can you explain to me why we are going down this road of a blanket ban, with the councils having to exempt certain roads, rather than just saying that, where there is a problem, the council would have the power to ban pavement parking?

George Henry (Scottish Government)

When we discussed this through our public consultation and with stakeholders, it was felt that a national ban would be the best approach. The bill requires local authorities to undertake assessments of their roads to determine which roads should be exempt. For the ones that you have described, these will be set out in the ministerial direction and collated in our parking standards document, which will identify which streets can be available for exemption. That would ensure that there is a consistency in assessment and implementation across the parking elements of this bill. The process of exempting streets will be set out in regulations that are made under section 44 of this bill.

John Mason

I wonder whether it would not have been easier for a council to list the streets where parking is not allowed on the pavement. Would it not be more onerous on the councils to list the streets where it is allowed on the pavement?

George Henry

From our discussions with local authorities, it was certainly felt that, because the number of streets that will be exempt will probably be lower than the number of streets where people parking on pavements is causing problems, the approach that we have taken was deemed to be an easier one for local authorities. They will promote exemptions on a smaller number of streets than they would if it were the other way around.

John Mason

To take a slightly different angle, there already is a ban on driving on pavements. I have always wondered about this because, clearly, if you put two wheels on the pavement, you are driving on the pavement. Is that not already banned?

George Henry

No, it is not. It is not illegal to park on a footway, as matters stand. It is illegal to drive on one and, granted, you have to drive on one to get your car there. Certainly, there is an issue with people parking on footways. It causes great difficulties for some road users, including vulnerable road users. That is why we are seeking to iron that problem out and make it clear that it is illegal to park on a footway.

John Mason

Moving on to the question of enforcement, I understand that in some areas it would be the council that would enforce. Am I right in saying that in some areas it would be the police that would enforce? In both cases, do they have to enforce? Would there be any penalty on a council that just ignores the new legislation and allows parking on pavements, or would there be some way to force the council or the police to enforce?

George Henry

The bill confers the powers for all 32 local authorities to enforce the new restrictions on pavement and double parking. It will be up to the local authority to identify how it wishes to carry out that enforcement but there is a commitment to an annual report that we will be putting before the Scottish Parliament to identify the successes of the bill or otherwise and identify which local authorities are carrying out their duties appropriately.

Richard Lyle

In my constituency, there are streets where the pavements are quite wide on both sides but, as John Mason said, the roads are quite narrow. There will be a problem in some areas with cul-de-sacs, where people can drive in but when they reach the hammerhead, the only way out is to reverse. Will councils have to consult regarding exemptions for pavements? Will they be able to amend the exemptions over the years? Will there be a system whereby the public—say people in a particular street—can contact or petition the council to amend and allow them to pavement park?

I welcome the bill, which will be good for people who are in wheelchairs and especially young families and people with prams. I abhor people parking on the pavement but, sadly, as John Mason said, there are occasions when you just cannot go anywhere else.

George Henry

Local authorities will undertake assessments under the provisions in the bill and, when identifying streets that can be exempt, they will be required to use our parking standards document. As I said, section 44 will confer on ministers the power to set out regulations for the process of exemptions. We are discussing that with local authorities at our parking stakeholder working group. We realise that there might be historic streets that do not necessarily lie within the criteria, and we will need to consider those as we go through the process. First and foremost, we are trying to fix irresponsible parking, but we want to work with local authorities, because they know their streets best, so that we can get the best model to fix the problem, support the policy and assist with parking provision for local authority streets.

The Convener

As part of my background reading, I looked at the document “Roads for All: Good Practice Guide for Roads”, which Transport Scotland published in July 2013, and which I am sure you know your way around absolutely. It lists footway widths and talks about ramps and blistering to allow people to identify crossover points. In light of the fact that on-street parking will be allowed in certain areas, will that document have to be rewritten so that people can move from one side of the road to the other in the situation that Richard Lyle mentioned, where it might be a requirement for people to park on pavements?

George Henry

That document will not need to be rewritten. We are working on a parking standards document with a range of stakeholders, including the local authorities, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and Living Streets. We are working in partnership with them to discuss the footway widths where we can allow footway parking. The early discussions are that that would support the “Roads for All” guidance. For example, about 2m is the narrowest footway that we need. That would allow two wheelchairs or a double buggy to pass. As we develop the parking standards document with our stakeholders, we will very much take cognisance of “Roads for All” and work through it.

The Convener

My understanding is that, if there is a 2m-wide walkway on one side of a road, a 2m-wide walkway might not be needed on the other side, but good practice dictates that it should not be less than 1.5m. However, it does not stipulate whether that is on both sides or one side of the road.

George Henry

Yes, that is correct. We would look at that in working with local authorities. They are best placed to assess their streets and they know what is best for their areas. When a local authority is doing an assessment, it could allow a narrower footway on one side, provided that the crossing points remain free and that people can pass from one side of the street to the other as safely as possible.

Maureen Watt

Why does the bill not propose a ban on parking in front of dropped kerbs? That issue is particularly important for people who have mobility impairments.

George Henry

That certainly is a problem, and we are currently discussing with stakeholders which dropped kerbs could be in scope. When we are doing that, we will identify whether we can take that forward under secondary legislation. That is the current plan. Discussions have taken place. There will be a national ban on parking at known crossing points where there is tactile paving for the visually impaired, but we are looking to take that forward under secondary legislation.

Maureen Watt

So you need to distinguish between dropped kerbs that allow people to get their cars in front of their house and narrower bits where people with wheelchairs or buggies can cross.

George Henry

Yes. It is about identifying the difference between a crossing point and a domestic driveway. One of the big things that we have considered with stakeholders as we have worked through the policy is the impact of the displacement of vehicles. For instance, in many housing estates or streets, there are one-vehicle driveways but two or three-car families. There could be the opportunity for them to continue to park in front of their driveway. As long as the crossing points and known crossing points for wheelchair users or visually impaired people are still free, there will still be a safe mechanism for them to cross the street.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

We are all interested in effective legislation and we are certainly not interested in ineffective legislation. To me, section 47(6) as written could drive a coach and horses through the purposes of the bill as far as parking on paths is concerned. It states:

“The parking prohibitions do not apply where ... the motor vehicle is, in the course of business ... being used for the purpose of delivering goods to, or collecting goods from, any premises, or ... being loaded from or unloaded to any premises ... and the vehicle is so parked for no longer than is necessary for the delivery, collection, loading or unloading and in any event for no more than a continuous period of 20 minutes.”

If we say,

“no more than ... 20 minutes”,

that will become the standard practice. In other words, the result that I see is that, if someone is trying to enforce the bill, people will say, “I’m allowed to park here for 20 minutes.” Then another vehicle will arrive to unload or collect goods, and the driver will think, “I can stay for 20 minutes.” Whereas the current law says that somebody has to be in a vehicle that is doing that—the driver, a passenger or somebody else—under the bill, they will be able to wander off.

I am concerned that footpaths will be blocked for vulnerable users, whether that is disabled people or mums and dads with prams. We are welcoming a bill to ensure that people do not park so that others can have free access but, to me, section 47 drives a coach and horses through the whole thing. If section 47(6)(c) just stopped at “loading or unloading” and we removed

“and in any event for no more than a ... period of 20 minutes”,

that would be helpful.

Jamie Greene

Why do you not try to amend it?

Mike Rumbles

I am coming to that. If the Government does not amend it, I certainly will try.

George Henry

We have been discussing that issue with stakeholders since the bill was published. You are right to point out that a delivery vehicle may park on a footway during its course of business while loading or unloading if it cannot reasonably be done without parking on a footway. Therefore, delivery drivers should first seek to find a parking space or loading bay, and only if they cannot find one can they park on the footway.

However, parking on a footway does not necessarily mean that they should be causing an obstruction. The current law is that drivers should not be causing an obstruction. We are looking to identify in the parking standards document what should be accepted or otherwise, but we are not promoting anybody blocking a footway to vulnerable users. We are trying to strike the balance between keeping pavements, footways and roads as safe as possible and allowing businesses to operate and keep the economy going.

10:00  
Mike Rumbles

We have the same interests. Everybody agrees with what you have just said—that is the aim. Our job is to look at problems with the proposed legislation that you present to us, and I have identified that as a really big problem. What you say is all very well but, in defence, a lawyer will turn round and say, “But the bill says people are allowed to stay here for 20 minutes. It does not say you have to allow a gap to allow somebody through; it says you can load or unload for 20 minutes, and in fact the next guy can do the same.” If we want to achieve the objective, section 47 needs to be rewritten.

George Henry

There is already primary legislation in place under which people are not allowed to cause an obstruction. The bill relates to issues less than obstruction and the other irresponsible parking methods that happen.

Mike Rumbles

Yes, but section 47(6) is a legal defence against prosecution. If I were a lawyer looking at this, I would say, “My goodness, people are not going to be prosecuted, because the law that is going to be passed will clearly allow them to do it.”

The Convener

The committee will have the chance to question other witnesses on that subject. All members probably have some sympathy with Mike Rumbles’s point. If the period is 20 minutes and someone sits in their lorry and moves it forward 1.5m, does that mean they are in a different parking space and therefore they are not causing an obstruction and the 20-minute period starts again? There are all sorts of valid questions here. It would be interesting for George Henry just to give a short answer and we will perhaps quiz more people on the issue as the evidence sessions continue.

George Henry

We are discussing the issue continually with stakeholders as part of the parking standards working group. To be clear, first and foremost, people need to try to find a car-parking space or loading bay to carry out that duty. It will be down to enforcement officers to enforce the measure efficiently and to ensure that people do not behave disreputably. I reiterate that there is current legislation that says that people should not cause an obstruction.

The Convener

I am sure that that would be easy to do where there are lots of parking enforcement officers, but it might be difficult in more remote places.

Richard Lyle

Does the bill also apply to car parks? We often go into a car park and somebody has paid the entrance fee or whatever but has stupidly parked on a pavement that is not a designated space. You might say that it is up to the company that owns the car park to do something about it. Does the bill cover that?

George Henry

No. The bill covers only on-street parking.

The Convener

Thank you for clarifying that.

I will suspend the meeting briefly to allow for a changeover of witnesses.

10:03 Meeting suspended.  10:04 On resuming—  
The Convener

In our third session this morning on the Transport (Scotland) Bill, we will look at road works, canals and regional transport partnerships. Tasha Geddie has sat through all three sessions, so I am not going to welcome her again, but I welcome Kat Quane, policy officer on road works; Joanne Gray, policy manager on regional transport partnerships; Chris Wilcock, head of ports, shipping, freight and canals; and Kevin Gibson and Claire McGill, who are both solicitors.

Colin Smyth

I will start by asking a question about road works. In what circumstances would you anticipate the Scottish road works commissioner using the proposed inspection powers within the bill?

Kat Quayne (Scottish Government)

I will outline the context in which the commissioner would use his inspection powers. At the moment, roads authorities can have an inspection regime for undertakers. The commissioner obviously has to look at both sectors—the roads authorities and the utilities—so he can look at either one. He can gather information, he can do specific site inspections and, at the moment, he has a limited range of compliance powers. He can issue fines, but he does not have any powers to address things on site as they arise or if there is a specific issue that needs a quick resolution. That would be the context for the use of inspection powers.

Colin Smyth

How will the compliance notice regime work in practice given the limited resources and powers of the commissioner?

Kat Quayne

A review of the Office of the Scottish Road Works Commissioner that Transport Scotland carried out in 2016 identified that he was limited in not having the powers to directly go and find evidence himself, and it identified that the office might have to be expanded to cover an inspection function. It would not necessarily be the commissioner himself who would go out and do inspections; he would need inspectors who would act for him.

Colin Smyth

How does the bill improve circumstances for disabled people when road works are being carried out? Are there any provisions in the bill that make improvements there? Also, am I right in saying that “Safety at Street Works and Road Works: A Code of Practice” is legally binding in the rest of the United Kingdom but is purely a code of practice in Scotland? Why is that the case and should it have been tackled in the bill?

Kat Quayne

That is absolutely right. The safety at street works code of practice is legally binding for roads authorities, highway authorities and undertakers in every other part of the UK. In Scotland, it applies only to the undertakers. I am not entirely sure of the history of why that is. Perhaps Kevin Gibson could answer, as that was before my time.

The bill puts the code on a statutory footing for roads authorities as well. There are also changes to the number of qualified operatives who are needed on a site and the type of qualification they need—the street works card, as we call it.

The Convener

You looked for help on that and Kevin Gibson almost looked away. Do you want to add anything?

Kevin Gibson (Scottish Government)

I cannot speak to the history of why the code is binding in England and Wales but not here. What I can say is that evidence of compliance with the code in Scotland is evidence that you have complied with the duties, so the converse is to some extent also the case—evidence that you have not complied with the code is evidence that you have not complied with the duties. The code has an element of a legal effect here but it is not completely binding as it is in England and Wales.

Colin Smyth

Is there a reason why we did not make the code binding as part of the bill?

Kat Quayne

The bill makes the red book, which is what we call the safety code, mandatory for roads authorities. The original safety code was endorsed by the Scottish Executive. It is a very old document. I do not know why that did not happen at the time, but the bill makes it applicable to roads authorities. The Health and Safety Executive enforces it in that way as well; that is the standard that it looks to.

John Mason

On regional transport partnership finance, I understand that, rather than the actual expenses being shared around the constituent councils, estimated costs will be used in future. Presumably, that would mean that, if expenses were slightly lower, there would be a fund left over and the partnership could carry that forward. What would happen if there were a deficit? Would the RTP carry the deficit forward or would that be dealt with in some different way?

Joanne Gray (Scottish Government)

At the moment, the bill does not provide for a deficit, and the RTPs do not carry a deficit. They are required to have a zero balance at the end of each financial year. Although in practice that seems quite difficult to achieve, what normally would happen is that any excess funds would be transferred to one of the constituent councils of a partnership and then come back to the partnership at the start of the following financial year.

John Mason

The funds are effectively lent to the council at the moment, or is that the future plan?

Joanne Gray

At the moment, the funds transfer to a particular council in an RTP and then come back. I do not know whether the transfer is a loan. I would not like to call it a loan.

John Mason

It is not that the money is handed back to, in Strathclyde’s case, the nine local authorities, and then we start again fresh in the new year. I am trying to clarify the difference between what is going to happen and what has happened in the past, but as I understand it the aim is to allow them to carry forward excess funds.

Joanne Gray

Yes. It is just to make it a little less clumsy than it is just now.

John Mason

I see.

Joanne Gray

It is just to create that extra flexibility, so that there is no transfer of funds. The funds will just sit where they are.

John Mason

The funds will be carried forward. Presumably, it is possible that RTPs will have a deficit because they have to overspend on the subway or something. In that case, will they then by 31 March have to get more money from the councils or could they carry that deficit forward and hope to make it up the following year?

Joanne Gray

Until now RTPs have not carried a deficit and we would not envisage that they would do so going forward. According to my local government finance colleagues, it is not good practice to carry a deficit. It has not happened up until now, so I cannot answer that question.

The Convener

Jamie, you had a question on this. Has what has been said sufficiently answered it?

Jamie Greene

Partially. Perhaps I could follow on from Mr Mason’s line of questioning on carrying over funds. I believe that the legislation will now enable regional transport partnerships to borrow money and by default, I suspect, accumulate debt as a result of the borrowing. Given that some of the other elements of the bill allow for greater opportunity, for example, to set up bus franchises and other types of public services, and given that RTPs are funded by local authorities, is there any worry that by giving RTPs the ability to borrow funds on the wider market, you are in effect creating an opportunity for local authorities to accumulate debt to fund infrastructure or subsidise public transport? What is the policy rationale behind that?

Joanne Gray

RTPs have had borrowing powers since the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005. What the bill does is place more responsibility on them to comply with the regulations that came in in 2016. Until now we are not aware that there has been a problem with that. RTPs are required by a suite of local government finance regulations to ensure that they can afford whatever they borrow and, ultimately, they are accountable to their board, to their constituent councils and to Audit Scotland.

Jamie Greene

Are there any additional duties or changes in how RTPs will be structured, monitored and managed in future, or is the bill just tinkering around with the financials as opposed to the structures of RTPs? At any point was there any discussion around whether the bill could look at the wider issue of the success, or lack of success, of RTPs?

Joanne Gray

No, the bill does not look at that. It is really just a technical amendment to allow that flexibility. There are other pieces of work on-going at the moment, such as the national transport strategy review, that are looking at such issues and at the future of transport governance in Scotland.

The Convener

Mike Rumbles is itching to ask the next question.

Mike Rumbles

I am, convener, because I want to ask about canals. They may be at the end of this session, but they are very important. I am well aware of the work that has been done on canals running into the city here in Edinburgh and the canal festivals. They are regenerative of whole areas and it is a very positive thing that has been happening, but recently there have been problems when the canals have been blocked. In the bill, we have a section tinkering with the numbers on the board of Scottish Canals. Does the Government have any concerns about the backlog of maintenance? What about placing a duty on the board to ensure that our canals are kept open and navigable? This would be an opportunity to do that.

10:15  
Chris Wilcock (Scottish Government)

It is worth saying that what is in the bill is really a technical point to give ministers the flexibility to alter the structure of the board in the future if they chose to do so. When the board was set up, it was restricted to six members, mainly to take the organisation forward following separation in 2012. In discussions that we have had about some of the complexities and the opportunities facing the canals, it has been suggested that we might want to look at varying the position and creating flexibility to bring in additional expertise or indeed to reflect some of the expertise that the executive team might have. That is very much what we are looking to do in the bill.

In relation to the other things that you mentioned, the Transport Act 1962 and the Transport Act 1968 already set out how canals are supposed to operate, and they have provision on what Scottish Canals is supposed to do to keep the canals open to all users. We are working very closely with it in relation to the challenges that we have seen in recent times. Those have been partly addressed through some additional funding that Transport Scotland and the Scottish ministers have been able to give. We are also looking at how we can help Scottish Canals with funding on other areas in the future.

It is important to highlight that the work that Scottish Canals has done to identify the asset management backlog is a responsible piece of work. The assets are ageing and complex and it is important that Scottish Canals understands the work that it needs to do to make sure that the structures are there for the future.

Mike Rumbles

On a technical point, as I understand it there is no requirement in the 1962 act for the board to ensure that the canals are navigable. That is my question. Should we not be using the bill as an opportunity to give responsibility to the enlarged board for ensuring that Scottish canals are kept navigable?

Chris Wilcock

My understanding is that the existing legislation provides for a responsibility for the canals to be kept navigable.

Mike Rumbles

Does it?

Chris Wilcock

That is my understanding of how the legislation is now.

Mike Rumbles

Could the Government check that and let us know?

The Convener

It has been mentioned to various people that Scottish Canals is investing in properties such as holiday lettings and shops rather than investing in canals. It would be useful for the committee to have some feedback on that.

Chris Wilcock

Certainly, that point has been raised with us in our engagement with stakeholders, particularly in light of the challenge that we have at the moment. I have asked Scottish Canals to undertake a piece of work on this because the challenge has been put to it a number of times that it is spending money and attention on non-canal-related activities. It is important to note that the income that is generated from non-canal activities comes back in on an annual basis and grows the investment pot to support the canals going forward. I have asked Scottish Canals to do some work on that to make those points clearer to people, because I think that it is important that that is recognised.

The Convener

All businesses know that the core asset is what you invest in, not necessarily the ones that generate short-term income. I will leave it there if I may.

I thank all those who have given evidence this morning on the three panels. There are various questions that we did not get through, which is very much where I anticipated we would be at the end of the meeting. The clerks will, subject to everyone agreeing, submit those questions to Tasha Geddie, and we ask her to respond to them through the clerks.

I ask the officials to remain in place while we deal with the next item of business, because after that we will be moving into private session and it does not seem appropriate to break now.

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Second meeting transcript

The Convener (Edward Mountain)

Good morning and welcome to the public part of the 23rd meeting in 2018 of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. I ask people to ensure that their mobile phones are on silent. No apologies have been received.

Agenda item 2 is our second evidence-taking session on the Transport (Scotland) Bill, and we will take evidence from local authorities, regional transport partnerships and their representatives. I welcome Gordon Mackay, chair, and Charlie Hoskins, member, Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland—that is quite a mouthful; Jim Grieve, head of programmes, south east of Scotland transport partnership, or SEStran; Bruce Kiloh, head of policy and planning, Strathclyde partnership for transport; Paul Lawrence, executive director of place, City of Edinburgh Council; and David Summers, principal passenger transport officer, Highland Council.

We want to ask you a series of questions. To those of you who have not given evidence to the committee before, I should say that anyone who wants to answer a question should catch my eye and I will bring them in. I shall try to do that in a balanced way, so please do not be offended if I do not ask all of you to respond to every single question. If I were to do that, we might well run out of time. Moreover, you do not need to touch your microphone buttons—that is all worked out and done for you.

Colin Smyth will ask the first question.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I want to kick off with buses. Currently, the bill seeks to restrict new local authority bus companies to running only non-profit-making services that, frankly, commercial companies would not touch. Is such a restriction fair, or should local authority bus companies be allowed to run all bus services?

The Convener

Who would like to come in on that? Charlie, you can start off.

Charlie Hoskins (Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland)

Good morning. First, I should say that, as well as representing SCOTS, I play a senior director role in SPT, so I will be able to help with any questions that are put to my colleagues Bruce Kiloh and Gordon Mackay.

In our view, the provision is probably restrictive. At the moment, our funding for subsidised services, certainly in the west of Scotland, is of the order of £11 million per annum, which is effectively tendered to the same bus operators that run the commercial services. That is the difficulty that we face when we go back to the market in those areas.

The challenge in restricting things to socially necessary services is that, by their very nature, such services do not have major patronage numbers. Ultimately, if a service becomes quite successful, you can get a private operator coming in and saying, “Well, that looks pretty good now—let’s run a service here.” Moreover, in order to set all that up, you have to invest in depots, vehicles, people and all the processes that are involved.

The view—and certainly the view of SCOTS—is that there are some big challenges in that respect, and the committee might wish to look at whether the remit in that area of the bill should be broadened with regard to municipally owned services.

The Convener

I will let David Summers respond next and then come back to Paul Lawrence.

David Summers (Highland Council)

Highland Council has to some extent supported the power to have council-owned bus companies, and we are positive about the move. However, as our members have not specifically considered the part of the bill that is the subject of your question, I can speak only personally in response.

For a directly operated council service, such a restriction is probably appropriate, but an arm’s-length company or a council-owned company should have the same commercial freedom as any other company has. For anything that is on more than a modest scale, I support having a council-owned company. It is interesting that the bill does not mention council-owned companies, although it talks about council-operated bus services. That could be clarified as the bill progresses.

The Convener

I will bring in Bruce Kiloh and then take Stewart Stevenson’s supplementary question before I bring in Paul Lawrence.

Bruce Kiloh (Strathclyde Partnership for Transport)

I will amplify what Charlie Hoskins said. In discussions with Transport Scotland, we have been reassured that there will be opportunities through regulation and secondary legislation to look at such things. When people across Scotland look at Lothian Buses, they aspire to that. The issue is the definition of what is socially necessary, which differs across Scotland. Charlie Hoskins outlined our approach, which is to subsidise bus services. We have spread the £11 million a year that we have for supporting bus services ever more thinly, and we use community transport and demand-responsive transport through our MyBus service.

People’s definition of what is socially necessary in the Highlands will differ from the definition in more deprived areas of Glasgow. The bill provides an opportunity to widen the consideration of how a municipal company could operate.

The Convener

Stewart Stevenson wants to speak, but I will let Colin Smyth follow up that answer.

Colin Smyth

How has the Government ended up with introducing such a restrictive proposal in the bill? The consensus is that it is restrictive. When they gave evidence recently, Scottish Government officials said that they were in discussions about, in effect, potentially lifting the restriction. Have you discussed the issue with Transport Scotland officials and made the point about lifting the restriction?

The Convener

I do not want to cut out Paul Lawrence, but I think that the question is more for Bruce Kiloh.

Bruce Kiloh

From the outset, Transport Scotland officials have had a good level of engagement on the bill with regional transport partnerships, including SPT, and councils. That is certainly positive. In the past six or seven years, we have promoted a change to the framework for bus services through our bus policy and other initiatives, so our pushing has partly led to the current situation.

I do not want to say on behalf of Transport Scotland or the Scottish Government why the provision is restricted to socially necessary services, but I am aware of the competition angle—I make no judgment call on whether that is right. Bus operators run commercial services and, if a socially necessary service went on top of that, they would have a big issue. That is perhaps the background to where the Scottish Government is coming from.

We have been in dialogue with TS about how to widen the approach. As I said, perhaps the definition of social need could be looked at, as each area will have a view on that.

Colin Smyth

Can I respond briefly?

The Convener

Just briefly, as I want to let Paul Lawrence in.

Colin Smyth

I am a bit confused, because Bruce Kiloh still suggests a restrictive model. Why cannot we have the Lothian Buses model, in which a local authority-owned bus company runs in competition with the private sector? At the moment, there is no competition in the bus sector.

Bruce Kiloh

Lothian Buses is a fantastic bus company, but its history differs from the history of the development of the bus market in other areas. Edinburgh and the Lothians have two or three operators, but the west of Scotland, where we are, has about 60 operators—that is how the market has developed because of previous decisions.

The aspiration of some of the councils, regional transport partnerships and others has been to look at how the Lothian model could be applied in their areas. The elephant in the room, of course, is funding and how you can start off something like that with depots, pensions and vehicles. However, the bill at the moment would not allow the creation of a Lothian-type model, although I know that TS is considering how it could be widened to appease those who are anxious to have a Lothian-style model.

The Convener

I will bring in Paul Lawrence and then we will go to Mike Rumbles, who has a follow-on question.

Paul Lawrence (City of Edinburgh Council)

I have a brief comment that is linked to what Bruce Kiloh was saying. From an Edinburgh point of view, we benefit from the Lothian model in the way that members have discussed. I wanted to emphasise that point, because Bruce Kiloh is right to say that other areas have different histories, different circumstances and different markets. The Lothian model gives us, as a local authority, an opportunity to have a strategic relationship with a provider, looking not only at social requirements but at the economic growth requirements of the city and the economic and social dimensions of wider spatial planning. As a whole, it allows that holistic relationship, which I am not convinced current provisions would allow elsewhere.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

We were told last week by the civil service bill team that the bill will give power to the 32 councils to run their own bus companies, if that is their wish, but only on loss-making routes. We are interested in having effective legislation, so my question is this: how many of those 32 councils are likely to want to invest in all the human resources, depots and buses that would be required to create and run a loss-making service? I would like to know how many councils would do something like that.

The Convener

Who wants to answer for the 32 councils across Scotland?

Gordon Mackay (Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland)

Clearly, councils currently operate in a difficult financial environment, and I think that the number of councils that would take up the current offer would be somewhere between nil and very low.

The Convener

David Summers is anxious to comment but, before I bring him in, I will allow Stewart Stevenson to comment, and then we can tie things up.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

One of the things that are put to me from time to time by constituents and others is that, when a route becomes non-economic and a bus company wants to shut it down, the council steps in because it is socially necessary, and that same company—in what may be a locally quasi-monopolistic situation—comes back in and now gets paid to run the bus service. How can we deal with that? Although you might be able to justify it in individual circumstances, it disnae sound awfy good, and there is plenty of opportunity for gaming. Does my statement overplay the situation, or is it something that you recognise?

Charlie Hoskins

We see it pretty much on a day-to-day basis. There is a step before organisations such as SPT and local authorities step in, and a lot of hidden work goes on behind the scenes to convince the operator that it is not the right thing to do and that it should consider a bigger picture than purely one of profit. To be fair to operators, they often do consider that and they see it as a last resort if they have to pull a service out.

We work through socially necessary guideline criteria to see what type of service needs to be put in. One of the difficulties—and I hope that the committee will come on to this—is the data required to do that. We do not get the data from the operators that tells us how many passengers there are or their origin or destination, so one of the big things that the bill must address is the requirement for data, whatever framework is in place, whether it be a partnership or a franchise.

Stewart Stevenson

Are you allowed to see the data for the concession card scheme, because that would be part of it?

Charlie Hoskins

I would have to defer my answer and come back to the committee, as I am not 100 per cent certain on that point. However, to answer your question about what the dynamic then looks like, the dynamic for us is quite interesting, because we then go into the procurement legislation. We have introduced a more dynamic purchasing method to make it a little bit more efficient, but ultimately we are still going back to a market, and in some areas there may be only one operator or a couple of operators, which will take a view on what they believe is the right price, because then it would be a competitive tender situation.

What also happens quite often—and our committee members see this when we bring a proposal for approval—is that we will go back out again, because the returns that we get are simply unaffordable, and there is a lot of dialogue with operators about affordability.

There might well be an opportunity, which this committee might come to, from the partnership model, rather than the franchise model. If partnership provided the ability to share data a bit more, what was paid would in effect be a top-up cost rather than the cost of buying a whole chunk of a service. That is an interesting dynamic. I hope that that gives members more insight.

10:45  
Gail Ross (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

David Summers will not be surprised to hear that my questions are for him. We have talked about socially necessary routes. Could any routes in Highland that are just for schools be opened to the public? If so, what would need to be done to allow that to happen? Does the bill cover that, or could it be done now?

The Convener

David Summers is on the spot with a non-constituency question from the deputy convener.

Gail Ross

It is Highland-wide.

David Summers

That is fine. Such routes can be opened up at the moment; in fact, we have in the past two or three years increased the number of school routes that are open to the public. However, the public service vehicle accessibility requirements have worked against that. A 50-seater coach might be required for the number of school pupils, but coaches that do not have a wheelchair lift do not conform to the accessibility requirements, so they have had to be removed from the public network. The alternative is to provide two buses, which would cost more, but it is fair to say that services have been removed only where public use was minimal.

Current legislation allows councils to run school buses. We have no large buses on the public network, but we have a few minibuses. Legislation also allows us to use such vehicles off-peak to provide a public service, although that is pretty restricted, because the core use of such vehicles is for school transport. We welcome the provision in the bill to broaden the approach. One issue is that any such operation should be under an operator licence—I think that that is the bill’s intention, but it is not stated.

Mr Rumbles asked about loss-making services. The proposed power is to run services that the private sector has not registered. Such services might be loss making for private operators but not necessarily for us. In Moray, the private sector operator recently withdrew a route but, by using a school bus in off-peak time, the council replaced the service at what I understand is more or less break-even. The consideration is not whether the service is loss making but whether any commercial operator is providing it.

The Convener

Richard Lyle wants to drill down into a few questions.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

Bruce Kiloh has touched on several questions that I was going to ask, so I will wrap up my questions to be a wee bit simpler. I will set the scene: in Scotland, we spend millions of pounds on bus transport. My area has numerous bus operators that really do not provide a service in some parts and are letting my constituents down.

When the Scottish Government officials, who I believe could be bolder, gave evidence to the committee last week, they said that state-aid competition rules might prevent local authority bus companies from providing a commercial service. Come back, Glasgow Corporation, all is forgiven. Should we not try to reintroduce a public bus service that serves the public? Does the bill fail in that regard?

Bruce Kiloh

Thank you for your questions. To put the situation in perspective, an interesting point is that the number of passengers in the west of Scotland bus market has gone down by 60 million in the past 10 years; the market faces a lot of difficulties. I mentioned that our area has 50 to 60 operators but, five or six years ago, that figure was 120. Some operators have been bought, but others have gone out of business.

We are proud of what we do at SPT in providing a public service and subsidising those services that are deemed socially necessary, but I suppose a wider question is whether you should be relying on a piece of legislation to turn round a bus market that is in decline. Possibly not. Will the bill make the world a better place as far as buses in the west of Scotland go? I hope so—probably.

The proposals for bus service improvement partnerships are better than the previous statutory bus quality partnerships. There are questions around the franchise proposal, but it is better than the bus quality contracts. One thing for sure is that, whatever state this legislation comes out in, we will explore every opportunity to maximise the benefits of the new legislation for the people of the west of Scotland. However, it always comes back to the elephant in the room, which is funding.

We spoke earlier about our £11 million budget for supporting socially necessary services. As a rule, that works out at about £5 per head per person for a year for our area. If you go down south, you might be looking at £25 a head for some of the bigger regions and £15 a head for some of the others. For London, it is about £100 a head. Those are rough figures. You get what you pay for. Whatever is proposed in the bill, if there is money there to back it up, it will make life a bit easier. Definitely, whatever form negotiations with the operators for a bus service improvement partnership might take, the operators always sit up and take notice if you bring a bit of money to the table.

Richard Lyle

Correct me if I am wrong, but I could set up a bus service tomorrow if I got all the necessary licences and so on. We have a crazy situation in Motherwell where two buses follow each other on the same route because they are from different companies. We are paying out that money for nothing. Why do we not sit down and decide what we need and what we want and what will serve the passengers—my constituents? We are not doing that and the bill will not do anything to resolve that, or will it? Tell me.

The Convener

Charlie, do you want to answer that?

Charlie Hoskins

Yes, because it follows on from Bruce Kiloh’s point. Richard Lyle is absolutely right. I also live in that area and, as a passenger, I very much see that happening. There are a couple of areas in the bill where there is the opportunity to do what Richard Lyle mentioned. At the moment, we try to do that with operators through the registration process. When their registration comes in, we try to suggest to them that it is not a good registration because it is too aggressive against another operator and the buses should be spread. For example, if an operator is coming in on the clock, somebody else should not arrive five minutes later—it should be 15 minutes later to try to give a 15-minute service.

The bus service improvement partnerships are a good idea in that regard because the whole point is to sit down and plan the network. One of the things that we need to do that planning is the data. I apologise if that is the second time I have said it, but it is very important. The SPT and SCOTS submissions both make the point that we need to get to the heart of that data. It gives us the network to plan and then, from that, you would hope not to be setting up a partnership where you would experience that type of situation.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Good morning, gentlemen. Many of you will have community buses running in your areas. In a previous incarnation, this committee did an inquiry into community transport. What effect, if any, would the proposals in the bill have on community transport groups?

Bruce Kiloh

We view community transport as a key part of the transport mix nowadays. It is an essential part of our provision for the transport network in the west of Scotland. Earlier, we talked about some of the issues relating to those socially necessary services. Our funding can go only so far, so we rely on community transport to assist us in filling that gap. We put our money where our mouth is in that regard, and we support some fantastic community transport organisations around the west of Scotland. Initiatives such as the bus service improvement partnership are part of that mix. It would be folly for us to ignore that. We want to build on the success that we had with the west of Scotland community transport network, which was an attempt to set a standard for community transport in the west of Scotland. We are delighted that operators have signed up to that and are able to access funding for us.

We will work with the community transport organisations through the provisions of the bill as enacted, if it comes to that, and we will make the best of the situation that we have.

Maureen Watt

Would expanding that approach be seen as an alternative to local authorities setting up their own bus companies? Would Mr Summers like to comment on that, as there are community transport groups in the Highlands?

David Summers

Community transport provision is uncertain while Westminster is still reviewing the position on section 19 and section 22 permits, although the indications that we are getting suggest that it is back-pedalling a bit from its original restrictive interpretation.

Community transport is important in our area, as Bruce Kiloh said that it is in his. We support 25 groups, most of which are pretty small scale. I do not see the bill having much impact on them, as they do not operate under PSVO licences. If any groups wanted to expand to the level at which taking on such a licence was appropriate, the provisions in the bill that apply to partnerships and so on would apply to them just as they do to companies in the commercial sector, which could be positive.

Overall, the bill addresses a market that is different from that which is served by community transport, at least in our area—a complementary, not competing, one. Could community transport operators substitute for council operation? Under the present system, operation is restricted to what the permit provides for, but there is potential to explore that. I do not think that I can go further than that at the moment.

The Convener

Jim Grieve has not had a chance to speak yet, so I will let him in now.

Jim Grieve (South East of Scotland Transport Partnership)

I will speak in order to give a voice to the south-east of Scotland. The transport partnership in our area is interested in community transport, particularly for rural areas such as the Scottish Borders, where there are real issues with the number of bus services that are available to people. I am not sure of the extent to which the bill will assist in the development of that, but it is something that we want to get involved in. To refer again to the elephant in the room that Bruce Kiloh has referred to a number of times, if some funding were available for that, it would help us to make some progress with it.

Richard Lyle

I certainly agree with you, Mr Grieve.

Last week, Scottish Government officials indicated that the proposed local service franchise regime would remove the entry bar that has prevented any authority from pursuing a bus quality contract. Do you share that view? If so, how many local service franchises could we expect to see operating within the next few years?

Charlie Hoskins

That is an interesting question. The proposal is a new one. Our view is that the proposed regime would remove that bar, which, in effect, in the context of a quality contract, was about proving a negative—people had to prove that there was a market failure. However, in place of that, there are some really stiff challenges when it comes to setting up a franchise. I am sorry to go on about data for the third time, but there are issues around the data that is required in order to do that analysis. To give members a comparator, Transport for Greater Manchester is investing £11 million in the analysis—not the delivery—of a franchise. That is the same budget that we have for the delivery of services in the Strathclyde area, which is roughly the same conurbation size as greater Manchester.

11:00  

There are a lot of challenges in that, and we in SCOTS share the view on some of the checks with an independent panel and all of the work to get to a point that could quite easily not be reached, despite the transport authority believing that it is the right thing to do. There are some stiff challenges in that, and we are interested in seeing what the guidance looks like on the mechanics of how that is done. Although the regime might remove a bar, there are a few other big, chunky obstacles for us to overcome to get to that point.

That might mean that we explore certain areas for franchises in the future. A number of years ago, there was an area in Lanarkshire in which we did considerable analysis of a quality contract, but we could not quite get over the bar. We are probably looking at a place of that kind of size where there is unmet need, but it is difficult to get the data to underpin that.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning, panel. I have a number of questions about smart and integrated ticketing. I think that we would all welcome the extension of that to include rail and ferry services. There are several proposals on that in the bill, many of which relate to powers to be given to ministers on technical standards, definitions and establishing an advisory board.

We have had a couple of representations from local authorities. East Dunbartonshire Council raised concerns that the proposals

“may generate a larger number of individual smart cards that cannot be used across a number of travel platforms”.

Stirling Council told us that it considers that the

“system would be much more useful and understandable for customers if it were compulsory for operators to join such schemes.”

What, if any, are the benefits of the proposals in the bill on smart ticketing?

The Convener

I note that Charlie Hoskins wants to come in. I am sure that other people have views on the issue, but we will start with him.

Charlie Hoskins

Thanks, convener. I apologise for dominating the conversation, but I have quite a lot of deep experience of integrated and smart ticketing.

There are two things to consider. Members might be aware of the ITSO technical standard. The technical platform to interoperate therefore exists. That is a United Kingdom-wide technical standard. We have had that in the subway for five years. We interoperate with ScotRail and a number of bus operators.

The difficulty is in striking commercial and operational agreements with operators. There are a couple of reasons for that. One reason is that, as soon as operators start to integrate products, they fear that their revenue is being diluted. If two operators share the revenue for one journey, they will potentially not get the full fare for that in their own little space. That operator perspective is well understood. We operate a zone card in the SPT area with a paper-based system. The technical platform is the place to start from.

There is another interesting thing, which we are currently trialling. Everybody talks about smart cards, but the vast majority of a generation have grown up using devices such as smartphones and smart watches. People want a frictionless system in which they buy a ticket, it is downloaded to their phone, and they use that to tap to go through the gate with a QR, or quick response, code. It would be wrong to start to legislate right now for that whole technology space; we need to let it grow.

How the bill is written is pretty good, because an advisory group for ministers in which all the operators come together to bring forward that approach is needed. That will allow the technology to develop into those spaces. With so many operators with different commercial views, the top-down approach would be pretty near impossible without full regulation.

John Finnie

In Parliament, we are currently going about with two security cards because we are changing systems. Is the situation sufficiently future proofed by having the advisory board? Technology changes rapidly, and we do not want to impose something only to find that there is another version the following week. It is inevitable that there will be another version the following week.

Charlie Hoskins

That is a good point. Transport Scotland officials have been really open and pretty good on that, and we have talked to them about our experience, as have a number of operators. That is why there would be an advisory board. Do not impose something yet, because quite a lot is going on in that whole space of devices. As long as we have our technical standard so that we have the security of the product on the card or the device, that is the core. Then, let the commercial operators come forward with the best medium, whether that is a card, a phone or a watch. That is all happening at the moment.

Scotland is leading the way in much of that in what we are doing in the ScotRail network and the subway network. We have customers who can tap the gates with their phone and use their phone to go through, which is incredible.

The Convener

I am going to bring in David Summers. I am sure that Stewart Stevenson will flash his cards in a minute.

John Finnie

I have a supplementary question that David Summers can answer at the same time. Were there any concerns about the proposal to allow the Scottish ministers to direct local authorities to establish smart ticketing?

David Summers

That is exactly the point that I wanted to make. I agree with everything that Charlie Hoskins has said, but I have two additional points to make.

First, Transport Scotland has been very positive in helping to broaden the availability of smart-enabled ticket machines. The machines for smaller operators in our area have been upgraded. That all helps.

Secondly, there is a provision in the bill to allow ministers to instruct local authorities to introduce a smart ticketing scheme, but there is no power to allow local authorities to instruct operators to participate, so the ministerial instruction gets stuck halfway. That needs to be addressed. Charlie Hoskins outlined the commercial concerns about whether operators are going to lose revenue through that. However, if the instruction is going to be effective, it needs to be followed through.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

One of the concerns is that we may end up with local authorities using payment systems that operate across multiple modes of transport, so there may be differentiation when people travel from one local authority area or region to another, and different operators will use different technologies, because they are trying to increase patronage of their own mode of transport. That is all fine. There will also be national schemes laid on top of that. Does that not create a fragmented and quite confusing payment landscape? Contactless is a standard that can operate across all modes, but all that does is enable payment through the use of technology; it is not necessarily a standardised payment platform for ticketing.

There is an opportunity for the Government to create a nationwide standard. The Netherlands introduced the OV-chipkaart, and other countries have introduced similar schemes. The Government could introduce national technology standards and ensure that all operators are part of those schemes. Does the bill go far enough in taking away that confusion and in creating a national scheme that works across multiple travel modes?

The Convener

Charlie Hoskins is always keen to come in, but I am scanning the room to see whether anyone else wants to chip in.

Charlie Hoskins

I am keen to answer because that is a very pertinent question. It is clear that the other countries that use such systems have fully regulated whole-transport systems. When we start to impose things such as a single payment mechanism, we get into setting fare levels and all the competition issues. It is quite tricky to unpick all of that.

Rather than the question being whether the system is fragmented, we ask whether it is easy for the customers. We try to focus on whether we are making it easier for customers for the normal types of journeys that they make. We will never cover every single journey that people make in Scotland.

A time will come when there is another phase of technology. Members will have heard of the mobility-as-a-service concept and having a space where a transport planning system is aggregated with a payment system. That might be supplied by a big technology provider with operators feeding into that. That is a really interesting concept, and I know that the Scottish Government has put some money towards that for the year ahead, which is great to see. Some work is being done on that, and ideas are still emerging. We think that it would be wrong to start to impose that at this moment in time. When we start another chapter, that might be the right time to do it.

The Convener

I will let Stewart Stevenson ask his question before I bring in Bruce Kiloh.

Stewart Stevenson

First, are you planning on having a smart card to improve security? I have two cards here. Suppose that I found them in the street and that I have just downloaded the XML data off both cards. I now know the birthday and full name of the individual who holds the cards, notwithstanding the fact that that is not printed on the outside of the cards. In other words, there is no security whatsoever to prevent me from accessing the data on the ITSO cards. ITSO cards are currently 4K and 16K, so the other question is whether there is enough space on the cards to support the number of applications that might be required. Those are two quite techie questions.

The Convener

I will let Bruce Kiloh answer those questions and the previous question at the same time.

Bruce Kiloh

I am grateful for that, convener.

The Convener

I thought that you would be.

Bruce Kiloh

Charlie Hoskins will be able to talk about the technical stuff.

Over the past few years, we have developed a card for the west of Scotland, and it is important to remember that people used to ask us, “Why has it taken you so long to get a smart card up and running for the subway, which has only 15 stations?” As Charlie Hoskins outlined, the technical aspects were not the problem; the issue was getting the business rules right. Rightly or wrongly—I am making no judgment on this whatsoever—there are 50 bus operators, a rail company, ferry companies, the SPT and various other companies. That is the market in which we are operating.

Over the past five years, we have tried to get the operators on board, and we have been very successful with that. We now have the most commercially successful transport smart card in Scotland, with more than 170,000 cards issued and more than £20 million-worth of transactions.

On Stewart Stevenson’s point, the security of the data is key to maintaining the trust of the customer. Anything that can be done in that regard through the proposed advisory board in the bill is essential.

On the point that David Summers made, as far as we are aware, the way in which the advisory board will work with the smart cards is that the minister, when they have a particular view or are looking for advice, will seek counsel from the advisory board. It will not be a case of directing a local authority, an RTP or whoever it might be to bring in a scheme or an arrangement; it will be a case of directing that organisation towards the legislation that is available to it. That is very different from directing an authority to do something.

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 includes provision for setting up a ticketing arrangement or scheme—an arrangement involves the operators getting together and introducing a ticketing system, and a scheme involves a public authority bringing in such a system in the absence of an arrangement. That provision is available now, and I think that it will be maintained in the bill through the powers of the advisory board.

Paul Lawrence

I support what my colleagues have said.

I want to mention the tourist point of view, because we have talked about residents, constituents and customers. Tourism is a huge industry in the country, but tourists do not necessarily have the same access that residents do. Therefore, the point about people being able to simply use contactless payment, in the way that we could if we were to go to London tomorrow, is important for certain parts of the economy. The committee might want to think about the issue from the point of view of residents and of different economic interests.

The Convener

That is very helpful. Thank you for that.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

Good morning, gentlemen. A big part of the bill concerns low-emission zones. My first question is fundamental for all the members of the committee, and it needs a yes or no answer. Do you support the principle of establishing LEZs in Scotland?

Gordon Mackay

Yes—provided that they are fully funded.

Charlie Hoskins

Absolutely, and I agree with my colleague on his point.

Jim Grieve

Yes—provided that all the carrots do not go into one council area and all the sticks go into an adjacent council area.

Bruce Kiloh

Yes—provided that we think about not only emissions from vehicles, but the complementary measures that councils, RTPs and other partners deliver that relate to traffic management and bus priorities. There is also the issue of funding, as Gordon Mackay said.

Paul Lawrence

Yes—as long as LEZs are part of a wider approach to place making in an area, and not purely about transportation and emissions issues.

David Summers

Yes, definitely. I agree that reduced emissions can be achieved in various ways, bus priority being one of them. Buses should be seen as part of the solution, not as part of the problem.

11:15  
The Convener

So the answer is yes.

Peter Chapman

That is very positive. I am pleased to hear it. I note that you have said that funding is an issue. That was going to be the subject of my next question, but you have already answered it.

The bill gives local authorities the ability to devise schemes that are appropriate to their circumstances. The problem with that is that there may be different schemes in different areas, resulting in confusion for travellers. Do the proposals in the bill strike the right balance between consistency across Scotland and the ability of local authorities to design a scheme that is suitable for themselves? 

Gordon Mackay

Yes, SCOTS is content with the proposals. One size does not fit all. We are content with the flexibility that is provided to local authorities to find appropriate solutions to local issues.

Jim Grieve

To illustrate what I said earlier about carrots and sticks, if a city introduces a scheme, and it is within its control, the carrots are cleaner air, less congestion, more reliable bus trips and funding coming in to the authority to improve those things. Commuters from neighbouring authorities, however, who travel into the city, particularly in single-occupancy cars, will have to look for alternative means of getting to the city, be it an upgraded car, better bus services or active travel. It is important that the wider regional perspective is taken into account, so that the benefits of a low-emission zone are equitable.

The Convener

Is there a view from the Highlands on that point?

David Summers

Yes. We are in a different position from the urban authorities in not having council boundaries close to the conurbation. We have an air quality management area in the centre of Inverness, so it is an issue for us. The bill requires the objectives of a low-emission zone to be set out. It is good that those are to go beyond reducing emissions. I mentioned bus priority, and the issues of traffic reduction and modal shift are also important.

As others have said, funding is clearly an issue. In Highland, we have traditionally put money into supporting rural bus services where they would not be economical. We have not put money into bus services to encourage people out of their cars in the more populated areas. That might be a beneficial side-effect of the bill, subject to funding.

Peter Chapman

The panel members have all said that they welcome the ability to have different schemes, but no one has addressed the issue of confusion among the general public. Someone might have a vehicle that it is legal to drive into Edinburgh but not into Glasgow. I can see that creating big problems for drivers, at least in the initial phases. Do you accept that view?

Jim Grieve

The vehicles that are allowed into a low-emission zone should be agreed nationally. That would avoid the issue that Mr Chapman has described, where a driver can access one city with a certain vehicle but not another.

Gordon Mackay

From a SCOTS perspective, what is proposed is reasonable. It is important that the rules of a particular low-emission zone are clearly explained via signage.

John Finnie

I have a question for David Summers. He talked about an air quality management zone in Inverness. It may seem parochial, but the point has wider application.

Is there a feeling in those areas that are not likely to be involved in initial schemes that the bill provides some comfort that the local authority will not act on issues? Someone who has been affected by air quality, and we know that bad air quality is a significant killer, will not be bothered about legislation. If a local authority has not taken steps to protect its citizens, they will legitimately sue.

Do you have concerns about that, particularly in relation to Inverness, where the local authority positively encouraged people to drive in the city centre in the air quality management zone?

David Summers

That is a nice question that puts me on the spot.

John Finnie

I have written to the council about the issue extensively.

David Summers

I have to admit that I have not seen that communication—perhaps it has not gone in the passenger transport direction.

This links in with the bus partnerships. We are talking about addressing air quality through partnership arrangements, relating to bus priority arrangements or vehicle types. Given that we have a number of electric buses in Inverness, I was dubious about the modelling of vehicle pollution that was done, because it was based on average bus fleets and did not take account of the electric vehicles that Stagecoach runs with us. If we look at this in the round and take in other aspects of the bill, there is an opportunity to approach the whole thing in a more strategic way.

I will have to pass on your direct question about liability if a scheme is not introduced.

John Finnie

Okay. Thank you very much.

The Convener

Peter Chapman has a follow-up question.

Peter Chapman

I want to drill down into this a bit more. Much of the detail relating to LEZs is to be set out in regulations that are currently being developed by the Scottish Government—we asked the Government some questions about that last week. What input have you guys had with regard to getting the detail of what an LEZ looks like into the bill?

Bruce Kiloh

We had a meeting last week with the relevant civil servants from Transport Scotland about how a low-emission zone would work in practice. I reiterated to them the point that I made earlier in support of LEZs: a key factor, which Glasgow City Council acknowledged in a report that it had done, is that complementary measures are essential and it is important to take a holistic, integrated view. We understand that there will be wider implications across the network and the transport offer for the travelling public. We need to approach that in a co-ordinated way. We will look at bus priority measures, traffic management and the public transport offer that is out there to encourage the public to travel more sustainably.

The civil servants listened well to me; they are more than aware that they will have to deal with all that carefully and in the round. From what we have seen, we are reassured that the guidance and the regulations will be hugely important as the bill goes through. The key point for us is that when the ancillary measures that are part of an LEZ are introduced, there has to be some way, within the LEZ documentation, of ensuring that there is a commitment from partners to deliver them.

Gordon Mackay

I will expand on what Bruce Kiloh said. The Glasgow LEZ is the first to progress, and I am aware that our colleagues in Glasgow have been working closely with Transport Scotland officials to flesh out the detail of it. The experience of that is now beginning to flow through into the legislation. I assure you that there is good dialogue on these topics.

Paul Lawrence

We have not had as much dialogue with Transport Scotland officials as we might have liked—that is perhaps as much our fault as it is theirs. It sounds like the dialogue in the east is not as advanced as it is in the west. On Jim Grieve’s point about designing holistic solutions for areas as a whole—effectively for travel-to-work areas rather than just specific parts of Edinburgh city centre—we need to understand the knock-on effects.

People are right to talk about complementary measures, but we need to work with, for example, the commercial haulage sector not only on its standards but on access and egress arrangements, and some kind of detail on the powers that we have to bring such operators to the table needs to be included in regulations.

The Convener

I suspect that you might be having more discussions after this.

Jamie Greene will ask the next question.

Jamie Greene

I just want to make some pragmatic points. I lived in London when the congestion charge was introduced, and my experience was that it led to a huge displacement of congestion. Drivers would park on the periphery of zones instead of driving into them; small businesses would use small diesel vans outside the zones; and bus operators would move all of their green vehicles into the zones to avoid fines, charges and so on. Is there a worry that very localised zones in cities might cause problems for residents and businesses outside the zones?

Secondly, what about those who are unable to use public transport or take active travel measures to commute into and out of cities? The reality is that many people rely on the car as a mode of transport. Will they see this measure simply as another tax on the motorist?

Jim Grieve

That emphasises the need to look at this holistically, as Paul Lawrence has said. There will be displacement, and a fair bit of work needs to be done on modelling and anticipating that. In Edinburgh, for example, it will put more stress on the Edinburgh city bypass, which is already under significant stress. My answer to the first part of your question, therefore, is that it is absolutely a worry, and it needs to be predicted and addressed prior to the introduction of an LEZ.

From my reading of the legislation, there is an opportunity to exempt certain types of vehicles, mainly emergency vehicles and others of that nature. I think that your point about people who have no choice but to use their own transport is a valid one, and it is an issue that still needs to be addressed in the legislation.

Gordon Mackay

I broadly echo Jim Grieve’s comments. I am certainly aware of concerns expressed by at least two councils about the potential for more polluting public transport vehicles such as buses to find their way into surrounding areas as a result of the Glasgow LEZ while, as Jamie Greene has suggested, the greener vehicles go into the zone. We need to be mindful of that issue.

Paul Lawrence

I used to work in greater Manchester, and a congestion charge ballot that was held there was lost for precisely the reasons that Mr Greene has set out, with suburban authorities fearing exactly the displacement that he referred to.

I tried to say this before, but my substantive point is that LEZs need to be part of a wider transport and place-making solution. Many people will always rely on their car, but the way in which we design networks can help in that respect. For example, people could take their cars to certain places and then transfer easily to other modes of transport—I am thinking of park-and-ride and park-and-walk schemes and so on. We need to think about the design of the whole network instead of purely looking at it from an emissions point of view, because through that kind of transport design work, we can combat a number of the issues that you have raised.

Charlie Hoskins

Paul Lawrence has covered the issue very well, but I would like to raise a couple of points.

We have had quite a number of discussions with Glasgow City Council and Transport Scotland about the potential for displacement, and the committee might find it interesting to hear from the operators on the issue. Certainly one of the big operators in Glasgow faces a big challenge with regard to the investment required in its fleet.

One interesting learning point from the introduction of the first low-emissions zone in Glasgow is the feeling that the focus has been entirely on buses and that it was not presented in a holistic way at the beginning. We are over that now, and it is now understood as being a longer-term solution. I echo Paul Lawrence’s important point about having a regional assessment, and the work that SCOTS and SPT are doing across authorities to get an understanding of the issue has led not just to complementary measures in, say, Glasgow city centre with regard to bus speeds but to further investment in building strategic park-and-ride sites and in marketing such solutions as being really good for people. You have certainly made some very valid points.

11:30  
Jamie Greene

Those were very constructive answers. Thank you.

Your answers and the discussion have been focused around the need for more modelling of displacement as well as more consultation in local authorities. Everyone is saying that the bill needs to be part of a holistic approach to the transportation needs of a city and of people who commute into and out of cities. That is all well and good; the problem is that the bill introduces LEZs and nothing else. The committee is faced with the dichotomy of proceeding with the well-intentioned LEZs while not addressing any of the other issues that you have talked about today. How can we progress with the introduction of the LEZs, for which there is wide support, in a way that ensures that everything is done before LEZs are introduced? Should there be a delay in their introduction? Should the timescale for that be longer? Should the grace periods be longer? How should we approach that issue?

The Convener

The grace period is an important aspect.

Charlie Hoskins

We all agree that the grace period is important, and I understand the concern about the need to look at it narrowly and introduce it in a bill. In the west of Scotland, the matter gets properly analysed in the regional transport strategy. SPT has just started the next regional transport strategy, so, over the next two years, it will learn from Glasgow and whatever comes through the bill will flow through into regional assessments.

It is incumbent on us, as the regional transport partnership—I say this with my SPT hat on—and all 12 authorities to come together to understand LEZs and other parts of the bill as well as, on a practical level, how the bill’s provisions will be implemented at the strategic level and how they will be assessed. The west of Scotland RTP—I am sure that the other RTPs will echo this—believes that the regional transport strategy is the place where the provisions will be strategically assessed and that LEZs will not be left sitting on their own.

Jim Grieve

I repeat pretty much what Charlie Hoskins has said. All seven RTPs are charged with providing a regional transport strategy and introducing it thereafter, funds permitting. There is already a statutory basis for consideration of things such as LEZs in the regional transport strategy, and that is one option.

The Convener

We will move on to the next questions, which will be asked by John Mason.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

Mike Rumbles and I will both ask questions about parking, but I will focus more on cars and residential areas while Mike Rumbles might talk more about deliveries, unloading and the commercial side of things.

Do you support in principle the prohibition of pavement parking? In my constituency—I am sure there are others like it—we have some narrow roads where the pavements are reasonably wide. The police would say that the most sensible thing would be to park with two wheels on the pavement and two wheels on the road, which would mean not blocking the pavement or the road. Will the bill lead to lots of wide pavements being open and lots of roads being blocked, or will it lead to the displacement of vehicles? Do you agree with all of that, or is it too draconian?

Gordon Mackay

In principle, we need tools to deal with the real problem of pavements being obstructed. However, we have fairly significant concerns about where we sit. We are having on-going dialogue with Transport Scotland about the parking standards that will underpin the legislation, and those standards will provide the detail of when councils can exempt sections of road or pavement and when they cannot exempt them.

You are correct in saying that we have many areas of high-density housing, many of which have narrow roads and footpaths that are already under significant parking pressure. Further work needs to be done to better understand how all of that will feed through. Although we support the principle of finding a solution to the problem, we need to be clear that the potential solutions and their implementation are practical. From a local authority point of view, we need to see the rules for the parking standards. That is essential if we are to answer the sort of questions that you will ask us.

Considerable effort will be required to assess whether roads across council areas meet the exemption criteria. Considerable resource will then potentially be required for some type of ordering process. Apparently, it will not be a traffic regulation order—TRO—process, but must be something similar, which has the potential to be administratively cumbersome. Beyond that, there is the question of signing and lining if we are going to mark out parking bays that are partly on the pavement and partly on the carriageway. There is also the question of enforcement. Some councils do not have decriminalised parking, and some councils that have it do not have evening enforcement although evenings will generally be the issue in residential areas.

Therefore, although SCOTS supports in principle having tools to deal with the very real current issues, our view is that significant further work needs to be done if we are to fully understand the practicalities of implementation.

Jim Grieve

I again emphasise the need to look at the issue holistically. For example, the pavement issue might be addressed as part of an LEZ, in which we might anticipate fewer single-occupancy cars coming into the city. That might provide a means to extend a controlled parking zone and therefore reduce the number of cars that come in looking to park. We should look at the situation holistically.

Paul Lawrence

I support Gordon Mackay’s points. In answering the previous question, we all said, “Yes, but—”. On this one, I would say, “Up to a point.” We welcome the intention, but the range of exemptions is worrying and may lead to unintended consequences. The basics of the law are that people should not drive on the pavement, but the bill appears to provide some kind of legal basis for driving on the pavement, which we do not support.

As Gordon Mackay suggested, the enforcement dimension seems to put the burden of proof on local authorities, which in many circumstances will find it hard to prove that there is illegal parking and, therefore, hard to issue parking charge notices accordingly.

I do not know whether the committee has had representations from Living Streets Scotland, but it is giving us a pretty torrid time in relation to what it believes the implications of the exemptions will be for pedestrians across the country.

The intention is good but the devil is in the detail, and that is far from satisfactory.

David Summers

Like others on the panel, we support the proposals. Our qualifications are about the resources that are required for enforcement and—to answer Mr Mason’s question—the unintended consequences that could arise. In our area, it is more typical to have narrow roads and narrow pavements than to have narrow roads and broad pavements. That can apply in villages and suburban housing schemes that were not designed for present levels of car ownership. There are areas where buses already have difficulty in getting through their routes because of parked cars, and there is a risk that that difficulty could increase. Of course, the same applies to emergency vehicles.

My traffic colleague is clear that, under traffic law, we have a responsibility to keep roads clear and unobstructed; therefore, banning pavement parking might mean people having to park somewhere else altogether. I can see difficulties coming from people who will not be able to park outside their houses because of the measure.

Those are practical consequences, but that is not to deny the benefits of keeping pavements clear for those who find obstructed pavements an obstacle, for reasons that the committee will know.

John Mason

There are a lot of issues, but I will try to keep my questions narrow and will ask about two points that have been raised. First, you said that more detail will come later. Are you involved in that process? Are you being consulted or feeding into that process, or is it purely the Government that is producing that detail?

Secondly, resources have been mentioned as a problem for councils. Will the penalty charges cover the cost of enforcement? My feeling—I stand to be corrected—is that double yellow lines are more strictly enforced on busy town and city centre high streets than in outlying residential areas. My concern is that parking might be strictly controlled in town and city centres but less controlled in peripheral areas, where a blind person will still need to get down the pavement and so on.

Gordon Mackay

We have had a good dialogue with Transport Scotland. George Henry at Transport Scotland runs a group that seeks to engage with all the councils, and that group has developed the parking standards. However, as I said earlier, there is some way to go before we have a definitive set of rules on how we would implement exemptions.

The view in SCOTS is that the bill and the associated financial memorandum substantially underestimate the costs to local authorities, by which I mean the time required to assess roads, to process TROs—or whatever order process is required—to sign and line the exemptions that are required and then to enforce compliance. I do not think that the income from PCNs would go any significant way towards meeting those costs.

Jamie Greene

My questions carry on that theme—they are similar to my questions about LEZs. Do you think that the Government’s proposed blanket ban is the right approach? It is widely accepted that there is an issue that needs to be addressed, but would a blanket ban have inadvertent consequences? For example, would it require local authorities to apply for exemptions under national standards that are as yet unknown? That would create a huge amount of work for local authorities.

Would it be better to have a reverse scheme whereby councils could apply for a ban on streets that were problematic, rather than the other way round? Under the Government’s approach, the whole thing will be illegal and, if a council wants to opt out, it will need to apply for an opt-out for specific streets. Again, my worry is displacement and huge numbers of drivers being unable to park their cars. We cannot simply ban parking in places where it is possible at the moment. Where will all those vehicles go? There are often no other parking opportunities in suburban areas. I have absolutely no idea where all those cars will go, and I have yet to hear any suggestions about that.

Jim Grieve

Either way, there will be a huge amount of bureaucracy. I suspect that the view behind the bill is that it is probably easier to have a blanket ban and then exempt specific footpaths from it. There is no real answer. Which option would be better depends on the proportions.

Gordon Mackay

You make a valid point about displacement. Beyond displacement from a single street, there is the potential for a significant cumulative effect. Housing areas are often very similar in character, so if you displace from one street you are probably displacing out the way.

In answer to Jamie Greene’s question about what we are allowed to exempt and how we are allowed to exempt it, I suggest that the devil will be in the detail. Could an area where the parking has worked fine historically simply be exempted? That would be a lot easier and far more practical, but we have still got a bit to go to get to that position.

Paul Lawrence

Jamie Greene’s question goes back to the bill’s objectives. If we are trying to achieve clear footways to ensure that people with any kind of mobility issue—or with a buggy or whatever it might be—can go about their business just like anybody else, the bill will lead to a set of regulations. If we are trying to ensure that everybody can park on the street in Edinburgh, there will be a problem, because there are some extremely densely occupied parts of the city. I wonder whether we are conflating policy objectives in using a single instrument.

11:45  
The Convener

We will move on to Mike Rumbles’s questions. I am sure that Bruce Kiloh will get a chance to make his points in response to those questions.

Mike Rumbles

My first question flows on from the previous discussion. I want to focus on one of the exemptions. We are all interested in having legislation that is effective and not ineffective. However, from my reading of the written evidence that we have received as well as the bill it strikes me that there is a problem. Section 47 says that the parking prohibitions do not apply where

“the vehicle is so parked for no longer than is necessary for the delivery, collection, loading or unloading and in any event for no more than a continuous period of 20 minutes”.

In its written evidence to us, East Dunbartonshire Council said that, unless an enforcement officer

“remains at a parked vehicle for longer than 20 minutes and visualises the infringement taking place, the driver will be able to argue their case”

and say that they have not remained there for longer than 20 minutes. It goes on to say:

“This isn’t a reasonable expectation for an enforcement officer”.

My point is that, although the inclusion of such an exemption for businesses that want to load or unload is well intentioned, allowing that for a continuous period of 20 minutes means that that period will become not a maximum but the norm. How could such a restriction possibly be enforced? I would like to hear whether the panel think the same. Somebody else could park for 20 minutes, and then another person could do so. If, as Paul Lawrence says, our intention is to help vulnerable users to go about their business without their paths being blocked, not changing that provision would drive a coach and horses through the whole bill. I would like to know what the panel members think.

The Convener

Paul, you were nodding vigorously.

Paul Lawrence

I agree with that. Mike Rumbles has described, probably far more eloquently than I did in my introduction, the reservations that we have about the drafting of that part of the bill. The intention is good, but the exemptions are too wide ranging and, as Mr Rumbles has said, in some senses unenforceable. More work needs to be done on the detail of that part.

Bruce Kiloh

Many aspects of the bill might have unintended consequences. David Summers mentioned the potential impact on bus services—not just local services, but others such as our demand-responsive transport service MyBus, which has no set route but goes through communities. In some areas, its access to passengers, who might be aged over 80 and unable to use mainstream public transport, is pretty much reliant on people parking on the pavement. Sometimes, the only time that those people will get out of the house is when the MyBus service can pick them up.

My general point—the committee has heard the entire panel say the same—is that we need to look at the issue in an integrated way. We need to understand how, from social and equality points of view, such impacts affect groups such as those who use the MyBus service, which last year carried over 500,000 passengers.

The Convener

There seems to be a general nodding of heads.

Peter Chapman

On the parking issue, a very important element that is missing from the bill is the prevention of parking opposite dropped kerbs, which are vital for disabled people and users of buggies. I am prepared to be corrected, but I do not think that anything in the bill says that parking opposite dropped kerbs will be made illegal.

Bruce Kiloh

I agree.

The Convener

No one wants to speak on that subject, but our witnesses seem to agree.

Perhaps Mike Rumbles would like to follow up his question.

Mike Rumbles

Last week, I asked the bill team about the drafting of section 47, and specifically about the 20-minute period, which seemed to have been plucked from the air. There does not seem to be any evidential basis for giving the ability to unload for 20 minutes. If the Government does not remove the 20-minute period, I will probably lodge an amendment to do so. If section 47(6)(c) were simply to say:

“the vehicle is so parked for no longer than is necessary for the delivery, collection, loading or unloading”,

and we were to remove the 20-minute allowance, would that help the situation?

Gordon Mackay

From the point of view of enforcement, the 20-minute limit is not much different from the loading restrictions that we currently police, which are commonplace in town centres. A parking attendant must observe the vehicle and come back 11 or 12 minutes later before they can issue a PCN. That is quite a clunky mechanism, because it involves a period of lost time. I agree that extending the period to 20 minutes would make the process even more cumbersome.

However, I accept in principle that there is a need to provide exemptions of that type to allow people to go about their day-to-day business. I suspect that leaving things open ended would cloud matters even further, because individuals might argue that they were going about some business associated with loading and unloading, disappear into a property and stay for longer than 20 minutes. Regardless of whether 20 minutes is the right period, at least it is a clear cut-off point that would allow parking attendants to be completely clear about how long they would have to observe a vehicle before they could issue a PCN, which they would be able to do 21 or 22 minutes after first observing the vehicle.

Mike Rumbles

At the moment, loading and unloading from the road is permitted in such circumstances, but here we are talking about loading and unloading from the pavement. That is a significant difference because, for that period, anyone with mobility issues will probably be forced on to the road, if they can get down on to it. Do you accept that there is a difference?

Gordon Mackay

It is all about compromises. We are having to accommodate many different parts of society, including local businesses and local households and their aspirations to go about their daily business, so a number of compromises will be required. It is a question of finding a balance.

John Finnie

This is most likely a question for Paul Lawrence. If the exemption provisions are agreed to, they will apply retrospectively to existing streets. Do you have input to planning decisions to ensure that such issues are designed out? Mention has been made of Living Streets and its progressive approaches. I would hope that, with any new infrastructure—setting aside gap sites in town and city centres—the problem could be designed out. Is that the case?

Paul Lawrence

That would certainly be the intention. I had hoped to have the opportunity to say this later, but I will sneak it in now. Our ability to do that depends not just on the planning process but on the way in which the roads redetermination process works. We think that that process—which is not mentioned in the bill—could be much smoother. That is an important tool in the box.

Mr Rumbles is absolutely right to raise the issue—we are talking about parking on the pavement, not parking on the street. I have yet to hear a justification from a trader about why they need to park on a pavement. That is not clear. That is the nub of the issue. The secondary issue is the local flavour. In some places, there might be certain hours of the day when we say that it is not acceptable to park on the pavement for any time at all. People might make the case that they need to be able to park on the pavement for specified reasons. We might say, “That’s fine, but only within certain hours.” Leaving it open ended or saying that people can park on the pavement for 20 minutes at any time of the day is unacceptable. We need much more local variance.

Mr Finnie is right that such issues can be designed out in new developments, but some of the tools that we have for doing that are still slightly clunky.

The Convener

I will not ask you to say whether shifting a lorry forward by 1m after it has been parked on the pavement for 20 minutes constitutes reparking, because that might be too difficult a question to address, but it is one that I have raised previously.

Stewart Stevenson

I will take us on to the exciting subject of road works. Stirling Council has commented on the proposed repeal of section 61 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, which would mean that all road works would have to be authorised under section 109 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. The council is concerned about whether, under the new arrangements, there will be adequate consultation with bus operators in particular, so that they can take account of the effect of road works on bus punctuality and reliability.

I recognise that Stirling Council is not necessarily represented here.

Gordon Mackay

Roads authorities typically deal with such a situation by going through a road closure order process. That seeks to accommodate road works of any type. We will continue to do that before or after any new legislation.

Stewart Stevenson

I think that the point that Stirling Council makes—I am putting words in its mouth so I might get this wrong—is that, under the new arrangements, there would be no legal duty to consult bus operators in particular. Am I mistaken?

Gordon Mackay

The road closure process involves publishing a road closure notice, which is made available to the general public, local elected members and the bus operators, so they all get advance notice.

Stewart Stevenson

That is fine—it closes down that question, subject to any further information.

The bill will create duties about signage, fencing, lighting and the qualifications of site supervisors and operators. Are you content with what it says on that subject?

Gordon Mackay

Yes. We surveyed all 32 councils and got a response from two thirds of them. Only two were not yet doing what the bill will require and both recognised the need to move in that direction. Indeed, they are already doing so.

David Summers

On the comment from Stirling Council, the liaison between bus operations and road works is an issue for Highland Council and—as I know from colleagues in the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers—around the country. Much of the time, it works fairly well, but some utilities push the boundaries, let us say, and I would welcome a statutory requirement to consult the bus operators. That would be helpful.

Stewart Stevenson

To be clear, are you telling us that, when the boundaries are pushed, it is not in contravention of the statutory position but merely an unhelpful practice?

David Summers

I am being diplomatic with my words.

Stewart Stevenson

Well, it might be time to be undiplomatic if you want change.

David Summers

The Scottish road works commissioner has had concerns about a lack of notice being provided or works being claimed to be emergency when they are not genuinely emergency works. Therefore, the stronger enforcement powers for the commissioner that are in the bill are welcome.

Stewart Stevenson

Convener, as we are asking questions about the road works commissioner, it might be useful to ask that person.

The Convener

Yes.

The witnesses have indicated that there ought to be consultation on road closure orders with bus companies and other road users. Does the current system allow all businesses that will be affected by road closures to feed into the process before an order is published? So that there is no dubiety, I clarify that I am part of a farming business that is sometimes affected by road closures. Are all businesses given enough of a chance to comment before a road is closed?

Gordon Mackay

We have to be careful about the expectation that a consultation would raise. It depends on the nature of the works that are to be undertaken and whether they can be carried out safely with a road still open. Frequently, it is not possible to keep a road open and do certain works. I would be cautious about going through a consultation in that scenario, because it would lead to an expectation that the road closure might be avoidable.

When managing road works and dealing with individual utilities, roads authorities are obliged to satisfy themselves, as far as they reasonably can, that the works will be undertaken in such a way as to minimise disruption to the travelling public. However, there is an inherent weakness in that, which goes back to the point that David Summers commented on. Occasionally, we are left with the impression that works are taking longer than they might with a particular utility. However, utilities will frequently come back with a plausible technical explanation as to why they have to do this or that, which means that works do not appear to be progressing as quickly as the public and roads authorities might like. With matters of that sort, we are often in the hands of the technical experts in the electricity or gas companies—the people who know their networks best.

12:00  
The Convener

That is the perfect point at which to bring in Maureen Watt.

Maureen Watt

Previous legislation gave councils the ability to appoint a person to co-ordinate utility companies when they are digging up the road, so that, if the gas company is in and the water company needs to do work in the same street, it can be done at the same time. Has that worked? Has there been a reduction in the number of times that specific roads have been dug up? Have you managed to get co-operation between the utilities and, increasingly, fibre-optic laying companies?

Gordon Mackay

It does not work as well as we would like. The number of times that utilities go in and share the same opening trench is limited, but there may be good reasons for that. The electricity companies will not want to lay cables beside gas mains for very good reasons.

The amount of road works in some areas is certainly a source of frustration to the travelling public; however, we need to be clear that roads are not just for getting people from A to B. Roads are very important conduits for critical public infrastructure, and power and gas companies and the like need to be given reasonable opportunities to access them to do whatever is necessary. It is the job of the roads authority to ensure as far as possible that that is done in a way that mitigates inconvenience to the travelling public. Typically, that will require that works are done at off-peak times or on Sundays.

Paul Lawrence

We broadly welcome what the bill suggests. There may be practice, which may be outside legislation or in guidance, by which we can encourage utilities to improve their communication in general. The convener asked whether there have been occasions in the city of Edinburgh when utility providers have not communicated effectively with businesses and residents, and the answer is yes.

The bill takes us in the right direction, but it is much more about day-to-day work with officials, elected members, community councils and so on to establish relationships that work effectively, which I am not sure can be done entirely through legislation. Maureen Watt is absolutely right about fibre providers. They are effectively competing with one another in Edinburgh at the moment. As the roads authority, we try to play a co-ordinating role in that, in the way that Gordon Mackay set out. That could be strengthened and the bill is helpful in that regard, but it is as much about good practice as about the legislative context.

Maureen Watt

The Scottish road works commissioner will gain new inspection and enforcement powers, some of which will be applicable to local authorities. Do you support the introduction of those proposals?

Paul Lawrence

We do.

Gordon Mackay

Yes—SCOTS does.

The Convener

No one is putting up their hand to say that they disagree, so I assume that that is a positive response. We will move on to the next question.

Gail Ross

There is a small but important section at the end of the bill about regional transport partnership finance. The bill proposes three changes to the current governance of that finance: it will require constituent councils to fund the balance of the RTPs’ estimated costs rather than the actual costs; it will amend the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1975 to allow RTPs to hold and operate capital funds, renewal and repair funds and insurance funds in a similar way to councils; and it will extend provisions in the Local Government etc (Scotland) Act 1994 to cover RTPs, which would grant RTPs the power to borrow and lend money and to operate a loan fund. Do you support those proposals and do they go far enough?

Bruce Kiloh

We support them very much. Since regional transport partnerships were established, we have been lobbying the Scottish Government, and previously the Scottish Executive, because we believe that this was some form of blip in the legislative process. We want to be able to take a much longer and more holistic view of the transport network and how we deliver for that, and the proposals will open up flexibility that will put us on an equal footing with councils. We will benefit from being able to do that.

Charlie Hoskins

I echo that point. We have lobbied hard for this. Year after year, we have been in a difficult position. My finance colleagues tell me that, in relation to the many projects that we are involved in, we have had to implement huge workarounds. That flexibility will be hugely beneficial, including in relation to some of the stuff that we are already doing.

Mike Rumbles

I have a brief question on canals. They are not always at the top of the transport agenda, but I am well aware of their importance to local communities. In Edinburgh, for example, there is the Union canal, with its canal festivals, and Polwarth church has been provided with its own landing, through the British Waterways Board. However, canals can be shut all of a sudden. The bill mentions only a requirement to change the number of board members. Does it not give us an opportunity to place on the board a duty to keep the canals open and navigable?

The Convener

Who would like to answer that? You are all looking the other way, but somebody has to come in.

Paul Lawrence

I have to say that I did not come prepared to talk about that but, based on our experience with exactly the area that Mr Rumbles mentions, I would agree that the bill gives us that opportunity, and we sometimes have an issue with co-ordination. Such a duty would be welcome.

Gordon Mackay

A parallel can be drawn with authorities having a statutory duty to maintain road networks. If the board has responsibility for maintaining a canal network, it does not seem unreasonable that that is reflected in statute.

The Convener

That brings us to the end of our questions. I thank everyone for their attendance.

12:07 Meeting suspended.  12:10 On resuming—  
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Third meeting transcript

The Convener

Item 3 is our third evidence-taking session on the Transport (Scotland) Bill. We will take evidence from two panels. First, we will focus on the smart ticketing proposals in the bill, and secondly we will hear evidence on the proposals relating to bus services.

I welcome to the meeting George Mair, who is director for Scotland of the Confederation of Passenger Transport; Simon Hulme, who is the information technology director of CalMac Ferries Ltd; and Robert Samson, who is senior stakeholder manager at Transport Focus. I assume that you have all given evidence before—

Simon Hulme (CalMac Ferries Ltd)

I have not, convener.

The Convener

For your benefit, then, I point out that you should not worry about pushing the buttons on your microphone; someone will turn it on for you. Please look at me if you want to answer a particular question—I will try to get everyone in. Moreover, if you see me waving my pen frantically, that means that your time is almost up.

Richard Lyle will start the questioning.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

Good morning, gentlemen. On smart ticketing, the get Glasgow moving campaign has argued that

“the Transport Bill must include powers so that Local Transport Authorities can enforce an affordable daily price cap across all public transport within the City Region.”

That notion might be commendable, but is there a need for a national technological standard for smart ticketing? If so, what benefits might that bring?

Simon Hulme

We at CalMac are very supportive of adopting standards and working with other industry bodies. Some forums of which we are a member have discussed smart ticketing, and we think that there is a huge benefit not just in looking at the matter unilaterally for our business as a ferry operator, but in being able to work in conjunction with the bus and rail companies, both of which we think are hugely advantageous to the Scottish islands and the Scottish economy. We are absolutely supportive of having a standard to work to, because that will help our software suppliers to work together and should, ultimately, give us a more streamlined and, potentially, more cost-effective solution.

Robert Samson (Transport Focus)

From the passenger perspective, in the medium term, a national technological standard would assist passengers by requiring them to have only one ticket for every mode of transport and every operator of bus, ferry, underground or rail services. A national technological standard or common framework would make it easier to introduce one integrated smart product for passengers instead of their having a multiplicity of tickets.

Richard Lyle

When I was in London a month or two ago, I got an Oyster card, and I used it on buses, trains, the underground and riverboats. I even used it on the Emirates Air Line cable car and on the Docklands light railway. It was Oyster card, Oyster card, Oyster card. Once it ran out, I was able to use my contactless card. If that system works in a city, why can it not work across a country?

George Mair (Confederation of Passenger Transport)

We are on the road to that. There is a standard in operation now—ITSO 2.1.4—and all the bus, coach, train and ferry operators have agreed to, and can, work on that platform.

Two years ago, we gave a commitment to the then Minister for Transport and the Islands to introduce a multi-operator, bus-to-bus service, initially in Scotland’s main urban areas. We have delivered that in Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen city and Glasgow and, in the east of Scotland, from Dundee to the Borders and to the west as far as Shotts. In those areas, you can get a ticket that will give you multiple bus journeys. That is the initial platform, and the plan is to spread that out geographically, to build it up and to work with ferry and rail partners on introducing a ticket that can be used across the different modes.

We felt that it was really important to not go in and build the roof because, if there were no supports for the roof, there would be a danger of collapse. We are building from the base up. The building blocks and the standards are there: we can push on now and work with colleagues to deliver integrated ticketing for Scotland. It is coming.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

It is interesting that Mr Mair talked about the industries doing certain things to develop the integrated ticket in geographical areas. In London, the Oyster card, which Transport for London introduced, covers every bus company and the whole city. Why have we not achieved in Scotland a single smart card that covers the whole country and all forms of transport? What is preventing that? Will the provisions in the bill deliver that, or will we still have the ad hoc growth of smart cards from the various companies?

George Mair

One of the things that we were asked to include in the smart ticket range that we have developed across Scotland—of which there has been significant take-up—was that each card, along with its own branding, would also carry the standard Saltire brand so that it could be recognised as a Scotland-wide card that, ultimately, people would be able to use on all the different public transport forms.

We are different to London. The Oyster card has been great, but it is dying and new technology is moving on. We have to keep up the pace and keep ahead of the game. There is an opportunity to have a Saltire card that will deliver the things that you are looking for with all the modes of transport.

Colin Smyth

With respect, we are not even close to the Oyster card in Scotland. You say that you have the technology to allow that to happen, but it is not happening. Why is that?

The number of Oyster cards is reducing because people are using their bank cards. However, we are not even at Oyster card level, never mind being able to use our bank cards to get around the country. If I jump on a bus in Dumfries and travel all the way to Aberdeen by bus, there is no chance of my being able to use my bank card and being charged competitively for the several bus journeys that I make, because there is no crossover between Dumfries and Galloway and other parts of Scotland.

Why are we not even at Oyster card level, never mind at the level of what will ultimately replace the Oyster card, which will probably be use of bank cards? What is stopping that happening?

George Mair

In discussions with Transport Scotland, we felt that we were at a crossroads. We had one technology and we were at a tipping point. It was a bit like VHS and Betamax, when Betamax died a death. We saw the success in other parts of the country in moving transport on to contactless payment. For us, that was the right decision and a sensible thing to do, rather than investing a lot of cash, time and effort in something that would die. It was more sensible to look at contactless and move on with that, because it offered so many options for the future. The current contactless system will change and develop in the years ahead.

The Convener

When we spoke to Transport for London last week, it said to us that the Oyster card will never die: on the basis that there will always be some people who do not have a bank card or cannot use one, Oyster cards will be used for the foreseeable future. I just want to float that.

Robert Samson

It has taken a long time even to get to where we are. I think that it was first mentioned in 2004 in “Scotland’s transport future” that the aim was that passengers would be able to get one ticket that could get them anywhere in Scotland. We are sitting here 14 years later and we still have not got there.

It is probably easier in London than in Scotland because of the regulatory set-up in London and the multiplicity of operators in Scotland, but we are getting there slowly. We now have smart locations, as George Mair mentioned, in urban areas. The hope is that the technological standard and the advisory group that the bill proposes will knit all that together. However, it goes back 14 years, so it has taken longer to deliver than passengers would have liked.

10:15  
Colin Smyth

I come back to the point about whether the provisions in the bill will be sufficient to deliver what we are trying to achieve, which is a Scotland-wide smart card like the Oyster card, particularly for people who will never have a bank account—young people and children do not have bank accounts—and the ability for people to use their bank card to get around Scotland. At the moment, I cannot use my bank card on a bus in Dumfries and Galloway. Will the bill deliver that, as it stands, or do we need to change it to make sure that we do not have this conversation again in five years?

Robert Samson

The bill will deliver mechanisms through which all the operators can get round the table and work together with good will. It will not legislate for, or enforce anyone to develop, a national product—although from working with the industry and operators, I see good will to deliver that. Operators are doing it in some areas just now, but there is no provision in the bill to enforce delivery of a national smart technology.

Simon Hulme

I have two comments that are probably worth making. We see customers having choice in how they pay for their travel as fundamental. There is a lot of talk about smart ticketing and smart cards, which has been the model up until now, but use of contactless cards is an expanding market; 63 per cent of people in the UK have contactless cards and 24 to 35-year-olds are the most common users of those cards. We want to make sure that we reach out to those people. However, as Colin Smyth rightly pointed out, not everyone has contactless cards.

Also, in some areas where CalMac operates, connectivity is particularly challenging—for example, we have to be cognisant that at some small ports on the islands we might not be able to have major ticket machines, so we have to be flexible and allow people choice. Do we see that involving our working very closely with the bus companies? For sure, we do. Do we see bus-sail as a fundamental product that we want to offer? Yes—as we do rail-sail. We have some of that, but we want to do a lot more.

We need Transport Scotland to help us to move forward with our new booking and ticketing system, which has been under discussion for a number of years. That is the fundamental enabler that will allow CalMac’s ferry business to move forward and to work with the companies that we are talking about. We want to go into multimodal delivery and offer choice to the customer, and we are asking for help from Transport Scotland to allow us to move that technology forward.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I have two small questions, the first of which sets the context. Is it not the case that the Oyster card allows an understanding of the journey that a customer makes, end to end, to be decided not before it is started but after it is completed? The key point is that the customer does not have to plan ahead but can just make their journey and then the system will aggregate all the different bits of the journey and price it. Is that a correct understanding? I am getting nods.

The Convener

George Mair, did you nod your head?

George Mair

Yes.

Stewart Stevenson

They all nodded.

In the bill, there is provision for a national smart ticketing advisory board. However, to enable you to do what Oyster does—that is, look at all the components that made up a journey in order to be able to decide, at the end of it, what the journey was—you will need a kind of clearing house for the data from all the different operators, be they ferries or whatever. I see nothing in the bill that provides for the technical bit of gubbins—to use the technical term—that will enable us to come to a conclusion about what the journey was. Does that matter? Is it a significant omission, or will the national smart ticketing advisory board, by implication, lead to the technical aspect being provided? If that does not happen, I do not see how we will get to the Scottish “scallop card”, or whatever you care to call it.

George Mair

We were instrumental in working with Transport Scotland to put in place the operator smart steering group, on which colleagues participate from the ferries sector and ScotRail—it is easier to say that only the Edinburgh trams are not represented. For me, the solution is about expanding that group to include local authorities and the transport operator that is not currently there.

We have had discussions about the issue, and we recognise that phase 1 of the roll-out of contactless payment is about buying the products that are there now, which might be single fares, day tickets or, in some cases, weekly tickets. Phase 2 will involve thinking about how to replicate what is happening now in London and being discussed in other parts of England. That will be discussed in Scotland.

Phase 1 is about getting the contactless system in and working, and buying the products that are there now. However, we will also have to keep an eye on the future, to move on to phase 2 of contactless payment, which will allow the things that Stewart Stevenson mentioned to happen. For example, someone might have multiple journeys and there will be a cap on the price for a day’s travel. Such ideas are being discussed just now, and the expansion of the board would allow those ideas to be developed.

Stewart Stevenson

I am sorry—let me intrude, just to try to draw that to a conclusion quickly. We are looking at a bit of legislation. At the end of the day, the question is whether the bill will speed up the process of getting to that end point.

George Mair

Yes, I think that it will.

Stewart Stevenson

That is fine.

The Convener

Does anyone else want to say whether it will speed up that process?

Simon Hulme

I think that it will speed it up, but there is one aspect that we think is fundamental, which is why the advisory board is so important. We see ferries as being slightly different. In some respects, our model is almost more like an airline one. On a number of our routes that are pre-booked, customers have to make their choices in advance, and we need to know that they are coming. That is an advantage, because we can speed up customers’ experience when we know who is coming and how many people will be on our vessels. Our being part of the advisory board helps us to ensure that such dimensions are not forgotten. That is where integration really comes from. People should not assume that it is just about buses and trains; they should remember the idiosyncrasies of other modes of transport, which might have slightly different demands.

Stewart Stevenson

Do you have a regulatory requirement to know who is coming?

Simon Hulme

On certain routes, yes we do.

Richard Lyle

In London, it is all red buses. Last week, we found out that the services are run not by Transport for London but by various operators, who bid to run services, using the red bus brand.

In Lanarkshire, for example, we have several bus companies, and the problem is that I cannot go from one bus to another with the same ticket. How do we in Scotland get the same impressive system that London has? The one reason why we cannot do what George Mair wants to do is that we have various companies that do not want to work with—or even know about—one another. They think, “Well, if he buys a ticket aff that guy, I’m no gettin my cut.”

George Mair

There are areas in the bill that cover that. Initially, we would try to encourage people to participate, because there are commercial benefits from doing so. If we can get things right, it will encourage the making of additional journeys across the board. If increasing its rider numbers is not incentive enough for an operator, I would question why it is in business.

Gail Ross (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

The bill proposes that the Scottish ministers would require local authorities to establish their own smart ticketing schemes. However, I have listened to the evidence this morning and I have considered the submissions from local authorities, and it seems that local authorities are not keen. They say that it will take away their autonomy and give them an additional administrative burden. Do we want local authorities to produce their own smart ticketing schemes, or would it be better to have a Scotland-wide scheme?

Robert Samson

The majority of journeys are made within a local authority area, so there are benefits, but a number of journeys cross boundaries—it depends on where people live. Our evidence is that passengers want a simple, convenient, flexible ticketing system that allows one journey across all modes without an artificial boundary, such as the boundary between North Lanarkshire, where I live, and South Lanarkshire, so that they can go from Motherwell to Hamilton on one ticket. A one-ticket one-stop shop would be the best solution in the long term.

George Mair

There are powers in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 for some transport authorities to introduce such a system, but to my knowledge, that has never happened in Scotland, with the exception of Strathclyde partnership for transport. The difficulty in the past was that there was not the motivation or inventiveness to come up with the ticket that Robert Samson quite rightly says that transport users look for.

That is why, two years ago, we were frustrated and said, “We are going to push on to do something and deliver it.” It seems sensible to everybody to build up the system using the main urban areas and to expand into different modes. Simon Hulme was right to say that we get hung up on the plastic card; we have to offer the full range of technology. Glasgow has contactless, multi-operator smart ticketing and telephony, and less than 30 per cent of journeys there are cash, 8 per cent are off-bus and 56 per cent use one of the smart modes—that was as of last week. In Aberdeen, less than 26 per cent of journeys are cash, 8 per cent are off-bus—people go to the shop and buy the ticket—and 66 per cent use some form of smart technology. It works, but we have to provide choice. I think that we could expect local authorities to deliver that range of choice.

Gail Ross

If not local authorities, who would do so?

George Mair

We need to work collectively and involve local authorities and the new board that is proposed—it is important to get local authorities’ views. Everybody needs to be part of agreeing the nuances that will be needed between the different transport modes. The best approach is collective agreement; we will get there, as we are demonstrating.

Simon Hulme

I am probably not best placed to comment on bus schemes. Ferries operate through a contract with Transport Scotland that puts obligations on us to work towards smart ticketing. I have already referred to our system needs. We see Transport Scotland as an enabler, which helps us to get traction, and we think that it is a good model to have ferry companies working not in isolation but with rail and others. That is where we see Transport Scotland providing some help to us.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

My problem is that I do not share Mr Mair’s optimism. The bill could have done a number of things. I think that three areas need to work together to ensure a national standard. On a technical level, it is clear that standardisation is needed in the back end of all this, so that we can have models that use multiple operators and multiple types of purchasing. We then need the regulatory environment to allow data sharing in that regard.

What is missing is the third area—the commercial agreements. The idea that operators will just work things out among themselves is all well and good, but we proposed that 14 years ago and we have made no progress. By default, because of the nature of the system in Scotland, there will be disagreement between operators on the revenue share from multijourney tickets.

Although contactless technology is welcome and convenient, does it address the problem of disaggregated ticketing? Does it offer real value for money if people still have to pay for individual journeys, albeit using a more convenient method?

10:30  
George Mair

At the front end, the technology platform is there. We have different back offices. Transport Scotland’s back office hosts the national concessionary travel scheme and some commercial arrangements for smaller operators across Scotland. The technology is not the issue; joining it up is not that difficult.

People are using the different formats. We would like there to be a wider geographical spread and we would like to be further along the line in having partners who can join us in widening the modal option, but we will get there. In England, the Department for Transport spent around £180 million on consultancy work in an effort to build the roof—an overarching ticket that would do everything in England—and it failed miserably. It wasted £180 million. We are trying to build a structure that will support the roof—the overarching ticket that Jamie Greene aspires to have—but we started the process only two years ago.

Jamie Greene

Whose job is it to ensure that the roof gets built? You said that the industry is laying the foundations by establishing common standards and common back offices, but if the Government does not make it mandatory for the operators to work together on integration and there is not a regulatory environment in which that must happen, who is to say that the roof will ever be built? What benefit is there for the operators?

George Mair

The Minister for Transport and the Islands and the First Minister provided encouragement, and we hope that that enthusiasm and commitment will flow through to the new Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity. I am sure that it will; we have had early discussions with him. The industries are up for it. We will deliver it. I have no beef with that; it will happen—it is happening. The process will expand modally and geographically, and there will be a phased progression of the proposition for the customer. That will have to happen, because our customers are saying, “We love it—can we have more, please?” We would be silly to ignore that.

I would like to correct one thing that Mr Greene said. We are talking about proper businesses. It is not a case of operators agreeing in a smoke-filled room how they will carve up the price. We do not get to do that nowadays—that is past history, thankfully. The process is run sensibly, on a business-case basis. There are directors who run the companies. If the process were not run sensibly, I would have nothing to do with it.

The Convener

We heard from Transport for London that the thing that people least look forward to of a morning is buying a ticket, so the easier that is for them, the more likely they are to get on public transport.

You said that we will have a national smart ticketing system, but when will we have one? Can you give us a date? I was taken by what Robert Samson said earlier. This has been talked about for a while. Do you have a date in mind by which people will be able to use their smartphones, their bank cards or their travel cards throughout Scotland? It would be nice to know that.

George Mair

I wish that I could give you a date. I am not going to tell you lies, because that would not do me or our industry any good.

The figures that I gave the committee were for one operator, in two parts of Scotland. These things are rolling out as we speak. I would like to think that, if we come back here in two years’ time, a great deal of progress will have been made. There are franchise issues that need to be resolved. In some respects, I am waiting for the Scottish Government to resolve those issues and then we can push on.

The Convener

I am not going to hold my breath.

George Mair

I am not going to make a silly projection. I hope that there will be real progress in the next two years.

Jamie Greene

I hope so, too, but I am pessimistic.

Robert Samson

The national smart ticketing advisory board is supposed to advise the Scottish ministers, but perhaps the way round the issue would be for the Scottish ministers to advise the advisory board to build me a roof.

Jamie Greene

What are the panel’s views on modal shift? We talk a lot in the committee about encouraging people out of their cars and on to public transport and the benefits of that for the environment and the commercial operators. However, the problem is the current disparity across Scotland. It is great that good work is happening in Glasgow and Aberdeen—good work is more likely to happen in cities—but, as Colin Smyth said, it is not happening in our rural areas.

As Richard Lyle said, the fact that operators do not talk to each other, tickets cannot be used across different operators—even in the same mode—and people cannot buy a ticket for the tram that can be used on a connecting rail service, even though a station was built to allow people to switch between the tram and rail, makes the whole thing seems ludicrous.

How can we expect people to get out of their cars and on to public transport when we have such an antiquated, complex price structure with no standards that apply across the country? Will the bill address the issue or is it completely missing a trick?

Simon Hulme

We hear from islander customers and in representations from businesses and MSPs from the islands that many of the challenges in relation to tourism result from the fact that vehicle traffic on our ferries is expanding, which can be a problem because it can make it difficult for islanders to go about their business.

On modal shift, if we can encourage leisure travellers and tourists not to take their cars to the islands and enable them to use the local bus services, that would bring huge benefits. It would benefit first the bus services, secondly the leisure travellers, because they would have a choice, and thirdly the islanders, because it would free up capacity on the ferries to move their freight and thereby meet their business needs.

As much as anything, we would want to provide information to our customers to let them know that they can take the train from Glasgow to Oban, go from Oban out to the islands and then use the bus service once they get there—and we would want to give them that information while they are there. Going beyond a smart card, we envisage a mobile and app-enabled system that not only sells tickets for all the different modes but provides timetabling and logistics information. That is what a truly integrated solution would start to look like.

However, we can do that only if we are all working to the same ground rules and using the same standards and technological approaches; that is why we think that there is good mileage in it. As I said earlier, CalMac has some way to go in terms of our technology, but that is the direction in which we want to go; that is our vision. There would be massive wins for business, the environment, leisure travellers and the islanders, so it is something that we should strive for.

Richard Lyle

If there was the right kind of integration, it would save people money, because they would not need to pay separately to go on the bus, train and boat. In London, people pay a maximum charge for the day—it does not matter where they go. I am not sure whether the zones are still part of that. When my family and I were down in London, I did not feel that it was expensive to go on the journeys that we went on. However, if I have to catch a bus and a train to go to Mallaig, it costs me megabucks. Would a smart ticket sort that out?

Robert Samson

Passengers expect smart technology to be cost effective. They expect to pay a reduced charge and make a saving. The cost saving for the transport user is one of the main attractors that can get more people to use smart technology. Cost is at the forefront of passengers’ minds when they are thinking about the benefits of using smart technology, so a cost saving must be part of the system.

Simon Hulme

I cannot comment on whether smart ticketing would result in cheaper fares, because ferry fares are pretty much set by Transport Scotland. However, it can provide a cheaper travel option, because a person will know that, rather than having the expense of taking the car, they can travel as a foot passenger, which is considerably cheaper. That is where the benefit comes from—we are helping people to take the less expensive option; we are offering a flexible option, which makes travel cheaper for them.

The Convener

At the meeting with Transport for London, which Richard Lyle was at, it was made clear that a reason why people are happy to use smart ticketing is that they can use an app to see what is available and they can plan their journey from home. Is such an approach important, as part of the smart ticketing solution? Is it important that people are able to plan exactly how they will get from A to B before they have washed up their coffee cups?

George Mair

It is hugely important. A criticism that a previous minister made of the industry was that it was extremely difficult to find out what fare people have to pay on the bus. We took that on board as best we could. We harnessed the Traveline Scotland website. Now, if someone is planning a journey between two points, the website can provide information on the standard fare, and if they hover over the standard fare, information is offered on the range of available discounted tickets.

We are working with Transport Scotland and Traveline Scotland on the next phase, so that once someone has identified the journey and the fare, they will be able to click on the fare and load it on to their ticket. Progress is being made on that. It was hugely important that we changed the way in which we provided information.

On the point about multi-operator ticketing discounts, let me use an example from the east of Scotland. If a person is using two different bus services they can now buy one ticket and get a discount of between 30 and 50 per cent on their journey. Tickets in the east are integrated with rail, so there are options for rail journeys, too. The benefits will come—trust me.

Jamie Greene

It is interesting that I can leave this committee room and use my mobile phone to buy a ticket from Waverley to London, so I can buy my ticket before getting to the station, but if I want to go to Glasgow I have to go to the station, stand in a queue at the ticket machine and buy a ticket—

Stewart Stevenson

Nonsense—

Jamie Greene

Is mobile ticketing being used to its full potential, given that the majority of people have access to a smartphone? Will it be offered on an operator-by-operator basis? Improvements are welcome, but will we have an integrated or centralised mobile ticketing system, given what George Mair just said?

George Mair

We will get to that. Initially, there will be individual products, which will build up that structure. We can then start to do the smarter things, such as integrating different modes and ticketing options.

Everyone here uses smart technology, which offers opportunities that we did not understand in the past. The new ticket machines that operators are putting in have the facility to do a multitude of things. The technology is not the issue; it is about getting round the table to agree what needs to be done and then pushing on.

The Convener

I will bring in Simon Hulme and Robert Samson very briefly and then move on to the next question.

Simon Hulme

We think that people being able to book over their morning coffee is a benefit. I referred to our bookable routes—15 of our busiest routes, on which capacity is heavily constrained. People want to be confident that they can book a ticket and know that they can get on a vessel. That is why I said that the ferry industry is slightly different from the bus industry; we have a certain capacity and we have to manage how many bookings we take for each sailing.

10:45  

The integration between the mobile solution that Jamie Greene mentioned and our live booking system is fundamental to us. We see mobile ticketing as a great benefit. People might want to know whether they can sail tomorrow on a particular ferry; we can say “Yes, you can—and you can book it right now”, and they can book it with confidence.

Robert Samson

Smart integrated ticketing goes hand in glove with smart integrated information for passengers. There are some wonderful apps out there. I do not know whether you saw Citymapper when you were down in London, but it is an absolutely wonderful app that can tell you things such as which carriage of a train to get on to be closest to the station exit—all that information is on one app. If Citymapper can go hand in hand with integrated ticketing, a Scotland-wide app could do the same thing with the same functionality. There are solutions out there; we just have to deliver them.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I think that we are going over the same ground from different angles, but let me have my shot as well. I have a saltire card, which is national although it is issued by Glasgow City Council and has the council’s mark on it, along with that of the subway. That system has been going for a few years—I used the card when I was in Orkney with the committee—so why do we not have something similar when people pay for transport? Is it the payment element that makes it so difficult?

George Mair

Your card is on the same platform as the smart cards that are distributed to thousands of people across Scotland. The technology for a card is there now. Transport Scotland statistics show that the vast majority of journeys are local, but if you wanted a day trip to Dundee and if we had the technology lined up with a rail company, you could load your rail ticket on that card.

John Mason

So that has worked in a top-down way. Why on earth are we not doing the smart ticketing top down?

George Mair

Because the steering group that was set up reached the view that the best approach was to build up from the bottom, capitalising on the volume of local journeys in the main urban areas, and then expand geographically and modally. That work is on-going.

John Mason

And yet we have had evidence from Fife, South Lanarkshire and North Ayrshire that they all have major reservations about the local, building-up approach. It appears that they would prefer a top-down approach.

George Mair

Well, they have had since 2001 to have a chat about that, and they are now late.

John Mason

Okay.

The Convener

Robert, do you have anything to say about that?

Robert Samson

From the passenger perspective, whether we are talking about building from the top down or from the bottom up, the house is getting built. What we need now is the will to deliver from the transport industry and the levers of government.

John Mason

Was the transport industry enthusiastic about this card, which came from the top down?

Robert Samson

Some operators were, and I imagine that some were not because of commercial concerns.

John Mason

If we wait for everybody to agree, we could be waiting a very long time, could we not?

George Mair

But that is only one mode, remember.

John Mason

This card gives me a discount on the train and the subway.

George Mair

Is it the concession card?

John Mason

Yes.

The Convener

I notice that everyone is reaching into their pockets to pull out a plethora of cards, and it might be difficult for the official report staff to see all the different types of card. I do not think that anyone was pulling out money—just travel cards.

I will take a brief question from Stewart Stevenson and then I will move on to Peter Chapman.

Stewart Stevenson

My colleague and I have worked out offline that one of the problems is that, although we have a standard—ITSO—for senior citizens’ rail travel, the ScotRail app works only on Android phones and does not work on Apple ones, and we have discovered that that is a bit of a problem.

The Convener

I can tell you absolutely that not all the routes on ScotRail are smart ticketed. If you start at Keith in the morning, you have to go and get your ticket from the machine.

Stewart Stevenson

I have bought a Keith ticket on my mobile.

The Convener

I would say that there are huge problems, but let us move on to Peter Chapman.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

We have all been speaking about the increasing use of new technology for electronic payments, contactless payments and all that stuff, and that is grand, but we must recognise that not everyone has access to that technology, as has been mentioned. Mostly, but not exclusively, it is probably elderly folk and the very young who cannot access it. How do we ensure that, as we move forward with new technology, those passengers are not left behind? What are we going to give them in future?

Robert Samson

We sometimes get carried away in talking about mobility as a service and about various technological advances, but a lot of consumers out there still want to use cash and still want to talk to someone for reassurance at a booking office, so that must be part of the mix in any ticketing solution. It cannot all be smart enabled. There must be room for passengers who want to pay by traditional methods, who want reassurance from the company and who want a paper-based ticket. Smart ticketing is a solution for many people, but not for everyone, so that must be in the mix for any transport bill and any policy or advisory board going forward. Not everyone wants to use smart technology, and we must remember that not everyone can afford it.

The Convener

What is CalMac’s view on cash?

Simon Hulme

We still see cash as a valid form of payment, which we see no reason to move away from. As I referenced earlier, we operate in some challenging environments, and in some areas we have no staff, no buildings and only very simple slipways. It is the staff on our vessels to whom we are giving the capability to take cash or to use contactless, and we want to give as much choice as we can to our customers. I mentioned the tourism market earlier, and many people who come to Scotland do not know what a Scottish smart card is. They expect to pay cash, and that is fine. Why would we say no to that?

Everything that we see suggests that our systems work. We have ticket offices in many of our ports, where staff provide huge value and comfort to our customers, and they offer those choices as to how they want to pay. That is something that we intend to continue to offer.

The Convener

What about cash on buses?

George Mair

I have already said that cash needs to remain. There are opportunities for systems that allow children, instead of carrying cash, to keep something in their school bag that speaks to the ticket machine, and that can work seamlessly. There are lots of options, but cash needs to remain.

Peter Chapman

Is there any way that somebody paying cash could bundle up a number of journeys with one cash payment, or is that something that none of you could envision happening?

Robert Samson

It happens now with carnet tickets and flexipasses, whereby you can pay with cash for 15 journeys and get 20 journeys. There are products out there that benefit cash users as well, and there are some savings if you buy a flexible pass. It is a higher cash payment than a single ticket, but there are still benefits for people who use cash.

Simon Hulme

We offer that service, so you can already buy a combined rail and ferry ticket.

Peter Chapman

Is that the case?

Simon Hulme

Yes, although not on many routes—we see an opportunity there. That service is already available on a limited number of routes, and passengers can pay however they wish.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

With contactless or an Oyster card, one of the problems is in having confidence that you are getting the best fare possible. There is a multitude of fares on any mode of transport, which I often think are designed to confuse. You even get quoted different prices for the same journey on different platforms—I do not mean rail platforms, but whatever app or website you are trying to book on.

Transport for London can absolutely guarantee that you are getting the best possible fare, but is there a way of streamlining fares here to make them more open and transparent? There could still be an off-peak fare—I see the point of that—but I do not think that people are confident that they are being guaranteed the best possible fare.

There is also the issue of the system of concessionary cards, where you can have a ScotRail concessionary card, a bus concessionary card and so on. Not even that has been streamlined.

The Convener

I am going to let George Mair answer that, but to anyone else who wants to come in, I should say that we still have two questions left to ask, so it would be good if we had short answers.

George Mair

Technology of the kind that you have mentioned in London will inevitably come to Scotland through, if nothing else, the contactless system, which allows the technology to drive the maximum fare that you will pay if you make X journeys in a day. That will come here.

Robert Samson

Users want security with their smart technology—they want to know that their personal data, their contactless information such as their bank account details and so on are secure. The system must also be transparent in order to attract people to smart technology; they need to see the value for money that they are getting, how it is better and more convenient than paper-based tickets, the savings that they are making and so on. Those are included in the seven recommendations that we have made to the committee in our written evidence on what users need to attract them to smart technology.

Gail Ross

We are talking at a really high level about what users want and need, and we have mentioned the proposed advisory board, local authorities and so on. However, what consultation has taken place, is taking place or should take place with actual service users on what they themselves want?

Robert Samson

You can check this on our website, but over the past four or five years, we have produced 10 to 15 reports on what passengers want from smart technology with regard to bus, rail and tram services. They have seven key criteria: value for money; convenience; simplicity; security; and having something that is flexible, tailored and leading edge. Our approach is based on evidence from system users on what they want from smart technology.

Gail Ross

Has that work been undertaken Scotland-wide?

Robert Samson

It has included Scotland in a Great Britain-wide approach.

George Mair

Our organisation and the operators that are part of our membership have used Transport Focus’s reports to find out customers’ views on a range of issues. In addition, Bus Users Scotland holds surgeries in different parts of Scotland at which bus operators and Bus Users representatives meet the general public who use bus services. There are a number of forums in different parts of Scotland in which customers can tell bus operators and local authorities what the issues are and what things need to be improved. If you do not listen to what they have to say, you will suffer.

The Convener

I have a quick final question. It appears that everyone is in favour of getting smart ticketing out there as quickly as possible. What one change would you make to the bill to ensure that that happens sooner rather than later?

George Mair

Money is always helpful, although, so far, things have happened more quickly and have been less costly to the Scottish Government than had been expected. Over the next few years, we will keep working to deliver things as quickly as we can.

Simon Hulme

We are very supportive of the bill as it stands. However, what we in CalMac think is needed to drive things forward is, as I have said, for Transport Scotland to step up and help us to move forward with our new ticketing platform. That will be our big enabler—that is what will bring the ferry industry into this forum, which is something that we are massively keen on.

Robert Samson

Looking at the bill as it stands, I think that the remit of the advisory board should be to deliver on the proposal in the 2004 white paper “Scotland’s transport future” for one ticket that will get you anywhere you want to go.

The Convener

With that simple answer, I think it an appropriate time to thank you all for your evidence this morning.

I suspend the meeting briefly to allow for a witness changeover.

10:59 Meeting suspended.  11:08 On resuming—  
The Convener

I welcome to the meeting our second panel of witnesses on the Transport (Scotland) Bill. We will take evidence on the proposals for bus services from George Mair, director for Scotland, Confederation of Passenger Transport, who has stayed in his seat; Gavin Booth, director for Scotland, Bus Users Scotland; Emma Cooper, chief executive, Scottish Rural Action; Chris Day, policy adviser, Transform Scotland; and Professor David Gray, professor of transport policy, Robert Gordon University. Thank you all for attending this morning.

The first question is from John Finnie.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning, panel. As has been widely acknowledged, there has been a dramatic decline in bus patronage. I know that Mr Mair will be familiar with what I am about to say, because the research in question was commissioned by his organisation, but that decline is largely linked to increased car ownership, longer journey times—two factors that, in my view, are inextricably linked—and fare increases exceeding the rate of increase in motoring costs. We have a lot of evidence on this aspect of the bill, and it has been referred to as a missed opportunity. Do the bus-related proposals in the bill tackle the underlying causes of the long-term decline in bus patronage?

The Convener

I should say to the witnesses that the secret is to catch my eye, and I will definitely bring you in. If no one looks at me, I will pick the one who looks least willing to answer.

Professor David Gray (Robert Gordon University)

The short answer is no. The fundamental issues facing the bus industry go back, in urban areas, to the mid-1980s, when regional councils were abolished. In rural areas, they go back to at least the early 1960s. There are, of course, fundamental structural issues in rural areas.

With regard to the fundamental problems being traced back to the abolition of regional councils, we now have too many small local authorities competing for housing, retail and jobs, and their areas quite often overlap sensible journey-to-work areas. The long-term social change that has resulted is people living further away from where they work, take part in recreation, socialise and so on, and that is driving down bus use. The bill tackles the symptoms, but the underlying disease probably needs to be tackled through planning and changes in local authorities.

Chris Day (Transform Scotland)

I think that we used the phrase “missed opportunity” in our written evidence, and I certainly endorse the sentiment. Our concern is that the bill does not address the underlying issues that John Finnie has touched on.

It is important not to lose sight of the fact that the picture is very patchy. There has been a general long-term decline, but the graphs in the Scottish Parliament information centre briefing, which are replicated in our evidence, show that it appears to have levelled off slightly Scotland-wide. That said, bus patronage is not as high as an organisation like ours that is committed to sustainable transport would aspire to.

As for the patchiness, the SPICe evidence shows that the decline is different in different parts of Scotland. It is perhaps less pronounced in Inverness and south-east Scotland, for example, than it is in Glasgow and the old Strathclyde area, where it appears to be particularly pronounced. I do not want to suggest that that is a reason for complacency in other parts of Scotland, but we need to look at how we increase bus patronage. As has been said, the issues in urban areas are congestion and parking, whereas in rural areas—I am sure that Emma Cooper will have something to say about this—the issues are quite different; it will probably be necessary to look at alternative ways of delivering a bus service that meets people’s aspirations instead of having a 47-seat vehicle trundle along a country road once every second day. There are differences in different parts of Scotland.

The Convener

As Chris Day has introduced you to the discussion, Emma, I will bring you in now.

Emma Cooper (Scottish Rural Action)

Unfortunately, we do not think that the bill will tackle the underlying cause of the decline in bus services. That will require a significant increase in service provision in rural areas, a reduction in journey times, more seamless journeys, much better and more effective connections between different modes of transport, and fare reductions. We need to look at the whole transport picture in Scotland and think about how all those things go together. At the moment, the bill does not really tackle that sort of thing.

The Convener

I think that Richard Lyle wants to come in here.

Richard Lyle

I am sorry, Professor Gray, but as a councillor, I never liked Strathclyde Regional Council. I was a district councillor and then I became a councillor on North Lanarkshire Council, and I do not agree with the suggestion that what happened with regional councils was the cause of the decline in bus patronage.

Was deregulation not the cause? People cannot get a bus; they cannot find a bus. People are not going on buses because they are not regular and they do not come along when they want them to. That is why the bill must tackle that cause.

11:15  
Professor Gray

I would not say that regional councils were perfect, but there was better co-ordination of economic development, housing, transport and retail than we have now. [Interruption.] Yes, there was. We have had about three decades of decentralisation, which has been primarily developer led in many areas, and transport services and planning have had to follow rather than lead in many cases.

Stewart Stevenson

I have a tiny point to make. Are buses unique in making it difficult for people to travel compared with other means of transport? I remember years ago getting on a bus without the right change, so the journey cost me more than it should have done. I had no idea what the fare was, and I just did not have the change. That kept me off the buses for 20 years, and I know plenty of other people who were the same. Should the bill ban exact-cash-only systems? Unfortunately, that issue is probably ultra vires of this Parliament.

The Convener

Gavin, do you want to comment on that, or anything that was said earlier?

Gavin Booth (Bus Users Scotland)

Yes. In a way, that point is tied up with what previous witnesses said about integrated fares, which could address some of the problems with exact-fare systems.

I take a slightly different view from the others. I have been around the industry for more than 50 years. I was around in the days before deregulation and the days since deregulation, and I worked in the industry at the time of deregulation. Over the past 30 years, since deregulation, I have seen the bus industry perform much better for the passenger. In the pre-deregulation days, the passenger was near the bottom of the heap. I worked for the Scottish Bus Group, which provided millions of journeys throughout Scotland every day. It was all about performance and production, rather than about the passenger or end user.

I look around with the benefit of that experience and I see bus companies that are commercially motivated and which understand the passenger much better than they used to. They understand that marketing can reach the passenger; they understand the market and that they can sell products in it. Of course it is not perfect, but I believe that we are much further on. I have seen the figures, and I know the reasons for them. I suspect that the bill cannot address some of the issues, such as home working and internet shopping, which have affected bus passenger numbers hugely. People are not travelling because they are working on electronic machines at home.

A lot of the issues could be addressed by the part of the bill on bus service improvement partnerships. I am a great believer in partnerships. Partnerships between local authorities and bus companies can achieve a great deal. Local authorities can provide the track. One problem, which Chris Day mentioned, is the marked difference in passenger loss across the country. It is fairly flat in many parts, but the reduction is fairly frightening in the west and south-west of Scotland. A lot of that is to do with access to the roads, parking, control and providing the track.

I have been at a Confederation of Passenger Transport conference for the past two days. The question of using roads such as the M8 into Glasgow was raised. Bus operators using the M8 are finding themselves held back by the sheer amount of traffic on the road. If buses were given a track or priority, they could get their passengers through much more quickly. That would persuade a lot of people to leave their cars—perhaps at park-and-ride sites—and travel into the city centre by bus. The bill can address some of the problems through encouraging partnerships between local authorities and bus companies.

George Mair

There are issues around operator involvement in planning housing schemes and various other things. The best example of that is probably the new Queen Elizabeth hospital in Glasgow, which was almost ready to open when someone said, “Hold on, we’ve got no buses coming to the front door!” Such things should not be allowed to happen.

One would hope that, if nothing else, the proposed bus service improvement partnerships will ensure that the dialogue with local authorities will not be restricted simply to the public transport element of the council, but would broaden out to involve people from planning so that we have a bigger picture, understand the developments and are in a position to be able to say, “If you put 500 hooses in that location, you ain’t gonnae get a bus service, because it’s nae big enough to support it.” That is a big part of the rural issue.

Mr Finnie mentioned the CPT report, which outlined a whole range of different things, some of which Gavin Booth touched on. I acknowledge that fares are in there, but so are quality improvements, which have generated more than 2 million additional journeys. However, 75 per cent of the patronage loss was due to things that operators have little or no control over. I hope that that element can be picked up through partnership working.

John Finnie

I am astonished by the hospital example that you have just given. When I was on a planning committee, the traffic impact assessment was a key element of any development and the hospital planners should have had regard to public transport. It is very disappointing that they did not. However, that is not a matter for the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

In the pecking order of the increase in car ownership and journey times—Mr Booth touched on it—it is true that people would sooner sit in a queue in their own vehicle than in someone else’s vehicle. Is the bill the vehicle—if you will excuse the pun—to progress some of the issues in relation to dedicated lanes, traffic priorities and triggering signals by the approach of a bus? I apologise that I do not understand the operational technicalities.

George Mair

That is one of the areas that we are concerned about. We endorse partnership working absolutely, but there is one thing that worries me a wee bit. I have worked in the industry for more years than I can count—40-plus years—and there is always that seed of doubt that although you are there trying to work in partnership, that will not happen and things will not happen. Even when we work in partnership, there are times when things do not happen.

It is something that might need to go in the bill. An operator signs up to operate buses, commits to delivering services and is regulated by the traffic commissioner for Scotland, Ms Aitken. If the operator fails in those areas, Ms Aitken will call them into a public inquiry and deal with them—quite severely at times. However, there is no balance.

To me, partnership means that you meet and discuss things, there is a meeting of minds, you come up with a plan and if either side commits to delivering something, they should get on and deliver it. If the operator fails to deliver, they can be pulled up in front of the commissioner and have their licence removed, but nobody is calling on the local authority to ask why it did not deliver that priority measure or better infrastructure or whatever. That needs to be thought through.

The biggest impact on bus journeys by far comes from congestion and car ownership. That is related to Government policy, because we have had no change in fuel duty for nine years now. Just think how many additional car journeys have been made on the back of that.

John Finnie

Again, that is not within the gift of the Parliament.

George Mair

I know, but you would expect me to take the chance to say such things.

John Finnie

Indeed.

A relative who knew that I would be here today told me about waiting 25 minutes for a bus that did not turn up. I am sure that you understand the frustration, but is it disproportionate? I do not use the bus a great deal—I use the train a lot—but my experience is quite positive, particularly in Edinburgh but also in Inverness. Bus companies say that if there is transport across towns and the towns are congested, they cannot commit themselves and that is where the frustration lies.

Chris Day

My comments might answer both of Mr Finnie’s questions.

An issue with the bill—and perhaps with the whole debate about the future of buses in Scotland—is that a lot of attention is focused on operators and not a lot of attention, if any, is focused on infrastructure. Let me use the analogy of rail: members will understand that half the rail business is the trains and the services that are provided and half of it is the stuff that the trains run on.

Over the past 15 years or so, councils and local transport authorities have done very little, for a number of reasons, to provide the infrastructure that operators need to run on. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the City of Edinburgh Council was held up as a gold standard, in that it made deliberate, clear-cut political decisions to promote bus use by devoting highway space to buses. Over the past five or 10 years, that approach has taken a bit of a back seat—perhaps things are coming full circle.

It is probably fair to say that, in recent years, very few councils have spent as much time and resource on infrastructure as we would like them to spend. In our written submission we included a graph in that regard—we are not saying that that is proof, but there is a clear correlation in Edinburgh between the expansion of bus lanes and bus priorities and the growth of patronage on Lothian Buses. Lothian Buses was losing passengers until the late 1990s, when we began to see bus lanes being extended in Edinburgh. That is when Lothian Buses began to see massive growth.

The infrastructure is a critical part of the picture, as well as the operations, and we need that issue to be addressed in the bill.

Maureen Watt

In the interests of openness and transparency, I should probably say that I have known George Mair since I was a regional councillor in the mid-1990s, around the time when he and Moir Lockhead were setting up First.

My question is kind of linked to that. As the panel knows, the bill seeks to amend the Transport Act 1985 to allow local authorities or companies formed by local authorities, or regional transport partnerships, to provide local bus services. Should a local authority or regional transport partnership-owned bus company be able to provide both commercial and supported services, or are the witnesses content with the limitations on the type of service that can be provided, as set out in the bill?

Professor Gray

I tend to look at this issue from a slightly different perspective, with my rural hat on. I would say that the key metric is pounds per passenger journey, and anything that can increase flexibility and enable local authorities to make services cost less is welcome.

Moray Council runs a dial-a-bus service, and I think that a bus service is operated by the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. There are small-scale examples of that happening where a council thinks, “We need to do something.” As I said, I welcome anything that increases flexibility and a council’s ability to reduce cost.

Maureen Watt

How do you envisage councils managing to reduce cost?

Professor Gray

By being able to do it a lot cheaper than tender prices. In a number of areas and a number of routes, a council will tender for a service that it will support. A bus company might not be bothered about tendering for a particular contract—its bread and butter probably comes from school services—so it might tender for the contract just to make a little extra money, going with a high tender in the knowledge that it is no skin off its nose if it does not get the contract. The tender costs will probably be too high in reality, and the council will be able to undercut them by running the service itself.

11:30  
Gavin Booth

Picking up on what David Gray has said, I think that local authorities have to look after their own finances. However, if bus operators are bidding too high for supported services, local authorities should look to continue them, if they feel that they can do so. From the passenger point of view, the important thing is that services continue—the question of who finances them is probably of less importance. We are relaxed about that side of things, as long as, at the end of the day, there is a guaranteed service for our passengers.

Maureen Watt

Before other members of the panel come in, I just want to ask Professor Gray whether he has taken into account the presumably quite substantial start-up costs for local authorities or whoever when setting up a bus company.

Professor Gray

I am not saying that it is necessarily the first-choice option, but where councils are having to withdraw a number of services because, with the rise in tender costs, they cannot afford to provide them, I think that it should be explored as a sensible way forward that can reduce the cost to councils of providing services. Anything that increases flexibility and the ability to provide services at reasonable cost should be explored.

The Convener

The witnesses need to help me just a wee bit. Please catch my eye if you want to come in, because it saves me having to nominate someone.

George Mair

The bill tries to strike a reasonable balance. If the local authority feels that it is not getting the right range of offers from those tendering for services, it should be able to take things into its own hands. Some local authorities have had such powers for many years now, but they have never really used them.

That said, as other panel members have suggested, although it is probably quite simple to give such powers, delivering them on the ground will require us to think through the set-up cost, the cost of investing in the fleet and so on. I assume that if you go down that road, the local authority would have to provide a level playing field with regard to operator licensing, driver training, the driver certificate of professional competence and so on. It is easy to sit here and say, “Wouldn’t it be good if we just gave them the powers to do this?”, but we are talking about these services being delivered on the ground every day at a time when local authorities are struggling financially to the extent that in some areas, they have totally removed support for bus services and, in others, they are investing only a pittance of the budget that they get handed from the Scottish Government.

It is a huge risk to go down this path and say, “Let’s just turn the clock back, give them a licence and let them get on and deliver these services.” That might happen, but there is a big risk that it would not work.

Colin Smyth

The panel has made it clear that, at the moment, the bill will allow a local authority to run a bus service only under very restricted circumstances—in other words, to meet what is classed in the bill as “unmet need”. I do not know what that means, but as it stands, the bill will not allow a local authority to run a commercial or so-called non-commercial bus service either at arm’s length or as a local council service in competition with the private sector. Does the panel believe that such a restricted circumstance should be allowed to remain in the bill, or should we remove it and allow local authorities to set up bus companies? After all, local authorities are asking for the power to run any service that they wish.

Coming back to a point that Mr Mair made, I note that, two weeks ago, Gordon Mackay from the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland said in evidence to us that the number of local authorities that would set up bus companies on the basis of that restriction in the bill

“would be somewhere between nil and very low.”—[Official Report, Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, 19 September 2018; c 5.]

Frankly, why would you take the risk of running only services that make a loss? Should that restriction be lifted and councils allowed to run services across the board?

The Convener

Emma, do you want to respond to that from a rural perspective?

Emma Cooper

As the bill is drafted, it will not have a significant impact on services—it will not give us better bus services in rural areas or a greater number of them.

The other part of the question that Colin Smyth has laid out is much more difficult. We do not want to put small businesses out of business. That is not what anyone wants. However, buses are a lifeline, essential service: they get people to work and they get tourists around our country. Buses are vital and that service must be provided. If the current provision is not working for communities—it is not working in rural areas—then we have to look at alternative approaches. It would be interesting to see a more detailed study of the implications of the approach that Mr Smyth outlined.

Chris Day

Mr Smyth seemed to answer his own question as he went on. No one would dispute the point that if there is no commercial operator prepared to operate a service, local authorities should be given the powers to operate that service directly. That is fine.

I hazard a guess that many, if not most, councils already have transport departments—they run bin lorries, road maintenance and so on. They have the core organisation there that could be expanded, although there is a significant difference in scale. Under the current rules, several local authorities provide non-commercial services where no operator is prepared to tender.

More interesting is Mr Smyth’s question about whether local authorities should be able to operate commercial routes as well. We would leave that question open. It is interesting that the Scottish Government is considering allowing a public sector operator to bid for the ScotRail franchise along with private operators. Could that model be applied in the bus sector?

The critical issue is, if a council leader or chief executive is asked why their council does not provide commercial bus services in competition with a certain operator in an area that is failing, they will need to carefully consider the financial implications of providing those services. Bus wars are expensive to win and very expensive to lose.

Like Emma Cooper, I have doubts that many councils will want to venture into that area.

Professor Gray

I put my rural island hat on to make my final point. Community transport already runs bus services that are not in competition with commercial services on certain routes and in certain places. If it would help drive down costs, is there any reason why councils could not do the same on a small scale, given that there are economies on a microscale? There is no reason not to explore it. Anything that drives down costs for local authorities and the Government should be a good thing to be explored.

John Mason

We currently have bus quality partnerships and the proposal is to have bus service improvement partnerships. Can you define the difference? Is it a step in the right or the wrong direction?

The Convener

Gavin Booth is shaking his head.

Gavin Booth

As I said earlier, I am in favour of partnerships. I am not sure what the difference between the two would be. None of the quality partnerships that were proposed was taken up, so we are starting from a base where we have to think about how to make it easier for bus companies and local authorities to want to be part of a partnership.

I am a great believer in partnerships. I believe that passengers benefit from partnerships all round, particularly when the bus companies up their game to match any investment by the local authority in infrastructure, bus lanes and so on.

John Mason

Am I right in saying that we have had voluntary partnerships up till now, not statutory ones?

Gavin Booth

No.

George Mair

There are statutory partnerships.

The Convener

Everyone else has looked the other way when we have got to this question.

George Mair

The BSIP tries to simplify some of the barriers—real or perceived—in the previous legislation. Across Scotland we have had a number of voluntary partnerships. The longest surviving one is the one in the north-east of Scotland—the quality partnership for public transport for Aberdeen city and shire. It came into being in 1998 and, over the years, some good projects have been built into it. It has just been relaunched this year as the bus partnership alliance.

We have had statutory partnerships in the west of Scotland. The most recent one was the SPT statutory quality partnership for the fastlink corridor from Glasgow city centre to the new hospital. The operational requirements that are placed on the operators, such as the spec of the vehicle, in that partnership are probably some of the toughest for operators to meet anywhere in the country.

Partnerships can work. One of the previous barriers to partnership was concern on the part of local authorities about on-going funding. A local authority might be looking at a big project that needs cash over multiple years, but there might be no guarantee that it would get it. Generally, there has been some resistance to getting into work on a partnership—

John Mason

Do you see the improvement partnership as being better than the previous quality partnerships?

George Mair

It will simplify a number of areas in the previous legislation.

John Mason

The main difference is that it will simplify things. That is helpful.

Emma Cooper

You seem to be struggling with the same question that I am struggling with, which is, what difference will this actually make to people on the ground? It is hard to see what difference it will make at the moment.

The Convener

Various people are nodding.

John Mason

My next question is linked to that one. There could be a veto on an improvement partnership if a sufficient number of operators were opposed to it. Do you know what “sufficient” means in that context? Have you done any thinking around that? I assume that other operators would not want a monopoly for one operator to develop.

George Mair

It is about trying to strike a balance. There is a negotiation between one or more local authorities—more than one if the partnership is cross-boundary. You are trying to get to the point where there is a meeting of minds about the aspirations for the area and how the bus product can be improved across the board.

It is right that either the local authority can tell the operator that it does not think that it is getting enough or the operator can tell the council that it is asking too much and is not offering enough—it is a negotiation. Somewhere in that process, if we get to the point where the balance is not right and is tipping in one direction, either party should be able to say, “Hold on a minute—we are not quite there.”

One operator could not stop a partnership; it would need to be supported by the rest of the operators. They would need to say, “That’s going to impact us all. We are not seeing the benefit coming through that we anticipated from that kind of arrangement.” It is business; there have to be checks and balances.

John Mason

So do you think that the bill gets the balance right? Some of the councils feel that it gives too much power to the bus operator. My experience is that in the east end of Glasgow there is a real monopoly on buses; only one company is operating, so the partnership would have to involve the council or the Strathclyde partnership for transport and that bus operator, and if they did not agree, it would not happen.

George Mair

The partnerships that I have been involved with across Scotland are open to all operators. Some decide not to participate, but the invitation is there. In Aberdeen, small operators that come in from the outlying area have to be part of that partnership. The offer is there, but you cannae force people. If the partnership goes ahead and facilities are provided that operators support, either through financial contribution or through improvements to the fleet, those operators that do not participate in quality partnerships do not get the benefit.

11:45  
Professor Gray

I have three hats on today, but I am answering this one with my Highlands and Islands transport partnership hat on. To go back to the previous point, the HITRANS perspective is that a lot of the bill’s provisions on matters such as extending parking charges are to be welcomed, but the absence of those things was not necessarily a factor in why some voluntary partnerships petered out. It was more about the squeeze on revenue and capital, which was due to austerity. Partnerships succeed only with revenue and capital funding available to deliver the local authority side of things on the ground. That is the key issue: the bill can change the provisions that are available to a local authority, but without the capital and revenue funding to deliver and sustain it, the partnerships will fail as well.

John Mason

Are you saying that there is not a big difference between what was there before and what is coming?

Professor Gray

Well, the differences are welcome from a transport authority side, in that they offer more flexibility and a wider range of elements to be brought in, but—as most things do in transport—it comes down to funding.

Stewart Stevenson

Let me start by declaring that I am honorary president of the Scottish Association for Public Transport, which relates to the subject under discussion. I had jotted that down in my notes but, as the convener might point out to me, I should have mentioned it earlier.

This, at 18 pages, is one of the meatiest parts of the bill and it essentially deletes the bit of the 2001 act that relates to partnership, which is more or less the same size. To be blunt, I have to say that, when we compare what is being taken away with what is being put in, it is quite difficult to work out what the difference is in effect rather than in terminology. I wonder whether you can help us understand the difference—or if you do not understand, just tell us so, as that will help us understand which questions to ask the Government when it comes along to account for its proposed changes.

The Convener

Before the witnesses answer, I should tell them that this is not a trick question. Stewart Stevenson will have forensically analysed the bill under a microscope, so they must be prepared to justify their answers. Who would like to go first?

George Mair

Can I come back to you on that one? I will not do it today, but I will come back to you. [Laughter.]

Stewart Stevenson

I will just observe that I have known George Mair for quite a while—although possibly not as long as Maureen Watt has—and if he cannot answer that question on what is a pretty fundamental part of the bill, we will have to look at it very intensively indeed, first to understand it and secondly to ensure either that we hear a good case for the proposals or that we are able to reject them altogether.

The Convener

George, you can definitely come back to us on this question.

George Mair

I will do so. It might be that I am getting older and more forgetful, but I would like to have the opportunity to sit down and study the matter.

If we are in confession mode, I should confess that I played only a small part—honestly—in helping Moir Lockhead build First. [Laughter.]

The Convener

Let us move swiftly on. David Gray, did you have something to say?

Professor Gray

I probably do not understand the differences fully, although it strikes me that one of the key ones is the requirement for a local authority to make a plan and then report on it every year, which, it seems to me, will add to the workload of hard-pressed public transport units. For me, then, the main difference is that the provisions in the bill will add to the workload of local authorities, which will have resource implications and might not be a smart move.

The Convener

No one else is jumping up and down to say that they recognised any differences. Do you have another question on that, Stewart?

Stewart Stevenson

I do not. I think that the panel’s silence is really the answer to the question and points to other questions for later on.

John Finnie

I will have another go at this. Earlier, the word “balance” was used. With regard to the local service franchises, Fife Council has said:

“the proposals are lengthy and prescriptive and will certainly be challenging for any local authority who attempts to implement a Franchise.”

There is a question about balance, and about the process of developing, auditing and, indeed, approving a franchise scheme. Do you think that the balance is right with regard to justifying an intervention in the bus market?

The Convener

I am looking at the panel. Chris Day, do you want to have a go?

Chris Day

With regard to the question, which is specifically about the franchising component of the bill, I think that it depends on the scale of the local area. If you were trying to franchise a bus network in, for example, Edinburgh or Glasgow, the staffing implications of establishing what you wanted to be in that network would be enormous—that is the financial reality of that plan. As we have said in our written evidence, it is important not to underestimate the loss of transport planning expertise across local authorities. Indeed, I would suggest that it is not there at present. That is not to say that you cannot recreate it, but doing so will come with significant financial cost. The simple answer to your question is that franchises potentially represent an enormous workload that I do not think local authorities are currently equipped to take on.

George Mair

It is easy to say, “If nothing else, let’s just go for a franchise,” but there are huge and complex issues in that. I am more than happy to pitch up in a room here and meet as many MSPs who want to chat as possible, because we need to understand the situation. We need to learn from the mistakes that happened in the north of England as a result of the franchise aspirations of Nexus. Because there were no checks and balances, Nexus got quite far through the exercise only to find, when it went to the final panel—the traffic commissioner-led one—that the business case was totally flawed. It had spent millions of pounds to get to that point.

Checks and balances are needed. There is room for dialogue around who ultimately makes the decision, but we need to make sure that, if the process is going to go ahead, it is robust and properly financed. The arrangement will be in place for five, six or seven years, and we need to be sure that it will last that long. After all, if you have done away with the bus companies in an area, what is going to happen?

Franchising is a nice word, but it has different meanings. The franchise that we are speaking about here means closing the market. Only bus operators that get a permit to run in the franchise area will be allowed to operate—there will be no others. If a council decides to bundle up its franchise package to include things such as schools contracts, what happens to the businesses that see the full range of routes being removed from them and put out to tender, which might mean that there is no job for them to do? In some areas, companies have been in operation for 70 years or longer—we have members that have been in operation for 90 years—and they might be killed off by a franchise because it might remove their contracts. There is a lot to think about, and you need to do that work when you get to the point where you might be shutting down businesses.

John Finnie

I am glad that others find this challenging, because I have had trouble getting my head around what the bill is trying to do.

I want to pick up on three points. First, I do not want to single out Fife Council, because we have had many responses to our call for evidence, but it has highlighted an issue that we have heard about in previous weeks, which is that the development of any franchising scheme would require a local authority to have access to the full bus patronage and revenue data for its area. Can you comment on that?

Secondly, do you feel that the independent panel that will be convened by the traffic commissioner will be robust enough? Mr Mair has touched on that already.

If I could ask one final question—

The Convener

Do not take all of Richard Lyle’s questions.

Richard Lyle

He has already taken one of them.

John Finnie

I was reading from the information above them. However, the witnesses can save their answers for Mr Lyle.

Richard Lyle

It is all right—I have another question.

John Finnie

The other issue that I want to ask about relates to a point raised by one of Mr Mair’s members. When I asked about a specific route, he said that it was not financially viable; however, he said that it could be made viable if it were possible to incorporate the school run, as that would provide some resilience at either end of the day. The contract for that school run has already been committed to for several years hence, and the fact that school contracts have already been committed to puts limitations on some people’s aspirations to provide more bus services.

I know that that is a very wide-ranging issue and that it has strayed into Mr Lyle’s question, for which I apologise.

George Mair

Gee, that is challenging. On your question about Fife Council—

John Finnie

Would your members share that data with a local authority?

George Mair

In that scenario, they would have no option but to share it. The Manchester transport authority is spending more than £11 million on an exercise to decide whether to go down the franchise path, never mind run buses. The operators involved have been so inundated with information requirements that they have been unable to respond and have had to go to the traffic commissioner and say, “We need some help here, because we can’t deal with this—we have a business to run.”

John Finnie

But you have told us about all the data that is available when it comes to smart ticketing and so on. I presume that you are already making projections on routes that might or might not be operated on the basis of the information that you have.

George Mair

Yes. That information would require to be handed over, and the operators would be happy to do that. However, the process could be expanded to cover things that they did not have information on, and they would have to say that they could not provide it, because they did not have it.

John Finnie

Even bus operators cannot provide something that they do not have. Were you aware of the position that we heard about whereby, for informed decisions to be made, all the data about patronage and revenue would have to be handed over?

George Mair

Yes. Today, in some part of Scotland, a local authority will be discussing a bus route, a service or a collection of services with an operator. That dialogue will take place as part of that relationship, and it is happening now. We provide data to a multitude of different sources—it is just part of life—but if we were in the franchise scenario, there are things that operators would be required to hand over. There is the temptation for that process to grow to cover areas that operators cannot provide data on, because it is not there.

The Convener

I am keen to bring in Richard Lyle and Jamie Greene, because that issue straddles their areas of questioning. It would also be useful to hear from Emma Cooper on how franchising might affect rural areas.

Richard Lyle

Earlier, I disagreed with Professor David Gray, and I apologise for that. Transport in the area that was covered by Strathclyde Regional Council is run by Strathclyde partnership for transport—SPT.

12:00  

I was a councillor—very boringly—for 30-odd years, and I agree that councils should be running bus services. I have seen North Lanarkshire Council buses sitting in the yard after they have picked up the kids in the morning, and meanwhile people cannot get a bus from Benhar, Shotts or wherever. Why should councils not run buses in areas where operators do not want to go? That would let people leave villages where at present they are stuck, because they cannot get a bus. I agree with your comments and, as I have said, I apologise for my earlier disagreement.

The Convener

Who would like to respond to Richard Lyle?

George Mair

If there is a partnership in place with a local authority, whether the service is an urban or rural operation, there will be dialogue on different matters, so it is not beyond belief that such discussions could take place. For example, if a bus did a school run in the morning, it could go on to do a route at peak time, and then go back to the school and do the evening run for the kids who are going home. That happens now—some school services are linked in with the wider bus network. Some people do not like that, but it makes best use of the asset that is available to be used. Dialogue on that kind of thing should be happening on the ground between the operator and the local authority; if it is not, that is disappointing. If the new partnership scenario helps in that respect, that will be great.

The Convener

Emma, do you want to comment on franchising and on buses moving in and out of areas in rural scenarios?

Emma Cooper

It is quite difficult to get your head around the situation in a rural area. Journeys often cross local authority boundaries; for example, someone on one side of the boundary might need to go to the main population centre that is just on the other side. In looking at bus partnerships, we need to think about how we ensure that those journeys still happen and that they are taken into account. It is about not just what is happening in a certain area, but the bigger picture for people.

I also have questions about the impact of such a move on community transport operators. They are often able to provide a really important and vital service for very few people on the basis that they also provide services for slightly more people, which allows for some balance in their services. How would they fit in the picture? It would be good for the committee to hear from the Community Transport Association Scotland on that side of things.

Apart from that, I probably need to think about the issue a bit more. I would be happy to come back to the committee on the matter.

Professor Gray

In rural areas, franchises work only if regional transport partnerships have a more formalised and strategic role in that regard. There are so many cross-boundary routes. In Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen city, for example, the north east of Scotland transport partnership would need to have a fairly important role. The same is true for HITRANS and the Tayside and central Scotland transport partnership. If we go down the franchising route, we need to further empower RTPs.

The Convener

Does Jamie Greene have a question?

Jamie Greene

Good afternoon, panel—I am sorry that I am coming in at the end of the session. I have one technical question that links in with John Finnie’s questions on data sharing on specific routes, and I have a more general question to take advantage of the expertise on the panel.

One of the bill’s proposals means that, if an operator wants to significantly alter, vary or cancel a service, the local authority or the regional transport partnership will be able to request data—specifically revenue and patronage data—on the service. That data can then be supplied to a potential new operator of the service, who might pick up the route under a subsidised model. That is quite an important point, because we get a lot of correspondence on such matters. Does the panel have any views on that? Is it a good idea?

Gavin Booth

I think that it is a good idea. In that sort of situation, an incoming operator needs to have the opportunity to get off to a good start. If they have data available, they can analyse it, which will help them to design their networks and routes. The availability of that data makes a lot of sense if the incoming operator is to be able to provide a service for the travelling public.

George Mair

In a number of locations, operators are already sharing some of the data when a service is deregistered.

Jamie Greene

Under the proposals in the bill, operators would be required to submit 12 months’ worth of specific patronage and revenue data—number of passengers, number of journeys and what journeys were made. It is a specific set of data, which should allow the new operator to make an informed decision on whether they want to participate in a given route. That is the key difference with what happens at the moment.

My main question concerns the conversation that we had at the beginning of this panel session on getting people on to buses. Throughout this process of taking evidence and reading correspondence, I have noticed how centred and focused it has been on the franchise regimes that we operate, specifically for the asks on bus lanes and so on. Do you think that, as a country, we are not being visionary enough when it comes to the use of technology and infrastructure and how we spend our money?

Over the past 10 years, the Government has been building a great deal of concrete infrastructure, including the M8 and M74, the dualling of the A9, the Aberdeen western peripheral route and the Queensferry crossing. There is a lot more road space. However, nowhere have we seen any dedicated space for buses or bus-type technology. We could look at what is being done in Cambridge, for example, using guided buses and a new type of technology. Further afield, bus bridges are being built in China—you should google them, as they are impressive. Are we spending our money on infrastructure in the right way when it comes to future proofing our bus networks and improving modal shift?

The Convener

That is quite a wide-ranging question. I will allow each of you a very short answer.

Gavin Booth

The short answer is no, we are not, and yes, there should be much more money going into helping passengers get to where they want to go reliably, safely and quickly.

Emma Cooper

Future proofing any bill is a difficult job. However, some incredible advancements in transport technology are emerging. It is important that the bill examines those and considers how to ensure that that technology is used for the benefit of everybody living in Scotland, rather than purely adopting a commercial basis for development, in which case it will benefit urban areas much more than rural areas.

Chris Day

You will not be surprised to hear us say that we believe that more resource should be focused on the most efficient means of getting people about. I will not list those. There is an element here of what you have said about technology, although I add a note of caution. I was going to say that you should not believe everything that Elon Musk suggests. There are a few fanciful ideas about what technology can achieve. Sometimes it is a good idea to step back a bit and have a think.

Professor Gray

My answer is yes and no.

The Convener

That sounds like a good politician’s answer.

Professor Gray

Intellectually and academically, yes, we should. In the real world—and I say this to a room full of elected members—road and bridge building in particular are very popular with the electorate, and they will ensure that you get re-elected, at both national and local levels. Doing stuff that drivers dislike is a pretty good way of losing an election. One example is the M4 bus lane, and George Mair will know how well bus priority has played in Aberdeen from time to time, both with voters and with The Press and Journal. Sometimes you have to make pragmatic decisions as elected members.

George Mair

I am not going to surprise you. I think we do need help. That would be my biggest plea for the industry. David Begg hit it on the nail: if we do not tackle the bus speed issue, the bus industry will continue to die. If you inject some money not into the bus companies but into improving infrastructure for the customer, making it nicer to travel and getting them through the traffic congestion, that will help everything. It will help with the environmental challenge and it will reduce the number of car journeys. There is a growing awareness that we need to tackle this but, until there is the money to do it, we will not do so. We need to get on. They could be hard, difficult decisions, but the right decisions need to be taken.

Professor Gray

It is not just about the money; it is also about the political will. The two need to go hand in hand. Without the political will from members and local authorities, things do not get done, as you know.

George Mair

I was trying to be diplomatic in saying that it will be difficult. It will be difficult, but we have to get on with it. We are dealing with air quality and low-emission zones. If we do not tie into that and do the things that we need to do to manage traffic, it is a missed opportunity.

The Convener

What you are saying echoes what I was asking about earlier: speeding up buses and speeding up the information that is available to passengers, to ensure that they know when they can travel at the most effective time and in the most effective way for them. That is all about information technology at bus stops, apps and all the rest of it.

Chris Day

I would like to pick up on that point, particularly given the discussion that took place during the previous evidence session, when you touched on the issue of compatibility difficulties in relation to smart ticketing. There is also an issue with real-time information. Some bus operators, for whatever reason, equip themselves with information technology that is not compatible with real-time information displays on streets. I would encourage the Scottish Government to roll that into whatever it is doing on smart ticketing. Otherwise, you will end up with a Betamax and VHS situation with real-time information, which would be daft.

The Convener

Thank you very much. That brings us to the end of our questions. George, you kindly volunteered to help Stewart Stevenson—and all of the committee—with the differences between the two sections that he cited. I look forward to seeing the result of that.

Thank you all for your time this morning and for giving evidence to the committee.

Meeting closed at 12:12.  
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Fourth meeting transcript

The Convener

Item 3 is the Transport (Scotland) Bill. Are there any members who want to declare any interests in relation to transport? No? Perfect.

This is our fourth evidence session on the Transport (Scotland) Bill, and today we are focusing on low-emission zones. This session will also touch on the parking prohibition provisions in the bill. I welcome Martin Reid, policy director at the Road Haulage Association; Gavin Thomson, air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, representing Scottish Environment LINK, Tony Kenmuir, treasurer and member of the executive committee of the Scottish Taxi Association; and Neil Greig, policy and research director of IAM RoadSmart.

There is a series of questions. Those of you who have given evidence before will know that, if you want to answer a question, you need to catch my eye so that I can bring you in. You do not need to touch the buttons in front of you. The gentleman on your left will automatically activate the microphone in front of you. If you see me waving my pen like this, that probably means that I am trying to encourage you to wind up what you are saying—it saves me having to cut you off.

Welcome to the committee. The first question this morning is from John Finnie.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning, panel. There are a number of perhaps slightly more technical questions to come, so I will kick off by rolling a couple of general ones together. What is your position on the principle of establishing low-emission zones in Scotland? What impact, if any, will they have on reducing air pollution at recognised hot spots?

Gavin Thomson (Scottish Environment LINK)

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for inviting me to speak. I am the air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, and we think that the Transport (Scotland) Bill could offer a great opportunity to reduce air pollution, not just through low-emission zones but through the rest of the bill. Low-emission zones are used across Europe as a great way of reducing air pollution, which primarily comes from traffic. We know the health evidence on air pollution; there are fresh stories every week that are alarming. We know that air pollution shortens lives. It damages hearts and lungs. In the most recent story we learned that it impairs cognitive ability. It increases the risk of dementia. It can reach unborn babies through the placenta. It is clear that we need to take action. Low-emission zones are one tool to improve air quality.

The provisions in the bill certainly need to be improved to ensure that we protect people’s health, but that is possible if certain changes are made. A helpful lens to use as we analyse the provisions in the bill and discuss them this morning is that, fundamentally, we are looking at a public health policy. As you said, it involves a lot of detailed traffic regulation, but what we are looking at is something that should protect people’s health effectively when it is implemented.

Tony Kenmuir (Scottish Taxi Association)

I think that we are all agreed that we want our descendants to breathe cleaner air. I should not think that anybody debates that. We are also moving towards cleaner vehicles and Euro 6 standards. I will use a quick analogy to explain what strikes me about the bill. If I am the driver of a motorcar with dual climate control in the front and I want to keep cool, so I set my temperature at 15°, but my passenger on the other side of the gearstick wants to be warm and sets their temperature at 25°, neither of us is going to achieve what we want.

The slight concern that I have about the low-emission zone approach is that, if we improve the standard of our vehicles and our fleet across the board, that is perfectly logical and reasonable, but why would we do it only in certain streets or in a certain area? That is the bit that I struggle with. Maybe every step is one step in the right direction, but the concept of a low-emission zone controlling the emissions only in certain streets does not seem particularly logical as a principle. Even according to your own report, the findings from low-emission zones in London and across Europe are, frankly, that the lowering of emissions does not amount to much.

The Convener

Martin Reid, do you want to come in on low-emission zones and the road haulage industry?

Martin Reid (Road Haulage Association)

Yes. Thank you very much for the opportunity this morning. Low-emission zones are clearly the way forward. This is the direction of travel that we are all going in. For our industry, I have not heard of any specific objection to the concept or the principle of a low-emission zone. Our concern is the timeframes that are being mentioned and the ability of our industry and the technology that surrounds it to accommodate these changes at this pace. As Tony Kenmuir rightly says, everybody has the right to clean air and the road haulage industry feels no differently about that.

10:00  
The Convener

Neil Greig, as everyone else has had a chance, it would be right for you to come in as well.

Neil Greig (IAM RoadSmart)

I have just a quick point. Most of what I will be saying today is based on a survey that we did of 1,400 of our members. We have 92,000 members. One of the most striking findings was that only 3 per cent had any confidence that anything that any Government did would solve the problem quickly. A lot of the questions that we asked people were fairly evenly split, with a third in favour, a third against, and a third saying that they do not know. It is that big “do not know”. There is a lack of consumer information out there to allow people to make a judgment now, and I think that that is why people are sometimes slightly worried about this. They just do not know what it actually means yet. From our point of view, the key issue is getting consumer information out there and helping people understand what these policies mean to them.

John Finnie

The important thing about taking evidence is to shape this. The committee’s job is to scrutinise. From my point of view, it is good that there is consensus at least that there is a wish to see low-emission zones. Mr Thomson, do you think that there is a lack of ambition?

Gavin Thomson

Yes, there is a lack of ambition; specifically, there is a lack of objectives of low-emission zones. The bill does not set out what the low-emission zones would be trying to achieve, which is a concern, particularly when we look at the delegation of powers between ministers and local authorities. That lack of objectives could cause problems. An excessively slow implementation period and long grace periods mean that, under the current version of the bill, low-emission zones would not be in place until perhaps 2026. For an issue that we can all agree is essential, needs to be acted on and is imperative for human health, that seems unnecessarily slow and something we could perhaps look at in the emission restriction standards.

To make a broader point, we know that most of our air pollution comes from traffic. Essentially, we need to reduce the air pollution that we receive from private car travel. That is about modal shift and a change in the types of cars. The bill does not fill me with confidence that it will be successful in reducing our air pollution.

Martin Reid

Our situation is slightly different from that. We are not going to argue about the health benefits or disbenefits. We are not experts in that area and we will happily defer to those who are. Our position is one of current reality. We have no current retrofit option for trucks to come up to Euro 6 standard. Buses have it. I will add a caveat, which is that late last night, while I was preparing and not sleeping as I should have been, I read an article about a successful trial by a large waste management company using a clean vehicle retrofit accreditation scheme approved retrofit option. It may be that we are now on the cusp of something good happening in that area. We will cross our fingers and hope that that is the case.

Up to this point, we have had no retrofit option, so the option for our industry is to remove or get rid of the truck that we currently have and buy a Euro 6 engine truck. That is problematic, particularly for small and medium enterprises. A Euro 6 truck could cost anything between £80,000 and £120,000. The reality again is that the popularity of Euro 6 trucks, mainly through legislation and so on, has created a distortion of the second-hand value of Euro 5 trucks, so the barrier for entry for those who are wishing to adopt this newer technology has become greater.

For our industry, 2023 does not seem a long way away. I totally understand the point that Gavin Thomson is making, but the reality for our industry is that, should we be required or forced to jump early, technology is not backing us to do that and neither are the economics just yet. The percentage of Euro 6 vehicles in the United Kingdom fleet is growing every year. I will give a couple of statistics: in 2017, 36 per cent of the total UK fleet was Euro 6; in 2019, it is expected to be 50 per cent; in 2021, it will be 64 per cent; and, by the time the low-emission zone is due to start in Glasgow in 2023, all the indications are that 78 per cent of the UK fleet will be Euro 6.

The Convener

Could you clarify, so that I understand those percentages? Roughly how many trucks will be on the road in 2023 that will not meet the standard?

Martin Reid

At the minute, there are 493,600 heavy goods vehicles registered in the UK. The number that you are looking for is 78 per cent of that figure; it is a substantial amount but it still leaves a substantial number that will not be ready by 2023. The average life of a truck is between 10 and 12 years. We have to remember that Euro 6 came in in 2013, I think. Before that, previous Governments had recommended that hauliers bought Euro 5. Hauliers did that in good faith and now they are being required to change it earlier than their planned schedule. It is just to flag up that there is an economic imperative surrounding this that affects the industry.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

I have a brief supplementary. Mr Kenmuir, I found your comments quite intriguing. We often talk about the de facto position that everyone accepts that there should be LEZs and it is just an argument about how, what, where and how much. You have brought a very different perspective to the committee for the first time, which is that, if we only target specific areas, we are not addressing the universal problem. You could read that in two ways. Are you suggesting that there should be no zone anywhere or that there should be a universal zone? By that I mean that there should be complete compliance or a zone should not exist at all. It is not clear from what you said which one you prefer.

Tony Kenmuir

When I was reading part 1 of the bill, I became interested when it started talking about retrofitting and whether that should be allowable. I found myself beginning to wonder why that would be an issue for you. Why do you need to think about it? The short answer to your question is that it should be universal. I am here to talk about the taxi fleet. There are 1,316 taxis in Edinburgh and just over 1,400 in Glasgow. If they are all Euro 6 or electric, what does it matter what street they are moving up and down? If they have all met that standard, whether or not there is a low-emission zone becomes moot.

If you design a little zone with a boundary around it, you are creating a whole world of complication. What happens when somebody in Glasgow gets a taxi to bring them to Waverley station in Edinburgh? Are they allowed in or are they not? The management of the environment and emissions is by definition a global issue and a national issue. It is a macro issue. To try to manage the climate within a few streets just seems to me completely illogical. It is possibly not a popular point of view, but it just seems to add unnecessary complication.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

I want to follow up on that. We all know that London black cabs are long-lived vehicles that last almost for ever, but some of the older ones have an old-fashioned type of engine. You said that we could get them all to Euro 6 level. Is that likely to happen any time soon with taxis? I see taxis here that are 10 years old and have very old types of diesel engine. I would have thought that they are fairly polluting vehicles.

Tony Kenmuir

You said something really interesting when you mentioned the age of vehicles. Research in the German automotive industry shows that, with the emissions that are created by building car batteries, it takes 10 years to recoup the fuel savings that will be made by converting engines.

An age limit could be put on vehicles. I want to get across a specific issue, and I am glad that I have the opportunity to do so. We want to manage the emissions—not necessarily the age—of the vehicles, and it is much more economically sound practice to keep a well-maintained, safe vehicle that passes emission standards running than to scrap it and build another one to replace it. I hope that Gavin Thomson agrees with that.

The City of Edinburgh Council in particular has introduced very aggressive targets. Anything older than a Euro 5 taxi in Edinburgh has to go this year. There are 1,316 taxis in Edinburgh, and I am not sure that the City of Edinburgh Council licensing committee realised that scrapping everything older than Euro 5 taxis involves nearly 700 vehicles. Half of the fleet has to go in one year.

Peter Chapman

Will that happen by replacing the cars or the engines?

Tony Kenmuir

The City of Edinburgh Council has not given us the option of retrofitting. To extend the life expectancy of the vehicle, we can convert it to a liquefied petroleum gas vehicle. That costs about £12,000, and we will get an extra four years’ life expectancy tacked on to the age of the vehicle, which is capped at 10 years.

All the Euro 5 taxis have to go. We have until March 2023 for them to go. Therefore, the entire taxi fleet will be Euro 6 taxis by 2023.

The Convener

So that I understand, is retrofitting a vehicle to take it to the Euro 6 level an expensive option?

Tony Kenmuir

No—not relatively speaking. That is because the engine does not need to be replaced. The change from Euro 5 to Euro 6 involves just ancillaries, so the cost is a few grand. That is very affordable relative to the £45,000 cost of replacing the vehicle.

John Finnie

The discussion has been quite wide ranging. Can you expand on a point that Mr Kenmuir made on a subject that was mentioned in the Friends of the Earth Scotland evidence? It is about the category of special roads and the anomalous situation of having a zone in which, funnily enough, the roads that are the responsibility of the Scottish Government rather than local authorities are exempt. This is the issue of motorways and trunk roads. Will the panel comment on that?

Gavin Thomson

We said in our submission that, under the current provisions of the bill, motorways would be exempt from any low-emission zone scheme. At first glance, it might seem to make sense that motorways should be treated differently from inner-city roads but, in order to try to think about the long term and the ambition of low-emission zone schemes, we said in our submission that that should not be taken off the table.

I will respond to Tony Kenmuir’s comments. A very small low-emission zone scheme would not be much use. We would want a substantial geographical area to be covered by the zones in cities. The proximity of people, particularly vulnerable groups such as children and elderly people, to traffic pollution at the source—if a person is at the kerbside, they are exposed to high levels of pollution—means that we need to think about how we protect high-density urban areas in which there are lots of traffic and people. I think that we can all agree that having one or two streets covered by a low-emission zone scheme would probably not be effective or worth while. It would be great to see the first cities that are earmarked for low-emission zone schemes thinking about how the approach can apply city wide. We said in our submission that, in the fullness of time, motorways might need to be considered.

I return to the Euro standards for HGVs and taxis, which we have spoken about briefly. In our submission, we focused on thinking about how the approach affects private cars, which are the majority of vehicles on our roads. The standards in the policy memorandum are Euro 4 for petrol vehicles, which would be for any car that was bought new from 2004 onwards, and Euro 6 for diesel vehicles—those standards came into force in 2014. The current provision is that the low-emission zone schemes would be brought in in 2024 to 2026, so we could be talking about a private car that is up to 22 years old if it is a petrol car or 12 years old if it is a diesel one. We would expect to see those changes in fleet turnover anyway. The cars would not be around on the roads for that long. In the submission, we asked what the current provision does that the second-hand car market would not do naturally anyway. If we agree that low-emission zones are needed, surely we agree that they should be effective.

10:15  
The Convener

The next question from Richard Lyle feeds in naturally to the discussion.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

Tony Kenmuir and Martin Reid will love this question. The bill proposes that certain classes of vehicle be banned from entering a low-emission zone. Will that disadvantage users who will not be able to drive into a zone with an old taxi or deliver goods into the zone because the vehicle cannot be retrofitted? A penalty would be imposed for non-compliance. Many other LEZs—in London, for example—require a charge to be paid if entry criteria are not met. What option would you prefer, and why?

Martin Reid

Your points are well made. Should we go down that route, a number of vehicles would not be allowed into those areas, which would undoubtedly have an impact on service. That would also impact on the number of small businesses that would be able to access those areas.

Deliveries must happen. During the period of bad weather at the end of February, we saw that delays for a couple of days meant empty shelves and that deliveries which could not get through were missed.

Again, we urge a sensible approach. Low-emission zones that allow Euro 5 and Euro 4 vehicles exist across Europe, and they have reported good results. We urge not throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Richard Lyle mentioned London. London is a great example, because there is now a situation in which there is a low-emission zone and an ultra-low-emission zone, and the London borough of Hackney is setting up its own different emission zone within the emission zone. We have to watch and guard that we do not set up a different system in different areas or cities that are taking on the concept of low-emission zones.

The geography of Scotland means that there is a very high likelihood that someone who delivers to Glasgow will deliver to Edinburgh or even Dundee on the same day. It is very unlikely that they will deliver to all three places, but that is a possibility. Having a vehicle that is eligible to drive into Edinburgh but not into Glasgow or into Dundee but not into Edinburgh seems ridiculous. We have to guard against setting up different standards. The approach will undoubtedly have an effect on the industry and who is allowed to deliver into those areas.

Richard Lyle

I have read that, in the likes of London, there are companies that deliver outside the zones and transfer goods on to other vehicles, which can deliver into the zones. Is that the case?

Martin Reid

Yes, that is the case. The idea of distribution centres is not new. Our members are paid to deliver from point A to point B, and if point B is a distribution centre, so be it. We understand that, in many cases, the trucks that go into city centres do not operate at their most efficient because of stopping and starting and congestion, for example. Therefore, that is one answer to delivery problems. However, I remind members that, for every 44-tonne articulated lorry, it takes 28 van loads to cover the load. I also remind members that customer expectations are vastly different from what they were a few years ago. When a person is having a glass of wine late one night, they can go on to a well-known shopping site and order something from the other side of Europe, which will arrive the next day. That will be done on the back of a lorry. We have to understand that the concept of service has changed and that even distribution centres will bring their own congestion problems. Even if electric vehicles take goods in from the distribution centre, the added traffic has to be considered.

The Convener

Tony Kenmuir, do you want to come in on that?

Tony Kenmuir

My business has carbon neutral accreditation—we supply cook pots in Guatemala and help to reforest Uganda to offset our carbon emissions. We do that because it helps us to win business from customers such as the Parliament and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

In our industry, we are moving apace. The standard of the vehicles is improving: they are newer and produce lower emissions. We are planting trees or doing whatever else we need to do to reduce our carbon footprint. We are doing all of those things because they make economic and commercial sense for us. There is a lot happening in the industry that does not need to be forced on us.

For me, as usual, the devil is in the detail. It is a question of rolling up our sleeves and making sure that what is applied is logical. I think that, by 2023, all the taxis in the major cities in Scotland will be Euro 6 compliant, electric or hybrid. That will happen without any interference or governance—that is happening anyway.

However, once we scratch below the surface a wee bit, we come across things that muddy the waters. For example, in Edinburgh and Glasgow at the moment, it is okay to sell on or buy a Euro 5 taxi as long as it is already in the city, but it is not okay to import one from outside the city. I cannot buy a Euro 5 taxi from London even if it has lower mileage, produces lower emissions, is in better condition and would cost me less, but I can buy such a vehicle in Edinburgh because it is already here. Things like that, where the detail is overly complicated and not terribly logical, muddy the waters.

We are managing our fleet anyway. Dundee, in particular, is a leading light as far as the introduction of electric vehicles into the taxi fleet is concerned and is worthy of a mention. In Edinburgh and Glasgow, where low-emission zones are proposed, the taxi fleet will be where it needs to be anyway.

The Convener

Richard Lyle has a follow-up question.

Richard Lyle

I am reminded of the fact that there are 32 councils in Scotland, which have 32 different ways of dealing with taxis. I well remember that.

Do the low-emission proposals in the bill strike the right balance—I think that you are saying that they do not—between consistency across Scotland and local authorities having the ability to devise schemes that are appropriate to local circumstances? If not, what changes would you like to be made?

Neil Greig

Consistency is important for our members. We represent private car drivers, who do not want to have to have a different permit to enable them to go into every one of the 32 council areas in Scotland or each of the four cities. We are already seeing such a situation across Europe. Some of the motoring clubs that we work with in Europe put together a stunt whereby they stuck every permit that was needed to drive around Europe on the front of a car. With 26 bits of paper on the vehicle, it was not possible to see out of it. We do not want to go down that line; we want to have consistency.

In addition, we do not want the market to be distorted by the early introduction of measures such as the banning of Euro 5 vehicles. Even though that would stop people going into a low-emission zone, it would have a knock-on effect on the market in general. It would make it very difficult to sell an old diesel, which would mean that cars might be scrapped early and people would make losses. In other words, there would be economic impacts beyond the low-emission zone.

Consistency is our number 1 priority. We do not want there to be a different scheme in every area. That said, in places such as Germany, local authorities are going down the road of encouraging the retrofitting of Euro 5 vehicles to bring them up to Euro 6 standards. That is particularly the case for diesels. The technology exists and the process is not that difficult. Although we would like the same kind of sanctions and the same kind of controls to be used across the low-emission zones, that would not stop local authorities, if they wanted to, funding a retrofit programme for some of the vehicles in their area. There should be a bit of flexibility in that respect, but we believe that the core elements of low-emission zones—how they are run, how they are organised and how they are enforced—should be consistent across Scotland.

Gavin Thomson

I would like to come back on that point. As I mentioned earlier, there is concern about the fact that the objectives of a low-emission zone scheme are not set out in the bill, even though it says that any penalty moneys that are paid should be used by the local authority to further the objectives of the zone. We do not know what those objectives are, but the local authorities will have to spend money on them. That is a good example. We need clarity on what those objectives are. If one objective is a blanket reduction in air pollution, funding retrofit schemes might be appropriate. If compliance with the European Union legislation that Scottish cities are currently breaking is what is sought, a different approach might be necessary.

We all agree that national consistency is important. We said in our submission that various factors to do with how low-emission zones operate should be reserved to the minister, including the hours of operation and other aspects of how the scheme works, such as the automatic number plate recognition. There is also a section of the bill that allows a local authority to suspend its low-emission zone scheme for events of national importance. It is up to the local authority to decide what is nationally important, even though it would seem more appropriate for a Scottish Government minister to determine what constitutes an event of such national importance that it would justify the suspension of a low-emission zone scheme.

The Convener

I want to find out whether Richard Lyle would like to follow up on that, because we have a huge number of questions, and I think that some of what you are saying will come out later.

Richard Lyle

I have the answers that I was looking for. Thank you.

The Convener

I have a quick question before we move on to Colin Smyth’s questions. When we heard about the situation in London, we discovered that consensus is hugely important in getting people to buy into and take ownership of such schemes and to participate willingly in low-emission zones.

I declare an interest as an owner of a Euro 5 vehicle. I will not get rid of it before 2022, because it will have to earn every pound that I paid for it. Do you think that keeping a Euro 5 vehicle beyond 2022 would be particularly damaging, bearing in mind that I and many other people were encouraged to buy Euro 5 vehicles, as Martin Reid mentioned in the context of hauliers? I believe that 10 years is nothing when it comes to the life of vehicles in this day and age. Who would like to comment on that?

Neil Greig

I do not have the figure to hand, but some research was carried out that suggested that the vast majority of the pollution is caused by a small minority of badly run and badly maintained vehicles. Our view is that if the vehicle is maintained properly, although it will not meet the Euro 6 standards—it will meet the standards that applied at the time that it was bought—it will be a cleaner vehicle. Using it less will help, too.

We have difficulty in understanding why, even though local authorities have had the power to roadside test vehicles for many years, very few—if any—of them do it. A van or a car can go through a city spewing black smoke, yet nobody will carry out enforcement. The MOT regulations have been tightened up only recently. That is one of many measures that are being taken to improve the emissions from vehicles. We would like local authorities to use some of the powers that they already have to target that minority of badly maintained vehicles.

The Convener

As far as you are concerned, Euro 5 vehicles are less of a problem than badly maintained vehicles.

Neil Greig

A badly maintained Euro 6 vehicle will be as much of an issue as a badly maintained Euro 5 vehicle.

The Convener

Tony Kenmuir would like to answer that question, too.

Tony Kenmuir

You have echoed a point that I made earlier. It is far more ecologically sound to keep a well-maintained vehicle running than it is to replace it with a new one. The licensing authorities around Scotland all have a testing regime whereby they bring the taxis in for annual inspections. Sometimes, they inspect them on a six-monthly basis; as vehicles get older, they might be inspected even more frequently than that. As part of that process, the vehicles’ emissions are tested. Perhaps naively, I have taken that for granted.

You mentioned London, where bus usage is falling. Private car ownership is tailing off there, too. I have heard an interesting theory that that is because people find it a distraction from looking at their smartphone. [Laughter.] An exponential rise in on-demand transport, which is the space that we occupy, is taking place. In London, there were 6 million journeys a day in on-demand transport in 2016, and last year there were 30 million journeys—the figure increased by a factor of five in one year. According to Morgan Stanley, half of all driven miles will be in on-demand transport by 2025, so our marketplace is growing exponentially.

10:30  

The only issue for us is that any given licensing authority might have slightly different regulation for the public hire taxi. In other words, there might be slightly different licensing regimes. Our only concern is that a public hire taxi that is licensed in one area can make it in to drop off in a low-emission zone in another area. As long as the public hire taxi has access—it is hard to believe that anyone would rule that out—and the local authorities manage their emissions on a scale, we will be happy.

The Convener

Martin Reid, do you want to say something brief about Euro 5 and Euro 6?

Martin Reid

I will be as quick as humanly possible. Euro 5 is not too much of an issue for us. We understand the need for Euro 6 as it is categorised as ultra-low emission, but we have the most heavily regulated industry. We are far more heavily regulated than the aviation industry, for example. We have legal requirements for the maintenance of our vehicles. We also have spot checks from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, and we are under the auspices of a traffic commissioner. If you do not uphold the promises that you made on your operator’s licence—including environmental concerns—you could lose your licence. The traffic commissioner can take a number of different steps.

We understand the requirement for Euro 6 but it would not be a disaster for our industry should Euro 5 be considered appropriate. It would also help a number of hauliers who would find it difficult to bridge the gap. However, as I said, we understand the position on Euro 6.

The Convener

Gavin Thomson, do you want to comment on private Euro 5 cars? I will have to ask you to be brief.

Gavin Thomson

As a point of clarification, convener, you mentioned that you will not be getting rid of your car before 2022, which is great but, as the bill is drafted, the low-emission zone schemes will not affect you until many years after that. We need to bear in mind for turnover of fleet and particularly for people thinking that they need to buy a new car that we are looking quite far into the future on some of this stuff. Under the provisions in the bill, 2024 would be the earliest that a local authority would be allowed to implement a low-emission zone scheme. That is six years before people would need to look at changing their cars.

Another point that we have not touched on enough is that, in addition to turnover of the fleet and people changing their cars, we need to think about changing the mode of travel. That is why the low-emission zones in the bill are so appropriate, because in order to reduce air pollution, we need to move people out of private car travel. Public transport needs to be expanded and improved to give people a different option. If you still have your Euro 5 car in 2022, that would be wonderful, but it would be great if there was a bus option that made any journey you were thinking about taking just as attractive as taking your car.

The Convener

I take the point but getting a bus from the rural Highlands of Scotland down into Glasgow might be a challenge.

Colin Smyth, I am about to come to you. However, I am just noting that I am not sure if there is a list of exempted vehicles for people who drive old cars. If you have an old Morris Minor, or any old car, will you be penalised if you want to go into Glasgow? Maybe that is something we need to take up.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

Earlier on, Mr Kenmuir made the point that the devil will be in the detail. One of the big challenges facing the committee is that much of how LEZs will work will be in the regulations set by the Government and ministers rather than in the legislation itself. That is obviously a challenge for us as a committee. Have your organisations been consulted or have you discussed the development of those regulations with the Government? Has it asked for your views on what those detailed regulations on LEZs should say?

Tony Kenmuir

I have a meeting with Transport Scotland on Friday to follow up on that consultation at a national level. There has been a great deal of consultation with the local authorities in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

I think this was touched on earlier. When I met representatives from the City of Edinburgh Council, they could not tell me where the LEZ was going to be, which vehicles would get in and which would not, and when it would happen. I took a lot of comfort from that. My concern is that when a local authority is granted a power, unless it is given very specific instruction on how to use it, it tends not to be applied. The instruction needs to be very clear and very prescriptive.

We are consulting with local authorities and with Transport Scotland at a national level, so we are comfortable that we are being consulted at all levels, if that answers the question.

Colin Smyth

Is that the case for all organisations?

Martin Reid

We are more than happy with the way that things have gone and the level of consultation that has been involved. We have met senior ministers and we meet Transport Scotland regularly. Having seen what is going on in many areas south of the border, I appreciate the consultative way that the Scottish Government has gone about this.

Gavin Thomson

I do not necessarily have regular meetings with ministers or senior staff within Transport Scotland.

Just to expand my earlier point, the commitment is for low-emission zones to be in place in the four cities by the end of 2020. We are now in October 2018. Thinking through the timeline for secondary legislation, not just the detail of it, we want to be clear about when exactly after the bill becomes an act we can expect to see the secondary legislation so that local authorities have time to include all stakeholders and ensure that they are implementing effective low-emission zones. The timeline of that is something to keep in mind.

Colin Smyth

On timelines, I want to come back to an issue that we have touched on, and that is the fact that the grace period is up to six years. I get the impression that there are clearly split views on the grace period. What do you think the grace period should be?

Gavin Thomson

As a general point, obviously we have spoken a bit about the challenges that face particular industries and how they clearly need to be supported through the transition. That might mean a different grace period for different industries or it might mean Government financial support.

More broadly, looking at the entire fleet—all the vehicles on the road—the current grace period of six years before low-emission zones are finally in place is far too long. There is an option for additional years and it does not seem to be justified. If we take a national approach to communicating the need for low-emission zones to people, the grace periods can be shortened by a couple of years.

Neil Greig

There is a need to have some form of grace period because consumers are quite confused. There has been a lot of change happening in emissions information. The information that is on a new car has all changed. We now have a new way of assessing CO2 and NO2 emissions from a car. Those are real driving emissions and that is where the dieselgate scandal came in.

The information on the car that someone buys now might say that it does 50 miles per gallon but no one ever gets 50 miles per gallon out of a car. That is the official urban and motorway figure, but a new set of figures is coming out. Consumers have to deal with a new MOT system and a new set of figures on the vehicle that might impact on company car tax, and of course they are taking on Euro 6 at the same time and trying to understand what Euro 5 and Euro 6 are. It takes time for these things to work through, and as that happens, they will deliver cleaner air anyway because there will be more Euro 6.

This week, the Westminster Government stopped the grant for hybrid vehicles; it ran out of money, and the grant has been slashed in half for electric vehicles. When high-level things like that happen, it also adds to confusion and consumers do not know what choices to make.

Allowing a lot of time is a good thing but, in some ways, it is also a slightly bad thing because most people buy their new cars on a three or four-year private finance plan cycle. They are starting to make decisions now about the new cars they will buy in the early 2020s. At the moment they are still not deciding to buy hybrids and electrics. We need to get some consistent messages out there. Certainly, over time, however, we will see more clean vehicles and the more of them that come on the roads, the cleaner the air will become.

Jamie Greene

We need to be really careful about the language that we are using in the committee. There is no suggestion there will be a six-year grace period. The six years is the maximum in the bill as it is currently drafted, and it may not end up like that, and it is for residents of a zone. The minimum grace period is actually one year for non-residents. A local authority has the choice of introducing it now or waiting for four years, and we do not know what they will do. It is worth making that point.

It is highly likely that the spending decisions that consumers and businesses make about their vehicles is based on the information that they have now. If we are being told that information is patchy and sketchy at the moment, but the zones could be in place by 2021 and not 2025 as Mr Thomson suggests, I am inclined to be quite worried that we are not giving out enough detailed information to businesses and consumers. Does anyone agree or disagree?

Tony Kenmuir

I am in a slightly strange position because the target is already set and Edinburgh and Glasgow probably have the fleet where it needs to be ahead of time, so it is done already.

The debate we had at that level was very aggressive. I mentioned earlier that, in Edinburgh, we will have to replace half our fleet in this coming year. We put a number of questions to the licensing authority, such as whether it had considered whether that number of vehicles would be available to buy.

I want to touch on one point quickly. The taxi trade is unlikely to receive any form of subsidy. We have had access to finance through the Energy Saving Trust, which has put finance in place for people who currently have the oldest vehicles. It started with interest-free loans for people whose taxis were more than 10 years old so that they could buy new taxis. That is completely wrong. You need to create a food chain. It will be the same for HGVs and other vehicles. There has to be a food chain. An owner-operator who is keeping his vehicle running around the clock, who is part of one of the big radio companies and who has a very high cost base, finances brand new vehicles, depreciates them over three to five years and sells them on. He has to sell them on so that he gets some return—some residual value—to finance the new vehicles. Therefore the person you want to give the finance to is the one with the newest vehicle because you want them to keep changing it and you want their vehicles to make their way down the food chain and create that second-hand market.

You are not going to get into that kind of detail here and I do not want to confuse you but I do want to illustrate the fact that the money is often not put in the right place. We are not thinking a couple of steps ahead to how the economy really works with these vehicles. I do not think those considerations are part of the equation at the moment.

The Convener

We are short of time, but you have raised an interesting point so we may come back to it later. Peter Chapman, could you go into your next set of questions?

Peter Chapman

Mr Kenmuir has led very nicely into my next question. We have heard about how the changes to vehicles are necessary and the costs that they incur. What, if any, financial support should be offered to vehicle owners living or working within an LEZ to replace or upgrade non-compliant vehicles?

The Convener

That is a difficult question. Who would like to lead off on it? Tony Kenmuir?

Tony Kenmuir

Will I put a number on it?

The Convener

Your previous comment made your position clear.

Neil Greig

The survey that we did on this showed that, among private car drivers, the most popular option was to subsidise better buses, vans and lorries. It is this them and us thing—private cars versus the larger vehicles. Certainly, there is a perception out there that buses, lorries and vans are the main issue and therefore private car people would like to see the money targeted on those vehicles first.

I cannot give you a figure for what you would need to give people. If you have that clarity, people know the timescales and so on, it will help the market to stabilise. It is a very difficult market for second-hand electric vehicles at the moment because there are so few.

I will quote a figure I got yesterday from the “RAC Report on Motoring 2018”. It asked Scots what their choice of next vehicle will be and 17 per cent chose a diesel, 54 per cent a petrol, 14 per cent a conventional hybrid, 6 per cent a plug-in hybrid, and only 2 per cent a purely electrical vehicle. People are still not thinking about the most environmentally-friendly vehicles, so that situation needs to change. Incentives will help that, but getting the incentives in the right place and to the right people is quite a challenge.

On the face of it, we thought that a diesel scrappage scheme would be great but an analysis of that has shown it does not necessarily deliver what you want either. Therefore you have to be very careful where the money is targeted.

We need consistent messaging about the money because grants can suddenly stop and that distorts the market. In general terms, private car motorists would like to see money spent on the larger vehicles rather than on their own vehicles.

10:45  
The Convener

Does Martin Reid want all the money to go to lorries?

Martin Reid

That sounds like a wonderful idea. [Laughter.] I mentioned that although technically there is no approved retrofit option just now, GreenUrban Technologies Ltd has indicated that, depending on engine size, retrofitting an HGV would run between £11,000 and £25,000, which is a fairly substantial investment.

I will give a bit of context to let you understand how the industry has been let down in the past. As some members may know, a class action was brought against the truck manufacturers, which were found guilty of price fixing over the period 1997 to 2011. I am not going to divulge too much about this because there is a case in the Competition Appeal Tribunal, but part of the argument is about the price fixing of Euro 6 technology and the delay in implementing it. The truck manufacturers had the Euro 6 technology, but delayed bringing it to the industry so that they could get rid of their Euro 5 stock. We were stymied at the start of this, and the knock-on effect is that we are not as far ahead as we should be.

We had a chat outside the room about how much easier it is to bring an industry to the point where you want it to be by helping it, rather than by dragging it kicking and screaming. Although we would love a scrappage scheme, we realise that a scheme is very unlikely. We would certainly like some help in the form of a grant, particularly for SMEs, so that the industry can upgrade and we can bridge the gap between Euro 5 and Euro 6. It is only over the past year or so that we have seen second-hand Euro 6 vehicles enter the market when the bigger guys move on. We have no option, however; you cannot buy anything other than a Euro 6 engine now.

Peter Chapman

I sound a note of caution. There will certainly not be a bottomless pit of money to help the process happen—you need to be fairly cautious about that.

My next question is about automatic number plate recognition. Do you have any concerns about ANPR enforcement and, if so, how should those concerns be addressed? The Road Haulage Association’s submission says that there are concerns about how foreign trucks would be policed.

Martin Reid

There are already issues with foreign trucks. Who knows—maybe Brexit will sort that out. We will have to wait to find out.

Our main concern with ANPR relates to the number of private plates in our industry. Those private plates get moved around the fleet. Through ANPR, it would be fairly easy to assume that a truck was older than it really was because of the number plate on it. It is not a flawless system.

ANPR is a good thing, particularly when it comes to compliance. We see that from its use on bridges and so on—we deal with Transport Scotland a lot in relation to findings and the education process. However, it is not without its problems for our industry.

Peter Chapman

Do you think that foreign trucks will be registered on the system? Will anybody know how old a foreign truck is, for instance?

Martin Reid

They are licensed in another country, so unless you can access that information, the answer is no.

Neil Greig

I do not think that camera use is universally popular, but it certainly works. It runs everything for private cars. It requires an appeals process, which can add to costs and so on, but we have an appeals process for parking and bus lane enforcement that is working okay at the moment.

Peter Chapman

Is the private plate issue that Martin Reid mentioned an issue for private cars as well?

Neil Greig

In my experience, it should not be an issue for cars because a private plate will still be linked to the V5, which will have the Euro standard on it. The databases should all talk to one another. At the moment, databases only tend to be used for things such as addresses and so on for fines, but if they can be linked to the emissions information, which is on the documents, that should be okay.

The Convener

We have heard before about low-emission zones and the cost of putting an ANPR system in place. It was okay in London because the system was tied in with congestion charging. We have not had any pricing for ANPR cameras around low-emission zones. It would not be insubstantial, even if static cameras were to be used. There was certainly some feeling that the fines would not cover the costs of implementation in London. Maybe we need to look at that more.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I had a couple of questions about the Road Haulage Association’s submission, but I will roll them into one. The other witnesses may want to comment, but this is aimed at Martin Reid.

In your submission, you say:

“In the worst case, a haulier failing to comply with a LEZ could find themselves being brought to the attention of the traffic commissioner. We believe this would be overtly punitive for what could be a minor transgression.”

Can you explain that?

You also say:

“Glasgow will not have the infrastructure to properly enforce its LEZ until 2023, meaning the bus fleet will be unaffected by a LEZ”

but

“the road haulage industry will be penalised immediately”.

I did not understand that point either.

Martin Reid

There are two points. First, this has been a learning curve for us as well. You mentioned the point that we make about Office of the Traffic Commissioner for Scotland. We contacted Richard Turfitt, the senior traffic commissioner, to find out whether, as I mentioned, the promises made on a haulage licence application include environmental promises. The Office of the Traffic Commissioner has come back and said that it will not look at driving an ineligible vehicle into a low-emission zone as a serious enough offence to jeopardise the operator’s licence, whereas someone who tips hazardous material in their yard is definitely committing a serious offence. After we sent in our submission, we did some follow-up work—

John Mason

You have reassurance on that.

Martin Reid

We have reassurance that what we say in the submission will not be the case.

There are two sides to the other point that you asked about. First, the bus industry will have had four years of an active retrofit system, whereas we have no retrofit option yet, and 2023 is coming around very quickly.

Also, bus operators know what standard is going to be required of them, but we have not had word from any of the local authorities about the standard that we will be asked to operate to. The longer that that goes on, the less time we will have to adapt to the standard. We all assume that the standard will be Euro 6, but we have had no clarification of that. The bus operators have had that clarification so they have been able to get their house in order over a longer period of time. We do not have that luxury; we are only making assumptions.

John Mason

The issue is the detail around preparing for an LEZ, rather than there being enforcement of one sector but not of another.

Martin Reid

That is right, yes. I will not pass the buck, as other people were consulted, but we heard from Glasgow City Council that it is not confident of being able to have the enforcement side of things ready by 2023 so that the buses can be measured.

John Mason

Should the same equipment be used to measure vehicles in both the haulage and bus sectors?

Martin Reid

That should happen, so it is an equipment issue as much as anything else.

John Mason

It would affect the bus and haulage sectors evenly.

Martin Reid

Absolutely, yes.

John Mason

That helps to clarify things. Thank you.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I have two questions. I preface my first question by saying that, as it stands, the current law prevents anyone from driving on footways or pavements. In principle, do the witnesses support the prohibitions in the bill on pavement parking and double parking?

Martin Reid

In principle, yes. We absolutely support that and do not see any issue with it. However, we would point out that there are certain occasions when, because of the size of their truck, drivers making deliveries find it almost essential to go on to the pavement so as not to obstruct traffic.

Mike Rumbles

That means breaking the law.

Martin Reid

Yes, but in a lot of cases there is no delivery point at the shop, so if someone wants a delivery that is what happens.

Let me give another example. When someone delivers to a building site for the first time, they often do not know what is going on at that site. The normal practice would be for them to park up outside and walk in on foot to see what it is that they are driving into. They might not have room to reverse and so on.

In principle, we have no issue with the prohibitions, but there are occasions when our guys have very little alternative, other than blocking the highway, when doing a delivery.

Neil Greig

We have taken the fairly simple view that we do not like a blanket-ban approach. Local flexibility should remain. Clearly, we do not condone illegal driving. Advanced drivers do not do illegal things—well, sometimes they do. However, in certain areas in Scotland parking on the pavement is almost a necessity. It is encouraged by some local authorities. When I did a piece for the BBC recently, we quite quickly found a place in the west end of Glasgow where the road is marked out for parking on the pavement in order to allow access for other vehicles.

I do not believe that there are thousands and thousands of Scottish drivers deliberately parking on the pavement in order to block pedestrians, because they all become pedestrians themselves when they get out of their vehicle. I worry that in smaller towns or the suburbs a blanket-ban approach might have unintended consequences. It should be dealt with on a local, case-by-case basis. If something is an issue, it should be enforced.

Of course, the other issue is enforcement. If something is going to be unenforceable it will be ignored anyway—we see that with a lot of our parking regulations. It is the blanket-ban approach that we have objected to, rather than the concept.

Gavin Thomson

If a representative of an active travel organisation were here, I am sure that they would make the point that improving the pedestrian environment goes hand in hand with tackling air pollution. I guess that that is how we see restricting pavement parking and the low-emission zones being tied together. I certainly support such a restriction in principle as something that prioritises the pedestrian in the street environment.

Martin Reid

By way of example, without pavement parking there would be great difficulty in delivering to concert venues, music halls—that dates me a bit—and so on, where access is not necessarily from a road, which then becomes an issue for deliveries.

Mike Rumbles

I know that my question was about a blanket ban, but the bill allows councils to provide exemptions in certain areas such as residential streets. The whole point of the bill is to ensure safe passage for pedestrians and particularly for people who are disabled or who need a vehicle to go on the pavement.

Objections have been raised to the exemption in the bill that will allow people to park on the pavement for up to 20 minutes. Several people are concerned that, if allowance for parking of up to 20 minutes becomes the norm, the bill will allow people to park for 20 minutes and obstruct a pavement. This question is particularly for the Road Haulage Association. If the law was changed to allow parking on the pavement for 20 minutes as long as there was a wide gap for the disabled, would that be an appropriate compromise?

Martin Reid

If there is a facility to not use the pavement at all, our guys would happily utilise that. As for the 20 minutes, some deliveries cannot be done in 20 minutes, which becomes problematic. For example, with an order from B&Q, the driver might have to do what is called in common parlance handballing, which means that they will have to physically move whatever has been ordered, which might involve taking it off an uneven road on to a pavement and up a driveway to somebody’s house. It is very difficult to do that in 20 minutes, and it will be very difficult to do it without blocking a street or compromising the pavement.

Mike Rumbles

The whole point of part 4 of the bill is to free up the pavements for pavement users, but you seem to be saying that that will not happen with the 20-minute exemption.

11:00  
Martin Reid

I am saying that, in principle, we are more than happy with that. We do not want to park on pavements, but there are deliveries where it is not possible to do anything other than that. The 20 minutes should be more than enough for most deliveries, but there are deliveries that will not be able to be completed in 20 minutes.

Mike Rumbles

You said when you answered my first question that the law is broken at the moment. Do you think that the provision in the bill is enforceable?

Martin Reid

Parking is a massive issue right across the country. When urban planners or planning authorities are looking to build shopping centres or anything in town, they rarely factor in loading bays. Shops need their equipment and houses need their deliveries, but deliveries are never factored in because space is such a priority.

I mentioned the bad weather in February, when our industry was vilified for making deliveries in the snow. There were countless shouts of, “They shouldn’t be on the road.” Where else are they meant to go once they are on the road? Sometimes, these guys are not making drops from a local depot. In many cases—certainly the ones that were called out by the First Minister—it was guys from the south of England who were on day 3 or day 4 of a tramp round the UK and who could not possibly get back to the depot while the bad weather was happening and there was no parking facility off road.

It is an issue not just across Scotland, but right across the UK. People seem to imagine that deliveries just happen magically by elves. That is not the case. There are practicalities involved in people getting things such as furniture, old people getting their food and medicine and chemists getting their equipment. All those things involve a delivery and, in a lot of cases, no provision is made for that delivery to happen.

John Mason

I want to pick up on something that Mr Greig said. I have sympathy with the idea that, in some cases, it is considerate drivers who put two wheels on the pavement and therefore do not block the road for Mr Reid’s drivers.

Have you picked up any information on whether councils are going to introduce a lot of exemptions? I have started a list in my constituency. I am at 20 streets—I think that I will get to about 100—where I believe that wheels should be allowed on the pavements. Are councils going to do that? Do they have the resources under the finance part of the bill? Should it be the other way round? Are you saying that councils should have to mark specific streets where people are not allowed to put wheels on the pavement?

Neil Greig

I do not have that data, as we do not collect it. I have had no feedback from our members in Scotland that they are interested in particular streets, so I cannot answer that question. It could work either way. If councils are willing to use that flexibility, we would perhaps be less dogmatic in our views on a blanket approach. Certainly, there needs to be flexibility in the bill, which is the key thing. There will be roads where the ban works.

Drivers are often like sheep, in that one or two neighbours do it and then everybody along the street does it. The one who does not do it is then vilified for sticking to the law and parking with four wheels on the road. You need to be aware of that sort of local community feedback. If there was a mechanism for gathering that kind of detail—it is the street-by-street detail that causes people hassle—and if local authorities were encouraged to do that under the bill, we would certainly welcome that.

The Convener

I am sorry, but I am not going to bring in Tony Kenmuir on double parking, because we know that taxis never do it.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

I hope that Mr Reid was not suggesting that vehicles should be exempt from severe weather warnings. There are plenty of places to park up if there are severe weather warnings.

The bill has to be seen in the round in terms of other things such as active travel. It is not just a case of allowing a single pedestrian to go along a pavement. In my view, pavements should be wide enough to let double buggies and buggies for the disabled pass each other. One thing that bothers me and that has been brought up by my constituents is parking in front of dropped kerbs, which is a real issue when vehicles are loading and offloading.

Much of what we are discussing today will eventually be set out in a Government parking standards document. Have your organisations been involved in the drafting of such a document or do you expect to be?

Martin Reid

We have had discussions in the area. We are not militant about it in any way. We understand that there has to be access and egress. We will not put up a protest about that—it is common sense as far as we are concerned—but there will be bad practice in many cases. We are involved and we hope that we will continue to be involved as the process continues.

Gavin Thomson

To my knowledge, we have not been involved. I encourage the committee to read the section of our submission on a workplace parking levy, which talks about how parking can be used to support work in other areas that are covered by the bill, such as low-emission zones and public transport.

Tony Kenmuir

We understand the principles of the conflict for space. Everybody thinks that they are a priority. We have a lot of debate with licensing authorities over the provision of taxi ranking spaces and so on, but we have not been part of any formal consultation on parking standards.

Neil Greig

By pure coincidence, Transport Scotland has invited me—along with many others, including a range of local authorities—to a parking standards meeting on 14 November, although I believe that it has been pushed back into December. Transport Scotland is actively bringing together people to look at parking standards.

The Convener

That concludes the evidence session. I would normally now suspend the meeting to allow the witnesses to leave, but we have one other item that we are going to consider in public and I want to move on to that, so I ask you to remain in your seats.

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Fifth meeting transcript

The Convener (Edward Mountain)

Good morning and welcome to the 28th meeting in 2018 of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee. I ask everyone to make sure that their mobile phones are on silent. We have received apologies from John Finnie and Stewart Stevenson.

Agenda item 4 is the Transport (Scotland) Bill, and we will have two panels. Before I proceed, do members have any interests to declare? I see that no one has anything to declare.

This is our fifth evidence session on the bill. The first panel will look at the proposals on double and pavement parking. The committee will then take evidence on the proposals relating to road works.

I welcome Stuart Hay, the director of Living Streets Scotland; John Lauder, the national director of Sustrans Scotland; Iain Smith, the policy and public affairs officer for Inclusion Scotland; and David Hunter, a board member of the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland.

I am sure that you are all well versed in how the committee works, but I point out that you do not need to push any of the buttons. I will call you and the gentleman on your left will make your microphone live. You do not need to do anything.

I try to give a warning to people by waggling my pen. The faster that it waggles, the closer you are to the end of your speaking time and I want you to wrap up relatively quickly. That will allow me to bring everyone in, which is very important.

The first question is from John Mason.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

We are starting on pavement parking, which I find to be an interesting subject.

Do you broadly agree with what is proposed in the bill? Will what is proposed actually happen? Last week, some of the committee was at Union Street, which is one of the main streets in Glasgow, where we saw vehicles parked on double yellow lines. It is one thing to set something out in the law but it is another thing for it to happen.

Would the proposed ban on pavement parking happen if it were put into law? Primarily, do you agree that it should be put into law?

Stuart Hay (Living Streets Scotland)

Yes, the proposed ban is very welcome and necessary. Councils need the powers because people tell us about how access impacts on their lives. I am sure that some of the other witnesses will talk about that. There are also issues about the damage that is done to pavements—they are not designed for vehicles. I think that the ban will work where it needs to work. Where the case is made by communities for it to be enforced, it will be enforced.

The biggest change will be behavioural, and I welcome the Government’s commitment to a behaviour change publicity campaign. Enforcement is part of the issue, and we need to improve the enforcement of traffic law in many different areas of parking in our urban centres.

David Hunter (Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland)

I endorse what Stuart Hay said—the ban is needed. As I am sure members are aware, for years—possibly decades—disability and pedestrian organisations have been calling for a ban. Pavement parking causes a real problem for disabled people, blind people and people in wheelchairs—anybody with a mobility difficulty is frequently disadvantaged by pavement parking.

The key test will be enforcement. Will a ban be enforceable? Enforcement will be strengthened by having the minimum possible number of exemptions from or exceptions to the ban, so that an attendant who sees a car on a pavement knows that they can ticket it.

Given that about a dozen local authorities still do not have decriminalised parking enforcement, we welcome the provisions on camera enforcement. In particular, however, we would like the exceptions for loading and waste collection to be removed.

10:15  
Iain Smith (Inclusion Scotland)

Inclusion Scotland welcomes the principles behind the bill, which has been a long time in coming. This morning, I happened to bump into Ross Finnie downstairs, who, many years ago, introduced the first member’s bill on these issues. I am sure that he is as delighted as I am to see them finally in a Government bill and therefore having a chance of progressing.

We welcome the bill, which, as has been said, is very important for disabled people. It is about their rights and ability to get out of their house and go where they want to go safely on pavements. Many are trapped in their house because vehicles are parked on pavements, which means that they cannot get out in their wheelchair or if they have other mobility impairments. Vehicles that are parked on footpaths can be a danger to people with visual impairments. The bill is about people’s rights to participate fully in society, so we welcome it. However, we are concerned that it does not include the provisions on banning parking adjacent to dropped kerbs that were in Sandra White’s member’s bill. We would like the committee to consider that.

John Mason

We will come on to that later. My colleagues will ask about it.

Iain Smith

You mentioned enforcement. That is crucial, and I am sure that we will discuss it further. If there is not effective enforcement, the provisions will not be worth the paper that they are written on. It will be up to local authorities to work with their local communities to ensure that the provisions, if enacted, are properly implemented and enforced.

The Convener

John Lauder will now get a chance to speak, as everyone else has said something.

John Lauder (Sustrans Scotland)

In going last, there is always a danger of simply repeating everything that colleagues have said. I agree with everything that they have said. A ban will not be like turning on a switch. We will not instantly solve the problem of parking on pavements, because that has become a societal norm over the past few years. Over the past 10 years, car ownership has increased, but access to cars has not. More of us are in three-car or even four-car families. That is becoming more normal, and it means that there are more people looking for parking spaces. It will take time to change that norm, and it will not be changed simply by addressing the law, as Mr Mason said.

In Scotland, we have a very woolly approach to parking enforcement. The approach is not always clear, and it can vary from local authority to local authority. Changing our behaviours is also an element, and that takes time. We strongly support and welcome the fact that that element is in the bill. As people have said, it addresses a human issue and a human need to make it easy for people to get out of their house and move along the pavement unencumbered.

John Mason

I have a major road in my constituency that is reasonably wide and has reasonably wide pavements. The buses on it are a help to disabled people and others. In order to keep the buses and the traffic moving so that there are two clear lanes for traffic, the council has painted white lines at the side, which strongly encourages cars to put two wheels on the pavement. That still leaves 1.5m for people to get past.

I think that that road works. There is plenty of room on it for two large vehicles to pass, and there is room for vehicles to park outside people’s houses and for pedestrians—with or without wheelchairs—to get past between the cars and the hedges. If that system works, would we cause more problems by forcing cars fully on to the road? Would that not slow down buses and fire engines? Would we simply create more problems for ourselves?

Stuart Hay

The street that you are talking about is exactly the type of street that could be exempted under the legislation. We are comfortable with the provision to do that. Any consideration would be locally led, so people would look at the type of street, the provisions and the impacts on people with disabilities. That is key. Such a facility can be created by putting a line on the pavement provided that there is sufficient access for people to use the pavement. If there is justification for that, councils could do that under the legislation. The bill would make the procedures that have to be gone through a lot simpler. It includes a more efficient way of managing parking.

The Convener

Does anyone disagree with that?

David Hunter

I do not disagree with that. MACS has slightly reluctantly accepted that there is a case for local authorities to make decisions based on local circumstances in the kind of situation that has been described. Basically, if it works, pavement parking is not a problem and does not cause problems for disabled people or other people.

There is a case for decisions to be based on local circumstances, so we do not object to that provision as long as there is a proper equality impact assessment of the circumstances. What we are concerned about and object to is the blanket exemption for the loading of bin lorries in particular, which would apply everywhere—

John Mason

One of my colleagues will ask about loading—I want to focus specifically on cars. May I ask one more question on that topic, convener?

The Convener

I will bring in Jamie Greene and then come back to you.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

This is a fascinating discussion. The good news is that there is cross-party support for the essence of what the bill is trying to achieve. However, people have shared concerns with their local members. Among those concerns are that simply banning parking on pavements will not reduce the number of cars in households, and that we are not making additional parking spaces or facilities available. By “parking on pavements”, I do not mean full four-wheel parking; in many, or most, cases it is two-wheel parking that occurs on our pavements.

I have quite a simple question. Where will the cars go? Some elderly people and people with mobility issues like to be able to park outside their houses in order to save them from having to walk from many streets away, where there might be an exemption. My issue is displacement: could an unintended consequence of banning parking be that we create huge traffic issues in small communities?

Iain Smith

There is an important equalities issue. We should not be creating conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians or between disabled people and non-disabled people, in terms of road management. It is important that when we look at car parking, we do not just look at where cars may park, but at the whole access issue. We need to make sure that there are proper equality impact assessments of proposals.

The problem is that when the footpath is not wide—as in the case that Mr Mason referred to—vehicles being parked on it blocks pedestrian access. Why should pedestrians be treated less favourably than motorists?

The important thing is to get the balance right. Local authorities cannot just say, “Well, cars have to park there because there’s nowhere else to park”; it is their responsibility to deal with the shortage of parking space in communities. They need to work with communities on where cars can park safely and ensure that access issues for disabled people, mothers with pushchairs and elderly people with mobility problems are resolved.

Another issue is that parking on footpaths can damage footpaths, so even when there are no vehicles there, the footpath might be broken, which can cause trip hazards and so on for people with visual or mobility impairments, and can make it difficult for people in wheelchairs to pass. A number of equalities issues about parking on footpaths need to be taken into account.

Jamie Greene

No one is questioning the equalities aspect of access to pavements; that was not the intention of my question. My question is a simple one about where the cars will go. The vehicles will not disappear, but there is no provision in the bill to make facilities available. Anyone else who answers the question might like to contemplate that point.

The Convener

I will bring in Stuart Hay briefly, then come back to John Mason.

Stuart Hay

Living Streets Scotland has suggested in our evidence that local authorities should have a parking strategy. The problem has been building up over 40 years; we need to manage it and we need to be creative about how we do so. There are probably workplaces that have car parks that are empty in the evenings, right next to congested streets. Perhaps we could use such spaces.

We could look at new models of car ownership, including car clubs and that side of things. City centres in which there is real pressure are where car clubs can come into their own. Removal of parking would incentivise some people who probably do not use their car very often to switch to a car club. While people have a car, they will not join a car club. It is about changing our mobility profile.

John Mason

I have a final question. Iain Smith mentioned the need for balance, with which I totally agree. Would exempting streets, as councils would be able to do, strike the right balance? Would it cover the right streets? We got the impression that the City of Edinburgh Council would not exempt many streets. There would be a cost and hassle for councils, so would exemption strike the right balance?

Iain Smith

That would depend on the regulations and, under the provisions of the bill, the directions that the Scottish Government ministers would give. If the directions are very clear that a positive case has to be made for an exemption, rather than a case having to be made against an exemption, that would help.

It is key that there is proper engagement with the community, that there is proper consideration of the equalities impacts of exemptions and that access, particularly for disabled people and others who have difficulty when cars are parked on pavements, is properly taken into account before an exemption order is made. There should be an onus on people to make a positive case for why an exemption is needed in any case. Exemptions should be kept to a minimum.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I will focus on concern about a specific exemption—the proposed 20-minute pavement parking exemption for loading and unloading for businesses. At the moment, the law says that we cannot drive on pavements—it is as simple as that—but we know that it happens. The bill would give people a legal basis on which to do just that, because they would have to drive on to the pavement to park there. What are your thoughts on the 20-minute exemption? One of mine is that, if the bill gives a 20-minute exemption, that might become the norm rather than the exception.

David Hunter

I completely agree. There is a contradiction, which the bill would reinforce. It is illegal to drive on a pavement, but the bill would make it legal to park on it for 20 minutes. The principle that we would like to see is that pavement parking is not allowed, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

I endorse what others have said about creating a culture in which it is seen as being antisocial to park on a pavement. To allow people to park on a pavement for 20 minutes would run counter to that and undermine the creation of a culture in which parking on a pavement is not a decent thing to do because it causes pedestrians problems.

Because of that, we think that there should be no exemptions for loading on pavements whatsoever, because exemptions would create enforcement problems for parking attendants, who would ticket only vehicles that they knew had been there for some time, which would not be 20 minutes but probably a couple of hours by the time they went back and noted that the vehicle had been there before. Particularly in town centres, they would pass pavement-parked vehicles. As Mike Rumbles said, it is about loading. It would not just be delivery vehicles; people going into shops to collect goods could say that they were loading. We think that many tickets would be appealed against on the basis that people were loading.

The thing to do is to have throughout the country the clear and simple position that loading is not permitted on pavements, which is distinct from the question of exempting particular areas.

Mike Rumbles

Is there a compromise? David Hunter said that he does not agree about loading, but I always look for balance. In written evidence, Living Streets Scotland suggests that it might be acceptable if there were a gap of, say, 1.5m for disabled people and pedestrians who use our pavements. Is the solution a total ban on pavement parking and removal of the provision from the bill, as David suggests? How would Living Streets Scotland’s suggestion be enforced?

Stuart Hay

The simplest way is to remove the provision, but if the committee felt that, on balance, it did not want to do that, there is another option.

There is an overarching provision about obstruction, which could be defined in guidance. Part of the problem with the current law is that “obstruction” is not very well defined. The police have powers in that respect, but they never use them. A way to get round the problem would be to say that people cannot obstruct pavements. It would be up to the driver to make a judgment about whether they would be obstructing the pavement. The enforcement person could make a simple measurement: if a wheelchair could not get past, the driver would be breaking the law. That could work fairly easily.

An effective compromise would be to get the law right so that it says that obstruction is not allowed and to get the guidance right so that it defines “obstruction”.

10:30  
The Convener

I will ask about a real-life example. Every morning when I come into Parliament at about 7 o’clock, there is a lorry double parked that unloads everything on to the pavement as part of a transfer process. The lorry itself does not obstruct the pavement—the obstruction is caused by all the crates, cages and food coming in and waste coming out. If we disallow one thing, will it not just create a different problem that is not covered by the legislation?

John Lauder

On that and the point that was made by Mr Greene, I say that we have not thought about the design of our streets for many years. The redesigning of streets is very important. For example, it might be easier for a parking enforcement officer to police a loading bay, which would prevent double parking and commercial vehicles being forced on to the pavement.

Sustrans is involved in placemaking and construction and design, working with communities. We have a great example of that from Dumfries, where there was a long, narrow, Edwardian street on which there was a lot of pavement parking. We worked with the residents of the street in conjunction with Dumfries and Galloway Council’s housing department. The residents came up with a brilliant solution to the parking issue. We have redesigned the street and built in loading bays, so it now works much better. That is because people applied a bit of thinking to how the street would function. A designated area for commercial vehicles to stop and unload is much better and easier to enforce than an exemption.

We need to spend time thinking about such things and about how we deliver in the urban realm. Internet shopping has grown; we have given that no thought at all. We could learn quite a bit from our northern European neighbours, who approach such things in a more planned way and do it better. That goes back to the point about having a parking strategy that Stuart Hay mentioned.

Mike Rumbles

I asked the bill team where the period of 20 minutes came from. Their response was that it had just appeared. There does not seem to be any scientific basis for it. If that provision is not removed at stage 2 or 3, how would you feel about reducing the 20-minute period and to what limit?

David Hunter

At the risk of repeating myself, I say that any limit—whether it is 10 or 20 minutes—will make it a difficult for parking attendants. They should be able to ticket any vehicle that is parked on the pavement. I do not entirely agree with Stuart Hay about the 1.5m obstruction. To go back to the first question on enforcement, we need to make the provision as simple as possible to enforce in practice, which would mean that pavement parking would not be permitted, other than in exceptional circumstances.

The Convener

We will have to move on.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Several witnesses have called on the bill to prohibit parking in front of dropped kerbs. As a constituency member, I have had calls for that in relation to motability vehicles and wheelchairs, as well as from cyclists. What are your views on that proposal and, perhaps more important, how could it work in practice?

The Convener

I excluded Iain Smith from the previous question—I apologise for that—but I will give him the first chance to answer this one.

Iain Smith

Thank you, convener.

Dropped kerbs are essential for people with wheelchairs or other mobility problems, because they enable those people to cross roads. Without them, those people are trapped. In preparing our evidence for the member’s bill on the issue in the previous session of Parliament, we asked our members for examples, and we got back comments such as, “Cars parked across a dropped kerb meant that I had to go round the block to find somewhere to cross the road and I missed a doctor’s appointment.” The issue is that important—it prevents people from getting where they need to be. At the end of the day, it prevents people from getting out of their house, because if they do not have confidence that they can get to where they want to be, they will not go out, which causes social isolation and other problems. There may be buses that help disabled people, but if people cannot get to them because the dropped kerbs are blocked they are not much use.

There are huge issues about dropped kerbs that need to be addressed, so I do not understand why the Government has dropped the issue from the bill. There is talk about the Government bringing in measures through secondary legislation, but that does not make sense to me. There should be a blanket ban on parking at dropped kerbs, with the option for local authorities to make exemptions if they can make a strong case for that in particular circumstances. That is the way to do it. The matter is better dealt with through primary legislation in which it is clear that, along with parking on pavements, parking at dropped kerbs is not acceptable.

The Convener

I see all the panel members nodding their heads, so I assume that you all agree.

Maureen Watt

Should double yellow lines be painted at dropped kerbs, or should the issue just be in the highway code or whatever, so that people know that they should not park in front of a dropped kerb?

Iain Smith

People are not allowed to park at bus stops, and that is just a general provision. The area has to be marked as a bus stop. It is fairly obvious that a dropped kerb is a dropped kerb. If the law says that you cannot park in front of a dropped kerb, you cannot park in front of a dropped kerb, and no further markings are needed to designate it.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

My question is mainly for Stuart Hay of Living Streets Scotland, but other panel members might want to come in. In written evidence, Living Streets Scotland asked for clarity on which pedestrian areas will be covered by the proposed prohibition. Why is the current definition not sufficiently robust and how could that be rectified?

Stuart Hay

We were involved in the previous member’s bill on the issue, and there was a lot of debate about the definitions. The term “footway” is good and clear and is referred to in another act, but there are lots of different types of path. We think that the bill captures all the types, but there is a debate about that—certainly, I have had a debate with my colleague from Sustrans about whether it does. We posed the question because we want it to be clear for motorists and for enforcement purposes that every area where people walk or cycle is covered.

Richard Lyle

You made a point about enforcement. People should not park in bus lanes and loading bays, but we often see people parked in them, which is frustrating. I could mention a number of pedestrian areas where I have seen cars or even lorries coming down to deliver things. Possibly, none of us has driven a lorry, but people have to deliver stuff to shops, and some of them are located in pedestrian areas. What do we do about that? Does it come down to the point that my colleague John Mason made about enforcement? If we pass a law, does it have to be enforced or will people just accept and obey the law?

Stuart Hay

It is a bit of both. Pavement parking is becoming acceptable behaviour for some people—although not everybody—and that needs to change. People need to realise the impact that it has, but we also need the fallback of some sort of enforcement. Some councils are better geared up to do that than others, because they have good regimes in place. Other councils will have to think creatively and may have to borrow capacity from neighbouring local authorities.

I think that what will happen is that there will be issues on specific streets and the community will have concerns, so there will be a blitz and then the problem will go away. There will not be inspections of every street all the time—it will just not happen that way. However, councils need to be able to send out a team where there are real problems. I hope that, in advance of that, people will be warned that the council will be out, so it might not come to the point of dishing out fines, but there will be a hard core of people who do not get the point that that behaviour is unacceptable, so they will need to be tackled via enforcement.

John Lauder

Buchanan Street in Glasgow is a good example of a street where there is a mix. Early in the morning, there are lots of delivery vehicles and trade vehicles but, for the rest of the day, it is a wonderful experience to be a pedestrian there. With good control, that can work well.

I thank Stuart Hay for reminding me of a topic that I am not clear about and that I would like the committee to think about. Increasingly in urban Scotland, we are considering segregated cycle lanes that are physically removed from the footway. That is usually done with a small angled dropped kerb, then a wide cycle lane and then a dropped kerb to a parking area. Stuart Hay and I are not clear whether, under the bill, parking on a cycle lane will be prohibited, so I wonder whether that could be checked, given that we are increasingly going for such cycle lanes. There is a good demonstration project on Victoria Road in Glasgow, which will link Queen’s park to the merchant city. We have similar projects in five cities in Scotland. Those very much follow the Copenhagen style of allowing people to get around by not mixing cycling and pedestrians.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

You have probably just answered my question, which is on whether the bill goes far enough to protect cyclists. You said that it is not clear whether a ban on parking on cycle paths is proposed.

John Lauder

That is right. It is not entirely clear whether that is covered. It is a technicality, really, because I think that the spirit of the bill is that people should not do that, but the issue is whether technically they will be able to do so. A great example is that, when people parked on one of the very early cycle lanes in Edinburgh, the Evening News ran a big story about it for one day and that never happened again, because people just got used to the social norm and thought, “Right—that is what it is for. Fine. I get it now.”

Double parking is a real issue for anyone who wants to get around on a bicycle, because it means that you have to pitch yourself out into oncoming traffic. That element needs to be tightened. One element that I am more sanguine about is to do with vehicles being parked for maintenance on a designated cycleway, such as a mixed-use path—it might be a former railway line that is used as a greenway. With some exemptions, I am sure that that could be managed. We manage the issue fairly well at the moment. That should be allowed only when it is a maintenance or service vehicle, rather than a member of the public parking.

The Convener

I have a point, before Colin Smyth asks his next question. There has been a suggestion that we should try to restrict loading and unloading to times when there are no pedestrians on the street, which would probably mean an early start for some people. That has been tried in some places. I hear lots of complaints from people who object to their bins being emptied at 6 o’clock in the morning, because they are trying to get an extra 10 minutes’ sleep. Are you suggesting that lorries should be encouraged to deliver from 6 to 7.30 in the morning, before the main build-up of traffic?

John Lauder

Yes. There are good examples on the continent of large towns and small cities that function perfectly normally and that control when deliveries can and cannot take place. I do not see a reason why we cannot do that. I am not suggesting that that should be a blanket provision, but in some places it would work well. I go back to the example of Buchanan Street, which works particularly well.

Colin Smyth

I have a follow-up to John Lauder’s comment about the project in Dumfries. I should declare an interest, as I was a local councillor and chair of the committee that was involved at the time. I am biased, but I think that it was a great project. It focused attention on the need to look again at the layout of streets and to better balance cars, pedestrians and cyclists. Will the bill provide an incentive to do that? Does anything need to be put into the bill to strengthen it so that we start to look again at that balance when it comes to public-realm improvements such as that project in Dumfries?

10:45  
John Lauder

I think that the bill will focus attention on that. Mr Greene made the point about a high level of car ownership on a narrow street; that project is exactly the type of project that local authorities need to adopt and roll out. I understand anecdotally that City of Edinburgh Council has done an analysis of a particular area in that regard. I do not have an exact figure, but I understand that the council reckoned that it would have to put in some intervention in a fairly small number of streets. The Dumfries project is a great example of the type of project that could and should be done, and I think that the bill will lead to that happening. It will lead those of us who own cars to think about how we park our cars and the impact that that has on those who do not have access to a car. I welcome the bill and I think that we will see a gradual change and more projects like the Queen Street one in future.

Jamie Greene

It has been a very interesting discussion, and two things have jumped out at me. Is the panel confident that the lumping together of pavement parking and double parking is the best way to approach issues, especially around, for example, deliveries and the dropping of goods at people’s homes, where the tendency might be to double park rather than pavement park, which I think that we all agree is unacceptable? If we accept the suggestion of including dropped kerb parking with double parking and pavement parking, should they all be treated the same or should we treat them as separate occurrences, which can be dealt with differently? The bill as it stands does not do that.

David Hunter

From MACS’s point of view, we are concerned about pavement parking. Double parking clearly causes a number of problems for cyclists, buses, cars and so on, but those are not the problems that affect disabled people. If a better pavement parking ban was achieved as a result of separating provisions for double parking from those for pavement parking, we could probably live with that. However, other panel members might not be so happy with that. We want a firm, clear line for everyone on pavement parking to create that culture and easy enforcement environment that has been a bit of a theme in the discussion so far.

The Convener

Iain Smith, do you want to come back in? You smiled wryly when David Hunter said that you might disagree.

Iain Smith

It is only a slight disagreement. Our focus is particularly on pavement parking and parking at dropped kerbs because those are the big issues that affect mobility and equality for disabled people. However, if vehicles are double parked, they cause additional problems for pedestrians’ safety when people are trying to cross roads. That issue also impacts on disabled people who might get past one parked car but find another parked car in front of them that they cannot get round. There are therefore issues around double parking for disabled people as well.

Richard Lyle

On pavement parking, John Lauder said that he sat down with a council and also made decisions with residents. Should it be just the council that says that people cannot park in a particular place, double park or park on the pavement, or should residents also be encouraged to approach the council in that regard? What sort of mechanism could be set up for doing that?

John Lauder

The project in Colin Smyth’s constituency involved a street where there was a real problem with parking and rat-running cars. It was a difficult street to cross and a lot of elderly people who lived in the street felt quite intimidated and just preferred to stay in rather than go out. The problem was that either they could not get down off the pavement or they could not get across the road, which had a crossroads. It was one of those streets that every town has a few of and which are acknowledged as a real issue.

It was the council who raised that issue, but we worked with the residents as a kind of bridge between the residents and the local authority. We got to a point where we had a pragmatic design that everybody was happy with and could live with, which was then delivered. I do not think that that would need to happen in every street in Scotland, but I think that there will be some streets for which it is a great approach.

I would say that 90 per cent of the people on that street bought into the project and are now very happy with it. Indeed, the residents have formed a development association and are greening vacant and derelict land, among other things. The project brought people together and created a sense of neighbourliness, and it solved the issue.

The project was a really good one. It was not expensive, because it was not infrastructure led, with people saying, “Let’s redesign things,” and it was not a case of the council telling residents how things should be; it was very much about the residents saying, “We are part of this and we will work with you on the design.” It took about a year of discussions before anything was built, and at the end of all that there was a solution that worked really well.

I hope that I have answered your question. As I said, that would not have to happen on every street, but on streets that are really narrow and tight for space because of parking difficulties, it is a great approach, which redistributes parking. That happened in the example that I mentioned: space was poorly designed and badly used, and we rearranged it so that it works effectively.

Iain Smith

One of the four outcomes in the accessible transport framework is:

“Disabled people are involved in the design, development and improvement of transport policies, services and infrastructure”.

Inclusion Scotland would certainly argue that by involving disabled people in the design, we get things right for disabled people and we therefore get things right for everyone.

That principle should extend to the community. If we work with the community as a whole in identifying problems such as bad parking and designing solutions and alternatives, we are more likely to get community buy-in and make it easier to enforce the approach, because the community itself will enforce it. It is important to involve the community so that there is a community-up approach, as opposed to a top-down approach.

Stuart Hay

I echo Iain Smith’s point. I think that the design of the bill allows us to do that. We do not want local authorities to make blanket exemptions where they think that the issue is too difficult; it is for the community to come forward and say, “We’ve got a real problem on our street with the impact of the bill; can we exempt our street or redesign it?” It will then be for committees of the council to come up with a solution, whether that involves designing a line in the street or something more creative. The bill allows that to happen.

Jamie Greene

Is anything missing from the bill? I appreciate that there are provisions that panel members might want to tweak or change, but has the bill team overlooked anything substantive?

The Convener

We could end up with a huge shopping list in answer to that question. While members of the panel gather their thoughts, I encourage you to limit yourselves to making one or two points.

Stuart Hay

First, school zigzags are an issue. Councils need to make an order to make them legally enforceable; we think that they should be nationally enforceable. Secondly, local authorities should have some sort of parking strategy. It might be quite light touch, but local authorities should be required to think about the issues and come up with a strategy.

John Lauder

I made the point about the need to check whether the bill will apply to cycle lanes beside pavements. I will restrict my comments to that.

Iain Smith

I mentioned the accessible transport framework, which was co-designed by disabled people, disabled people’s organisations, transport providers and transport authorities and was published by the Scottish Government in 2016. Its overarching aim is:

“All disabled people can travel with the same freedom, choice, dignity and opportunity as other citizens”.

We think that it is a missed opportunity not to have made reference to that in the bill—we wish that it was there.

David Hunter

I totally agree with Iain Smith. I have a copy of the framework with me. MACS confined its comments to what is in the bill, rather than talk about what is not in the bill, but there is clearly a long-term issue about making travel and transport much more inclusive for disabled people. We have not got that right at the moment.

Gail Ross (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

Did the equality impact assessment cover everything? It says in the policy memorandum:

“The EQIA did not identify any group that would be adversely affected by the new legislation.”

Does the panel agree?

The Convener

Who wants to go first? Iain Smith, you are not looking away. [Laughter.]

Iain Smith

Provided that the regulations, directions and guidance from ministers in relation to parking are sufficiently robust and ensure that disabled people are involved in the discussions and design in relation to all aspects of exemptions, I do not think that the bill will have an adverse impact on disabled people.

Some of the bill’s other provisions could have a positive impact on disabled people. For example, if disabled people are involved in the discussions about bus services, local authorities might enforce disability awareness training for bus drivers better and ensure that people are properly consulted before routes are removed, because of the impact that that could have on disabled people’s ability to get to the places that they need to get to.

The bill has positive potential, subject to the regulations and directions that Scottish ministers may give. The bill has the power to improve things significantly for disabled people, subject to how it is implemented.

David Hunter

MACS had quite a lot of discussion with officials about the equality impact assessment. We would like to think that we had a positive influence on it. There is nothing in the bill that would make any situation worse, except the legitimising of short-term pavement parking, which I mentioned earlier. The question is whether the bill goes far enough. That takes us back to the previous question and Iain Smith’s comments.

The Convener

I have a final, general question. Over the years we have seen a huge shift in what is and what is not acceptable. For example, it is now completely socially unacceptable to drink and drive—that is a change. Similarly, most people would not even consider parking in a disabled parking spot as an option. Do you think that there should be something tacked on to the bill that tries to make it socially unacceptable to do things such as parking on dropped kerbs and failing to consider others when parking? Does social acceptance have a role to play beyond legislation and enforcement?

David Hunter

Yes. We have all probably commented on creating that culture. Legislation is not the only thing. However, the changes in attitudes to drink driving and wearing a seatbelt were driven by legislation. We are looking not just for a law that is enforceable—although that is important—but to try to change attitudes. However, unless the law points in the right direction, it is really difficult to create that kind of culture.

Iain Smith

I agree with what has been said. Passing legislation is one thing, but implementing it is another. If the bill is to work, it will need effective enforcement as well as a change in culture and attitude. That will come from effective publicity campaigns and the Scottish Government involving the organisations that have brought the legislation to this point in developing those campaigns.

Stuart Hay

Local authorities need to see that it is something positive that will get communities to function more effectively. Parking is a problem and the bill would allow us to bring a lot of issues to a head, face up to them and come up with some solutions. They are not new issues. They occur when we create new controlled parking zones. People get used to those zones so they will get used to the new provisions, too.

John Lauder

My final point is about culture change. Culture change will also be required in transport departments in local authorities, particularly when we look at streets where parking is really tight and difficult. There has to be a culture change that says that such parking is an issue that needs to be tackled—we need the resource, training and planning to tackle it—and is not something that the department can forget about while folk muddle through. There is an approach that says, “It will all be fine,” and that will have to change.

We may well need to consider the impact on planning. That will be a gradual process. We need to think about how we plan our residential estates. Scotland has a great design policy called “Designing Streets”, but it is often not adhered to as well as it could be. If it were followed, residential areas in particular would be better designed around people, rather than vehicles. That is a big change that needs to happen in planning.

The Convener

On Friday, the committee was in Glasgow looking at some of the things that are being done there. There was a feeling that designing the street for modern-day use is critical, as is being able to create that flexibility in old streets—as John Lauder mentioned. The other thing was that if we encourage people on to the buses, we can reduce the number of cars. The elephant in the room might be increasing the availability and reliability of buses, trains and other means of public transport to reduce car ownership.

We have covered most things this morning. Is there anything that the committee has missed?

Stuart Hay

We support the workplace parking levy as an option for councils. It is important that that topic is debated and that the committee takes further evidence on the merits of the workplace parking levy.

The Convener

You have just provoked Richard Lyle, who wants to say something about that.

Richard Lyle

You are proposing another tax on drivers. I know that Living Streets wants that levy to be introduced, but as far as I am concerned it is a no-no and I would not support it. I have had discussions with Living Streets about that.

The Convener

We finish the evidence session on Richard Lyle’s personal view—it is not necessarily the collective view of the committee.

I thank the witnesses for coming to give evidence this morning. We are very grateful for your written submissions.

11:01 Meeting suspended.  11:04 On resuming—  
The Convener

I welcome the second panel of witnesses on the Transport (Scotland) Bill, from whom we will take evidence on the proposals relating to road works. I welcome Alex Rae, manager of Scotia Gas Networks, on behalf of Street Works UK; Elizabeth Draper, head of compliance and regulation for Street Works, Openreach; Angus Carmichael, Scottish road works commissioner; Mark McEwen, general manager of customer service, Scottish Water; and David Hunter, member of Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland, who was also here for the first panel.

We have a series of questions. For those of you who have not been here before or did not see the previous evidence session, when a question is posed, I will look at you and if everyone looks away, one of you will get tasked with responding to the question. If you want to ask a question or answer one, catch my eye and the microphone will automatically go live in front of you when it is your turn. As I reminded everyone previously, I follow a Deputy Presiding Officer’s practice in waggling my pen if you are getting towards the end of your time, which is just to allow everyone a chance to get in. Please do not ignore that, as I am not sure what the sanction is when I cease to hold on to my pen.

The first question is from Peter Chapman.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

Thank you, convener, and good morning lady and gentlemen. You are the people who tend to dig holes in our streets on a fairly regular basis. I am sure that you are aware that the bill proposes a number of changes to the legislation governing the regulation of road works in Scotland and that you have all studied them. What practical impact do you think that the road works proposals in the bill will have on road users?

Alex Rae (Street Works UK)

I will kick off with probably a bit of a broadbrush statement. As utilities, we are not in the business to do bad road works. The road works that we have to do are done for a reason and doing bad road works is simply not good for business; it is bad for our reputation and our business, and bad because of the costs involved. We are therefore in the game to do good road works.

As a whole, we have good working relationships in the road working community between the utilities and with the road works commissioner and the roads authorities. There is nothing in the bill that means drastic changes; there will be some subtle changes and pushes into trying to work more co-operatively and efficiently. I think that, on the whole, the bill will be fairly good for what we are trying to achieve.

The Convener

I will bring in the utilities’ representatives first, then go to Angus Carmichael for a comment.

Mark McEwen (Scottish Water)

From our perspective, the bill’s provisions provide a framework to continue the journey of improving the high quality of road works, whether done by utilities or roads authorities. We welcome the establishment of and the clarity around the role of the Scottish road works commissioner; and we welcome the move to reinstatement quality plans. There is no particular provision that causes a concern in terms of the additional approach to regulation, noticing and penalties. Our perception overall is that that will generally just continue to drive up the quality of road works in Scotland, which we believe are currently of a relatively high standard compared with those in England and Wales. That is the journey that the bill will continue. It does not pose a particular threat to us but is an opportunity to continue to drive up the quality of our road works.

Elizabeth Draper (Openreach)

I agree that the bill is an evolution. A few provisions in the bill will improve the current situation, but particularly the quality plans, which will encourage more works to be done right the first time. It will prevent rework and having to go in and dig a road up twice or have traffic management. The quality plans will certainly be beneficial. The bill is a continuation of what is already there, but it is probably right to refine the edges as opposed to proposing something radically different. We are going in the right direction and it is about doing more of that.

The Convener

Angus, everyone is perfectly happy with the bill.

Angus Carmichael (Scottish Road Works Commissioner)

Absolutely. I should say first that the situation in Scotland is significantly different from that south of the border. We are fortunate to have only one Scottish road works register, because I think that there are in England around 170 disparate registers, and Alex Rae does not know what Elizabeth Draper is doing, what Scottish Water is doing and so forth. Up here, everyone knows what everyone else is doing on the road.

The provisions of the bill will undoubtedly improve quality and safety. The question was mainly about the impact on the public. The bill will lead to a reduction in disruption. As more real-time information comes in, it should improve journey planning time for individuals as well as reducing disruption. Quality plans will mean getting things right first time rather than having to return to the site.

I feel like I am among friends at this end of the table; it is not as if we are fighting each other day and daily.

The Convener

David, I will bring you in, because everyone is convinced that everything is perfect. Does it all work for you guys?

David Hunter

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to dissent a little bit. The discussion that we just had highlighted the problem for disabled people of parked cars on pavements. We think that road works are a serious hazard and often an obstruction for disabled people. We do not quite agree with the rosy picture that has been painted so far.

The so-called red book—the guidance, which has been endorsed by Scottish ministers—is very good and we appreciate that most organisations doing road works, whether utility companies or councils, pay some attention to it. However, on the way here this morning I took a photograph of a road sign saying that there was a diversion because of road works. The sign left less than 1m of walking space, which would stop a wheelchair user from using the pavement.

You probably all see that kind of thing in your constituencies every day. Ramps are generally put in when road works block off a pavement and there is a diversion on to the road; however, typically, there is not enough space for a wheelchair user to get to the bottom of the ramp, turn around and go along the route provided.

Application of the very good guidance that already exists is not good enough and we would like to see better inspection and enforcement. That was a theme of the previous discussion on pavement parking.

Peter Chapman

I need to dissent a wee bit, too. I recognise that you all want to reinstate all your road works to a high standard, but the reality is that very often that does not happen. We have all seen areas of the road that have been dug up and, within weeks or months, the repair has collapsed and there is a big hazard in the road for cyclists in particular—for everybody, really.

What is your view on the proposed inspection powers for the Scottish road works commissioner and their staff? Do you really think that that will drive a better standard of repair and make sure that repairs are high quality and will not need to be revisited a few weeks later? That seems to be the problem: the road collapses where the hole is dug and then you have a real issue. Can we be confident that the changes in the bill will drive a better standard of reinstatement?

The Convener

Angus, that question looks to be directed at you.

Angus Carmichael

I certainly did not mean to imply that road works in Scotland were perfect by any stretch of the imagination—they are not. I have a dashboard system that is produced quarterly, marking things as red, amber and green, and there is still plenty of red in it. I would say that we are better than our southern cousins. However, there remains room for improvement.

On safety, there is no evidence that roads authorities carrying out works are any better than utility companies. It is probably the case that utility companies are better regulated and generally perform slightly better than roads authorities doing that same work.

The provisions in the bill should improve the current situation in Scotland. It will be difficult to get it absolutely perfect; there is a lot of human nature involved, and a lot of different operatives, companies and contracts. However, it will certainly lead to an improvement in safety at road works sites, which is a big issue, and the quality of reinstatements. Those are the two main issues.

Peter Chapman

Do other folks on the panel think that the new inspection powers will put an increased demand on your teams to do the job better than it was done in the past?

11:15  
Mark McEwen

To pick up on a couple of the bill’s elements, the reinstatement quality plans will be a key part of the process of developing a consistently high standard in the quality of works that are carried out. That will sit alongside the existing inspection and monitoring programme that roads authorities apply, which has a role as well and demonstrates generally for many utilities quite high levels of standards, although there is still room for improvement. There are also the provisions that sit with the Scottish road works commissioner to take action where there are fundamental failures in quality performance.

All of those elements will create a framework with added impetus and focus that will provide greater powers for action to be taken where there is not the right action or recovery. I am therefore of the view that the framework being presented builds on what we have already and will continue to drive up the quality of reinstatements and the quality of works on roads.

Elizabeth Draper

There is the penalty side of things when works are inspected and there is a natural course to follow if it is found that the right thing has not been done. The bill has some enhancements of that process. However, one of the biggest wins from the changes proposed in the bill will be from formalising the need for a quality plan, which will have to be agreed at the utility level with first-tier suppliers and any subcontractors. That will formalise up-front self-checking and a culture of getting things right at the beginning, as opposed to failing down the line and getting a penalty. That is what feels very different about the bill: up front, it puts the focus in the right place. None of us wants to receive a penalty and Angus Carmichael probably does not want to give a penalty. The bill puts the emphasis at the front end by stating what needs to be done and in what order, and how we are going to check it.

A key process that we have implemented is self-coring so that we are not waiting for authorities or Angus Carmichael to go in and take a chunk of our reinstatement to see whether it is right; we are doing that ourselves so that we can proactively find and fix. We can see what needs to be done up front so that we can fix things for the future. The bill will make a key difference in that regard.

The Convener

That leads on to Jamie Greene’s question.

Jamie Greene

Good morning, panel. I want to explore a couple of themes around some of the other provisions in the bill. The first one is the issue of qualifications for supervisors and operatives on site in relation to works being carried out and reinstatement. The bill seeks to strengthen the quality of staff on site, including contractors and subcontractors, by ensuring that there are trained operatives whose names are given to roads authorities along with information about their qualifications and so on. Much of the criticism in representations made to politicians regarding road works is about specific issues around reinstatement or certain practices that are not so good. Will the bill mean that the general public will notice tangible differences in the processes of road works and their quality?

The Convener

I will go to Alex Rae because he did not get a chance to answer a previous question.

Alex Rae

Will the bill change significantly what we do? I do not think that it will. This is not a criticism of the bill, but my organisation already has qualified people on site. When somebody comes into any part of the business, they must have some basic safety and awareness training, and basic training in what they do. We do not put people out on the roads to do works unsafely.

As far as having competent, trained and qualified people on the job is concerned, we have that already. Perhaps the bill might generate a bit more awareness for the responsible, qualified person on site of their responsibility, of the importance of doing things right and of the fact that they will be measured against that. Perhaps the bill will heighten awareness in that respect, but that responsibility is already there. The bill will tighten up what is already in place and enhance people’s awareness of their responsibility for their work, so in that respect the bill is a good thing.

However, as I said, it is not in anybody’s interest to put untrained and unqualified people out there. In the interests of their safety and that of the public, and of doing the job well, we have to get that right. We are not in the game of putting unskilled and untrained people out there. People who are not fully trained always work with a competent and trained person.

Jamie Greene

That is a fair statement but, as others have mentioned, it is not always the reality. I will furnish you with a short example. I recently dealt with the case of a utility company—I will not name it—that was inserting telecommunications equipment into pavements and had dug up numerous streets. After a complaint by local residents about the ramped access to a road and the lack of a pavement, I attended the site to check it out for myself. When I got there, there were a large number of subcontractors on the site but no one from the prime contractor. It was difficult to engage with the staff and no one seemed to take any responsibility. There were lots of comments such as, “You’ll need to speak to my supervisor.” When I eventually spoke to the supervisor, he said that he was a subcontractor and that I had to speak to the utility company, and he gave me the telephone number. No one on site could account for health and safety issues or the actions of anyone.

That is a real example, and I suspect that the same happens in other places. The reality is quite different from the perception.

Alex Rae

I agree that that is a bad example, and that that should not happen. There should be a person on site who has overall responsibility for the site.

Jamie Greene

Is the Scottish road works commissioner confident that the bill gives you adequate powers to enforce good practice and ensure that you are happy when you sign off reinstatement plans and so give more confidence to consumers?

Angus Carmichael

To roll back to your first question, which was on qualification, the sort of large organisations that are represented round the table here generally have pretty good systems in place. The company that I imagine that you are talking about is rolling out telecommunications programmes across Scotland, and there are issues with multiple subcontractors, which we are looking at. The qualifications element of the bill is being progressed in parallel with work that the UK training and accreditation group is doing on how it tests operatives. Currently, I could take a day-long or week-long course and, when it comes to the test, I could turn to the person next to me and say, “What’s your answer?” In future, the tests will be computerised and there will be a much larger pool of questions. That will improve the standard of qualification, in parallel with what is proposed in the bill.

There should always be somebody on site with a card, but I have come across sites where people have not been qualified. Openreach has a lot of single operation vans out there, and every time that I have personally stopped them, the guys have a card and they know the situation. There are challenges with some of the other telecoms providers, but they are aware of their obligations and what they have to do to improve.

One thing that will improve is courtesy for those with a disability when they come across a site. If people are aware of what they are meant to do in the way of signs, lighting, guarding, walkways and pedestrian ways, they will be more sympathetic in catering for the needs of people with a disability.

Jamie Greene

What do you do with repeat offenders? Under the bill, reinstatement plans will have to be submitted to and approved by the commissioner. The parameters for approving a plan are that the applicant can demonstrate that it is competent to execute the works properly and has quality control procedures in place. However, that does not seem to take into account the applicant’s historical activity. If a company submits a plan that on paper seems to be good but you know that, in practice, it has been less than that in the past, can you take that into account or do you have to judge only on the merits of the plan that is delivered to you?

Angus Carmichael

Currently, when I come across systematic failure, I have powers to impose a commissioner penalty. As you know, the bill proposes compliance notices, which will be an amendment to that system of escalation. However, where I saw a company routinely fail, I would be looking to take action against that company.

The Convener

Can I just clarify something? Jamie Greene’s point is quite interesting because it refers to the issue of a main contractor and all the subcontractors underneath, and is about trying to hold the sub-sub-subcontractor to account for a contract that is awarded to the main contractor. Do you feel that the bill deals with that? In just about every works contract now, a subcontractor is involved.

Angus Carmichael

The legislation puts the onus squarely on the shoulders of Mark McEwen, Elizabeth Draper and Alex Rae, who have to manage their tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 contractors.

The Convener

Does that mean that if Scottish Water, for example, had a subcontractor, somebody from Scottish Water would be on site to deal with any issue? Or would that still be done remotely by a telephone call?

Mark McEwen

We would not necessarily have someone on site. In fact, in many cases, there will not be anyone from Scottish Water on site. To take the example of repairs to water pipes, I have a team of people who carry out repairs of burst pipes, but we also use supply-chain partners to support them. We use primarily one partner, who will not necessarily have a Scottish Water person on site. The partner will, however, be subject to exactly the same requirements in terms of the quality of works and the ticketing required of the individuals on site to demonstrate their qualifications. They will have systems for the quality and safety of the works that we will have reviewed and signed off.

We also have a process of field service advisers randomly visiting sites to check whether they are happy with, for example, the quality of the signing and lighting guarding quality reinstatements. That process happens in parallel with the partner’s work, but there will not be a Scottish Water person on site where those works are carried out. In the operational world, we primarily use only one supply-chain partner for repairs and do not have tier upon tier of supply chain partners.

The Convener

But it seems to me that the most important issue, which is what the bill is driving at, is to ensure that tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers are aware of the implications of their contract. I note that all the panel members are nodding, so I assume that they all agree with that point.

Alex Rae

I agree entirely with what Mark McEwen said. As the principal contractor—I am talking about SGN here—we are responsible for the works on an SGN site. We are responsible, irrespective of who the contractor or subcontractor is, because it is our site. At the various roads authorities and utilities committee (Scotland) meetings and area RAUC(S) meetings that my team and I go to, we always say that if there is a problem and contractors cannot get through to anyone, they should come to me and my team and we will deal with it. We will take issues on board and will not try to shirk responsibility; it is our site and our responsibility, and it is up to us to fix any issues.

The example that was referred to is an example of something dreadful that should not happen and we need to take that on board. I do not think that anyone on the panel will say that such an issue is a subcontractor’s problem. It is not; it sits firmly with us and it is up to us to manage and control our contractors.

The Convener

I know that Elizabeth Draper wants to come in—she might be able to respond to Peter Chapman’s follow-up question.

Peter Chapman

One of the new things in the bill is the proposal that the utilities will need to state a start date and finish date for any works that they undertake. Do you have concerns about how you will do that in practice?

Elizabeth Draper

That refers to the start and finish of being onsite. Because of the very nature of the work, somebody somewhere will always know that it has happened. The current limitations of being able to state that something has been done are to do with connectivity and having the right information technology.

11:30  

That provision will be subject to supplementary regulations, which will outline exactly how it will work and when it will come into effect. That is good because, from a technology perspective, we are not in that place yet. The Office of the Scottish Road Works Commissioner is working on an app that will facilitate that. There will still be limitations in some areas where there is no connectivity, but that is being addressed by time stamping when the operative sends the note, as opposed to when the note is received, which will help with connectivity. I do not see those issues as being insurmountable. The way that things are moving, we will be able to let the public know more quickly where we are doing work. The only limitations are technology and connectivity. It is absolutely feasible, but the technology needs to come before regulations and before any subsequent penalties can legitimately be enforced.

Alex Rae

I will expand your question a little into the noticing process. On the whole, we are okay at noticing, although there is a lot of room for improvement. There are various areas of noticing. When we are working on a housing estate, I am a great believer in asking whether it actually matters how much notice we give. To a certain extent, it probably does not matter, because the only people whom the notice period affects are the people who live in that housing estate. Yes, it is important that we work with that bit of the community so that those people are aware of what we are going to do, when we are going to do it and what access we need to their property. However, for the rest of the road-working community, the noticing probably does not matter. What is more important is that we co-ordinate our works and that we all work together. That is part of what the register does and what the roads authorities and utilities committee (Scotland) process does. It is about working together.

Obviously, when it comes to traffic-sensitive roads, it is far more important that we give more notice. As I have always said to people in my organisation, if you are working on a traffic-sensitive road, your best friend in the world suddenly becomes the roads inspector or the traffic police, because they are the people with whom you need to work and to whom you need to say, “It is a difficult and busy road. How are we going to do it? What requirements do you have? What do we need to do about pedestrians or access for disabled people?” There is a whole raft of stuff that we have to deal with, and we need to take more time with it.

That is one part of the noticing. The other big part of it is in trying to give as much advance notice of our works as we can. Within SGN, we are currently working on some clever computer stuff that will automatically upload all our future works into the register, so that we can look two, three or four years ahead. That is not about saying that we will go into a particular street on 1 October 2019; it is about trying to say where we are going to work. It is about trying to co-ordinate our works with other utilities’ road works and, probably more importantly, with the roads authorities themselves, so that they can look at it and say, “SGN reckons it will be working on that street by early 2021. We were going to resurface the road in 2020.” That is the point at which SGN should be saying that there is a big conflict there and that we should switch those works around. We will do our works in 2020, as will Scottish Water, SP Energy Networks and Openreach, and in 2021, the road works authorities will come and resurface the road. Then all the road works will be done. It is about that big thought. It looks great. It might sound like the old Carlsberg advert, but that is where we want to be. We definitely do not want to be doing our works the day after a road has been resurfaced.

The Convener

You will have to excuse my smiling. I do not recognise the fact that road works are done just after a road has been resurfaced. Angus Carmichael, do you want to comment on that?

Angus Carmichael

The current legislation says that works commencing this morning at 8 o’clock do not need to be in the register until 12 o’clock tomorrow, which is nonsense in this age of communication. Elizabeth Draper referred to an app that has been available since the summer. With the app, an operative can go out to the site at 8 o’clock in the morning and press a button on his phone that records the start of the works. When he goes off site, he presses another button that records the close of works. It is much more real time and live.

Not only does the app allow the roads inspector to get to a site while a job is actually live, even if it is only a two-hour job, it means that the works go on to our public-facing website. That is live information for anyone around this table who wants to do a bit of travel planning. The whole thing happens much more in real time.

John Mason

My question is on the area of safety and staffing. I understand that the bill will require roads authorities to meet the same requirements that you and other undertakers have to meet. I assume that most of you think that that will be a good thing, but you can tell me if you do not.

I understand that the two key safety requirements are that road works are fenced and lit. I smiled when I read about fencing. At 4 o’clock on a Friday, I see workers go off and there are nice delicate little fences beside the hole. They last for perhaps a couple of hours, until kids push them into the hole, on to the street or on to the temporary pedestrian way, blocking it for disabled people and everybody else, or they get blown over by the wind that night. The whole place is a mess for the weekend. Somebody comes along on Monday and starts working again.

It is all very well to put up fences, and I am sure that all the panel’s organisations are doing that. Is there some way, however, that the situation that I described could be improved?

Mark McEwen

Before we speak about improvement, I should say that we do not generally use delicate barriers. Having lugged some of them around, I know that the barriers are some weight. The barriers round excavations are quite robust, and the protocol is clear about the need for them to be weighed down by sandbags or something similar to reduce the risk of vandalism or high winds affecting them.

In areas where there is more risk of people trying to access excavations, we have started using a combination of traditional heavy-duty bright plastic barriers and Heras fencing, which you may be familiar with, which provides a double level of protection to prevent people accessing excavations. Although a barrier coming down can be inconvenient, the bigger issue is preventing people accessing excavations where there is a risk of injury, which is primarily what we are trying to prevent.

If there are any examples of barriers coming down, we are clear that people should report them immediately. We operate a 24/7 response that will ensure that people are out to address the problem as quickly as possible.

John Mason

The issue is that in poorer areas people are less likely to get involved and phone. In the richer areas, people will phone and complain, so in those areas holes get fences back round them. Holes in my area do not.

I take the point that there are different kinds of fencing. The Heras fencing goes over easily. Sandbags are a waste of time. If they are just hung on the bottom of the sign, they come off very easily. The sign still blows over. I like the plastic fences that have water or sand in them. They are much less easy to move, but they are not so high.

There is an issue. I will not go on about it but, clearly, some of the fencing does not work. Do other panel members have comments?

Alex Rae

I hear what you say, and I hope that we can disagree with it. The red book is clear in specifying the barriers that have to be used. They have to be of sufficient strength that they will withstand certain winds.

The red book is also clear that we should be inspecting sites on a 24-hour basis. When a site is left because work has stopped on a Friday, it should still be inspected on Saturday and Sunday. If people see a problem, they should please give us a phone. All our barricades have numbers on them and all our sites should have courtesy boards. Phone us up. We have a 24/7 operation and will have somebody out within one or two hours to fix it.

John Mason

Do courtesy boards say who to phone or who is doing the work?

Alex Rae

Yes.

John Mason

My experience of that is patchy, but I am not blaming Street Works UK for that.

Alex Rae

It is a mandatory requirement. We must have courtesy boards on all our sites. The board should clearly state the number to phone in the event of any issues, problems or questions. Certainly, in our case, that is a 24/7 operation.

The Convener

To help John Mason, could Angus Carmichael tell the committee whether the Scottish road works commissioner issues fines if the requirements are not met?

Angus Carmichael

There has not been a penalty issued on the basis of lack of fencing. I see that one of my predecessors is here today—perhaps it is remiss of all of us that we have not pursued that avenue. It is something that we are aware of. I have here the red book that we use, and that is the basis of the provisions in the bill.

David Hunter

Our main interest is while the road works are taking place, rather than the reinstatements—although there are issues there. As I said earlier, it is literally an everyday sight to see non-compliance with the red book. It is interesting to hear that there are penalties that have never been issued.

Going back to the bill, the section about fencing and lighting is rather unhelpful. It makes it sound like a very technical issue when, from our point of view, it is about accessibility and public use, particularly for pedestrians and disabled people. I cannot fault what the red book says, but it is unusual to find it being followed correctly in practice.

I do not know whether you are going to follow on with some questions about inspection, but that is a real problem. My understanding is that it is very rare for road works to be inspected onsite by local authorities. I think that they can charge only £36 for inspections, which I cannot believe covers their costs, so it disincentivises councils from inspecting. It is good and all very well for members of the public to report things—I sometimes report things directly to people onsite and they will often rectify them there and then—but we need a better regulatory enforcement regime, similar to what we discussed before for pavement parking.

The Convener

I notice that a whole heap of people want to come in. I am afraid that I will not get them all in, but I know what the next question is and that the people who put their fingers up will get a chance to answer it. Richard Lyle will ask the question.

Richard Lyle

We all agree that road works are important, and Alex Rae spoke about joined-up road works. I wish that they existed, because there is a road in my constituency that would win the BAFTA award for the most dug-up road. The gas company went in, then Scottish Water went in and then the digital company went in. They had a board and they all had a number, but the works took months and months.

In its written evidence, Street Works UK opposed the proposal that the Scottish road works commissioner should be given the power to issue fixed-penalty notices. Why did you oppose that proposal? Is it because you think that you may face penalties?

Alex Rae

Fixed-penalty notices have to be proportionate. Is it about punishment or trying to correct behaviour? It should be about trying to correct behaviour and getting the road works correct.

I take your point about the street where gas, water and then telecoms went in. I was thinking that it sounded really good, because what I was hoping to hear next was that the road authority went in and resurfaced the road. That would be brilliant, because that is what we want to do.

Trying to do road works at the same time tends not to work particularly well, because we all have different methods of working and different priorities. Where it will work, we try it, but it tends not to. Instead, we try to de-conflict the work so that, exactly as you saw, we might go in, water might go in next and telecoms after that.

Richard Lyle

You were painting a lovely picture of all working together, but I do not think that you are. You are all working in your own wee silos. First you dig a hole, Mr Rae, then Mr McEwen does and then Ms Draper, and the holes could be in the same place. Could you not plan it so that you put in the gas, water and utilities at the same time?

The Convener

Would Elizabeth Draper like to come in on that, so that Alex Rae does not feel that it is all aimed at him?

Elizabeth Draper

Sure. For planned work, that sounds like a perfect thing that could happen.

Richard Lyle

It is common sense.

Elizabeth Draper

In Scotland, we have a register that we do not have in other parts of the UK, which enables that collaborative approach for planned work. Believe it or not, as a matter of course, Openreach looks at what other utilities are going where we plan to go and at whether we can co-ordinate.

Of course, we must remember that, for many of us, only a small proportion our work is planned. Much of the work that we do sits in the minor bucket and is work for which we give three days’ notice. That work might be a customer connection or a blockage. We also do a lot of reactive work, in response to things such as faults or cable thefts. There is an opportunity to co-ordinate and the register can facilitate that. However, there will always be an element of appearing not to have co-ordinated, given that there is a constant flow of reactive work in the industry, which is absolutely necessary to connect Scotland digitally, fix gas leaks and so on.

11:45  
Richard Lyle

Are you in favour of penalties or not?

Elizabeth Draper

It depends on the penalty. I see a penalty as a last resort. The point that I wanted to make is this: it is not a bad thing that we have not had penalties—although I would say that. There is so much more that should happen before the penalty is incurred. We talked about quality plans, for example, and we should be brought in to discuss what we are doing to improve.

It is not fair to say that we do not get checked. At the beginning of the year, we agree a number of sample inspections, based on the volume of our work in the previous year, and we pay for those up front. That is our statutory undertaking. We fund the inspections and we expect them.

There are also ad hoc inspections and third-party inspections, which are reported by other people. We support inspections and we also do our own. Like the other bodies, we have a 24/7 service; if something is phoned in, we will fix it.

Penalties have a place in the system, but they are a last resort. If the Scottish road works commissioner or the roads authority has to give us a penalty, something has gone wrong. We should be collaborating and looking at making improvements and changing behaviours.

A penalty should be a last resort, particularly given the size of penalties proposed. We propose that there should be a tariff of charges.

Richard Lyle

So, Alex Rae and Elizabeth Draper are against penalties. What about Mark McEwen?

Mark McEwen

We are comfortable that the provision for penalties and the like has a place in the bill. As was mentioned earlier, they must be proportionate and appropriate, but we have no fundamental objection to including penalties—as a final resort—in the bill.

The Convener

I will bring in Angus Carmichael briefly, because it is critical that he has his say.

Angus Carmichael

Some people see fixed-penalty notices as a cost of doing business, but I see them as an avoidable cost: if the work is done properly in the first place, there will be no fixed penalties. What is proposed in the bill is a small extension to the areas that are covered, from four to six or seven.

Working together in the same trench can be very difficult. Openreach might go in at a shallow depth, while Alex Rae’s company might want to go in at a depth of 2m or 3m. That is a very challenging situation.

I would like to make a little correction. I said that there would be no penalties regarding signage. However, one of my predecessors imposed a £50,000 penalty on Openreach for some of its working in Inverness and much of that was to do with the signing of sites.

Mike Rumbles

My question carries on from fixed-penalty notices and is really for Elizabeth Draper from Openreach. In your written evidence, you call for the creation of an independent adjudicator for fixed-penalty notices. Why do you think that would be necessary and how might it work in practice?

Elizabeth Draper

Through the roads authorities and utilities committee, we already have an independent appeal point for other charges. For example, if there is a disagreement as to why a charge has been levied, it goes through the RAUC process. There is a discrepancy with fixed-penalty notices in that under the current arrangements and in the bill, if someone does not agree with the situation, the case goes back to the issuing authority—in effect it goes back to the same person. The case might go to a slightly more senior person, but it is usually a technical issue and so the person would need a fairly detailed understanding of road works to be able to adjudicate. That means it ends up in the same pot.

We want to avoid as many debates as we can and things should be as black and white as possible, although we will always end up with some discussion. We want to ensure that there is a fair and just process. For every other charge, it would be adjudicated through the RAUC, which has a process that is well defined and has been around for a long time. At the moment, that would not happen for fixed-penalty notices—it would just go back to the same person or issuing authority. That seems to be at odds with a fair process. We are looking for something like the RAUC process for FPNs.

Mike Rumbles

What does Angus Carmichael have to say about that?

Angus Carmichael

There are parallels with parking tickets, which can be appealed against in the first instance to the issuing authority. It is very much the case that appeals against fixed-penalty notices would be to the issuing authority. I am relaxed about what happens after that and about changing the process, but the appeal in the first instance should continue to be to the issuing authority.

Mike Rumbles

I go back to Elizabeth Draper for my last question. Openreach has raised security concerns about the need to provide detailed information to the Scottish road works commissioner about Openreach infrastructure. Will you outline the reasons for those concerns and explain how they could be addressed?

Elizabeth Draper

We have concerns about providing our apparatus data in its totality for the whole of Scotland, which are mainly based on the fact that our network is critical national infrastructure, which we must keep safe. We have asked the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and the UK national cyber security centre for advice on how the requirement to provide information would work with what they need us to do to keep our apparatus safe, and we await the output of that.

Any data that we hold must meet safety standards, such as being encrypted at rest and in transit and lots of other things. If we gave our data in its entirety to someone else, we would need them to have in place the same level of security as our systems have. We would prefer to continue to use our system—maps by email—which services 1.9 million requests a year for maps. It does the same job and anyone can access it, but it is our system.

If we had to provide our apparatus data, we would want obligations on the third party that held the data—the commissioner’s office—to keep it safe and secure and we would want some recourse to be available if the third party did not keep the data safe and secure. The area is complex so, ideally, an accompanying code or further regulations would clearly detail what needed to happen to keep the data secure.

It is not the case that we have no will to share our maps; we already share them, but in a controlled manner in our system. Our concern is that we do not put critical national infrastructure in any danger or at any risk.

Angus Carmichael

We have a system called vault that has all the information from Scottish Water, Alex Rae’s company, Vodafone, Virgin Media, CityFibre and all the others. Openreach has always resisted that. Vault is available only to those who have access to the road works register.

My personal view is that Openreach’s decision is more commercial. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport requires it to share information on duct capacity. The DCMS says that some businesses would never voluntarily share information without legislation to force their hand, and the DCMS has identified that collaborative information sharing about ducts would be unlikely without Government intervention. To my mind, the issue is more commercial than anything else, and Openreach is playing a game.

Mike Rumbles

Oh—controversy. It was all going so well.

The Convener

Yes—it was all going so well.

Elizabeth Draper

It is true that we had commercial concerns in the past but, if legislation requires us to share the information, those concerns go away. However, commercial concerns are not the primary driver—I have discussed that with Angus Carmichael before and I will get him to believe me at some point. The concern is risk based—our risk team and security team are concerned. We have a lot of detail, which we put in our submission, about what we need to feel comfortable. We have quantified the issue.

As it stands, if the obligation was created, our main concern would be about the risk. Without obligations on the third party to keep our data safe and secure, our issues would not be addressed and we would still be uncomfortable about handing over the data.

The Convener

We will park the issue there and move on to questions from the deputy convener.

Gail Ross

My questions are specifically for Angus Carmichael. Why is there a need to clarify the legal status of the Scottish road works commissioner?

Angus Carmichael

Both my predecessors had concerns about the issue in that, if anything had gone wrong, they might have needed to sell their house to settle their debts. The contract for the Scottish road works register, which approaches £1 million a year and is paid for by the community, is with me personally. If something goes wrong, how liable am I? I have certain assurances in place from the Scottish Government, and I am confident that I would get support from the Scottish Government, unless I had transgressed severely. However, both my predecessors had strong concerns about their exposure, should something have gone wrong—it is about clarifying that.

Gail Ross

Does that clarification need to be in the bill or can it be given elsewhere?

Angus Carmichael

I think that it should be in the bill.

Gail Ross

In your written submission, you highlighted the issue of permit and lane rental schemes.

Angus Carmichael

Yes. Fifty-seven per cent of English authorities use permit schemes; two authorities use lane rental schemes. Many years after Scotland, England is trying to introduce the street manager project, which is an English street works register. I do not think that that system will be as good as what we have. To make it work, the Secretary of State for Transport has required all highway authorities in England to have permit schemes in place by March next year. That is totally unnecessary because it will place an extra financial burden on organisations that deliver utility services, stifle innovation and remove community working, such as that which exists in Scotland.

There has been a lot of research on noticing and permits in England. Statistics have been produced that show the improvements that will be made through the use of permits. In Scotland, under noticing, we perform better than England is projected to perform under its new system, and we feel that our noticing performance has room for further improvement and that that improvement is quite possible. We feel that requiring all authorities to use permits is unnecessary.

The Convener

One of the issues that does not seem to be addressed—I am sure that every MSP has a huge amount of correspondence or dialogue with constituents on the matter—is that, during road works, lanes are marked as closed and left closed over the weekend to protect the workforce, but the workers are nowhere near and no road works are going on. Would permit and lane rental schemes not reduce that problem? It causes people huge frustration, particularly on some of Scotland’s trunk roads, and more work will be done on such roads. Sometimes, the roads are reduced in width and the speed limit is dropped when there is no evidence that that is required. That also undermines the restrictions that should be in place when the workforce is working on the road works, because people do not always believe that workers are there.

Angus Carmichael

Everyone is encouraged to be as open as possible about their timescales for works. Generally, that is the case, but there are certainly examples of what you have talked about. The examples that the Secretary of State for Transport down south cited when he was bringing in charges involved concrete waiting to cure or parts that are not available on Friday but might be available on Monday. There are often other reasons for sites being open but nobody being on them. Information sharing and signage are important. We need to explain that, for example, works are awaiting supplies or awaiting concrete curing, or something to make the reasons more obvious. Something could perhaps be added to my public-facing website. However, human nature being what it is, there will always be exceptions.

The Convener

I always give committee members a hard time if they mention constituencies, so I will say only that the A9 is a perfect example of that issue, park it there and give the floor to Maureen Watt, so that I do not incur the wrath of the committee.

12:00  
Maureen Watt

Throughout the evidence session, David Hunter has highlighted some of the main issues that face disabled people around road works. I wanted to give him the opportunity to raise anything that he has not raised so far and to say whether his concerns are addressed in the bill. I would also like to ask the road works commissioner how many times issues relating to disabilities cross his desk and what tends to happen with them.

David Hunter

I have mentioned the common problems, and I saw a number of people around the room nodding, so they are not unfamiliar to you. Another issue is road works going on longer than they should do. It is quite common to see road works debris that has gone missing and been left on the pavement—sandbags, bits of barriers, signs or the frames of signs. That may come from subcontractors, from local councils or from the roads authorities, but there is a lot of road works debris littering the streets. There are a number of things that could be done. We have been talking about culture and professional standards, and I am not accusing any colleagues of a failure to commit to those standards, but I would like to see the bar raised higher in terms of being aware of those issues and dealing with them on a daily basis through quality plans. As I mentioned, I would like local authorities to be given more incentive to inspect road works while they are actually taking place.

Finally, I know that the commissioner has new powers in the bill to carry out inspections, but I think that I am right in saying that there are no provisions to enable the commissioner to recover his costs, so we are a little bit sceptical about them being widely used, as there is a disincentive for the commissioner to use those inspection powers when doing so would result in a net cost to the commissioner.

Angus Carmichael

On the cost element, other organisations, such as the Health and Safety Executive, do not charge for inspections. I hope that, following the completion of associated regulations, a financing regime will be established by the Scottish Government. Roads authorities currently recover their inspection costs. It is £36, and I noted that somebody mentioned that that may not be enough. That is based on roads authorities submitting returns to the working group. It is based exactly on the returns that came in from the 32 councils across Scotland as recently as last year. Alex Rae chaired the group. The group thought initially that that figure was too low and encouraged the roads authorities to reconsider their estimates, but it could not get the figure above the current £36.

Individual instances of issues relating to disabilities do not tend to come to my office. If they do, I refer them to the roads authorities responsible for that area to solve. If I became aware of activities that were causing systematic inconvenience to people with disabilities, I would absolutely get involved. Was there anything else you wanted me to respond to?

Maureen Watt

No, I think that that is okay.

The Convener

Those are all the questions. Thank you all for coming in and giving evidence this morning. It has been very helpful.

12:04 Meeting suspended.  12:14 On resuming—  
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Sixth meeting transcript

The Convener

Item 2 is the Transport (Scotland) Bill. I invite members to declare any interests in relation to the bill.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I am honorary president of the Scottish Association for Public Transport and honorary vice-president of Railfuture UK.

The Convener

No other member wishes to declare any interests.

This is our sixth evidence session on the Transport (Scotland) Bill. We will take evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, and from his Scottish Government officials. The evidence session will be structured in three parts, in recognition of the large number of topics in the bill. The first part will cover buses and smart ticketing; the second will cover low-emission zones and parking; and the third will cover road works, canals and regional transport partnerships. The officials will change during the session.

I welcome the cabinet secretary. I think that this is the first time that he has been in front of the committee.

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (Michael Matheson)

It is.

The Convener

For the first session, the cabinet secretary has with him Pete Grant, who is the bus policy team leader; Gordon Hanning, who is the head of the integrated ticketing unit; and Kevin Gibson and Debbie Blair, both of whom are solicitors.

Cabinet secretary, you have a generous three minutes—and no more than four—in which to make an opening statement on the bill before we ask questions.

Michael Matheson

Thank you, convener, and good morning to the committee. It is a pleasure to be here to meet the committee.

I am aware that the committee has heard from a broad range of voices and viewpoints on the Transport (Scotland) Bill over the past few months. It is testament to the detailed approach that the committee has taken over stage 1 that such a wide spectrum of evidence has been heard from across civic society. I commend the committee for that diligent approach, which has complemented the Government’s significant consultation and engagement. I am glad to be here to set out my perspective and inform the committee’s considerations.

Members will be aware that the Transport (Scotland) Bill is a wide-ranging bill to take forward a suite of measures to improve journeys for the travelling public throughout Scotland. Those measures range from measures to improve bus patronage, including smart ticketing, to measures to improve air quality in our cities, to increase the safety and efficiency of road works and to address parking issues. The bill also makes necessary technical improvements in quite specific areas—for example, to ensure more appropriate financial flexibility and governance arrangements for some public bodies.

In drafting the bill, a collaborative approach has been taken so that its measures are informed by those whom they will affect. That engagement has continued throughout the scrutiny of the bill and will continue as the regulations develop.

Although matters such as low-emission zones, an improved framework for bus services and prohibitions on irresponsible parking will benefit many people, the bill should not be seen in isolation. Successful transport planning and provision require a series of interconnected measures and approaches. The bill covers specific areas that have been identified as requiring primary legislation, but a host of work is going on across my portfolio to drive improvement, not least the current review of the national transport strategy.

That wide-ranging strategy has seen extensive and sustained engagement with stakeholders and citizens across Scotland. It is forward looking, and we are planning our next set of shared priorities with the draft strategy due for consultation in 2019. We anticipate that the national transport strategy will set the context for any future consideration of legislative measures beyond the measures that are proposed in the bill.

I am aware that, as well as taking face-to-face evidence from Scottish Government officials and various interested parties, the committee has received around 90 responses to its call for evidence on the bill, and the Scottish Parliament information centre briefing from parliamentary analysts shows broad support. That briefing will give you a flavour of the breadth and complexity of the provisions in the bill, which are mirrored in the varied views of them.

I am also aware that the committee wrote to the Scottish Government with specific questions on a number of areas and received a detailed response. I hope that that response has proved helpful to your considerations. I am keen to hear from members today how I can build on that.

I understand that questions will be taken on a thematic basis, starting with the provisions relating to bus services and smart ticketing.

The Convener

Thank you, cabinet secretary. The first question is from John Finnie.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning, panel. Cabinet secretary, you described the bill as wide ranging, which is certainly correct. However, you will be aware from the evidence that we have received that people believe that it lacks ambition and the wherewithal to address the decline in bus patronage, which is caused to a significant extent by issues such as congestion, which immediately impacts on journey times and reliability. What do you have to say about that?

Michael Matheson

The bill contains a range of provisions that will help to support bus service provision right across the country. It is worth reflecting on the fact that bus patronage has been in decline since the 1960s. That decline has accelerated more in some parts of the country than in others, and there are a variety of reasons for that.

We do not want to stand back and just allow patronage levels to continue to decline without taking proactive measures to encourage people to use the bus. That is why we are taking forward a range of measures in the bill that I believe will support local authorities and bus operators to deliver more effective bus services in their areas. The provisions around the bus service improvement partnerships, low-emission zones and smart ticketing will all support and encourage people to use buses.

I will give you one specific example of how the bill can help in that area. I am told that the average speed of a bus going through somewhere such as Glasgow city centre is in the region of 3mph. If that could be increased to 6mph, the journey time would shorten considerably. It would be more efficient and the services would be more reliable. The provision of low-emission zones provides us with an opportunity to take forward measures that improve things such as journey times and reliability, which will encourage people to make greater use of the bus.

I do not accept that the bill lacks ambition. It takes forward a range of what I consider to be pragmatic measures that can improve patronage levels and address some of the issues around bus use that local authorities highlighted that they wanted us to take action on.

John Finnie

However, you did not mention congestion, which we are consistently told is a factor that affects reliability and impacts in other ways. Is that a lost opportunity? Would you look to include that at a future date? Are you supportive of that happening?

Michael Matheson

The bill will take forward a range of measures. There might be further measures that we should take forward at a later date, but low-emission zones provide the opportunity to address issues around congestion, given how they will operate. The bill has measures in it that will address issues relating to congestion.

Bus service improvement partnerships will operate differently because they will look beyond infrastructure and whether we provide bus prioritisation in certain areas. The bill also allows partnerships to look at issues such as frequency of service and fare levels. It provides them with a range of different provisions and much more flexibility to deal with that type of issue in a way that they cannot under the existing quality partnership arrangements.

I would not therefore say that low-emission zones do not address the issue of congestion, because they can play a part in it, as can bus service improvement partnerships.

John Finnie

Also in connection with congestion, do you see a role for non-domestic parking levies or workplace levies in freeing up space?

Michael Matheson

There is no provision in the bill for that and we have not consulted on the idea. If there was an appetite for local authorities to take that route, I would certainly be willing to engage with them and discuss it, as it is something that local authorities should consider taking forward. As I say, if there is an appetite for it, I am prepared to have that discussion with them. However, there is no provision in the bill for that.

John Finnie

I had hoped that the Scottish Government would take a lead on that, but perhaps the idea can form part of some future discussions.

You touched on the national transport strategy. Is there another lost opportunity here that we might yet be able to take? It relates to poverty and the impact of public transport on poverty. It is a hugely significant issue. I understand that there is a poverty strategy, but what regard should the bill have to playing its part in that strategy? Every piece of legislation should try to interweave with others to improve. Would you be open to looking at the impact that the bill could have in addressing poverty issues that are significant in urban and rural areas?

Michael Matheson

Are you talking about provisions in the bill or the national transport strategy review?

John Finnie

I mean the link across all three, including the poverty strategy.

Michael Matheson

Yes, and I hope that that will be apparent when we publish the draft national transport strategy. I am conscious of the need for public transport provision to be accessible to people who are on lower incomes.

I am also clear about the need to make sure that some of the advances and changes that will happen in transport during the next five to 10 years do not exclude people from lower-income backgrounds. We need to focus on that.

Fairly recently, I was highlighting to a number of policy officials at a conference the need to make sure that electric vehicles and active travel options do not become middle-class pastimes that are accessible only to people who are on better incomes and that exclude people from lower-income backgrounds. We need to target and reach into communities that are hard to get at, so that they can benefit from those things in the future. That will be a core strand running through the new national transport strategy when we publish it.

John Finnie

Thank you. That is reassuring.

The Convener

You gave some long and detailed answers there, cabinet secretary. We have taken seven minutes to address question 1, and we might be here until tea time at that rate. Concise answers are always appreciated.

Stewart Stevenson

I will pick up the congestion issue. Cabinet secretary, you referred to bus prioritisation. We already have that in bus lanes, but the enforcement appears to be pretty variable, and the hours during which the lanes operate are different in different places, which is confusing for drivers who cannot read the six lines on a post at the side of the road. Is there an opportunity in the proposed legislation or otherwise to crank up enforcement and standardise the way in which bus lanes work?

Michael Matheson

Enforcement and whether breaches have been decriminalised are matters for the relevant local authorities, and it is important that they do take appropriate enforcement measures to deal with breaches.

With the introduction of low-emission zones, there is an opportunity for local authorities to make their enforcement measures more effective and drive cultural change in a way that they might not have done in the past. There is an opportunity to look afresh at enforcement and how local authorities do it in their areas.

I am also conscious that there can sometimes be inconsistency between approaches and in how different rules are applied. I am keen to ensure with low-emission zones that we have a consistent approach in the standards that will apply across local authority areas. I believe that the introduction of low-emission zones can help to give greater consistency.

10:15  
Stewart Stevenson

I think that we will come on to that, cabinet secretary.

The Convener

Indeed. We will look at low-emission zones in some depth.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

Cabinet secretary, why have you chosen to limit local authorities to providing bus services where there is unmet need and no private competition rather than to allow other local authorities to follow the municipal bus company model that is used in the Lothians, for example?

Michael Matheson

That is principally because, from our consultation and engagement with local authorities in drafting the bill, the primary focus was on trying to identify means by which we could deal with unmet need. That is why the bill was drafted to provide local authorities with additional scope to look at providing services themselves and franchising as an option to address areas in which there is unmet need. The bill was drafted specifically to give local authorities the ability to address an issue that, as they highlighted, they needed powers to address.

Colin Smyth

Since then, with the possible exception of the evidence from the private bus operators, all the evidence that the committee has received—including pretty much unanimous evidence from the local authorities—is that the provision to address unmet need does not go far enough. Local authorities would like that provision to be removed and would like the power to fully run bus services in their areas. Given the evidence that the committee has received and, I am sure, the clear evidence that the Government has received since the bill was published, will you consider dropping the unmet need provision and allow local authorities to run bus companies?

Michael Matheson

It is not so much about dropping that provision; it may be about adding to it. My mind is not closed to the possibility of extending the current provisions in the bill to allow local authorities or local transport authorities to consider providing services. I am aware of the evidence on the matter that the committee has received from some local authorities, and my mind is open to the possibility of extending the provisions in the bill to give local authorities greater scope to look at running bus services in their areas.

Colin Smyth

I have also come across concerns about the process for developing and approving local service franchises in the evidence to the committee from local authorities and others. The suggestion has been made that it presents a significant barrier to the use of that power. Are you satisfied that the processes are streamlined enough and that they will be fully utilised by local authorities and bus companies?

Michael Matheson

Yes, I am. We should not underestimate the decision of a local authority or a local transport authority to intervene in the bus market through the use of a franchise. That is a significant intervention, and it is important that, when an LTA or a local authority chooses to go down that particular route, it has gone through a clear process to assess whether that is necessary and has the evidence to justify the provision of a service on its own or through a franchise. It must also understand the impact that that will have. The process that has been put in place will help to ensure that that is the case. The independent panel that we have introduced will ensure that there is an independent decision on the matter and will check that the local authority has gone through the process thoroughly and in detail. That will allow the panel to make its own recommendation.

I am confident that we have struck the right balance. The provision is not about trying to prevent a local authority or a local transport authority from doing that; it is about ensuring that there is a robust mechanism in place for an assessment to be conducted to determine whether that is the right intervention.

Colin Smyth

Does the bill go far enough? Is it a missed opportunity to follow the type of regulation that there is in, for example, Transport for London, which really regulates the bus services? Should we give that type of power to transport agencies and local authorities to really regulate services?

Michael Matheson

Are you talking about giving individual LTAs and local authorities the ability to regulate bus services in their own areas?

Colin Smyth

Yes—absolutely.

Michael Matheson

Given the nature of the current deregulated system, the challenges in trying to do that would be significant. Many local authorities would have real difficulties in managing that process effectively, and I do not think that that is an appropriate provision to put in the bill. That is why there is no such provision in it.

Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

Good morning, cabinet secretary. Surely one of the main reasons why there are unmet needs for bus services is that those services have proved to be unprofitable and no private company would run them because it would lose money, yet you are expecting local authorities to pick up some of the routes. There might be need, but if a route will be unprofitable for ever and a day, how would the local authority fund it?

Michael Matheson

Local authorities do some of that presently—they spend more than £50 million a year from funding that they get through the Scottish Government for socially required transport services. If the communities in question did not have access to public transport in the form of a bus service, they would have no public transport provision.

In my constituency, the local authority chooses to subsidise particular bus routes that it knows are not commercially viable but which are socially necessary. That approach will continue, particularly in our rural communities where such bus routes might be the only link for people who do not have access to a car or any other form of transport.

Under the bill, through the bus service improvement partnerships, local authorities will be able to use new mechanisms that will help to create a system that is much more focused on the local authority, the LTA and the bus service operators working in partnership to make sure that they get the balance right.

Peter Chapman

I accept that subsidies are available but, as with everything else, the pot is limited. I can imagine bus routes in north-east Aberdeenshire that would be welcome, but Aberdeenshire Council cannot fund them.

Michael Matheson

Is it your view that no socially required bus services should be supported by local authorities?

Peter Chapman

Absolutely not. My point is that money is tight. Over the years, local authorities have had their budgets cut. Local authorities have ceased to run bus routes simply because they cannot afford to carry on doing it. My point is the opposite: there needs to be more money for that.

Michael Matheson

If the United Kingdom Government keeps on cutting our budget, there is only so much more that we can pass on, which obviously has an impact on local authority budgets.

As you correctly say, the pot is limited. We try our very best to support local authorities, where we can, but I am certainly not of the view that we should start simply writing off socially required bus services, particularly in rural communities. I know that some of our local authorities work very hard to sustain services where they can.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Good morning. Welcome to your post, cabinet secretary.

A number of local authorities that have given us evidence have said that they are unlikely to use the bus-related powers in the bill because of financial constraints. They are wondering where the money will come from. Only this week, we received a letter from Strathclyde partnership for transport on that issue.

A number of areas in Scotland, including the north-east, have community bus transport. You might recall that, at one point, the Scottish Government had a fund to help community groups buy buses for their own transport use. How do you see existing—and perhaps future—community transport feeding into the issue of bus routes that are not commercially viable but are needed by communities?

Michael Matheson

There is no specific provision in the bill for the community transport to which you refer. One purpose of the bus service improvement partnerships is to enable local authorities to look at what is necessary in their area and to work with the bus service providers to improve bus services. That might include looking at what is available in the form of community transport in their area and at how they can help to improve the delivery of bus services.

As partnerships between the bus operators and local authorities, BSIPs will operate differently from how the existing system operates. When local authorities carry out an assessment and work to put a plan in place, I would expect them to look at what community transport is available in the area so that they can decide how the plan should be developed and consulted on in the local community.

Although there is no specific provision on community transport, the bus service improvement partnerships provide a framework that will allow community transport to be taken into account when provision for an area is considered.

Maureen Watt

If necessary, will you amend the bill to ensure that community transport groups are not excluded or forgotten about?

Michael Matheson

I do not know whether the bill needs to be amended in that respect. When a bus service improvement partnership is undertaken, the LTA or the local authority will need to develop a plan, which will be informed by an assessment of bus patronage, services and so on in the area. That will include looking at what community transport is available. A plan will then be developed to address the unmet need in an area or to make improvements to services.

Community transport provision would be considered as part of the planning and assessment process that an LTA or a local authority would undertake. However, I am more than happy to take away the idea that it should be made explicit, in the bill or in secondary legislation, that consideration of community transport should form part of that assessment.

Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

To follow on from John Finnie’s opening question, bus patronage is declining because buses do not go from where people are to where they need to be, when they want to use them or at the required frequency. Unless there are substantive changes to the way in which services operate, there will be no huge difference in bus patronage.

I appreciate that low-emission zones might decrease traffic levels in cities, which might make journey times shorter. I also appreciate that there are provisions in the bill on smart ticketing that might—or might not—make things easier and changes to the franchise model for local authorities that might mean that some of them run services. However, I cannot see any tangible or direct measures in the bill that give me any confidence that bus patronage will increase or at least stop declining as a result. Can you give me some examples?

Michael Matheson

It is wrong to suggest that journey times are the sole reason for the decline in bus patronage. Bus patronage has been declining since the 1960s for a whole variety of reasons. In places such as Glasgow and west central Scotland, that decline has been much more marked. There is evidence to suggest that that is because car ownership has increased during that time. Bus patronage for journeys into town centres has declined because the way in which people use town centres has changed, particularly in recent years with the growth in online retail, which has had an impact on town centres in a variety of ways.

There has been a variety of different impacts on bus patronage. However, I have no doubt that there are measures that we can take to improve reliability on journey times for people who use the bus. Jamie Greene made the point that bus patronage declines when the bus does not get someone to where they want to go at the right time. Although that can have an impact, it is not the only reason for the decline—the issues are much more complex than that. If there are things that we can do to improve services or to provide greater reliability on journey times, the bus might become a more attractive option.

For example, the use of LEZs to control which vehicles can enter certain areas, such as our town centres, allows us to address, in part, some of the congestion issues. It can also address issues related to bus journey times, because it reduces congestion, which allows the buses to have shorter and more reliable journey times. The bus service improvement partnership model is much broader and more flexible than the current quality partnership arrangements. A BSIP plan involves consultation and is focused not just on infrastructure, but on a range of different things that can be done, such as bus prioritisation, frequency and fares. If that is used in partnership with LEZs, it can give local authorities much more scope to take forward practical measures in terms of policy and infrastructure that can help to improve journey times and reliability.

It is not that there is one thing that we can do; there is a combination of different things that we can do to address these matters, including the patronage issues that the bus industry has been facing over a considerable number of years.

10:30  
The Convener

I am sorry, cabinet secretary, but I am going to get into trouble with the rest of the committee if they are unable to ask questions because you are giving long answers. Please keep your answers as short as possible so that I do not lose the rest of the committee. I ask you to keep your answers focused—rather like short journey times on buses, everyone likes it when they get to their destination more quickly.

Michael Matheson

I will try my best. I hope that I have given Mr Greene an insight into how the use of several elements in the bill can address the issue that he is concerned about.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

I will ask a question that needs a yes or no answer. Some people say that patronage is falling because we cannot rely on getting a bus. Some people say that we are only tinkering with bus transport. What do you say to the idea of taking buses back under public control, perhaps one area at a time over a period of years? What do you say—yes or no?

Michael Matheson

Yes or no to what?

Richard Lyle

To taking bus transport back under public control.

Michael Matheson

The provisions in the bill give scope for local authorities to take forward measures in their areas if they see that there is an issue of unmet need.

Richard Lyle

Only if the operators allow them to do so.

Michael Matheson

What I said earlier was that, if there is a view, as you have heard from some local authorities, that they want greater powers to be able to run their own services, I am open to looking at the possibility of doing that.

Richard Lyle

But they will say that they have no money.

Michael Matheson

We make money available to local authorities on a block grant basis, and they can decide how they allocate that resource to different areas.

Richard Lyle

So the answer is neither a yes nor a no.

The Convener

We are definitely parking that one there.

Stewart Stevenson

We have had some preliminary discussion about bus service improvement partnerships. Pages 12 to 29 of the bill—18 pages—cover the issue. They replace 18 pages in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2001 that cover statutory bus partnerships and voluntary bus partnerships. Pages 15 to 24 of the explanatory notes purport to explain the difference between the 2001 act and what is now proposed. I confess that, despite having read those pages several times, I can find no material difference. Cabinet secretary, can you give me three sentences that identify the material differences? If the answer is as long as the provisions that are in the bill, a written answer might be preferable. Would that be fine, convener?

The Convener

Absolutely.

Michael Matheson

It might be that the explanation is as long as the provisions that are in the bill, so it might be helpful if I wrote to the committee to set out the matter in more detail.

Stewart Stevenson

I am specifically interested in the differences between the previous provisions and the new ones. That is what I am looking for.

Michael Matheson

There are a couple of different and specific measures that are available in bus service improvement partnerships that are not available in QPs.

The Convener

The committee has carried out various visits. In Glasgow, we talked to SPT about how buses work in that area. One of the reasons that we were given for the decline in bus use was journey times. This morning, you have consistently said that LEZs will reduce journey times. The committee has been given evidence to the effect that journey times will be improved by bus lanes and the use of restricted parking along streets to allow buses to move freely and on time. Do you believe that bus lanes would help more than LEZs, or do you think that they are not as important as LEZs when it comes to getting buses moving?

Michael Matheson

I think that both can help.

The Convener

So where in the legislation are we providing for more bus lanes?

Michael Matheson

The provisions in the bill concern the creation of the legal provisions for LEZs. Local authorities can introduce bus lanes at the present moment if they choose to do so.

The Convener

The issue that we heard about is that local councillors sometimes object to putting in bus lanes because getting them past the residents in their wards is difficult. However, in the bigger scheme of things, they are beneficial to the movement of buses. Perhaps we will leave it there.

Stewart Stevenson has questions on the next issues.

Stewart Stevenson

The current landscape in smart cards is quite complex. I have, separate from my main wallet, a special wallet to hold all my travel-related cards, including my ITSO standard cards for bus and for rail, my senior rail card—it is dumb; there is nothing technological about it—and payment cards.

The Convener

The cabinet secretary will be pleased to know that Stewart Stevenson has lost one card since the previous evidence session. [Laughter.]

Stewart Stevenson

Indeed, convener—and I would like to lose three more to get down to one card. The ITSO standard is already widely used. Is it the way forward? Although I would readily do so, it would not be useful to get too much into the technology.

Secondly, is the national smart ticketing advisory board how we will get to our destination? How will the bill help us to achieve a comparatively simple environment for the customer such as London has?

Michael Matheson

Scotland’s challenge, because there is such a wide range of transport service providers, is to introduce a smart ticketing system that is interoperable between different modes of transport and different operators. That challenge is significant, and despite the fact that some operators already have smart ticketing arrangements, they are not necessarily interoperable.

The bill creates powers that would allow us to specify the national standards for smart ticketing systems that would be introduced by transport providers. The standards will be based on guidance from the national smart ticketing advisory board, which we are putting into statute. It will be responsible for setting technical standards to ensure that a smart ticketing system that is introduced by an operator will be interoperable with those of other service providers. The board will advise ministers, who will have the powers, along with local authorities, to mandate the standards as a requirement for service providers. Interoperability is key because of the complexity of the range of organisations that deliver our transport provision.

Stewart Stevenson

However, cabinet secretary, London is moving to a simple situation in which, by using the same payment card across the different modes in London, people will not need any special transport cards to get the best deal and to get through ticketing. I understand that that is because Transport for London gets all the financial transactions; therefore, before presenting them to the bank, it can deal with them and collate them across modes.

Are we talking to financial providers to see what scope we have for that, in order to make sure that that is our approach? Until we take that approach, we will not get the benefits. London is moving away from the Oyster card because it is not needed any more. It sounds as though, a decade later, we are moving towards reinvention of the Oyster card—to a scallop card, or whatever we might choose to call it.

Michael Matheson

You are right to say that London is moving away from the Oyster card, but the bill is not about creating a new national Oyster card. It is about ensuring that the smart ticketing arrangements that travel providers have are interoperable and can be used by individuals to go from rail to ferry to bus, with greater connectivity among those options.

Stewart Stevenson

Forgive me, cabinet secretary—I will make this the last question. Given that integration in London seems to work most effectively by integrating payments, is the Government and will the committee be talking to payment providers about the scope for something similar, if not identical?

Michael Matheson

Stewart Stevenson is asking me to pre-empt, to a degree, the work of the advisory board. That is exactly the type of area that I expect the advisory board to explore. Before it sets the national standards, it should look at the key principles that will drive the national stance that we want to set. That will give us the power to ensure that standards are being applied by operators across the country.

Stewart Stevenson

So the matter is on the agenda. Thank you.

Richard Lyle

I was in London with my family a few months ago and I went on a tube, a bus, the Emirates Air Line zipline—that was interesting—the Docklands light railway, because we stayed in the east end, and a boat. We did all that through smart ticketing and the price was capped. We used several modes throughout the day.

Several respondents, including the get Glasgow moving campaign, argue that smart ticketing alone is not enough, and that there should be per day price caps across all public transport in a city region. As I said, that happens in London, and is enabled by smart ticketing. What is your response to that suggestion? Am I correct in saying that you gave £1 million to promote smart ticketing last week? I saw that in a paper, or on Twitter or whatever.

Michael Matheson

I do not know where you saw that, but you are correct. Part of that funding is to support smaller transport providers to invest in the technology that is necessary to support smart ticketing.

Smart ticketing is not the magic answer to resolve all the issues, but it is an important element. The interoperability that Richard Lyle experienced in London is where we want to get to—greater interoperability among service providers.

There are no provisions in the bill to cap fares. However, there are provisions in the bus service improvement partnership that allow local authorities and local transport authorities that are looking to introduce smart ticketing to deal with issues around fares. Interoperability is key to ensuring that we get more effective smart ticketing options.

Richard Lyle

Why do Scottish ministers need a power to direct local authorities to establish a smart ticketing scheme?

Michael Matheson

If, for example, when you were in London, one of the operators in an area decided that it did not want to participate and wanted to go off and do its own thing, the type of interoperability that you experienced would not be possible.

The power is there to ensure that should a service provider or local authority decide that it is not going to participate—perhaps in a city region such as the Glasgow region—we are able to give direction, on the basis of advice from the advisory board, about what action should be taken to introduce a smart ticketing method that is interoperable with the rest of the system.

Jamie Greene

Before I move on to my question, I will follow on from Richard Lyle’s questions. Local authorities that are watching today’s meeting will perhaps be feeling a little bit unclear about where they stand. We have heard lots of evidence from local authorities, all of which have—understandably—different views. Some are concerned about the administrative burdens of administering multi-operator ticketing schemes, and others are completely opposed to the idea that the Government should have the power to establish such schemes in local authority areas. There are mixed views.

Is it the case that all the bill will do is give Government the power to ensure that, if such schemes are introduced, they all follow the same standard, or will the bill introduce a power that means that all local authorities will have to sign up to the scheme? That is a bit unclear at the moment.

Michael Matheson

The purpose of the national advisory board is to set the national standards. Smart ticketing options that service providers purchase will have to comply with those standards in order to ensure that they are interoperable with other systems. Where a local authority does not have smart ticketing in place, it is about working with transport providers to get them moving in that direction.

The funding that Richard Lyle referred to is to support smaller companies to invest in smart ticketing options to help them to deliver their own services. It is not about imposing smart ticketing for the sake of it; it is about trying to create the necessary national standards. Once those are set, if they are not used by local authorities as they should be in delivery of services, there is a power to mandate them to do that.

10:45  
Jamie Greene

So, it is clear that the bill includes a power that means that, if local authorities choose not to go down the smart ticketing route in their areas, you can force them to do so. Is that correct?

Michael Matheson

I would be surprised if any local authority in Scotland does not want a smart ticketing option. The bill is about making sure that standards will be applied in the smart ticketing options that operate in an area so that they are interoperable with those in other parts of the country.

Jamie Greene

Standards are technical and behind the scenes, and relate to the technology that delivers interoperability, and which allows for transaction payments and operators to speak together through a mutual ticketing system. That is the back end. What might be confusing to folk is the front end. North Ayrshire might have one type of scheme and Inverclyde might have another. Many services work across authority areas, and not every authority is in a regional transport partnership.

That leads me to ask why the Government is choosing to do things that way. We are leaving it either to individual operators to develop their own schemes, as some including ScotRail and Stagecoach are doing, or to local authorities. All we are asking them to do is follow national standards, but they can still implement any scheme they wish. That will be done with varying degrees of success.

Why is the Government not taking the lead, as has happened in other countries? Other countries have said that they appreciate that it is not going to be easy and there are issues in having multiple operators that do not always talk to each other. If we really wanted to, we could do this nationally. There are companies that could help the Government to do that. Why has the Government taken this approach? There is no appetite in Government for a national scheme and for the roll-out process to be top down.

Michael Matheson

That is because we do not want to take a top-down approach. We want to take an approach that recognises the progress that some operators have already made in smart ticketing options. We want to ensure that systems are interoperable across areas, so that when a person goes from Ayrshire to Glasgow, which is an SPT area, the systems are interoperable, such that there is a through ticket from one bus operator to the next. People should also be able to get through tickets to use a train or a ferry.

We are trying to ensure that the standards that will be applied by every service provider in the country are interoperable—that they are of a standard that allows people to get the through ticket that they require across different modes of transport. That is not available at the moment.

The national advisory board will be responsible for looking at how the standards should be set out and what they should be. That will allow operators to purchase whatever system they want to provide smart ticketing, as long as it meets the national standards and is interoperable with the rest of the country.

Jamie Greene

As things stand, it seems to be unlikely that we will ever get to the stage in Scotland at which a single card—as in Richard Lyle’s example—allows access to buses, trains, ferries and trams, because of the disparate nature of transport. That is unlikely to change soon.

Michael Matheson

In the years ahead, I suspect that the requirement for a card will disappear, because there is an increasing move to contactless services. Anchoring a scheme on a card would be like replicating the Oyster card-type system, which is in decline. We must recognise how technology is moving on, for example through the e-purse approach. Smart ticketing will probably become contactless in the years ahead, so we are trying to create a system that recognises that.

Jamie Greene

My other question is about making sure that we do not leave anyone behind. I appreciate the point about contactless payments, which is one that the committee has not made this morning. That may be the direction of travel, if I may be pardoned the pun, with travel cards becoming less important and people using bank cards or mobile phones.

However, that does not offer through ticketing in its true sense; people might use their cards or make contactless payments for multiple journeys. As you said, there is no capping of the through-ticket price and there is no joined-up approach. Contactless and card payments are just payment methods, as opposed to ticketing methods.

How do we ensure that we leave no one behind? Not everyone is au fait with using Apple Pay or other mobile technologies, and not everyone uses contactless payment. If we have a cashless approach in public transport and, indeed, society, is there a worry that elderly people, for example, will be left behind? How do we ensure that that does not happen?

Michael Matheson

The advisory board will consider the need for a paper option, so that a person who wants to pay by cash and get a ticket will be able to do so. That must always be an option, in any system.

Jamie Greene

Thank you.

The Convener

That brings us to the end of our questions on buses and smart ticketing. We will have a brief pause.

We will move on to low-emission zones and parking. I welcome Stephen Thomson, who is head of air quality; George Henry, who is parking policy manager; and Anne Cairns and Magdalene Boyd, who are solicitors.

Peter Chapman

I want to ask about the effectiveness of low-emission zones. There is analysis that shows that they are limited in what they can do. European Union-sponsored research into the effectiveness of LEZs across northern and central Europe concluded:

“Annual mean PM10 concentrations were reduced by 0 to 7%, with no effects observed in most LEZs.”

There is a similar story nearer to home, in London. Cabinet secretary, are you confident that LEZs will play a significant role in reducing air pollution levels in Scotland?

Michael Matheson

Yes, I am, on the basis of the standards that will be set for LEZs. Glasgow will have the first LEZ in the country, and standards will be set for petrol and diesel vehicles. A lot of work has been done over the years to reduce air pollution, but there remain issues with air quality in some of our town centres. LEZs can address some of those issues by setting standards for vehicle emissions levels to improve air quality in our town centres.

Peter Chapman

Does that mean that you envisage standards being tighter in Scotland than they have been elsewhere in northern Europe, where LEZs have had very little impact? Even in London, where the vast bulk of people obey the rules, there have been minimal reductions in particulate matter.

Michael Matheson

The system that will operate in Scotland will be different from the one in London, which is more like a road charging process, as opposed to the penalty charge that we will have.

It is not about finding the one thing that will improve everything; a variety of things will improve air quality. Low-emission zones can help create the cultural shift that is necessary to address some of these issues. As part of a wider package of measures low-emission zones can play an important part in addressing air pollution and air quality issues in our town centres.

Peter Chapman

You have touched on my second question already. It is proposed that, north of the border, certain classes of vehicle will be banned from entering an LEZ, with a penalty imposed for non-compliance. Many other LEZs, such as the one in London, require a charge to be paid if the entry criteria are not met, so, as you rightly said, there is a difference there. The committee has heard calls for the London approach to be adopted in Scotland. What is your view on that?

Michael Matheson

The London approach is almost a road charging approach. Our view is that we should prevent vehicles of a certain type going into our town centres—if they go in, they will face a fixed penalty as a result. That is a different approach, which in our view is more effective in addressing the level of pollution from vehicles. Standards will be set for the vehicles that are allowed into the zone; that is about helping to improve air quality in our town centres and it is more effective. We are saying that there are certain vehicles that we do not expect to be in our town centre because of the level of pollution that they cause. That is instead of having a charging regime that charges on the basis of the level of pollution that vehicles cause in the area.

Stewart Stevenson

Have the minister and his officials looked at the experience in Beijing, which more or less banned anything that was polluting, including industry—it was not just transport—for the Olympics? In a single year, there was a 46 per cent reduction in attendances at hospitals for asthma and a 23g average rise in live birth weights, which are indicators of the beneficial effects of getting pollutants out of the atmosphere. Rather than simply looking at European examples, have the minister and officials looked at wider examples that might inform policy in this area?

Michael Matheson

I know that officials have looked at a wide range of international experience, but I do not know whether they looked specifically at the temporary provision that was put in place in Beijing. The impact that air quality can have on individuals’ health should not be underestimated. The purpose behind LEZs is to address not just congestion and air quality issues but the associated health issues. In my view, LEZs can do that.

The Convener

We have heard evidence that taking a bus from being Euro 5 compliant to being Euro 6 compliant is difficult and can cost in the region of £25,000. We also heard that if a Euro 5-compliant bus moved briskly along the route in the way that it should, the emissions from the bus would be no worse than those from a Euro 6 bus. There was evidence to suggest that we should be moving buses along routes better, which goes back to a question that I asked earlier about keeping things moving in bus lanes. Do you subscribe to that view, or do you think that bus operators are wrong when they say that the Euro 6 designation for buses will have only a marginal effect and that a better approach would be to keep buses moving quickly in bus lanes?

Michael Matheson

There should be a combination of both. We should have bus engines that are more efficient and emit fewer emissions alongside improved journey times that reduce the time when buses are idling, given the impact that that has on air pollution. It is not about having one or the other but about having a combination of both.

The Convener

There will be a huge cost to the bus operators. When we were in Glasgow, we saw some buses that were still Euro 4 models. It was explained to us that that was written on the back of them so that we could identify immediately whether they were Euro 4, 5 or 6 vehicles. A huge number of buses will be taken out of the loop completely, which might limit bus use in Glasgow even more. Is that the objective?

11:00  
Michael Matheson

We recognise that there is a cost for bus operators in moving to the Euro 6 standard, which we will set out in further detail along with the regulation. That is why we have provided almost £8 million in the bus emissions abatement programme, which supports bus service providers to introduce retrofit kits on their existing non-Euro 6 buses to reduce emissions to the Euro 6 level.

You will also be aware that there is a grace period within the provisions for low-emission zones, to allow work to take place with the bus industry on the timeline for the transition for the fleet. That gives local authorities the flexibility to work with the providers to give them time to carry out the changes that are needed to the fleet.

There is a combination of measures. There is the money that we are giving the industry and there is the grace period, which gives the industry an opportunity to start taking forward those changes.

The Convener

Is the funding that the Scottish Government is giving to bus companies for retrofit the same as the funding that is being given to bus companies in the rest of the UK, or is there a difference?

Michael Matheson

There is a difference. I will get back to the committee on this in writing, but I believe that there is a difference in our provision that makes it more generous than that in England and Wales.

The Convener

The bus companies will look forward to hearing about that, because that is not what they said in the evidence session that we had with them. We look forward to receiving that letter.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I will build on the convener’s questions, but I want to leave aside buses and think about other vehicles. Cars and other vehicles generally last longer than they used to—my car is nine years old—so some people, particularly those in lower income brackets, do not replace their cars so often and tend to buy second-hand ones. Is there a danger that some people will be disadvantaged by an LEZ if they cannot take their vehicles into the city centre? I am thinking particularly about someone who is starting off as a joiner or electrician and who might have an older vehicle that he really needs for his work.

Michael Matheson

Your vehicle is much more modern than mine, which is 14 years old. The Euro 4 standard for petrol cars roughly takes us to cars that have a 2004 number plate, which is 14 years old, and it is the same for Euro 6, which again would be about a 2004 plate. I recognise that there are potential risks for individuals on lower incomes. However, the standards give people an opportunity in that, if they are considering buying a car, a significant number of cars in the second-hand market comply with the Euro 6 or Euro 4 standards. We have to be alive to that issue, but the regulation that we bring forward will try to accommodate that potential risk.

John Mason

You have mentioned grace periods, which are intended to cover such issues. Frankly, the committee has had conflicting evidence on those periods. Some people think that the periods are far too long and that, if we are serious about air quality, we need to be much more aggressive, whereas others have said that there is a real cost and that we have to give people time and have longer periods, because we do not want to damage business. Will you briefly explain why you have chosen the grace periods that you have come to?

Michael Matheson

The provisions on grace periods give local authorities options. There can be a one-year period through to a four-year period for individuals who are not resident in the LEZ, to allow them to make the necessary transition. Whether a local authority goes for a two, three or four-year grace period is for it to decide, based on local consultation when it is introducing the LEZ. There can also be an extended grace period for those who are residents in the LEZ. The local authority can go as far as a six-year grace period to allow residents to make the transition that may be necessary. We recognise that businesses and local residents need time to make the transition, but the local authority will decide what that is.

John Mason

There is a heritage bus museum in my constituency, which is worried that it will not be allowed to drive around its old buses. Is there provision for an exemption to be made for that kind of situation, perhaps for a particular day?

Michael Matheson

There is provision for exemptions and they will be dealt with through regulations so that they can be adapted to particular circumstances. There will be an opportunity through the consultation for organisations such as the one in your constituency to highlight the need to provide certain exemptions for particular purposes.

John Mason

Thank you.

The Convener

I will ask you to clarify that so that I understand. My understanding is that the bill states that those vehicles could be driven around only on days of importance that are recognised by local authorities but that if someone has an old heritage car, as many people do, that they want to take for a drive, they will be precluded on a normal day from taking it anywhere near an LEZ. Is that right?

Michael Matheson

We have a qualifying requirement for exemptions that are for a significant day, but we want to look at whether we can extend that. For example, a funeral car or a wedding vehicle could require an exemption for its purposes. I want to look at whether the bill is framed in a way that gives us the flexibility that is required in certain circumstances. However, the idea is that the suspension of an LEZ for a particular period would have to be linked to an event of national importance. For example, a national sporting event could be taking place in a town centre and the council might want to suspend the LEZ because vehicles would be brought in to support that event. However, there are also exemptions for individual vehicles for particular purposes while the LEZ is still operating.

The Convener

The concern that has been raised with me—you will know from my entry in the register of interests that I have a farming interest—is about people coming into cities from the countryside in their agricultural-type pick-ups. They will not necessarily change those vehicles every 10 years, so they will be banned from coming into places such as Glasgow if the required standard is Euro 6. Anything that was built prior to 2014 will not be able to get into the city. That is a real issue for some people who live in the countryside. Do you think that that is right?

Michael Matheson

For diesel, it would be 2004.

The Convener

It is 2014. Any vehicle built before 2014 is Euro 5, not Euro 6.

Michael Matheson

They would face a penalty if they were using a vehicle within the LEZ area that was over that limit.

The Convener

That is quite hard on a lot of people who probably rely on those vehicles for their normal work process, because they are not going to change them every 10 years. Would it be possible to reflect on that?

Michael Matheson

There is no need to do so at present, because there will be a consultation on the regulations that will deal with those matters. Those bodies that have an interest in making representations on those issues will be able to engage with the regulation-making process.

Jamie Greene

I would like you to comment on two things specifically. The first is displacement, which there are concerns about. Is it the case that businesses, including smaller bus companies, will simply put all their modern vehicles into the LEZs and that peripheral areas outside the LEZs will suffer from the use of older vehicles? Secondly, the cost of upgrading to Euro 6 vehicles is going to be quite substantial for bus companies. For example, First Glasgow said that that would cost more than £100 million, McGill’s has just ordered 26 new buses and so on. Will any of those costs be passed on to passengers?

Michael Matheson

On your first question, very often the buses that will be coming into LEZs will be coming from suburban areas, so they will be coming into the town centre and probably passing through it. There will probably be some buses that do not do that, but many buses will come through the town centre and go elsewhere. In that sense, the bus companies will therefore have to comply for all those buses. However, I would not dispute that there is also the possibility that companies will move their fleet and displace some buses that they can no longer use in town centres that have an LEZ in place and use them elsewhere. However, by and large, most buses that I have used go into the town centre and then go somewhere else from there.

On the question of costs being passed on, part of the idea behind the grace period and the retrofit abatement programme that we are supporting for the bus industry is to support companies to meet some of those costs. However, the grace period is also about helping companies to absorb some of the natural turnover that they would have in their fleet anyway in renewing their buses so that they can upgrade them to the standard when they purchase them. When I was in Alexander Dennis’s premises last week, Lothian Buses was doing that and I know that some other bus operators are already doing the same. Some of them will therefore manage the situation as part of the turnover of their fleet to ensure that they comply with the LEZs.

Jamie Greene

There would be no cost to passengers.

Michael Matheson

It would be down to the company to decide how it chooses to meet the costs. Bus companies will have a programme for how they want to turn over their fleet, and they will manage that as part of the overall cost of running their business. I have not seen any evidence that costs will be driven up purely because of the need to purchase buses to meet the requirements of LEZs.

Maureen Watt

We have talked a lot about grace periods. Will there not be a time when LEZs become redundant because we will all have low-emission vehicles or electric cars and, because of climate change legislation, there will be a lot more active travel in city centres? Do you see a situation where, for example, 20 years hence, there will be no need for LEZs?

Michael Matheson

That may be the case, but LEZs have an important part to play now in creating some of that culture shift and transition. It could be that LEZs are required for the next 10, 15 or 20 years, and after that they are no longer necessary.

Peter Chapman

We understand that local authorities will have some flexibility in how they introduce LEZs. We have heard concerns from fleet operators in particular that different rules applying to different LEZs could make it very confusing for drivers and difficult for fleet operators to plan their routes. What reassurance can you offer to operators that those problems are being thought about and that there is a way forward?

Michael Matheson

You raise an important issue. The objective is that, by 2020, our four main cities—Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen—will have in place LEZs. I want us to be in a position where a van that complies with the LEZ in Glasgow would, if it went to Dundee, comply with the LEZ there, too.

We will deal with that through regulations, so that there is a consistent approach across the country on the standards that are set for LEZs. I know that there were questions about whether that provision should be in the bill. Putting those matters in regulations will allow us to change and adapt the regulations as circumstances change. For example, as engines develop, we could make a change—with due parliamentary scrutiny—without having to resort to changing the act.

I fully recognise your point, and we will be seeking to address that through the associated regulations.

John Finnie

I had planned to ask about the financial memorandum, which was, in part, touched on earlier. People have talked about the inconvenience, the mechanics, grace periods and the costs but, so far, no one has mentioned the number of deaths that are directly attributable to poor air quality.

In the UK, the Royal College of Physicians says—this is the figure that is normally cited—that there are 40,000 such deaths. The conservative estimate for Scotland is that, each year, 2,500 lives are lost that are directly attributable to poor air quality. What projection has been made about the outstanding benefits from lives that could be saved as a result of the legislation?

Michael Matheson

I cannot give a specific figure on how many lives LEZs might save. Is that what you are driving it?

John Finnie

Yes.

Michael Matheson

I cannot give you a figure for that.

John Finnie

Is that not peculiar? We talk about the minutiae of all sorts of things. Surely knowing about such benefits is fundamental. Mr Stevenson touched on the matter earlier when he commented on respiratory ailments and the imposition of a temporary ban in Beijing. Could that work be done, please?

Michael Matheson

I am more than happy for us to look at that and see whether we can provide further information. However, I do not believe that modelling has been carried out in that regard.

Stephen Thomson (Scottish Government)

I can add a small bit to that. Health Protection Scotland is meeting today to consider the feasibility of looking at the impact of LEZs—that is, to determine whether it is feasible to measure an impact that is attributable to LEZs, given all the other aspects of air pollution mitigation.

John Finnie

That is reassuring. I hope that the committee can hear back about that.

That takes me back to my earlier point about Government policies coming together. Surely preventative spend—I prefer to think about that in terms of the impact on people rather than on machines—is an important element that should be considered, too. Any information that you can provide on that would be welcome.

Michael Matheson

We will give the committee further information about the work that Health Protection Scotland is doing on that.

11:15  
The Convener

John, did you also want to ask about the costs?

John Finnie

Indeed. The issue was touched on earlier. The Finance and Constitution Committee has heard criticism to the effect that the financial memorandum significantly understates the costs that are associated with the proposal. What is your response to that? Can you clarify what proportion of the costs relating to LEZs will be met by the Scottish Government and local authorities, respectively?

Michael Matheson

The challenge in trying to give as accurate a figure as possible concerns the fact that LEZs could operate differently in different local authority areas. We have sought to use data that we have from Edinburgh and, I think, Aberdeen, to inform the financial memorandum with regard to the potential costs of introducing LEZs. My view is that the figures that have been provided are as accurate as they can be, but there are some challenges around that because the way in which the LEZ operates in Dundee could be different from the way in which the one in Glasgow operates, and the size of the LEZs could be different as well. Those factors make it difficult for us to be specific about what the final cost might be.

John Finnie

The conservative figure for the number of deaths that are associated with air pollution in Scotland is 2,500 a year, which is 10 times the number of deaths that are associated with road traffic accidents. I understand that the Scottish Government puts a figure on the cost of a life lost in a road traffic accident, and that it is a seven-figure sum. I think that more work could and should be done on the issue of costs in relation to LEZs, and that the costs should be considered in relation to the human cost of air pollution as well as the infrastructure cost.

Michael Matheson

I am happy to take that issue away and think about it.

The Convener

The committee has been told that the cost of establishing the congestion charge in London was extremely high. We heard that the only reason why an LEZ could be superimposed on top was that the cameras had already been paid for through the congestion charge, and that there is no way of doing it in Scotland. There is considerable concern that the cost of establishing LEZs has been underestimated. Would it be possible for you to revert back to the committee on the methodology that you have used in that regard?

Michael Matheson

Yes, I can do that. I am more than happy to provide whatever information we can.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I want to return to the issue of pavement parking and the exceptions to the pavement parking prohibitions. There are 10 subsections in section 47 that give exemptions nationally, and I think that they are very good. However, the committee has taken evidence that has focused on subsection (6), which says that the parking prohibitions do not apply where

“the motor vehicle is, in the course of business ... being loaded from or unloaded to any premises”

and where

“the vehicle is so parked for no longer than is necessary for the delivery, collection, loading or unloading and in any event for no more than a continuous period of 20 minutes.”

That subsection has caused concerns, because it creates a national exemption that allows firms to park on pavements to make deliveries. At the moment, driving and parking on pavements is illegal, but this subsection gives them permission to do it. Further, the evidence that we have received is that the 20-minute rule would be totally unenforceable.

There is an argument that subsection (6) is not needed because the bill allows local authorities to exempt certain streets from the pavement parking prohibition if they decide that the prohibition would cause problems in relation to people’s ability to make deliveries.

I think that an unintentional consequence of subsection (6) is that it creates a national exemption for pavement parking, which sends the wrong signal. The motivation for the bill seems to be to free up our pavements for the benefit of people who are annoyed because they are blocked, such as disabled people, young mums, young dads, carers with prams and so on. However, subsection (6) is a real worry in that regard.

Michael Matheson

I recognise the issue that the member raises and I have received representations on the matter. It is worth pointing out that it remains a criminal offence for an HGV or a lorry to park on a pavement. Notwithstanding what is in the bill, that will remain a criminal offence. We are trying to achieve a balance for those smaller vans that are carrying out a delivery or picking up and require to park on the pavement to do so. They may not obstruct the whole of the pavement, but they may use part of the pavement for a short time in order to carry out the delivery or to pick up the goods where they would not be reasonably able to do that by parking elsewhere.

We are trying to achieve the objective that you set out and improve access for those who have mobility issues or visual issues, those with prams et cetera, in order to take away the potential hazards that they may face, while recognising that there will be instances in which parking on the pavement is the only option that the driver of the vehicle has in order to pick something up or drop it off, and they need time to carry that out.

I am always minded to look to see whether there are ways in which we can improve the bill, but I hope that the committee will recognise that we are trying to strike a balance in a way that delivers what we are trying to achieve but, at the same time, recognises that there may be practical challenges for businesses.

Mike Rumbles

I entirely understand the issue of trying to strike a balance. What I am trying to get across is that, with section 47(6), you are reversing the law. At the moment, the law does not allow people to drive on to the pavement to unload. That is illegal. However, the bill allows that to happen. Given that your motivation is to free up access for all the people that we have discussed, that subsection might be ineffective legislation.

In your responses to other questions, you talked about local authorities and said that you do not want to have a top-down approach. Surely local authorities are best placed to know their roads and where there is a real problem, and you are already giving them the ability to exempt those areas. Will you look at section 47(6) at stage 2? I would prefer that the Government looked at the matter again at stage 2.

Michael Matheson

I am more than happy to look at it again to see whether we have got the balance right and, if there are potential unintended consequences as the member said, whether we can address them. Let me take that away and have a look at it, and if there is a way in which we can address some of those concerns or possibly provide greater clarity, I will be more than happy to do that.

Mike Rumbles

That is great. I have another quick question on a subject that was raised by witnesses. Do the provisions that prohibit parking on pavements include cycleways?

Michael Matheson

I ask George Henry to cover that.

George Henry (Scottish Government)

Do you mean a cycle lane on the carriageway, Mr Rumbles?

Mike Rumbles

Yes—a cycle lane.

George Henry

There are shared spaces with cycle tracks and footways, which is why I wanted to clarify that.

Local authorities already have powers to make cycle lanes mandatory and they can promote a traffic regulation order, which will mean that people cannot stop or park in a cycle lane. It depends on how local authorities wish to take that forward. Many install advisory lanes. Cycle lanes as such are not covered in the bill as it stands.

John Mason

On a slightly wider issue to do with parking on pavements, I have a considerable number of streets in my constituency where the road is relatively narrow and the pavement is relatively wide. What I consider to be considerate drivers—I do it myself—put two wheels on the pavement, which allows plenty of room for people to pass on the pavement but keeps the road clear for buses, bin lorries and larger vehicles. I have a slight problem with the idea of a total ban. I suspect that councils will find exempting streets to involve too much hassle and cost, so they will not do it. I wonder whether an unintended consequence might be that problems will be created in some places where it would be perfectly reasonable for drivers to put two wheels on the pavement to prevent blockages on the road.

Michael Matheson

The intention of the bill is not to have a blanket ban; it allows for exceptions in some areas, perhaps where there are narrow roads with wide pedestrian ways. There is scope in the bill for local authorities to identify areas and apply an exemption, as long as the pedestrian pathway is at least 1.5m wide. It will be for individual local authorities to identify the areas in their authorities where that would be appropriate, depending on the circumstances.

John Mason

Would it not be simpler and cheaper, both in relation to the bill and for local authorities, simply to say that, assuming a pavement is more than 1.5m wide, someone parking must leave at least 1.5m clear and if the pavement is less than 1m, the whole pavement must be clear? Would that not make for simpler legislation? The councils would not have any costs and would just have to enforce it as they do other things.

Michael Matheson

As it stands, the bill will provide for an exemption that local authorities can apply, based on local need and circumstances.

John Mason

There will be a cost to that, will there not?

Michael Matheson

Yes, but, if we were to flip it round and make local authorities apply the rule with no exemptions, there would also be a cost.

John Mason

If the bill specified 1.5m, there would be no cost.

Michael Matheson

We can look to see whether it would be better to make that clear in the bill or through the regulation or guidance that accompanies the bill. I am not entirely sure why it would need to be on the face of the bill.

Jamie Greene

I want to follow on that interesting line of questioning. I have some sympathy with the cabinet secretary’s view on temporary exclusions. It is imperative that we let businesses go about their normal business, but that we continue to implement the policy intentions of the bill.

On the issue of parking, there is a low level of understanding of what is coming down the road, in the sense that, if the provision is introduced as planned, there will be a blanket ban on two-wheel pavement parking. When you go round constituencies and regions, you realise how much such parking takes place. However, there is absolutely nothing in the bill that will help local authorities to deal with those traffic issues. The questions that I am being asked are, “Where will people park?” and, “Where can we park, when there is nowhere else to park?”

There is nothing in the bill to offer assistance to local authorities other than to apply for exemptions under rules that have been dictated to them nationally. I do not see that the bill provides any long-term solution to the problem.

Michael Matheson

We have engaged with local authorities to try to address some of those issues. There was a meeting on Monday with local authorities on the management of some of those issues and how that can be addressed through the guidance that accompanies the bill. It will be a greater challenge for some local authorities than for others. I am thinking of Glasgow and Edinburgh in particular, where there are tenements, some streets are narrower and the pavements are more limited—there might be four or five-storey tenements and everyone in the block might have a car. In some areas there will be specific challenges.

Part of the work that we are doing with local authorities is to consider how to ensure that we have the necessary guidance in place for them, so that they know where to apply exemptions, where that is appropriate. At the same time, we want to make it very clear that, where the provision can be applied, the standard rule should now be that people are not able to park on the pavement.

Jamie Greene

As you say, there are tenements with six or more cars for a single block and only two spaces outside them, but those cars are not going to disappear when the bill comes into force. If no other parking provision is made available and, more importantly, there is no additional funding to support local authorities—I am not asking that central Government start building car parks everywhere—there is a real issue at stake: the cars are not disappearing, but they will have nowhere to go. I am not convinced that we are addressing the root cause of the problem.

Michael Matheson

Part of the idea is to provide local authorities with the powers to be able to take such things into account in areas where they want to apply exemptions. Those are the types of issues that they will have to consider when making an assessment to determine whether to apply an exemption in a particular area.

Richard Lyle

To follow on from Jamie Greene’s point, there has to be a commonsense approach to this. I can think of some interesting roads in Glasgow and other areas where, if both sides of the road are filled with cars and the cars are not parked on the pavement—if they are parked as they will be legally required to park when the bill comes in—fire engines or other emergency services may not be able to get through. However, I will park that one.

11:30  
Michael Matheson

Pardon the pun.

The Convener

I think we got it, Richard.

Richard Lyle

Good—I hoped you had.

I can think of quite a number of towns and cities, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, where there are pedestrian areas with shops. What happens if, at 9 o’clock in the morning when people are out shopping and walking in those areas, a van comes along to deliver to a particular shop that it needs to access from the front because there is no back entrance?

I agree with Mike Rumbles, but I want to explore the issue from an alternative viewpoint. What reassurance can you offer delivery firms and businesses that the prohibition of pavement parking and double parking will not unduly affect their operations? Will the parking standards document that is currently under development offer any clarity on that issue? Many companies will ask how they can deliver to shops that are in the middle of Glasgow’s shopping area.

Michael Matheson

We will engage with stakeholders, including those in the industry who have a view about what the parking standards should be, as part of the consultation around the document. The document will give clarity on what the standards will be.

On your first point, I echo what I said to Mike Rumbles. We are trying to strike a balance between freeing up access on paths and removing obstructions, while at the same time recognising that there will be individuals who are just going about their legitimate business.

It is not just about deliveries. We should not lose sight of the fact that there are health and safety challenges for the folk who carry out deliveries. The vehicle will have to be parked much further away, so we need to think about the risk to them as well. We are trying to strike a balance. If there are ways in which we can address some of the concerns around that, I am open to looking at them—we will take them away to see whether there are other things that we can do. We have to try to achieve a balance.

Colin Smyth

I want to touch on enforcement. My understanding of the bill is that the local authority will have the power to take enforcement action where there has been a contravention of the prohibition of pavement parking and double parking. Does that mean that, where parking has not been decriminalised, a council enforcement officer will be able to put a parking ticket on a car that is parked on the pavement, but not able to put a parking ticket on the car next to it that is parked on double yellow lines?

Michael Matheson

If parking has not been decriminalised in the area, it would be a matter for the police to enforce. I will let George Henry talk you through how that will operate.

George Henry

At the moment, that is how it stands. However, the bill will provide powers for all local authorities to carry out enforcement. We are continuing to work with stakeholders to discuss enforcement so that we get consistency right across the country. Some local authorities do not have decriminalised parking enforcement; they have off-street car parks with parking attendants, so they may use them. We are looking at whether local authorities can share services with neighbouring authorities. Work on that is on-going as we speak.

Colin Smyth

Just to be clear, where parking is not decriminalised, the bill seems to imply that a local authority officer will be able to put a parking ticket on a car that is parked on a pavement because it specifically mentions that scenario. However, the officer cannot put a parking ticket on the car next to it that is parked on double yellow lines unless the authority goes through the whole decriminalisation process.

George Henry

That is correct, as it stands.

Colin Smyth

Are we not missing a trick, then? Why are we not using the bill to completely decriminalise parking? Since Police Scotland scrapped traffic wardens—a short-sighted decision, in my view—more and more local authorities have moved towards decriminalisation. However, the process is lengthy, expensive and bureaucratic. It involves bringing Scottish statutory instruments for every individual local authority before this committee and the Parliament.

Should we not be using the bill to simplify that process at the very least? We could have a single line in the bill that says that if a local authority wants to decriminalise, it can do so immediately instead of having to go through the current very bureaucratic process. Alternatively, should we not just completely decriminalise parking? Otherwise there will be a two-tier system under the bill: one tier for pavement parking, and the second for other parking offences that are not decriminalised at the moment.

Michael Matheson

You are right about some of the bureaucracy around the decriminalisation process. I will consider the point that you have raised to see whether we could use the bill to simplify or improve that process. I do not know whether that would be possible, but I am more than happy to look at the issue and to engage with our colleagues in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on whether there is a way in which we can improve the process.

Maureen Watt

I think that the majority of our witnesses supported the proposals on pavement parking and double parking. However, the issue of parking in front of dropped kerbs has also come up. A number of my constituents and I have gone out with the local authority to see what can be done about that, and a petition has been lodged on the matter.

Is it possible to have double yellow lines in front of dropped kerbs? Does the bill need such a provision? We have an increasingly elderly population, and inclusivity and ensuring that everybody can play their full part in society will not happen if inconsiderate people park in front of dropped kerbs.

Michael Matheson

I fully sympathise with that view. I recognise the challenges that people have when individuals park in front of dropped kerbs and the additional risks that that causes. For example, people might have to take an alternative route if they cannot use a dropped kerb to cross the road.

There are technical challenges in defining dropped kerbs, but officials have been working to see whether the bill can provide for greater certainty on that matter. Maybe George Henry can explain the work that we have taken forward on that front.

George Henry

I think that Jamie Greene raised the issue of displacement, and it has been mentioned in relation to LEZs and parking. Domestic driveways have been considered in discussions with stakeholders. The Scottish Government received powers via the Scotland Act 2016 to legislate on parking at dropped kerbs, and we are aware that stakeholders have expressed concerns about dropped kerbs not being covered in the bill.

We have been considering which dropped kerbs should be included, and we are addressing those issues with stakeholders. Basically, the issue is whether it is a non-crossing point. Fundamentally, should there be a national ban so that nobody should park over a dropped kerb that is a non-crossing point? Obviously, the inclusion of domestic driveways would have quite big impacts on the displacement of vehicles. We are discussing such things with stakeholders.

Maureen Watt

It should not be too difficult. Most people know the distinction between a dropped kerb that someone has in front of their driveway so that they can get their car in and one that is near a crossing or a shopping centre. We would expect that most people would not park in front of a dropped kerb. Unfortunately, people are parking in front of them, and that needs to be legislated for.

Michael Matheson

I fully accept that people should understand that, but I am sure that Maureen Watt will recognise that some people do not.

Maureen Watt

There is no legislation to penalise them, is there?

Michael Matheson

There are technical issues in defining dropped kerbs so that there is a black-and-white definition and no grey area. We need to work through those issues so that the definition is quite clear. We are working on that to see how we can take it forward.

The Convener

I have been particularly taken by the argument about parking in front of dropped kerbs. Perhaps as a result of the committee’s consideration, I now look to see where dropped kerbs are. Some of them in Inverness are in loading bays, which are interesting places to have them. It may not be possible to have a blanket rule in place for dropped kerbs, but some might need to be moved. The issue is very important.

We will have another short pause while we allow the witnesses to change over.

We move on to the third part of this evidence-taking session, in which we will consider road works, canals and regional transport partnerships. I welcome Kat Quane, road works policy officer, Joanne Gray, policy manager for regional transport partnerships, Brian Spence, canals policy officer, and Kevin Gibson, solicitor.

Gail Ross (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP)

Witnesses have been broadly supportive of the proposed new powers for the Scottish road works commissioner and the new duties and requirements that will be placed on people who carry out road works. However, an issue that has come up in evidence is the power of unannounced entry to premises to investigate road works issues. Is the power proportionate?

Michael Matheson

I believe so, yes, on the basis that the purpose of the inspection is to allow the SRWC to establish the facts in particular circumstances. A warrant for the purposes of making entry will be required, so it is not as though there will be no process of checking whether the inspection is appropriate and required. Very often, inspections take place on live carriageways and in limited conditions. If a contractor is obstructing an inspector’s ability to get access to the information that they require for their inspection, the inspector will be able to consider whether a warrant for access is required.

The power is necessary. I hope that it will not need to be used much. However, given the importance of the SRWC’s role, it is important that the inspectors have the ability to force entry, if necessary.

Gail Ross

What qualifications and standards will inspectors use when they access work sites?

Michael Matheson

Are you asking what qualifications inspectors have?

Gail Ross

Yes.

Michael Matheson

Officials might be able to give you more detail about their qualifications, but I think that the individuals who carry out inspections should have good background knowledge of the industry and an understanding of the inspection standards that they apply during an inspection.

Kat Quane (Scottish Government)

Luckily, there is one standard for operatives and one standard for supervisors for the whole of the United Kingdom. It is the industry standard, to which everyone already works. Whether a person is digging a hole on a site or inspecting the hole—as local authorities do—they will have the standard qualification for an operative or a supervisor from Street Works UK’s training and accreditation group. I would expect an SRWC inspector to have the supervisor’s qualification.

Gail Ross

The committee heard from a witness from Openreach, who expressed concern about the security of Openreach’s infrastructure, given the requirement to share information on the Scottish road works register. Our witness said that whereas in the past the concern was about commercial sensitivities, it is now about data security. What discussions are you having with Openreach and others about that? Will you consider those concerns before stage 2?

11:45  
Michael Matheson

Of course. It is an issue for consideration. For example, there are security provisions around access to the information on the website, and we would expect those to be updated and to continue to be reinforced. Further security measures might need to be put in place to restrict access to information on the system. I expect the commissioner to keep the situation under review and to consider whether they have to update those security measures and put further measures in place so that only those who are entitled to access the information can access it.

Gail Ross

Does that apply not only to Openreach but to everyone who adds to the infrastructure?

Michael Matheson

Yes. There would be a gatekeeping process around access to the information that is hosted on the commissioner’s website.

Gail Ross

Who would be able to access that information? What reasons would they have to give in order to be able to access it?

Kat Quane

Anyone with a statutory right to dig up the roads, such as the undertakers, the roads authorities and, in certain special cases, the commissioner’s office itself, would be able to access the information, but only for the purposes of ensuring safety when digging up the road.

Gail Ross

Thank you. That is helpful.

During our evidence session with the Scottish road works commissioner, he raised the issue of lane rental charges. Is the Scottish Government minded to pursue that issue in the future?

Michael Matheson

I am conscious of the issue because lane rental charges have been used in England and Wales to address delays with the completion of works and so on. They have proven to be fairly effective in that regard. However, the national system that we have in place in Scotland already works effectively. I do not think that it is necessary to add provision for lane rental charges into the mix, given that the existing provisions work relatively well and fairly efficiently, as can be seen by the fact that delays in Scotland are shorter than those in England and Wales.

Jamie Greene

Does the cabinet secretary understand the frustration that is felt by drivers and businesses when there are successive road works in an area? For example, a street in Dundee was dug up by three different utility companies, with the work extending over a long period of time, which caused havoc to the footfall that businesses there experienced.

From a driver’s point of view, there is nothing worse than seeing road works packing up at 5pm on a Friday and not starting again until Monday morning. That seems bizarre to most people. Is there anything in the bill that will give the Scottish road works commissioner the power to ensure that utility companies do the work as quickly as possible so that we do not see what effectively amounts to a three-day halt to works because it is the weekend, or work stopping in the evening?

Michael Matheson

I not only understand the frustration; I experience it myself. I often come across sites where a company is digging up the road even though it seems as if it has been only a couple of months since another company dug it up.

Local authorities try to bring works together if a number of utility companies indicate that they are planning to carry out work in an area. That should minimise the frustration.

Clearly, the system is not perfect, given the experience of you, me and, I am sure, everyone else. The commissioner’s role includes inspecting the management of that process to see whether there are things that could be done to reduce that type of inconvenience.

With regard to the issue of weekend working, I suspect that that is largely a commercial decision that is made by employers—

Jamie Greene

That is my point. The bill could address that if you wanted it to. You could force utility companies to do work in the shortest time possible rather than leaving it to commercial decisions that are based on the fact that it is expensive to pay people overtime at the weekend.

Michael Matheson

There is provision to do that. Kat Quane can explain that to you.

Kat Quane

The New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 makes provision for local authorities to issue a direction under section 125 of the act, which says that road works have to take as short a time as possible. There is an obligation for that to happen anyway, but there is provision for a specific direction. The commissioner’s office will get additional powers to see how local authorities are using that direction. It will absolutely be a level playing field; the commissioner will be able to look at roads authorities as well as utility companies and get information about whether that is happening.

The Convener

We will move on to Richard Lyle.

Stewart Stevenson

Eh?

The Convener

Sorry, Stewart, but Richard is first, then it is you. There is strict rotation and I try to follow it to the best of my ability.

Richard Lyle

I agree with the comments made by the cabinet secretary and Jamie Greene. It is frustrating that certain roads are continually getting dug up and relaid. I will not name it, but there is a road in my constituency that is continually being hammered.

Even though we know that it happens for safety reasons and to ensure that the staff are fine, a lot of car drivers also get annoyed when lanes are coned off for perhaps a quarter or half a mile, with nobody working on them. I agree that we should try to get companies to work together so that they dig up roads and put their utilities in at the same time and ensure that they use that time effectively so that there is minimal delay to motorists. As the cabinet secretary has said, it is very frustrating.

The Convener

I am not sure whether that was a question or a pitch for the cabinet secretary’s job.

Richard Lyle

Do you agree, cabinet secretary?

Michael Matheson

Do I agree with what?

Richard Lyle

Do you agree with what I just said?

Michael Matheson

It depends on what you are asking me, Richard.

The Convener

You can perhaps take that question offline. Richard has made his point.

Stewart Stevenson

I just want to return to the issue of Openreach and its critical infrastructure. I see from the Scottish road works commissioner’s website that there are two bits of road works adjacent to this building, one at the bottom of the Canongate and the other 100m away, where Scotland Gas Networks will have the road up for 21 days starting on 26 November. That information is in the public domain, so I am puzzled about the suggestion that some things will not be made public. Is that because, in legal terms, Openreach’s network is part of critical national infrastructure? Perhaps that has a particular definition under UK security legislation, whereas the gas network does not—although I would have thought that you could do an awful lot more damage knowing where the gas network was than you could intervening on the telephone network.

Kat Quane

That just displays the security. You are looking at the public-facing website, which shows the public what works are planned, and anyone can access that. Openreach is talking about the secure vault system on the Scottish road work register, which you cannot just access through a website, as you need to have been set up and have a password. That information is not accessible to the public.

Stewart Stevenson

I hear what you say, but I do not understand what it means. Can you explain what information I am not seeing? If Openreach were digging up the road in front of the Parliament, would that appear on the map on the website for me to see?

Kat Quane

You would see it.

Stewart Stevenson

So what am I not seeing?

Kat Quane

I will explain. If works are planned, you will see on the website a little road works sign—a 7001 man-at-work sign—that shows roughly what work is planned and when it will happen. Openreach is concerned about there being lines on the map that show exactly where its cables and junction boxes are and where its overhead is—although you can see that without a map, as it is overhead. It is concerned about the map showing where its infrastructure is when no one is digging it up.

Stewart Stevenson

That is fine. It clears up my fog of mystery.

The Convener

One question that is continually raised with me is about road works that are left at weekends, with speed limits on roads even though there is no workforce present and even though things appear to be functioning perfectly well. It is a constant problem; indeed, I could quote examples on the A9 and right across Scotland. Is that a missed opportunity in the bill? Surely we should remove road works or speed reductions at the weekend if no one is working there and there is no need for them, but that is not mentioned in the bill.

Michael Matheson

The bill does not seek to address that. It deals with the Scottish road works commissioner.

The Convener

Yes, but should he not have the power to make instructions on that?

Michael Matheson

Returning to my earlier comments, I would point out the provisions for local authorities to make sure that works are carried out as timeously as possible and in as short a timeframe as possible. They will be able to issue directions if that is not the case. There are no plans to make provision for contractors that undertake road works to ensure that they are removed just for the weekend. I expect road works to be completed as timeously as possible, instead of their being closed off at the weekend and opened back up again on Monday. That simply results in their taking longer to complete. In any case, the bill does not address such issues, and it contains no provision in that respect.

Mike Rumbles

Although the bill has 75 sections and is very comprehensive, only one section deals with canals, and it is about doubling the size of the Scottish Canals board. Are we relying on the Transport Act 1962, which is more than half a century old, to provide the legislation on the canal network? Does the Scottish Government have any plans to legislate on canals? How do we ensure that we keep them open? They are increasingly being used for leisure purposes in Scotland, but we seem to be relying on very old legislation for them. Are there any plans to update the legislation?

Michael Matheson

There are no plans at present to update the legislation, largely because no marked deficiencies have been highlighted to us. Some of the challenges that face our canal infrastructure are not about legislation but about the age of canals and the need to update and upgrade them. As canals go through my constituency, I know that any issues are largely down to infrastructure challenges. If Scottish Canals were to highlight particular deficiencies in or challenges around the existing legislative structure, I would be more than willing to consider what it said, but at present it has not done so.

Mike Rumbles

Is it not the duty of Scottish Canals to keep the canals open and navigable? There have been closures along canals that have recently been renovated—the Union canal, for example.

Michael Matheson

There is a requirement under existing legislation for Scottish Canals to keep canals navigable.

Mike Rumbles

But canals have been closed.

Michael Matheson

We provided Scottish Canals with additional funding to address some bridge structure issues that resulted in canal closures. Scottish Canals tries to programme its infrastructure investment to deal with issues that could result in canal closures, but there will be incidents where Scottish Canals might require additional resource to help it address them. As I have said, we have provided Scottish Canals with additional resources to help with a couple of issues, one of which was in my constituency when the bridge at Bonnybridge failed and had to be repaired. Infrastructure issues will arise, and Scottish Canals will have to address them, because it has a legal requirement to maintain commercial access.

Mike Rumbles

Can you write to the committee to let us know under what legislation Scottish Canals has that requirement? I am not clear about that.

Michael Matheson

We can do that.

The Convener

Thank you, cabinet secretary. Individual members have some questions that they want to ask.

John Mason

I am not a fan of throwing things into bills that have not been consulted on along the way, but the question of littering from vehicles has been raised with me. That is, in one sense, an environmental issue, but it leads to another serious issue, as highlighted by the signs that we often see on the motorway, showing that workers risk their lives picking up litter when vehicles go past at 70mph. Has the Government given any thought to strengthening legislation in that area either in the bill or elsewhere?

Michael Matheson

I am not unsympathetic to that concern and I will consider whether it can be addressed in the bill or through other legislation. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting behind a car and seeing folk just dump rubbish out of a window on to the side of the carriageway. Operatives have to work at the side of roads and motorways in potentially dangerous conditions, just because people cannot take the time to put their rubbish into a bin. I have already decided to consider whether that matter should be addressed in the bill or in another piece of legislation.

John Mason

Thank you.

The Convener

That brings us to the end of our questions on the Transport (Scotland) Bill. I thank the cabinet secretary and the witnesses that he has brought along for the evidence that they have given. We look forward to seeing you again on 5 December to discuss a wider range of issues than the Transport (Scotland) Bill.

I suspend the meeting for five minutes.

12:00 Meeting suspended.  12:04 On resuming—  
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Seventh meeting transcript

The Convener

Agenda item 5 is consideration of recent developments in relation to the Transport (Scotland) Bill. Committee members received an amendment to the agenda yesterday afternoon to allow this matter to be discussed.

Last Thursday, I met the Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans at his request, and he proposed that stage 2 of the Transport (Scotland) Bill, which was originally pencilled in for late March or April, be delayed. At this stage, we do not know how long the delay will be, but it is partly because of resource capacity within the Scottish Government and partly because of the announcement that was made the same afternoon that the Scottish Government would be lodging an amendment to the bill at stage 2 to introduce a workplace parking levy.

At this stage, it is probably appropriate to bring in John Finnie.

John Finnie

I just want to confirm that I have contacted the convener and the clerk to advise that, in fact, I will be the member lodging the amendment on the workplace parking levy and that the Scottish Government has indicated its support for it. I felt that it would be a courtesy to say that in advance.

Moreover, the adjusted timeframe, which I assume has nothing to do with this, might afford the committee the opportunity to take some evidence on the proposed amendment. Certainly, I am keen to make available the wording of the amendment to facilitate that and to ensure that we can have some discussion about it. That might be helpful.

The Convener

Thank you for that.

I have a couple of questions. I think that we can class this as an evolving situation, with different bits of information coming in at different levels, and the discussion that I think the committee should have is about the process and how we will manage things rather than the merits of the proposal itself. Mr Finnie, will you be consulting on the proposal before you lodge the amendment?

John Finnie

It is not my intention to consult formally; there has been engagement with local authorities and others, but not in a formal capacity. I thought that bringing the amendment to the committee would afford members the opportunity to carry out that level of scrutiny.

The Convener

On that basis, I believe that if the committee consults on this matter—and it will be for the committee to decide whether that is appropriate—members will welcome sight of any proposed amendment at the first possible opportunity to ensure that, if we carry out any consultation, we do so with that in mind.

John Finnie

I am happy to make the proposed amendment available, perhaps with some background papers.

The Convener

Other committee members have indicated that they would like to say something—I see a few of them lining up. I will take Mike Rumbles first.

Mike Rumbles

I thank John Finnie for answering some of the questions that I was going to ask. It was my understanding that a Green member, not the Scottish Government, would be lodging the amendment, and it is good to have that confirmed formally.

I know that John Finnie has said that he will make the proposed amendment available as soon as he can, but it would be helpful to know the probable date when we might get sight of it. It is essential that we consult on it, hear people’s views as we would during the normal stage 1 process and then take evidence. That is the process that we need to follow.

John Finnie

As members will be aware, the workplace parking levy proposal became part of the negotiations on the draft budget, but the fact is that I would have lodged such an amendment anyway, completely independent of that. Normally, I would have done so knowing some people’s views but without necessarily initiating any formal consultation. As I have said, I would have lodged such an amendment, in the way that any member can lodge a stage 2 amendment, but the amendment has developed a status that it would not ordinarily have had.

Colin Smyth

It is fair to say that the proposed change to the bill is a material one. The committee went through a detailed consultation at stage 1 that allowed many organisations to comment on the bill, and it would be unfair not to follow exactly the same process for such a proposed major change, so it will be important to follow that process. Unfortunately, the timescale for stage 2 is unclear; the convener has said that the Government does not know what it will be yet. Will we have sufficient time to carry out the process that it is only fair for us to follow?

The Convener

I will store up the questions, distil them and answer them at the end.

Richard Lyle

Everyone knows my view on a workplace parking levy.

Colin Smyth

I do not.

Richard Lyle

Well, when a witness raised the issue previously, I said that I was against it.

It is interesting that the Greens are bringing forward this proposal. Given that he will be introducing the proposal, I would like Mr Finnie to answer one question, if possible: will the levy be charged on companies or on employees?

The Convener

I am sorry, but I said at the beginning of the item that I do not want to get into the policy discussion, and I would like to stick to that approach without upsetting every committee member. I would like the committee to discuss how it would like to handle the proposal, the consultation and the evidence.

Richard Lyle

Mr Finnie can tell me the answer to my question afterwards.

The Convener

With a smile on my face, I ask Richard Lyle to park his question. I would appreciate it if he asked it later.

John Mason

I largely agree with Colin Smyth. On the whole, we have a good legislative process, but one weakness can be that, if a major amendment appears at stage 2 or 3, it might not be consulted on as thoroughly as the issues that were raised at stage 1 were. I agree with Colin Smyth that the proposal deserves proper consultation.

I am a bit unsure but relaxed about whether we delay completing our stage 1 report to take evidence on the levy—and then include that evidence in the report—or whether we let the report go ahead and do the consultation between stages 1 and 2. I do not have strong views on either side, but I think that we should carry out proper consultation.

Maureen Watt

I will follow what John Mason said. We have two options. The proposal will form a substantial part 7 of the bill. Because we have already taken evidence, we would normally complete our stage 1 report now, have the stage 1 debate and consult before stage 2. I think that we have heard from the Government that the intention to delay stage 2 came before the budget stuff happened and is related to Brexit. Given the delay, we have a window in which to decide whether to consult before completing the stage 1 report. I am not sure that I have decided one way or the other, although I probably support consulting at stage 2, but the committee should decide on that and we should hear every member’s view.

Colin Smyth

That is a good point. My view is that we should complete the current stage 1 report and make it clear that we will consult further. All the evidence that we have been given for the stage 1 report is based on the bill as it stands. The organisations might have different views, but they have not yet had the opportunity to consider the proposed workplace parking levy, so it would be unfair to cite their evidence on that.

In effect, we might almost need two stage 1 reports—in which case, perhaps we should not use that particular term. Our current stage 1 report should be based on the evidence that we have received on the bill before us. It is important that we follow a similar thorough process for the material change that is proposed.

Maureen Watt

The proposal will not affect other parts of the bill—it will stand alone.

12:00  
Stewart Stevenson

With regard to process, I very much welcome the fact that we have a window to look at the issue before we consider the stage 2 amendments. I suspect that the parliamentary process would allow us to open up the issue and put it in the bill, but that might disadvantage people who participated at stage 1.

We should complete the report and contemplate publishing it, and we should then have a separate report on the narrow point that we are discussing and consult on it. The point is narrow in the sense that we do not need to go back to all the witnesses who have already participated and ask for their views.

The Convener

Does John Finnie or Jamie Greene want to say something? I will then try to sum up where I think we are going on the issue.

Jamie Greene

I will not comment on the merits of the amendment or the related policy. That debate is not for this arena; it is for another day, and I am happy to park it.

My comments are more about the process that we should follow. These are just my views, but if we are talking about a substantive addition to the bill—by which I mean, say, a new section or a new concept on which evidence has not previously been taken—the committee should not entertain the prospect of including it in the bill. In fact, I would ask whether the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee was actually the place to consider that policy or legislative proposal; instead, one might argue that the Government should introduce a stand-alone piece of legislation that would be assigned to the appropriate committee to which the subject matter is relevant. However, if the committee agrees—[Interruption.]

The Convener

The clerk is whispering in my ear.

Jamie Greene

I appreciate that that would be very off-putting.

The Convener

I am absolutely listening to you. In my previous occupation, I was used to having a radio in one ear and another radio in the other ear, but I find it difficult when people shout over each other. I am listening to exactly what you are saying—crack on.

Jamie Greene

I am enthused by your hearing abilities, convener.

If the committee agrees that it is willing to accept the additional subject matter—I will call it an amendment—in the bill, I will just note that we are at the end of the stage 1 process, and it is my understanding that the stage 1 report has to be debated by members in the chamber and then voted on so that the bill can proceed. I do not see how the Parliament can proceed with the bill as drafted in the knowledge that a substantive piece of it on which we have taken no formal evidence will be added at stage 2. It is imperative that stakeholders be given the opportunity to go through the due process with the committee that every other bit of the bill has gone through if the bill is to proceed.

As a matter of principle, I do not support adding this additional subject matter to the bill. If it is to be added, I request that we extend the stage 1 process to allow it to be included in our report.

The Convener

Is John Finnie happy to listen to what people are saying and then come back in?

John Finnie

Yes, convener.

Peter Chapman

I have a lot of sympathy with what Jamie Greene has just said. I wonder whether the proposed amendment would fit into this bill—indeed, I have serious doubts whether it would. That is what we need to decide on first.

If we decide that it fits and becomes part of the bill, it is absolutely imperative that we take plenty of evidence on it, as we have done for all the other parts of the bill. We will need time to take that substantial evidence, because we will need to take on board a huge amount of additional information. I do not know how that should be done, but I have to wonder whether the issue should be in the bill at all.

Mike Rumbles

What we are dealing with is completely different from our normal process and the normal way in which we deal with things. At stage 2, people often say that evidence has not been taken on a particular amendment; in fact, I have said it myself, and I would disagree to such an amendment on that ground alone. However, this is not a normal process.

For the first time—I think that it is the first time—we have a situation in which there is a political agreement between the Scottish Government and another party in the Parliament, whereby Scottish National Party members will support the amendment that the Greens lodge on the issue. As far as I am aware, that is what the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work told the chamber. Therefore, it will not be a normal amendment that we will be considering, because when it is lodged, the majority of members of the committee will already be committed to voting for it, as the finance secretary made such a commitment in the chamber. That is despite the fact that we do not know what the amendment will look like, we have not taken any evidence on the issue and we do not know what the conclusion will be. As I have said, this is not a normal process.

Normally I would say that we should complete our stage 1 report, have the stage 1 debate and then move on to stage 2, but this is not a normal process. The committee could find itself in a rather strange situation if it were to complete its stage 1 report and hold a debate on the bill’s general principles, with everybody knowing that there was a major issue that could not be debated. All my experience since 1999 leads me to suggest that we are in an unusual, if not unique, situation that we must deal with in a special way.

The Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans has made it clear that he is happy for Parliament to delay the stage 1 debate, and John Finnie has said that he is happy to provide us with his amendment as soon as it is written down so that we can consider it. I think that we should delay the publication of the stage 1 report to allow us to consult and take evidence on the proposal. That way, we will be able to have a proper stage 1 debate on the bill.

Stewart Stevenson

Are you saying that the issue that the amendment will deal with should be covered in the report that we are doing at the moment or in a separate report? I am not bothered either way.

Mike Rumbles

I think that it would look odd if we produced our stage 1 report in the knowledge that there was a major element of the bill that we could not refer to.

Stewart Stevenson

That is fine. My question was a narrow one.

Mike Rumbles

I am proposing that we postpone the report so that we can do it properly.

Richard Lyle

I remind members—I will check the Official Report to make sure—that, during our consideration of the road works part of the bill, we heard from a chap who raised the issue of a workplace parking levy. That was when I made my comment. I do not see what the problem is with those who are saying that such a provision should not be included in the bill. I look forward to the Greens producing their proposal, and I expect that I will vote for Mr Finnie’s amendment. I am not prejudging the issue, but it was raised by a witness during our consideration of the road works part of the bill. The convener asked the panellists whether they had anything else to say, and one of them mentioned the workplace parking levy.

Jamie Greene

I want to respond to Mike Rumbles’s point about the usual due process when committees consider a bill. He said that the process that we are discussing is not the standard one. I think that the committee ought to be prepared to say to the Government that we will not accept an unusual process but will continue to follow the usual due process, because that is how committees operate when it comes to legislation. Because the Government of the day has requested that a member of a different party introduce a policy by amending an existing bill, it is, by default, veering away from the due process that we should be following.

I am not arguing for or against the proposition—that is an argument for a different day. There will be many views on it, and we will have ample opportunity to express them. My premise is that we should ensure that the committee does what it is supposed to do in the way that it is supposed to do it. Therefore, I do not think that we should veer away from the normal process, and we should not accept the workplace parking levy proposal as an addition to the bill.

The Convener

After John Finnie responds, I will summarise where I think we are and try to find a route forward.

John Finnie

I thank colleagues for their comments. Indeed, it was the reason why I contacted the convener and the clerk.

I know that we are not discussing the merits of the amendment, but I just want to say a few things about it. I have had a written amendment on this matter for a considerable time now, and it has featured in discussions with another party. I will lodge this amendment, and the committee can safely assume that I will lodge others. However, I am not going to flag them up. I am flagging this amendment up only as a courtesy, given the profile that the issue has received. I do not want to circumvent any procedures, because I think that they are absolutely important. I will be lodging other amendments at stage 2, and, as with the amendment that we are discussing, they will stand or fall on their own merits.

With any amendment lodged at stage 2 to any piece of legislation that did not in some way fit with the work that the committee had already done, people could say that we had not taken enough evidence. We cannot always scrutinise to the level of detail that we might want, but I expect the committee to scrutinise the amendment, and I have tried to be helpful by flagging it up in advance.

I am grateful that there has been an opportunity to discuss this on the agenda. I will assist the convener and the clerks in helping the committee to look at the amendment.

The Convener

I do not want to cut anyone off, but I think that everyone has had the chance to say something on this matter.

First, I just point out that this is a Government bill, and, as such, any member can lodge amendments to it at stage 2. However, we should also bear in mind the importance of standing orders and the procedures of the Parliament, and I must ensure that we as a committee comply with them. I would also sound a note of caution by pointing out that it is clear that everyone wants to hear evidence from people on this amendment and we should have the ability to do so.

I have logged the point that the committee wants to take evidence and consider the amendment, but the fact is that, in theory, John Finnie could have lodged the amendment at stage 2 without telling us if its existence had not come out. Personally, as committee convener and a committee member, I think that introducing such a proposal at stage 2, without the committee having looked at it at stage 1, is wrong. With any amendment that I lodged at stage 2, I would like the issue at least to have had some air time at stage 1.

I therefore propose that we continue to work on the stage 1 report, which is based on the bill that is in front of us. We will not be in a position to publish that until after the recess, in any case, so we have some time. I will then clarify the Parliament’s procedures; speak to the Government minister Graeme Dey about business matters and find out more about deadlines and timings; and then speak to John Finnie about the amendment and try to get its wording. I will then come back to the committee with appropriate proposals, based on today’s discussions, for hearing evidence on the amendment, which we have not yet seen.

At that point, we can decide how we take the stage 1 report forward and whether we publish it now or hold off. My feeling is that it would be wrong to make that decision now or to prejudge the issue in any way; the committee needs to take evidence on the amendment, hear that evidence clearly and, on the basis of that evidence, make up its mind whether the proposal is good, just as we do with all amendments and Government bills.

That is how I propose to deal with the matter. Have I missed anything fundamental? Am I wrong?

Mike Rumbles

I did not hear you say the word “consultation”, convener. I think that the committee needs to carry out a short consultation before it invites people to give evidence.

12:15  
The Convener

Let me look at the procedure and find out exactly what is being done, but my understanding is that a lot of people out there might want to comment on the matter. We need to make sure that, when the Government works out the timescale for the bill, the committee is given time to do its job properly. The committee has always made it clear to me as convener that we will be driven not by the Government, but by the way in which we look at legislation. I am mindful at all times of the need to do that properly and not to be constrained by Government timescales.

Jamie Greene

I do not disagree with anything that you have said, convener, but I am still unclear whether this additional subject matter should or will be included in the stage 1 report, or whether it will be dealt with as a stage 2 amendment. If it is the latter and if we know as much in advance of our completing and publishing the stage 1 report, we are fundamentally missing the point. If we know that the subject is coming up—and if we know about it because it has been well rehearsed publicly—it should form part of our stage 1 consideration and allowed to go through due process as it deserves. For that reason, I do not consent to the overall approach that you have proposed, convener.

The Convener

Let us consider the matter after recess, when I will have more information. As for the stage 1 report, all the committee can do is consider what is in the bill—that is as far as we can go. We can caveat it, but I will look to the clerks for advice on that. I do not want to make a decision until the committee has discussed how we want to handle that.

Mike Rumbles

We could say in our report that we were aware of what was coming down the track because it was put into the public domain by the finance minister in Parliament.

The Convener

Indeed we could, but until we have more information and know more about what is happening, the timescales and so on, it would be wrong to make a decision on any particular item.

With that in mind, I ask the committee to support my proposal so that I can report back to members after recess. Does the committee agree?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener

Thank you very much. We now move into private session.

12:16 Meeting continued in private until 12:27.  
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12 September 2018

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19 September 2018

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3 October 2018

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24 October 2018

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7 November 2018

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21 November 2018

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6 February 2019

Committee Findings

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee's Stage 1 report

What is secondary legislation?

Secondary legislation is sometimes called 'subordinate' or 'delegated' legislation. It can be used to:

  • bring a section or sections of a law that’s already been passed, into force
  • give details of how a law will be applied
  • make changes to the law without a new Act having to be passed

An Act is a Bill that’s been approved by Parliament and given Royal Assent (formally approved).

Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee

This committee looks at the powers of this Bill to allow the Scottish Government or others to create 'secondary legislation' or regulations.

It met to discuss the Bill in public on:

23 October 2018:

Read the Stage 1 report by the Delegated Powers and Law Reform committee published on 6 November 2018.

Finance and Constitution Committee

The committee may consider:
  • the costs of the Bill
  • whether there has been enough information provided about the costs

The committee questioned the Scottish Government team that looks at the costs of the Bill on 14 November 2018:


Debate on the Bill

A debate for MSPs to discuss what the Social Security (Scotland) Bill aims to do and how it'll do it.

 

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Stage 1 debate transcript

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-16747, in the name of Michael Matheson, on stage 1 of the Transport (Scotland) Bill.

14:54  
The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity (Michael Matheson)

I welcome the opportunity to consider the stage 1 report on the Transport (Scotland) Bill, which is an ambitious and broad piece of legislation covering a wide range of issues. The bill aims to help develop a cleaner, smarter and more accessible system for the travelling public across Scotland, and it will empower local transport authorities and others to improve journeys for the travelling public.

Members who have monitored the bill’s progress will know that it is wide ranging and aspirational but also technical and complex in some areas. Such a mix can make scrutiny challenging. I commend the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee for the diligent way that it has undertaken stage 1 consideration. The extensive range of voices and viewpoints from across civic Scotland that the committee has heard from is testament to its accommodating and meticulous approach to the matter.

I welcome the lead committee’s support for the general principles of the bill and its recommendation to Parliament that it should agree to those general principles. I look forward to saying more in the course of the debate about the Government’s thinking on some of the matters that are raised in the report.

The bill’s provisions range from measures to improve bus patronage, including smart ticketing, to improving air quality in our cities, increasing the safety and efficiency of road works and addressing parking issues. It also makes some necessary technical improvements to specific areas. For example, it will ensure more appropriate financial flexibility and governance arrangements for some public bodies. In developing the bill, a collaborative approach has been taken to ensure that its measures are informed by those that they will affect. We fully intend that that engagement will continue as we develop the associated regulations.

More widely, it is crucial that we see the bigger picture and how the bill fits into it. The legislation is part of a broader transport jigsaw and must be viewed in that wider context. Although matters such as low-emission zones, an improved framework for our bus services and prohibitions on irresponsible parking will benefit many, they should not be seen in isolation. In addition to the bill, a host of other non-legislative work is going on across my portfolio to drive improvement, not least of which is our review of the national transport strategy. That wide-ranging review has involved extensive public engagement across Scotland. It is forward looking and will provide the high-level strategic and policy framework within which the measures in the bill will play out. I expect to issue a draft of the new strategy for consultation later this year.

We anticipate that the strategy will set the context for any future consideration of legislation, beyond the current measures proposed in the bill. The need for such a wider strategic perspective is something that the lead committee has raised in relation to low-emission zones. We have always been clear that LEZs have the potential to interact with a host of other transport issues, be that congestion, active travel, the improved feel of community space or the uptake of ultra-low-emission vehicles. It is in that vein that local authorities should be looking to implement such zones. The Scottish Government is aiding local authorities in that, not least by setting the strategic context that I just mentioned. Future LEZ guidance will also help to set the measures in that context, and we are taking other practical action to make our transport system cleaner, greener and healthier and to improve air quality.

I am therefore pleased that we seem to have wide political support for the principles of LEZs. Helpfully, there has been some fruitful discussion during stage 1 about the specifics that will be set out in subsequent regulations. That has covered issues such as penalty levels, the national emission standard and exemptions. Such feedback builds on the extensive engagement that the Government is having on those issues, which is running in tandem with the bill’s progression.

There have also been questions as to whether specifics on such issues should be set out in the bill. It is worth remembering that LEZs are a new provision in Scotland. The flexibility afforded by secondary legislation is therefore necessary, as it allows proper engagement on development of the detail and an ability to respond to technological changes. I will reflect carefully on the comments of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, as the lead committee, and those of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, to ensure that there is appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of those measures.

I turn to the bus provisions in the bill. When it comes to improving air quality, buses are part of the solution, and measures to incentivise bus services should be an intrinsic part of the wider proposals around modal shift in LEZ areas and beyond. The bill offers an ambitious new model for bus provision. The trend of declining bus patronage threatens networks across the country and we must work together to address that. However, the trend varies across Scotland, as do the causes, and I am clear that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. The bill gives local authorities options to improve bus services in their areas, which will ensure that there are sustainable bus networks across Scotland. The bill will support local authorities to meet local needs, whether they wish to pursue partnership working or local franchising or, in certain circumstances, run their own buses.

On that last issue, I am aware that there have been calls for us to widen our proposal for local authorities to run commercially competitive services. As I have previously stated, I will continue to listen to views on that as we move towards stage 2. The bill will also improve the information on bus services that is available to passengers, which will help them to plan their journeys. That will make bus travel more accessible and attractive, and we know that people want it.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I am pleased that the cabinet secretary is willing to look at the issue of local authorities running commercially profitable routes, but will he outline what he thinks the objections are?

Michael Matheson

The member will be aware that there are concerns in the bus industry about the impact that that could have on existing bus operators, as well as about the commercial viability of some routes. However, as I said, I am open to considering further measures that could help to improve bus services at a local level, including the issue that the member has raised, which was also highlighted by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

As well as clear information about bus services, passengers expect a simple ticketing offer. The bill will help to accelerate the implementation of smart ticketing and will support local authorities and operators to go further and faster to deliver multimodal smart ticketing arrangements, underpinned by consistent national standards. The Government is clear that partnership working between authorities and operators to address local ticketing needs is the most effective approach in a deregulated bus market. I am aware that there was support for that approach among various witnesses who appeared before the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee during its stage 1 deliberations.

I turn to the parking provisions in the bill. I am sure that we all want to ensure that our pavements and roads are accessible for all, particularly those with mobility considerations. It is therefore welcome that there appears to be cross-party support for the principle of pavement and double parking prohibitions in the bill. There was some debate at stage 1 about specifics, such as the process for exempting streets, and exemption criteria for delivery vehicles. The Government has sought to strike a sensible balance on such details. We are still listening to people’s views, and I am sure that we will hear more views this afternoon.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

There are quite a lot of streets in our cities where there is not enough room for everything that we would like to do. Does the cabinet secretary accept that, if the pavements are fairly wide and the roads are fairly narrow, it makes sense for cars to park with two wheels on the pavement?

Michael Matheson

I recognise that. Some city streets are too narrow for vehicles to park on both sides of the road and, at the same time, for vehicles to pass through. It is in recognition of that problem that the bill’s provisions would allow local authorities to exempt particular areas from the prohibition.

Sandra White (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

If, as the bill states, exemptions to parking prohibitions are to be made by local authorities, will they consult their local communities to come to an agreement that is best for all?

Michael Matheson

There is a provision for local authorities to undertake that process, which would include consulting local communities and other important partners such as emergency services, which have a clear interest in those matters, to ensure that they can express their views on that type of exemption process.

I am also grateful for the lead committee’s reflections that our provisions on road works

“will provide a positive framework and improve ... quality, safety and performance”,

and for its endorsement of our proposals to give regional transport partnerships more flexibility.

On the issue of canals, in our response to the committee’s report, the Scottish Government has set out the wider measures that we are taking forward to improve such waterways, in addition to the provisions that are contained in the bill.

Workplace parking levies are not currently in the bill, but they have attracted significant interest in recent weeks. The Government has given a commitment to support an agreed Green Party amendment at stage 2 to create a discretionary power for local authorities to introduce those levies should they wish to do so. Our support for that amendment is contingent on the exclusion of hospitals and national health service premises. It will be a local levy and it will be a matter for local authorities to decide whether they wish to consider introducing it in their areas in future. There will be no pressure from the Scottish Government to do so.

The Scottish Government recognises that the lead committee will wish to give itself adequate time at stage 2 to scrutinise such an amendment, including by taking evidence from stakeholders. We will support the committee in whichever way we can to accommodate that requirement.

I have cantered through a range of topics, which highlights the multitude of areas that the bill touches on. I look forward to hearing the views of members from across the chamber.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees to the general principles of the Transport (Scotland) Bill.

The Presiding Officer

I call Edward Mountain to open on behalf of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

15:07  
Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I am pleased to contribute to the debate in my capacity as the convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.

The committee’s stage 1 report on the Transport (Scotland) Bill was published on 7 March. I thank the cabinet secretary for his letter of 1 April, in which he provided the Scottish Government’s response to those recommendations.

In the limited time available, I will be able to cover only a brief selection of the issues that the committee raised in its report. It is unfortunate that we have less time available to debate the wide range of detailed and complex transport issues that the bill covers than we had last week to discuss the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill—a single-issue bill on which there was broad support across the Parliament.

The committee is aware that the Scottish Government has announced—it has reaffirmed this today—that it will support at stage 2 a Scottish Green Party amendment on the granting of powers to local authorities to introduce a workplace parking levy. The committee has agreed a timetable for stage 2 consideration that will allow us to take oral evidence on the full details of the amendment once it has been lodged. However, for the purposes of this debate, it is right that we park that issue—if members will excuse the pun—and discuss the many issues that appear in the bill as it is drafted.

Moving on to the committee’s consideration of the bill, I thank all those who gave up their time to give evidence at committee meetings and to attend conference calls. I thank those who attended an evening committee event in the Parliament and those who sent the many written submissions to the committee. I also thank the clerks, who supported the committee with professionalism at a time of a very heavy workload and a shortage of team members.

I will look specifically at the proposals in the bill, starting with low-emission zones. The committee is of the view that the effective introduction of low-emission zones will require steps to be taken in advance to provide improvements in public transport and to put in place measures such as park-and-ride facilities and improved active travel opportunities. In its response, the Scottish Government indicated that it agrees with the committee on that point and that such issues will be addressed in the LEZ guidance. We believe that that is welcome. The introduction of LEZs must be part of a co-ordinated package of measures if the behavioural change that is required is to be achieved.

I welcome the cabinet secretary’s agreement with the committee’s recommendation that national consistent emission standards and exemptions should be set out in the regulations. I note that the emission standards are likely to be Euro 6 for diesel and Euro 4 for petrol. I also note that the Scottish Government agrees with the committee that nationally consistent signage should be used for all LEZs.

Finally on LEZs, the committee acknowledges in its report the financial burden that might be faced by businesses and individual motorists should they need to upgrade or replace vehicles to meet the necessary emission standards. It noted that that would be likely to present a particular challenge to those on lower incomes.

I note that the Scottish Government will create a low-emission zone support fund that will target commercial and private vehicle owners who will have the most difficulty in making the transition to LEZ-compliant vehicles. That is welcome and, in my view, it is necessary if we are to incentivise road users to comply with LEZs.

In its report, the committee acknowledged the widespread concern about the decline in bus use across Scotland. However, the committee notes the concerns that were expressed by several stakeholders in evidence that the bus service provisions in the bill are unlikely to make a marked difference in stopping the decline in bus use. The committee is concerned that, although many of those provisions are broadly considered to be positive steps, the reality may be that few of them will be taken up in practice due to the lack of financial resources to facilitate their set-up and operation.

The Scottish Government clearly disagrees with that view. Although I understand that it wants to remain positive about the proposals in the bill, the broad message that the committee received from local authorities and others was that the proposals are underwhelming and are unlikely to deliver any significant improvement. I am sure that other committee members will comment further on the bus service provisions.

On smart ticketing, the committee is concerned that the provisions to introduce a national smart ticketing standard lack ambition and that an opportunity has been missed to deliver a meaningful step change in integrated public transport. On the basis of the evidence that it heard, the committee is of the view that that can be achieved only through the introduction of a single ticketing scheme operating across all modes of transport.

The Scottish Government responded robustly on that issue, effectively ruling out such a scheme on the ground of cost, with an assertion that it would require a restructuring of the bus market. However, it was made clear to the committee that progress in that area among transport operators has been painfully slow. It remains to be seen whether, if the bill is passed, the proposals within it will result in any tangible progress being made.

Although the committee welcomes the proposals to prohibit pavement parking and double parking, it expressed concerns about the appropriateness of the exemption, which will allow 20 minutes for loading and unloading deliveries. It therefore called on the Scottish Government to lodge an amendment at stage 2 to remove the exemption and for a more appropriate and workable mechanism to be developed and included in guidance. The Government said that it considers that removing the exemption would enable loading and unloading for an unspecified and unlimited length of time. Technically, that might be the case, but that does not respond to the committee’s concerns that the exemption proposals, as drafted, would present innumerable practical and enforcement difficulties. I urge the cabinet secretary to rethink his position on that matter before stage 2.

During its stage 1 scrutiny, the committee discussed the issue of parking across dropped kerbs at pedestrian and other recognised crossing places. The committee felt that that is a

“significant ... barrier to the accessibility of urban streets”.

The committee has therefore called on

“the Scottish Government to bring forward an amendment at Stage 2 to prohibit”

that practice. It is encouraging that the Scottish Government is currently considering the most appropriate legislative route for addressing the issue. Nevertheless, I urge it to accelerate its considerations and to lodge a suitable amendment to complete what would be a welcome package of parking prohibitions

“which would more comprehensively enhance accessibility in urban areas.”

In the time available, I have been able only to skim the surface of the many issues that are covered in the committee’s stage 1 report. I hope that my fellow committee members will take the opportunity to discuss further elements of the report when they make their contributions.

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee recommends that the general principles of the Transport (Scotland) Bill be agreed to. However, we look forward to stage 2 consideration of the many proposals that we have made for its improvement.

15:16  
Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

It is a pleasure to open the stage 1 debate on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives. I add my thanks to the clerks and my fellow committee members, many of whom are in the chamber today. I also thank the many stakeholders whom I have met over the past few months, who have shared their views and opinions on the bill, including the transport secretary and his team, who have been very helpful in those discussions.

Since the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005 was passed, more people own and operate cars, we have seen a decrease in the patronage of our buses and the emergence of the gig economy has changed our driving habits and our economy. Equally, since 2005, there has been a renewed focus on our domestic and international obligations to tackle climate change.

At the outset, I say that the Scottish Conservatives will support the bill at stage 1. We agree with the general principles of what the bill is trying to achieve, although in many ways we do not think that the bill goes far enough to tackle many of the overarching issues that are faced by Scotland’s transport networks.

If someone is watching the debate and hoping to hear us discuss a groundbreaking, flagship piece of legislation that the Government has introduced, which will transform how Scotland is connected, or how the bill will radically address shortcomings in rail, road, bus, marine or aviation travel, or how the Parliament intends to revolutionise how we transport goods, people, or produce, they are welcome to stay tuned, but they may wish to change channels.

Overall, as it is currently drafted, the bill tinkers with existing legislation and proposes fairly benign new powers. It is all very necessary perhaps, but it does not exactly push the limits of policy imagination. It contains little on long-term plans to improve community travel and transport, particularly among our elderly populations and rural communities, little that develops sustainable non-concessionary travel frameworks, or anything that proposes to deliver dramatic improvements to our railways or ferries, or a radical overhaul of the state of Scotland’s roads.

That being said, and in order to be constructive, let me set out my thoughts on the bill. Part 1 of the bill deals with low-emission zones. We think that poor air quality remains an issue in our cities—it lowers life expectancy and it puts huge pressures on our health service. In those respects, we agree that there is a need for LEZs. However, significant issues have been raised about the current proposal. The committee took evidence on the issue and a number of the stakeholders with whom I have had private consultations are rightfully concerned, not least those who will be least likely to be able to afford to upgrade to new Euro 6 standard-compliant diesel cars, and not least those small businesses that need vans, which are often purchased rather than leased, to go about their business. Those who live outside the cities, in rural Scotland, who often drive diesel or agricultural vehicles and sweat their assets for longer than people who live in the cities, are also concerned. What about people who find themselves living in a zone, who will be penalised simply for going about their everyday business, taking the kids to school or commuting to work?

If public transport was universally perfect, there would be no need for a car. In an ideal world there would be no need for low-emission zones, but we live in the real world. Businesses are concerned, and we ought to listen to them. Industries, such as the bus and taxi industries, have raised concerns about the costs of operating within the zones and of purchasing compliant vehicles. An electric-powered taxi costs £60,000. The committee’s stage 1 report makes explicit reference to that. It says:

“LEZs should not be introduced unless appropriate steps are taken in advance to provide improvements in public transport provision and to put in place measures such as park and ride facilities and improved active travel opportunities”.

I agree, but that is not what it says in the bill.

Conservative members want to see some clarity about national standards. Let us leave the geography and operating hours at the local level, but let us avoid the confusion for business of having multiple distinct schemes, with conflicting standards. We would like to see a clear timetable for the introduction of the schemes, with phased implementation, to allow everybody the time to plan and transition to the new world. We would like to see appropriate incentives to encourage the take-up of ULEVs and LEZ-compliant vehicles.

Let us have a proper look at exemptions. Is it wise for disabled people, blue badge holders or other vulnerable travellers to have to pay to make vital journeys into cities for health appointments or to tackle social isolation? There must be support for residents within the LEZs, and public transport opportunities within the zones should be enhanced. We may seek to lodge amendments to that effect.

As the bill has progressed, other topics have not gained as much media attention as LEZs and parking, but they are nonetheless important. Local bus franchising is one example. There is a role for local franchising models, but that decision should not be made by anyone other than the local authority—the local authority must be fully transparent and open with local taxpayers about how their money is spent. However, I share concerns that the provision will allow them to operate only where there is an unmet need. That is severely limiting. I was pleased to hear the cabinet secretary address that in his opening remarks.

In reality, how many local authorities have the money to set up depots, lease buses, hire drivers and pay into pension pots? Even if they have the money to do that, what will happen when a commercial operator comes along and says that they, too, want to operate on that route? There are many unanswered questions about the bill in that respect, and the main question is whether the bill goes far enough on local franchising.

There are some good initiatives on smart ticketing, such as the standardisation of technical standards. That is wise, but it falls dramatically short of introducing a fully interconnected ticketing network, the likes of which many countries benefit from. That is what we need, and the Government has missed a trick.

There is not much to disagree with on the issue of road works. We heed the committee’s warnings that local authority finance and resource remain a significant barrier to ensuring compliance.

One contentious issue that has arisen is pavement and double parking. We know that pavement parking is an issue in Scotland. It affects people who use our pavements; people with disabilities, people with pushchairs and people in wheelchairs or who are visually impaired can struggle to get past cars that are parked inappropriately. Equally, pavement parking is a widespread practice, which, as John Mason suggested, is a necessity on many roads. We have not talked enough about displacement: if the cars are moved off the pavement and on to the roads, where do they go?

I hear that there will be powers for local authorities to exempt roads, but how many of them have done the necessary mapping exercise, and how much time and resource do they have to do that? I do not think that the bill’s top-down approach is right.

John Mason

Will the member give way?

Jamie Greene

I am sorry, but I have very limited time.

The best approach would be to empower local authorities to ban the practice of pavement parking where it needs to be stopped. It is all about empowering local authorities, which know their streets and communities best. The top-down approach is not the right one.

It is a shame that we do not have more time to debate the bill. In the closing seconds of my speech, I need to talk about the workforce parking levy—it would be remiss of me not to do so. I campaigned vociferously for the levy to be brought into the bill at stage 1, so that evidence could be taken and added to the stage 1 report. The Conservatives’ view is very simple: it is an ill-thought-through, regressive tax on Scotland’s workforce and we will oppose it at every stage of proceedings.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Will Jamie Greene take an intervention on that point?

Jamie Greene

I will not.

There is a lot to be positive about in the bill. We will take a constructive approach to amendments. However, there are several elements of the bill that need improvement. The stage 1 report was robust and in depth. I look forward to progressing the bill through Parliament and to taking part in constructive debates on it. I will listen to today’s speeches with great interest.

15:24  
Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

I ask members to imagine a transport system in which our transport agencies have the powers properly to regulate public transport in their areas and to deliver a genuinely integrated system; in which local communities can establish municipal bus companies without restrictions, putting passengers and not profit first, and reinvesting surpluses in better bus services and not shareholders’ dividends; and in which a person can board a bus and use their bank card to buy a ticket for that bus journey and the connecting train journey, through a system that calculates the cheapest fare, however many times they make the journey that week.

Members can imagine all those things, but the bill will not deliver any of them. The bill’s timidness is matched only by the timidness of the Scottish Government’s response to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s stage 1 report. The cabinet secretary made clear in his opening speech that the response represented just the start of the Government’s thinking on changes to the bill, rather than its final word. I welcome that. Our stage 1 report captured a range of views from many stakeholders, which deserve to be properly considered as the bill progresses through the parliamentary process.

There are aspects of the bill that I welcome. I am glad that the Scottish Government has set out a legislative framework for low-emission zones, proposed a ban on pavement and double parking and proposed an increase in the powers of the Scottish road works commissioner. I am glad that, after opposing not one but two Labour members’ bills on the subject, the Government plans to introduce some element of regulation to our bus network.

However, on too many counts, the bill lacks ambition. The mandatory minimum grace period for LEZs—and the length of the maximum period—and the lack of a clear definition of LEZ could slow down the change that is needed if we are to tackle air pollution. The loopholes in the ban on pavement parking, such as allowing 20 minutes for delivery and loading, risk undermining the aims entirely.

On buses, the bill tinkers around the edges of a failed deregulated system while our bus network is being dismantled, route by route, across Scotland. Since the Scottish National Party came to power, the number of bus journeys made in Scotland has fallen by 20 per cent and bus fares have risen by 17 per cent in real terms. There are many reasons for that decline, such as changing work patterns and growing congestion, but decisions that this Government has made have contributed.

The bus service operators grant has been reduced by 28 per cent under the SNP.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

The member describes falling patronage and so on. Can he give us the equivalent numbers for bus patronage and Government support in Wales, where Labour is in power?

Colin Smyth

I can tell Mr Stevenson that there has been an 8 per cent fall in Scotland in the past few years, whereas the rate was 5 per cent in the rest of the United Kingdom. The important point is that the bill will do nothing whatever to reverse that decline. Mr Stevenson agrees with that point, because it is in the REC Committee report to which he agreed.

Another factor that has contributed to the fall in bus use has been the cuts to council budgets in recent years, which are leading to yet more reductions in support for bus services in Scotland. The bill will do nothing to reverse the decline in bus passenger numbers, and it will do nothing to drive up standards in the sector or strengthen passengers’ rights and workers’ terms and conditions.

The bill will not improve affordability or tackle transport poverty. It will not properly promote community transport. Crucially, it will not lift the ban that Margaret Thatcher introduced, which prevents local authorities from competing to run bus services. The limited measures on franchising and partnership are welcome, but we need radical changes to how buses are run in Scotland, to protect the lifeline services that are currently being axed and to stop the big bus companies simply cherry picking the most profitable routes.

That means allowing our local councils to set up and run local bus companies, to meet their communities’ needs, without the restrictions that the bill will place on them. It means ensuring that changes to bus routes will be allowed only after proper consultation with passengers and with the agreement of the traffic commissioner for Scotland.

It means putting a stop to the race to the bottom in how staff are treated. If a company wants to receive public money for delivering services, it should pay its workers a decent wage and deliver proper terms and conditions.

It means ending rip-off fares. It means not just setting up an advisory board on smart ticketing, but giving that board a legally binding remit to deliver a single ticketing scheme across Scotland and across transport modes.

It means properly investing in our buses, not imposing a £230 million real-terms cut in the council budgets that are needed to make that investment, as the Government’s recent budget does. If we believe, as Labour does, that public transport is a public service, and if we really want to improve our environment, we need to properly fund public transport.

What will not protect our environment are the proposals for a so-called workplace parking levy, particularly given that the proposals are an afterthought and are being introduced at stage 2.

John Finnie

Was that the member’s position when his councillor colleagues in Glasgow City Council and City of Edinburgh Council had such a proposal as part of their local authority manifestos?

Colin Smyth

The Parliament needs to make a decision first, because one of my deep concerns is that, under the proposals, if a car parking tax was introduced by City of Edinburgh Council, as Mr Finnie suggests, thousands of workers, including my constituents who live in Midlothian, the Borders, South Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway, many of whom are on low incomes and are priced out of the Edinburgh housing market, even if they wanted to live there, would have to pay the tax because they would have no choice but to use their car to get to work. However, they and their local councillors would not have a say in whether the tax was introduced in Edinburgh, and not a penny raised would be spent on public transport in Midlothian or the south of Scotland. That is a flaw in Mr Finnie’s proposals, and I hope that we will eventually be able to see the proposals that are currently being hidden from us by the Government.

The budget deal that has been done means that someone on £124,000 a year will get a cut in their income tax at the same time as a regressive car parking charge is introduced. A company boss will pay the same amount as a company cleaner will pay, and the chief executive of a health board who is on more than £100,000 a year will be exempt, but a carer who is working in a hospice and is on the living wage will have to stump up the money.

I will quote what the trade unions have said about the proposals, so Mr Finnie might want to listen. It is no wonder that Unison says that the tax

“devalues council workers and other staff, who deliver vital services”.

It is no wonder that the GMB says that

“it’s an attack on the take home pay of workers”.

It is no wonder that Unite says that it is a

“desperate attempt to absolve the government from the funding crisis they have presided over”.

It is no wonder that the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen says that

“it’s a burden on workers”.

I make no apologies for being on the side of workers, because they are being forgotten by the SNP and the Greens. Labour will oppose the workplace parking levy, which would simply allow the rich to pay to pollute.

In supporting the principles of the bill today, we serve notice that we plan to lodge a series of amendments to improve the bill, some of which I will cover in my closing speech at the end of the debate. When we lodge our amendments, I hope that the Government will move beyond its response to the REC Committee’s stage 1 report and work across Parliament to make the very significant improvements that the bill needs.

15:32  
John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

As colleagues have done, I thank the people who have contributed to the bill—the witnesses, our staff and the many organisations that have provided briefings. At decision time, the Scottish Green Party will support the general principles of the bill.

A transport bill should be seen as an opportunity and should provide a longer-term vision. It should provide policy coherence not just within but beyond the transport portfolio. However, I get no sense that the Scottish Government is crusading in that regard.

The cabinet secretary said that the bill is “aspirational” and he talked about a “transport jigsaw”, but I prefer the approach of the Poverty Alliance Scotland and Oxfam, which posed the question what would an ideal transport system look like. Some of the provisions in the bill would clearly contribute to an ideal transport system, but we are way short of achieving such a system. This is a piecemeal bill that is conservative in outlook and will be amended.

The cabinet secretary mentioned a new national transport strategy, which is welcome. I look forward to seeing it: I am sure that there will be a lot of interesting contributions in it. Transform Scotland’s submission on the bill talked about the opportunities to address, for example, congestion, which all my colleagues acknowledge is an issue. What does not affect congestion is the means of propulsion of a vehicle. Everyone was enthusiastic about replacing petrol with diesel, and then replacing diesel with electricity, but that is not the answer.

In the bill’s policy memorandum, the Scottish Government says that

“Transport is a key facilitator for societal improvement and cohesion, therefore the Bill will have a positive impact on the Scottish Government’s purpose to create a more successful country”.

I say, on the basis of the bill that is in front of us, that that is a significant leap, because far too many of our transport policies reinforce the status quo. Under the bill, the market will still prevail when it comes to bus transport. It will be a case of private profit and public penalty, with hard-pressed local authorities being able to pick up only the scraps.

Road building is the transport priority of the Scottish Government and other parties. That is part of the on-going concession to the motoring lobby. If we concede to the motoring lobby, we ignore the needs of the 30 per cent of households who do not own a motor car. We know from the Scottish Government’s facts and figures in the policy memorandum that buses contribute about 5 per cent of road transport emissions, whereas cars contribute 60 per cent of them. We know, too, that three quarters of public transport journeys in Scotland are undertaken by bus.

Much is made of Lothian Buses. I am delighted that it now has its 100-seat buses on the go. Because the company is publicly owned and run, the beneficiaries of Lothian Buses are the residents of the city of Edinburgh and the surrounding areas. Buses are vital in enabling people to go to work, school, college, hospital or the shops, or to visit friends and family. As has been said, people face cuts to routes, poor services and fare hikes.

Patronage has been declining for decades, so it would be entirely wrong to lay all the blame at the door of the present Government. Bus use has been going down since the 1960s, and mention has been made of many of the reasons for that. Transport Scotland—that was a Freudian slip; Transform Scotland cites the KPMG research on the decline in bus patronage, which talks about congestion and its impact on journey times, reliability and cost; the impact of parking; lifestyle changes, which have been mentioned by others; the relatively low cost of car use; and the decline in revenue for the bus industry from the Government and the rising costs.

Bus priority measures and low-emission zones would help. There has been negative talk about low-emission zones, but there has been little talk of the 40,000 lives in the UK that are lost every year as a direct result of poor air quality. Poor air quality is not a problem only in the centres of our major cities. I constantly remind residents in Inverness, where I live, that one of its streets has such poor air quality that it has to be constantly monitored. Therefore, it is clear that the idea of encouraging more people to drive into towns and cities does not make sense. Progressive countries are seeking to have vibrant town centres in which the motor car does not rule, and in which people can live, work and enjoy themselves.

When it comes to the workplace parking levy proposal, there is a danger that we could get bogged down in discussing hypotheticals. We have already heard rank hypocrisy from two of the parties in Parliament on the issue, and I dare say that that is likely to continue.

The example of bus use in Edinburgh is a very fine model. Edinburgh bucks the trend in many respects—it does so not just in relation to ownership, innovation and the range of routes and services that are available, but in relation to the nature of the passengers who use the buses. In other parts of Scotland, buses are used by poor people and cars are used by people who have money. That is why assistance has been given to the motoring industry for decade after decade, at the expense of the bus industry. We know that, in Edinburgh, a wide range of people use the bus network.

The Poverty Alliance and Oxfam talk about the critical role that transport plays in the lives of people who experience poverty, both in supporting their ability to increase their income and in representing a significant and important cost. Affordability is important.

The bill has many positive aspects, but it lacks ambition. The Scottish Green Party will seek to inject some ambition at stage 2.

15:38  
Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

I state at the outset that I believe that the Transport (Scotland) Bill is important, and the Liberal Democrats will support it at decision time.

The Government has great intentions. In the bill, it tries to address some major transport issues, including the introduction of low-emission zones, the state of our bus services, national ticketing arrangements and banning of pavement parking. What it does not do—so far—is address the contentious issue of a workplace parking charge. As we have heard, that is missing from the bill.

John Finnie

Will Mike Rumbles give way?

Mike Rumbles

Oh, come on! I am only 30 seconds into my speech.

We are told by the Government that the issue will be considered at stage 2, even if it was not considered at the important stage 1 evidence-gathering sessions.

John Finnie rose—

Mike Rumbles

I will be more than happy to give way, but not just yet.

I turn first to low-emission zones. If we are serious about creating effective low-emission zones in our cities, we must ensure that steps are taken to improve public transport provision in the areas that would be affected before the zones are introduced. Although the Government agrees with that, it has basically said, “Over to you, local authorities.”

We must also ensure that there is consistency across the country on which vehicles may enter an LEZ, in order to avoid confusion and to encourage compliance with regulations. I am pleased that the Government accepted that point in its response to the committee’s stage 1 report.

I now turn to the actions that will be needed in the bill to arrest the general decline in bus use. Contrary to what Mr Finnie says, it is not just poor people who use buses; I use buses every day. Lots of people use buses, not just the poor.

John Finnie

Will the member give way on that point?

Mike Rumbles

I will not, just now.

The bill should be a great opportunity to tackle decline in bus use. Unfortunately, I do not agree with the cabinet secretary that the Government has been ambitious on the matter. I agree with John Finnie that it is not exactly a “crusading” bill.

On one hand, the Government wishes to amend the Transport Act 1985 to allow local authorities to set up their own bus services. On the face of it, that is a very good idea. However, on the other hand, we are in the curious position in which the Government is saying to our local authorities, “You can set up your own bus company, but there aren’t any more resources available for you to do it, and by the way, you can only run your buses on unprofitable routes.” If those routes were to become profitable, the authorities would have to hand them over to commercial bus companies. What local authority is going to do that? We asked the question in committee and we are still waiting to hear an answer. I cannot see any local authority taking up that offer.

In our view, that is a missed opportunity. The proposal in the bill looks good, but on detailed examination it appears that nothing will change—to paraphrase someone else. Franchising seems to offer a better way forward. However, I am not convinced about the need for an independent panel to oversee local transport authorities. Local democratic control of the process is important, and I am not convinced that an additional hoop for local authorities to jump through is the right approach.

In the short time that is left to me, I will focus on the part of the bill that deals with pavement parking and on the as yet unseen proposal for a workplace parking charge.

The ban on pavement parking is most welcome. However, I have real concerns that the Government has provided a get-out clause in section 47(6)(c), on “Exceptions to parking provisions”, which will for the first time make it legal to obstruct the pavement, for a period of 20 minutes, when loading and unloading. That one provision means that in reality, the attempt to ban obstruction of our pavements will be hopelessly ineffective.

Jamie Greene

Is it therefore Lib Dem policy that there should be no exemptions to the ban on double parking? If so, how on earth is Mike Rumbles expecting to get in and out of taxis?

Mike Rumbles

I am talking about obstruction of pavements.

In our report, the committee makes it clear that it is concerned that the

“20 minutes for loading and unloading of deliveries may have the unintended consequence of creating a national exemption for pavement parking by commercial vehicles.”

Can people imagine how it would be impossible to enforce the law when vehicles are allowed to load and unload like that? In our view, the proposed exemption makes a mockery of the intention behind that provision, so I urge the Government to think again.

Michael Matheson

Can Mike Rumbles clarify whether his view is that there should be no exemption at all or that the 20-minute period is too long for the exemption?

Mike Rumbles

The evidence that we have received in committee is that whatever amount of time is put in the bill, it will be impossible to enforce. At the moment, the law says that vehicles cannot obstruct the pavement.

Michael Matheson

So, does Mike Rumbles want a ban?

Mike Rumbles

That is exactly right. However, if the minister wants to say that there could be an exemption if a certain amount of space was left on the pavement, that would be another matter.

I want to address the unique situation we are in in respect of the proposed workplace parking levy. The Scottish Government will whip its MSPs to support an amendment to the bill that its MSPs have not even seen.

John Finnie

Will the member give way?

Mike Rumbles

I would love to, if I had time.

The Presiding Officer

I am afraid that there is not much time—you have a minute left, tops, Mr Rumbles.

Mike Rumbles

I am sorry, but I cannot take an intervention, as I am in my last minute.

No member of the committee has seen such an amendment, and I understand that not even the Green MSPs have seen it, although it is a Green proposal.

The fact is that the majority of members—that is, all the Scottish National Party and Green members—have been told that they must vote for the amendment when it eventually comes to the committee. No matter what evidence is presented, no matter what drafting problems might be found and no matter what unintended consequences might be seen as a result of detailed scrutiny of the legislation, it will just be voted through by the committee.

I have a lot of respect for the cabinet secretary—I consider him to be a responsible minister, and I do not blame him for something that has been foisted on him—but that is no way to pass legislation. A responsible Government would not behave in that way. I never thought that our strong committee system, as established in 1999, would ever end up being misused in such a way.

The Presiding Officer

We now enter the open part of the debate. I call Stewart Stevenson, to be followed by Peter Chapman.

15:45  
Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I declare my honorary presidency of the Scottish Association for Public Transport, which has a keen interest in the topic before us.

I will start with the Labour Party’s desire for perhaps every council in Scotland to take over the running of bus services and some of the financial implications of such a move. I have previously talked about the financial implications of Labour’s proposals for bus passes for the under-25s, and these proposals are equally improbable. The general principle is that, if a franchise is taken away from a business, that business must be compensated not with one year’s profit but with one year’s revenue. That is £700 million or £800 million straight away.

Next, we should take a look at the accounts of Lothian Buses—which is, I should immediately say, an excellent company. Indeed, 100 years ago, my great-uncle Alex was the cabinet member of Edinburgh council with responsibility for it, so it is all probably down to him. What is the capitalisation for Lothian Buses, which covers about 10 per cent of Scotland’s population? The answer, which can be found in the accounts as at 31 December 2017, is £147 million. If I factor that up—which I accept is a very crude way of working and is open to being criticised, but I have nothing better—we get a figure of £1.5 billion. If we then add the £700 million, we are talking about £2.2 billion.

I accept that that is the ceiling, which we certainly would not reach and could not exceed, but it illustrates the general point that, although there are a lot of numbers to look at, there has been almost no talk about those numbers. There is, of course, profit—the dividend comes back—but we need the capitalisation in the first place. It is also worth saying that a local authority would need to buy vehicles either from existing bus companies or from elsewhere, and I suspect that the existing bus companies would not give it a huge discount, given that it would be, in effect, a forced sale. The Labour Party is perfectly entitled to pursue its proposals, but I urge it to produce some numbers based on something more than my—to be blunt—20 minutes of research using the accounts of Lothian Buses—which, I repeat, is an excellent company that I use from time to time with my bus pass.

Colin Smyth

The member has, in effect, slated the idea of local authorities being able to set up bus companies in an unrestricted way, but does he support the Government’s plan to allow them to set up such companies only to meet unmet need? If so, exactly how many local authorities does he think are going to do that?

Stewart Stevenson

I am very clear that the Government’s proposals are good and worthy of support, and there are other proposals from the Labour Party to which I must say to the member that I am not closing my mind. Nevertheless, I must point out to him that, to gain support from across the Parliament, he will have to provide some numbers for the investment and the capitalisation that would be required as well as for the liabilities that would be taken on, particularly in relation to pensions as people were brought across from commercial companies under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981. I simply urge the member to produce some numbers, because he might then persuade more of us who have yet to be persuaded.

On the bus improvement partnerships, it is fair to say that the previous voluntary and compulsory partnerships have not delivered as I think we had all hoped when we passed the previous legislation. However, I know that the bus companies are cautiously supportive of the new proposals, which is only reasonable, and I am certainly prepared to be cautiously supportive of them, too.

I think that we can do more on bus lanes. It should be compulsory for all bus lanes to operate 24 hours a day. We should also enforce them better. Once we do that, bus journey times will be consistent and people would rely on them more.

On parking, it is important that we respect the needs of those with reduced mobility, particularly those who are blind, who may walk into vehicles that are parked on pavements because they simply do not see them. Dropped kerbs are an issue for blind people, too, because they need a clear delineation between pavement and road.

On loading and unloading, I make a rather obvious suggestion: someone should be able to load and unload only if they have an indicator on their windscreen that is adjusted to show at what time they parked the vehicle. That is done in other countries, by the way—there is nothing particularly novel about that.

Mike Rumbles

Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson

I am in my last minute—do forgive me.

In conclusion, I will mention the workplace parking levy. Like others, I have not seen the proposed amendment, and the whips have not yet approached me to tell me what I have to say or do on the subject. However, I will say this: there are different ways of introducing such a levy. I encourage John Finnie to consider that I am reluctant to support any measure that puts a cost on individual citizens but I might be prepared to support a measure that puts the cost on those who provide the parking. In other words, if the charge is on companies, that is fair enough, but if the charge is on individuals, that is a much more difficult ask for me.

I have no hesitation in saying that I will support this excellent bill come decision time tonight.

15:51  
Peter Chapman (North East Scotland) (Con)

Like my REC Committee colleagues, I thank the clerks and everyone who attended the committee during evidence sessions to help us to write our stage 1 report.

It is clear that, across the chamber, although we all appreciate what the bill tries to do, on the whole, it lacks ambition and, if it is to achieve its aims, it will need to be amended as it proceeds.

I agree with the bill’s general principles. Climate change and air quality have been discussed numerous times in the chamber over the past two weeks alone, and those are key drivers of the bill. The bill is large, covering six main aspects relating to transport. Time does not allow me to comment on all six, so I will discuss low-emission zones and bus services.

Part 1 would create a legal right for local authorities to establish, operate, amend and revoke low-emission zones. That key instrument is designed to reduce congestion and improve air quality in Scotland’s four main cities, including, of course, Dundee and Aberdeen, which are in the North East region. A low-emission zone would restrict vehicles in the area to those that met specified emission standards, and anyone driving a car in an LEZ that did not meet the standard or that was not exempt would be fined. However, the bill lacks clarity. A clear definition of what an LEZ is and what its objectives should be are needed. It will be necessary for the Scottish Government to lodge an appropriate amendment at stage 2 to bring that clarity.

The effective introduction of LEZs will require improvements to public transport provision. Measures such as park-and-ride facilities and improved active travel opportunities will need to be put in place. Educating the public about why a zone is important and the benefits that it will deliver will be essential to getting drivers to buy in to the concept. There must also be a robust appeals process to address queries on penalties and circumstances when drivers require to access the zone in an emergency. To avoid confusion and encourage compliance, there must also be consistency across the country about which vehicles can enter an LEZ.

The regulations must clearly set out minimum technical emission standards. Standardised signage and a comprehensive package of information must be provided by local authorities at all stages of introduction, to allow people sufficient time to prepare for the changes. There will also be a cost implication for business and individual motorists should they need to upgrade their vehicles. As is often the case, that would impact most heavily on those on lower incomes.

Part 2 addresses issues to do with bus services and focuses on concerns about the long-term decline in bus use across Scotland. That decline is being driven by many factors including the reduction in direct bus support in rural areas and congestion in towns. The lack of appropriate infrastructure such as bus lanes is leading to slow average speeds and long and slow journeys. The current provisions in the bill to allow councils to run their own bus services will not, in my opinion, deliver. We heard, during evidence sessions, that few local authorities are likely to have the financial resources or the expertise to take advantage of the options that are set out in the bill. Indeed, Aberdeenshire Council has recently axed several services in rural areas due to a lack of funding.

The bill would amend the Transport Act 1985 to allow a local authority to provide local bus services where there is an unmet public transport need. The committee felt that that was too restrictive and recommended an amendment at stage 2 to allow greater flexibility. I disagreed with that, however, because, if councils get involved where there is already adequate bus provision, they may trigger a bus war with the company that is already supplying the services, and bus wars never end well.

The bill also proposes replacing statutory bus quality partnerships with bus service improvement partnerships, which involve two elements. That change is generally welcomed, but local authorities question whether they will be able to join such a partnership due to constraints on time and resources. The Scottish Government has, thankfully, provided further information that clears up some of the confusion about how BSIPs will work in practice and how they will differ from the previous scheme. However, that clarity is lacking in the bill as it is drafted.

Another initiative that the bill would allow is bus service franchising. However, it was felt that, in practice, only a small number of local authorities would have the time or resources to establish a framework. It is obvious to me that many of the schemes for bus services that are on offer in the bill will be taken up only if the Government is prepared to put additional funds at the disposal of councils.

Other sections of the bill that I have not had time to discuss cover smart ticketing schemes, pavement parking, road works and canals. We expect to work with stakeholders during stage 2 to further amend those sections as appropriate. There is also the workplace parking levy, which is due to be added to the bill at stage 2. It will evoke much debate in the committee, and the Conservative Party will oppose it. We can never support taxing people to drive to and park at their work. It will be interesting to see how Mr Lyle responds when we discuss that in committee.

The bill has merit, but it is by no means ready to be implemented as legislation. I am committed to working with all committee members at stage 2 to scrutinise all amendments that will strengthen and improve the bill and provide more guidance to local authorities and greater reassurance to the public and small business owners.

15:58  
Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

As the cabinet secretary said, this is a wide-ranging bill, covering a range of distinct policy areas. However, I agree with members who have said that it is not nearly ambitious enough.

I will focus my remarks on public transport and those sections of the bill relating to how the bus market in this country operates, because Scotland’s bus market is broken. Bus services are in decline and the deregulated model has failed. Instead of seeing a competitive market for bus services in which fare-paying passengers are in the driving seat, a patchwork of local monopolies has emerged across the country.

Since 2007, the total number of bus journeys is down by almost 100 million, and 64 million vehicle kilometres have been stripped out of our bus network. Meanwhile, fares keep rising, doing so more in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. In fact, the relative cost of bus travel has increased more than any other mode of land transport over the past 30 years, and by more than double the retail prices index.

It is clear that we need radical change. It is also clear that only where bus services are run on different principles do bus operators buck the trend, with higher passenger satisfaction, slower rates of decline and more profit reinvested in the bus network—in London, where the bus market is regulated to a high standard, or right here in Edinburgh, as we have heard, where Lothian Buses is publicly owned and democratically accountable.

The Scottish Government says that the purpose of part 2 of the bill is to ensure that local authorities

“have viable and flexible options to improve bus services in their areas.”

If that is to mean anything, those options must include a realistic route to collective ownership. Local government must have the power to challenge and to replace the broken and failed deregulated system. Councils and communities must be empowered to form democratically controlled operators and to work with community transport organisations. Scottish Labour members of the Scottish Parliament will seek to amend the bill to strengthen Scotland’s bus laws, make municipal and common ownership a reality, promote community transport, recognise that bus routes are essentially community assets that should be protected as such, and give the passengers and communities who depend on public transport a real say. We should have a people’s bus service that is run for passengers, not profit.

If members want to know why that is so important, I will give them an example from my region. Changes by Glasgow CityBus will see the 142 Bishopbriggs circular service withdrawn because of a commercial decision that has been taken by a private operator. There has been no consultation or engagement with the community. The problem is that there are plenty of hurdles that transport authorities have to jump in order to provide a subsidised service, but apparently none for privately owned operators who seek to withdraw bus services entirely. Local councillor Alan Moir, who argues that the 142 service should be retained, tells me that 70 per cent of people who use the lifeline service are concession card holders. The deregulated market pays no regard to the social impact of withdrawing the 142 bus from this community and many others. That is why we have to shift power from the owners of the bus companies to our communities, as Colin Smyth has said.

Scottish Labour will seek to ensure that the hurdles to providing subsidised services through local government are not in place in relation to municipal ownership. Local authorities should be allowed to run services as a matter of principle, and not just in instances of unmet need. That would allow other parts of the country to benefit from the successful Lothian model, where profits are reinvested. It would also allow local, publicly owned bus companies to compete freely for any service or franchise that may be created in future. I have long supported London-style bus franchising powers—which I believe should be granted automatically—coming to local government in Scotland. Just as the Scottish Government should provide a realistic route to common ownership, it should provide one to a London-style system.

On the issue of funding, there have been substantial reforms to the bus service operators grant in England and Wales: £93 million is now paid directly to Transport for London in the regulated market there. As a nation, Scotland already subsidises the bus industry to the extent that 45 per cent of operators’ income comes from the public purse. In addition to funding local government fairly, the Scottish Government should review its funding for bus services to ensure that the provisions in part 2 of the bill are viable.

Every Scottish Labour MSP stood on a manifesto that promised that we would make it

“cheaper and easier to get to work.”

It is for that reason that Scottish Labour welcomes any progress on smart ticketing and integrated public transport. There should be a single multimodal smart ticketing system that can be used across all modes of public transport in Scotland. It is for the same reason that we believe that we cannot support a workplace parking levy. As Colin Smyth said, that is a regressive levy that workers would not be able to avoid and that would hit low-paid workers the hardest.

Climate change is one of the great challenges of our time, and vehicle emissions in our city centres are a public health concern, but the solutions do not have to be complicated. We already know what the answers are. What is required is a modal shift towards public transport. Low-emission zones must not exist in isolation. Better bus services will not just enhance public transport; they will also help us to reduce vehicle emissions.

For all those reasons, we must seek to strengthen the bill at stage 2 to assert the importance of public transport as a public service.

16:04  
Sandra White (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP)

I am not a member of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, but I appeared before its predecessor, and the then Local Government and Regeneration Committee, on a number of occasions in connection with my proposed responsible parking bill, which I introduced as the Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill. I thank those committees for listening to me. I also thank all those who gave evidence on the Transport (Scotland) Bill or who worked on it—not just on the parking aspect—very intensively.

We have been pushing for a responsible parking bill, or for the issue to be included in a transport bill, for about 10 years, so I am delighted to be here to talk about the bill. I thank former MSP Ross Finnie who first tried to introduce such a bill about nine years ago, Joe FitzPatrick—whose bill I took over—and the many people and at least 20 charities and organisations, including lots of disability and social care charities, that came together with Living Streets Scotland in the responsible parking alliance, which did an enormous amount of work to help me when I was developing my bill. My bill had a very large number of responses—one of the biggest—for a consultation on a bill.

I have listened to the various discussions about the bill and I agree with a number of the committee’s recommendations, particularly with regard to the amendment on dropped kerbs—I fully endorse what the committee has to say about that. My original bill included not just parking but the issue of dropped kerbs, which desperately needs to be looked at. I will give members a little bit of history about the first stage of my bill. Believe it or not, this Parliament did not have the powers—not only when Ross Finnie and Joe FitzPatrick were working on their proposed bills—to introduce any bills about blocked kerbs, dropped kerbs or responsible parking, as those issues were not covered in the 1998 or 2012 Scotland Acts. For one reason or another, they could not be included in any form of transport bill. I thank the Scottish Government—I believe that it was Derek Mackay, in particular—for introducing the Transport (Scotland) Bill and including in it the issues of my bill. That is fantastic, and it came about as a result of the Smith commission. It has been a long road to get to the point at which we can look at this properly.

Members talk about fines and so on, but I never envisaged the bill as being punitive. It should be educational, so that it teaches drivers that pavements are for people, not cars. I am looking forward to stage 2 of the bill and I hope that there will be an educational element to it, so that there is some form of education—whether on TV or elsewhere—to let drivers and car owners know that it will be coming into force. I do not want it to be punitive; I do not believe that there is a huge number of irresponsible, could-not-care-less, selfish drivers out there. Most of them are responsible.

It is just a matter of educating people about what can happen. We heard in evidence about a blind gentleman who was walking along the street with his white stick, happened to tap a car that was parked on the pavement and the stick broke. That gentleman was left stranded on the pavement for hours until somebody came along. There is the issue of people taking their kids to school or nursery in a pram or buggy and having to go on the road. That is dangerous and it should not be allowed to happen. People must come before cars and, in response to the questionnaires that went out, 95 per cent of people were in agreement with that.

Pavements are for people and roads are for cars, and it is time that people were educated about that. That is why the dropped kerb issue is important. If somebody has parked on the dropped kerb, people who are disabled, blind, elderly or have kids in prams cannot walk along the pavement and cross the road at that point. It is about being sensible.

I thank members of the committee for the amount of work that they have put into the issues, and for putting up with some of the evidence that I brought to them. I understand about having to load and unload, which was mentioned by the Road Haulage Association. The subject was also raised at one of the committee meetings at which I gave evidence. There are, however, areas where it says, “No loading” or, “Only loading”, so it is the policing of loading that is important. If people are getting something delivered, of course it has to be delivered to that place. Shops have to get deliveries, but it has to be done sensibly so that the delivery vehicles are not left across the whole pavement. That means education more than anything.

Not being a member of the committee, I am grateful to be able to speak in the debate. I look forward to stage 2 and stage 3, and to having responsible parking so that people can walk on the pavements.

16:10  
Donald Cameron (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I am grateful to be able to contribute to this stage 1 debate, particularly given that many people who live in the Highlands and Islands see public transport as a lifeline service, not just as an alternative to other modes of travel. Indeed, many rural and remote communities rely especially on robust and timely public transport and infrastructure to carry out daily tasks, get to work, attend hospital appointments and connect with friends and family. Whether it is people in our island communities who need a ferry service that runs on time and has enough space and capacity for passengers and vehicles or good local bus services to connect people from rural communities to Scotland’s major cities, strong transport links are plainly good for society and the economy.

As Scottish Conservative colleagues have commented, we support the general principles of the bill and, as many of my colleagues have intimated, we feel that there are a lot of positive elements in the bill, as well as some missed opportunities. In the time that is available to me, I want to focus on a particular area that I feel the bill could address slightly more: accessible transport and the needs of passengers suffering from disability.

Accessible transport is vital for many people across Scotland, particularly elderly and disabled people, but it is also important for other people, including parents travelling with young children. The experience of travel is important, too. Travelling to a station or bus stop, interacting with the surroundings, purchasing tickets and using various facilities are all elements of the travelling experience that must be viewed through the prism of accessibility.

I want to cover a few of those elements in greater detail. I had the benefit last year of hosting a round-table discussion for stakeholders, including the Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance, Bus Users Scotland, and the Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland, at an event in the Parliament that I organised. The former transport minister Humza Yousaf attended, and I place on record my thanks to him for the interest that he showed in this issue. There were about 20 delegates from a multitude of organisations, who had different ideas, considerations and views on how the accessible transport experience in Scotland should look in the short and long term. It was a very valuable experience, and I had hoped that some of the suggestions might have been carried forward.

For example, one issue that arose at the round-table event was the design of vehicles. I heard various concerns about step access, the size of disabled buttons on new train stock, restrictive loop systems and poorly designed access to toilets. As a result, it may be that one of the things that can be considered at stage 2 is the issue of vehicle design.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said in its submission on the bill that it recommends

“that disability access is named as a service standard to which all proposed vehicles used are subject to”.

In its summary of recommendations and conclusions, the REC Committee stated:

“the ability to access transport can play a fundamental role in how a person can contribute to and participate in society. It notes the suggestions made on the bill from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and asks the Scottish Government to reflect on and respond to these in detail before Stage 2 of the Bill.”

I sincerely hope that the Scottish Government listens to that recommendation and acts on it, because it is crucial that people have confidence on the issue in the future.

I am also particularly concerned about this issue because of a local aspect to the matter, which involved the resignation of Arthur Cowie from the chairmanship of the Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance over the redesign of the trains operating on the west Highland line. I know Arthur well, as we worked together last year in organising the round-table event that I mentioned. He is incredibly passionate about accessible transport, and his resignation from that role should be noted. In an article in The Scotsman in February, Arthur said:

“Recent actions by ScotRail and Transport Scotland have made me realise I have been wasting my time over the last 40 years in trying to achieve accessible travel, and have been played for a fool by the transport authorities over this period.”

I find that to be a particularly concerning indictment, and I hope that the Government listens to those views with respect to the bill.

I am concerned that the issue of cars parking across dropped kerbs has not been adequately addressed. The issue was mentioned by Sandra White and other members, and by Edward Mountain on behalf of the REC Committee. Apart from the obvious problems that parking across dropped kerbs can cause for most road users, it is particularly inconsiderate and problematic for many elderly and disabled pedestrians, who rely heavily on open dropped kerbs. I welcome the fact that the REC Committee report states:

“a prohibition of parking across such formally recognised crossing points (as distinct from residential driveways) would provide a package of measures which would more comprehensively enhance accessibility in urban areas.”

Again, I hope that the Scottish Government takes cognisance of that.

The Scottish Conservatives support the bill at stage 1. We agree that there is a need to adopt new practices and to ensure that transport meets our environmental commitments and we have a long-term plan that is fit for Scotland today and beyond. As a party, we will scrutinise the bill as it goes forward. As my colleagues who have spoken thus far have suggested, although there are areas of the bill that can be improved, we generally support it.

For my part, I hope that greater consideration will be given to accessibility issues, so that Scotland can lead the way in that crucial area. Ultimately, every individual who uses public transport in Scotland should have the same choice, freedom and dignity to travel. I hope that, as the bill progresses, we can make that happen.

16:16  
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

First, I should say that I am more than happy to support the bill. It covers a number of areas, and I will focus my remarks on pavement parking and the workplace parking levy.

There is no question but that we have a problem with pavement parking, which is when a car is parked fully or partly on a pavement to the extent that a wheelchair or pram could not get past. That is obstruction and, although the police have the power to enforce the law on that, in practice that seldom happens. In an ideal world, there would be plenty of space for completely clear pavements, lanes for cycling, space for parking and plenty of room for large vehicles to pass on the road itself. Unfortunately, many roads in Glasgow and elsewhere do not have space for all that. My fear is that forcing cars entirely on to the road surface would cause obstructions for public transport and emergency vehicles and so on. I do not think that any of us wants that.

Although there is a problem at the moment, there are also many considerate drivers who put two wheels on the pavement in order to avoid blocking either the road or the pavement. In fact, that is sometimes encouraged by council road markings that are designed to ensure that the road itself does not become blocked. I wonder, then, whether some compromise is needed. Perhaps it would be better for the rule to be that at least 1.5m of pavement must be left clear of vehicles, which would allow adequate space for wheelchairs and prams. If the pavement was less than 1.5m wide, no vehicle wheels would be allowed on the pavement at all. That would also have the advantage of being cheaper than the proposals in the bill. Although the bill would allow exemptions, I suspect that, because of the cost of introducing them, councils would resist doing so as widely as they should.

I am also concerned that, whatever the rules are, they are unlikely to be widely enforced. Experience in Glasgow already shows that, although parking on double yellow lines or parking that causes an obstruction is against the law, in many cases the law is not enforced. The bill proposes powers for local authorities to enforce the law, and the Government says on page 26 of its response to the stage 1 report that that is a duty. However, I fear that that will not happen in practice. Linked to enforcement is the question of whether fines are sufficient for councils to cover their costs, such as the cost of paying wardens.

Sandra White

Enforcement was one of the areas that I was going to comment on. I am also worried about what will happen if we make it known that anyone can park on the pavement, even if it is just with two wheels. There are large stretches of road in my constituency, which covers the city centre, and I would worry that there would be cars constantly parked on the pavements, which would mean that anyone with a pram or a disability would have a long distance to walk before they could get off the pavement. I do not want to encourage people to park on pavements at all.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame)

I will give Mr Mason his time back.

John Mason

That is kind; thank you.

I accept that there are differences in different parts of the city. Streets in the city centre, such as Hope Street, where I have seen cars parked on double yellow lines that are not enforced, are slightly different from most of my constituency, which is further out. However, we must somehow find a compromise.

The second main topic that I will focus on is the workplace parking levy. As Mike Rumbles said, there are unusual circumstances in that the workplace parking levy has become part of the budget agreement and we expect to see an amendment to introduce it at stage 2. It is not normal to see such a major new issue appear at stage 2, and it is not ideal. Stage 1 is when a committee carries out a thorough examination of the main features of any bill, and I believe that the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee carried out such an examination of the bill as introduced. There was an argument that, in order to take evidence on the levy, the committee could have postponed the completion of its report, but it was decided to press ahead with stage 1 and deal with the amendment as part of stage 2.

In principle, I am comfortable with a levy that targets directors and other highly paid individuals who have a parking space in the city centre, when they could easily use a train or bus for commuting to their 9-to-5 jobs, but I have a lot of questions about the proposed levy. We know that the provisions in the bill will only be enabling legislation and that it will be up to councils to decide whether they want it or not, but we do not know at what level the charge would be, whether it would apply to the employer or employee or what exemptions there might be. It has been suggested that NHS hospitals might be exempt. What about care homes, hospices, general practices, social work, the police and out-of-town factories where the workers do shifts? Should it be extended to out-of-town shopping centres, so that shoppers would pay to park and thereby help to protect our town centres? I look forward to seeing the amendment and to taking evidence in the committee, when I hope that those types of question will be clarified.

Another issue that has been raised is whether there would be any advantage in commercial bus services being publicly owned. I certainly regret that Strathclyde was forced to privatise its buses, while Lothian was allowed to keep its buses. However, when we had Strathclyde Buses and before that, Glasgow Corporation Transport, Scottish Motor Traction—SMT—and the Scottish Bus Group, there were still frequent complaints about bus services. For example, in Rutherglen, the complaint was that all the buses ran to Castlemilk and ignored Rutherglen.

However, we had evidence that bus usage has been in decline in the west of Scotland since before 1960—long before any privatisation. Therefore, although I am sympathetic to public ownership and I think that we should consider it, we must be wary about assuming that it would automatically lead to increased or improved services. The fall in bus usage is complex; it is linked to a desire for cars and to improved train services in the Glasgow area.

I am more than happy to support the principles of the Transport (Scotland) Bill. It is clear that we will see one major amendment—and probably a host of other amendments—at stage 2. We will have to see what happens then.

16:22  
James Kelly (Glasgow) (Lab)

It has been an interesting and wide-ranging debate. Members have made contributions on issues ranging from pavement parking to low-emission zones. That shows the wide range of subjects that the bill covers.

I want to concentrate on buses, which is where the bill comes up short. In the area that I represent, there is no doubt that buses are very much required by commuters. They are required to get to work, for social purposes and to travel to hospitals. In recent years, bus services have been concentrated—a small number of companies focus on the more profitable routes, particularly around the city centre, and by the time we get to Rutherglen, which John Mason mentioned, or further, to Cambuslang, Halfway and Blantyre, the routes are not as well populated by buses.

Another trend that we have seen in recent years is bus companies shutting the routes in off-peak periods, particularly in the evening. That can be a problem, particularly for people who are perhaps travelling to visit people in hospital. To explain why that is happening, we need to examine the trend. One of the astonishing numbers that I came across in preparing for the debate was that, back in 2007, there were 487 million bus journeys in Scotland, but that figure has reduced by nearly 100 million to 388 million; so, there are now 100 million fewer bus journeys per year than there were 10 years ago.

There are a number of reasons for that. First, fares have increased by 18 per cent in the past five years, so it is more expensive for people to travel by bus. There are also fewer buses—with 10 per cent less stock and 2 per cent fewer staff—and bus companies are contracting in size in terms of both infrastructure and numbers, which feeds through to the routes. The reduction in the bus service operators grant, which Colin Smyth described, also contributes, and the overall picture of reduced local government funding has not helped local authorities to subsidise less-profitable routes.

The picture that that paints is one of decline in the use of bus services and an increase in bus companies’ power over communities in respect of their ability to either run or cancel routes. That seems unfair, particularly given that 35 per cent of journeys are made under the concessionary travel scheme, through which the Scottish Government makes a major contribution to free bus travel. The logic of that would be to give more power to communities and to look to a model that supports municipal bus companies.

Ultimately, we need to get back to a position where communities and councils have greater control of bus routes in order to ensure that their bus routes and bus companies serve them.

Ticketing and data are another interesting area, which sounds technical but could help—the get Glasgow moving group provided a good briefing on that. Over the years, there has been a lot of discussion about smart ticketing and having one ticket to cover different companies and different modes of transport, but the reality is that movement on that has been far too slow. It could help by providing ease of travel for customers and allowing for the collection of data. If we are to organise bus routes in an efficient manner that serves customers well, we need more information about fares, routes and usage. Smart ticketing and better collection of data would help to service that.

Finally, I turn to the workplace parking levy. There are two issues with it. First, it is fundamentally unfair. I just read a quotation from a senior Scottish Government minister, talking about free prescriptions, who said that it is unfair to tax ill health. By the same token, how is it fair to tax people driving to their work?

John Finnie

Will the member take an intervention?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The member is in his last minute—in fact, he is in his last 30 seconds.

James Kelly

I am sorry—I have only half a minute left.

The second issue with the workplace parking levy, which even Mr Mason acknowledged, is that it is quite a big change in Government policy. It is one of the more controversial measures that the Scottish National Party has introduced in the past 12 years and it is wrong for it to come in at stage 2 of a bill. If the Government genuinely wanted to bring it forward, it should have run a consultation on it and sought people’s view on it, instead of ramming it through as part of a budget deal. There are big issues to resolve at stage 2.

16:29  
Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

I thank the clerks for their work on the Rural Environment and Connectivity Committee report, and I welcome and support the bill at stage 1.

It is especially important for everyone to take note of part 1 of the bill, which covers low-emission zones—an important matter that gives the bill great purpose. I am concerned about the poor air quality in certain areas and that is why I want to deliver for the people of Scotland a bill that meets their needs and looks after their health. It is anticipated that the bill will accomplish that.

We should make great efforts to improve the health of the people of Scotland by putting forth a bill that strives to reduce air pollution. The bill will do that by prohibiting vehicles that do not meet emission standards from driving in low-emission zones. I welcome low-emission zones because I sincerely believe that the people of Scotland deserve to live free from health problems that are caused by poor air quality and that we could achieve that by enforcing low-emission zones. We should deliberately plan to prevent any unintended repercussions that would undermine our goal, such as the suspension of an LEZ; I believe that a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week LEZ should mean exactly that, as the British Lung Foundation suggested.

Our efforts and care should be extended to our local businesses. That is why I believe that part 2 of the bill, which covers bus services in Scotland, is also essential. The provisions aim to help local councils, by giving them options that will help them to enhance bus services in their area. Part 2 also strives to provide more innovative ways to address bus service issues. I was previously a councillor, and I have always believed that councils could do more with regard to bus services.

The decline of bus use in Scotland is visible and is a problem that concerns the committee and me. It could, and should, be tackled if Scotland is to reverse that trend. To do so, we must address the problem by looking at affordable solutions. I sincerely believe that, if more of our constituents were able to access our bus services, we would have more productive members of society and that we would bestow them with the opportunity to give back to Scotland.

The Transport (Scotland) Bill is a piece of legislation that attempts to help Scotland and its people: it is a start. Moreover, the bill will improve the daily lives of our citizens by providing a solution to our pavement parking issue. Indeed, pedestrians must be protected, and the bill will ensure that pavement parking is addressed.

We need to restrict pavement parking to protect our citizens from harm. Pavement parking is dangerous for all pedestrians, including those with sight loss. In fact, the Guide Dogs Scotland survey, which I thank the organisation for providing, found that nine out of 10 people with sight loss have had problems with cars that are parked on the pavement. Obstructions on the pavement are not just an inconvenience but a barrier to people being able to fully participate in our society. The obstruction prevents people with sight loss from moving freely, which increases feelings of isolation; people with disabilities and buggy users are also affected.

The bill will make pavement parking an offence except, of course, on a limited number of streets that are exempted by the council. However, the aim of the legislation should be that pavement parking is a total exception, not a norm. I suggest that pavement parking should be minimised in line with the ask of Guide Dogs Scotland. The bill responds to the request of our citizens, who showed 83 per cent support for new legislation that tackles pavement parking.

We make laws to improve the lives of all our citizens, including citizens with sight loss, and that is what part 4 of the bill should be about.

Mike Rumbles

Will the member take an intervention?

Richard Lyle

I am sorry, but I do not have time.

As a member of the committee, I believe that we should listen to the views of Guide Dogs Scotland with regard to loading and unloading. I am sure that the issue will be resolved during the next stage, following discussion with Guide Dogs Scotland.

I will raise a final issue, in respect of which I declare an interest as the convener of the cross-party group on the Scottish Showmen’s Guild. I voice my support for giving a limited exemption to showmen. At stage 2 of the bill, consideration should be given to having an exemption for showpeople who are travelling through a low-emission zone. Traditionally, showmen have been acknowledged as a special case and have exemptions in other areas. Historically—I sound like Mr Stevenson—showpeople were first granted concessionary rates of taxation in 1927. The Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 modified those concessions but kept the exemption for the “showman’s goods vehicle”. I will support a preservation of those reliefs for showpeople at stage 2 and will try to ensure that that happens.

I support the bill, which aims to have greater efficiency in pollution control, strives to improve our bus services and will solve our issues regarding pavement parking. I look forward to the next stage of the bill, when we will be looking at the workplace parking levy.

16:34  
Colin Smyth

Transport impacts on many aspects of our constituents’ lives, from their health to the environment to poverty. It accounts for more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, with levels currently the same as they were in 1990. It is a key cause of air pollution, which last year hit illegal levels in eight areas in Scotland.

Cars are by far the biggest polluters in the sector. However, ultra-low-emission vehicles still make up less than 1 per cent of road vehicles, bus usage has plummeted by 20 per cent in the last 10 years under the SNP Government and bus fares have risen by 17 per cent above inflation. The proportion of journeys made on foot has fallen since last year, and just 1.5 per cent of journeys are made by bike.

As the Poverty Alliance has highlighted, the most disadvantaged are hit hardest by those changes: young people are being priced out of travelling to education or work by spiralling bus fares, and older adults and disabled people are being isolated by the axing of local bus services.

The bill is an opportunity to meet those challenges head on and to move towards a modern, green, accessible transport system. It is an opportunity to set out a vision for transport and to establish the legal framework that will underpin our values and ambitions for public transport as a real public service. As the debate has shown, the bill as it stands fails to achieve that.

Several speakers including Mike Rumbles, John Finnie, Peter Chapman, Richard Lyle and others talked about low-emission zones—albeit they had different views. The bill sets out a much-needed and largely reasonable framework for LEZs. Amendments will be needed if we are to ensure that the legislation is effective and future proofed. That means having a statutory definition to provide clarity and make clear that the purpose of an LEZ is to ensure that air pollution is lower than it would be if an LEZ had not been introduced. That may seem obvious. However, when we consider the generous grace periods in the bill and the natural lifespan of cars, there is a real risk of local authorities introducing LEZs that ultimately do not have any real effect. LEZs will be weakened further if they can be suspended or are not operated on a continuous 24/7 basis; Richard Lyle highlighted that.

Air pollution costs around 2,500 lives each year in Scotland. It is an urgent public health crisis, but one that the bill fails to recognise fully. As Neil Bibby, James Kelly, John Finnie, Mike Rumbles and Jamie Greene recognised, the bill also fails to recognise the urgent crisis that we face on our bus network by allowing councils to run only the bus services that the private sector does not want to run. Not a single council in Scotland has shown any interest in doing that.

It is no coincidence that Lothian Buses, Scotland’s only municipal bus company, has seen its passenger numbers grow, while patronage elsewhere plummets, or that it has a 95 per cent customer satisfaction rate and some of the lowest fares in Scotland. That is the outcome of a model that prioritises passengers over profits, encourages social responsibility and delivers millions of pounds a year back into the public purse to be reinvested in public transport. It is unsustainable of the Government to believe that the bill should prevent the rest of Scotland from pursuing such a model.

Several members highlighted the fact that, as the bill stands, the provisions on ticketing arrangements and schemes do not go far enough—they do not even deliver the national multimodal smart card that the Government promised back in 2012. The establishment of a new national technological standard and the national smart ticketing advisory board are welcome, but we need to give the board the legally binding remit to deliver a single ticketing scheme across Scotland and across transport modes.

There was general consensus that pavement parking is an inconvenience for disabled people and that action is needed to tackle that. However, several members said that such action should be extended to include a ban on parking in cycle lanes and next to dropped kerbs—that point was made by Sandra White and Donald Cameron.

There was a recognition of the need for reasonable and targeted exemptions to the ban on pavement parking. However, those must not act as loopholes that undermine the ban, which is what the exemption that would allow 20 minutes for delivery and loading does. I fear that allowing parking on pavements with a 1.5m space would also be a loophole and continue to present a hazard for those with a visual impairment.

The bill also gives councils the power to enforce the new regulations. That point has not yet been covered, so I will spend a couple of minutes talking about it. That provision means that councils without decriminalised parking enforcement will be required to set up an entire department, which could issue a parking ticket for a car parked on a pavement on one side of the street, but could not issue a ticket for a car parked on a double yellow line on the other side of the street. What an absurd situation for the Government to create. Surely it is not beyond the Government’s ability to bring forward proposals to simplify the decriminalisation process or to extend councils’ enforcement powers to a wider range of traffic offences.

Jamie Greene

Does the member share the view of Scottish Borders Council, which suggests that the proposal simply shifts responsibility for enforcement from the police to local authorities, which do not have the funding and resources for that?

Colin Smyth

Jamie Greene makes a valid point. The biggest problem is the fallout from Police Scotland’s decision to scrap traffic wardens, who dealt with parking problems in our town centres. Now, we see police officers walking by cars that are parked on double yellow lines and not taking action, because the police do not regard that as a priority.

The situation is leading to parking chaos in far too many of our town centres, which is impacting on businesses. The sad reality is that if Police Scotland is not prepared to bring back traffic wardens, the only way to tackle the issue is by giving local authorities enforcement powers. The problem with the bill is that a council that has not decriminalised parking will have to enforce the law on pavement parking but will not have the power to enforce the law when it comes to parking on a double yellow line. That really is an absurd position. For the Government simply to say that councils should bear the huge cost in money and time of applying for decriminalised parking enforcement is not fair. The Government needs to tackle the anomaly.

In the brief time that remains, I want to put on record Labour’s view that the provisions on regional transport agencies and road works are welcome. In particular, we welcome the strengthening of the Scottish road works commissioner’s powers and the provision that makes the safety code mandatory for road authorities.

A number of members mentioned the workplace parking levy, but not a single one of them talked about the regressive nature of a tax that means that a company boss pays the same as a company cleaner.

Stewart Stevenson

Will the member give way?

The Deputy Presiding Officer

The member has six seconds.

Colin Smyth

It is unfair that my constituents in South Scotland, who would have to pay the tax, would have no power over its imposition and no power to get any of the money raised spent on public transport.

We support the principles of the bill, but, as I think that all members showed, a lot of work and amendments will be needed to make the bill fit for purpose.

16:42  
Liam Kerr (North East Scotland) (Con)

I am pleased to close this stage 1 debate on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives. I say at the outset that the bill has many laudable aims, so we will support it at stage 1. However, as members have made clear throughout the debate, the bill currently represents something of a missed opportunity.

There is little doubt that Scotland’s transport network and the framework that governs it are in urgent need of renewal and modernisation. What we need is a vision—a real drive to the future.

As has been made clear throughout the debate, and in many of the helpful submissions that have been sent to members, significant gaps remain. For that reason, we are of the view that the bill could go further, so we will be pleased to lodge amendments at stage 2.

I will talk about specific areas of the bill, and will elaborate on the discussion that we have heard throughout the afternoon. First, on low-emission zones, there is no doubt that in many of our cities air quality remains a problem that lowers life expectancy and puts additional pressure on our health service. I live within a mile of Market Street in Aberdeen, which is one of the most polluted streets in Scotland. The transport sector is the largest source of nitrogen oxide emissions and the second-largest source of particulates in Scotland. We recognise the many potential benefits of tackling air pollution in Scotland’s towns and cities, so we are broadly supportive of LEZs and the effect that they seek to achieve.

However, there are issues. I am indebted to a member of the SNP—I shall not name the member, because it was not a public conversation—who pointed out that there is anecdotal evidence that the impact of the Aberdeen western peripheral route on Market Street’s pollution might be considerable. We are waiting for the local authority to report back on that. Further, she pointed out—rightly, in my view—that Market Street’s issues are compounded by the many large ships in the adjacent harbour that keep their engines running. We need to be sure that LEZs are used properly and have the desired effect.

I note the concerns of the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland that the introduction of LEZs could have a direct impact on more than 80,000 businesses in Scotland’s four biggest cities. We need to bear in mind the wide definition of “business”.

Jamie Greene talked about electric taxis costing £60,000, which is a big hit for a self-employed driver, and his point about rural users of diesel and agricultural vehicles was also important.

John Finnie

Does Liam Kerr accept that people are increasingly living in town and city centres, in particular in vacated shops, so LEZs would be a boon to them, never mind to motorists?

Liam Kerr

I recognise that, but that does not detract from my point: LEZs have their place if they are used properly, but I would like the significant concerns about them to be ironed out at stage 2. John Finnie will share my specific concern about the cost to the public purse.

Peter Chapman mentioned Dundee, which would be one of the cities to introduce an LEZ. We should remember that the point is to impose penalties on drivers who bring dirty vehicles within the LEZ’s boundaries. According to a question from Jenny Marra yesterday, at least 100 of Dundee’s buses currently fail to meet basic environmental standards, and the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee flagged up that the bus industry has raised concerns that introducing LEZs without sufficient lead-in times could force firms to withdraw services or increase fares. I know that John Finnie will be concerned about that.

The introduction of LEZs has to be done correctly, so I endorse Jamie Greene’s suggestion that we need proper support and/or industry-specific exemptions to aid businesses and individuals, especially vulnerable people, in the transition to new LEZs. We need a clear timetable—which might include phased implementation—new incentives to encourage take-up of compliant vehicles, support for residents who will reside within the LEZs, and investment to enhance public transport and active travel routes.

Pavement parking is a real problem, so I am pleased that the bill addresses it. Richard Yule mentioned the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, and having experienced a blindfolded walk with a guide dog in Forfar and having consulted constituents in Aberdeen who are mobile only through using wheelchairs, I know that there is a definite need to address the issue. Cars that are parked on pavements can force people to walk into the road, which is especially dangerous for blind and partially sighted people, and for people with reduced mobility, older people and families with pushchairs.

However, I again share Jamie Greene’s concern that although inconsiderate parking must be tackled, a blanket ban with no room for exemptions by local authorities—remember, they know their communities best—might be too much of a catch-all approach. There has to be room for a compromise, such that we strike a balance between protecting vulnerable pedestrians and allowing harmless pavement parking to continue. I agree with the committee that a limited amount of pavement parking could be permitted in specific areas, provided that a specified minimum amount of pavement space remains.

I heard Edward Mountain talk about Cycling Scotland’s briefing, and whether it would be appropriate to extend the provisions in the bill to cover cycleways. Sandra White and Donald Cameron talked powerfully about new protections for dropped-kerb crossing points. There is a great deal of merit in those proposals, so I endorse the calls for the Scottish Government to consider whether such extensions would be appropriate.

I will make some brief comments on the workplace parking levy. I cannot but oppose it, because I cannot see how it can be right to charge workers £500 just to park at their place of work.

John Finnie

I do not know where Liam Kerr got that figure from. Will he acknowledge that his party’s UK Government reviewed the policies that were available to local authorities in England and Wales and considered that they are appropriate? Why does he want fundraising powers for local authorities in England, but not for those in Scotland?

Liam Kerr

Only one council has used the power. We are talking about what is right for Scotland. The significant point is the number of objections that have been raised—not the least of which is from the Scottish Police Federation, which suggests that the proposal could compromise not only public safety, but the safety of our brave police officers. I know that that will concern John Finnie. We must listen to those voices.

Perhaps uniquely, I completely associate myself with Colin Smyth’s comments. His points were absolutely spot on—as were James Kelly’s, to be fair—about commuters from outside cities paying, to no local benefit, under a fundamentally inequitable policy. That point was well made. Richard Yule seemed to miss out a bit of his speech, so I wonder whether he would like to intervene on me right now and restate his view that he will never vote for the policy. Would you care to do so, Mr Yule?

Richard Lyle

My name is not Richard Yule; it is Richard Lyle.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I ask members to conduct exchanges through the chair rather than across the chamber.

Liam Kerr

Mr Lyle seems to be reluctant to accept my invitation, so I will not push the point.

It is clear from this afternoon’s debate, the committee’s report and the many submissions that groups have sent to members in advance of the debate, that the bill is laudable. It includes many good principles, including a focus on the environment and support for bus services, which is not an issue that I have had time to summarise, although Mike Rumbles and Peter Chapman looked at it in detail and were highly persuasive.

I have my doubts about whether the bill goes far enough or is ambitious enough, but I confirm that we will support its general principles at stage 1, and I look forward to working collaboratively on a cross-party basis to drive improvements in Scotland’s transport network.

The Deputy Presiding Officer

I call Michael Matheson to wind up the debate for the Government.

16:50  
Michael Matheson

I welcome the contributions from across the chamber, in which members have touched on a range of issues in the bill. In his opening comments, Edward Mountain mentioned the limited amount of time that has been allocated to the debate, given the bill’s complexity and the range of issues that it covers, and I have some sympathy with that point. So great is the range of topics that the bill covers, I had to canter through my opening speech in an effort to touch on as many of them as possible.

I want to pick up on some of the issues that have been raised. I take exception to Mr Greene’s suggestion that, in some way, the bill is not an ambitious bill. I think that he got confused between the need for legislation and the need for a strategy to take forward legislative provisions. As I said at the outset of my opening speech, the bill is only one element of the wider range of measures that need to be taken to tackle a range of transport issues. The review of the national transport strategy will be critical to making sure that we achieve not only the benefits that can come from the bill but the goal of improving Scotland’s transport infrastructure and transport services, which is a much more ambitious agenda. I am sure that Mr Greene will wait with bated breath to read the draft of the national transport strategy and that, when it is published, he will share it with Mr Kerr, who also seems to have confused legislation and strategy.

A key issue is the provision of low-emission zones. It is clear that there is a need for us to take appropriate action to address pollution and poor air quality in our town centres, especially in our big cities. LEZs, which Edward Mountain, Jamie Greene, Mike Rumbles, John Finnie and Colin Smyth, among others, talked about, can assist us in doing that.

One issue that was raised was the need for a standardised approach to such zones. Edward Mountain correctly reflected what I said in my evidence to the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, which I repeated in my response to the committee’s stage 1 report. Our intention is to have consistency on how low-emission zones are applied. We want the truck, the bus or the car that is compliant in the Glasgow LEZ to also be compliant in the LEZs in Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. We want a consistent approach to be taken to the standards that will be applied. We are setting out the relevant provisions in regulations to give us the flexibility to adapt those standards as things progress and we move on from Euro 6 and Euro 4 engines. That will mean that, as technology develops, we can amend the regulations instead of having to come back to the primary legislation. We will be able to adapt the standards much more quickly and flexibly through regulations as the new zones bed in and technology progresses.

Stewart Stevenson

The second pollutant on the list that is provided in the Government’s “Cleaner Air for Scotland: The Road to A Healthier Future” is sulphur dioxide. The issue of vessels continuing to run their engines in harbours adjacent to populated areas is a real one, because that is the big source of sulphur dioxide. Will the cabinet secretary work with the UK Government to reduce the sulphur in marine fuels, which might help?

Michael Matheson

The member makes a good point. There are new and emerging technologies in the marine industry that could help to address that issue and we will continue to pursue the matter with the UK Government.

The issue of air quality was raised by Peter Chapman and John Finnie. The LEZs do not sit on their own in relation to improving air quality in our city centres. A key part of what we are seeking to do with LEZs is to help to introduce a range of other measures to prioritise public transport options. We only have to look at the approach that is being taken by Glasgow City Council, which introduced the first of its LEZs on 31 December 2018—hogmanay. The Glasgow connectivity commission is looking at a range of issues to see how it can improve transport connectivity in greater Glasgow. A key part of that is improving bus provision.

Glasgow’s approach is exactly the approach that LEZs will help to support and achieve elsewhere. It is about that wider and more holistic approach, looking at active travel options, other public transport options and bus prioritisation—all the measures that we know can assist us in improving air quality in our town centres and in improving the attractiveness of public transport and active travel options.

In places such as Glasgow, the average speed of a bus going through the city centre is in the region of 3mph. By providing greater public transport prioritisation in the town centre, the speed could double to 6mph. It would make journey times quicker and bus travel more attractive and the running cost for the bus industry would be lower as well. That is one of the measures that Glasgow is considering.

LEZs are important, but they are one of a range of elements. A number of members have raised issues in relation to the bus industry—in particular, the declining patronage. One of the errors that can be made in trying to tackle some of the challenges around the bus industry is to think that there is some magic wand that can reverse more than four decades of decline in bus patronage. We all know that the reasons for the decline in bus patronage are multifactorial. There is a range of issues that impact on bus patronage. The idea that there is a simple one-off, off-the-shelf solution that will address all the issues is wrong, because of the complexity of the issues. That is why it is important that the bill makes a range of different options available to local authorities so that they can develop an approach that best suits their local circumstances. For some, that may be franchising; for others, it may be a bus service improvement partnership or running their own services.

As I said when I was at committee, I hear the views of those who believe that there should be a provision to enable local authorities to run their own services as and when they like on a municipal basis, as in Lothian. I am not ideologically opposed to that. However, I will sound one note of caution—the suggestion that that is the answer to all our bus issues in Scotland is simply not true. We only have to look at municipal bus services in England to see that, in some cities, they do not work at all and the local authorities are looking to disinvest from the services because of the challenges. It is not simply about one model; it is how we make use of that model that is important, which is why we will give consideration to that.

Colin Smyth

Will the cabinet secretary give way?

John Finnie

Will the cabinet secretary give way?

Michael Matheson

Mr Smyth was first in seeking to make an intervention so I will give way to him.

Colin Smyth

It is important to note that, during the debate, not a single member said that there was one panacea for the decline in bus patronage. However, why does the cabinet secretary think that banning councils from having the same model as Lothian is a way to improve bus services? Why does he stick to that point?

Michael Matheson

As I have said—and I will repeat it for the third time for the benefit of the member—I am open to giving consideration to that option. However, when members overplay a particular option, it suggests that they think there is a wand that they can wave that will resolve problems, which is just not true and does not reflect the complexity of the issues. No doubt the member will want to reflect on that.

I will draw my remarks to a close by saying something about parking. I heard the competing views in the chamber on the 20-minute exemption for unloading. It is important to recognise that people in the road haulage and delivery industries and business say that there must be some exemption to allow deliveries to take place, but I have also heard people say that there should be no exemptions whatever or that the exemption should be based not on time but on the amount of the pathway that can be made available.

There are also the concerns expressed by Sandra White who, as everyone in the chamber will want to recognise, has for many years now been pursuing, along with Ross Finnie and Joe FitzPatrick, the need to tackle pavement parking effectively. I will, of course, reflect on the views of and issues raised by the committee and members in the chamber. We are seeking to strike a balance that addresses the issue appropriately, but if there are ways in which we can address the concerns that have been expressed, we will certainly give them due consideration at stage 2.

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

That concludes this afternoon’s debate.

Financial resolution

A financial resolution is needed for Bills that may have a large impact on the 'public purse'.

MSPs must agree to this for the Bill to proceed.

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Financial resolution transcript

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item is consideration of motion S5M-16393, on a financial resolution for the Transport (Scotland) Bill.

Motion moved,

That the Parliament, for the purposes of any Act of the Scottish Parliament resulting from the Transport (Scotland) Bill, agrees to—

(a) any expenditure of a kind referred to in Rule 9.12.3(b) of the Parliament’s Standing Orders arising in consequence of the Act, and

(b) any charge or payment in relation to which Rule 9.12.4 of the Standing Orders applies arising in consequence of the Act.—[Derek Mackay]

The Presiding Officer

The question on the motion will be put at decision time.

MSPs agreed that this Bill could continue

Stage 2 - Changes to detail 

MSPs can propose changes to the Bill. The changes are considered and then voted on by the committee. 

Who spoke to the lead committee at Stage 2

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First meeting transcript

The Convener

The next item is our first evidence-taking session on the policy intentions of stage 2 amendments to the Transport (Scotland) Bill on the proposed workplace parking levy. Two panels of witnesses will give evidence today, with our questioning of the first panel conducted by videoconference.

Our first panel of witnesses will give evidence on Nottingham City Council’s experience of the workplace parking levy, and I welcome to the meeting Chris Carter, head of transport strategy, Nottingham City Council; and Professor Stephen Ison, professor of transport policy, Loughborough University. Professor Ison has undertaken research on Nottingham’s experience of the workplace parking levy.

Before we go any further, there is one declaration of interest to deal with.

Richard Lyle (Uddingston and Bellshill) (SNP)

No representatives from Aviva are present at the meeting, but it is only right that I declare that I receive a small pension from Aviva, which manages my pension on behalf of a company that used to provide it.

The Convener

I should say to the witnesses that the committee members will question you in an order that I will determine, and when they come to the end of their time, I will wave at them to get them to stop. If I think that you are expanding beyond the remit of the question that you are answering, you might see me waving at you, too. Unfortunately, you are not in the room with us, so I cannot do what I threaten to do to those who continue to speak after I have waved a few times, which is to waggle my pen and then launch it across the room. I have never done that, and anyway, it would have no effect on you, as you are on screen.

Welcome to the meeting and thank you for agreeing to give evidence.

Mike Rumbles (North East Scotland) (LD)

My questions are straightforward. Why did Nottingham City Council decide to develop a workplace parking levy scheme and, perhaps more important, why is it the only local authority in England and Wales to have introduced such a levy since the passage of the Transport Act 2000 19 years ago? Why is Nottingham City Council unique in this respect?

Chris Carter (Nottingham City Council)

First of all, I will give a bit of background to why Nottingham set out on this course.

The city has been following integrated transport policies for a number of years, because, like many other cities, it suffers from congestion. We know that incentives on their own are not enough to influence behaviour change; plenty of research out there says that you need some sticks, too, if you are going to encourage modal change.

With that in mind, Nottingham looked at the legislation when it came in, in 2000, and it was influential in getting the workplace parking levy included, because we saw that the levy fitted the city’s needs. We were being impacted by traffic from further afield coming into the city. Nottingham is a centre for commerce and jobs, with a lot of employment, and our problem is peak-time congestion.

We therefore saw the levy as the perfect tool for influencing behaviour and, importantly, for investing in high-quality public transport alternatives. We identified a package of measures including the expansion of our tram system; one line was opened in 2004, and the levy was seen as a way of providing a local contribution to allow the tram to be expanded into a much more comprehensive system across the city.

The levy was also used to invest in Nottingham station. Businesses had said that the station was not an attractive gateway into the city, and they felt it important that that was improved.

We also used the money to improve our bus services by investing in a fleet of electric buses that are used on tendered services. That is particularly important as they serve certain areas that are not served by the commercial network—for example, business parks, which traditionally do not have good bus services. It is very much seen as part of a package of measures.

Mike Rumbles

If it is such a success and such a positive thing, why, after 19 years, are you the only council that has done it?

Professor Stephen Ison (Loughborough University)

Historically, when the legislation was put in place, quite a number of local authorities—close to 25 of them—were interested in either road pricing or the workplace parking levy. However, a number of things need to be in place before you can implement a policy, whether it be road pricing or the levy, that is not seen as very acceptable, because it acts as a disincentive.

Nottingham had a number of things in place that allowed it to introduce the levy. First, there was a stable political situation in the council, which I think is necessary. Secondly, it had a number of policy champions. I cannot understate the importance of having that kind of champion for any local authority or any Government that wants to introduce such a policy. Moreover, Nottingham needed to develop its tram network, and hypothecation of the revenue was an important part of that. That is part of the reason why the levy happened.

The Convener

I am sorry, but time is short, and the shorter we can keep the answers and the more dialogue we can get going between us, the better. I will move on to John Mason, who has the next question.

John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

My understanding is that, in the first five years of the levy, you have raised approximately £53 million. I am interested in finding out where that money has gone. You used the word “hypothecation”. I understand that the tram network has cost £570 million, the railway £60 million and the buses £200 million. Obviously, the levy has not fully paid for all that. How, then, does it work?

Chris Carter

The total cost of the tram system, for example, is about £500 million, and the local contribution is about £100 million. Basically, it all goes into a financial model, because there are lots of different funding streams that pay for all these measures. The levy provides the city council’s contributions to those programmes, and it is also important to point out that it levers in a lot of other investment to fund the total cost of those improvements.

10:15  
John Mason

Would the improvements have happened anyway without the levy?

Chris Carter

No, definitely not.

John Mason

So, the levy has made a significant difference, even though it covers only a small part of the expenditure.

Chris Carter

That is correct. We would generally describe that money as our local contribution.

John Mason

That is helpful. Has the levy had an impact on traffic congestion?

Professor Ison

Yes. It is obviously very difficult to disentangle the impact of any one measure on traffic, but the figures suggest that, when compared with a number of comparator cities, there has been a reduction in the overall level of congestion following the introduction of the levy. You would expect as much with a change that aims to impact on demand.

John Mason

So, the levy has reduced not the amount of traffic but the growth of traffic.

Professor Ison

That is exactly right.

Peter Chapman

Good morning, gentlemen. You have outlined the huge investment that you have made in public transport, including your tram, bus and train systems, and I imagine that that has led to greater use of that kind of transport. Indeed, simply making that investment would, in its own right, lead to public transport being used more frequently. What percentage of the increase in the use of public transport is due to the levy, and what percentage is due to the fact that you have invested a lot in the public transport systems?

Professor Ison

It is quite difficult to disentangle the impact of a particular measure on anything, but our work suggests that the public transport modal share has changed dramatically since the introduction of the levy, with an uptake in cycling across the board and bus patronage increasing over the period.

Of course, if, as has happened, you reduce the number of parking spaces from about 35,000 to about 29,000, there will be an impact, because of the impact on the termination point of traffic. A number of the people affected have taken up alternatives, including the tram, which has been developed in part through funding from the levy.

Chris Carter

Three elements are driving change, the first of which is the direct impact of the levy and the introduction of this charge. As that represents a relatively small amount of the total cost, the direct modal change resulting from the introduction of the levy is probably small.

Secondly, there is the behaviour of business. The levy is a tax on business, and it depends on the number of parking spaces that are provided. Therefore, if business reduces the number of spaces, that will have an impact.

Thirdly, there is the investment in public transport alternatives, which is probably the biggest element in driving modal change.

Peter Chapman

Do you have any evidence that the levy has encouraged more people to commute by bike or to walk to work?

Chris Carter

Yes. Over the past 10 years, we have seen about a 50 per cent increase in the number of cyclists. I do not have the figures for the number of people walking, but the behaviour change across all sustainable modes is encouraging.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

Good morning. You have touched on the issue of congestion. What impact, if any, has the levy had on local air pollution levels?

Chris Carter

The levy has been implemented primarily as a congestion measure. Although we have kept it separate from our air quality strategy, there clearly is a link. The levy and the public transport improvements have helped to contain traffic in Nottingham, which means that traffic growth has been lower than in many other areas.

As for air quality, Nottingham was predicted to be one of the areas that would be in excess of air pollution limits by 2020, and we conducted our own local modelling to look into that further. Because of the levy, the improvements that we have been making and other investments that have been made by local public transport operators, Nottingham has a plan, which has been agreed by the Government, and with the retrofitting of buses and the changes that we are making to our taxis, we will now comply with the air quality regulations. That has happened partly because of the levy.

John Finnie

You have mentioned a suite of measures. Are you able to identify what part the workplace parking levy has played in that?

Chris Carter

No, I cannot. It is just really difficult to isolate individual measures, particularly because the levy has been presented as part of a package. People’s behaviour is influenced by many factors, such as fuel prices, and the levy is just one small fiscal measure that influences behaviour. It is therefore difficult to isolate an individual part.

John Finnie

I appreciate that. In that case, I will try another question. Are you able to comment on the levy’s impact on business growth and inward investment?

Chris Carter

We have not been able to identify any particular business that has moved out of Nottingham as a result of the levy. Before the levy was introduced, there was a lot of discussion about its impact on inward investment, but we have not been able to find any evidence of people moving out specifically because of it.

When we have discussions about inward investment, the levy always comes up as a factor, but there is a trade-off in that businesses and offices want to come to the city centre because of the good public transport access. The tram is a good attractor for people to invest in the city. Different businesses have different needs and, depending on those needs, they will see a high-quality public transport system as being important or—if they are particularly dependent on cars or business travel—as less suitable. There are different needs in different areas.

Professor Ison

I would back that up. I do not think that there is evidence to suggest that the introduction of the workplace parking levy has led to any outward investment as a result of companies relocating. When the scheme was first introduced, people said that that would happen, but as Chris Carter has rightly pointed out, that does not appear to be the case. The public transport network is much improved, and businesses can see the benefits of that. There is no evidence to suggest that, in cities with similar measures, there has been an adverse effect on investment.

John Finnie

Many thanks.

Richard Lyle

I have had the good fortune to be in Nottingham, and I know many of your politicians through the Association for Public Service Excellence. Do you agree that you need a majority council and the political will in a local area to drive the parking levy scheme forward?

Chris Carter

You need strong political leadership. Exactly what form that takes will be different in different areas, but it is essential.

Richard Lyle

Do you think that the levy could be introduced by a minority council?

Chris Carter

If you have agreed a clear vision of what you want to do and how the levy would form part of a strategy, there is no reason why you cannot introduce it. As long as there is agreement around a vision, it will work. However, leadership is the key.

Richard Lyle

What reaction did you get from the public when you first introduced the levy?

Chris Carter

There were different reactions from different people. City residents, who are predominantly impacted by congestion, pollution and all the other adverse impacts of traffic, generally support the levy, because they can see how the investments are beneficial to them, while people who are likely to drive into Nottingham from further afield will say that they have been negatively impacted. The levy impacts on different people in different ways.

Richard Lyle

I have another two questions. Your submission refers to exemptions for

“customer vehicles, fleet vehicles, disabled blue badge holders, and a number of employers who are 100% discounted from the charge such as Ambulance, Police, Fire and qualifying NHS premises.”

Do you suggest that anyone who considers introducing a levy should grant all the same exemptions as you have?

Chris Carter

The Nottingham scheme makes few exemptions; the exemptions relate more to operational vehicles than to those that involve commuter journeys. The only significant exemption is for national health service premises, which came about after discussion with the then Secretary of State for Transport.

The beauty of the workplace parking levy is that it is flexible and allows different exemptions to meet needs. However, another strength of the levy is its simplicity. If too many exemptions are introduced, it becomes too complicated and a lot of the benefits are lost.

Professor Ison

I agree. At least in the first instance, it is important for the scheme to be simple.

Richard Lyle

Your submission says:

“The scheme focuses heavily on compliance with officers working with employers to assist them in licensing their parking spaces correctly and”—

this is the interesting part—

“encouraging them to take advantage of the business support available.”

Will you explain that?

Chris Carter

We offer business support as part of the scheme. I have an officer who goes round and talks to businesses that pay the levy. We offer a grant scheme so that employers can provide facilities for their staff, such as cycle shelters, showers, car park management, travel planning information and, latterly, electric vehicle charging points. We provide grants to support businesses in reducing their liability.

Colin Smyth (South Scotland) (Lab)

You mentioned that designated NHS premises are exempt, but is it the case that a police officer who parked at work or a teacher who parked at a school would not be exempt?

Chris Carter

That is correct. The exemption applies to front-line NHS premises, such as hospitals and other medical facilities. However, a separate administrative facility would not be exempt.

Colin Smyth

The cost of the levy in Nottingham is set at £415 per parking space, and the cost is often passed on to workers. That means that Nottingham City Council’s chief executive, whose salary is £170,000-plus a year, would pay exactly the same as the lowest-paid worker in the council, who receives the living wage. Is the levy the same, irrespective of income?

Chris Carter

That is not how the scheme works. The levy is a charge on the employer, which pays the charge. It is up to employers to decide how or whether they pass on the levy to their employees.

The city council charges different amounts for car parks in different parts of the city, and it changes the amount that people pay according to their salary. That is the employer’s decision; other employers have taken a similar or different approach. It is up to the employer to decide whether to pass on the levy.

Professor Ison

Some organisations allocate the charge to their workforce in a sophisticated way that is based on salary and vehicle engine size. They use a sliding scale that takes all that into account, so a person might pay an awful lot or very little—that would depend on their salary structure and the vehicle that they used. If organisations implement such an approach, how they do it has been left up to them.

Colin Smyth

Allowing employers to charge everybody the same amount, irrespective of salary, is regressive. Why have you not issued guidance to all employers that pass on the levy to say that the approach should be more progressive and based on salary? Why have you allowed employers to charge everybody the same amount, irrespective of salary?

Chris Carter

The way that the scheme works is that we charge the employer; that is just how the scheme is set up. We advise employers on how they can pass on that charge if they choose to do so and we give them examples of how they can do that. We would probably advise that, if they adopt such schemes, they should vary the charge depending on the employee’s salary. That is certainly in some of the examples that we give employers.

10:30  
Professor Ison

Many organisations outside the levy have schemes where they charge their employees to park at the workplace. There is one such scheme at Loughborough University and there is no interference from the local authority in that charge.

Colin Smyth

The charge can be applied only within the Nottingham City Council area. Would it be fair to say that most of the travel-to-work areas in Nottingham are pretty much urban areas?

Chris Carter

The travel-to-work areas go beyond the urban areas. They go into neighbouring rural districts.

Colin Smyth

Is it fair that somebody in a rural area who does not have access to public transport has to travel into Nottingham using their car but their local authority has no say whatsoever on that levy because they live outwith the Nottingham City Council area? Is that fair, given that none of the funding raised by the council will go towards improving public transport in that rural area because it is outwith your boundaries?

Chris Carter

One of the particular features of Nottingham’s public transport system is park and ride. It is an important component of the tram system in particular. There are over 5,000 parking spaces dotted around the urban area—all the motorway access routes have large park-and-ride sites along those main routes. People who are driving in from further afield have the option of driving to the edge of Nottingham, parking in a park and ride and then using one of the high-quality public transport options to get to their destination in the city centre or elsewhere.

The Convener

Members are all being extremely good with their timing. I do not want to provoke you into doing something different, but that means that there will be time to bring in more questions at the end. I have Richard Lyle listed already and anyone else who wants to come in can start indicating that to me. I will go to Stewart Stevenson now and ask him to remember what I have just said.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I have just started my stopwatch, convener.

Mr Carter, you said that having limited exemptions keeps costs down. I want to explore that in more detail. Roughly what percentage of the money that you take in from workplace parking goes on the administration of the scheme?

Chris Carter

We are up to about £9.5 million of income, and about £500,000 per year goes into running the scheme, including the business support element.

Stewart Stevenson

So that is about 6 per cent.

Chris Carter

Yes, it is something like that.

Stewart Stevenson

Have you learned any lessons on that? You have been running the scheme for a considerable time. Have you cut the administration costs or have you found them rising? What is the trend?

Chris Carter

The running of the scheme has been pretty consistent since it began. We do a lot of compliance work. We could have spent money on enforcing the scheme but we have not needed to, because we do a lot of work with employers to ensure that there is a high level of compliance.

I would say that the lesson is that the more work you do on compliance, the more you can ensure that you are minimising the cost of administering the scheme.

Stewart Stevenson

So you are not spending much money on enforcement but you are spending money on ensuring compliance.

Chris Carter

Correct.

Stewart Stevenson

Have you had many issues with non-compliance and how have you dealt with them?

Chris Carter

We have had virtually no issues with enforcement. By having that repeated dialogue with businesses, we have a situation where they provide the required information and the scheme runs smoothly.

Professor Ison

One feature of the scheme in Nottingham is that the charge applies to premises with more than 10 spaces but not to premises with fewer spaces than that, which has cut down the number of employers who are subject to the charge. In the region of 500 employers are subject to it, although there are more than 3,000 organisations within the city boundaries. That made implementation easier.

Stewart Stevenson

Who finds the parking places that are liable to be charged? Does the district valuer do it or is it done in another way?

Chris Carter

We write to all employers and they are required to fill in a return. We have a number of tools that we can then use when we go out. That usually involves visits and having a look. We have the power to inspect car parks and we have a video car that can count vehicles in car parks. That is all part of compliance.

Stewart Stevenson

Finally—I am in my final 20 seconds so I need a very brief answer—I visited Nottingham to see the trams on 23 September 2004. Was that before or after the workplace parking levy started?

Chris Carter

The first Nottingham tram line was built in 2004, which was before the workplace parking levy. We extended the tram system in 2015, which was afterwards—the levy was introduced in 2012.

Maureen Watt (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

Have the taxation arrangements for the workplace parking levy had any effect on whether employers have chosen to pass on payment of the levy to employees? Do you have any idea of how it works with each employer?

Chris Carter

Generally, public sector employers have passed on the levy to their employees. When it comes to private businesses, probably half of the larger employers have passed it on, and fewer of the smaller employers. That is the broad picture.

Maureen Watt

How has that gone down with employees? It is a benefit in kind, I believe, so it will affect their taxes.

Chris Carter

I am not aware of that, because it is a tax on the employer not on the employee. It affects the business rather than the individual.

Maureen Watt

Are you saying that, if a business passes the levy on to the employee, it does not affect their taxes?

Chris Carter

That is how I understand it, yes.

Maureen Watt

Is that how you understand it, Professor Ison?

Professor Ison

It is indeed.

Maureen Watt

I want to go back to something that you said earlier, professor, because I am not sure that I picked you up correctly. You said that other businesses—Loughborough University, for example—have their own charging schemes. Is that right?

Professor Ison

Yes. You will find that across the country. A lot of employers charge their employees for parking at the workplace.

Maureen Watt

If we take Loughborough University as an example, do you know how it uses the money that it raises?

Professor Ison

I am not privy to how it uses that money. Across the country, organisations might well hypothecate the money to use for improvements in the provision of public transport or the car parking or lighting on their sites. Some will put it into their general pot. I do not think that it is used in any specific way.

Maureen Watt

From your research in the area, where that has happened with companies, does it make them less attractive to employees? Does it have any advantages or disadvantages?

Professor Ison

Charging someone to park at their workplace seems a bit odd, does is it not? However, a lot of organisations are at constrained sites and may well implement a permit system—they just do not have the space for employees and a number of them introduce a charge for that reason.

Maureen Watt

Is that not discriminatory? For example, there may be people with childcare responsibilities who need to get quickly from their work to a nursery.

Professor Ison

Yes. I have done work in a number of organisations, including for hospitals and universities, that are not in Nottingham city. A number of them have sophisticated schemes for dealing with, for example, issues to do with childcare, working on dual sites and difficulties with looking after ageing parents. The levy is not a one-size-fits-all solution by any means. Of course, the more complex you make a scheme, the more difficult it is to administer it. However, I take your point and accept what you are saying.

Jamie Greene

I have heard a lot this morning about the financial benefits to the local authority of raising revenue from the levy scheme, but I have not heard a huge amount of evidence from you about any benefits to improving the air quality or environment of the city, nor any significant evidence to suggest that congestion has been reduced as a direct result of the measure. You said that the measure is primarily to tackle congestion, but all that I have heard is that it seems to be raising revenue. Will you enlighten me further?

Professor Ison

It is difficult to disentangle the impact that any scheme will have on congestion and the environment. Intuitively, if you think of a scheme in which there is a disincentive to use a private car in favour of public transport, walking or cycling, by definition, there will be improvement in the level of congestion and to the environment.

Jamie Greene

That is the theory. You have had experience of the scheme for a number of years, so can you evidence that with some numbers?

Professor Ison

We have, through our work, seen that the level of congestion has not increased as much in Nottingham as it has in comparator cities. I think that work is still to be done on the air quality aspect, to be fair.

Jamie Greene

I will move on to another line of questioning. My reading of the reports on your scheme is that many drivers, rather than suffer the consequence of the levy, park their cars in the suburbs surrounding the city centre, which is causing parking chaos. I could name a number of villages and suburbs where there is evidence of that occurring. What analysis have you done of the displacement of vehicles that used to be parked at a workplace but are now parked in the city’s suburbs?

Chris Carter

Displacement is definitely one of the key issues that have to be addressed if an authority is considering a workplace parking levy scheme. We have paid a lot of attention to parking restrictions and the control of parking around employment sites. We have put in place a number of additional schemes around those sites—that might be in the form of restrictions to prevent parking around an employment site if a nuisance is being caused, or it might be in the form of providing more residents’ parking schemes.

We have significantly increased the amount of residents’ parking schemes for the reason that you said—that is, to make sure that residential areas are not impacted by displaced parking. That happens anyway. It was mentioned that many employers do not provide sufficient parking around their sites, so even without the levy there is displaced parking and parking in residential areas. Many areas suffer from that, as it is a common situation across the country. At least our scheme aims to improve public transport, address those issues and encourage people to use public transport instead of driving.

Jamie Greene

That is interesting. It sounds as if you have had to introduce measures to secure and guarantee residents parking spaces on their own streets as result of displacement because of the levy. Is that what you are saying?

10:45  
Chris Carter

I am saying that that has been an important aspect. There are different reasons for introducing residents parking schemes—it is very common to protect residential areas from commuter parking—but it has been an important aspect in Nottingham because, due to the workplace parking levy, there has probably been more displacement than there is elsewhere. Therefore, it is important that any authority that is considering introducing a workplace parking levy scheme considers the impacts of potential displaced parking. That is definitely true.

Professor Ison

It is an issue in general. The large generators of traffic in hospitals are part of that, as I have said. There will be some off-site parking on residential streets, which has to be tackled by the use of double yellow lines, controlled parking or other measures.

Gail Ross

Does Nottingham use any other measures, such as low-emission zones or congestion charging?

Chris Carter

We do not have congestion charging and we are not introducing a low-emission zone. We were considering implementing a clean air zone, and we were originally going to be mandated to do so by the Government, but, following our more detailed work and local modelling, we are no longer required to introduce a charging zone to address air quality issues. We are addressing our air quality issues through bus retrofitting and taxi policies, which are the focus of our air quality strategy.

Gail Ross

What made you choose the workplace parking levy over a low-emission zone or congestion charge?

Chris Carter

As I said previously, the workplace parking levy fitted with our strategy. That was partly because of the administrative boundary—Nottingham has a very tight boundary and was suffering from commuter traffic coming into the city area from further afield, so the workplace parking levy fitted well with that. We were trying to identify a potential funding stream for our public transport improvements and the levy also fitted that. The other key factor was that workplace parking levy schemes are much simpler to put in and administer.

At the time, Manchester had tried to introduce a road user charging scheme, which went to a referendum and was resoundingly voted down. The only place that has put in a comprehensive road user charging scheme is London, but London is a very different city to provincial cities. The workplace parking levy was seen as a more suitable scheme for a city the scale of Nottingham. It is much simpler to administer and cheaper to run, so it was much easier for a city that is the size of Nottingham to implement the scheme.

Professor Ison

I reiterate that point. Road pricing is difficult to introduce because it is a direct charge on the motorist for the use of road space, which the workplace parking levy is not. There has been an array of failed attempts to put such a scheme in place and referendums do not seem to be the right way to go about it, as was the experience some time ago in Edinburgh, as well as in Manchester.

The workplace parking levy took some time to introduce, but it is a simpler scheme and one that could be introduced more quickly than a road pricing scheme would have been.

Gail Ross

You mentioned earlier levering in other investment, and in your written submission you say:

“For every £1 raised the Levy helps to lever in at least £3 of external funding.”

What is that external funding?

Chris Carter

For example, in relation to the tram programme, we have to find about £100 million of the £500 million that is required for the tram network and tram extensions. The other funding comes from a cocktail of other sources, but Government grants are a significant part of it. For any project that the Department for Transport funds, it likes to see a local contribution.

That local contribution may range from about 10 per cent up to about 30 per cent. The same applied to the station improvements, where the fact that we could put in about £15 million of local money meant that we were able to lever in to those improvements another £45 million of national funding. That is how it works.

Gail Ross

I have one final small question. I find the charging of teachers to park at their workplace a bit of an anomaly, given that the school basically belongs to the local authority. Where does the charge come from? Does it come from the school budget or does the council pay the council?

Chris Carter

To some extent, in that case, the council pays the council although, there are also a lot of academies.

It is the same situation for the city council. The council will pay the levy but that money comes from the council and then goes into funding transport investment, so it is used for a different purpose. The council passes on those charges to individuals so those costs are covered by those individuals.

Gail Ross

So council employees pay—

Chris Carter

Council employees contribute, so that cost to the council is covered by the employees—that is correct.

Professor Ison

It is not just teachers who are charged but higher education institutions. The two universities in Nottingham also come under the scheme.

The Convener

I have a couple of questions. First, planning regulations used to stipulate that, once you built over a certain size, you had to have a set amount of parking spaces. Has the council changed those requirements to discourage parking at offices, so that if you are building offices, you do not have to provide a set amount of spaces?

Chris Carter

Nottingham has maximum parking standards, not minimum parking standards. We put a maximum limit, not a minimum limit, on our parking standards.

The Convener

So if you build more than a certain number of square metres, you would still be forced to have car parking spaces for that area.

Chris Carter

You would not be forced to do that. Because it is a maximum limit, you are not allowed to provide more than a certain amount of parking.

The Convener

Okay. Your figures show that the number of parking spaces that collect the levy has dropped from 32,000 to 25,000; 7,000 spaces have disappeared. What has happened to those spaces?

Chris Carter

That is one of the consequences of introducing the scheme; the first thing that any business that has parking spaces does is review the parking spaces that it has and then provide only the spaces that it requires.

It is important to say that the charge is only for spaces that are actually used so if a business has contracted and is only using half of its car park, it only has to pay for the spaces that it uses; it does not have to pay for the total number of spaces that are provided.

The Convener

I am sorry, but could you clarify that? You say that 7,000 spaces are no longer being used or charged for; I would say that those spaces are undeveloped areas. Do you encourage the owners of those spaces to redevelop the area for other uses? Are general permitted development regulations allowed to be used for redevelopment or do the owners have to go through the whole process again?

Chris Carter

Some employers have definitely redeveloped their car parks. Nottingham Trent University is a good example of that. It had a number of surface car parks and it decided that it no longer required them, which reduced the levy requirement. It uses the space for other purposes. That could be a beneficial effect of the levy scheme. It makes businesses re-evaluate the use of land and put it to better use in certain circumstances.

The Convener

I understand that, but that is about wide open spaces. In more central areas of the city, if you throw out two spaces it is difficult to find an alternative use for them unless you rent them out for car parking to other people. They could be leased to a separate business.

Chris Carter

It tends to be smaller car parks of 50 to 100 spaces that are redeveloped and replaced by an extension to a building, for example. Companies re-evaluate the spaces that they have.

The Convener

In fairness, I am trying to get to a point about smaller car parks. You charge for car parks with 11 places, so closing one place would get an employer out of the whole thing.

Chris Carter

That has definitely happened. On the margins, in car parks that had 11 or 12 places, some places will have been repurposed as disabled or operational spaces, or a bit of landscaping might have been put in. We accept that that is part of the scheme.

The Convener

This is my final question before going back to other members. Do you have evidence about how the 7,000 spaces that have come out of the levy have been subsequently used or redeveloped?

Chris Carter

We could give examples of how spaces have been redeveloped, although I could not show what has happened to all 7,000. Some larger car parks have been redeveloped, and some marginal spaces are no longer used.

Professor Ison

Some spaces have become redundant.

Chris Carter

That is right.

The Convener

I am being naughty in asking another question but, as the convener, I can get away with that, because I can criticise myself afterwards. Business rates are based on property rental values. Have rental values reduced for properties that have large workplace parking levy liabilities?

Chris Carter

I am not aware of that.

Professor Ison

I am not aware of that.

The Convener

Has the assessor not revalued such properties? Are you not aware of any significant numbers?

Chris Carter

I am not aware of that.

The Convener

We will go back round committee members.

Richard Lyle

Your main bus operator is Nottingham City Transport, which is still in public ownership. Do you agree that a good public transport system must be in place before such a levy is introduced? Has introducing the levy in Nottingham helped you to improve your bus and tram routes and make public transport better?

Chris Carter

It is important to have in place high-quality alternatives, which the public demand. Does that all have to be in place? We argued that we had a good public transport system but that we wanted to make it better, which was why we had to introduce the levy. If a place already has an excellent public transport system, people would probably ask why a levy was needed. The investment was an important part of our case.

Richard Lyle

So you must have good public transport first.

Chris Carter

That was important for Nottingham.

Mike Rumbles

I compliment both witnesses on their evidence. It has been excellent, but it has left me somewhat perplexed. You have operated the scheme for seven years. It sounds good and you have given positive evidence about achieving the exercise’s aims, but I am still perplexed. That goes back to a question that I asked earlier, when I did not get to the bottom of the issue, so I would like you to have another go at it.

You have operated the scheme for seven years, so why has not one single authority in England and Wales copied you? If the scheme was such a prime example, I would have thought that people would be falling over themselves to copy it.

Professor Ison

I totally agree—I am perplexed about why the scheme has not been copied. The same point applies to road pricing. The legislation for both measures was introduced in 2000, and bodies could go for road pricing, the workplace parking levy or both. Road pricing applies to one road in Durham, and attempts have been made to put in place road pricing schemes in other parts of the country, including Edinburgh.

Such measures are difficult and thorny. People must be brave and have the vision to introduce them, because it is not easy. To introduce a charge—some would call it a tax—is to implement a disincentive. We have discussed fairness and that sort of thing, and all such issues are important. Nottingham was brave—

Mike Rumbles

If I can interrupt, are you saying that only Nottingham is brave? I am not commenting on that, but what about all the other councils?

Professor Ison

The submissions to the committee show that a number of authorities, including London boroughs, are looking again at the measure. It went very quiet after Nottingham, which I was quite surprised about—I thought that, after they saw the impact, others would look at the measure. It will be more widely implemented, but a number of things need to be in place before that happens.

I do not know why we are in this position. Perhaps Chris Carter knows. There has certainly been a lot of interest in Nottingham—we are not short of suitors and visitors.

11:00  
Chris Carter

That is right. Lots of authorities have been in, had a look and are interested in progressing matters. The air quality requirements, and the clean air zones, which are basically road user charging in a different shape, are forcing many local authorities to go back to road pricing, and maybe some will consider the workplace parking levy as part of that. Things are changing, and I think that there will be much more interest in the WPL.

Jamie Greene

Have any businesses left Nottingham as a result of the levy?

Chris Carter

Not that we are aware of, no.

Jamie Greene

Does that mean that the BBC article that I am reading is incorrect? The article quotes a business director in Nottingham whose answer to the introduction of the levy was to move her organisation to Derby. She said:

“We’ve been in Derby ... and we’re very settled.

Nottingham has lost what we consider to be a very valuable talent pool, highly educated and intelligent people who are no longer part of the Nottingham scene.”

The local chamber of commerce seems to agree with that sentiment.

Chris Carter

You can probably find one example, but I am not aware that there have been any significant movements out of Nottingham as a direct result of the levy. I am not saying that the levy is not a factor in people’s inward investment decisions, but public transport and the provision of the tram are factors in such decisions, too. Different businesses have different needs. Lots of employers are looking to go back into cities, because public transport makes them more accessible. They consider that traffic and congestion are becoming big problems. There was a lot of investment in business parks around motorway junctions, but now people find that they are completely inaccessible. Businesses want to move back into city centre locations, because alternative transport modes are in place. That is how cities are changing and growing, is it not?

Professor Ison

It is sometimes very difficult to disentangle why a company has moved. That reason was given in that case, but I do not know that case.

Jamie Greene

I will just have to take them at their word—that is the reason that they gave publicly.

Professor Ison

Yes, of course; that is fine.

Stewart Stevenson

I will turn that point around. What businesses does Nottingham have an opportunity to attract because of the substantial investment in an excellent public transport system and the relative lack of congestion? Congestion there is growing more slowly than elsewhere. What kind of businesses will find that attractive? Is there any evidence that such businesses are being attracted?

Chris Carter

Organisations with large offices, including headquarters and regional offices, are generally the sort of places that want to locate in cities. Obviously, locations close to the train station are attractive, so that the employers can get people from further afield. An example of an organisation moving in is Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs—it is relocating a large regional office to a site close to the station, because it has very good accessibility from within the city and from further afield. That is the sort of employer who will want to invest in a high-quality city.

Stewart Stevenson

Roughly how many employees are you talking about?

Chris Carter

I think that, initially, there will be about 2,000, but I think that there will be space for 4,000 in the building under construction.

Stewart Stevenson

You will have to forgive me for my ignorance of Nottingham, but, to give a sense of scale, roughly how many people are in employment in Nottingham?

Chris Carter

There are about 300,000 jobs in the conurbation, of which 200,000 are in the city of Nottingham.

Stewart Stevenson

That is roughly a 1 per cent plus increase in employment as a result of a decision in which you think the issues that I mentioned were a factor, if not the decisive matter.

Chris Carter

I do not know. Decisions that businesses or employers make about where they locate are based on numerous factors, and transport is one of them. The quality of offices is a factor. There are a host of reasons why businesses locate where they locate, and transport is one of those reasons.

Professor Ison

I have to say that it can only be good for a relatively small free-standing city to have a highly developed public transport system—trams and bus networks and so on—if businesses are thinking about where they will locate their premises.

The Convener

I am going to take two more questions and then I have one to ask myself.

Richard Lyle

I contend that, as a motorist, I pay road tax, petrol duty and insurance. Do you not agree that the workplace parking levy is an unfair tax on me and other motorists?

Chris Carter

It is not uncommon to have to pay parking charges.

Richard Lyle

But this is over and above parking charges. I pay when I park in a car park, and I accept that, but this is something that has never been in place in our country and you are suggesting that I am going to have to pay it.

Chris Carter

It is inconsistent at the moment. Some employers charge employees to park, and others do not; you could say that that is unfair. A lot of employers pay a huge amount of money to provide car parks at no cost to the employees, and all the people who do not drive also bear the cost of that. In some ways, it is a fairer system because every employee who drives pays and it provides money and encourages behaviour change to more sustainable forms of transport, which is beneficial for everybody.

Richard Lyle

But you could just say to me, “Let’s put your income tax up by 10p, Mr Lyle.”

Chris Carter

You could do that. This is all about what could be described as nudge economics. It is about making small changes to encourage behaviour change.

Richard Lyle

Thank you.

The Convener

I am not sure from that whether Richard Lyle will move to Nottingham to work.

Richard Lyle

It is a lovely city. Tell the mayor and other members that I am asking for them.

The Convener

He might be coming. Maureen Watt gets another question.

Maureen Watt

I want to ask about business rates. Certainly, in Scotland, offices pay business rates on buildings and they might have to pay separate business rates for their car parking space. Is it the same in Nottingham? If it is, does the workplace parking levy go on top of that, or did they take away car parking business rates?

Chris Carter

I think that there is a component that relates to parking in the business rates, but I am not an expert on business rates. Obviously, the workplace parking levy is additional to business rates, but the charge could be passed on to employees. For example, an employer could make a profit out of the charges that they pass on, or they could raise more money by passing them on than the levy charges. Again, that is a decision for the individual employer.

The Convener

I am keen to take up that line of questioning. My understanding is that business rates are based on the rental value of the building, which will include the car parking spaces. Therefore, if there was a car parking levy, as a tenant of the building, I would argue that my rent would be too high and would have to come down by the value of the car parking charge. This is the question that I asked you earlier, and you suggested that there would be no change to business rates or reassessments in Nottingham. Are you convinced that that is correct?

Chris Carter

I might have to check the details of that. I am not aware that that is the case but I am perfectly happy to go away and check.

The Convener

I have another question. I am not sure whether you said that you had a choice between congestion charging, low-emission zones and the workplace parking levy and you plumped for the workplace parking levy because you thought that it was better than the other two. Is that what you said? Do you think all three of them could be imposed at the same time? There could be a congestion charge, a low-emission zone that, it is suggested, would mean a penalty for someone who does not meet the requirements, and a workplace parking levy. People could be taxed three times if that is what a city decides to go for. Do you think that is the way forward?

Chris Carter

In theory, you could do that, but why would a councillor want to go that way? It would mean creating a complicated and expensive mechanism to do it all.

In Nottingham in 2012, the options were the workplace parking levy and a road user charging scheme similar to the one that is used in London. Since then, the Government has introduced the concept of clean air zones, which are specifically designed to address air quality. That came in subsequently. When we were looking at the implications for air quality, we were not keen to go down the route of having a clean air zone and a workplace parking levy. That would be quite complicated and it would run the risk of double charges.

The workplace parking levy is aimed only at private car journeys, whereas a clean air zone can tackle other modes such as buses, taxis and vans, for example, and it does not necessarily have to include cars. The two schemes could be made to work together but you would have to think carefully about how to do it. We would not want the same people to have to pay twice; I do not think that that would be advantageous.

The Convener

I am going to push you on that. Your advice for a city that is considering such a scheme is that it should choose either the workplace parking levy, a congestion zone or low-emission zones, but it should not combine all three.

Professor Ison

It would be almost impossible to get all three in place. Road pricing has a long history. You could fill your room full of papers that have been written on road pricing. It is a difficult thing to get into place, as you well know. There are very few schemes around the world.

There are benefits to a road pricing scheme because it charges directly for the use of the road space and can charge where the congestion is. The workplace parking levy means charging where the vehicles terminate and so it is a complementary measure. Could you get both? It would be difficult, even for the most stable political council, to put both of those in place at the same time.

The Convener

Okay, so you are saying it is one or the other.

That brings us neatly to the end of our time. Chris and Stephen, thank you for giving evidence. It has been extremely useful and, if I may be so bold, extremely clear—both what you have said and the reception on the monitors.

11:13 Meeting suspended.  11:21 On resuming—  
The Convener

This is our second panel session on the workplace parking levy. I welcome Pauline McNeill, who joins the committee for this session. I also welcome Jim Grieve, interim partnership director of the south east of Scotland transport partnership—SEStran—and member of the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland; Councillor Anna Richardson, city convener for sustainability and carbon reduction for Glasgow City Council; and Richard Sweetnam, chief officer for city growth for Aberdeen City Council.

There is a series of questions. For those witnesses who did not see the first panel session, I will allow each member a certain amount of time in which to ask their questions and then we will have more questions at the end.

John Finnie

I have two simple questions. Do you support the proposal to allow local authorities, acting individually or in partnership with other local authorities, to introduce a workplace parking levy? If you support it or oppose it, can you explain why?

Jim Grieve (South East of Scotland Transport Partnership)

As a representative of a regional transport partnership that covers the south-east of Scotland, including the city of Edinburgh, and as a representative of SCOTS, I am happy to say that we support the principle of a workplace parking levy. However, SEStran has concerns; we feel that there should be a regional perspective on such an introduction, due to the issue that was raised earlier by Mr Smyth when he was speaking to the representative from Nottingham City Council, which is that all the advantages of the WPL might apply in the city and the disadvantages might fall on neighbouring councils. Despite that concern, as a tool for an authority to use in a discretionary way, be that a local authority or an RTP, we are broadly in favour of it.

John Finnie

Do you acknowledge that there is nothing in the amendments that would preclude local authorities working collaboratively? For example, one authority might have a scheme that has implications for a park and ride in another local authority area.

Jim Grieve

I acknowledge that; I read about that element. However, where local authority partnerships are already established, there is already a vehicle to look at that collaboratively and ensure consistency if more than one authority is looking at such an introduction at a similar time.

Councillor Anna Richardson (Glasgow City Council)

Glasgow City Council supports the principle of the power being passed to local authorities—last December, that was passed with a strong majority by committee. The main reason for that is that we are in the process of writing a new local transport strategy for the city and we are keen to have as many powers and as wide a toolkit at our disposal as possible, so that we can explore all the options and come up with the best strategy for our city.

John Finnie

Do you view it as a possible option, not necessarily a power that you would put in place straight away?

Councillor Richardson

At the moment, it is an option. We have not done the necessary analysis and work to decide whether we are in favour of implementing the policy. That work would come once the power was available to us.

Richard Sweetnam (Aberdeen City Council)

Aberdeen City Council has a similar conclusion. Along with other Scottish cities, it has looked at powers to drive inclusive economic growth through the empowering city government initiative and there are many levers, including levies. However, its position is that, once the powers are devolved and there is legislative ability to implement such levers, the debate, analysis and decisions can then take place in response to local need.

John Finnie

Connected to the proposal to give the power to local authorities is a requirement for consultation. Is the consultation robust enough? Do you have any concerns about the proposal?

Richard Sweetnam

From my point of view as a council officer, to date, there has been quite a quick turnaround in terms of the response time and therefore consultation at the local level, so further consideration is certainly needed with regard to the costs and benefits of any such scheme.

Councillor Richardson

We would be absolutely committed to doing as much consultation as possible as we developed a local transport strategy. With schemes such as the workplace parking levy, it is critical that we feed in everybody’s views. For example, we have put consultation at the heart of developing Glasgow’s low-emission zone policy. We have had huge amounts of engagement with different groups, including businesses, taxi drivers and specific representative organisations.

It is important to make policy alongside those who will be affected by it and to build in mitigation throughout the policy development, rather than consulting on a completed policy and then possibly having to amend it at that stage. If we got this power as a local authority, we would have those conversations with people across the board in the city and with all stakeholders throughout the process.

John Finnie

Could consultation go across authorities?

The Convener

You are cutting into other members’ time quite considerably, John.

John Finnie

I beg your pardon.

The Convener

Anna Richardson—you missed what I said to the first panel, which is that I try to catch witnesses’ attention when time is running short by waggling my pen, and the fear is always that if I get too vigorous with it, it will fly in their direction. I ask Jim Grieve to briefly answer the question that the other witnesses have responded to; we will then have to move on.

Jim Grieve

From the regional perspective, the regional transport partnership has a fundamental duty to provide a regional transport strategy. We suggest that initiatives such as a WPL should be part of that process, which carries with it very wide stakeholder engagement and consultation.

John Finnie

Thank you very much.

John Mason

I asked the first panel about the finances of all this. Nottingham had £50 million coming in over five years, which went to specific purposes such as for the tram, the buses and the train station. If you had that money coming in, would it be ring fenced?

Councillor Richardson

The amendment is clear that the expectation is for the money to be ring fenced, which is the approach that we would wish to take. With regard to the projects that it would be designed for, we would have to prioritise based on what the local transport strategy selected as the key priorities for the city. Sustainable transport is a key priority, which includes cycling, walking and public transport.

John Mason

I will press you on that. Nottingham seemed to have levered in quite a lot of extra money. It had that £50 million and ended up spending about £600 million, because it put in money and then levered in funds from other sources. If you had money coming in like that, would the same apply in Glasgow, Aberdeen or Edinburgh?

Councillor Richardson

Absolutely. That is the approach that we take when levering in additional funds, such as from the Scottish Government; we are very clear about where matched funds are from.

11:30  
Richard Sweetnam

We have about 7,000 employer parking spaces in the city council boundary, so any proceeds that were ring fenced for transport measures would be fairly insignificant. The Nottingham evidence showed that £400 million of investment came in from the Department for Transport for the tram scheme, so it was part of a much wider package.

Jim Grieve

I also have a word of caution. The Government has £80 million available this year for active travel, which is much increased from previous years—it applied last year as well. Much of the money requires a match from a council or an RTP. If a council is able to earn additional money, such as from a WPL, it would have more money available to match what it might gain from the Scottish Government. Smaller councils could lose out on attracting additional funds for things such as active travel if they do not have that facility or a concentration of traffic that might demand a WPL.

John Mason

That would be an argument for basing more things on the RTPs.

Jim Grieve

Indeed.

John Mason

Does the bill need to be changed to underline that point?

Jim Grieve

At the moment, the bill focuses purely on local authorities having the powers, which applies generally to all items, such as LEZs.

John Mason

Do you favour changing that?

Jim Grieve

I do.

Peter Chapman

Can Mr Sweetnam clarify whether Aberdeen City Council has, in principle, come out against support for a workplace parking levy? I thought that it had, but that is not what you said in answer to a previous question.

Richard Sweetnam

I clarify for the committee that I am a council officer. The council has not made any decision about the levy. In 2016, the council approved the Scottish cities alliance framework of powers and levers in and around cities to drive economic growth—the parking levy was one such lever.

The council’s position is that, if the powers were devolved to councils to make those decisions, it would look at that lever along with others. It has not discussed or debated it or made any decision about it.

Peter Chapman

Thank you for clarifying that. That is nearer to statements made by the leader of Aberdeen City Council to the effect that he did not think that it would be a good way to go. We will leave it there.

My question to all three witnesses is about how to assess whether any workplace parking levy would have a negative impact on inward investment or business development or, indeed, businesses deciding to exit the city totally. How can the possible effect of a levy be assessed?

Richard Sweetnam

The analysis of costs and benefits ex ante would need to be done. From the Aberdeen perspective, we would also need to consider the Aberdeen western peripheral route scenario, in terms of movement of vehicles in and out of the city. Without speculating about investment changes, it is worth bearing in mind that the Aberdeen city economy is driven by about 50,000 to 70,000 daily movements of people coming to work in the city, so the rural hinterlands of Aberdeenshire, Angus and Moray are important from an economic development perspective and would need to be included in the analysis. The impact on businesses of who pays, how that is accounted for and the administration would also need to feed into the analysis of the effect of any levy on the business community.

Peter Chapman

I agree that if Aberdeen City Council went down the road of charging, many of the people who would pay the charge would be from rural authorities, such as Aberdeenshire and Angus, yet the money would come to Aberdeen City Council.

Richard Sweetnam

The subject of who pays, whether that is an employer or whether the employer passes it on, is something that the analysis and the consultation will need to look at.

Peter Chapman

What are Anna Richardson’s thoughts on the original question?

Councillor Richardson

We are doing a lot of work to make Glasgow as appealing as possible for inward investment. We have shown that we can bring big investments in, but we can improve the transport network further and having ring-fenced money such as a workplace parking levy, as one tool among many, would enable us to make the city even more appealing to employers coming in. I felt very heartened, listening to Nottingham’s experience. From everything that it has put into its evidence, it appears to be a thriving place.

Jim Grieve

If you are trying to ensure that you do not lose business, how you approach the whole issue is fundamental. It has to be part of a strategy so that you can illustrate the advantages that may ensue from using the income from such a scheme. I hope that a consultation process that describes the potential advantages in the long term would help to ensure that you take people with you and do not chase them away from the city.

Peter Chapman

I will throw in one example. I have spoken to a major employer in Aberdeenshire who has several hundred parking spaces. He says that if the levy comes in, he will seriously consider moving his business. That was his immediate reaction—that it would be a step too far. Do any witnesses wish to comment on that?

Jim Grieve

I have a general comment. If you ask somebody as abruptly as that to pay for something that they did not previously pay for, you will not get a good reaction. Edinburgh suffered from that in relation to the congestion charge some years back. As I said, if you can describe it in the context of a bigger picture or strategy with potential advantages at the end of the process, the chances of success are much higher.

The Convener

I am afraid that we will have to move on. If Peter Chapman wants to come back in later, I am sure that there will be an opportunity.

Richard Lyle

I have four minutes and four questions that I want to ask.

The Convener

There will be no answers.

Richard Lyle

Jim Grieve—should the introduction of the proposed levy not be put to residents in a local referendum, similar to what happened in Edinburgh?

Jim Grieve

Yes.

Richard Lyle

Yes—I do not need anybody else to think about that. Councillor Anna Richardson, how much does Glasgow presently raise in parking charges, and would you not agree that the levy would give you millions of pounds of extra funding?

Councillor Richardson

I do not have that data with me, but that revenue certainly comes in and we spend it on transport.

Richard Lyle

Do you agree that Glasgow currently raises millions of pounds in parking charges?

Councillor Richardson

We do—

Richard Lyle

That is all I need to know. Does Richard Sweetnam agree that the workplace parking levy is an extra tax on motorists, who pay for petrol, car duty, car tax, tyres, insurance, running costs and servicing? It will require me, as a motorist, to pay an extra car tax.

Richard Sweetnam

It depends who pays. If the policy driver is to achieve low carbon and low emissions, the evidence from Norway shows that the lever it used was to waive VAT on low-emission vehicles. There are different ways of doing it, but if employees currently need to park in a city centre, it is not unusual for them to pay in some way.

Richard Lyle

I have one question for you all. I am sorry that I have rattled through, but sometimes the convener stops me in mid-flight. It is on exemptions. I have had emails from police officers, people from Glasgow airport, teachers and so on. If we are going to exempt NHS workers, which I agree with, in the two hospitals in the region where I stay the car parking will be exempt and staff can park there. However, what about a police officer who has to go and park in, say, Govan? The email that I had from one officer said that if he had to park outside, people would target his car. Teachers go to school every day and do a wonderful job—I compliment every one of them—and they park at the school and have designated car parks. Should we not, therefore, exempt police officers, teachers and others?

The Convener

Richard, I know why you did not look at me. Jamie Greene wanted to explore that area.

Richard Lyle

I said that I wanted to come in on it, too.

The Convener

I ask the witnesses to answer as quickly as they can on who should be exempt.

Councillor Richardson

The exemptions are one of the specifics that will be for local authorities to determine. It would not be appropriate for me to agree or disagree a list of exemptions to a hypothetical policy on which we have not yet had a robust democratic debate. I will not make any commitments today, but I agree that those are the types of conversation that we need to have during the consultation process.

Jim Grieve

As a starter, without naming specific professions, I suggest limiting the times when the workplace parking charge applies, so that shift workers could be exempt.

Richard Sweetnam

We need to look at the analysis in more detail. The more exemptions there are, the more the administrative burden, which we will have to think about in relation to the cost of running the scheme. However, exemptions certainly need to be looked at, where relevant.

The Convener

Does Jamie Greene have a question?

Jamie Greene

Thank you, convener, I am furiously trying to make up a question now. I will touch on various areas and, with your permission, come back in at the end if anything comes to mind.

Does a workplace parking levy disproportionately affect small and medium-sized businesses? I appreciate that there might be exemptions for very small businesses with a limited number of parking spaces, as is the case in Nottingham, but it is perhaps those in the middle who are most likely to be affected by the charge and to want to pass it on to their employees rather than sink it into their operating costs.

Councillor Richardson

I do not have any analysis on that at the moment. We have not done that piece of work at this point, so I cannot comment on exactly who would be most affected.

Jamie Greene

Does anybody else want to comment?

Richard Sweetnam

As I said earlier, Aberdeen City Council has not undertaken any consultation, but I anticipate that the business response will be to ask how the charge will be levied and administered, who pays and how it fits in the context of tax, non-domestic rates and so forth. Aberdeen is an incredibly strong private sector city—there are about nine private sector jobs for every 10 working-age people—so the consultation with employers is absolutely key.

Jim Grieve

Much depends on the level of the charge, which will be a difficult thing to establish. In my view, it will depend on what the council or authority is trying to achieve. Is it trying to reduce congestion and pollution or is it trying to make money?

If the level of charge is £400, which is similar to the Nottingham charge, that is not a huge sum of money for someone who is earning a reasonable amount to pay to park their car for a year if they travel to work. A medium-sized company might choose to distribute that to their employees. Proportionately, it is not a major cost. The whole response will very much depend on the level of the charge and its purpose.

Jamie Greene

On that note, what does it mean to your city? What do you think is the fundamental purpose of the workplace parking levy? The narrative from Nottingham was very much that it was a revenue-raising opportunity, which is perhaps why the council chose to operate that scheme rather than congestion charging or a low-emission zone. Each of your cities is considering low-emission zones, but the evidence that we heard suggested that it would not be wise to operate an LEZ and a workplace parking levy—that was Nottingham’s view. What would be the point of a levy in your city?

Councillor Richardson

A low-emission zone, which is already operating in Glasgow, is slightly different from a clean air zone, which is the English model that Nottingham would be working under. Clean air zones seem to involve a daily charge to go into the cities, whereas the low-emission zone involves a penalty notice and the expectation is that, by 2022, no vehicles that are not clean enough will come into the city. That is a different model from the workplace parking levy model, under which such vehicles are still able to come and go as they wish.

Glasgow City Council has a clear strategic plan to prioritise sustainable transport. That is what our local transport strategy will aim to achieve. It will be done through encouraging modal shift and reducing congestion to enable public transport to move more quickly and easily. That will complement the air quality work that is already going on.

11:45  
Richard Sweetnam

From an Aberdeen perspective, the policy drivers are key. The city centre master plan, the regional economic strategy, H2 Aberdeen, Oil & Gas UK’s vision 2035 and transport strategies all speak about low carbon, low emissions and energy transitions. The policy framework is clear, and the objectives of any scheme would need to align with that.

Jamie Greene

I hear lots of words but I still do not have any sense of what you think the levy is for. Is it to raise revenues? Is it to reduce congestion? Is it to improve air quality? Is it all of the above?

Richard Sweetnam

Aberdeen City Council has not developed a scheme—and therefore objectives—for a levy, but our existing policy framework is clear on low-carbon agendas. For Nottingham City Council, the levy might be about congestion charging.

The Convener

Anna Richardson, do you want to answer briefly? I want to push on with the next question.

Councillor Richardson

Glasgow City Council is looking to decarbonise as rapidly as possible, to improve air quality and people’s health and to reduce congestion in our city. All those objectives are achieved through similar policy drivers. However, one tool cannot achieve all that; it must work in synergy, through a strategy.

Colin Smyth

I will come back to the point that was made about the levy being a local authority charge and not a regional charge, and the practical implications of that. Our economic system drives all the jobs into the most congested cities in Scotland. Lots of people cannot afford to live in the centre of Edinburgh, for example, so they choose, rightly, to live in the wonderful part of the world that is the south of Scotland—in the Borders or Midlothian—and travel into Edinburgh every day for work.

Is it not the case that the proposal means that none of my constituents will have a say on a workplace parking levy in Edinburgh? If they go into Edinburgh, they will have to pay that charge, but not a single penny raised from it will be spent on transport in the Borders or Midlothian. Is that not the practical implication of the proposal?

Likewise, my constituents from Dumfries and Galloway travel into Glasgow. Can Councillor Richardson tell me what advantage a parking levy in Glasgow will be to them in relation to public transport in Dumfries and Galloway?

Councillor Richardson

We need to look at these things regionally. Glasgow city cannot thrive without the areas around it that give us that wide travel-to-work area. Any benefits that come into Glasgow will enable us to offer a better transport network throughout Glasgow. We have to maintain a significant road network within the city, a lot of which has to be funded through local authority revenue and capital. Any further income or revenue enables us to make it easier for people, wherever they come from in the region, to move well around the city, with less congestion.

In the previous evidence session, there was a conversation about how Nottingham City Council is looking at park and ride and other ways for people to move from further out of the city, including multimodal journeys. Those are the types of conversation that we need to have on a regional level. That is an important part of this conversation.

Richard Sweetnam

I agree that it is important. If there was a workplace parking levy scheme, it would depend on there being a reliable public transport alternative.

In Nottingham, for example, the benefits to the people in the hinterland of investing in a tram network are reliability of journey time and time savings efficiency. The investment does not need to accrue in the hinterland for those people to benefit.

Colin Smyth

I will come back on that point. The areas that have the biggest challenge in getting public transport are the rural areas, where bus services are being cut. You are saying that not a penny of the workplace levy will be spent on a transport initiative in areas outwith the cities. Bus services in the Borders will not be improved, because there will be no money raised for the Borders. Therefore, public transport, which we are supposed to be trying to improve, will not be improved as a result of a city-based scheme. Is that not a fact?

The Convener

Mr Sweetnam, I will let Jim Grieve come in first, as he has been waiting patiently to speak.

Jim Grieve

There is a reference in the Scottish Parliament information centre paper that was prepared for the committee to a potential concern that the levy

“will have the largest financial impact on the lowest paid car commuters.”

I share the concern that Mr Smyth is raising. It goes back to the need to incorporate the levy in an overall strategy, so that the investment is made equitably in areas around the city, not just in the city. In my view, Colin Smyth is right, in that the approach as proposed would potentially confine measures to one authority area.

Colin Smyth

I have a final point. Will the situation be made worse by Glasgow City Council’s proposal to extend the levy beyond workplace parking to parking by any visitors to the city from, for instance, my constituency, who want to go to shopping centres, supermarkets and so on? If Glasgow City Council proposes to extend any levy to all non-residential parking, will that not have a double impact on people who live outwith the city?

The Convener

Mr Smyth, you are very good at looking the other way when I am trying to catch your eye to tell you that your time is up. Anna Richardson can answer the question very briefly, and then we need to move on to the next question.

Councillor Richardson

Colin Smyth is absolutely right. In the council committee paper that was submitted in December, we suggested that the power should be for a non-residential parking levy, rather than a workplace parking levy. That does not mean that we are necessarily in favour of that approach, it means that we want to explore all the options and, by doing so, perhaps make the scheme of interest to local authorities that do not have as strong a travel-to-work situation as Glasgow has.

Mike Rumbles

From what you have said, if not from all the other evidence, it is obvious that councils would like to have as many powers as possible, but having powers is quite different from using them. I refer to the question that I asked the previous panel. Nineteen years ago, in 2000, Westminster passed legislation to give local authorities in England and Wales the ability to introduce a workplace parking levy, and only one council across the whole of England and Wales has used that power. If the Transport (Scotland) Bill, including the workplace parking levy provisions, is passed, will the position in Scotland be different? I would like an answer from all three witnesses.

Jim Grieve

It depends on what the authority intends to do or what it wants to achieve. If it wants to reduce congestion and clean the air in an area, I suggest that it goes for an LEZ. The workplace parking levy has the potential to bring in additional revenue to invest in public transport, which makes sense. However, it all depends on what the authority is trying to achieve.

Mike Rumbles

From your perspective, why do you think that no local authority in England and Wales, apart from Nottingham City Council, has taken up the approach?

Jim Grieve

That is a difficult question to answer. Maybe it is very difficult to get the introduction of the levy over the line. Nottingham succeeded, but I do not know whether other councils have tried and failed to get it over the line. Sorry, but I cannot speculate on that.

Councillor Richardson

Something that should bring comfort to the committee is that, although the power has not been introduced, city councils such as Glasgow have said that they would like to explore such an approach. That is not a commitment to use the power, but councils are showing a very keen interest in considering it and exploring whether it would be feasible to use it.

Mike Rumbles

That is my point. No council will say that it does not want our legislators to grant it the power, so we have to decide whether to do so. Am I right in saying that although no council would say that it does not want the power, that does not mean that councils will use it? You have basically said just that, have you not?

Councillor Richardson

I cannot speak to what other councils might or might not do, but in Glasgow we have made a clear case that we are working on our transport strategy and, as part of it, we would like to be able to explore the workplace parking levy. I cannot be stronger in my commitment, based on what Glasgow City Council has said so far. Certainly, we would explore the option and, if it was appropriate to do so, we would make proposals either for or against it.

Richard Sweetnam

Aberdeen City Council’s position is similar, in the sense that it will be up to the council to decide whether to use the power.

The Aberdeen economic policy panel, which is an independent panel of economists, supports the council on matters such as its bonds issue. In its first report, the panel made the observation that such powers are needed to drive local and regional economic growth. That remains the position. How the powers are used is for the council to decide.

Mike Rumbles

Have you any thoughts on why no other council in England has used those powers in 19 years?

Richard Sweetnam

There is also a shift in context between when the work was done in Nottingham in 2012 and now, in relation to low-emissions and low-carbon agendas.

Jim Grieve

The power is another tool in the box. My concern is that such tools will be available only to individual local authorities.

Mike Rumbles

It is all very well having tools in the box, but if you do not use them—

The Convener

I am sorry, Mike; we must move on to questions from Gail Ross.

Gail Ross

Anna Richardson, you have already stated that you cannot speak on behalf of other local authorities and I understand that, so my questions are for Jim Grieve. In rural areas, people have already expressed concern that a workplace parking levy will only really work if there are excellent public transport links. As Colin Smyth has already said, in certain rural areas, our public transport links could be improved. Is it likely that Highland Council, for example, which covers both urban and rural areas, would decide to implement such a levy in Inverness alone? Could you see that working?

Jim Grieve

My answer is my personal opinion. There is a nationwide problem with rural bus services, as we are all aware. Indeed, there is a wider problem, because, nationally, bus patronage is declining. Any initiatives that can start to reverse that trend would be positive for sustainable transport. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The Highlands are unique in many ways. It is hard to imagine something that is confined to the city of Inverness having any benefit to the surrounding rural areas. It would have to be approached on a wider basis than just the city.

The witnesses from Nottingham referred to park and ride, which is a valid tool for intercepting vehicles as they come towards the city and getting people to use sustainable transport or active travel. The whole initiative would have to be considered as part of a bigger picture. We cannot confine the thought to just a workplace parking charge to try to solve a problem in one particular city—we need to look at the bigger picture.

Gail Ross

It is a bit of a catch-22 situation in rural areas: investment needs to go into the public transport system first, but the money for that is raised by the workplace parking levy. The investment must come first.

Anna Richardson, in your submission, under the heading of resource implications, it says:

“Financial: None at this stage”.

Does Glasgow City Council envisage a big investment in public transport if it were to introduce the levy or do you think that the current public transport system is sufficient to provide for workplace parking?

Councillor Richardson

The point is that there are no financial resource implications in asking for the powers. Any analysis that has been done up to now has been done within our current staffing resources.

On public transport, the comments from the witnesses from Nottingham were very helpful: they said that Nottingham had a good transport system, but that it had to be better. Our aspiration for Glasgow is that public transport has to become much better. We are doing that already and not waiting for further powers. We are working more closely with the bus operators, investing huge amounts of money in walking and cycle infrastructure, and we also have the suburban rail and underground.

We have the beginnings of a very good system, but we also have higher aspirations for it. Having a power such as the workplace parking levy would give us another tool that could allow us to ring fence funds to make even greater investments or, more important, to match in even more significant amounts of money.

Gail Ross

Does Richard Sweetnam want to reply on behalf of Aberdeen?

The Convener

That was very delicately done—Gail Ross ignoring that I whispered to her that her time was up. Richard Sweetnam can come in briefly.

12:00  
Richard Sweetnam

Jim Grieve used the phrase “tool in the box”. I am fortunate to live and work in a city region that includes a significant rural hinterland. Connectivity is key to attracting and retaining talent, and those infrastructure projects remain—road and rail connectivity and journey times between Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and the central belt. That is still an important issue and a vital part of the city region deal.

Maureen Watt

I think I picked up Anna Richardson saying that the paper that was submitted as part of the written evidence to our committee was discussed in December. Was that by a council committee or by the full council?

Councillor Richardson

It was by a committee.

Maureen Watt

So at least any pronouncements coming from Glasgow City Council are as a result of discussion of the paper by its transport committee. What about Aberdeen? Perhaps Jim Grieve could talk about Edinburgh. Have similar papers been put to Aberdeen City Council and City of Edinburgh Council, or are the pronouncements so far just the views of those from whom they have been requested?

Richard Sweetnam

There has been no committee paper on the WPL itself. As I said earlier, Aberdeen City Council looked at the framework for powers and levers and the work done by the Scottish cities alliance in 2016 that was approved as a framework from which to develop the discussion on the devolution of powers.

Jim Grieve

The City of Edinburgh Council submitted some written evidence to the committee, and is clearly in favour of the workplace parking levy. It is looking at and consulting on a low-emission zone, as well as what it calls the “city centre transformation”, which is removing cars from the city centre. The council is pursuing those two initiatives in parallel, but not yet a WPL.

Maureen Watt

Anna Richardson, you called for the introduction of a wide-ranging non-residential parking levy. Could you explain more about that, and tell us why you think that it is preferable to a WPL?

We also heard from Nottingham this morning that a good working transport system, as well as park and ride, is essential to the working of the scheme. We have heard the aspirations of Glasgow City Council. Can the other councils tell us what they would put in place to make the WPL work, if they are going to use it?

Councillor Richardson

In terms of the committee paper, the issue came forward before the amendment was up for discussion. Our consideration of the non-residential parking levy took place simply because, should a power be asked for, we felt it was appropriate to ask for the widest possible one, to give the most local flexibility. That would apply not just to cities with significant travel-to-work areas such as Glasgow, but perhaps to other local authorities with issues that mean that they would like to de-prioritise private car use, although not in a commuting perspective. They might have other considerations. The non-residential parking levy might also be useful to certain local authorities on a region-wide model, even within their own travel-to-work area.

Therefore, we put forward the paper, not to express a preference for applying WPL or the non-residential parking levy, but simply to ask for as wide-ranging a power as possible to enable us to do the fullest possible analysis of what the best option for Glasgow would be.

Maureen Watt

Do the others want to come in?

Jim Grieve

Maybe I can make a comment on Edinburgh and also the Lothians. Lothian Buses provides what is regarded as an excellent bus service and one of the best nationally, which is a big advantage for the urban area surrounding the city. However, the further out one goes, the less efficient the bus services are. That will have to be looked at as part of initiatives that are being pursued.

Richard Sweetnam

In a post-western peripheral route world, officers in Aberdeen City Council are looking at measures to deliver the transport objectives such as active travel and so on, in the city centre masterplan.

The Convener

I will try to bring Maureen Watt back in later if she wants to come in, but we have a series of questions from other members.

Pauline McNeill (Glasgow) (Lab)

My question is for Anna Richardson. Do you accept that people cannot get a bus to many parts of Glasgow and that, for many thousands of Glaswegians, using a car is not a choice, because there is no public transport or public transport is more expensive than driving? I put it to you that, even if you were given the powers, as things stand, Glasgow is not ready for a tax on going to work. Do you agree?

Councillor Richardson

We know that we have certain issues with the way that people move round our city and we want to tackle those. We have very low per capita car ownership in Glasgow—I think that it is the lowest of all local authorities—so we have almost a contradictory situation in which, as you say, some people have to drive because they have no other option but, on the other hand, the majority of people in Glasgow do not drive at all and have to rely on public transport. When we are considering our local transport strategy, we will try to address both those issues at once. We want to ensure that people are better connected and, at the same time, that they are connected more sustainably.

Pauline McNeill

Is the city ready for a tax now?

Councillor Richardson

In considering our local transport strategy, we will look at all the levers that we have available and at—

Pauline McNeill

So you are not willing to answer that, then.

Councillor Richardson

To answer it, at the moment—

Pauline McNeill

Is the city’s transport network ready now to have a workplace tax? Would it not be fairer to build up better transport links before you impose a tax on going to work?

Councillor Richardson

At the moment, we are working proactively with the bus operators to improve the services that they provide as well as improving other forms of sustainable transport across the city. That work is on-going, regardless of whether a workplace parking levy power were to be handed to us. We are committed to improving public transport within Glasgow. If we were to consider the workplace parking levy as an option, it would certainly be several years down the line. Our local transport strategy will set out all the different ways that we will improve public transport for the people of Glasgow.

Jamie Greene

Is it reasonable to ask certain groups of people to pay to park at their place of work when, demonstrably, they have no other choice but to drive to that place of work? That includes groups such as the lowest earners, key public sector workers, and those who are in receipt of work-related benefits.

Councillor Richardson

We need to have conversations about what will be appropriate exemptions. SPICe has pointed to Transport Scotland statistics that show that, generally speaking, those who drive to work are in the middle to higher earning households. We know that those who are more vulnerable or who have lower household incomes are more likely to use public transport, so we need to improve that and we need a way of investing to improve it.

Many of our own employees already pay to park at work. We have car parks that we charge our employees to park in, and others park in private car parks around the city. The principle of paying to travel to and from one’s work already exists, and a workplace parking levy is simply another way of facilitating that.

Jamie Greene

So you think that it is reasonable to expect people to pay that charge. That was my question.

Councillor Richardson

If we are to implement such a policy—we have not yet committed to doing so—the levy would be on the employer and it would be up to the employer to decide what to do. For our employees, we would consider what would be the appropriate thing to do.

Jamie Greene

Do the other witnesses have a view on that? It is a very important point.

The Convener

Jamie, you have pushed that point quite hard and there are quite a lot of other questions so, in fairness, I would like to bring in other members.

John Finnie

My question is for Mr Grieve, who I understand is wearing his regional transport partnership hat. We are here to look at the specifics. We have had a lot of helpful evidence on the generality of workplace parking, but I have a question on the specifics.

One of the amendments would insert after section 58 a new section entitled “Power to make and modify schemes”. I will read it to you, because I do not expect you to know it. Subsection (3) of that proposed new section states:

“Two or more local authorities may act jointly”.

We have a mechanism for two or more local authorities acting jointly in respect of transport matters, and that is the regional transport partnerships. Do you acknowledge that there are opportunities for regional transport partnerships to take a lead in addressing the understandable concerns that people have, which I hope will be offset by the fact that moneys that are raised in one area could be applied in another?

Jim Grieve

I accept that, but I go back to the need to align whatever the two authorities in question might decide to do with a wider regional strategy. Everything would have to fit together. Therefore, for me, the starting point is a regional transport strategy. Thereafter, authorities can work within that to achieve what they want to achieve. More than one authority could do that.

John Finnie

Absolutely. A national transport strategy is being consulted on at the moment. It would fit in well with that to have regional transport strategies and for each local authority to have a transport strategy. Do you agree?

Jim Grieve

Yes.

Richard Lyle

Both panels have said that it is the employers that would pay the levy, but that is not the case. Let me put this scenario to you: “I was talking to my bosses yesterday. They say I need to pay this tax. I cannae get a bus to my work, so what do I do?” What would that person do? Would they have to walk?

Jim Grieve

First, it would depend on whether there was an alternative. We would like to think that there would be an option to use a bus at a reasonable cost. As I said earlier, it would also depend on the level of charge that was proposed and what proportion of the cost of an individual’s journey to work it would make up. Obviously, that proportion would vary relative to what the person earned.

Richard Lyle

Parking in the St Enoch centre car park can cost me £5 or more, and if I go to the NCP car park, I need to take out a mortgage. I am sorry, but I do not agree with charging somebody who is on a low wage £400 a year.

Jim Grieve

The less someone earns, the more impact the levy will have. That is all the more reason to make sure that there are public transport or active travel alternatives.

Richard Lyle

So public transport is the answer.

Councillor Richardson

In its evidence, Nottingham City Council said that the levy represented a relatively small proportion of the costs of mo