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Parliamentary Debates and Questions

S5W-12148: Jamie Greene (West Scotland)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 24 October 2017

To ask the Scottish Government what precautions it has taken to deal with flooding during winter 2017-18; what funding it has made available to deal with the consequences, and what assessment it has made of (a) local authorities' and (b) the trunk road and motorway network's capability to deal with this, including what funding it has made available.

Answered by: Humza Yousaf 7 November 2017

Floods are natural events and can affect all modes of transport however, safety for all transport users is our primary concern.

(a) We have treated local government very fairly, despite the cuts to the Scottish Budget from the UK Government.

Taking the 2017-18 local government finance settlement plus the other sources of income available to councils through reforms to council tax and funding for Health and Social Care Integration, the overall increase in spending power to support local authority services amounted to over £383 million or 3.7 per cent.

The vast majority of the funding provided by the Scottish Government to local government is in the form of a block grant. It is then the responsibility of each local authority to allocate the total financial resources available to it on the basis of local needs and priorities having first fulfilled its statutory obligations and the jointly agreed set of national and local priorities, including the Scottish Government’s key strategic objectives.

Reducing flood risk is a priority for the Scottish Government and we are working in partnership with SEPA, local authorities and others to deliver the first round of flood risk strategies. As part of this, we are making £42 million available each year to local authorities to invest in flood protection. For background, the first round of the flood risk strategies which deliver actions to reduce flood risk across Scotland were published in December 2015 and cover a 6 year cycle to 2021.

We are a strategic partner of the Scotland National Centre for Resilience (NCR) and feed into their work which aims to improve on the understanding of the impact of natural hazards and provide support to responders and communities including practical tool kits and resources for those who operate on the ground, and to ensure communities across the country are fully and adequately prepared for natural hazards such as flooding and landslides.

We are also seeking to obtain a national register of emergency temporary flood (defence) assets that we could use upon request, in conjunction with the various local authority Local Planning District flood forums. In addition, we are participating in Regional Resilience Partnership events to stress-test resilience response to severe weather including flooding.

 

(b) Our Trunk Road Operating Companies are contracted to ensure that drainage systems are maintained, are structurally sound and are able to remove water from trafficked surfaces and sub-layers without causing pollution or flooding and that the effects of any flooding are mitigated.

Information contained within our asset management systems allows operators to assess the whole network and to identify those areas at greater risk from flooding. This allows capital investment funds to be allocated to drainage improvement schemes using a risk-based approach with the aim of reducing the likelihood or consequence of flooding. As part of this approach we have made funds of £3m available this financial year to carry out maintenance and improvements to drainage systems across the Scottish trunk road network.

Our Operating Companies routinely inspect the trunk road network at 7-day intervals. These inspections are primarily to identify defects that require prompt attention (Category 1 defects) because they present, or could present, an immediate hazard to road users. This includes issues associated with flooding and drainage. Flooding events are recorded and this information is used to inform the development of future maintenance and investment programmes.

In addition to this, our Operating Companies also monitor the trunk road network during periods of heavy or sustained rainfall to provide an appropriate response endeavouring to keep roads open where possible or to close them should the flooding compromise the safety of road users. They have appropriate plant, equipment and resources including traffic management strategically placed across the trunk road network to deal with flooding events in a timely and effective manner.

Our Operating Companies are required to attend any incident on the trunk road network within 20 minutes on our major routes where we operate a Trunk Road Incident Support Service (TRISS) or within a maximum of 1.5 hours response time on all other routes through our Incident Support Units. Should the flooding cease to abate further secondary and back-up plant, equipment and resources are available at short notice to be deployed and assist with alleviating the flooding issues encountered.

In March 2013, Transport Scotland opened the purpose-built Traffic Scotland National Control Centre (TSNCC) at South Queensferry which aims to reduce journey times across the transport network through direct communication with the travelling public, via a number of media platforms, especially during periods of severe weather.

The TSNCC also hosts the Multi-Agency Response Team (MART) arrangements which co-ordinates a joined-up response during weather events including flooding. Partners include Police Scotland, Operating Companies, the Scotrail Alliance and the Met Office, and provides a strategic overview of event and incident handling.