Mr. David Davidson, addressing the Scottish Region on the "Conservative View on Transport".
© John G. Fender 2011
David Davidson, MSP, is the Member for North East Scotland and is a Member of the Local Government and Transport Committee and Substitute Member of the Audit Committee.
With his knowledge of logistics and transport gained during his time with Unichem, he has a firm understanding of the challenges that we face and he pointed out that transport is important for the Scottish economy, providing public services and improving the quality of life.
People have to get to work and goods have to be moved to markets and to customers. However, there is a "health warning" in that there are budgets and priorities that have to be set, and it is in the setting of these that the political differences lie. The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party view is that these must be realistic and deliverable and not just a "wish list". Transport is something that everyone pays for at some point and the price of goods includes an element of the cost of transportation.
The role of the government is to get the priorities right and getting projects delivered. An example is the need for better transport links in the North East to facilitate economic growth. All parties make manifesto commitments, such as promising improvements to main roads or making it easier to move goods. But there are a number of issued that have fare reaching consequences. The Working Time Directive will have a significant impact on transport as many transport arrangements will have to be revised and growing traffic congestion is something that affects transport daily. There are issues relating to fuel tax and the impact of transport and traffic on the environment. The key is to develop and deliver the right solutions and as politicians spend other people's money, it is important that the right choices are made.
The state of Scotland's roads is something that is causing concern and the amount of roadworks that are undertaken adds to congestion. Congestion charging is an issue that has led to much debate and personally Mr. Davidson would like to see alternative solutions being introduced. The key point is how to incentivise fuel efficiency and the use of alternatives. Road tolling is something that could be considered further. Already there are tolls on bridges and the M6 Toll motorway bypassing Birmingham. Rural communities would benefit, as there is less congestion in these areas. Scotland suffers from being on the peripherality of Europe and over the years had moved away from heavy industry and manufacturing to smaller businesses. Some businesses are relocating and in some cases the manufacturing is undertaken overseas with the administration, research and development located in Scotland.
Looking at public transport, Mr. Davidson outlined his views on such issue as guided buses, the "Ftr" concept and the practicality of the Edinburgh Tramways scheme. He highlighted the situation where there would be three different public transport modes to Edinburgh Airport, being the train, the tram and the bus. He pointed out that politicians need to decide which modes to have, based on the practicalities of the proposals. It is important that there are discussions with industry and the people as to what they want and need so that the right choices can be made. He looked at the need for an additional Forth Crossing and looked at the options that are being discussed as well as the financial implications of the project. The development of Scotland's airports was another topic looked at by Mr. Davidson along with the main line rail services on both the East and West Coast routes. Recent developments, including the establishment of the new Scottish Transport Agency and the plans for rail links to airports were also looked at. The meeting was rounded off by a comprehensive question and answer session covering many of the topics mentioned by Mr. Davidson and others.
The Scottish Region would like to thank David Davidson, MSP for addressing the meeting and to Edinburgh City Council for accommodating the event.
Report by John Fender.
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