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"Rumblings Around the World" by Ken McNab - Meeting of Tuesday 6th December 2005

Ken McNab, a qualified civil engineer, began his talk by outlining his career in transport. After qualifying he worked for local government between 1965 and 1968 in Road construction before joining Shell oil where he looked after Motor sport. He was with Shell Oil until 1993 when he retired. It was then be bought the company he still runs. He has been the Vice Chair of ABTA in Scotland and is an Honorary member of the American society of travel Agents.

Looking at government attitudes to services, Ken pointed out, as an example, that a few years ago the dustman collected your rubbish by using a wicker basket and personally emptying your bin into it. Not only that, but it anything was spilt, the dustman would clean it up. Today, councils have improved their services with the result that you now put your bin out for emptying, clean up anything that is spilt and put your bin away. Not only that, but you pay higher council taxes for this "improved service". Looking at central government, said that the government's transport minister has appointed a transport adviser who does not drive and questioned whether this was a good thing.

The public on the other hand has different perceptions, for example, many years ago it was acceptable to drink and drive but since the introduction of the breathalyser and the various drink-drive campaigns, this is now unacceptable. Speed is an issue that Ken looked at in detail. He highlighted the fact that anyone can buy a powerful car, capable of speeds well in excess of 100 mph, but the vast majority of drivers have no training in driving such vehicles. He referred to the perception that speed cameras are used to raise revenue.

On driving, he noted that you cannot use a handheld mobile telephone, eat or drink (soft drinks) whilst driving, due to the danger these activities can present. Yet the government has done nothing to ban smoking whilst driving, an activity that is potentially just as dangerous as the driver's attention will not be on the road. Ken thought that one reason was that to ban this, would reduce government revenues from taxes on tobacco.

Turning to congestion charging, Ken queried whether or not it was financially viable. Using the London scheme as an example, he pointed out that a large proportion of the current £5 charge goes in fees to administer the scheme. Then there is the loss of revenue to the government from motorists who no longer drive into London, so using less fuel and paying less fuel duty. There is the loss of VAT from parking charges and the loss of trade experienced by shops.

Closer to home, he felt that the traffic management scheme introduced in Edinburgh was an example of traffic mismanagement and criticised the state of the roads. Local authorities are failing to keep roads in an acceptable state, yet spend money on traffic calming measures instead of repairing potholes that could potentially lead to accidents. Some councils are causing what Ken described as "environemental pollution" by erecting large numbers of signs. The provision of bus lanes is another topic that he questioned, due to the congestion they can cause by reducing road space available to traffic and the consequential pollution from queuing vehicles.

Looking at the international dimension, Ken noted that Scots have travelled the world and have been responsible for some of the greatest inventions, such as the telephone, television, pneumatic tyres, etc. In particular, Scotland has a close affinity with the United States of America and Ken highlighted this with the facts that over the years many important political positions were either held by Scots or people of Scots decent.

Turning to air transport, Ken pointed out that Scotland has benefited greatly from low cost air travel and many new direct routes have been opened. However, there is a need for transport to be linked up so that tourists arriving in Scotland from around the world can easily get to where they want to go, something that currently leaves much to be desired. He thought that Scotland should be the gateway to Europe, especially as the majority of air routes to North America cross over Scotland.

Report by John Fender.


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