David Stewart MSP

Archive for July 2007

MSP seeks more Information on A9 Casualty Rate

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Highlands and Islands Regional Labour MSP David Stewart has tabled a further parliamentary question on the A9’s accident statistics. Last month the North MSP tabled several parliamentary questions on the A9 querying accident rates and details of plans and upgrades for improvements to the road. Mr Stewart, who has just been appointed a member of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee commented,“I have now received the response from the Transport Minister to my original question.“Unfortunately it lacks detail, although the information provided by the Minister does show that the accident rate on the A9, within the Highland Council area, is generally lower than the Scottish average for such roads.“On the non dual carriageway section of the A9 between Inverness and Perth the accident rate was less than half the Scottish average for the period 2004-06. “The A9 has an appalling history in terms of serious injuries and fatal accidents.

“Since 1999 eighty fatalities have occurred, eleven last year.

“This represents a horrendous catalogue of human suffering and grief and also considerable expenditure to the country in terms of hospital treatment, insurance claims and justice system costs.

“Road collisions can be reduced by decent roads; hence motorways, followed by dual carriageways are the safest roads to travel on.

“I have tabled a further question to the Executive asking how the statistics provided by the Transport Minister compare with accident rates on other major trunk roads in Scotland, and what the respective statistics are for serious injuries and fatalities on these roads in the last five years.

“We need to establish clearly what is happening on the A9 in the Highland area.

“Traffic volumes, road and junction layouts all have an affect on accident figures.”

Mr Stewart added, “The A9 is the main artery to the North.

“As our economy continues to develop its importance grows both in terms of business opportunities, tourism and social mobility.

“Few would argue that the present road is fit for purpose and although the new executive has committed to dualling the A9, to date, they are very short on detail.

“I hope the answer to my current parliamentary question on this issue will provide more information on the collisions, which happen all too often on this road, and increase the pressure on the Executive to take prompt action to initiate a meaningful programme of improvements.”

David Stewart’s Parliamentary Question

To ask the Scottish Executive, further to the answer to question S3W-259, by Stewart Stevenson on 11 June 2007, how these statistics compare with accident rates on other major trunk roads in Scotland, and what the respective statistics are for serious injuries and fatalities on these roads in the last five years.

14 June 2007

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July 31, 2007 at 1:57 pm

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MSP calls for Full University Status for UHI

david080620071.jpgHighlands and Islands Regional Labour MSP David Stewart has questioned Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education during a Ministerial statement this afternoon on higher education.Mr Stewart’s question focussed on equality of opportunity. He has also called for full university status for the UHI Millennium Institute. Speaking later Mr Stewart said, “I asked the Cabinet Secretary is she shared my view that equality of opportunity is a key principle in the development of higher education and what action will she propose to redress the unequal geographic distribution of universities in Scotland, particularly in the Highlands and Islands.

“In responding she agreed to meet with me to discuss the future of higher education in our region.

“I consider this issue to be vital for the Highlands and Islands, which is geographically distant from the existing main universities.

“Historically our young people have gone south to universities and other higher learning institutions and all too frequently gone to make their way in life outwith our region.

“The UHI Millennium Institute has an essential role to play in higher education in the Highlands and Islands and determined efforts should be made to grant it full university status as soon as practicable.

“At present there is an obvious unequal distribution of universities in Scotland, which militates against the Highlands and Islands.

“A thriving university in the north would bring huge benefits to the local economy and region.

“Firstly, our youngsters would be more likely to remain in the region, other students from all over Scotland, the UK and further afield would be attracted to the north and research capabilities would be enhanced at the UHI. ”

Mr Stewart added, “Granting full university status to the UHI would bring immediate and long-term benefit to the economy of the Highlands and Islands and I will continue to lobby the Scottish Executive to work to remove the final obstacles to achieving this.

“I look forward to meeting with the Cabinet Secretary and working to address the inequality of opportunity which presently exists for students from the Highlands and Islands.”

13 June 2007

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July 31, 2007 at 1:49 pm

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Highland MSP calls for an End to Inverness Traffic Chaos

Highlands and Islands Regional Labour MSP David Stewart has called for an end to the traffic chaos which is bringing the town centre of Inverness to a halt.

This follows the introduction of a new traffic scheme earlier this spring by Highland Council, in conjunction with the Inverness City Partnership.

Mr Stewart said, “The current system in the town centre of Inverness has three roads feeding into Queensgate, where previously there were only two.

“Also, traffic which previously headed down Church Street, clearing out of the town centre system, is now directed into the congested Queensgate.

“My office is in the town centre and I have witnessed the congestion first-hand.

“The most striking aspect of the traffic flow is the number of buses using the town centre.

“Earlier today, I spent some time in the Queensgate/ Church Street area with former Provost of Inverness and local businessman Bill Fraser.

“He told me that certain buses seemed to be going round the town centre twice, adding that buses with destination boards for Dingwall, Muir of Ord, Cromarty, Ardersier and Fort George are regularly seen in the town centre.

“No one is winning with the present situation.

“The congestion is disrupting bus timetables and causing inconvenience for passengers; pedestrians are having difficulty crossing the road due to the traffic volumes and the environment and pedestrians are adversely affected by exhaust fumes.

“I have a meeting arranged this evening with Joan Aitken, one of the Traffic Commissioners, to discuss the present unacceptable situation.

“The eight UK Traffic Commissioners work with the Department of Transport and their remit includes the operation of passenger service vehicles.

“They are also undertaking a UK Particular Research programme – very relevant to the Inverness town centre situation.

“I will be raising the issue of bus routes with the commissioner and also the role of Inverness bus station.

“The scheduling of services between operators is another area worthy of consideration.

“Obviously, Highland Council are primarily responsible for the traffic flow and road lay-out and they should act quickly to address the present congestion, which is totally unacceptable and unpleasant for pedestrians and road users alike.”

Mr Stewart added, “I am totally supportive of the streetscape improvements being undertaken by the Inverness city partnership but the current traffic gridlock has to be addressed without further delay.

“This is the first real challenge for the SNP/ Independent-led administration at Highland Council.

“I would call on them to move quickly and take positive action.”

8 June 2007

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July 31, 2007 at 1:44 pm

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North MSP supports Diabetes UK Scotland campaign

Highlands and Islands Regional Labour MSP David Stewart has spoken of his support for the “Small Change, Big Difference Campaign” bring run by Diabetes UK Scotland in conjunction with National Diabetes Week 2007.

Mr Stewart said, “I have had a longstanding interest in diabetes and will be joining the new diabetic cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament.

“Whilst previously an MP, I was for eight years a member of a similar group at Westminster.

“Scotland has one of the highest diabetes rates and the illness is the main cause of blindness for those of working age and half of non-traumatic amputations are caused by the disease. ”

“I have laid down a parliamentary motion calling on members to welcome the ‘Small Change, Big Difference Campaign’ and commend the support that Diabetes UK Scotland provides to Scotland’s estimated 173,000 people.”    7 June 2007

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July 31, 2007 at 1:36 pm

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North MSP speaks out on new Scottish Rural Development Programme

Highlands and Islands Regional Labour MSP David Stewart has spoken during the first rural development debate in the new session of the Scottish Parliament.Mr Stewart said, “In an area such as the Highlands and Islands rural development policy is a vitally important issue.“In my speech I stressed the need for government to listen to rural communities and not to assume they know all the answers.

“Although those living in rural communities may not appreciate some of the more obscure legislation affecting the issue they will know about dualling the A9, rolling out broadband and ensuring full university status for the UHI.

“We need policies that work with local communities to identify their priorities, integrate them into a regional or national strategy, and invest public money in ways that will deliver the greatest public good in these areas.

“In recent years, Scotland’s environmental organisations have also become a formidable campaigning force and I commend the work of the RSPB, Scottish Environmental Link and others in getting their voices clearly heard in the rural debate.

“But the social dimension of Scotland’s rural communities has perhaps been under represented in that debate, and I hope the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Development will reach out to those hundreds of thousands of citizens whose work and life is so important to sustaining vibrant and successful rural communities.

“My last job was in the voluntary sector and I met hundreds of people in the voluntary sector throughout rural Scotland.

“The work carried out, some of it paid, some of it unpaid, is the very lifeblood of rural Scotland, delivering services locally and building the social capital that sustains real communities.

“The work these people do in their communities must be properly funded to make it sustainable.

“We all know the rural development challenges facing rural areas: distance, remoteness, peripherality, size of population, access to services and low GDP.

“The loss of young people from our young people from our remote and rural areas is also a concern.

“However, there are great opportunities.

“Rural Development in the Highlands and Islands needs to build on individuality, developing the intelligence of the people; life sciences; building up renewable clusters; stimulating research and development industries and linking industries with higher education.

“We also need more rural businesses with headquarters in the Highlands and Islands and enterprises with Scottish, UK and world reach.”

Mr Stewart added, “The acid test of the new Scottish Rural Development programme will be how it delivers to our most fragile and remote areas – to the young, to the disadvantaged and the dispossessed.

“They deserve the spirit of leadership and vision that led to the creation of the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the minimum wage.

“Our communities look to the Scottish Parliament for action.

“Let’s give them progress not procrastination.”      31 May 2007

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July 31, 2007 at 1:28 pm

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MSP questions Land Ownership regarding Dualling of A9

Highlands and Islands Regional Labour MSP David Stewart has laid down a further parliamentary question regarding dualling of the A9.

Earlier this week Mr Stewart had laid down questions to the SNP-led Scottish Executive on the A9 – covering issues such as comparison studies with other roads, timescales for improvements and the cost of further works.

Mr Stewart said, “My earlier questions to the Executive prompted the Transport Minister to give an undertaking to dualling the A9 along its entire length, from Perth to the Far North.

“This would be a massive undertaking and also very expensive.

“Recently it was claimed that the Perth to Inverness section would be £600 million on its own but expense is not the only issue.

“My current parliamentary question asks the Scottish Executive what percentage of land required to construct the dualling of the A9 is currently owned by the roads authorities along its length.

“Many roads and building projects have become bogged down over the years as land ownership and purchase issues were sorted out.

“My fear is that the same could occur with any large scale improvement of the A9.

“It would seem that the response of the Transport Minister in promising to dual the A9, albeit without any detailed time-scale, may be an attempt to placate constituents in the three SNP held constituencies through which the A9 runs, between Perth and Inverness.

“I know that there has been talk of the executive cancelling plans for a tram system in Edinburgh and the city/ airport rail link, but what is ultimately important if that we have a properly thought out and integrated transport system, across Scotland.”

Mr Stewart added, “I await a response to my parliamentary question from the executive but I am concerned about possible delays to improvements resulting from land ownership issues.

“The A9 is vitally important for inward investment to the Highlands, for tourism and local use but it also has a disproportionately high collision rate.

“I would like to see further improvements carried out on the road as soon as possible but there must be an appreciation of land acquisition issues.

“I look forward to a response from the minister on the questions I have raised.

“I am particularly interested in a detailed breakdown of the costs, time-scales and land acquisition aspects of improvements to the A9 which I have raised.”

30 May 2007

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July 31, 2007 at 1:23 pm

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