Holyrood committee backs Transport Bill but seeks more detail

Plans to make a range of changes to transport in Scotland have been backed by a committee of MSPs – however there are calls for clarity over how the proposals will be implemented.

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee announced on Thursday its endorsement of the general principles of the Transport (Scotland) Bill.

It was introduced by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay in June last year and focuses on improving different aspects of transport across the country.

It includes consideration of the creation and enforcement of Low Emission Zones (LEZs), options for more flexibility in the provision of bus services, smart ticketing, a ban on pavement and double parking, changes to road works regulations, the financing of regional transport partnerships and the governance of Scotland’s canals.

The committee’s support of the Bill’s general principles means it can now pass to stage 2 where amendments can be made.

Committee convener Edward Mountain MSP said: “Having listened to a wide range of evidence from stakeholders and individuals, the committee supports the general principles of the Bill which considers a number of different transport elements, including smart ticketing, Low Emission Zones, pavement parking restrictions and tools intended to help improve bus services.

“However, greater clarity is required on a number of issues as the Bill continues its parliamentary passage.”

The committee report also noted a forthcoming amendment to the Bill, the workplace parking levy approved as part of the Scottish Government’s budget agreement with the Greens, could change the proposed legislation significantly and therefore the MSPs said they must have the opportunity to scrutinise the amendment.

Labour’s transport spokesman Colin Smyth MSP said: “This is a timid Transport Bill from a tired government.

“To reverse the decade of decline in bus passengers numbers local authorities must be allowed to set up municipal companies.

“Under the SNP’s damp squib of a bill local councils will be left picking up the pieces, unable to run bus routes with the exception of the very few loss-making routes whilst transport tycoons line their pockets on the rest of the network.

“That’s why Labour will table amendments to re-write the bill to deliver genuine municipal ownership that gives Scotland a transport system which is run for the many, not the few.”

Joseph Carter, of the British Lung Foundation Scotland, welcomed the committee’s broad endorsement of LEZs, but urged MSPs to strengthen aspects of the framework at stage 2.

Mr Carter said: “Robust low-emission zones are a vital measure to cut harmful levels of air pollution and help everyone breathe easier. We welcome that the committee recognises this core point in their scrutiny of the Bill so far.

“We support the principle of LEZs but concerns remain about some parts of the Bill, including provisions which mean that some LEZs could operate on a non-24/7 basis.

“The Transport Bill must enable local authorities to ban the most polluting vehicles from our streets at all times, which would make meaningful improvements to air quality across Scotland.

“MSPs must now take the opportunity to strengthen the scope of LEZs, to tackle the growing public health crisis caused by air pollution and give everyone the chance to breathe clean air with healthy lungs.”

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