13 March 2003

(S1F-2575) Emergency Planning (Support)

4. Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): To ask the First Minister what additional support is being given to local government emergency planning officers to assist in responding to emergencies following the relocation of military personnel from Scotland. (S1F-2575)

The First Minister (Mr Jack McConnell): Emergency planning in Scotland is kept under constant review to ensure that Scotland is able and ready to deal with any emergency that might arise. When circumstances change, plans are adjusted by those who are responsible for them.

Stewart Stevenson: In an earlier answer, the First Minister said that several exercises had taken place in councils throughout Scotland. I understand that most of them were desktop exercises. I draw the First Minister's attention to the fact that the budget for emergency planning in local authorities is only just over half what the Executive spends on advertising. Does that not show that the Executive's electoral future has a higher priority than the safety of people throughout Scotland?

The First Minister: Apart from the fact that additional funding is available for emergency planning, quite frankly that was a silly question. It is nonsense to suggest that the Executive's road safety advertising and other such advertising has anything to do with the election. To say so demeans Stewart Stevenson and others who make that argument.

Dorothy-Grace Elder (Glasgow) (Ind): In the event of war with Iraq, has the national health service in Scotland made plans for the hospitalisation of wounded troops?

The First Minister: We all hope that that situation will not arise. If it does, Scottish hospitals will, as Dorothy-Grace Elder can imagine, play their part in providing the appropriate services that are needed as part of the national health service across the UK.

6 March 2003

(S1O-6568) Learn to Let Go

7. Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what the achievements of its learn to let go campaign have been. (S1O-6568)

The Deputy Minister for Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning (Lewis Macdonald): The learn to let go campaign is designed to encourage people to consider a wider range of options when undertaking their daily journeys. Recent independent research indicates that it has been successful in raising travel awareness for significant numbers of people throughout Scotland.

Stewart Stevenson: Does the minister agree that, having spent £1.1 million over recent times, it is disgraceful that only now is he getting round to evaluating the research? Is he aware of research, commissioned by his own department, which states that advertising, however well designed, is unlikely to impact upon behaviour and that there is no evidence of it having such an impact? Does he recognise that the Executive has a serial addiction to spending our money on promoting its benefits and that it is the minister's party that must learn to let go over the next eight weeks?

Lewis Macdonald: An attack on advertising by the Scottish National Party is a fascinating political initiative.

I will set some of the facts straight, because Stewart Stevenson is clearly not aware of them. The research to which I refer includes research conducted by two different agencies; it was conducted in February 2001, October 2001, December 2002 and January 2003. I am sorry that he has only now got round to reading that research but, now that he has, he will appreciate that the campaign contributes significantly to our strategy of raising awareness about the availability of public transport throughout Scotland.

Mr David Davidson (North-East Scotland) (Con): Does the minister agree that the best way in which to get people to give up using their cars is to provide adequate public transport choices, particularly in rural Scotland? To that end, will he further the progress of the petition to reopen Laurencekirk station in Aberdeenshire?

Lewis Macdonald: I agree with Mr Davidson's point about the importance of rural public transport. I am glad to put on the record the Executive's contributions in the past few weeks, such as another £150,000 towards rural community transport in Aberdeenshire alone. Our contributions to scheduled rural bus services in Aberdeenshire are significant and, at the end of last year, we agreed to provide a further £2 million for the consideration of bus access from Aberdeenshire to Aberdeen.

The appropriate body, which is Aberdeenshire Council, is considering Laurencekirk railway station, and I look forward with interest to the council's conclusions.

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