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Chamber and committees

Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee [Draft]

Meeting date: Tuesday, March 12, 2024


Subordinate Legislation

National Smart Ticketing Advisory Board (Public Services Reform) (Scotland) Order 2024 [Draft]

The Convener

Our next item of business is consideration of a draft statutory instrument. I am pleased to welcome Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Transport. Cabinet secretary, this is the first time that you have appeared in front of the committee in your new role—congratulations on your appointment.

The cabinet secretary is joined by George Beale-Pratt, smart policy manager, Transport Scotland; and Natalie Milligan, solicitor, Scottish Government. Thank you for joining us.

The instrument is laid under the affirmative procedure, which means that it cannot come into force unless the Parliament approves it. Following the evidence session, the committee will be invited at the next agenda item to consider a motion for the committee to recommend that the instrument be approved. As always, I remind everyone that the officials can speak under this item but not in the debate that follows.

Cabinet secretary, I think that you would like to make a brief opening statement, so the floor is yours.

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport (Fiona Hyslop)

Good morning, and thank you for inviting me to discuss the addition of the new National Smart Ticketing Advisory Board to the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010. The board commenced operation in November 2023 and is a product of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019. It will advise the Scottish ministers on topics including smart ticketing arrangements, a national technological standard for smart ticketing and the strategic development of smart ticketing in Scotland.

We intend to add the board to schedule 5 to the 2010 act. That would mean that by order under section 14 of the act, the Scottish ministers could

“make any provision which they consider would improve the exercise of”

the board’s functions,

“having regard to efficiency ... effectiveness, and ... economy.”

Adding the board to schedule 5 to the 2010 act is in line with Scottish Government policy and is considered best practice for new public bodies.

As the board is new, it is not expected that any provision will be needed in the near future to improve the exercise of the board’s functions, but this instrument would confer a power on the Scottish ministers to make such a provision in the future, should it be required.

In accordance with section 25(4) of the 2010 act, the board has been consulted in relation to the proposal to make this order. The consultation took place at the first meeting of the board on 28 November 2023, in person, with all members and the chairperson of the board in attendance. As a result of that consultation, the board confirmed that it was content with the proposal, and no other representations were received. No changes to the proposal were therefore necessary.

Adding the board to the 2010 act will have no financial impacts. I am happy to take any questions from the committee.

The Convener

Thank you, cabinet secretary. I am certainly fairly relaxed, given that the board has approved the move. I just want to clarify in my mind whether all the appointments to the board are made by the Scottish Government. No one is elected to the board; members are all appointed by the Government, are they not?

Fiona Hyslop

That is correct. The membership includes a chairperson, operators of different modes of transport, transport authorities, including local transport authorities—Margaret Roy is a representative—and passenger and accessibility representatives. Transport Scotland is also a member, as well as some board advisers, who are non-voting.

The Convener

Before I open up the floor to questions from committee members, I will ask another question. If board members are all appointed by the Scottish Government, I presume that they can be replaced by the Scottish Government if required. What are their terms of service? I would like to understand that. How long are people on the board for?

I wonder whether George Beale-Pratt could answer the question about their terms of reference.

George Beale-Pratt (Transport Scotland)

The members are appointed for four years.

Can they be reappointed after four years?

George Beale-Pratt

Depending on their service, there is an opportunity to invite them for reappointment, but their immediate reappointment is not assumed.

They could be re-invited to apply after four years, and again four years after that. Is there a limit?

George Beale-Pratt

I would need to confirm the maximum limit.

I am just intrigued to know, cabinet secretary.

Fiona Hyslop

It is really important that we have industry experts. On the board, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport is represented, and we have Alex Hornby, whom many of you will know is the group managing director at McGill’s Buses. Those people, who run organisations, are providing their expertise. I do not want to put them off their membership by saying that they will be on the board forever.

We want to ensure that the board’s output is timely, to help us to move forward with technology and smart ticketing. I am due to meet the chair shortly to look at its work programme.

Members of the board can be reappointed, but we want to make sure that they can get on with the job. They are very keen. If you have not seen them, reading the minutes of the board’s first meeting last November might be helpful background. That shows their enthusiasm in scoping the challenges in relation to getting a more operable and interoperable system, which is what we all want.

The Convener

I am sure that staying on the board forever would not put them off, cabinet secretary; I am sure that they would enjoy that.

I throw open the floor to any member of the committee. Does anyone have a question?

Bob Doris (Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn) (SNP)

Just a brief one. Cabinet secretary, what is the National Smart Ticketing Advisory Board’s strategic role in relation to transport authorities across Scotland? Perhaps it will use some of the new powers in the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019 and the subordinate legislation under it, which I understand is now live. I imagine that the interoperability of smart ticketing would be essential were some of the regional transport authorities to use the powers in the 2019 act.

Fiona Hyslop

I am considering your question. Regardless of the powers in the 2019 act, we would still be able to have interoperability, and we already do under the current system in many areas. We have integrated tickets on a more regional basis. Should any issues arise, we have someone from a local transport authority represented on the board; she is also the chair of the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers.

Different local authorities or regional transport partnerships will want to do different things. We will want to ensure that whatever they do is compatible with smart ticketing. However, 2.5 million people are using smart cards through the ITSO concessionary scheme separately anyway, so I do not think that there is a dependency issue. The board does not have oversight, if that is what you are implying, but I suspect that it can provide advice to me if any practical issues arise from the implementation of separate parts of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019.

Bob Doris

I just want to check whether there are any barriers that have to be overcome to allow some of that to happen. For example, I tap on and tap off quite happily using First Glasgow. I am not a driver, so I am on 20-plus buses a week. There are capped daily and weekly fares, but there is no interoperability with other bus services in the city. The technology is there, but the interoperability is not. Is there a role for the national board to enable that? That would be required for, say, franchising, to enable profit-sharing.

Fiona Hyslop

Whether we are talking about the current system or any other system that is provided under the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, we would want to be able to implement and operate smart ticketing. There is not an interdependency, but there is a correlation.

It makes sense that we optimise what we can do, which everyone is up for. I understand that the Glasgow tripper ticket was introduced, which works between different operators and can be accessed on a mobile phone. We know from research that more people want to use their mobiles as opposed to a card for tickets. We need to ensure that there is an understanding of what technology is commonly used so that we can develop those systems in order for there to be a common interoperability, whatever the type of operation.

That is helpful, more for my understanding than to scrutinise you in your role as cabinet secretary.

The Convener

I have one further question, if no one has any others. Oh, I see that Monica Lennon wants to ask a question. I will go to her first and then come back to mine.

I think that Monica is waiting to go live.

Monica Lennon (Central Scotland) (Lab)

I was waiting to be unmuted—thank you, convener.

Good morning, cabinet secretary, and welcome to the committee in your new role. You mentioned the work programme, which I understand has to be approved by Scottish ministers. Can you give us a flavour of what you expect to be in the work programme? I think that the board meets about six times a year, but I would like to get an idea of its capacity.

I have another wee question. Out of interest, did the National Smart Ticketing Advisory Board have any input to the fair fares review, or was it consulted as part of that?

Fiona Hyslop

The first meeting of the board was in November, at which time we were moving to the end stages of the fair fares review. Interoperability of ticketing is a key aspect of that work. Individuals who are on the board would have had the opportunity to input their organisations’ views on the review, apart from anything else.

In terms of the board’s capacity and capability, senior people are operating at board level and there are advisers who are specialists in their area. The chair has been involved in ticketing systems and procurement previously and has extensive experience on that.

I will meet with the chair in the next couple of weeks to go through the board’s proposed work plan—as you said, that plan has to come to ministers to be approved. Part of that process will be for me to listen to what board members are saying, because the whole point is that they will want to say what needs to be done. I provide ministerial oversight and am not a technological expert in ticketing. I expect that expertise to come from the board and from the Transport Scotland members who support the board. There will be steps as to what changes need to be made.

George Beale-Pratt might want to explain a bit more about what the board might look at, but I am interested in the point that people want to use mobiles instead of cards that are interoperable. We have talked about the Glasgow tripper being a success. When the ticket became available on mobiles, that increased the bus companies’ uptake fivefold. However, barcodes and QR, or quick response, codes are more of an issue. The technological standards are key. Obviously, the board can advise about the capability of different organisations to change or adapt, and whether that causes them issues or otherwise.

George, will you explain a bit more about what we expect from the work programme’s scope and coverage?

George Beale-Pratt

There are various statutory requirements setting out what the board must advise on, such as the technological standard for smart ticketing. As the cabinet secretary mentioned, there are no interoperable smart barcodes or QR codes between modes as yet, so that is a key bit of advice. There is also a statutory requirement to advise on the strategic development of smart ticketing in Scotland.

There are requirements, and we expect the board to provide us with advice in that regard, but we also want to give it a bit of space to determine what it deems are the key issues and problems that board members are hearing about from their networks, and we want to invite that challenge from them.

There are two elements. There is the bit that we are expecting that is in statute, and there is a slight space for the board to tell us what is wrong, what needs to happen and what we need to do. The cabinet secretary will meet the chair in a couple of weeks to go through the work programme and will learn more about the detail of it then.


If there are no other questions—

Sorry, convener—

I will get to my question eventually.

Douglas Lumsden

There is something in the minutes from the initial meeting about the work programme submission date being 20 May 2024. How will the Parliament and the committee be able to see what the work programme is and will we have any opportunity to make any suggestions on what it might be?

Fiona Hyslop

We need to give the board the space to do its work, which is multimodal and covers different areas—we have representatives with experience from ScotRail and ferries, so the work takes place across those areas. I am open to sharing what we can when we can. I will speak to the chair in a couple of weeks, and one of the things that I will explore with them is how and when we can share, so that you can understand and keep on top of what is happening around that capability.

That would be helpful.

The Convener

Now, I will really look round the room to make sure that no one else wants to speak before I make another attempt to get my question in. Right—there is no one else, so I am going.

Kevin Stewart wrote to the committee on 15 May last year to confirm the pay rates for the people on the board. I think that they were £194 per day for board members and £238 a day for the chairperson. Are those the current rates? Have they been reviewed? You might not know the answer, cabinet secretary, and I am happy to take a letter if—oh, I see that George knows the answer.

George, are you happy to answer?

George Beale-Pratt

Yes, I am. Yes, those rates remain current.

The Convener

Thank you very much.

The next agenda item is a debate on motion S6M-12121, which calls for the committee to recommend approval of the draft order. I remind everyone that only the cabinet secretary and members can speak in the debate. I ask the cabinet secretary to speak to and move the motion.

Fiona Hyslop

As I set out in my opening remarks, the motion is fairly straightforward and, in relation to the public reform legislation, it is apt, so I am happy to just move it.

I move,

That the Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee recommends that the National Smart Ticketing Advisory Board (Public Services Reform) (Scotland) Order 2024 [draft] be approved.

There are no contributions from members, so I assume that the next bit will be brief. I ask the cabinet secretary to sum up and respond to the debate.

It was a very interesting debate—thank you very much, convener.

Motion agreed to.

The Convener

The committee will report on the outcome of the instrument in due course. Are members happy to delegate authority to me as convener to finalise that report for publication?

Members indicated agreement.

I thank the cabinet secretary and her team. I will briefly suspend the meeting before our next item.

09:32 Meeting suspended.  

09:36 On resuming—