Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee
Meeting date: Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, Ofcom, Petition, Subordinate Legislation
- Decision on Taking Business in Private
- Seat Belts on School Transport (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1
- Subordinate Legislation
A90/A937 (Safety Improvements) (PE1236)
Item 4 is further consideration of petition PE1236, in the name of Jill Fotheringham, on safety improvements on the A90 and A937—in other words, the Laurencekirk petition.
Previous consideration of the petition is detailed in the papers, and I ask the committee to note that, in further evidence given on 8 March 2017, Keith Brown confirmed that Transport Scotland is currently taking forward the options assessment for the proposed new junction. There is quite a lot of evidence to suggest that the Government is moving forward on that in a positive way. Do committee members have anything to say before I make a suggestion regarding the petition?
On the whole, I do not think that it is good to keep petitions open unnecessarily, once we are absolutely certain that an acceptable answer has been given. The difference with this one is that a previous petition on the same subject had been closed and then nothing actually happened. I suggest that we do not close the present petition until we are convinced that the work is going ahead. From what I can see, though, it looks as though it will do so.
Since 2004—a period of 13 years—there has been a campaign by local people, led by Jill Fotheringham. It is a good example of local people refusing to take no for an answer from various ministers and Governments over the period, especially on an issue that is about saving lives.
I want to place on record that I was a constituency member of the Scottish Parliament at the time and that I have worked with Jill Fotheringham over the years. It is also worth putting on public record that the issue is not a party-political one. I worked with two MSPs, in particular: the late Alex Johnstone, whose work on the petition with Jill I want to record; and Nigel Don, who is no longer an MSP.
The petition is the epitome of a really good local one in which, by refusing to take no for an answer, the petitioners have got the right answer. Like John Mason—and like most members—I will be happy to close the petition when we get to the appropriate point and are absolutely certain that the work will go ahead. This is an unusual case, in that one petition went forward but was closed, and the petitioner took up the issue again.
It is absolutely right to record the hard work and effort that has been put in by all, including the petitioner.
A considerable number of petitions come to another committee that I am on and it is always a challenge to close them. I think that there is a measure of good faith with regard to this petition. We have had assurances; I know that there are still frustrations about the timeframe, but given the regular updates that we get from the appropriate cabinet secretary, I think that we could close the petition. I do not doubt for one second that the members around the table will ask questions on the matter and if any challenges were to arise, the matter could be revisited in detail.
I agree with John Finnie. I believe that we have had pretty clear assurances from the cabinet secretary that work is going to go ahead, although the timings are less prompt than some might have hoped. However, I think that it is right to suggest that the committee close the petition at this stage and take it in good faith that the Government will stick to its promise regarding what it will undertake. I therefore propose that we close the petition and thank the petitioner for all her work in achieving a result with regard to what the Government has promised to undertake. Is that agreed?
Members indicated agreement.