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Chamber and committees

Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee

Meeting date: Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Agenda: Forth Replacement Crossing (Project Team Update), Major Transport Infrastructure Projects (Update), Public Petitions


Public Petitions

A90/A937 (Safety Improvements) (PE1236)

The Convener

The committee will consider two public petitions. The first is PE1236, by Jill Fotheringham, on A90/A937 safety improvements at Laurencekirk. The petition was previously considered on 26 October, when the Minister for Transport and the Islands agreed to write to the committee with further information on an indicative timescale for the design, development and delivery of the proposed project.

We have heard more about that today. Members will note that a letter has been received from the minister that indicates the Scottish Government’s intention to identify a preferred junction layout by 2018 and, provided that no objections are raised in response to the draft order, to begin construction in 2021. The cabinet secretary confirmed that today.

I invite members’ comments on the petition.

Mairi Evans

I know that we have just heard from the cabinet secretary, but I am keen for us to keep the petition open. A previous petition on the issue was closed in the past, and closure remains a concern for the petitioner and for the people who have campaigned for the Laurencekirk junction, because I think that work stalled when the previous petition was closed.

We have heard a commitment that the work will take place but, if we can keep the petition open—even if it does not appear on our agenda as regularly as it has over the past few months—that will show the committee’s commitment to the Laurencekirk junction project progressing.

Mike Rumbles

I agree. The problem is that people out there do not understand why the Scottish Government is taking three years to get through the first part of the process. They feel that the issue has been kicked into touch. If it has not been, and if the Scottish Government is getting on with the work, people need to know that. It will be extremely helpful to receive in writing the information about the three-year process. That is probably all the information that we need, and I would like to keep the petition open until we get it.

Stewart Stevenson

A previous petition on the subject from Jill Fotheringham was closed and did not lead to action. It would therefore be fair to her to keep this petition open until we are absolutely sure that there will be a project, but I agree that we should not gratuitously bring it back for further discussion in the absence of progress, unless we feel that the project is slipping.

The Convener

As no one wishes to speak against that suggestion, it seems that there is a consensus that we should keep the petition open and that we should press the cabinet secretary for the detailed information about the timeframe that he talked about, make those details available to the petitioner as soon as we have them and review the petition when it is appropriate to do so. I give an undertaking to the two committee members who have a constituency interest in the issue to keep it on the agenda. Do we agree to that course of action?

Members indicated agreement.

Protecting Wild Salmonids (PE1598)

The Convener

The second petition that we will consider is PE1598, by Guy Linley-Adams on behalf of Salmon and Trout Conservation Scotland. The petition was previously considered on 26 October.

In the annex to paper 6, there is a letter from the cabinet secretary in response to the committee’s request for further information. The committee also received a letter from the petitioner on Monday, which was circulated to members and is available on the committee’s website.

Before we discuss the petition, I declare that I have an interest in a wild salmon fishery and have views on sea lice.

Peter Chapman

I accept that this is a big and important issue. Right now, the committee lacks sufficient evidence to make a decision. We have all said that we would like to visit a fish farm, which would be useful in forming opinions. We also have to ask the cabinet secretary for more information.

Stewart Stevenson

I am fortunate to have had a number of visits to fish farms over the years, but I think that it would be beneficial for the committee to visit a fish farm. That would ensure that we were better informed about what we might want to put to the minister.

I am not entirely sure that the correspondence from Guy Linley-Adams correctly represents some of the issues, but I do not want to go into any of the detail at this stage because, of course, it is conceivable that I might be wrong in that supposition.

The Convener

God forbid, Stewart.

As there are no further comments, I suggest that we keep the petition open and that we visit a fish farm. As a result of that visit and any further information that the cabinet secretary can give us, we might consider taking further evidence from the parties that are involved, if that is appropriate. Do we agree to that course of action?

Members indicated agreement.

That concludes today’s committee business.

Meeting closed at 12:09.