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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Meeting of the Parliament 01 March 2017

Agenda: Portfolio Question Time, Scottish Funding Council Board (Abolition), BBC Scotland Digital Channel, Business Motion, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Safe Drive, Stay Alive Project


Contents


Safe Drive, Stay Alive Project

I remind members that they do not cross the floor of the chamber when the Parliament is still in session. The gentleman concerned has left, but I will remind him. If anybody had an idea to copy him, they need not bother.

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-04086, in the name of Alexander Stewart, on the—

Alexander Stewart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con) rose—

You are too keen, Mr Stewart—I could not resist that. You are getting your space.

The motion is on the safe drive, stay alive project. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises the Safe Drive, Stay Alive project, which has been actively educating teenagers and young adults on the seriousness of complacency, recklessness or dangerous activity behind the wheel; understands that, during the last 11 years, around 40,000 young people from across Forth Valley have attended these events, which are specially crafted and engineered to contribute towards a real reduction in the number of youngsters killed or who have had life-changing injuries in road traffic accidents in the area; believes that, despite these tremendous successes, the project, which has been in Scotland since 2006 and is diligently organised by the Central Safe Drive Group, remains under threat due to ongoing funding issues; notes that all three Central Scotland councils previously funded the show, which it understands costs around £23,000 to put on, however this funding is no longer available due to cuts to local government budgets, with the project experiencing great difficulty in raising funds for 2018; further notes that the Safe Drive, Stay Alive roadshows present to their mainly young audiences the harrowing reality of dangerous driving and the lasting impact that it can have on people, their families and communities; welcomes that members of the emergency services give presentations in their own time based on their personal experiences, and that some of those who have had their lives completely changed after being involved in road accidents also come forward and share their experiences and how they are dealing with debilitating injuries from day to day; understands that the Central Safe Drive Group says that in the years that the project has been running, road deaths in the 16 to 25 age group dropped from an average of 11 between 2006 and 2008 to an astonishing zero count during 2014-15; considers that it is important to maintain zero deaths, and notes the view that active assistance is necessary in any way possible to help sustain the survival of what it sees as this excellent project into the future.

17:07  

I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead this members’ business debate and extremely grateful for the cross-party support that my motion on the safe drive, stay alive project has received. The debate gives us the opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful work that has taken place and to consider the challenges that the project faces.

I am delighted that some of the people who are involved with the project have been able to join us in the public gallery. I acknowledge the attendance of Melanie Mitchell, who is the local community champion for Tesco in Alloa, and Alan Faulds, who is the local area liaison officer for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. In addition, I thank in particular my Mid Scotland and Fife colleagues Mark Ruskell and Alex Rowley; the MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, Keith Brown; and lain Smith from the Alloa & Hillfoots Advertiser. They have all been supportive, have actively campaigned on the project and have been involved in a petition for the cause.

Like its counterparts throughout Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, the safe drive, stay alive project in Mid Scotland and Fife aims to educate teenagers and young adults about the potential severity of the consequences of risky, reckless or dangerous driving. It has attracted around 40,000 young people in the past 11 years.

I first attended one of the project’s events in Forfar when I was a member of the Tayside joint police board. When I left the event, I felt in shock. It was a harrowing experience and it provided a punchy, hard-hitting answer to the issue. The hard-hitting nature of the project is what makes it so effective. Each event has contributions from many people who have been affected by a car accident. Some, such as those who work for the emergency services, have to deal with the implications of dangerous driving too often, and we should all commend and be grateful for their life-saving work.

How individuals who have been involved in an accident or who have lost someone close to them have dealt with their situation is very much played out on stage. A car accident can be life changing for someone and can turn their world upside down. The inclusion of real people who recount real experiences of severe injury or loss makes the young people who attend those events think about the potential consequences of their reckless driving.

The safe drive, stay alive project has, since its introduction in Scotland in 2006, been a real success. From 2006 to 2008, an average of 11 people between the ages of 16 and 25 died in driving accidents. In 2014-15, the figure had dropped staggeringly to zero—none, nil. That is an outstanding achievement, and it highlights the importance of ensuring that young people take away the right messages about driving safely.

We recognise that organising an event of this nature costs money. The regional campaign has a budget of about £23,000 to put on the event and, in the past, it has received funding from the three local authorities in the former Central Scotland regional council area. That funding is now in jeopardy, and there have been some discussions about how we progress the campaign at a time when councils are looking at their budgets and reducing some of their input.

This is not the first time that the future of the safe drive, stay alive project has been brought into doubt. I had some experience of that back in Perth and Kinross, when we found that the campaign was struggling to find funds and to hold events, and simply to survive. As a member of the local community safety committee and the community planning partnership, I was instrumental in helping the campaign to find an alternative venue that was less expensive to ensure that we could continue our involvement with the project.

I recently found out that Stirling Council is very supportive of the project and will continue to provide funding. I welcome that, as the council is putting its money where its mouth is. At a budget meeting in Falkirk last week, councillors rubber-stamped costs towards running a week-long road safety awareness campaign. That council has always valued the event as a tangible way of showing young people the dangers that they face and which can affect their community. However, there have been some issues with Clackmannanshire Council, which has had a few of its own troubles in recent times. We have to keep a watchful eye on what is happening in that council area, because we need to ensure that it fits in and completes the jigsaw.

I hope that the debate highlights the importance of this project in the lives of our young people. It is essential that we all work together across the chamber to ensure that this important project, and the opportunities that it offers to young people, will continue across the region that I represent and throughout Scotland. We must do all that we can to maintain, sustain and retain this invaluable lesson in road safety.

In conclusion, I pay tribute to all those who have attended, supported, participated in and funded this life-saving project. To all the families who have suffered the loss of a loved one or whose loved one has suffered life-changing injuries, I offer my heartfelt condolences.

Working together, we can achieve much more, and I look forward to seeing this outstanding project continue in the years to come.

17:13  

I thank Alexander Stewart for securing the debate, which is aimed at preserving the important and effective safe drive, stay alive educational programme. I want to take a few minutes to tell members about this initiative, which is essential to Fife’s efforts to reduce traffic-related fatalities and to educate young people about road safety in my constituency of Kirkcaldy. The safe drive, stay alive project is an annual community roadshow that delivers thought-provoking messages to thousands of young drivers by demonstrating in realistic terms the lethal consequences should they fail to understand and accept their responsibilities when getting behind the wheel.

In my constituency, the show runs for one week annually in late autumn at the Rothes halls theatre. However, its impact spans far beyond that of the average theatre performance. In the show, members of emergency services share stories of horrific traffic accidents and suggest how they might have been prevented. Victims of debilitating road-related injuries speak about how their lives changed in an instance, after just a few moments of carelessness. Bereaved individuals share their loss and implore students to think about their actions behind the wheel. Young people are provided with a framework for safe driving, and experts share tips about how to be aware on the road.

Road safety awareness can be a tricky subject to navigate in an educational setting. Safe drive, stay alive does a tremendous job of balancing the tragic nature of road-related collisions with what can be done to prevent them. After seeing the physical and emotional damage that is done by road-related collisions, students depart from the event understanding the harrowing effects of dangerous driving and committed to preventing reckless driving.

The central safe drive team marked its 10th year and 100th show in Stirling this month. Since the show was founded by central safe drive, more than 40,000 school pupils from across Forth valley have seen it. The results speak for themselves. The expertly crafted event has contributed to a decrease of 43 per cent in Fife’s road casualties since 2006. In 2006, there were 1,056 road-related injuries; in 2012, there were 549. In the same time period, there has been a 65 per cent decrease in fatalities: in 2006 there were 20, and in 2012 there were seven. That downward trend in fatalities and accidents has continued across Fife up until 2015.

Aside from the reduction in the number of bereaved and grieving families, the reduction in the number of road collision injuries and deaths has resulted in a lower demand for the emergency services and for money spent dealing with a road traffic casualty or fatality. Safe drive, stay alive has contributed to financial savings in the region of £45 million.

For its tangible impact and extraordinary production, the safe drive, stay alive project won the most effective road safety, traffic management and enforcement project at the 2012 Scottish transport awards. Last year saw safe drive, stay alive central win a prestigious emergency services special award from Central FM for its contribution to reducing the number of road casualties among 16 to 25-year-olds. The show has been adapted by other community safety partnerships throughout Scotland and the United Kingdom. It is supported overwhelmingly by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Extremely robust external evaluations of safe drive, stay alive were undertaken in 2011 and 2012 by NHS Fife, and those evaluations identified an immediate change in the attitudes of attendees to safe driving. The 2011 evaluation, which was completed by 538 attendees, demonstrated a decrease in speeding and an increase in seat-belt use, with almost 85 per cent reporting that they always wear a seat belt.

This amazing approach to road safety education—an accessible and specially engineered programme that has proved effective in its aim of reducing traffic-related injury and death—will be eliminated without some kind of aid. A petition calling for the programme’s continuation is circulating in Central Scotland and has many signatures, including those of many members of the Scottish Parliament from many different parties. If the programme is not supported, thousands of pupils will lose the opportunity to learn vital road safety lessons, and our roads will suffer.

I acknowledge and praise the work that safe drive, stay alive has done in my constituency and beyond. It is imperative that we maintain the project for its potential to make a difference in my constituency and across wider Scotland. It is up to us to ensure that safe drive, stay alive gets the resources that it needs to continue serving our constituencies.

In conclusion, Presiding Officer—

I was just thinking that. You never look up, you never look at the clock.

I thank Alexander Stewart once again for securing this debate today, and I thank all who have supported the motion and continue to support the amazing work of safe drive, stay alive.

That is not the way to do it, because I will stop you anyway, even if you do not look up.

17:18  

I congratulate Alexander Stewart on securing the debate. I am particularly pleased to speak in this debate, because just more than 31 years ago, at around 9.30 in the evening, I was, following a terrible head-on car accident, standing shivering in the icy darkness at the side of the A702 near Biggar with—members do not need the details; they can all see the scar running the full length of my forehead.

Any project that educates any driver, let alone teenagers and young adults, on complacency, recklessness or dangerous activity behind the wheel and, of course, the outcomes and impacts of that behaviour, must be supported.

We have a noticeable and persistent problem of young drivers being involved in a high proportion of accidents on our roads. Road Safety Scotland statistics show that, despite their accounting for only 10 per cent of licence holders, young drivers are involved in more than 20 per cent of accidents. In 2015, those accidents included 162 deaths, 1,500 serious injuries and more than 10,000 casualties.

Members will, by now, expect me to talk about North East Scotland. I am sad to say that in this debate I need to do so more than ever, because according to last year’s “Reported Road Casualties Scotland 2015: A National Statistics Publication”, the roads in the north-east were the most dangerous in Scotland.

The A956 in Aberdeen is ranked as Britain’s fourth most hazardous road. Aberdeenshire and Moray had 429 reported injuries, accidents and casualties, of which 189 casualties were deemed to have been “serious”. Studies have shown that there were more fatal accidents in Aberdeenshire in 2015 than there were anywhere else in Scotland. That is terrifying, because behind every statistic are real people, real families and real lives.

We are faced with a monumental challenge to reduce casualties and to encourage sensible road behaviour. The solution must be to educate our younger generations to use our roads more safely. Projects such as safe drive, stay alive are vital means by which to achieve that. That project is a collaboration across Scotland among local authorities, the emergency services and businesses, that targets younger generations in order to underline to them the consequences of reckless driving. The events deliver hard-hitting truths and first-hand accounts from emergency services workers, survivors and relatives of people who have been involved in road accidents. They communicate the traumatic and harrowing aftermath that such accidents cause families, friends and Scottish society as a whole. I must flag up that members of our hard-pressed emergency services give those presentations in their own time, based on their personal experiences.

Does safe drive, stay alive deliver a solution? The fact that there have been 40,000 attendees in 11 years suggests that it does. As is highlighted in the motion and by Alexander Stewart,

“road deaths in the 16 to 25 age group dropped from an average of 11 between 2006 and 2008 to ... zero ... during 2014-15”.

I responded to my own crash by passing the Institute of Advanced Motorists—now IAM Roadsmart—test when I was 18, to ensure that I was driving as safely and responsibly as possible. However, that option is not open or attractive to everyone. The safe drive, stay alive project—and others like it—potentially is. We must continue to support such projects.

Last year, the Minister for Transport and the Islands launched his “Strategic Road Safety Plan 2016”, in which he emphasised the Scottish Government’s conviction that

“one life lost on Scotland’s roads is one too many”

and further expressed the view that the “ultimate future” is

“a future where no one is killed”

on our roads. I agree.

Only this morning, I was discussing with the Association of British Insurers its support for programmes that support young driver safety. The safe drive, stay alive project is under threat from cuts to local Government budgets. As is highlighted in the motion, the project experienced

“great difficulty in raising funds for 2018”.

It appears that it requires a mere £23,000 to keep going. I very much hope that Mackay’s magic money tree that we heard so much about last week might bear just one more gift this year.

17:23  

I, too, thank Alexander Stewart for securing the debate. Mark Ruskell and I also lodged similar motions. We did so because we both support the fantastic work and the achievements of the central safe drive group and, specifically, the safe drive, stay alive road show.

I appreciate the time that is given by staff from Police Scotland, the Scottish Ambulance Service, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the national health service, and all the volunteers who contribute to the campaign and the events. They aim to inform and educate young people across the Forth valley and, in so doing, to reduce the number of road traffic accidents involving young people and ensure that fewer young people are killed or left with life-changing injuries.

I had the absolute privilege of attending a safe drive, stay alive event in February at the Macrobert arts centre in Stirling. The event was planned and delivered with the intention of achieving maximum engagement from the young people in the audience. Although as a councillor I had been involved in getting the funding for the safe drive, stay alive campaign in Fife, I had never attended such an event before. It started with a disc jockey, a lot of music, a big fireman bouncing up and down on the stage and lots of people dancing—including, eventually, me, as part of the audience. There was a really good feel to the event, and I could see why it was so attractive to young people.

Is there any footage of this?

I hope not. [Laughter.] It was a great event—it was lively and really good. However, when we sat down and the show was about to begin, a young girl sitting next to me passed me a box of handkerchiefs. I thought, “Right—okay”, took a hankie out and passed the box along. I was then caught up in the very powerful delivery of a hard-hitting message. At times, the auditorium was completely silent. People could not fail to have been moved by the stories that were being told: for example, the real-life contributions from survivors Jennifer Howie and David Galloway, who, as young people, experienced life-changing injuries, and from members of families who, tragically, had lost loved ones and were there to tell the story. Each of those people had to come to terms with the shocking and cruel reality that too often follows a few moments of carelessness either behind the wheel or as a passenger in a car.

Evidence suggests that the central safe drive group’s approach is having a real impact. As Alexander Stewart said, over the past 11 years, 40,000 young people have attended annual events. In the years that the project has been running, road deaths in the 16 to 25 age group have dropped from an average of 11 between 2006 and 2008 to an astonishing zero count in 2014-15. That is a fantastic achievement, so we need to recognise all the hard work that the volunteers have put in.

Concern has been expressed about funding. I have written to the three councils in the area, all of which have—I have to say—come back to me with very positive responses, stating their commitment to future funding. That is important. I have also written to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, and I hope to hear back from them. After all, we need co-ordination to ensure that the hard-working group is not having to run around trying to get funding. I understand that the last bit of funding was eventually put in place in the form of a grant from an organisation in England.

Once again, I thank everyone who is involved in the project. There seems to be a commitment from the local authorities: if we can get a similar commitment from the others whom I have mentioned, we can work through the safety partnership to highlight the problems. We can all work together on that.

In any case, we need to secure funding for what is an amazing show. I congratulate everyone who is involved in it.

17:27  

First, I declare an interest as a councillor in Stirling.

I thank Alexander Stewart for lodging the motion for debate. It was important for at least one of the three motions on safe drive, stay alive to be debated, and I appreciate the efforts that the member has made in securing this time. I also thank the families who have contributed to the programme over the many years for which it has been running, and the volunteers, particularly from the emergency services, who have contributed to the events and—as I understand it—the fundraising, too. Their efforts have been hugely important.

I was not able to attend this year’s event, but I attended what I think was the first event a decade ago. I will certainly never forget how moving the testimonies were. The energy and buzz of the first part of the event captured the young people’s attention—although I do not think that we had a raving Alex Rowley at it—but when it came to exploring the real impact of road accidents, there were deeply thoughtful faces and, in some cases, tears.

The event reminded me of two experiences that I had when I was at school. The first was the time when a classmate of mine at primary school was killed while out on his bike one evening, and I remember the sense of sheer disbelief and grief that we all felt the next day. There was also the time in high school when a group of local teenagers died in a tragic high-speed crash on the streets of Edinburgh. The fact that those teenagers, who had so much to look forward to, had lost their lives so tragically and carelessly on our roads sent shock waves across the city at the time.

I know that more than 40,000 young people, who have come from every school in Clackmannanshire, Falkirk and Stirling, have attended the central safe drive group’s safe drive, stay alive events over the past 10 years. Recently, I was in Alloa discussing the funding issue on the street and collecting signatures for the Alloa Advertiser petition and I was really pleased to meet people who still strongly remembered safe drive, stay alive from their school days and the contribution that it made to their awareness of road safety. They had seen just a tiny glimpse of the pain and anguish that road accidents cause, but that had been enough to make them think about not just the tragic consequences, but how to take better care of their own lives and the lives of those around them by driving responsibly.

Mentioning money in such a debate is awkward, because a life is invaluable, but the continuation of the ground-breaking approach comes down to the need for investment and the realisation that, alongside the incalculable tragedy of every fatal road accident, there is a cost to wider society that is estimated at around £1.2 million. The Christie commission urged us all to spend on preventative action, and I can think of no better example of that approach than spending on safe drive, stay alive. We are not talking about large amounts of money—we are talking about tens of thousands of pounds rather than hundreds of thousands of pounds—but small cuts to services that are delivered by external partners can often pass through unscrutinised by councils.

There is no single action that we can take to make our streets safer. Members might be aware that I intend to consult on a member’s bill to change the default restricted road speed limit from 30mph to 20mph. Clackmannanshire Council has already largely delivered that although, sadly, Falkirk Council and Stirling Council have not. It is clear that, through education and regulation working together, we can make our streets safer and reduce the risk of accidents and collisions.

As Alexander Stewart has already outlined, it is heartening that, in 2014-15, there were no road deaths of young people aged between 16 and 25 in Clackmannanshire. We need to ensure that that figure stays at zero.

Safe drive, stay alive is an exemplar project that deserves to be built on and given longer-term funding security. I hope that all the councils and other agencies will work together to deliver that funding.

17:32  

I thank my colleague Alexander Stewart not only for bringing this debate to the chamber, but for the work that he has been doing along with other colleagues to encourage local authority funding for the safe drive, stay alive project.

The campaign employs emotive and hard-hitting techniques that are designed to make young people sit up and take notice of the dangers of reckless and dangerous driving. It ensures that young people can listen to those who have had to go through the ordeal of a serious road accident, whether they are emergency workers—such as the attending paramedic or the nurse who treated the victims of a crash—who talk about the sacrifices that they make, or the survivors of accidents, or the surviving relatives of those who lost their lives.

The streets ahead Edinburgh young drivers event, which is a similar event, has been running for six years. It employs similar tactics, including various interactive tools, to get messages across to young drivers in innovative ways. I am pleased that preparations for this year’s event are now in full swing.

I pay tribute to all the people who have been involved in setting up those campaigns, as well as to those who attend them to convey their experiences, to whom I have referred. We owe it to those people to say thank you to them, but we owe them not just that: we should also say “Enough is enough.” We must strive for a day when road accidents no longer ruin the lives of so many people.

The litmus test of a campaign that is designed to change behaviour or to mould behaviour before a young driver takes to the wheel for the first time is: does it work? In that regard, it seems that shock and awe works. The figures that have already been referred to and are pointed to in the motion relating to the success of the safe drive, stay alive campaign since it was introduced in Scotland are quite remarkable. Other members have already referred to them, so I will not repeat them. However, the greatest mistake would be to rest on our laurels, as a split-second diversion of attention can have far-reaching and disastrous consequences. That is the very nature of a road traffic accident. Likewise, with the campaign: it would be as grave a mistake to take our eye off the campaign as it would be take our eye of the road.

It is my understanding that funding was initially cut for the safe drive, stay alive campaign within Forth valley. Indeed, that might still happen in some areas of the region although, as I mentioned earlier, the work of my colleague Alexander Stewart and others has helped to raise awareness of the need for continued funding. To use the example of my region of Lothian, figures revealed in December that West Lothian fares particularly badly in winter driving conditions. Department for Transport figures tell us that West Lothian is ranked fourth highest of 206 areas for the number of injuries and deaths related to winter conditions. We all know how dangerous country roads can be if care is not taken. I am aware from a recent response to a written question that Transport Scotland is working to try to ensure the safety of trunk roads in West Lothian and is offering safe driving leaflets. That is the very least that can be expected to try to reduce the number of accidents, but it takes more than leaflets to change behaviour, and safe driving campaigns play a vital role.

Until there are no accidents on our roads, there will still be too many. I hope that this debate shows us what can be done through campaigns such as safe drive, stay alive. I thank everyone involved in that campaign and in others around Scotland.

17:36  

I, too, thank Alexander Stewart for lodging the motion for this debate. I note that other members have lodged motions on the safe drive, stay alive events, but it is right that those extremely hard-hitting events, which have such an impact on young people, are highlighted in this way tonight in Parliament.

I have not been to one of the safe drive, stay alive events, but I was first made aware of them some time ago by a friend from Coatbridge who heard about them from a work colleague. As his daughter and her friend were new drivers, he took them to an event in Stirling. As with many young drivers, the girls had an air of confidence on the way there and questioned the need to travel through to Stirling to be informed of stuff that they knew already. However, the journey home was, of course, quite a different matter. Not only were the girls completely stunned and subdued by the impact of the show, but my friend was, too. He felt that he had benefited greatly from being reminded of the necessity for safe driving.

As Alex Rowley said, the events start with a party atmosphere, with the young people being encouraged to dance about to loud music and wave glowsticks in the air. However, at the Stirling event they were soon shocked into complete silence when it was made clear that the number of bright and shiny glowsticks related to the number of young people who had suffered fatal or severe injuries from driving incidents in the local area. In particular, the compelling story that was told by a father about his son’s life-changing injuries and the thought-provoking, realistic video demonstrations were invaluable lessons for the many young people taking part in the event. My friend was so impressed by the event that, two years later, he took his younger daughter and her friend to the safe drive, stay alive event in Stirling after they passed their driving tests.

I have no doubt about the success of the events, which are also held in Aberdeen, Fife and Tayside, as we have heard. The organisers in Tayside firmly believe that since the safe drive, stay alive events started in 2006, they have contributed to the 43 per cent reduction in road accident casualties in the area. Other areas that have the events have also recorded a reduction in traffic incidents. The projects have rightly earned a number of local and UK awards, which demonstrates their effectiveness. However, accident statistics are still worrying. In 2015, there were 2,007 recorded accidents in Scotland involving drivers under the age of 25; sadly, 36 of those were fatal, according to figures from the Scottish Parliament information centre. Like Alexander Stewart, I send condolences to the families who have lost loved ones.

Nowadays, getting a car after they have passed their driving test appears to be a rite of passage for many young people, and it is a practice that is on the increase. Many might see having a car as something of a luxury, but it is often a necessity for young people, especially in more rural areas where they can be let down by poor public transport and therefore need a car to travel to work or for leisure activities or study. Of course, as the amount of traffic increases, so do the risks.

I certainly hope that the safe drive, stay alive events continue in the areas that they currently operate in, but I would like them to be extended to other areas of Scotland. I look forward to hearing the minister’s comments on that. I am aware, too, that a different driver safety scheme was announced this week for Ayrshire, and I hope that that project is also successful.

I offer my support and thanks to the community safety groups, the NHS, Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, which not only take part and make the events so outstanding, but have to deal with such tragic incidents—sadly—too often. I also thank Alexander Stewart for bringing the debate to the chamber and the other members who have lodged motions on the subject.

17:40  

I, too, congratulate Mr Stewart on securing this evening’s debate, which is on a very important issue, and I commend him for highlighting the importance of partnership working in this area. The community safety partnerships that have come together involve the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and other authorities that are looking to reduce accidents on the roads, and I welcome some of those partners to the public gallery this evening.

I attended a safe drive, stay alive event many years ago—I suspect that the project has moved on from the event that I saw—in Aberdeenshire. It was one of my first exposures to this kind of project work, and I remember the impact that it had on me and how powerful the event was. The evaluation that has taken place shows how good the project is, and it will certainly be valuable as we consider how to take the issues forward.

As convener of the cross-party group on accident prevention and safety awareness, I work hard with organisations including the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and Brake. We know so much about the dangers for young people and we also have some information about why the statistics are so bad. We know that young drivers are 10 times more likely to be involved in an accident and that they are more at risk because of the combination of youth and inexperience. Their inexperience means that they are less likely to spot hazards, which means that they are more at risk of having an accident. The ability to recognise hazards can come only from experience of driving. The other factors include overconfidence, which has already been mentioned this evening. Poor assessment of hazards can make young people more likely to overtake or to take a bend too fast.

The prevalence of risk taking is one of the areas that I find most fascinating in the accident prevention arena. We know that brains do not mature until people are well into their 20s, and research shows that risk-taking behaviour occurs because the frontal lobe of the brain has not fully developed. That means that our young people are inherently more at risk, and it is incumbent on us to do everything that we can to make them safer.

I commend some of the other initiatives that are out there. Mark Ruskell mentioned the twenty’s plenty campaign, which has greatly reduced accidents in my area, North Lanarkshire.

I also commend the Government for taking leadership on the matter. Transport Scotland’s vision is:

“A steady reduction in the numbers of those killed and those seriously injured, with the ultimate vision of a future where no one is killed on Scotland’s roads and the injury rate is much reduced.”

I think that we would all sign up to that.

I am glad that the mid-term review of the road safety framework, which was published in 2016, focuses particularly on young drivers aged 17 to 25.

I also commend to everyone in the chamber some of the work that has been done by Dr Sarah Jones of Cardiff University, who presented to the CPG on accident prevention and safety awareness on graduated licences. That can be a controversial issue, but she highlighted that exuberance, risk taking, peer pressure and sensation and thrill seeking all contribute to young people being more in danger. She also said that the psychomotor skills, hazard perception, judgment and decision making of young people are known to put them more in danger. I commend her work and ask people to look into the real value of graduated licences.

Once again, I thank the safe drive, stay alive project for teaching our young people life skills.

17:44  

I thank Alexander Stewart for lodging the motion, and the members who lodged similar motions, and I congratulate them for their cross-party approach to the issue. My experience shows that the more cross-party a campaign is, the more likely it is to succeed. I wish them luck and success.

As Alexander Stewart did, I welcome to the gallery Alan Faulds and Melanie Mitchell, who are involved in the campaign in various ways, and I congratulate the Alloa Advertiser for its contribution to this important members’ business debate. I read a number of its articles in advance of the debate.

There have been excellent speeches from members from around the chamber. From the Government’s perspective, I will reiterate a couple of points. As members have mentioned, we are committed, through “Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020”, to achieving safer road travel. The framework sets out a very ambitious vision of a time when there are no fatalities on Scotland’s roads. Liam Kerr mentioned my statement, and those of previous transport ministers, that one fatality is one too many. It is an ambitious target, but I want to live in a Scotland in which it is realised.

Underpinning the vision are very challenging casualty reduction targets, so I have been pleased to see that, at the 2015 milestone point, we remain on track to achieve the targets. Fatalities were reduced by 42 per cent from the 2004-2008 baseline. However, 168 people were killed on our roads in 2015, so there is no room for complacency or, as Gordon Lindhurst said, for resting on our laurels. I give him the assurance that we are certainly not doing that.

During 2015, my predecessor Derek Mackay instigated a mid-term review of the progress that had been made under the road safety framework and the approach to be taken.·The mid-term review identified a pre-driver outcome as a key priority. A pre-driver outcome aims to improve knowledge and instil positive attitudes and safer behaviours in individuals before they start driving.

We know the vital role that prevention can play: the safe drive, stay alive project is one of 12 pre-driver interventions that are currently being run in Scotland that aim to contribute to that outcome. We heard from members from around the chamber about other interventions. Almost every member who has been to a safe drive, stay alive event mentioned the phrase “hard-hitting”; it is very important that the events are powerful. Those hard-hitting and thought-provoking accounts of real-life collisions and their outcomes—Alex Rowley mentioned presentations from people who have sustained life-altering injuries—can, no doubt, have a very positive effect on attitudes, knowledge and skills, and can reduce risk.

I thank all those who have been involved in the safe drive, stay alive project, the details of which we have heard from members. We are committed to using such interventions, which help us to meet the aims of the road safety framework. That said, the image of Alex Rowley dancing has given me second thoughts about the campaign. I say that only in jest.

Partnership working is at the heart of everything that we do as a Government, and it is key to supporting the delivery of the framework targets. I was pleased to hear from Alex Rowley about the correspondence that he has had with local authorities that suggests or alludes to the fact that they are examining their funding commitments to the project, and I have no doubt that the other members who lodged motions have also put pressure on local authorities in that regard. We are all aware of the pressures on Government and on local government; Liam Kerr mentioned Derek Mackay’s infamous magic money tree. I remind Liam Kerr that, due to the recent budget negotiations, there is an additional £160 million going to local authorities. That is £1.4 million for Clackmannanshire Council, £4.5 million for Falkirk Council and £2.8 million for Stirling Council, of un-ring-fenced funds. I am not making that point flippantly; I just want to put it on the record. I understand that local authorities are wrestling with many budgetary pressures.

In October 2015, we commissioned an evaluation of safe drive, stay alive. The review aimed to explore the extent to which that intervention and similar interventions contribute to the specific commitments in our road safety framework. The review was qualitative in nature, and the report concluded that, based on the perceptions that were expressed in the study, there was a positive impact on attitudes of young people to road safety messages. Therefore, in that sense, the intervention supports the aims of the road safety framework.

However, the report further concluded that, although the interventions ultimately aim to change driver behaviour, the small scale and limited nature of the study that was conducted meant that we need more evaluative evidence to explore the long-term behavioural changes that are required in driving practices in order for us to achieve the framework targets. We are currently gathering further evidence on the effectiveness of pre-driver interventions. That work is focusing not just on safe drive, stay alive but on the broad spectrum of interventions. We have commissioned—we will work closely with it—the Transport Research Laboratory to do a project that seeks to get a better understanding of pre-driver interventions. Safe drive, stay alive will be part of that. The report is due in spring, so I will not pre-empt it. Members will, no doubt, be interested in it.

We are never complacent about road safety and we have a raft of measures on it. Because of the restrictions on time, I will not go through them all, but members will be aware that we have lowered drink-drive limits and introduced guidance on 20mph speed limits. I have met Mark Ruskell to discuss the bill that he intends to introduce on that. The Government and I are keeping an open mind on it and we will look at the matter with great interest. We also have high-profile publicity campaigns and ambitious engineering initiatives, including those on the A9.

For many years, the Scottish Government has been pressing the UK Government to introduce a graduated driver licence scheme. I think that Liam Kerr mentioned that in relation to his meeting with the Association of British Insurers. Clare Adamson and one or two other members also mentioned the issue. The Scottish Government has been pressing the UK Government to introduce that or to devolve the powers to us to do so. It is disappointing that we have not seen any movement on that, but I will keep making the request. It seems as though that message has cross-party support, to an extent.

We will continue to work closely with local authorities and our road safety partners to improve safety on our roads and to equip young people to be safe and responsible drivers for the future. We hope that that will allow us to get to the point at which there are no fatalities on our roads. I thank Alexander Stewart and the other members who have participated in this excellent debate.

Meeting closed at 17:52.