David Stewart MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
David Stewart

I would give all credit where credit is due. There has been a good positive union dividend through BDUK, of course, as the work involves UK funding.

Gavin Brown mentioned the reasonable point that Transform Scotland made in its briefing, which was—echoing Alex Salmond’s comment as First Minister in 2008—that rail must compete with roads. The third national planning framework, published in 2014, contained an aspiration to complete the electrification of rail between all our cities. Perhaps the cabinet secretary or the minister could, in winding up the debate, provide an update of where we are on the issue. When will Glasgow and Edinburgh to Inverness be electrified north of Perth?

In my remaining minutes, I will mention a couple of other contributions from members. Mary Fee made some excellent points about community engagement and low carbon infrastructure. I enjoyed Gavin Brown’s amusing and insightful analysis; he is always very professional and well informed, particularly on financial issues and on the serious issue of high-speed rail.

I agreed with Willie Rennie’s points about the breakdown of the budget. Mike MacKenzie stole my line about Keynes, but I will forgive him—it is a broad church.

Johann Lamont made some excellent points about the positive nature of the South Glasgow hospital link. We must all recognise the impact that the link has had on local communities, particularly in parking and transport. I am sure that the cabinet secretary will pick that up.

Stewart Stevenson is always interesting and amusing—I am not quite sure whether he is the father of the house yet, but I certainly enjoyed his contribution. I was not sure from listening to his comments whether he had invented penicillin and rail, but perhaps I misunderstood him. I particularly liked his point about drivers passing over tokens on some of the rail journeys north of Edinburgh.

I agree very much with Nigel Don’s comments, particularly on broadband, and Paul Martin made some excellent points about GARL. Margaret McDougall made an excellent point about Prestwick, and I will remember for the future her line that Scotland could have a route to the moon through the application for the space port.

I am running out of time. In conclusion, we believe that delivery of strategic investment in infrastructure is essential to achieve sustainable economic growth. I believe that members on all sides of the chamber can support the Labour amendment, which calls for new projects to be developed in a more strategic way—for example, by speeding up rail electrification and developing crossrail.

Finally, we need a future commitment to a not-for-profit rail operator so that customers, rather than groups of shareholders or foreign Governments, get the profit.

17:19  

Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
David Stewart

I am sure that members across the political divide want good value for money. I was going to make the point that optimism bias was a part of the original contract, and it is quite an interesting concept.

The other spin-off in public procurement that I am sure members all agree is positive is good employment practice. Last week at committee, we received an assurance from the Forth crossing project director that there is now no blacklisting operated by the contractors, which I am sure all members will appreciate, and that more than 100 apprentices and trainees are employed on the project.

I echo Nigel Don’s plea that we should view infrastructure not solely through the prism of large-scale capital funding projects. Digital infrastructure as well as communications infrastructure and mobile, broadband and wi-fi connectivity are vital pieces of the jigsaw. I will give members an example: if someone opens a new hotel in the Western Isles and wants to operate online booking, it would affect their business if broadband was non-existent.

I got some figures just this morning that showed a breakdown of broadband speeds for every Westminster constituency in the UK. Surprise, surprise—the Western Isles had the worst rate and the lowest speed. Notwithstanding that statistic, I welcome the broadband delivery UK funding, which is enabling broadband to be rolled out throughout the Highlands and Islands.



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

This has been an excellent debate, with strong, passionate speeches from across the political divide, but of course there has not been complete consensus. My sense of the debate is that there is a strong theme that infrastructure investment has an essential role in delivering sustainable economic growth. Of course, the key question is which projects, where in Scotland, can deliver the biggest bang for the buck.

We have heard about John Maynard Keynes once already. He is of course the renowned economist who played a key role, along with Beveridge, in designing the post-war welfare state. He once argued that, during a recession, it was worth paying workers to dig holes in the ground and then fill them in again, as that stimulated the economy through the multiplier effect. Of course, that is not feasible today, but the principle behind it remains. How do we identify projects? How do we appraise them? How do we finance and control them once they are approved?

The Queensferry crossing, for example, which was mentioned by the cabinet secretary as well as by Mary Fee and other speakers, is the largest public sector contract since devolution. I should perhaps declare an interest in the project as a former member of the Forth Crossing Bill Committee. I spent what seemed like months and months of my life in the previous parliamentary session taking evidence from grandees such as Stewart Stevenson—in his former role as transport minister—about the real, micro detail of how it would operate in practice.

Things have come almost full circle, as I have now joined the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee, which took evidence from the project director last week. It is interesting that within the project’s financial plan there is an item for optimism bias, which is the psychological trend towards assuming that everything will be all right on the night in relation to cost and getting the project done on time.



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
David Stewart

I believe that the freight facilities grant was in the member’s remit when he was a minister. I strongly support the freight facilities grant, but does he share my view that it is crucially important, particularly for lines in the north, that we have more dualling of track, because the basic problem that we have is a constraint and a lack of capacity on those lines?



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

I welcome the developments on the Aberdeen to Inverness route. However, does the cabinet secretary share my view that it is also important that we invest in rail at the same speed as we invest in road in order to give passengers alternatives?



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 18 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 18, 2015
David Stewart

Thank you.



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 18 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 18, 2015
David Stewart

Is that an absolute assurance? No employees are registered abroad and exempt from national insurance.



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 18 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 18, 2015
David Stewart

Perhaps I can put the question slightly differently. Are all employees on the project registered in the UK for national insurance purposes?



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 18 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 18, 2015
David Stewart

Can you remind the committee whether, when the contract was awarded, there was any assurance that the successful contractor would have to register all employees within the United Kingdom for national insurance purposes?



Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee 18 February 2015 : Wednesday, February 18, 2015
David Stewart

I am pleased to hear such a positive story.

My next question is about the evidence that you gave a year ago. You assured the committee that you would keep a watching brief on the issue of blacklisting by contractors. Can you assure the committee today that there is absolutely no blacklisting by contractors who are working on the project?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

S4M-12423.1 Alex Rowley: Commission on Local Tax Reform—As an amendment to motion S4M-12423 in the n
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Not VotedCarried

S4M-12423 Marco Biagi: Commission on Local Tax Reform—That the Parliament supports the establishment
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Not VotedCarried

S4M-12385 Liz Smith: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—That the Parliament agrees that a solid grou
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YesCarried

S4M-12395.1 Fergus Ewing: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in the
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-12395.2 Patrick Harvie: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—As an amendment to motion S4M-12395 in t
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AbstainDefeated

S4M-12395 Murdo Fraser: An Energy Strategy for Scotland—That the Parliament notes with concern the l
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NoCarried

S4M-12385.3 Alasdair Allan: STEM Education in Scottish Schools—As an amendment to motion S4M-12385 i
>> Show more
NoCarried

S4M-12382.3 Mary Fee: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion S4
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YesDefeated

S4M-12382.1 Gavin Brown: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to motion
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YesDefeated

S4M-12382.2 Willie Rennie: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—As an amendment to moti
>> Show more
NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by David Stewart
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12396: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 23/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12307: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12074: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11990: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11980.1: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 06/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11939: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 18/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11933: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11927: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 16/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11818: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11796: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/12/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by David Stewart
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24678: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24677: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24680: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24679: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-04088: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 25/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24540: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24539: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24536: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24535: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24538: David Stewart, Highlands and Islands, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 19/02/2015 Show Full Question >>

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