Gavin Brown MSP

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Gavin Brown MSP

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  • Member for: Lothian
  • Party: Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Gavin is a member of the following Committees:

Gavin is a member of the following Cross-Party Groups:

Parliamentary Activities

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Meeting of the Parliament 26 February 2015 Business until 12:32 : Thursday, February 26, 2015
Gavin Brown

The bank was announced for the first time almost two years ago. Given that the Scottish Government said that it could start a new country within 18 months, can the cabinet secretary tell us how big the bank will be and when it will actually be open for business?



Meeting of the Parliament 26 February 2015 Business until 12:32 : Thursday, February 26, 2015
7. Gavin Brown (Lothian) (Con)

To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the establishment of a Scottish business development bank. (S4O-04057)



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Gavin Brown

I suppose that my point is that, if the ruling goes the way that the cabinet secretary does not want it to go—I have to say that none of us wants it to go that way—there will have to be some contingency and a plan B. If the infrastructure investment plan rests entirely on the assumption that everything will be fine, we will all be disappointed and there is bound to be some impact on projects. That was the reason for asking the question.

Rail has featured heavily, as it should. I read out a quote from Transform Scotland not to embarrass the Government but because it is important. If a respected organisation that makes a lot of really good points says as bluntly as Transform Scotland has that

“Scotland’s rail network ... is in dire need of investment”,

it is incumbent on all of us to note that and look carefully at the suggestions that Transform Scotland makes about how we might move things forward.

Transform Scotland directly quotes former First Minister Alex Salmond, who said in 2008 that

“railways must at least compete with roads”.

If the train times between Edinburgh and Perth and between Dundee and Edinburgh are slower now than in 1895, that compares miserably with road times. Rail is nowhere near competing with road if train times compare poorly with those of well over 100 years ago. It is incumbent on the Government to do something about that and to suggest how it will make sure that, when we have a similar debate in five or ten years, the position is somewhat different.

Given that the cabinet secretary is here with the transport minister, I will ask about a point in the spring budget revision, which was published just last week. On page 65, it appears that £74 million is coming out of the rail budget for the financial year 2014-15. I can lodge a written question to ask why that is the case but, if the ministers have an answer today, it would be interesting to know why £74 million is coming out of the rail budget this year via the spring revision.

With that thought in mind, under the heading “Motorways and trunk roads” in the spring budget revision, there appears to be a change of £201.8 million, which is a sizeable sum. It is described as a

“Technical budget adjustment in respect of Transport revenue financed infrastructure projects”.

There may well be a good explanation for that, so I put the same question to the Scottish Government—why is that the case and what does that £201 million represent? It is important that the Parliament knows what the situation is.

To return to rail, it is not just the Perth to Edinburgh journey or the Edinburgh to Dundee journey where we have had criticisms. The Edinburgh to Glasgow project has been scaled back in some parts. Some of that was to do with cost savings and I accept that entirely, but some of it was not—some of it was a genuine scaling back. Some of that involved reducing the journey time by six to eight minutes instead of the 13 minutes that were promised, although the Government described the change as just being about reprofiling. It was considerably more than that, and the Government rightly received lots of criticism about that.

Let us hear the answers from the Government. There are areas where I think that it has done well, but there are areas where legitimate criticism is needed. Instead of the Government hiding from that criticism, let us hear the Government answer it, give an explanation and tell us what it will do about that criticism.

17:12  

Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Gavin Brown

We have had an interesting debate. Among the highlights was Mike MacKenzie celebrating the Queensferry crossing being built on time a year or two before it is complete. Another was Mr Stevenson, in responding to the point that train journey times now are slower than those a century ago, suggesting that we really should not worry, because London to Paris air travel was apparently faster in 1931 than it is today. I am sure that he says that to his constituents when they ask for the train times to be sped up slightly.

For three minutes, Mr Don told us how important capital spending is. When he was asked why very little spending was switched from revenue, he suggested that things are a bit more complicated than that.

Unlike Willie Rennie, I was not disappointed with Linda Fabiani. My favourite line of the debate was when she described Keith Brown’s motion as “a piece of literature”. That will be hard to beat. She obviously prefers the motion to any of the amendments.

The Scottish Government has done some good work in relation to infrastructure, transport, housing and so on, and it would be churlish to suggest otherwise. However, it is the Opposition’s job to ask the key questions when things are not going well or are clearly going wrong.

One of the questions that I put to the cabinet secretary early in the debate was about NPD projects. Given the questions that are being asked and the investigation that is going on, my question was simply about what assumptions will be made about NPD when the infrastructure investment plan is published. The answer was that the assumption is that everything will basically be fine and that we do not need to worry at all. The cabinet secretary can correct me in his speech, although I am happy to give way now.



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Gavin Brown

Given all that the member has just said, why did the Scottish Government switch only a tiny fraction of funding from revenue to capital?



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Gavin Brown

Would it be the member’s preference to collect the £180 billion using taxation, to borrow it, or a mixture of the two?



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Gavin Brown

I do not know why the cabinet secretary asked that again. Every single time we have been asked that question, we have said yes. Of course we support HS2—we always have done. It is interesting to note that the Scottish Government only ever wants to debate the issue in the run-up to a general election. The last time that the Scottish Government wanted to debate HS2 was in the run-up to the previous general election. We supported HS2 then and we support it now.

In the interim, perhaps Mr Brown might want to focus on some of the rail services for which he has direct responsibility. He might want to focus on Scotland. In a briefing, Transform Scotland said:

“Scotland’s rail network north of the Central Belt is in dire need of investment.”

What promises do we hear from the Government there? Transform Scotland points out that,

“In 1895, one could get from Dundee to Edinburgh in 57 minutes but nowadays the fastest rail trip is 64 minutes.”

The Scottish Government would do better to focus on the powers that it has and get its own house in order before blaming everybody else and complaining about the powers that it does not have.

I move amendment S4M-12382.1, to leave out from “welcomes” to end and insert:

“calls on the Scottish Government to explain the performance of the non-profit distribution pipeline since its creation, and asks the Scottish Government to publish an updated progress report for the Infrastructure Investment Plan as soon as possible.”

15:53  

Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Gavin Brown

I think that I have only 15 seconds left but, if there is any leeway, I will certainly give way to Mr Brown.



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Gavin Brown

We will come to the deficit.

This year, we have a higher growth rate than any other G7 country has, and next year our growth rate is projected to be higher than that of every other G7 country apart from the United States.

We have the highest employment rate we have ever had. While the unemployment rate is too high, it is far lower than it was expected to be, at just over 5 per cent, compared with France, where it is 10 or 11 per cent.

As the cabinet secretary knows, the deficit was 10 per cent—almost 11 per cent—of gross domestic product when the coalition took office, whereas it is about 5 per cent of GDP now. That is called cutting the deficit in half. As he probably also knows, a small surplus is projected by 2017-18. It has been delayed a few years more than was planned but certainly not for the two full sessions of Parliament that it would be delayed under the Sturgeonomics plan that the Scottish Government appears to have concocted.

I will deal with a couple of other issues that the cabinet secretary raised. He complained about how the capital budget has been cut. However, it is entirely up to the Scottish Government how much of its budget it decides to put into capital. It cannot shift money the other way round so, if it was complaining about revenue, we would have to take that on the chin. However, if the Scottish Government wants to shift money from revenue to capital, it is perfectly at liberty to do so. To no real measurable degree has it chosen to do so.

The Scottish Government complains bitterly about the amount of money that is available yet, in 2011-12, there was a £30 million underspend on capital—that was £30 million that the Government could not spend on capital. I accept that Keith Brown was not the Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities at the time, and perhaps on his watch things will be different, but that year was not alone. In the following year—2012-13—the Scottish Government was unable to spend £29 million on capital. That is £59 million in just two financial years. Perhaps Mr Brown will do better than that—I certainly hope that he will—but if the Government cannot spend all the money, it is a bit rich of it to complain about the level of money.



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Gavin Brown

Perhaps we need to send a copy of the budget and the autumn statement to Mr MacKenzie, because on just about every economic measure—much to his dissatisfaction, I am sure—the plan appears to be working.

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

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

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
>> Show more
NoDefeated

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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NoDefeated

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
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YesDefeated

S4M-12382 Keith Brown: Building Scotland’s Infrastructure for the Future—That the Parliament recogni
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NoCarried

Amendment 1 moved by Gavin Brown on motion S4M-12344 John Swinney: Community Charge Debt (Scotland)
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YesDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Gavin Brown
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12382.1: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 23/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12034.3: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 12/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11993.4: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 07/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11386.1: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 03/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11332.1: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10769.1.1: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 11/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10430.2: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 23/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10353.2: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 17/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09926.4: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 06/05/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-09462: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 24/03/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Gavin Brown
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24524: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 18/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24525: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 18/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-04057: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 18/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-04016: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 10/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24140: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24141: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 22/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24062: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24064: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24031: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24034: Gavin Brown, Lothian, Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, Date Lodged: 15/01/2015 Show Full Question >>

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