John Mason MSP

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Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
John Mason

When we discussed the issue previously, I certainly felt—and I think that most of the committee felt—that it was quite a serious one. It is a bit disappointing that there seems to have been absolutely no give on the part of the Government.

I wonder where we should go now; I do not think that we should drop the matter completely. I stand to be corrected, but I think that the bill is at quite an early stage, so we have not had the stage 1 debate. Perhaps the issue could be raised in that debate.



Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

This is the first time that I have faced this issue, although I realise that the committee has considered it previously. I accept that there is some uncertainty about the legal definition of a benefit, but the reality is that the Government’s position has not been challenged up till now. I presume that anyone who had a serious interest in challenging it could have done so. Although that could still happen, it seems unlikely.



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
John Mason

Of course, the Perth to Inverness line also seriously needs to be dualled.

As I said, I was recently in Berlin, which is investing in a superb city-centre station as well as a new U-Bahn line. I think that we are all saying in the debate that building Scotland’s infrastructure is important and a good thing. However, the question is whether we are willing to walk the walk as well as we talk the talk. Are we willing to sacrifice current day-to-day revenue expenditure in order to invest more for the future? I suggest that the Opposition parties would have more credibility if they suggested areas that need to be cut back in order that we could invest more.

17:00  

Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

If there is one thing that we should never lose sight of, it is the importance of investing for the future. Of course there is a need for day-to-day expenditure on doctors, teachers and medicines right now, but we also owe it to our children and to future generations to invest in infrastructure.

It does no harm to look back at some of the things that have been achieved. For example, local projects that have benefited my constituency in the east end of Glasgow are the M74 completion; the Airdrie to Bathgate rail link, which gives us a direct link to Edinburgh; the Commonwealth games infrastructure, including the sports facilities, Dalmarnock station and, especially, the athletes village, which is now seeing residents moving in; and, very locally, Garrowhill primary school, which has just come into operation.

Right now, we see more projects happening in my area, including the M8, M73 and M74 improvements that are mentioned in the motion; the electrification of the Whifflet rail line; and the Clyde Gateway urban regeneration company, which has achieved major improvements in Dalmarnock in Glasgow and across in Rutherglen in South Lanarkshire. Some of those improvements are easy to see—for example, a new police building—while others are less visible but equally important, such as restoration of contaminated land, which can cost millions but opens the door to future development.

We probably all have lists of projects that we would like to see happening. We have heard of some already, but I will concentrate on two areas, the first of which is housing. There has been a surprising lack of mentions of housing thus far in the debate, but I remain convinced that housing is one of the best areas for investment. Clearly, housing investment will help people at the bottom end of the scale who are currently in old houses that are difficult to heat and where they might face overcrowding, which has a knock-on effect on kids’ education. Other folk are stuck upstairs in closes when they can no longer manage the stairs. Investment in housing has huge benefits in reducing energy costs, ensuring families have enough space, improving mental health and many other things.

Not surprisingly, the second area that I want to mention is rail, not least because I am co-convener of the cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on rail. I am glad to see that rail has had serious attention in the debate. Of course, when members come to the cross-party group—as I hope the new Minister for Transport and Islands will—it does not take them long to hear of the wide range of projects that folk would like to see. As has been mentioned, the Airdrie to Bathgate line has been opened very successfully, and it should be able to handle many extra passengers when Queen Street station high level and the tunnel are closed for refurbishment and the EGIP improvements.

I am delighted that EGIP is now going forward below the original budget. The idea of longer trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh was a real breakthrough and saves so much having to be spent on signalling in order to increase frequency, which was the original plan. Electrification around Glasgow has been moving steadily forward after many years of little action. Most recently, as I said, there is the Whifflet line, which runs through Carmyle, Mount Vernon and Baillieston in my constituency and which means that trains are able to use the Argyle line and many more destinations for passengers on that route. Clearly, the Borders line is also shaping up well, and I very much look forward to trying it out in the autumn—albeit maybe not on the first day.

Looking forward, the challenge is in choosing which projects should be priorities. Glasgow airport is often mentioned as needing a rail or tram link, as has been said in the debate. In an ideal world, I would welcome that. I guess that I am somewhat torn as to how high a priority that should be. In the February recess, I flew from Edinburgh to Berlin and then from Berlin to Glasgow, so I used three airports and two had a rail or tram link that was fine. However, the easiest and quickest trip to or from all three airports was that for Glasgow. The bus into the city centre is absolutely great, although I accept that there are problems in the rush hour. However, I doubt that the train could really compete with the bus on journey time. So, whether a Glasgow rail link should be a priority is a tricky decision, especially when there are many other transport and non-transport priorities asking for money.

Crossrail is another major rail project that has been mentioned. Again, ideally, I would love to see that as it would link Ayrshire and Renfrewshire to the rail network north and east of Glasgow. Just as the Helensburgh to Edinburgh line takes passengers into and out of Glasgow as well as through the city, so crossrail could take passengers from Kilmarnock, Ayr and Paisley to Edinburgh as well as to Glasgow. Clearly, however, crossrail will work only if there is a station at Glasgow Cross that links with the Argyle line underneath, with connections to Motherwell, Hamilton and elsewhere. That would not come cheap; it would improve transport connections and boost a struggling area, but it would be a serious expense.

Against the Glasgow-focused projects, albeit that they also benefit much of the rest of Scotland, there is a need to address other projects around the country—for example, double tracking the line to Aberdeen from the south at the current bottleneck at Montrose. I am, of course, a Glasgow MSP, but we all have to think nationally as well. Aberdeen and the north-east surely deserve a proper rail line all the way.



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
John Mason

Does Paul Martin accept that the argument for GARL is difficult because the airport is so close to the city centre and the bus link is so good that rail does not really add a lot?



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
John Mason

Will Paul Martin give way?



Meeting of the Parliament 24 February 2015 : Tuesday, February 24, 2015
John Mason (Glasgow Shettleston) (SNP)

I am interested that the member thinks that the minister should push things, because the Conservative amendment mentions no projects and nothing positive whatsoever.



Equal Opportunities Committee 19 February 2015 : Thursday, February 19, 2015
John Mason

I accept that there are signs of progress. For example, when we were up in Aberdeenshire, we very much got the impression that there was a good relationship with the isolated primary school or the isolated GP practice. However, such good relationships were far from common. In fact, Gypsy Travellers often went where they knew that a school, unlike the majority of schools, or a general practice had a good relationship with them.

I will not read out the whole quote, but in its submission, MECOPP quotes a Gypsy Traveller as saying:

“Surely by now the Government has enough evidence about what needs to be done, can’t they just get it done instead of endlessly talking, only then will Gypsy/Travellers like me start to take it seriously”.

My fear is that, although we have made a lot of effort to engage as a committee, a time comes when people start to shut off, because they simply feel that no progress is being made.



Equal Opportunities Committee 19 February 2015 : Thursday, February 19, 2015
John Mason

I take the point that you make in your letter that decisions are usually best made at a local level, with local knowledge and local accountability. However, the reality is that we have not seen any progress. We are dealing with a national issue, are we not? One of the things about Gypsy Travellers is that they are attached to not just one but a number of areas.

You have talked about guidance, but I do not know how strong that is. Do you feel that there is a need for some kind of lead or pressure from the centre to ensure that local authorities make something happen?



Equal Opportunities Committee 19 February 2015 : Thursday, February 19, 2015
John Mason

When you wrote to the convener in January, you talked about a forthcoming briefing for elected members—local councillors, I think. Could you tell us more about that? Is the problem that local councillors do not understand what their responsibilities are, or is it that, in some cases, they are under so much pressure from vocal groups in the settled community that they find it difficult to produce sites?

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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YesCarried

S4M-12423 Marco Biagi: Commission on Local Tax Reform—That the Parliament supports the establishment
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YesCarried

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

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

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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YesCarried

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

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

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

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 John Mason
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-12375: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 20/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12349: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 18/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12321: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 16/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12281: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12260: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 05/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12224: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/02/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12215: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 30/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12202: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 29/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12155: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 26/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-12149: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 23/01/2015 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by John Mason
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-24623: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24622: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 24/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-24413: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 10/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4T-00920: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 02/02/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23991: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23990: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23992: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 12/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4T-00883: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 05/01/2015 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03837: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/12/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23508: John Mason, Glasgow Shettleston, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 03/12/2014 Show Full Question >>