Speaking in parliament in a debate on the National Planning Framework, Falkirk East MSP has raised the issue of infrastructure improvements in Grangemouth and surrounding areas.
“Any policy or development that can tick the boxes of being good for the economy and good for the environment must surely be a priority. I would place in that category measures to transfer passenger and freight traffic to more environmentally friendly forms of transport; enhance rail and shipping facilities; integrate transport; and promote and improve roads and pathways for walkers and cyclists. I therefore support moves to improve cycle paths, enhance pedestrian access, extend rail provision and further develop freight hubs, such as the port of Grangemouth in my constituency.
“Grangemouth is already the busiest port in Scotland, but I understand that it has significant spare capacity and room for growth. For example, the port would benefit from improved links to the motorway network, as would local people and the local economy. I am proud to say that the community in Grangemouth has come together with local businesses and elected representatives to push for such improvements. That is an excellent example of people working together, and I hope that the minister will accept my invitation to discuss with them the importance of Grangemouth to the economy and environment of Scotland.“
The NPF2 includes a number of developments that are supported by the Scottish Government, but most have not yet been allocated funding, and are competing for priority in future spending reviews. Picking up on a recent series of parliamentary questions that she had tabled, Cathy also raised the lack of supporting evidence for a proposal for a new container port at Rosyth, noting that current policy was to support expansion of existing facilities.
“I note the unhelpful response to my parliamentary question on research into the increase needed in container capacity: ‘No such research has been undertaken by the Scottish Government. It is for the ports industry to respond to anticipated demand based on market conditions and commercial considerations.‘
“What is the point of a national planning framework if the assessments and the important decisions are to be left to the whim of the market — a solution that has become laughable and discredited in recent months?“
Cathy, who is the Deputy Convener of the Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee, noted that their report had called for “an open, Scotland-wide consideration of need for port expansion, taking into account existing facilities, their location and future capacity as part of this process”; and that the Scottish Government should continue dialogue with Forth Ports and take into account the views of all interested parties.
Speaking after the debate, Cathy said that “having raised the profile of improvements to the Grangemouth transport hub and links such as the A801 Avon Gorge road, we must maintain pressure while future priorities are being considered. The document suggests that projects whose funding has not already been agreed may have to wait until after 2017.
“It is important that the NPF does not become a wish list. The environment cannot wait until 2017. The improvements in the NPF that are essential to action on climate change, such as getting more freight transported by rail and sea, must be tackled as soon as possible. Scotland and the rest of the world simply cannot wait.“