APPENDIX 7 REMOTE AND RURAL AREAS - TRANSPORT
The National Transport Strategy ( NTS)
In December 2006, the Scottish Government published a National Transport Strategy ( NTS) which sets a 20 year vision for transport in Scotland. To ensure we are continuing to reflect the Government's priorities for transport, we are currently refreshing the NTS.
The Scottish Government is committed to sustaining the viability of remote and fragile communities through ensuring access to lifeline air and ferry services.
We are also committed to maintaining and improving access for rural Scotland. This involves ensuring a high quality public transport system as well as supporting the development of community transport solutions.
Smarter Choices, Smarter Places
The Smarter Choices, Smarter Places programme is a £15m three-year programme in seven local project areas, supported by Scottish Government and COSLA. It has two rural projects, Dumfries and Kirkwall. They are doing some very interesting and worthwhile work on encouraging local sustainable transport solutions.
Scottish Ferries Review
The Scottish Ferries Review will inform the Scottish Government's long term strategy for lifeline ferry services in Scotland to 2022. The review includes a detailed appraisal of routes to determine whether a better configuration could be developed to better serve our island communities while contributing to our overall purpose of increasing sustainable economic growth. A further round of consultation events on the Draft Consultation Document will take place in the summer of 2010.
Road Equivalent Tariff ( RET)
The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all remote and fragile communities have direct links to the greater Scottish economy. We understand the genuine concerns from Scotland's remote and fragile communities about the affordability of ferry travel and the impact that has on island communities. That is why we have launched a pilot exercise which seeks to establish the benefits of a road equivalent tariff ( RET) as a basis for future ferry fares. The pilot which runs on all Western Isles to mainland routes began in October 2008 and will run until spring of 2011. An interim evaluation of the RET pilot will feed into the Scottish Ferries Review.
Lifeline Air Services
The Scottish Government subsidises 3 Public Service Obligation ( PSO) routes from Glasgow International Airport to Campbeltown, Tiree and Barra under European rules. In addition, there are a number of PSOs imposed by local authorities. These lifeline PSO routes recognise the importance of air services which would not otherwise be commercially viable but are essential for social cohesion and sustainability of Scotland's remotest communities.
Air Discount Scheme
The Air Discount Scheme is designed to facilitate a better level of social inclusion for those resident in some of the most peripheral parts of Scotland. Residents benefit from a 40% reduction on the core fare for air travel. The Scheme has proved popular with residents since it was introduced. As well as reducing the cost of air travel, it improves connectivity and reduces journey times in the Highlands and Islands.
Rural Transport Fund
From April 2008, the funding for the Rural Public Transport Grant Scheme and the Rural Community Transport Initiative, two elements of the Rural Transport Fund, was absorbed into the block local government settlement. It is now for local authorities to determine their priorities and to allocate funding accordingly for community transport services in more remote areas of Scotland where there are no scheduled or limited public transport services.
Rural Petrol Stations Grant Scheme
The third element of the Rural Transport Fund is the Rural Petrol Stations Grant Scheme, which recognised the importance of car use in remoter areas and supported rural filling stations. From April 2008 it became the responsibility of Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise. HIE Area Offices are able to provide financial assistance to filling stations located in HIE's Fragile Areas, as part of their 'Growth at the Edge' initiative.
Rural Fuel Prices
The Scottish Government has concerns about the relatively high price of fuel in remote rural and island communities and the disproportionate burden that this places on households and businesses in these areas. Fuel duty is a reserved area. However, we have written a number of times to suggest to the UK Government that Scotland could press the European Union for a derogation to apply a lower rate of fuel duty in rural areas, recognising the accessibility and price disadvantages faced by Scotland's remote and island communities.
Strategic Transport Projects Review
The Strategic Transport Projects Review ( STPR) is a multi-modal approach to achieving a balanced and sustainable strategic transport network which provides better connections across Scotland. The Review recommends a number of improvements to Scotland's rail network, including rural lines in the Highlands, such as the construction of new rail stations at Dalcross and possibly Kintore. However, the STPR does not preclude Regional Transport Partnerships and local authorities from considering the value of regional and local transport interventions.
Public Transport - Bus
The Scottish Government is committed to supporting our bus industry. The recently announced three year agreement with the Confederation of Passenger Transport on the Bus Service Operators Grant and Concessionary fare reimbursement will deliver another £740m of significant investment. This will help deliver benefits to Scottish bus passengers, enabling them to travel on a large bus network for a reasonable fare. Concessionary passengers can continue to enjoy free travel all over Scotland including residents of the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland who are entitled to two free return ferry journeys to the mainland each year. Funding through the Concordat provides local government with the authority to invest in local priorities, such as demand responsive transport and the development of new sustainable bus routes, and to support bus services where required. Latest statistics indicate that public transport support of local bus services by local government was £53 million in 2008-9.